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Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5 E-Bike Review – 2023
Jan 01, 2023
In the world of electric bikes, specific models often get updated — sometimes yearly — and occasionally, models are sunsetted in favor of something new, better or just more in line with what consumers are asking for.
In the case of Rad Power Bikes’ electric folding bike, some combination of all of the above appears to have happened: The RadMini 4 is out and the RadExpand 5 is in.
Though the name has changed and the bike does look quite a bit different, the larger numeral at the end of the new bike’s title suggests there is some continuity between the folding bike formerly known as the Mini 4 and the new model, known as the Expand 5.
In this review of the Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5, we put the Seattle-based brand’s new electric folding bike to the test to find out what’s new, what’s the same and why those details matter. We test its handling, climbing, battery range and more to give you an idea of if this bike is worth your hard earned cash.
So what’s the word on the RadExpand 5? In short, it appears to be a trimmed-down version of its predecessor, with a few notable features missing and a few notable improvements made.
Bike Category: Folding
Bike Class: Class 2: PAS/Throttle assist up to 20 mph
Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5 Video Review
The new handlebar setup is a game changer. The bars are wider, it feels less flexy and it still folds to boot.
At over 62 lbs it’s still hefty, but the bike folds down to a convenient size for storing in an RV, a corner of the garage or in the trunk of most sedans.
Rad’s rear hub motors have proven time and again to be some of the most reliable on the market.
The spec sheet is solid for the price. A 7-speed drivetrain, nice working mechanical disk brakes and a sizeable battery for about $1,599 MSRP is a good deal.
The handling is spot-on. Neutral, balanced, predictable — riding this will be intuitive even for e-bike newbies.
Rad’s bikes have a distinct power profile that starts gentle and grows stronger as you pick up speed. Never once does it feel like it’ll jump out from under you.
Rad includes a velcro strap to hold the two halves of the bike together when folded, but it’s easily lost. We’d like to see a built-in solution for this issue.
I don’t mind the lack of front suspension fork, but some people will not like it. You can really feel some bumps in the road.
It’s surprising to see Rad move away from the LCD display. Unlike its predecessor the RadMini 4, this bike has no screen.
ELECTRICAL SPECS & FEATURES
Battery: 48V, 14Ah (672Wh)
Display: LED display (no screen)
Motor: 750W geared rear hub motor
Peal Assist: Four pedal assist levels, cadence sensor
Range: 25 – 45 miles (claimed); 18-44 (real-world test)
Throttle: Twist throttle
Weight & Dimensions
Claimed weight: 62.5 lbs
Maximum rider weight: 275 lb (max payload capacity)
Maximum load on rear rack: 59 lbs
Components & Accessories
Brakes: Radius mechanical disk brakes, 180mm rotors front and rear
Frame: 6061 alloy
Drivetrain: Microshift 26, 7-speed
Grips: Rubber ergonomic
Saddle: Comfort saddle
Handlebar: BMX-style folding handlebar
Tires: CST BFT 20×4”
Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5 Review: Bike Overview
When it comes to the electric folding bike, there seems to be an old-school variation and a new-school variation. Or, rather, a European variation and an American variation.
The differences between the two styles are mainly weight, size and how the folding mechanism functions. Since the Europeans are the ones who long ago pioneered the folding bike, I think of their version as the old-school; these folding e-bikes are typically light, fold very quickly and are designed for commuters who need to tote their bikes all day up stairs and into offices and onto public transport.
The newschool, or rather the American version of electric folding bikes, are much larger, heavier and don’t fold quite as easily. These are designed to ride and function much like their non-folding counterparts but with the added feature of a folding mechanism that allows the bike to collapse down to a more easily stowable size. They’re for people who want an e-bike that’ll fit into the trunk of a car, or maybe into a tight RV.
The Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5 is a prime example of the American version of a folding bike.
The RadExpand 5 is a relatively new release from Rad, and is the successor to the former RadMini 4. Among the many American-style electric folding bikes I’ve reviewed, this bike seems to be leaning the hardest into the idea that its folding function is second to its function as a normal e-bike.
What I mean by that is it’s missing some characteristics we normally see on folding e-bikes, such as a big tall handlepost and folding pedals. Those are traditionally hallmark features of folders that help the bike get small, but in some instances do so to the detriment of the bike’s ride quality.
Instead of a handlepost, which can be flexy and usually comes with very narrow and straight handlebars, the RadExpand comes with this really unique BMX-style handlebar that is comfortable and helps with handling quite a lot. It still folds (just not quite as small) and the non-folding pedals feel a bit sturdier under your feet than their folding counterparts.
On a bike like this, where folding usually takes place for transport in the trunk of a sedan or stowing in the corner of a garage, I like that Rad is prioritizing the ride and doing away with some of the folding features that I’d argue only marginally improve portability but can dramatically affect handling.
Powering the RadExpand is Rad’s trusty 750W rear hub motor and a 48V, 14Ah (672Wh) battery mounted near the bottom bracket. It’s a Class 2 setup, so it’s got a throttle and several levels of pedal assist, all of which are capped at 20 mph.
Like the former RadMini 4, this bike comes with a 7-speed drivetrain. The setup on this bike is MicroShift 26, which works fine but isn’t quite as nice as a name-brand groupset from say Shimano.
There’s also mechanical disk brakes and finally, in a departure from the old RadMini, the new RadExpand 5 uses a rigid front fork instead of suspension. It also no-longer uses an LCD display and rather features Rad’s simple LED based control pad.
In addition to a new name, Rad’s folding e-bike also has new looks. Look closely and you might see shades of Rad’s old RadCity 4, including the battery location and shape of the downtube.
A Microshift 26 drivetrain connects the rider to the rear wheel and handles shifting.
Fat tires still reign king on Rad’s folding bike.
Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5 Review: Motor Performance, Speed and Acceleration
While most affordable e-bike makers buy motors from other companies, Rad designs theirs in house. This is a big deal — one that Rad takes a lot of pride in — and I can say from experience that it does make a difference in performance and reliability.
The Rad motor is a Class 2 750W unit that uses a throttle and four levels of pedal assist, all of which is capped at 20 mph. It’s engaged by a cadence sensor, which is fairly standard for bikes of this price, and the engagement is fairly good compared to its competitors. There’s very little lag from when you step on (or off) the pedals and when the motor kicks on.
We sampled the motor’s performance in each of its four pedal assist levels and found a nice even distribution of speed and power between each assist level. The bike pedals OK with the motor off, but like most fat tire folders I’d suggest not running the battery dead unless you really want a challenge — like any folding e-bike with fat tires, it’s not particularly light and has a good deal of rolling resistance.
The RadExpand 5 has a really nice power profile, with a gentle start the swells into solid Class 2 speed.
Rad engineers their own 750W rear hub motors, giving them stellar reliability and a very refined feel.
The 672Wh battery has been moved from behind the seat tube to a cradle in front of the seat tube; a similar design to the old RadCity 4.
Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5 Review: Range Test & Battery Performance
The RadExpand’s 48V, 14Ah (672Wh) battery is of Rad’s standard size; pretty much every Rad e-bike we’ve ever tested has used a battery this size (with the exception of the RadMission 1). It also seems to be the battery size of choice for most of Rad’s competitors, so we expected to see a fairly standard result from our range testing of this bike.
We did three range tests on the RadExpand, the first in PAS 1 to get an idea for how the bike would go if you were to use the motor very sparingly, and the second in PAS 4 to get an idea of the range if you were to ride the bike aggressively – but we ended up doing this one twice since we had some strange results.
Originally we saw a little over 18 miles which is what we recorded in the video review. After seeing that result, Rad reached out to see if we wouldn’t mind running it again as that is well below what they’ve tested and received. Sure enough, it performed much better on the second go around. It’s possible we had a misleading full battery readout on the LED display since there is no percentage indicator. However, we’re plenty happy to see a better result.
In PAS 1 the RadExpand lasted for 43.83 miles before dying and in PAS 4 we were able to get 33.4 miles before the battery tuckered out.
Those are good results that we’ve come to expect from the several new e-bikes from Rad we’ve tested recently. While we typically like to see a 1:1 motor wattage rating to a battery’s watt-hours, this goes to show to not count something out till you’ve seen how the tests come back. I’d wager this one is going to serve the average rider very well for multiple trips.
Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5 Review: Hill Test
Uphill, the RadExpand 5 performed very nicely.
To sample its climbing ability we did two timed tests on the bike up our designated test hill Hell Hole, once using just the throttle and again using PAS 4.
At a third of a mile long with pitches over 12 percent, Hell Hole is a substantial hill that frequently bests the e-bikes we pit against it. Nevertheless, in both our tests, the RadExpand 5 did just fine.
In the throttle only test, typically the toughest because the bike is relying on motor power alone, the RadExpand 5 cleared the top in 1:33.00 with an average speed of 11.7 mph. Switch that to PAS 4 and add the help of my legs, and the Rad bettered its time to 1:17.00 at an average speed of 14.1 mph.
Neither of those times are blazing fast, but they are quick, especially when compared against other Rad Power Bikes e-bikes we’ve reviewed. Its throttle only time is just four seconds off the quickest Rad in that test, the RadMini 4, which is worth noting is a time set by a former colleague of mine who weighs a good 20 lbs less than me — giving that bike a likely advantage.
The RadExpand 5 is a good bike for those looking to adventure onto light-duty gravel paths and roads. Emphasis on the “light duty,” though — its lack of suspension and budget componentry can quickly get out of depth.
All of Rad’s e-bikes use a twist throttle.
The new RadExpand is notably missing a front suspension fork, which is a change from the previous RadMini 4.
Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5 Review: Brakes and the Brake Test
The RadExpand 5 is specced with a set of mechanical disk brakes from a brand called Radius.
This is the first set of mechanical disk brakes we’ve seen from Radius and only the second set of any type of brake from that brand we’ve tested. We first saw them in hydraulic form on the Vvolt Proxima, where they performed well in our testing.
That trend has continued with their mechanical model fitted to the RadExpand 5. In our brake test, where we bring the bike up to 20 mph five times and slam on the brakes as hard as possible to get an average stopping distance, the RadExpand 5 and its Radius brakes performed above average. Coming to a stop on average in 13-feet 9-inches.
That’s several feet better than our current all-time average stopping distance of 15-feet 6-inches.
Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5 Review: Ride Comfort, Handling and Cockpit
One thing that’s notably missing on the RadExpand 5 that we saw on the RadMini 4 is a suspension fork. This new version of Rad’s folding bike is rigid. Aside from the fat tires, there’s nothing to take that edge off rough patches.
After testing this bike, I think there’s some pros and cons to the decision to nix the fork.
On the cons side, the ride is a little rougher. On nasty asphalt or when hitting a bump you can feel more. Tire pressure is going to be key here, as those fat tires can work as a sort of suspension when inflated correctly, but don’t set the pressure too low or risk getting a flat.
On the plus side, it does simplify the bike and remove one of the most failure prone components, especially among low-cost e-bikes. Suspension is complicated and expensive — reliable suspension is even more complicated and expensive. The best front suspension forks on the market right now cost almost as much as this entire e-bike, and the cheap stuff can sometimes fail. Which means you either need to replace it or your bike becomes an ornament for the corner of your garage.
For me, I take the latter perspective. I ride lots of e-bikes for lots and lots of time, and I’ve seen some of the budget forks fail or degrade in performance to the point that they’re just not really doing anything anymore — and that degradation in performance can happen a lot quicker than you’d expect. To me, its lack of a fork makes me think this is an e-bike built for the long run (it also helps keep cost down).
Next I want to point to this bike’s cockpit, where there is another thing missing that you normally see on electric folding bikes. But this time, there’s no point in talking about pros and cons. This time, it’s a definite pro.
There’s no handlepost.
The handlepost is this big adjustable stalk mechanism we see on folding bikes that allows the bars to move up and down and be folded next to the frame. They work, but they can also be flexy, rattly and often use narrow handlebars that quicken the already notoriously quick folding bike handling.
Instead, Rad has fitted the RadExpand with a set of BMX-style riser bars. They still fold — Rad appears to have come up with a handlepost-inspired folding mechanism — but it’s far better than the handle posts I’ve used in the past.
That simple change has made this bike probably the best handling folder in its class in my opinion.
Lastly, I want to talk a bit about how this e-bike handles off-road. It’s marketed as an off-road capable e-bike, this style of folder has become very popular with the RV and National Park-hopping crowd, it uses fat knobby tires and I know many of you watching this are probably envisioning some sort of adventure in the dirt on this thing.
So can this go off-road? Yes, but like nearly every other e-bike sold at this price point, there are limitations and some things to consider.
To put it short, I’d assess this e-bike as ready for smooth dirt roads and maintained gravel paths. Basically anywhere you could take a standard Subaru Outback.
The tires do grip fairly well in dirt and they do help with bumps, but the lack of suspension means this bike really transmits bumps and vibrations directly into your body. You can feel a lot when riding it.
Whether that’s a pro or a con is up for debate. Some people will appreciate being able to “feel” the ground beneath them, others might not.
The RadExpand 5’s LED-based display.
The folding latch is simple, burly and feels secure.
The BMX-style handlebars still fold, but they’re far less flexy than some of the traditional handleposts I’ve used.
The RadExpand 5 does come stock with a rear rack.
Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5 Review: Summary / Where to Buy
Aside from the opener of this review, I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about this bike’s folding abilities. And I’ve actually done that on purpose.
That’s not for any bad reason or because folding is an afterthought, but, unlike some of the Euro fast folders, this isn’t designed as a compact folding bike that also rides nicely, it’s designed as an e-bike that rides really nicely but also can fold.
Rad appears to have put the ride quality first, which is a really, really good thing for this particular e-bike. The folding mechanism does work nicely — the whole thing gets pretty compact and the latch is sturdy and holds the frame together securely — but what makes this bike shine is its performance while riding.
Rad has done a good job here of breaking the mold and moving away from some features of affordable folding e-bikes we’d previously considered as standard-issue. Things like handleposts and folding pedals, which do serve a purpose, but arguably aren’t needed in the more American-style of folding e-bikes.
They went out on a limb by excluding those things, and I think it paid off.
I like the new RadExpand 5, I think Rad did a great job of making a low-budget folder that performs very, very well. Its ride quality is spectacular, it still folds nicely and they’ve done a nice job of balancing cost effectiveness with performance.
If you’re interested in the Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5, you can order the bike from Rad’s website and have it shipped to your door. Or, if you prefer to have it built by a professional (I’d highly recommend this), Rad will ship your bike to a partner dealer that will professionally assemble your new ride.
‘Happy Riding, make sure to let us know if you have any questions down in our comments section or if you think we left anything out in this review of the Rad Power Bikes RadExpand 5.