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The Ride Radiant Carbon Review 2023
Jan 01, 2023
Electric bikes typically aren’t too tough to figure out. Who they’re for, why they’ve been built and how well they’re going to work is usually something I can parse out within a few minutes of my first time on the bike.
But for the first time in a review, I’m having a hard time squarely defining an e-bike. This one just doesn’t neatly fit into any one use category. In this The Ride Radiant Carbon review, we’ll dive into the unique ways this bike blurs the lines between categories in ways we haven’t quite seen before.
Built by a bicycle designer known for pushing the envelope with frame materials and design, The Ride Radiant Carbon uses a unique carbon fiber frame, a mid-drive motor and fully automatic shifting to create an e-bike that’s remarkably capable and fun.
Electric Bike Report put The Ride Radiant Carbon to the test to see how it performs in real-world conditions. We tested it’s handling, battery life, hill climbing ability and even how quickly it comes to a stop with the goal of giving our readers a clearer picture if this is the right e-bike for them.
Bike Category: Commuter/Cruiser
Bike Class: Class 1: Pedal assistance to 20 mph
The Ride Radiant Carbon Video Review
The asymmetrical carbon fiber frame looks like nothing else on the market. It’s ride quality is also unparalleled among fully-rigid e-bikes we’ve reviewed.
The Enviolo AutomatIQ CVT drive system isn’t just a cool piece of tech, it actually works remarkably well. Aside from selecting your cadence, it requires very little thought.
The Magura MT-30 hydraulic disk brakes work extremely well.
This is one of the longest range e-bikes we’ve ever tested. Had we not ran out of time on one of our range tests, this would likely be the longest range e-bike we’ve reviewed.
The Shimano STEPS e6100 motor system works spectacularly well. It’s responsive, torquey and perfectly mimics a rider’s pedaling.
Ellsworth’s expanding universe geometry manages to balance fitness bike-like pedaling efficiency with cruiser-like comfort.
There’s no way to manually shift the Enviolo AutomatIQ drivetrain, which riders more familiar with traditional gearing systems may find themselves missing.
The Shimano STEPS system has a cool feature that predicts your battery range in miles, though we found it to overestimate the bike’s real-world range by a margin of 10 miles or more.
Brakes: Magura MT-30 hydraulic four-piston disk brakes, 180mm rotors front and rear
Fork: Aluminum asymmetrical lefty-style fork
Frame: Asymmetrical carbon fiber
Drivetrain: Enviolo SP AutomatIQ, Gates Carbon Belt
Grips: Ergonomic rubber
Saddle: Ergonomic comfort
Handlebar: 630mm alloy with a slight backsweep
Kickstand: Pedal-integrated kickstand (our review bike also came with a traditional kickstand)
Pedals: Alloy, with a kickstand function integrated in the left pedal
Tires: Schwalbe SuperMoto 27.5” x 2.8”
The Ride Radiant Carbon Review: Bike Overview
For those of you who may not recognize Tony Ellsworth’s name, he’s a bicycle maker who, for the past several decades, has built a reputation for building bikes on the bleeding edge of tech and design. He’s especially well known for the mountain bikes he built for the brand that bore his name, Ellsworth bikes.
But now, he’s changed gears and is building premium electric bikes. The Radiant Carbon is the first he’s made.
With an MSRP north of $5,000 The Radiant Carbon certainly is a premium e-bike. It’s also rare; just 350 of them have been made as a sort of special edition flagship to launch The Ride’s brand.
It’s powered by the Shimano STEPS e6100 mid-drive motor that produces 60Nm of torque. It’s a Class 1 motor limited to 20 mph and there are three settings: Eco, Norm and High. Hidden inside the frame is a 36V, 17.5Ah (630Wh) battery that, balanced with the efficient mid-drive motor, gives the bike its substantial range.
The Radiant Carbon’s asymmetrical carbon fiber frame has Ellsworth’s fingerprints all over it. It’s very angular and, though the tubing looks very stout, surprisingly light. The whole bike weighs in at 52 lbs, according to The Ride. It’s also missing some pieces, namely the right-hand fork leg, right seatstay and left chainstay.
Stopping the bike is a set of Magura MT-30 quad-piston hydraulic disk brakes that have no shortage of power. Enough so that his bike performed near the top of the chart in our brake test, but more on that later.
Lastly, The Ride is shipping the Radiant Carbon with the very unique — and still very seldom seen — Enviolo AutomatIQ CVT auto-shifting hub system. This super unique drivetrain automatically shifts to allow the rider to maintain a cadence of their choosing, regardless of speed. This was Electric Bike Report’s first time reviewing a bike with the Enviolo automatic shifting system, and we’ve got to say it worked remarkably well.
It’s hard to capture the sharpness of the paint job or unique shape of the frame in a photo, but this one does a pretty good job.
The Enviolo AutomatIQ CVT auto-shifting hub.
In lieu of a traditional shifter, the auto-shifting Enviolo AutomatIQ drivetrain uses a remote on the right-hand side that lets you set your cadence.
The Ride Radiant Carbon Review: Motor Performance, Speed and Acceleration
The Radiant Carbon’s Shimano STEPS e6100 motor is extremely lively and responsive. It’s a Class 1 unit that makes 60 Nm of torque, but it’s not an utter speed demon. In fact, it actually asks a little from the rider in order to maintain higher speeds.
You have to put at least a little effort into pedaling this bike, folks. You can’t just soft pedal and let the motor whisk you around.
The STEPS system is tuned to complement your pedaling with a consistent and measured amount of power, meaning as you increase or decrease the amount of force you put into the pedals the motor will also increase or decrease the amount of power it’s producing. This gives the bike a very realistic ride feel. Like other Class 1 mid-drive e-bikes I’ve reviewed, the motor’s assistance feels very similar to a strong tailwind — it’s simply adding a little extra on top of the energy your legs produce.
The motor has three settings — eco, norm and high — and to get a sampling of the performance in each setting we took the bike for four laps around the Electric Bike Report circuit. We did one lap per PAS setting, plus an additional lap with the motor turned entirely off to get a baseline of how it pedals.
The Radiant Carbon did a great job in this test, with a remarkably consistent 1.9 mph change in average speed between each PAS level. We also saw the bike put up a hot lap in high mode with an average speed of 18.5 mph, just a little shy of its 20 mph max. In my real-world testing, I found the motor fairly easily cruised at about 19 mph on flat ground.
The Radiant Carbon is a Class 1 e-bike with three levels of pedal assistance, all of which are limited to 20 mph.
The Shimano STEPS e6100 mid-drive motor makes 60Nm of torque and is remarkably responsive.
A Gates Carbon Drive belt transfers the mid-drive motor’s power to the rear wheel.
The Ride Radiant Carbon Review: Range Test & Battery Performance
When it comes to battery life, The Ride Radiant Carbon put up some of the best numbers of any bike we’ve reviewed at Electric Bike Report.
The bike comes stock equipped with a 36V, 17.5Ah (630Wh) internal frame battery, which is the largest Shimano produces. To get an idea of how far that battery can go in the real world, we put the Radiant Carbon through two range tests. One in Eco mode, the bike’s lowest assist setting, and the other in High mode, its highest assist setting.
On High mode, the Radiant Carbon pedaled an impressive 43.89 miles before the battery gave out. In Eco mode, it carried our test rider for 77.05 miles and could have gone further had we not halted the test to give our tester a break over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The 43.89 mile result is the furthest max PAS range test we’ve ever conducted, and it’s likely the Radiant Carbon would have put up the furthest low PAS range test had we not stopped. Based on the amount of battery remaining we expect the Radiant Carbon would have gone another 10 miles before dying in Eco mode, putting the final result in the ballpark of 80 miles to 90 miles — an astonishingly long range.
These are stellar results from this bike that really speak volumes to the efficiency of premium mid-drive systems like Shimano STEPS. The Ride claims this bike can go 100 miles on a single charge, and I bet with the right rider and right conditions you can probably get close.
Two final things worth noting, one good and one gripe: Let’s start with the gripe.
The STEPS drive system gives you a real-time estimation of the number of miles you have remaining in a given PAS level before the battery dies, but both I and our long-range tester found these numbers to be quite high compared to our real world results. Fully charged, the bike estimates its range at north of 60 miles in high mode and north of 130 in Eco mode. I doubt you’d realistically see a range that long, but this is an issue that really only arises when the battery is very low or you’re trying to ride very far.
And, ending on a high note, our test rider Josh, who has spent more hours and more miles on an e-bike than arguably anyone out there, couldn’t stop raving about how fun the Radiant Carbon is to ride in Eco mode, the lowest setting.
The Ride Radiant Carbon Review: Hill Test & Drivetrain Performance
On paper, The Ride Radiant Carbon put up a so-so time up our test hill, Hell Hole.
But like so many e-bikes we put to the test on that hill, I’d argue it’s time only reveals a small amount of information about its overall climbing ability.
Our test hill Hell Hole is a one-third of a mile section of bike path with a 12 percent grade on average and several pitches much steeper than that. It’s no small hill, and I’ll go blue in the face before I stop repeating that just clearing the hill is quite an impressive feat for your typical e-bike.
In “High” mode, the bike’s highest pedal assist setting, The Radiant Carbon climbed Hell Hole in 2:11.00 with an average speed of 8.3 mph. Compared to the other e-bikes we’ve tested on the hill, that’s one of the slower times we’ve recorded.
But here’s the context that I’d argue paints that time in a little brighter light: On a hill this long and steep, time doesn’t matter as much as simply getting to the top. Never once did the Radiant Carbon act like it was going to fail our test or make me feel out of breath. It simply chugged its way up the hill at a pleasant and consistent, albeit a little slow, pace.
That’s a success in my book.
I do have one question about the Radiant Carbon’s performance: I’m wondering if we would have seen a quicker time had the bike been equipped with a traditional manual drivetrain instead of the auto-shifting Enviolo hub. One of the big pros of mid-drive motors is that they transfer their power through the drivetrain, giving the rider the ability to manipulate the motor’s power and torque by manually changing the gear ratio.
The Enviolo AutomatIQ system at least partially removes this advantage from the equation, limiting the rider’s ability to lower the gear ratio, pedal a little quicker than normal and take advantage of a torquier powerband.
How much does this affect hill climbing performance? I can’t say. If anything, this is food for thought on automatic drivetrains, as I’m sure we’re going to see more and more of them in the near future.
It’s not the quickest climber we’ve tested, but the Radiant Carbon’s performance on our test hill was impressive nonetheless.
The front Magura MT-30 brake caliper is a work of art in itself.
The Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires are some of my favorites for e-bikes; grippy, wide and oh so stable.
The Ride Radiant Carbon Review: Brakes & Handling
The Magura MT-30 quad-piston hydraulic disk brakes that come stock on the Radiant Carbon are very, very good.
So good, in fact, that they are among the top performers of all the bikes we’ve reviewed at Electric Bike Report. In our brake test, where we take the average braking distance of five full-power stops from 20 mph, the Radiant Carbon came to a stop in 13-feet and 7-inches, nearly three feet better than our current average of all the bikes we’ve tested, which is 16-feet and 4-inches.
This is a very expected result from a bike spec’d with the quad-piston German braking system. Magura brakes are known to be powerful, and the MT-30’s are continuing to prove this rule.
In fact these brakes are so powerful I found myself actually using less brake in our test to prevent the rear tire from immediately skidding. I instead used the system’s excellent lever modulation to control the skid and make sure the Schwalbe Super Moto-X rear tire gripped the ground as best it could.
Handling wise, the Radiant Carbon is supremely stable. It corners nicely and you feel very balanced on the bike. If there were a no-hands bike riding world championship, this bike would be a great choice.
The Ride Radiant Carbon Review: Ride Comfort, Geometry and Extras
Though its frame looks beefy, the Radiant Carbon is fairly light at a claimed weight of just 52 lbs. It’s a remarkably stable e-bike. Once you’re rolling, it really doesn’t need you to hold the bars to stay upright.
The cockpit is very clean, with a central Shimano STEPS display in the center of the handlebars and a remote on the left side that allows you to toggle power settings and cycle through information on the display. On the right is another remote that allows you to adjust the cadence setting on the Enviolo hub.
The display is fairly elaborate, with arguably the coolest feature being the battery real-time battery readout that estimated your remaining range in miles. While this feature is a big plus, we did find that it often overestimated the bike’s range by 10 miles or more. That’s not a huge issue for a bike with a range between 50 and 100 miles, depending on PAS level, but it is something to keep in mind should you plan a very long ride.
The Radiant Carbon’s geometry is where things start to get very interesting. Without diving too much into the weeds, this geometry balances a comfortable upright riding position with efficient pedaling and stable handling, all while maintaining a rider’s ability to place their feet on the ground while seated. It makes for a ride experience that’s an interesting crossover between a more comfortable cruiser and a sportier fitness bike.
The TheRide-branded Velo saddle is well padded with a slit in the center, making for a comfortable ride.
The Shimano STEPS display works very well.
Two remotes and a center-mounted display: The Radiant Carbon’s cockpit is fairly tech heavy but manages to feel very clean.
Our review bike actually had two kickstands. A traditional frame-mounted stand and this very cool Massload spring-loaded pedal, which flips out and functions as a kickstand.
The Ride Radiant Carbon Review: Summary / Where to Buy
Now that I’ve spent so much time on the Radiant Carbon, I have to say I agree with him.
It’s a bike using the carbon fiber frame material of a high performance e-bike; with the general shape of a beach cruiser; with the upright geometry of a comfort bike; with the ride feel of a sportier fitness bike; and the drivetrain and componentry of a high-end commuter.
The Radiant Carbon is a bit of an enigma — it doesn’t fit neatly into any one category, but somehow it does a pretty good job of dabbling in all of them.
Like so many e-bikes being designed nowadays, I’m not sure a bike like the Radiant Carbon would have ever been built had it not been for its motor and battery. Not because its design is so heavy and clunky it can’t be pedaled without assistance, but because the demographic of cyclists who would be interested in a do-it-all jack-of-all-trades bicycle like this didn’t really exist before the past several years.
Before e-bikes, cycling felt very siloed. You were either a mountain bike or a road cyclist; a commuter or beach cruiser. There really wasn’t a good way to build one bike that could do it all. Instead, cyclists just bought multiple bikes for multiple uses. E-bikes have begun to change that narrative, and the Radiant Carbon is one of the first e-bikes I’ve ridden that genuinely seems like it could be used for just about anything.
I’m not saying it’s the perfect e-bike, because it definitely has its limitations. But if you wanted one bike that would be just as good for a 20 mile fitness ride as it would for a cozy sunset cruise, I’d say it should be this one.
Word on the street is that this limited edition version of the Radiant Carbon is just the beginning. In our conversation at this year’s Sea Otter Classic, Ellsworth talked of plans to release a more affordable version likely made of aluminum and with a more conventional drivetrain. For The Ride, it appears this is just the beginning.