The Trials and Jubilations of Owning a Rad Power Electric Bike – BikePortland

Dagny and his e-bike on sunny days. (Photos: Taylor Griggs/Bike Portland)

“E-bikes are the Wild West. Everything will work out eventually, but there will be a lot of heartbreak in the process.

– Andrew Schnell, The Electric Bike Shop

My roommate and friend Dagny Daniel was looking for an electric bike, and when she saw Rad Electric Bikes was selling her entry-level e-bike for $500 ($700 less than her usual price), she jumped at the chance to buy it. When the bike arrived, Dagny assembled and loaded it, eager to hit the bike path.

But she had only had it for a few days when the honeymoon period ended. Dagny and I were riding with a group of other people on bikes through the heart of Portland’s North Peninsula last weekend when all of a sudden the lights on her bike went out and the pedal assist stopped working. (No, it wasn’t dead.) Eventually we turned it back on, but only briefly before it died again and she had to roll in the back without any power assistance or light. Right now the bike is sitting in our basement waiting for someone to figure out what went wrong and get it back in service.

Dagny isn’t the only person to have purchased a Rad Power bike. The company’s recent sale of e-bikes was wildly popular – it turns out that $500 e-bikes sell like hot cakes. On my own Twitter feed, I’ve heard dozens of testimonials from people buying their first e-bikes because of this sale. A particularly exciting anecdote was from someone who said the person who delivered his bike was so inspired by all the boxes of bikes he delivered that he decided to get one for himself.

The Rad Power box.

Some e-bike proponents saw the success of this sale as an indication that there is a demand for e-bikes that should be further met. discount programs. The popularity of such programs in places like Colorado showed that people are interested in buying e-bikes at discounted rates, and once they have the bikes, they often make a difference by reducing their use of the car.

But the Dagny experience got me wondering if there are more people who have had issues with their new Rad Power bikes and how the local bike shops are dealing with it.

Rad Power is based in Seattle and has physical service centers in other cities in the United States and Canada (but not in Portland). They used to operate a mobile repair service in some other cities, including Portland, so people could get help directly from Rad Power, but they canceled that program a few months before the big sale. (According to Rad Power’s website, local mobile bike repair service Velofix is ​​always available to help.) This has left some bike shops down.

The employees of the The electric bike shop in the Piedmont district are expressing skepticism about direct-to-consumer e-bike companies like Rad Power. Andrew Schnell, a sales employee at the bike shop, says he thinks they’ve been able to focus on a large market of people who want functional, not fancy e-bikes at an affordable price.

But the downside of Rad Power’s business model is that customers have to do a lot of things on their own.

“I have no problem with the company,” Schnell told me. “But you get what you pay for.”

The cheapest bike sold in the eBike store is $2500 – twice what the RadMission usually costs and five times its selling price. Schnell said he thinks it’s worth the cost of a better quality bike that you can get serviced locally, but he understands why people are hesitant to pay so much for a bike.

Schnell said he had trouble reaching the folks at Rad Power when he had questions about their bikes, so the store is limited in what it can do to help people who are having trouble with them. them. That meant some angry customers left one-star Yelp reviews for the e-bike store, which never claimed to be a Rad Power retailer or service store in the first place.

There are several stores in Portland that Rad Power owners believe will service their bikes. The Rad Power website lists the Bikeologist Mobile bike repair and Upcycles as options for people who want in-person help. Smart Cycles said they can do repairs on Rad Powers and are working to connect with a manufacturer in China for part replacements in the future. (Replacement parts for Rad Power bikes are hard to come by right now due to all the demand.)

Fortunately, experiences like Dagny’s seem rare. When I tweeted to ask about people’s experiences with their new Rad Power bikes, I received overwhelmingly positive reports, and most people who write reviews online are very happy with their purchase. (And by the way, Dagny isn’t giving up on her bike — she’ll get back on the seat as soon as she can, but it might take a while to find someone who can help her.)

Schnell acknowledges that his bike exposure is more likely to be negative because people come to the bike shop with their grievances. But his general conclusion is that, because this industry is relatively new, there are going to be some issues to address as e-bikes take their place as a popular mode of transportation.

“E-bikes are the Wild West,” Schnell told me. “Everything will work out eventually, but there will be a lot of heartache in the process.”

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