Area 13 RadPower E-Bike Upgrade Kit — CleanTechnica Review – CleanTechnica

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Area 13 (Formerly Bolton e-Bikes) sent me their Radpower Upgrade Kit to use on my Radrover and review. It’s supposed to give the bike more power, give a nicer display, and allow a lot more customization. With a price of $229, readers who own a compatible Rad Power Bikes model are probably wondering, “Is it worth it?” After installing it myself on my 2020 Radrover ST (the Step Through model), I can say that it’s definitely a worthwhile upgrade.
The kit itself is pretty simple: there’s a computer/motor controller unit with a bunch of wires hanging out one end, and there’s a replacement display and buttons for the handlebars.
The computer/controller is a lot wider than the stock Radrover computer, comes in a metal case, and has heat sinks on three sides of the box. Why? Because it’s designed to handle double the power the stock computer can, both sustained and for bursts. With the stock motor, you’re not going to use double the power, but its ability to sustain more power helps it handle hills and other issues. It also puts out the full rated power for the motor instead of a little less.

The screen is a full-color display that works pretty similarly to the stock display, but much more aesthetically pleasing when in operation. For the 90s kids reading, it’s kind of like switching from the Game Boy to the Game Gear (from black and green to color). But, if you RTFM (read the friggin’ manual), it allows a TON of customization options that you don’t normally get with a stock e-bike. You can change how the power assist works, add cruise control, and most importantly be prepared if you want to make future upgrades to the bike.
The ability to upgrade further is probably the main benefit to the RadPower Upgrade Kit, but I’m not going to review that aspect of it today. I do look forward to installing a 52-volt battery pack and upgrading the stock motor at some point.
The Radrover ST with the battery mountain rail unbolted and set aside to access the stock unit’s controller mounting screws.
The installation was pretty straightforward. I took the battery mounting rail off of the bike’s frame, turned a few screws to release the stock computer/controller, unplugged it, and then plugged the new computer in. This required cutting some zip ties and putting new ones on, so be sure to have some on hand.
Installing the wider unit was a little more complicated, but not by much. I originally was going to put this unit on a non-step-through Radrover, but decided to put it on the ST model, so I had to modify one of the mounts and use longer screws to get around the frame in one spot. If I had more patience and fewer spare screws in my toolbox, I probably would have just bought some longer screws and would have had no need to expand the holes on the mount a tiny bit. Either way, it’s no big deal.
With the unit mounted, I hooked everything back up, tucked the cables back away, and zip-tied them back in their original positions. The only thing that was a little different was that the cable for the brake light didn’t come out of the top of the computer like the stock one, but it was plenty long enough to reach and power the brake light.
Installing the screen was even easier. I just removed the stock display and buttons with three screws, pulled them off, unplugged one plug, and then did the reverse to install the new one. I accidentally installed the display upside down at first (it had no markings), but that was easy to fix. I then was able to follow the instructions and program the unit to work with my bike and motor.
One other small thing: it initially read a full battery as empty, but as the manual explains, it sometimes has to calibrate itself to know what’s full and what’s empty. Batteries come in different voltages, and the computer can handle multiple voltages. After just a few seconds of riding, it registered the battery as full and worked right.
It was definitely a worthwhile upgrade.
The completed installation of the aftermarket computer/controller.
First off, it did noticeably increase the bike’s power. It accelerates faster from a dead stop, gets up to 25 MPH in less time, and the throttle is far more responsive. It’s far better at sustaining power to the motor on hills and pulling through sandy patches than it ever was with the stock computer. These things alone make it worth the money.
The display is also a really neat feature. It’s not only prettier, but it’s far easier to see your settings at a glance in mixed light settings, like a cloudy day or twilight. It was sufficiently backlit to be seen in the daylight or at night. It’s kind of a silly thing, but the color display really makes the bike feel a lot more modern. It’s not smartphone great, but it’s far better than the display it came with.
On the second test ride, my wife (the primary rider of this bike) figured out pretty quickly that the pedal assist was just a little too aggressive for her when taking the dog along with a bike tow leash. Using the manual and a video that gave detailed explanations, we stopped at a picnic table at a park and quickly lowered the C14 setting (the one for pedal assist power) from 2 to 1. The 1 setting was perfect for her, and we rode on. The maximum power of level 5 assist and the throttle’s new higher power was unaffected by this settings change.
I think this is a worthwhile upgrade for most Rad Power Bikes models. Not only does it give you more power, but it sets you up for a lot more customization and upgrade options in the future. Being able to go with a more powerful drop-in motor and a bigger battery pack in the future is nice, but just the difference in responsiveness and customizability we already got is enough.
It’s definitely worth the buy if you want to get a little more out of your Rad.
Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals. Follow her on Twitter for her latest articles and other random things: https://twitter.com/JenniferSensiba
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