The Xtracycle RFA Electric Cargo Bike — CleanTechnica Tested

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Xtracycle made a name for itself years ago as one of the pioneers in long-tail cargo bikes. When it started electrifying those, it piqued our interest and we’ve been eager to get on one ever since. The stars aligned this year, and Xtracycle sent us the RFA to run through the paces.

Xtracycle has been building cargo bikes as no-compromise vehicle replacements for ages now. The company is not new to this space, and in fact, it helped to create some of the very first long-tail cargo bikes around. Experience is a very difficult thing to replace, and Xtracycle’s experience building bikes was evident from the minute the RFA arrived at our door.

Xtracycle RFA Electric Cargo Bike
The Xtracycle RFA can be kitted out with a ton of accessories to customize it for your life. Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

The RFA is Xtracycle’s “Ready For Anything” e-bike that is also a transformer. It can be setup as either a short- or long-tail e-bike that comes from the factory with a longer rear rack. The rear section of the bike can be reconfigured to accommodate a smaller family, fit more comfortably in smaller environments, and ultimately adapt to meet the needs of your life as your life changes.

The Assembly

The RFA was designed and built like a race car of the electric bike world. It utilizes some of the highest quality materials and components available, which helps it operate efficiently and reliably over years and decades of use. This design ethos carries into the packaging, and our review bike showed up in perfect form.

After unboxing, the RFA arrived about 85% assembled and required the attachment of the stem, front wheel, and a few other knick-knacks that were all very straightforward on paper. In reality, the assembly was more complex than a typical e-bike and required an extra bit of precision to get it perfect. Our RFA arrived from the factory with the wrong spacer setup on the fork. This required an extra trip to the bike store, and while it’s not something we’d expect on a bike straight from the factory, it was not a major issue.

Due to the additional precision needed to get the bike perfectly assembled and tuned, I do recommend customers arrange for assembly at a local bike shop versus attempting assembly by themselves. We assemble dozens of review bikes per year and at first, it was counterintuitive that the higher quality RFA was harder to assemble and tune to perfection. It’s not rocket science, but for a bike of this quality, it’s worth getting it put together and tuned to perfection versus just put together.

The Ride

Heading out on the RFA, the forward riding position is immediately evident. The geometry of the RFA’s frame puts the rider in a forward leaning position that’s similar to a mountain bike. For those looking for a more upright position, you may want to look at purchasing an adjustable stem to bring the handlebars up and closer to the seat.

Xtracycle RFA Electric Cargo Bike
Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

On our first long ride of the Xtracycle RFA, we headed down to the beach to get some hills and long flat stretches in. The RFA pairs the Shimano’s STEPS e-bike kit with its more traditional mechanical components, including a luxe 11-speed derailleur and cassette in the rear. The 250-watt Shimano EP8 mid-drive motor is tuned beautifully to complement the cycling experience.

It’s like having an additional one, two, three, or four people behind helping to pedal. It’s not a crazy amount of assist that’s going to make you wish you had a throttle so you could just sit back and cruise. But rather, it’s a nice amount of power that helps you get up hills, carry heavier loads, and go further than you would have on a manual bicycle.

Xtracycle RFA Electric Cargo Bike
Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

This philosophy is evident in the fact that the RFA has an 11-speed cassette out back. This e-bike was made for pedaling, with the motor and battery there simply to complement the overall riding experience. Fundamentally, the addition of a motor and battery allows you to do quite a bit more with your bike without having to suffer unnecessarily as a result.

The Xtracycle RFA was designed and built to be a workhorse, so we put it to use at every opportunity. Zipping down the hill into town on the RFA was always a blast and felt safe thanks to the hefty hydraulic brakes it’s packing. These provide much needed stability and control when heading down hills, and especially when carrying precious cargo on the rear rack.

Xtracycle RFA Electric Cargo Bike
Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

The wide range in gearing offered by the RFA’s 11-42 tooth, 11-speed Shimano cassette was extremely helpful when commuting up and down steep hills every day. It was a breeze to shift the snappy derailleur into a more challenging gear for downhill sprints that allowed me to keep pedaling at speeds greater than 20 mph where the pedal assist disengages.

On the way up the hill on the way home, shifting into a lower gear made it easy to contribute as much as possible on the uphill climb. Of course this is also where the motor and battery come into play. The Shimano EP8 mid-drive motor puts out 250 watts of continuous power, with the ability to push out up to 500 watts for short bursts. The peak power output is critical for tackling short steep climbs like the last few blocks up to our house.

The Shimano STEPS system on the RFA can provide up to 400% pedaling support, which will make anybody feel like Superman regardless of the terrain. What’s nice about the tuning on the RFA is that integration of the pedal support is so seamless that the engagement of the motor does not detract from the cycling experience, but rather, it accentuates it.

Xtracycle RFA Electric Cargo Bike
Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

While many American riders are used to riding in a forward-leaning, mountain bike style, we would love to see the RFA come from the factory with an adjustable stem that allows for an upright seating position. The RFA is such a flexible platform that adding something like this would make it more capable and versatile, supporting even more riders with different preferences.

Cargo & Accessories

The Xtracycle RFA comes with foot rests and wheel skirts from the factory that make it easy to throw a passenger on the back and get cruising with your friends or family. It also comes with a beefy center-mounted, dual leg kickstand that provides a nice, stable wide base for the bike while stationary, regardless of what you’ve got strapped to it. Of course, it’s probably not a good idea to leave it fully loaded with humans or cargo while parked.

Xtracycle RFA Electric Cargo Bike
Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

The RFA also comes with a set of full metal fenders and integrated front and rear lights, rounding out the full service commuter platform. Building up from that base, Xtracycle also offers a wide range of accessories that make it easy to dial the RFA in to perfectly complement your lifestyle. For those with little kids, the RFA can be fitted with two Yepp Nexxt Maxi child seats. Note that these are a different model than the ubiquitous Yepp Maxi carseats, which are not compatible with the RFA.

Xtracycle offers an impressive range of rear handrails and bars that bolt onto the rear of the bike, comprising its “Hooptie” rail system. These are a great way to give kids an extra sense of reassurance and protection while riding on the rear of the bike.

Xtracycle RFA Electric Cargo Bike
The PorterRack and PorterPack make it easy to bring along personal items with ease. Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

As your kids grow out of car seats, Xtracycle offers the MagicCarpet seat cushion which provides a nice cushy place for your kids to park. Combined with the Hooptie rail system and the included footrests, the RFA is transformed into the ultimate vehicle to take your kids down to school for drop-off.

Xtracycle has a front rack that it calls the PorterRack. The company sent us one of these, along with a PorterPack front bag that quickly became one of our favorite e-bike accessories ever. It’s the perfect place to park your phone, water bottle, keys, strawberries, kids, helmets, or any other swag you’re packing while you’re riding.

Xtracycle RFA Electric Cargo Bike

It secures to the rack with a single hefty Velcro loop, making it easy to put it on and take it off when you arrive at your destination. Drop a lock in the bag while heading down to work, then swap it out for a helmet and shades when it is time to head into work. It’s super convenient, and being up front, easy to access as well.

Overall

Most e-bikes out on the market are little more than lightly modified clones of what others have done. The Xtracycle RFA feels like a clean sheet of paper build where the folks at Xtracycle sat back over a 12-pack spitballing ideas for what the ideal family e-bike would look like based on their decades of experience on bikes. The result was a bike that was not only built to last, it was designed to last.

It is able to transform and evolve as your life and family do over the years and decades. The rear rack can literally expand or contract to suit your needs. A host of accessories can be added, modified, upgraded, and removed as needed. It’s a jack of all trades and is a great option for those looking to ditch their oversized 4-wheeled vehicle in favor of a 2-wheeled electric vehicle that gives you as much of a workout as you’re looking for while adventuring through life.

Xtracycle RFA Electric Cargo Bike
Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

It was clearly designed and built to last over the years. Yes, it will need service. Yes, it will need to be tuned. Yes, it will last. And if you’re lucky, it might even become a member of the family.

The Xtracycle RFA retails for $4,999 and comes in black and white liveries. For more information about the Xtracycle RFA or to order one for yourself, head over to its official online home.

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Xtracycle RFA Electric Cargo Bike Specs

  • MSRP: $4,999
  • Motor: Shimano STEPS EP8 mid-drive motor
  • Motor Power: 250 watts continuous, 500 watts peak w/85 Nm torque
  • Battery Capacity: 630 Wh
  • Frame & Fork Material: 4130 Chromoly Steel
  • Weight: 60.2 lb
  • Weight Capacity: 400 lb
  • Brakes: Tektro 4-piston hydraulic brakes
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM NX11 X-HORIZON
  • Rear Cassette: SRAM GX PG-1130 A1, 11-speed, 11-42 tooth
  • Max Speed: 20 mph
  • E-bike Class: Class 1

Disclaimer: Xtracycle provided the RFA to the author for this review.


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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

Kyle Field has 1659 posts and counting. See all posts by Kyle Field