February 07, 2020
If you are a regular reader of Bike Shop Girl then you know I am a big fan of midtail cargo bikes. They fit in many people's lives and in some cases are simply more capable bikes than a normal "single occupancy bike" for people that want to leave the car at home for groceries, carrying a lot to work, or just daily life. If you are new to cargo bikes I do suggest that you read my cargo bike basics article first before jumping into other reviews.
Xtracycle launched the new Xtracycle RFA midtail last spring and I honestly don't feel like this bike received enough coverage by media outlets. The bike isn't for everyone, you may prefer the Edgerunner or Tern GSD for one reason or another (I'll compare below) but I really have enjoyed my time with the RFA over the last 9 months or so. I've personally ridden one for 250 miles before deciding to bring the bike into the shop, I have built and serviced over a dozen and as usual, I have a lot to say about my experience. Without further ado, here is my full review of the Xtracycle RFA!
Starting Price: $4,497 (for Bosch Performance motor)Includes: Fenders, Lights, Rear Rack, Kickstand, PedalsCurrent Colors: Midnight (Black), Sunrise (Yellow), Vista (Light Blue)Bosch Motor Options: Performance, Performance CX, Speed Battery Options: 400Wh, 500Wh, 1000Wh (two 500Wh batteries)Cargo Capacity: 400 lbs including riderWeight of Bike: 64 pounds for Utility, 63 for sport with performance motor and 500Wh battery. 2nd battery and harness will add roughly 6-6.5 lbs.Wheel Size: 24" front and rearTire Size: 24 x 2.5" Maxxis Hookworm (Ask for extra tubes as most shops don't carry this size)Drivetrain: 1x10 Shimano Acera with ClutchBrakes: Shimano MT-400 hydraulic brakes with 180mm rotors front and rear
Other Details Worth Nothing:
This bike is only available in electric-assist using a Bosch system (Performance, Performance CX or Speed). As of the time I'm writing this Xtracycle has no plans on using the Bosch Cargo motors in the near future.
Front thru-axle hub/fork & rear is a quick release using an allen tool. The headset is pretty cheap so if you are going to be riding through all conditions a ton and don't want to worry about it, replace it with a Cane Creek 110 at the time of build.
The frame is treated for rust but I would get it sprayed every 2 or so years.
The seatpost clamp is a quick release, I would replace this to a bolt-on if you aren't sharing the bike with someone, I would hate to have your seat stolen! It also can sometimes hit your battery handle, some frames don't have issues, some do.
One of the unique properties of the Xtracycle RFA is that the rear end can convert from a midtail to a shorter, basically normal length, bike. This isn't done on the fly as it requires you to remove the rack, move the rear wheel dropouts, trim or lengthen the chain, adjust the brake and derailleur housing, move the Bosch speed sensor and then install the other style rack. You add 7" to the bike between Utility and Sport, but you can't use the RFA Hooptie, or a few other kid carrying accessories when in Sport.
The majority of my customers want the Utility (longer) style so they can fit 2 (sometimes 3) children, utilize the Xtracycle accessories, carry 4+ grocery bags, and they like the comfort of the wheel size paired with a longer wheelbase that is a more reasonable length than say the Edgerunner.
There are a few customers that want the weight capacity of the RFA with the Sport (shorter) length setup, or maybe they plan on having kids in a year or two but want to invest in an electric bike now.
Another note about the customers buying Utility, most are focused on the "now" and while the idea of shortening the length of the bike sounds cool, most people like that the RFA is smaller than most cargo bikes but very capable for daily "life". The convertible rear end may be on the list of reasons they buy the RFA but it is pretty low. Ride quality, accessories, and brand reputation are normally the most important things.
Personally, I wish they had made a midtail without the DynamicDrops so they could build out the accessories around the fixed platform. A better kickstand, footrests, etc. You'll see more on this opinion below!
Xtracycle was the originator of the mass-produced longtail cargo bike attachment (the Xtracycle Freeradical), and I was very thankful when they came out with a more compact option in 2019 with the Xtracycle RFA. Their experience designing and testing kid and cargo bike accessories make them one of my favorite cargo bike brands, and many of those accessories have been extended to the RFA. Here are some of my goto for the RFAs I've ridden extensively, and the accessories I sell often.
Xtracycle RFA Hooptie $200
The hooptie for the RFA only works in the Utility (longer) mode and is actually the same length as the Edgerunner. What is different is the deck length which is pretty darn amazing. The Edgerunner deck is 27" and the RFA Utility deck is 25" long. I love the Hooptie as it has hand protection for kids if you are to brush against something. I'm not a fan of the new red padding on the Hooptie but that can always be replaced (As seen below!)
The Hooptie for the RFA and Edgerunner both have narrow and wide positions so you can fit a Yepp seat in between the rails.
Xtracycle RFA Snackbars $115
I'm a bit smitten with the Snackbars. If your kids (or adult) are bigger they can use these to hold on but they wrap around the sides a bit better than a standard "stoker style" handlebar made by other companies. They come in front or rear setup, it is $115 per side. They also come with these very colorful rings, some people use them, some people use handlebar wrap. I personally would use the above Hooptie setup for my kids until they are 8 or older but that is up to you! As you can see my daughter at 4 could easily "bump" off if she's not holding on and I hit something or take an unexpected turn. She would be more secure with her feet in the bags but the bags were stuffed during this school run.
Xtracycle MagicCarpet Pad $50
If someone is riding on the back, get one or two of these. When in utility mode I'm a big fan of getting one MagicCarpet and one MagicCarpet mini ($35). Fold the large MagicCarpet in half with half becoming a backrest against the hooptie. You can see in the picture above how I did that in the front.
Xtracycle RFA CargoBay $75 per side
Good sized bags for either side of the Xtracycle RFA in Utility mode. The RFA CargoBay bags don't have an additional "lid" option to make a large cover. The lid from the Edgerunner CargoBay is a bit too long.
I personally prefer the Carsick Designs bags pictured below over these but they are $100 more for a pair ($150 vs $250). Full review of Carsick bags coming soon.
Xtracycle RFA Footrest $125
These footrests fit in utility mode to give passengers a footrest or large bags a place to sit. These work fine and are very secure but they are a let down compared to the Edgerunner style that goes the entire length of the deck for multiple feet, a good space to rope things down, and more. Hopefully, they come out with a longer option in the future.
Xtracycle Porteur Rack $200 and Bag $120
When I first bought an Xtracycle and looked at the Porteur Rack I thought "holy shit that is a lot for a front rack", and then I started using it and realized it is overbuilt and well designed. The rack mounts directly to the frame and does not move when you turn and makes it more stable. The rack has holes for bottle cages on the back which is nice for hydration and caffeination, along with a lot of mesh pockets around the outside for ya know, stuff.
The front Porteur bag comes in black or silver, the silver is a bit more functional in my opinion, but not as slick looking. I hope that they come back to redesigning this bag in the future but I would be happy with either option if I had to pick now.
Yepp Seat Compatibility
The Xtracycle RFA deck only works with Yepp Nexxt Maxi seat, so if you have a Yepp Maxi Easyfit from another bike I believe it MAY work with a Yepp rack adapter but I haven't tested this. Let me know if you have!
A few years ago Xtracycle stopped selling size-specific frames and now sells one frame that you order with different "size kits" that include a different stem and seat post length. They also put a very generous steerer on their forks so you can start out very upright and move the stem down if you need it.
I like the Xtracycle stems as it has a light mount built into the faceplate. Pretty snazzy!
Size kit sizing (?!)
Small: 60mm stem, 300mm seat postMedium: 90mm stem, 400mm seat postLarge: 120mm stem, 450mm seat post
Step Over Height:
The step over on the Xtracycle RFA is 22.375″ and not as generous as the Edgerunner Swoop at 18.5" or the Tern GSD at 20". It is significantly better than the Surly Big Easy starting at 28.5" for a small (step over depending on frame size), or the original Edgerunner Classic at 25". This is a limiting factor for some people, so make sure you test ride if you can!
When Xtracycle dropped the RFA and Stoker news last year I was honestly not sure what to think. I love the Xtracycle Edgerunner Swoop. I mean I LOVE it (review coming) and I also love the Tern GSD (review here). I'm always a bit skeptical when a new bike comes out, and I really wasn't sure about the durability of the DynamicDrops (those things that let you change the wheel position on the RFA), or the choice of 24" wheels for both the RFA and the Stoker.
In late spring 2019, I ordered a demo RFA for the shop. I rode the demo pretty darn hard and quickly became pretty smitten with it. I liked that I could take the dirt bike paths or the "cut thru" social trail that would normally bounce my kids around too much, the 24" wheel size paired with the 2.5" tire really soaked up the bumps, and by lowering the handlebar and stem so I wasn't as upright and it feels playful like a mountain bike.
As I've spent so many years on various Xtracycles, it felt like I was coming back home to a more modern version that lost some xtra baggage. For me, the RFA is very much in line with what I think a "true" midtail should be, a very capable cargo focused bike that can carry 1-2 kids, or replace your trunk of a normal-sized Honda Civic. It feels burly, but I really like that confidence boost when weighing it down with everything my life includes.
I spent some time also with this bike in "sport mode" and honestly, that didn't do much for me. If I'm paying that much to be able to haul, I want more capacity than a normal bike. I have had customers interested in the idea of going one way or another long term which is nice to think about having a smaller bike when you are "done with carrying your kids" but then you just carry the groceries, and that impact drill, or go camping.
My annoyances of RIDING this bike:
1. Step-thru with tight jeans as I really like the step-thru of the Edgerunner Swoop but I get why the top tube is where it is. I've had several customers go to test ride this bike and immediately say it isn't for them as they have tight hips and can't get over it easily while having it stand straight up as you must with cargo on the back.
2. That damn kickstand. The most magical thing about an Xtracycle is the Kickback 3. They have refined it over so many years and it is one of the BEST kickstands on a longtail available, and then they go and put an off the shelf 3rd party kickstand on this that just doesn't deal well with collapsing under load.
3. The limited availability of tire size. I really wanted to ride this bike through the winter as my "winter commuter" but there are two tires available in this width that I would ride on an electric bike, one from Schwalbe Crazy Bob and the Maxxis Hookworm that comes on it. The only studded tire available is from Benno and they won't be available in the US until March (what?!) and I need studded tires to survive daily riding in Colorado. Also, most shops don't stock this tire or tube size. Something to think about and stock up as necessary.
4. The bags! I've had to warranty several of these bags. To the point that now I just "warranty" a discount towards the Carsick Design bags instead of dealing with Xtracycle with the warranty to just get another bag that rips under heavy use.
Xtracycle RFA vs Edgerunner Swoop
Customers are picking the RFA over the Edgerunner Swoop due to the more compact size. Reversing that, some people want the Edgerunner Swoop for more capacity, more standard size wheels (26" and 20" wheels), and the Kickback 3 kickstand.
Xtracycle RFA vs Tern GSD
Xtracycle RFA is a more comfortable ride thanks to the 24" wheels and steel frame but has a higher step-thru height and the rear cargo is higher due to the bigger wheels. The RFA doesn't adjust as easily as the Tern GSD front Andros stem, and doesn't transport as easily but does get pretty compact when you take the front wheel off. I prefer the Hooptie of the RFA as you can fit a Yepp seat and another child, and it has built-in hand protection with the additional outer rail which can come in handy. The GSD comes wired with a 2nd battery harness for $4,000 and will soon have an upgraded Atlas kickstand available aftermarket that I prefer over the Ursus fold-in style that the GSD and RFA both currently use.
Compared to my GSD, it is a bit smoother of a ride but it feels like a much bigger bike. You feel like you are riding a cargo bike while I feel like on the GSD you are riding a bike that can carry a lot of cargo. For some people, the GSD is too twitchy and stiff because of that which leads you to the RFA but other people don't like how high you have to lift the kids on the RFA compared to the GSD.
I would say the RFA and GSD are the most tested out cargo bikes I sell because they simply fit in more people's lives. I don't think you could go wrong with either, to be honest.
Xtracycle RFA vs Yuba Boda Boda
This is a hard comparison for me as I've never been a fan of the Boda Boda Electric. I just feel that Shimano E6000 motor on the Boda Boda is greatly underpowered for a cargo bike, and the max payload of 244 lbs is very low for a "cargo bike". In some ways, I wish the Boda Boda wasn't classified as a cargo bike and just as a highly capable everyday bike.
Xtracycle RFA vs Benno Boost
I don't fully know the history of Xtracycle and Benno but I believe they may have been working together at some point. I really like Benno (one of the original founders of Electra) but I think he is missing the point of kid carrying, and their partnership with Serfas for distribution has really limited their impact in the US market. The availability is limited which is hard for a shop to get behind. Furthermore, the Boost really confuses me on rack options as they aren't adaptable but you switch out the whole rack to get different configurations so it isn't modular at all. The side-mounted kickstand and low rear weight capacity on the original Benno Boost really makes the Boost a mute option for carrying 2 kids on the back. Also, if you need to use a Yepp seat, you only get a Yepp seat - it sits in the middle of the back rack and doesn't give you room for a 2nd kid when using a Yepp seat.
I hope to get a step-thru 2020 Benno Boost in this spring and will be able to give a better comparison.
The RFA honestly has surprised me. I've enjoyed the bike more than I thought, and I've sold many more than I anticipated. Why? It fits in more people's lives than a big ole Edgerunner Swoop. It is enjoyable to ride without cargo, and the available accessories make it a really complete system. If the top tube was a bit lower, and the kickstand compared to the Kickback 3 I think this would be a quick choice for even more people. I do wonder if the bike could have been cheaper if it didn't have all the patents and technology in the DynamicDrops to make it convertible. I understand they were trying to make it "future proof" but it may be more obtainable to people if it was more affordable with less patented "technology".
In the market for an electric bike?
If you are looking for a more capable electric bike either with higher payload, dual battery, bigger motor, or more accessories, check this out.
In the market for a cargo bike?
This is a must-try for anyone looking at a longtail or midtail. It is much more capable than any other midtail but it *may* be a BIG bike because of that.
If you are in the market for a cargo bike, start with my Cargo Bike Basics, read my other cargo bike reviews, and then book a new bike consultation appointment to come to try out a lot of bikes!
Disclaimers: I own a cargo bike shop and all bikes were paid for as demos for my bike shop. I wasn't provided anything for review, and hope this article was helpful in your cargo bike journey.
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February 19, 2020
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