Xtracycle RFA Review: A Utility E-bike that Exudes Quality, Efficiency, And Versatility

Active Gear Review is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Xtracycle knows a thing or two about the long-tail e-bike as they’ve been designing, making, and perfecting them for years. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that this Cargo E-bike will blow the doors wide open on the versatility factor, all while going faster with the ability to travel longer distances.

At first, if you want to haul a ton of goodies from your local box store or even Ikea, the RFA has you covered. Secondly, hauling the kiddos to school makes this is a superb taxi to deliver that valuable cargo to its destination. And lastly, commuting during rush hour traffic will be a cinch. RFA does stand for “Ready For Anything”, and that is a great name, slogan, and/or motto. I am really looking forward to exploring the possibilities, and how a two wheel transporter can change mine and possibly your life.

Unboxing the Xtracycle RFA

The Xtracycle RFA showed up on my porch, and that’s always a very exciting time. New Bike Day (NBD) is something to be celebrated and shouted from roof tops, or at least on all your favorite socials. It might be a bit different in the e-bike world, I suppose, but I tend to make a big deal of it anyway. And who says that an e-bike can’t evoke high levels of stoke. In essence, the motivation for owning the RFA can be a game changer.

The box is super sturdy, and comes with re-enforced handles to aid in carrying it into my garage for assembly. That initial peek into the box is always a crucial one. If all seems nice and orderly, then you can assume there was no shifting, limiting the chance for any kind of damage. The amount of packing materials and zip ties is usually quite extensive, and I try to recycle as much as possible.

There was one scrape that made its way through the exterior side, but did not affect anything on the inside. Job well done to ensure a bike arrives without a scratch of any kind.

Assembling the RFA

The opportunity for a local bike shop to assemble my xtracycle RFA was offered up. That is an option I decided not to pursue, because I do want to experience the entire assembly process. I consider myself to be a B-minus mechanic. That basically means, I can handle the basics which I assume is enough for the RFA assembly. And certainly, for the most part, it is! That said, there were a couple of moments I wished I had taken them up on that as explained below, but all good in the end.

The above photo is basically how everything came out of the box. Wheels, fenders, kickstand, pedals, foot rests, and lights are the pieces that need to be installed. In addition, a ton of paperwork/directions in about every language imaginable.

I have a Feedback Sports stand which is definitely not meant for heavy cargo electric bikes. However, I positioned it so that it held up, and allowed me to put the various parts of the RFA together.

Most e-bikes come 90% assembled, and usually within 30-60 minutes you can be on the road. I’d say, it probably took me closer to 2 hours, so do keep that in mind. In the end, everything is fairly straight forward except for the kickstand attachment. You really want to have an Allen wrench with a ball end for this step. I do not have one of those, so it took me hundreds of mini turns to tighten those screws. I’d recommend for Xtracycle to simply include one of those Allen wrenches for this step. Other than that, everything else found its place without too much of an effort.

Technical Specifications

  • Available Colors: Black (matte), Off-White (glossy)
  • Weight:  60.2 lbs.
  • Max Gross Vehicle Weight: 470 lbs.
  • Frame Material: 4130 Chromoly Steel
  • Fork Material: 4130 Chromoly
  • Handlebar: Kalloy AL078L, 31.8mm, 45mm rise, 24-degree backsweep, 640mm width
  • Grips:  Marwi 7GP-03-L, 125mm long
  • Stem:  Kalloy AS007N, Available lengths: 300mm (S), 400mm (M), 450mm (L)
  • Headset:  FSA no. 18
  • Saddle: Xtracycle Comfort Saddle (2021)
  • Seat Post:  Kalloy SP3D1, 31.6mm. Available lengths: 300mm (S), 400mm (M), 450mm (L)
  • Seat Clamp (collar):  Xtracycle LF-5233 34.9mm Bolt-on
  • Kickstand: RFA Kickback
  • Rear Rack:  RFA Utility RearRack (RFA Sport RearRack available separately)
  • Brake Levers: Tektro M745
  • Cabling: Internal
  • Front Brake:  Tektro M745, 4 piston hydraulic
  • Front Rotor:  Shimano SM-RT64, 180mm
  • Rear Brake:  Tektro M745, 4 piston hydraulic
  • Rear Rotor:   Shimano STEPS RT-EM600-M, 180mm
  • Front Light:  Herrmans H-Black Pro E 6-12V (attached to fender)
  • Rear Light:  Herrmans H-TRACE E-BIKE 6-12V (included)
  • Shifters:  Shimano SL-M4100-R 10-S Rapidfire Plus w/optical
  • Rear Derailleur:  Shimano RD-M5120-SGS Deore 10/11-S Shadow Plus
  • Crank:  FSA CK752, 170mm
  • Chainring:  FSA 38 tooth cog
  • Cassette:  Shimano CS-M4100-10 10-S 11-42 tooth
  • Chain:  KMC e10T Turbo 10-S EPT Anti-Rust (RFA Utility – 144 Links, RFA Sport – 123 Links)
  • E-Assist:  Shimano STEPS EP6
  • E-Assist Cycling Computer:  Shimano SC-EN500
  • Charger:  Shimano STEPS EC-E6002 (120 V AC, 50 – 60 Hz, 2 amp)
  • Battery: Shimano STEPS BT-EN606, 630 wH (frame, external), up to 60mi per charge depending on riding conditions and load
  • Front Hub:  KT QL-XC2F, 15mm, 100mm thru axle
  • Rear Hub:  KT QL-XC2R, 10mm, 135mm bolt-on
  • Front Rim:  24″ Alex MD-30/36H
  • Rear Rim:  24″ Alex MD-30/36H
  • Spokes:  Pillar 14/15 gauge stainless w/PB15 14L brass nipples
  • Tires:  NICA’GNAR Cargo Tire 24 x 2.5″
  • Tire Compatibility: 24″ tires, max width of 2.5″ only
  • Fenders:  Aluminum (included)
  • Also Includes: RFA WheelSkirts (2021), RFA FootRests (2021)
  • E-Assist Class: Class 3
  • Max E-Assist Speed:  28 mph

Breaking Down The Features Of The Xtracycle RFA

Frame

Since the frame is where it all starts and is the core to which everything else connects, I will start here for a closer look. A solid steel construction. The RFA is easy to mount with its mid-step frame geometry. It’s a great candidate for all ages, sizes, and abilities. Accordingly, this lends to the immense versatility of riders it speaks to. Furthermore, it’s an important feature to consider based on your height, strength, and how much you will be carrying along. I’m 6’-1, so the step through wasn’t an issue, but this does allow for a considerably shorter person to confidently handle the bike.

Battery

The juice behind it all is a 630 watt-hour battery that will provide that extra oomph to get you to go further on a single charge. Xtracycle claims that you can go up to 60 miles. That said, I have yet to push the bike range to the absolute limit, but I’ve come close with numerous rides that top out at 48, 51, and 52 miles. However, that is taking the very conservative approach by not going at top speed or power all the time, and using the legs for a well balanced power input.

Components

SRAM is known for making a very fine and precise set of cycling component pieces. The rear derailleur has quick shifting capabilities with a 10 speed option and 11 to 42 tooth range cassette. Because of the fact the e-bike motor provides so much power, there is really no need to go any higher on the cassette count. The fact that I don’t have too much to say means that everything shifted quite smoothly for me.

On the flipside, the only thing I would want (for me at least) is a couple of additional gears with a smaller tooth count to be able to push more when going at top speed. I tend to spin out when going as fast as the battery and motor allows. The reverse argument for keeping it as-is does ring true for the easier gearing to be able to start up without much effort. Depending on the weight, being able to push that first rotation over the top is key for the juice to kick in to start assisting.

 

4-Piston Hydraulic Brakes

Hydraulic brakes are almost a must these days on any e-bike. I have found these to be super responsive and aggressive when applying a fair amount of brake pressure.

I can tell the difference in feel from others I’ve ridden. There is no rubbing or squealing, and it’s very quick to react with the slightest touch. Even at top speed, I managed to come to a rapid stop in about 15-20’. I hope that I never need to apply a super hard brake, as I always take the more defensive approach when out and about. That said, cars (people in cars on phones more appropriately) have strange behavior patterns. Therefore, be aware, but have comfort in the fact that a fast and aggressive stop is possible.

Motor

Shimano STEPS EP Series high torque motor delivers an impressive 85 NM of torque. Hills, kiddos, or heavy cargo are a cinch as this motor delivers a four-fold boost of e-assist power.

Ok, a few things that you do need to know. It’s an electric bike with a mid-drive motor which means it is way more efficient than a rear hub drive. In turn, the battery size goes down which is a good thing. Hence, it is mounted on the frame instead of being incorporated into it. I do like the look of “normal” bike with the tubing that looks more normal or minimal versus the thick bulky integrated frames. It still looks and feels like a bicycle which is something I do prefer. Of course, and aside from it having two wheels, pedals, a saddle, and a handlebar, that’s pretty much where the similarities end. This is one good reason for me (and maybe others) to consider this bike, because the bike looks less clunky.

One thing of considerable note is that there is no throttle to get one started from a complete stop. Reason being that the immediate engagement of force does kick in as soon as you apply pressure. More on that later.

Saddle

I know this might not be popular opinion, but this is one of the first times an e-bike brand has given the seat a bit more thought as far as design and cushiness goes. Usually, they slap the thickest and widest saddle on there to ensure that it is comfortable. Disclaimer: I do race on the roads, and have a very small and lightweight saddle on that bike. That said, those smaller saddles do conform so nicely to my body after a few rides. The bigger and plushier they are, the more tendency to rub and be uncomfortable. Of course, this is my personal opinion. You need to find your own comfort zone. All in all, this saddle kind of meets a happy medium or a sweet spot in my case. I have enjoyed the comfort of the seat as it does provide enough cushioning.

Up-Front Cargo

For starters, the up-front cargo option is awesome. I can appreciate the extra storage and/or carrying capabilities. It took me a few rides to get used to not being able to see the front wheel as the basket stays put with the front handle bar. This is a legit heavy duty rack. The connection to the frame has been designed to attach solidly. It’s almost as if the rack needs to be there, because without it there, it looks kind of bare.

Lunch, workout clothes, computer and files for work
Flat and empty for a more aerodynamic look when not in use.

Fenders And Lights

The fenders & integrated front LED Lights certainly play their part. Road grime, mud, and rain are no match for the fenders, and they do an admirable job to keep me dry. Fenders are usually the first thing to get bumped or slightly bent to create a rub or rattle. These are solid enough and conform nicely to the tire within the forks and frame. Having said that, be careful as you park or secure your bike to a public bike rack. Those long spindles can withstand some play, but only to a point. The rear fender is protected by the rear rack and frame, so that one doesn’t concern me too much.

The front light has a solid look and feel to it. A bullet-like look that is adjustable and bright with a small side window slit of sorts to give a glimpse of light to the right and left as well. The light has enough lumens to illuminate the road or path, but in the end, I am more concerned about visibility. There are times when folks in cars have this innate ability to completely miss someone on a bike. It happens to me on occasion when I am making eye contact, and they completely miss the fact I am barreling down the road. Lights, bright clothing, reflectors, and blinkers do help in that cause.

Taking The Xtracycle RFA Out On The Road

The main thing I want to point out (again) which is super important, is the fact that this Xtracycle RFA has a mid-drive motor instead of a hub motor in the rear wheel. Many heavier e-bikes including the cargo kind usually have a throttle, but the Xtracycle RFA does not. The hub motor is situated right where the bottom bracket and cranks meet, and is there to deliver direct power when pushing the pedals. The immediate power return when applying pedal pressure is quite noticeable.

The weight of this bike with the options on it as you see them is roughly 60 pounds. It’s definitely got some weight to it, yet not when you consider what it’s set up for. Passenger weight will vary, but pilot and little passengers can certainly push 300 plus pounds. Not to worry, because the Xtracycle RFA can handle well over 400 pounds.

There is an option to shorten this guy from a serious long hauler down to a somewhat more nimble bike. Xtracycle has a patented DynamicDrops System that allows for an adjustment to the wheel base from 84” to a more standard 78”. I didn’t even give it a second thought to shorten the wheelbase, as I really enjoy all the space and options provided by keeping it in stretch limo mode. I suppose maneuverability could be a deciding factor for some to make that change, but I like this set-up to allow for maximum load carrying capacity. The changeover can be done, so follow the instructions to slide a handful of things over including shortening the chain.

A low center of gravity is fantastic for handling the bike, and it feels really smooth. Balancing the bike is a cinch, and I can confidently corner even with a heavier load. I even tried to push this bike into the corners by carving a tighter line, and really leaning into the turn. It’s not a race bike, but I liked being able to feel the bike move and handle like I want it to.

Pure joy is one thought and feeling that immediately came over me. The feel of the bike, and the ride was so smooth. The ride is comfortable with the upright positioning provided by the relaxed design geometry. Find your perfect fit by playing around with it, or go to a local bike shop for a proper bike fit. I know that may seem excessive, but trust me when I say that it will be worth it.

Following are a few ways I’ve looked at how this Xtracycle RFA has impacted my life.

Car replacement

The traffic jam buster is the first thing that comes to mind when I crush a commute to work. I purposely went on the busier thru streets, so I could buzz by all those cars. Mind you, these tertiary roads do have fairly decent bike lanes. Some of these cars will sit through 2-3 red light cycles, and I merely smile going by them all. I can get home in under 19 minutes which I can’t even do in my car with no traffic. Fresh air, a few bucks saved in gas, no wear and tear on the car, and a happier me is what I got out of this function.

Kid Carrier

The kid carrying option is the obvious choice here for many (I’m sure). There are numerous e-bike brands out there that offer the cargo function, and three out of four that I see usually involve hauling little ones to school or to the park. Mine aren’t so little anymore, so at first, I decided not the put the integrated Hooptie rails on to contain them. My initial install of the grab bars is to install them right behind the saddle. I’m sure, that’s not the intent for both smaller “handle bars” to be at the front, but it allowed for my 11 year old to have a good grip. In addition, what is so nice about having all this length in the rear is that there is also an option to add handlebars to the back allowing another way for the passenger to hang on.

The intended Hooptie rail system safely and securely positions up to two little kids on the back. They can safely grab anywhere on those rails. I am leaving the footrests with the seat cushion. My little one will still hop on the back as I take her to school and activities. My oldest at 5′-10″ can ride this bike herself, and might be able to bring a friend along. That is, if I feel comfortable letting her do so.

The cargo hauler

I will likely not even come close to pushing the limits of capabilities that this Xtracycle RFA has to offer. The front porter rack has a multitude of uses to strap on whatever you need. Bungies and ropes will do the trick for certain items. However, the accessory Porter Pack can be flattened when empty, and unfolded to add a ton of stuff. Groceries come to mind, but carry whatever you may need.

Battery life and mileage options.

What I really like about the display is that it is super simple. Many e-bikes come with 4 or 5 various levels of electric boost. The xtracycle RFA has three. Nice and straightforward in my opinion without all those extras that we all think we need. They are speaking my language.

  • Level 1 – mileage is roughly 65 miles
  • Level 2 – mileage is roughly 44 miles
  • Level 3 – mileage is roughly 30 miles.

This is a guide only, so that kind of mileage might vary somewhat for you. I’d build in a bit of a safety factor on this front. I will assume that most people will use a variety of pedal assist levels throughout a ride, so you may be able to get more than 30 miles on 3 if you use a hybrid of levels.

To me, what’s the fun of cruising at 1 or 2? This bike has the option to move swiftly, and it’s hard for me to ignore that. I suppose if I do have a longer trip, and need to conserve power, I will likely shift down to 1 or 2 depending on what I am carrying. Outside of that, I’ll be on full power – thank you very much. I will be able to get at least two work commutes in before having to plug the RFA back in.

Starting from a dead stop is one element that had me concerned. The Xtracycle RFA is a heavier bike that can be loaded down with quite a bit of extra weight. Without that throttle you may think it could be difficult to get going. However, this is where the mid-drive motor comes into play. It is more efficient, and you can really feel the “engine” or force as you get going.

Do keep in mind that the initial start is not jumpy, fast or aggressive, but once I get going it does gradually get up to top speed. I am merely pointing this out, because it is not a sport version! It’s more of a truck that is built to haul. I would advise you shift down 3 or 4 gears if you know you are coming up on a stop. That way, you can get the cranks turned over easier, and the second it feels those watts being pushed down, the mid-drive motor kicks in to push you back up to speed.

Let’s talk about speed. Since mine came as a Class 3 version, I could get up to 25 mph without much effort. After that, I started to run out of the harder gears, and my leg turn over or cadence became a bit too fast. That’s when I don’t push it to keep going at the higher speed, but find my rhythm at 26 or 27 mph. I’m sure you will figure out your sweet spot in time, but that’s how it is panning out for me.

On the flipside, this beauty can also come as a class 2 (20 mph top speed). For many, a class 2 e-bike is plenty of speed to cruise around town, get to work, or move kids or groceries around. I do many of my pure leg-powered rides in lycra with fast riders, and we average 20 mph for 2-3 hour rides. Hence, I like the class 3 e-bikes to provide me some extra zip and speed on my commutes. I do want to caution that it is a lot faster, and handling a bike like this does take some time and confidence. Therefore, don’t feel like you must have the faster version, because the Class 2 options is plenty, especially if this is your first foray into the electric bicycle world.

The front light is pretty sweet as it has side windows that also light up when on. It’s a simple touch, but makes a nice difference. All said, this bike is a light-up juggernaut with those lights, reflectors, and highlights on the mesh and bags. In addition, the tires have a detail pin stripe or white line that catches the lights as well. Pro tip: turn on the lights no matter the time of day or light levels. Visibility is key on our busy streets, so use that extra little bit of power to shed some visible light.

The look is a mix of sturdiness and elegance. The welds on the frame are clean, and the lines are well thought out to provide support, but not look bulky. Don’t get me started on the clunky-looking e-bikes! I like this Xtracycle RFA, because it does still look like a bike. Others are morphing into scooters, mopeds, or even moto-cross bikes. Those thicker framed e-bikes do so in part, because they have an integrated battery system. In this case, it is mounted on the frame, and is quite visible. That said, it is also probably half the size and weight of the before mentioned e-bikes.

Tire pressure is something you will have to play with to find the sweet spot. The tire recommendation is 25 to 60 psi. I come from the skinny high pressure tire side of things, so I cranked it up. That first ride was interesting, because I was lamenting the fact that this bike did not have any suspension on it. Every pavement crack and bump reverberated through my body. I quickly realized my error, and released some of that tire pressure. Smooth sailing after that. Back to my mention of suspension. I don’t think it needs it at all. It would add unnecessary weight, and turn this into more a tank rather than a smooth long hauler.

Value Of This E-Bike

You pay for what you get is a common moniker, and I do subscribe by that moto. Cheap is cheap, and things that are subpar will break down in a fraction of the time versus something well-built and made to last. Spending more on something that will stand the test of time is a good thing, but you have to find the sweet spot.

This is a pricier bike. Yes, I do get that! The budget has to align for you to be able to take the leap up to a $5000 plus bike. That said, it will likely outlast a $2000 e-bike four times over. Additionally, the little technical and mechanical breakdowns will be far and few between. That’s my 2 cents, but I have described the advantages and highlights of this Xtracycle RFA throughout, so you be the judge. I look at it this way: twelve $500 car payments in one year is roughly the cost of this bike. We are in the market for a car in the next couple of years, but each year that’s delayed is enough of a savings for us.

Included with every Xtracycle RFA bike are the following:

  • Footrests

  • Integrated Pannier Rail
  • Kickback Center stand
  • Front and Rear Lights
  • Full Metal Fenders

The above are all essential to the bikes use and performance. Below are a few extras that might make your ride a bit easier based on your own needs. Therefore, I highly recommend you add these to the bike, so that you have the complete package.

Accessorize ‘Till Your Hearts Content.

  • PorterRack $200
  • PorterPack $100

Flat and empty for a more aerodynamic look when not in use.

  • Everyday BikePack $150
  • RFA CargoBay $75
  • RFA Hooptie $240

  • MagicCarpet $75

Final Thoughts On The Xtracycle RFA

Are You Ready For Action? I am, and will be for a good while to come with this beast of an e-bike. The utility aspect, as intended, is the main driver here for me. I can take my kids places, pick up groceries, commute to work, and essentially eliminate a bunch of car trips each and every day. The design is both aesthetic and very functional. I am sure I will find additional uses and add-ons over time, but for now, I am quite content (elated actually) to take my Xtracycle RFA out on the town. In the world of e-bikes, the Xtracycle RFA is not one of your cheaper options, but as mentioned before, the value is there if you want a bike that will perform and last for a long time. MSRP: $4999 For more details and purchase, please visit www.xtracycle.com.

Niels Oomkes: I am a multi-sport endurance athlete, and love to get out into the great outdoors to push the body to its limit. Most of my weekend expeditions, adventures, trips, or vacations are planned around running, biking, snowshoeing, camping, or anything else that will allow me to enjoy nature's exquisite beauty.
Related Post

This website uses cookies.