Cargo bikes are becoming the premier method of family bike transportation with new options popping up weekly. If you don’t believe me, take a quick internet search for cargo bikes. Your screen will become inundated with oddly shaped bikes showing their various colors and wheel sizes. One of the newest options is the Flyer L885 longtail cargo e-bike.
Flyer is a brand that is synonymous with American culture. The “Little Red Wagon” that you see your neighbor kids playing in has been around for nearly a century. Radio Flyer has several other products in their lineup that provide kids with hours of enjoyment. Being that their core competency revolves around wheels, e-bikes were a natural evolution.
The Flyer L885 is their entry into the longtail cargo bike market. It has a great look with a sloping downtube that integrates the battery and keeps standover nice and low. Although it is a cargo bike, my initial test rides found that the handling is tight and concise with turns feeling close to that of a normal length bike.
Admittedly, I was excited to get to demo this e-bike because of their wagon and their place in our culture and history. Flyer knows how to have fun and they have designed a great e-bike that is not only fun but was designed to be a functional form of transportation for families.
This review aims to not only share info about the bike but also Flyer as an organization to convey their knowledge and ability to generate wheeled family fun. So, sit down, pull the handle back and get ready to steer, because this little red wagon is about to take off down the driveway.
Review In A Nutshell
- Great value
- One or two seats mounted on rear rack
- Integrated front and rear lights
- Throttle helps to initiate movement
- Fenders and other safety features
- Rear basket converts to safety rails
- 3 sizes with loads of adjustability and storage
- No built-in lock
- Motor whines at top end
- Mechanical Disc Brakes
Comparison to the Competition
The Flyer L885 is a great looking frame with the rear cargo end running past the seat tube into the thick downtube. A healthy amount of step-through clearance and no top tube makes for a traditional looking cargo bike that functions as well as it looks.
Let’s start off with the information you really came for. How does the Flyer L885 compare to other longtail e-cargo bikes?
It is definitely an entry-level bike, both in price and in build. It’s closest competitor may be the ever-popular RadPower Radwagon. Both are currently priced at $1,999. In general, that is a great price for an entry level e-bike.
Compared to more expensive longtail cargo bikes, like the Xtracycle, the Flyer lacks the smooth engagement of a mid-drive motor and the quiet hum of high-end components. Still it’s a great option for those looking for a more budget oriented bike.
Back to a comparison with the RadWagon, both bikes can seat two additional passengers or cargo. These bikes have fenders, lights, and hub driven motors. From there, the features change and become somewhat unique. Let’s dive in and see if a Flyer is right for your family.
The Flyer is unique in that it has a 20” rear wheel and a 26” front wheel. Both wheels come equipped with CST Big Boat tires.
The design choice of a smaller rear wheel has several benefits. The rear end of the frame can sit lower so hauling children or loads of stuff is easier.
The frame and wheelbase can be run a little tighter so that turns and handling are more reliable. Finally, having the larger front wheel adds the benefit of being able to roll over obstacles more easily and will carry the general speed consistently.
The Radwagon’s 22” wheels can’t compete with that.
The CST tires are both the 3” wide version. This adds stability and control to the ride. It makes for a fun, easy handling cargo bike.
I admittedly weigh more than the stated capacity of both the Flyer and Radwagon (as well as most other e-bikes). That’s not to say it doesn’t work, but I can tell when the motor is working with me on it vs. my wife and son on any of the e-bikes.
Our Radwagon is a little older so maybe the motor isn’t like new, but it cannot carry me up the hill to our house. I have to pedal my little heart out. The Flyer L885 handles our hill like a champ! I can do 11 to 12 mph up the hill with no issues. Once my son is on with me, it does slow down, but still gets us up the hill.
The strange thing about this comparison is that the Radwagon has a 750 watt motor and the Flyer has a 500 watt motor. As tested, I do get a slight bit more range out of the Radwagon, but I am doing all the work uphill vs the Flyer that will carry me up the hill with just the throttle. It definitely has more torque and it rides so much nicer because of that.
I did have a few instances in testing hill climbs where the Flyer’s battery would prematurely die on me. After I let it sit in the off position for a moment I could return to climbing once the system calibrated itself and acknowledged that there was more battery life.
In general, the bike carries my weight very well. It moves quickly, has quick engagement and doesn’t act sluggish like other e-bikes I have tested.
All of the Ways to Haul Kids and Gear
Like most other long-tail cargo bikes, the Flyer L885 can be configured in several variations to haul kids and gear. There are two pieces of stained decking (that add to the aesthetic of the machine) that can be removed for padded seating. One can also install a rear basket/handrail that protects kids and has a cloth liner to hold just gear or can be folded down as a wheel skirt.
There are mounts for a front basket and specific accessories can be purchased to fit the bike. I only have one child to carry and so I can mix up the configuration to haul him and a pannier bag on the back making the bike versatile and dually useful.
The rack is able to have two large seats like the Thule Yepp Maxi attached to the back. We tested with our Burley Dah RM and it fit fantastically. Hauling the whole family all over town has never been easier.
Running boards with the same stained wood not only adds to the aesthetic of the bike but gives bigger kids like my son somewhere to rest their feet. I found them easy to install and the mount also doubles as a sort of loop for the basket’s conversion to a wheel skirt.
As a plus, the bike comes with the running boards and they don’t have to be purchased separately. This adds value compared to the Flyer’s direct competitor.
A Cargo Commuting Machine
Hauling all the gear to soccer practice generally necessitates a minivan. Not anymore! We have traditionally used our basket bike (the Bunch Bike) for endeavors like this, but with the Flyer and it’s large basket we can haul just as much stuff.
Bakfiets are not very easy to commute with compared to a normal bike and having a standard, two-wheeled machine like the Flyer makes it so much easier to get around town.
Taking the kiddo to his soccer practice and then moving the wheel skirt into basket mode allows me to haul groceries home and then get back to pick him up. It’s a great system with easy changes to the basket.
I have seen several creative solutions to hauling gear on cargo bikes like milk crates, bike trailers, and the like. The accessories offered by Flyer are specific to their frames and work flawlessly.
It’s also easy to change the configurations once your kiddos have grown. The bike can be adapted however is most useful to you.
It’s Heavy, but it’s an E-bike
The Flyer L885 weighs in at 73 pounds. With the additional gear it only increases from there. This is a few pounds less than the Radwagon.
Because it is an e-bike you don’t feel that weight when riding. Parking the bike in congested areas can be a little challenging for people like my wife. Moving the bike around while off the bike is a bit challenging (without some upper body strength) but is doable. Once the bike is loaded down with gear or kids that becomes more difficult. This is a trait that nearly all cargo bikes exhibit though.
If the battery died and you were out and about then getting home will be a hefty challenge. Also, transporting cargo bikes on a vehicle is a challenge. Some racks are rated for higher weights, but most can only accommodate auxiliary bikes at far lesser weights. Traveling with your cargo bike on a vehicle is quite limited.
This is a Class 2 E-Bike
Like most cargo e-bikes we have tested, the Flyer L885 is a class 2 e-bike. This means that the system is designed to engage the motor via pedal assist or the independent throttle.
The throttle is integrated into the right grip of the Flyer. It is nice to have a throttle especially when the bike is loaded down. When stopping and restarting it is much easier to have power helping you accelerate and get on your way.
Dual Legged Kickstand is a Necessity
Holding a cargo bike while my son climbs on the back is always a challenge. The Flyer has a robust, steel, dual legged kickstand and we have not had any issues with it thus far.
Having a functioning dual legged kickstand is imperative for parking, running errands and general storage. Being able to leave the bike upright is a necessity.
Front and Rear Lights for Night Riding
The Flyer has integrated lights both in the front and rear of the bike. Being seen by traffic is imperative to one’s safety and having lights to see the road home is always nice.
I have never tested an e-bike with integrated lights that were very powerful. Often, if I know I will be out after dark I will bring one of my Niterider lights to supplement the lights built into the bike.
Not a One Size Fits All Frame
The sizing of the Flyer is kind of a drawback when compared to the competition. Most other manufacturers build a frame that is modular and able to fit a wide range of riders.
When deciding what frame of Flyer would be best for us to demo, I decided a medium frame would be ideal. I thought it would be a little big for my wife and a little small for me. The bike actually fits me a little big (I am 5’11) and my wife did not fit at all.
The stem is able to be both rotated and flipped around backwards, but these are not quick adjustments. Being able to have two different sized people ride the same bike requires several adjustments that are cumbersome and not convenient to make. Additionally, I am not comfortable riding a bike with the stem flipped backwards.
Flyer’s Website indicates that the L885 has a range from 30-50+ miles. While this is true if one rides in some of the lower PAS settings if you weigh as much as I do and ride in level 5 the bike gets an average of 22 miles. As described, the range is variable based on weight and pedal assist level.
The battery range of the Flyer is sufficient for most if not all of the commuting needs that we experience. If you have a longer commute to work or wherever then you’ll want to be able to charge the bike in between commutes.
Flyer does offer a battery extension as an accessory. It adds an additional “50+ miles” of range and mounts to the cargo area behind the seat tube.
The 5 Modes
Like many other e-bikes, the Flyer has 5 power settings. The minimum feels near to normal pedaling and barely carries the weight of the bike. Level 5 feels like the motor is carrying everything and one’s own pedaling is light and easy. Everything in between is designed to meet your needs.
As previously mentioned, the Flyer can carry me up the steep hill to our house where our Radwagon cannot. I appreciate that the motor is strong enough to pack my weight and make my commuting needs easier.
When just using the pedal assist, I can maintain about 17 mph on level 5. If I use the throttle, it tops out at 20 miles per hour with ease.
20mph is the Max Speed
Nearly all class 1 and 2 e-bikes are designed to limit the rider to 20 mph. While this is a great idea for safety reasons, in some cases, it limits the functionality of the bike.
When I reach speeds above 20 mph the Flyer tends to engage the regulator and limits the motor. I have ridden other e-bikes where the motor won’t engage, but one can cruise above the limit and there is no drag. The Flyer’s motor seems to have a drag that slows the rider down. The motor does not re-engage until it has fallen well below 20 to about 18 mph.
This is more of a personal complaint, but when I do top out the motor on the Flyer it takes on a disconcerting whining noise. I am not sure if it’s because I have topped the bike out with my weight or what. As soon as I slow below 20 it’s fine.
Display is Easy to Use and Read
A quality display is imperative to riding an e-bike. The Flyer’s display has 3 brightness settings with the highest almost being too bright. Like most, it displays the bikes speed, PAS setting, battery level and can be set for miles or kilometers.
Components of the Build
The Flyer L885 has a 7-speed Shimano drivetrain that is simple and easy to use. The frame is 6061 aluminum, and the fork is steel. Many of the other parts are steel as well including the seat post, rims, and spokes. These choices have kept the bike lighter while providing strength where its needed.
The Selle Royal seat is quite comfortable and is indeed a welcome component. The seat in combination with the adjustable stem and quick release seat post collar allow one to make fit adjustments more easily (though flipping the stem around backwards is awkward as I mentioned prior).
Some other nice features are the fenders, ergonomic grips and the wide tires I mentioned above. These components add to the safety and comfort of the bike making for a smooth, enjoyable ride. The fenders are great at repelling water and keeping the rider dry.
Mechanical Disc Brakes
A primary component of any bike build is the brake set. The Tektro mechanical disc brakes on the Flyer are decent. They do their job, but wear fast. E-bikes are bigger, heavier and faster. They tend to wear out brakes and drive trains much faster than analog bikes.
I have found on our personal cargo bike (that has the same brake set) that the pads not only wear fast, but cables stretch much more quickly than they do on a lighter bike. It seems both the weight and speed tend to wear these brakes down quickly. I have to adjust the pads inward on a weekly basis.
I can tell that the Flyer is in the same boat. The brakes feel a little weak and could use a “tuning”. That said, I have put nearly 100 miles on the bike and have not needed to adjust the brake pads quite yet.
Having a built-in wheel lock on a cargo bike is so much nicer than packing your own. A cable lock can be easily cut. Being able to literally park the bike anywhere and know it can’t move is a greater theft deterrent.
Cargo bikes are longer and parking by a bike rack can be a challenge, especially in a congested city. Having the ability to lock up anywhere is a necessity. Hopefully this is something that Flyer can include in future renditions of the bike.
Removing the Rear Wheel
Flat tires are part of riding bikes. It happens. With nearly every cargo e-bike, removing the rear wheel is an enormous challenge. A bolt axle design (like most older bikes) maintains the strength and durability to keep the heavy rear wheel in the dropouts, but changing a tube has never been a bigger chore.
Hub driven motors are almost always located on the rear wheel. The motor is a heavy component and wiring running internally through the bike connects to the hub. Definitely consult a professional if you don’t feel comfortable removing all of these items to change a tire.
Flyer considered this and decided to stock the wide CST tires we mentioned above. To mitigate punctures the wheels are set up with flat protection. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to add some tire sealant to the system as well.
Bottom-Line: A Great Company with a Great Cargo Bike at a Competitive Price
A century of creation, innovation and history comes with every Flyer purchased. They are a company that has left a lasting impression on our culture reflecting generations of joy and happiness in children. Like the little red wagon, the L885 will certainly leave a smile on your face.
When compared to other cargo e-bikes, the Flyer has modest components, but they are still name brand and function with the quality that we all expect. When compared to direct competition, Flyer checks all the boxes. They include things like running boards. Additionally, they have some great accessories too.
When value and functionality are your primary concerns, one cannot go wrong with the Flyer L885. It has all of the features one would hope for in an entry-level cargo e-bike. Consider the Flyer L885 as your next family hauling rig.