Cargo bikes are becoming ever popular in a world of cars and traffic. The ability to navigate droves of people while hauling kiddos and gear to the park has never been more easy or enjoyable. Xtracycle is a brand that has been at it from the beginning, making long tail cargo bikes popular with their quality builds and well-thought-out designs.
Xtracycle has made a name for itself within the cycling industry by building unique cargo bikes. These are bikes that will last a lifetime and exude quality from every facet of the company to each component specced on every machine.
As far as we know, Xtracycle is the original builder of the long tail cargo bike design. Analog bikes were part of their lineup for years, but with time comes change. E-bikes have made commuting more accessible and easier to do. It was a natural evolution for Xtracycle to phase out the analog bikes and begin to only offer e-bikes.
A 26-inch front wheel and 20-inch rear wheel makes for a bike that handles with a nimbleness that one would normally achieve on a regular length bike. It is true, having gear and kids on board will change the handling, but with this bike you can barely tell that you’re driving a kid hauling machine.
The goal of this review is to not only share the bike, but the quality of the build and the ingenuity of the people behind it. Customer service at Xtracycle is top notch and that makes a difference when your family is investing in a bike like this. Read on to learn more about the Xtracycle Swoop…..
Review In A Nutshell
- Great quality
- Fits up to two mounted seats or three children w/o seats
- Integrated front and rear lights
- Shimano EP8 System
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Fenders and other safety features
- Accessories are highly customizable
- Rear platform is very comfortable
- Excellent customer service
- No built-in lock
- No throttle with a mid-drive motor/ Class 1 e-bike
- Power button isn’t on handlebar
Buy at Xtracycle.com*
Quality is Second to None
Like most long-tail cargo bikes, the Xtracycle Swoop has a longer wheelbase than a standard bike and this allows one to carry kids, gear, and maybe even the dog too. Higher quality than other cargo bikes we have tested, the Swoop has a mid-drive motor, hydraulic disc brakes, and comfortable rear seating for passengers.
The price of the Swoop is that of a high-end bike and for good reason. The frame design in conjunction with the quality parts specified on the bike are meant to last a lifetime and offer durability beyond most competitors. The mid-drive motor design is a Class 1 e-bike system that is often found on e-mountain bikes.
Most road worthy commuter e-bikes tend to be built around a rear hub motor as it keeps the cost down. There is a reason Xtracycle designed their frame around the more cost prohibitive Shimano EP8 and not a hub driven motor. The mid-drive motors have a familiar pedal input. It’s smooth and makes for a smooth ride. Hub driven motors feel clunky and the pedal assist feels less natural.
The Swoop is able to seat two additional passengers (3 if they’re all about 5 or 6 years old) and can be configured in several variations between kid hauling and cargo carrying duties. The bike has fenders, lights, and a battery mounted between the seat tube and rear wheel. Compared to the hub-driven competition, the Swoop is lightyears ahead between design factors and quality functionality.
Swooping Frame Lines
The Swoop has a top tube and down tube that both run parallel down to the bottom end of the seat tube. The top tube swoops inward and the downtube houses the Shimano EP8 motor, bottom bracket, and crank arm assembly in a tidy fashion.
Chain and seat stays run back into the rack end. A robust assembly of tubing houses a 20-inch rear wheel and the deck for kid seats, storage, big kids, etc. The frame is able to accommodate a front basket or rack as well and looks sleek and refined.
The owner is able to change the configuration of basket and handrail options to either haul more gear or more kids. There are padded options and the rear end of the Swoop is the most comfortable e-cargo-bike we have tested.
Compared to the competition, the Swoop is fairly similar in wheelbase and handling. Because of the mid-drive motor, the bike pedals more smoothly than others and feels stable and efficient. As a whole package, the bike looks and rides great.
The Shimano Motor
Shimano is one of the largest manufacturers of bike parts on Earth. They were one of the initial companies to create an efficient mid-drive system for e-bikes. The Steps EP8 is a proven system that works well and lasts. Xtracycle made a great choice in stocking the Shimano EP8 on the Swoop.
The system on our test bike was used and a little older. Current systems stocked have a 630-watt hour battery.
The rider has to turn the battery on via a button on the battery vs the display. All of our other e-bikes we have tested turned on via a button on the display which is a lot easier. I have a habit of jumping on the bike, pedaling a bit (we live at the top of a hill), and then wanting to turn the motor on. I can’t do this on the Xtracycle, and I have to actually pull over to the side of the road to turn the battery on or off.
Another issue we have had with the Shimano system is charging. There is a failsafe that locks the battery if it goes beyond its charging capacity.
My wife found that out the hard way by rolling down our hill with the battery off. When she went to turn it on at the bottom of the hill it would not register. To mitigate the failsafe, you have to turn the bike on with the plug in the battery.
Needless to say, she had to hike the bike back up the hill to our house. It was too heavy to climb with the system turned off. (We were assured that this was with the older version of the EP8 and newer versions don’t deal with this)
The Shimano system is designed for mountain bikes. It works well and there is no drag when pedaling. Other bikes tend to have a space for the battery to be housed in the frame. The Swoop has the battery externally mounted behind the seat tube. This is possibly the biggest risk in the design of the system but not a nonstarter. The handling of the bike feels efficient with the battery placed in it’s mount.
I drove the bike up the mountain near our home as a test ride. The battery and system worked flawlessly and I had none of the issues that I experienced with the Flyer L885 in my previous e-bike review. I did long for a throttle on some of the steeper pitches, but the bike climbed and descended with a relative ease that I have only experienced with other e-mountain bikes.
There might not be a throttle, but there is also not much noise from the system either. It runs quietly and efficiently and is a long-term, durable solution to the varying choices of e-bikes. Despite the few flaws, the Shimano EP8 is quite possibly the best e-bike system I have pedaled.
Haul Your Kids And Gear
Long tail cargo bikes are, more or less, designed to haul kids and gear. They are the station wagon of the new millennium. The Xtracycle Swoop can be configured in several variations to haul kids and gear.
The version we received for review was setup to haul older kids with the Half Hooptie rail system. It was a thoughtful design that had enough railing to add safety while also providing the most comfortable rear passenger area I have ever seen on a cargo bike. The Swoop is ready for commuting and family adventures.
The seating area had deluxe padding with additional pads around the handrail. The seating curled into a back rest allowing our little rascal to sort of lounge while we rode.
The team at Xtracycle also included an Everyday Bikepack pannier bag, Freeloader Too slings – two magnetic baskets that double as a wheel cover, and ample storage in the front basket. The Porter Pack or front storage was so big that we rarely needed to use the rear options and instead left that area to kid hauling duty.
Xtracycle has a myriad of options and configurations one can choose to customize their own bike. Truly, the bike can change as your children grow. One can mount child seats like the Yepp Maxi to the rear rack.
As time moves on, the rear end can be adapted for big kids that want to sit on a comfy seat and hold some handlebars or lounge in comfort while they are chauffeured to soccer practice. This bike can eliminate the need for a car in most local commuting situations and it makes for great, daily family adventures.
It’s Heavy, but Waaaay Lighter Than The Competition
The Xtracycle Swoop weighs in at 63 pounds. This bike is noticeably lighter than any other cargo e-bike I have ever ridden. The Radpower Radwagon for instance weighs 76 pounds. This reduction in weight has a dramatic effect on the handling and braking of the bike.
The handling of the Swoop feels natural and similar to an auxiliary mountain bike. Parking and moving the bike around can be a little challenging due to weight but is far easier than one of the heavier models we have tested prior. When the bike is loaded with both kids and gear you will certainly notice it.
The biggest challenge with the Swoop in regard to weight is that there is no throttle. When e-bikes have a throttle, it is easier to come to a stop and get going again. The Swoop is a pedal only assist and it takes some serious leg power to accelerate the bike from a stop while fully loaded with kids and gear.
The Swoop Is A Class 1 E-Bike
Class 1 E-bikes are limited to pedal assist only. The motor has a regulation of 20 mph. The Shimano EP8 motor does allow for the bike to coast past 20 and does not put a drag on the system. I appreciate that. It feels more natural and the pedaling with a mid-drive motor feels like a normal bike.
Though this class 1 e-bike does not have a throttle, it does have a quality feel to the pedaling. In the turbo mode it’s nearly effortless, but one’s own cadence is not spun out and useless. This is a fun bike to ride.
Loading and unloading a cargo bike with children and groceries can be a challenge. The Swoop has a spring loaded, dual legged kickstand that worked as it should. It is a necessary and durable component that will keep the bike upright and ready to park anywhere you can lock the bike.
The Swoop has integrated lights both front and rear. Integrated bike lights are never the brightest option, but they seem to do the job. Most times, I will run one of my Niterider lights to supplement the lights on the bike.
We received a medium Swoop frame that was not only a visual stunner but fit and rode for both my wife and my self quite comfortably. The Kalloy handlebar sweeping back at 24 degrees, in beach cruiser fashion makes for a stable, fast pedal, even fully loaded. Neither one of us had anything negative to say about the ride quality of this steel steed.
The touch points- grips, pedals and saddle are all great choices for this bike. It’s great that neither myself nor my wife need to make any adjustments. The seat is slightly low for me and slightly high for her. Not enough on this comfort cruiser to be of any concern though.
The 630 watt-hour Shimano battery does its job well. Like most e-bikes, I was able to pedal just over 20 miles in the turbo setting. Range is always variable because of body weight and dependent on the choice of pedal assist level. The middle setting (Trail setting to us mountain bikers) does extend the range quite a bit and feels the most like an auxiliary bike to me.
The Swoop’s battery range is adequate for all my commuting needs that I experience. I do work from home, but take my son to school, sports and extracurriculars, do all of my grocery shopping and local commuting via e-bikes. My favorite excursion has been visiting the local brewery with my wife while our son is in his piano class.
Three Modes of Movement
The Shimano EP8 system consists of 3 power settings. The first setting feels heavy compared to normal pedaling and barely carries the weight of the bike. Mode 2 (or Trail) feels like the motor is carrying the bike’s weight but pedaling is normal. Turbo mode (mode 3) is my favorite setting. The bike cruises with ease and comfort as you fly down the road.
The Swoop has a SRAM drivetrain that works in conjunction with the Shimano motor. I have never liked the indexing of SRAMS’s derailleurs, but overall, it worked just fine. Being able to dump a whole handful of gears in one shift is ideal, especially in a mountain bike setting, but town cruising doesn’t necessarily require quick shifts like that.
Max Speed Is 20 MPH if You Can Pedal Hard Enough
The Swoop is a class 1 e-bike. That means the motor will limit the rider to about 20 mph.
The Shimano EP8 is a great e-bike motor, but there is no throttle to help the pedal assist. There is no drag from the motor and if you are cruising down a hill it will surpass the 20-mile mark without adding drag to the motor. Pedaling up to 20 mph is another story. It takes some serious leg power to reach max speed.
There are no weird noises from the motor and I was able to maintain a consistent 17 mph on most flat surfaces around town. Climbing never felt strained and I was able to consistently climb at about 10 mph, even with my body weight.
Shimano has designed a quality e-bike system and the display is part of that. Although we were required to power the system on via the battery button, the display controlled everything else. Like most e-bikes, it displays the bikes speed, assist setting, battery level and can be set for miles or kilometer and controls the integrated lights.
Components Of The Build
The Xtracycle Swoop has a 11-speed SRAM NX drivetrain that is simple and easy to use (the same drive train on my main mountain bike). It’s not SRAM’s high end offering, but it does the job without complaint.
The frame is steel, and the fork is steel. The wheels are Alex rims (both 20 and 26”) paired with Schwalbe Super Moto tires, KT hubs and steel spokes. A lot of the parts are mountain bike components that are super durable and add an element of worry-free care to the steed.
The seat is house branded and quite comfortable. The brakes are Tektro M745 four piston brakes. This is the first cargo e-bike I have ridden with hydraulic disc brakes and it makes an amazing difference in ride quality.
Other components like the aluminum fenders, Marwi grips and rack system add to the quality of the bike. These components provide safety and comfort making for a smooth, enjoyable ride. The integrated lights are a bonus that allow one to make it home at night.
I have said it before but having a built-in wheel lock on a cargo bike is a nice addition. That said, the Swoop is quite fancy. I would probably double lock it if it had a wheel lock.
It can be a challenge parking a bike with a long wheelbase like the Swoop. Using a wheel lock allows one to park wherever they want. This is all up to the owner and how safe they feel though.
Rear Wheel Removal
Tires go flat. It happens. Most cargo e-bikes are a pain to remove the rear wheel. Most of those e-bikes are cheaply built with dropouts and wheels that require bolt axles and nuts to hold everything together.
This is not the case with the Swoop. It doesn’t have a heavy rear hub motor. It has a mid-drive motor! That means a quick release rear wheel makes for easier maintenance when the inevitable flat makes an appearance.
Bottom-Line: The Swoop is a High-Quality Cargo E-bike
Xtracycle has been hard at work creating cargo bikes for a few decades now. Integrating e-bike motors to their steel frames was one of the best decisions they have ever made. Cargo bikes and e-bikes are nearly synonymous with each other.
Comparing the Swoop to the competition is like comparing oranges to apples. They just are not the same thing. Xtracycle includes components that are built to last and provide a safe consistent experience. Xtracycle includes hydraulic disc brakes! The running boards, storage solutions and kid hauling capacity exude comfort and ease of use.
The Swoop is a safe, comfortable, and functional e-cargo bike that is well worth its value. Everything from the sweeping contours of the frame to the brakes and other components easily convey Xtracycle’s commitment to providing a high-quality e-cargo bike. Consider the Xtracycle Swoop as your next family hauling rig.