In 1995, Ross Evans, an undergraduate student at Stanford University, traveled to Nicaragua with Bikes Not Bombs to explore how bicycles could support the mobility of people and goods in rural communities. This is where the long-tail cargo bike concept was born. In 1998, Evans, once back in California, launched the brand Xtracycle with the FreeRadical extension kit product to convert standard bikes into long-tail cargo bikes.
In 2006, Xtracycle partnered with Surly to produce the first full-frame longtail bicycle, the Big Dummy. Xtracycle released its own longtail, the Radish, in 2007. The Swoop didn’t arrive on the scene until 2017, introducing a step-through frame. And now, after 6 years, Xtracycle is launching the next generation of the long-tail Swoop with two versions and a host of upgrades.
I’ve been on the Xtracycle Swoop 2.0 since early December, riding it with all forms of cargo around Boulder, Colo. It has proven itself to be a worthy and super-useful addition to my family of four.
In short: Xtracycle innovated the long-tail cargo bike concept 25 years ago. The new Swoop is now available in Class 1 (20 mph max) and a Class 3 version featuring the Shimano EP6 series drive system with 28mph max assist. Being on a bike that rode like a bike, not like an electric moped with pedals, was a pleasure. The Swoop 2.0 is our family’s top pick of the five cargo bikes we’ve tested so far.
- Bike weight 62.9 lbs.
- Max gross vehicle weight 470 lbs.
- Sizing Suitable for 5’3” to 6’3” users
- Step over height 18"
- Wheel base 56.3"
- Actual length 83"
- E-assist motor Shimano STEPS EP6
- Max assist speed 28 mph
- Tire compatibility 26" and 20" only, max width of 2.4"
- 30” long-tail
- Rides like a bike
- Swappable components
- Great accessories
- Single battery
- Proprietary battery plug
- Limited color options
- Geared to climb/haul over speed
Xtracycle Swoop 2.0 Configuration
The Swoop is named for the low, swooping step-through frame. The step-over height of 18 inches made it easy to mount. The geometry of the steel frame is upright, yet relaxed, and was the most comfortable of the bikes we’ve tested so far for both my wife (5’9”) and me (5’11”).
The handlebar was a comfortable width and offered excellent steering control. And the Shimano Tektro hydraulic disc brakes were smooth and responsive.
What impressed me the most about the Swoop 2.0 was how it rode like a bicycle. It wasn’t until I rode it a bit that I noticed how much other e-cargo bikes rode like electric mopeds with pedals. Because it doesn’t have a throttle, I felt much more engaged with managing the gears, like a non-electric bicycle.
The gearing on the low end was my one woe with the bike’s configuration. It was more suited for heavy loads, steep climbs, or both. Of the 10 cassette cogs, I never went below fifth on the flats, even when starting on a flat grade with a full load (both kids with school backpacks, plus me, just short of 300 pounds).
We had the 28mph (Class 3) version, and the only way I actually got to 28mph was by cranking awkwardly fast. The only reason I pedaled that fast was to stay ahead of spinning out. Fortunately, Xtracycle uses a four-bolt FSA 42 tooth chainring, so a customer could swap it out for something bigger.
Passengers & Cargo
The Xtracycle Swoop 2.0 payload is an impressive 470 pounds and, as I mentioned above, our full load of kids and bags was just shy of 300 pounds. The Swoop can accept front and rear cargo racks. We had the front rack with the large PorterPack with a 19-56L capacity — variable thanks to the magnetic roll-top closure. The PorterPack absorbed three kids’ school backpacks.
The rear rack is one of the largest we’ve had on a long-tail style cargo bike at 30 inches. With 6- and 9-year-olds, the best configuration for us was a double set of Magic Carpet sit pads bent up in the front and back. This offered padded facing backrests surrounded by the very handy Half Hooptie — an oval railing with one side cut out.
Our kids could hold on well enough to have the one side open, which made getting on and off the bike much easier. It was also easier for the adult riding the bike because the center of gravity stayed low while the kids got on and off. With full hoop bike racks, the kids must climb over the hoop, and the adult must work to keep the bike stable.
The Xtracycle rear-rack system has one more level of railing/handle style: the simple U-shaped snack bars. These provide openings on both sides, and we could probably get away with them now, but we won’t need to due to the size of the kids for at least another few years.
The bike can take up to two Yepp kids’ seats for babies, which shows how it can support a family from the very beginning until the kids are nearly teenagers.
The Swoop 2.0 comes with two FreeLoader Too saddle-style bags. These lay flat against the side of the bike below the seat pad and out of the way when hauling kids. When stowed, they acted as a guard to keep wayward straps or clothing from entering the rear wheel’s spokes. They popped open very easily to secure more gear as needed.
Xtracycle Swoop 2.0 Power Delivery
A Shimano STEPS EP6 brushless motor powers the Xtracycle Swoop 2.0 with up to 85Nm of torque, providing up to 400% e-assist. The motor was quiet and nearly unnoticeable because it delivered power so smoothly.
The power assist was most noticeable when I (deliberately) drained the 630wH battery. The motor cut out, leaving me to pedal entirely on my own power. Fortunately, the battery still powered the front and rear lights. Safety first. This is where the aforementioned gripe about the gearing was assuaged — those usually unused lower gears came in very handy when the e-assist was out.
Our big hill test is the 350-foot climb over 1.4 miles to Chautauqua Park — a near-constant 4.7% grade hill. That’s a solid, steady climb on a non-motorized bike (especially starting at 5,400 feet). But the Xtracycle Swoop 2.0, loaded with kids and picnic gear, zipped up the hill without a problem. Granted, we were going nowhere near 28 mph, and I did drop to the lowest gear for this.
Xtracycle claims a 60-mile range on a single battery charge. With hauling the kids around, we found we were closer to a 40-mile range. Most of our trips were 2 miles or less; we went for a number of days before needing to recharge.
I was really happy with the Shimano SC-EN500 E-assist cycling computer and handlebar control interface. The unit is discrete, and I loved that it only has three levels of assistance.
I find five-level models pretty obnoxious, since I’m always just cranking the assist up to the max. Why not? The power button is on its own, so even with gloves on it was easy to hit and hold. It required a long hold, but not too long like some other controllers.
The power assist level buttons are big and were easy to tap while wearing gloves. The LCD readout is simple, with a large speedometer and options to show the expected range, the odometer, or the trip meter. The battery indicator was accurate, never surprising me with a suddenly dead battery.
I wish the e-bike industry could agree on a round universal charging port so it just goes right in and doesn’t need orienting in a particular way. The charger that came with the Swoop has an output of 42 V at 1.8 A. However, Xtracycle moved the charge port to the left side so the chain wouldn’t block it. Gold star there.
Ride Quality & Handling
The Swoop 2.0 rode wonderfully — it had a nice balance, the steering geometry was smooth and predictable, and the brakes handled big loads on steep and long descents. A huge part of the ride quality came with the 26-inch front wheel. Bikes with smaller front wheels have always made the steering feel quirky to me.
The front and rear brakes are Tektro M745 four-piston hydraulic disc brakes. Like most of the e-bikes we tested, the brakes started out a little loud. But after a few days of riding, they settled in and were quiet. Even with a nearly 300-pound load, the stopping power was excellent on the 1.4-mile descent from our Chautauqua picnic.
Xtracycle Swoop 2.0 Cargo E-Bike: Conclusion
Xtracycle is on the higher end of the price spectrum: $5,499 for the Class 3 (28mph) version and $4,999 for the Class 1 (20mph) version. The brand uses high-end components, and the ride quality was excellent.
As I’ve only had the bike for a few months now, I can’t speak to its longevity yet. But Xtracycle made a name for itself with previous models that have all proven durable. For that sort of longevity, bikes from Xtracycle offer good value.