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The brand Radio Flyer is synonymous with American culture, at least in my mind. White picket fences, a fresh apple pie, and a red Radio Flyer wagon for the kids to carry their dog, snacks, or friends around in.
Flash forward to 2023, and the distances you’re carrying those same items aren’t quite as close as they used to be. Enter the Flyer L885 electric cargo bike. Obviously, there are quite a few differences between this and the wagon you may have had previously: this one is a class 2 e-bike that offers pedal assist to 20 mph, among other things.
But the cargo-carrying ethos is still here, and for what is ultimately the company’s first try at electric bikes, I think this bike does a great job. And better yet, it’s available in the red color you see here; we couldn’t not get the Flyer in red!
Here are the quick details for the Flyer L885 before we dive into the nitty gritty. The Flyer L885 by the numbers:
- Three sizes (S, M, L); four colors (white, black, blue, and red).
- Bike weight: 73 pounds (33 kg), 80 pounds (36 kg) with rear basket.
- Max payload capacity of 400 pounds (181 kg), and max capacity of 150 lbs (68 kg) on the rear rack.
- Capable of up to two passengers on the rear rack, with mounts for two Thule Yepp Maxi child seats.
- A claimed range of 30 to 50 miles (48 to 80 km); found about 25 miles (40 km) in my experience.
- UL 2849-certified electrics.
Flyer offers the L885 cargo bike in three sizes, helpful for dialing in what type of bike you want. I went with the size medium at 5’6” (168 cm) and found my choice to be quite a bit longer than anticipated. There is an adjustable stem to raise and lower the bars, but if I were to own this bike in the long term, I would swap the stem for something shorter.
Each L885 comes with a 720 Wh battery housed in the downtube. Flyer claims a range of up to 50 miles (80 km) on a charge. Want to double your range? Just behind the seat tube is a mount for a second battery.
And you might want that second battery, as total charge times from the 2 Amp battery charger take about 8 hours from almost zero as I have found. Thankfully, the battery is easily removable from the bike so you can bring the battery inside to charge it when needed.
The bike claims 500 W power from a hub-driven motor. Hub motors are less complicated in design and cheaper to make than mid-drive motors for the most part, but they work well in most applications, including here. And like a lot of other hub motors, you can lightly pedal along (some call it ‘ghost pedaling’) while the bike offers full assist up to its max speed.
Flyer builds the bike with a class 2 rating, which means it offers pedal assist up to 20 miles per hour (32 kph) as well as a throttle to use the bike without pedaling. Using the throttle at max pace will quickly drain the battery, however.
The Flyer L885 comes with integrated front and rear LED lights, though mine didn’t come with a front light. The integrated rear brake light is a nice touch; the rear light goes from standard brightness to another level as you pull on the brake levers.
Just below the bike is a sturdy dual-arm kickstand that keeps the bike planted and stable when you’re loading and unloading.
The Flyer offers large cable-actuated brakes from Tektro. The extra wiring coming off of them is a power cutoff so the bike knows not to provide assistance when you’re pulling on the brake. I particularly appreciate the bell that’s integrated into the left brake lever as well.
Each Flyer L885 features a small, unobtrusive LCD screen to the left of the handlebar. It is integrated with the power controls, with a plus and minus to change between the five assist levels. The grips flare out slightly to better support your wrists as you ride along, and they have a little ‘F’ on the end of each of them, a nice touch in my eyes.
Out back is an integrated rear rack. It features a pair of layered particleboard panels on the top of the rack, as well as a pair of small footrests by the wheels of the bike, a nice touch at this price point. And as a bit of added security, Flyer has included a locking skewer for the front wheel that is opened with a hex key.
Let’s talk accessories
It’s obvious why electric cargo bikes are so popular: the accessories. Need to carry kids? The Flyer can carry two Thule Yepp Maxi child seats on the back. Are your kids – or adults – old enough for their own seats? Add some seat pads, rails, or footrests and you’re off to the races, at least up to 20 mph. The max payload capacity is 400 pounds, with a 150-pound deck capacity means you can carry quite a bit.
There are two standout accessories I find with this bike. One is the Kid & Cargo Carrier, which swaps the particleboard base at the top of the rack for a pair of padded seats. It also adds a basket frame around the top of the rack. Zip down the fabric sides and you have space for kids or adults to ride, or if you’re like me, plenty of space to carry whatever groceries you might need.
The second standout accessory – one I wish all e-bikes had – is this front storage basket. I am a huge proponent of any and all fixed front baskets, as they keep your belongings within easy reach while riding. Further, the Flyer L885 mounts the basket to the head tube. This keeps the weight of your items in place, leaving it easier to steer.
Other accessories include the aforementioned second battery to extend range, a few different rear baskets, and a water bottle holder. The accessory range isn’t quite as large as what one might find from Rad Power, Tern, Yuba, or others, but it is plenty in my eyes to make this a viable alternative to a car.
Riding the Flyer L885
If you’re looking at an electric cargo bike, you’re likely looking to haul gear. Better yet, you’ll want the Flyer L885 to feel unphased carrying stuff regardless of whether you’re carrying a bag of chips, a second adult, or something in between. And for the most part, the Flyer does a good job.
The Flyer doesn’t pedal particularly like an acoustic bike. It takes about half of a pedal stroke or so before the electric assist kicks in, like many other hub-mounted motor systems. Power is more than adequate when riding on without gear, but I found myself using the throttle control from a stop to make sure I can get to speed quickly.
Load the bike up however with whatever you want – mulch, humans, groceries, whatever – and the motor feels plenty powerful. It starts to lag as you get within 50 lb of that gross weight limit, and it really slows down on any roads with over a 4 percent grade, but the throttle helps here.
All Flyers use a 7-speed Shimano drivetrain. It works well for the most part but does not offer much gearing range; the steepest climbs will have you really leaning on the motor to get to the top and you’ll spin out your pedals before arriving at that 20 mph assist limit. I appreciated that Flyer added a guide pulley just ahead of the kickstand mount; doing so keeps the chain from bouncing around on rough roads.
As mentioned, the Flyer L885 is programmed with five levels of assist. The first two are kind of useless, while the other levels seem to be equally powerful, only differing in maximum speed assistance. Level 3 seems to be good to about 14 miles per hour, level 4 goes to about 17 miles per hour, and level 5 assist all the way up to 20 miles per hour. I left mine in level 5 most of the time; anything less and you really start to feel the weight and drag of the bike.
Range from a full battery was about 20 to 25 miles using largely level 4 and level 5 assist. Switching to a lower assist level will get you closer to that quoted 30 to 50 miles of range.
One of the main benefits of the staggered wheel sizes – a 26-inch wheel up front and a 20-inch wheel in the back – is the lower load height. Smaller wheels mean your gear’s center of gravity is lower and easier to maneuver, but the larger front wheel adds stability. I couldn’t tell you if that’s the case here, but the 3-inch wide tires certainly add stability and smooth out the ride.
The Flyer does a good job when loaded up. Its low stepover makes it easy to get on and off the bike. Further, the bike feels stiff enough when loaded up with gear despite the single downtube and integrated battery, both going in a straight line and cornering.
I am a fan of the LCD control screen placed on the left side of the handlebar. The screen is simple in execution, but it shows assist level, speed, and range among other things. That it does so in such a compact form factor cleans up the handlebars for things like a GPS computer for navigation.
By extension, I think Flyer did a good job with the touchpoints here. The grips are comfortable and easily adjustable, the handlebar is pleasantly wide, and the Selle Royal Freeway Fit saddle is cushy.
That said, there are downsides to this bike.
Quoted, the Flyer weighs in at 73 pounds, but with accessories, it is closer to 80 lbs. The weight itself isn’t an outlier, as other electric cargo bikes typically are within five or ten pounds of this. The problem is the rear hub motor and its rear-biased weight distribution make the bike cumbersome to handle as well.
The Flyer L885 features a dual-sided kickstand, but the aforementioned weight distribution makes it difficult to get the bike up on the kickstand. It’s a whole process: pull the rear brake, pull up the front wheel so there’s plenty of space for the kickstand to pull down, try and get your foot to push the kickstand out, and bring the bike back down. While the kickstand itself is very stable when engaged, the whole process requires quite a bit of effort, which will only be more cumbersome if you have kids or a heavy load out back.
A different kickstand with a beam that sticks out perpendicular to the bike so your foot can more easily push it down would make a difference, but I haven’t found an aftermarket option that works well.
The weight and the weight distribution mean you likely won’t be able to live with this if you live in an apartment without some sort of elevator. It also means that transporting this bike will be a challenge without a truck or a bigger van. But if this is a car replacement, you’re not likely to be transporting your car with another car anyways, right?
This Shimano 7-speed drivetrain does not offer much range for climbing hills. You rely heavily on the motor as a result, but this is par for the course for most cargo electric bikes at this price point. As mentioned earlier, the gear range is so narrow that you quickly spin out over 15 mph and rely on the motor to maintain that speed rather than your pedaling power. That said, the gear shifter is plenty easy to use without issue.
The other downside I found on this bike was the cable-actuated Tektro Aries brakes. Though the brakes are plenty powerful when you’re really yanking on them, pull them only a little bit and there’s not much going on. It simply takes more effort to come to a stop compared to a hydraulic disc brake, and with humans aboard I would gladly pay a little more for better stopping power.
The Flyer L885 vs the competition
First, a caveat with bikes you plan on using with any regularity: I highly recommend finding a local shop that can support these bikes to at least partially guide your purchase. It’s one thing to order a bike online that you’re going to have fun on, but it is another to order a bike you’ll rely on only for it to not have any type of local repair support as is the case with many direct-to-consumer bikes. Not every bike shop will be able to support these bikes, particularly should an electrical issue occur.
Further, it’s important when looking at e-bikes to determine what bike passes safety certifications. If you don’t want a battery-related fire like what’s going on in New York City, UL 2271 and UL 2849 certifications matter. While there are less-expensive cargo e-bikes out there, the Flyer L885 is one of the least-expensive cargo bikes I’ve found to pass these test standards, at least per Flyer.
Moving on. The Flyer L885 classifies as a long-tail cargo bike, thanks to the long rear rack that facilitates carrying children or a bunch of stuff. Normally these are among the best cargo bikes for families due to their stable handling and agility for how much capacity they have.
A bike like the RadPower Radwagon is probably the closest competitor to the Flyer L885. The Flyer’s max carrying capacity is higher both for its gross capacity and rack capacity, at 350 pounds (159 kg) and 120 lbs (54 kg) respectively. Additionally, I find the handling above 15 mph feels a bit better on the Flyer which I attribute.
However, the Radwagon does feel a bit more powerful overall. Its wide range of accessories is a nice touch, and its kickstand is a touch easier to use.
Another competitor I’ve been on is the Yuba Spicy Curry. Like the Flyer, it uses staggered wheel sizes to lower the cargo bike’s center of gravity. It swaps to a Bosch mid-drive motor, however, which has the added benefit of being much easier to source parts for in the long term from a local bike shop. It is also roughly 15 pounds lighter than the Flyer, and its weight is better distributed, making the bike much easier to lift and move when necessary. And while it doesn’t have a throttle like RadPower and Flyer, the motor is very strong.
Of course, the price is well over twice as much as the Flyer; whether these things are worth the extra cash is up to you.
The Flyer L885 is a solid electric cargo bike. The low price – lower than most e-cargo bike competition – might draw you in, but several well-considered features make this cargo bike a worthwhile way to replace your car trips. Further, its UL certifications at the price point mean Flyer is serious about the bike’s longevity. That’s a great sign.
If you’re looking to expand what you can do by bicycle and want to stick to the price point, the Flyer L885 is a fantastic option. Maybe just do a few deadlifts beforehand so you can use the kickstand.
Price: $1999 USD (Flyer L885 Bike): $299 USD (Flyer Kid and Cargo Basket)