Overall rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Electric cargo bikes come in a range of shapes, sizes and designs, and at a range of budgets. The Estarli eCargo Longtail, from £2,994.99, sits in the middle of the spectrum in terms of size and cost, and promises space for two children in the back, or a large 90kg cargo area for assorted stuff. Alternatively, you can equip it to carry a single child and slightly less stuff. It’s got a powerful, torquey motor, a clever gearing system and a huge battery, all at a price that looks very attractive compared to rivals. But is it any good? We lugged it onto the roads of London to see.
- Carrying up to two kids…
- …or a load of stuff…
- …or one kid with lots of stuff
- Cruising the city or getting out into nature
- Flexible load area can be configured in different ways
- Faff-free belt-drive system
- Innovative and effective transmission
- Lots of oomph from a torquey motor
- Effective hydraulic disc brakes
- Good battery range
- Impressive load capacity
- Comfortable ride thanks to big tyres and front suspension
- Heavy & Large
- Front light cable dangles around
- The big-footed might catch their shoes on the cargo rack
Expert verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Estarli Cargo Longtail could well be the Goldilocks of electric cargo bikes, sitting as it does square in the middle of the market. It can carry lots of stuff, but I never found it too big or unwieldy. It’s powerful, but it’s not crazily expensive. And it’s been thoughtfully designed and specced to be easy and comfortable to ride. If you’ve got a couple of kids or a lot of stuff to lug around an urban environment, then this is a cracking option that could make for a genuine alternative to a car at a fraction of the running cost.
One size, suitable for adults between 152cm/5’0” and 196cm/6’5”
Max Rider Weight
Rear rack load limit
Enviolo CVT with Carbon Gates belt drive
Tektro hydraulic disc brakes front & rear
Assembled & built
Berkhamsted, United Kingdom
Up to 120km/61 miles
Bafang 250-Watt mid-drive
LG 17Ah 700Wh
3-5 hours. Charger included
15.5mph (UK e-bike speed limit)
Five power assist modes
LCD display with USB charging
Integrated front and rear
Components and build quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
We’ve been pretty big fans of the bikes that Estarli has been putting out recently, particularly its folding bikes, but this one is by far the biggest we’ve tried. As I eyed up its hefty size (at 183cm long it’s the same size as I am) before wheeling it out of the Electroheads office, I wondered if the bulkiness would be a problem. But while it’s heavy (the weight starts at 28kg without any rear accessories attached), I found it remarkably easy to meander through corridors and out into the courtyard. Once there, I took stock of what Estarli has put together, and the spec sheet has plenty to catch the eye.
As a longtail cargo bike, the Estarli lugs most of its load on the back, unlike some other models that puts the rider at the back and the cargo up front. And that load can differ depending on your needs – you can specify the bike in several different configurations. Set the Estarli up to carry goods, a child and their stuff, or even two kids. And the configuration can be changed by just wielding a few hex keys and swapping out the rack or seat.
When you order an eCargo, you can have the base Standard model for £2,995, which has a small rack fitted over the front wheel, the Cargo model with an 82x42cm rack fitted for £3,090 or the Family model, which adds wooden footboard for kits and a barrier to stop them falling off. You can also add a Junior seat base for £49.95 or an Urban Iki rear child seat, suitable for kids aged between nine months and six years, for £79.99. You can fit two, or one of each. Or just one and use the remaining space for backpacks. I tested the eCargo in Family spec with the wooden footboard, but with the rear rack fitted as I’d left my three-year-old at home for the day. She’s not well-suited to office environments.
The prices compare very well to alternatives on the market. To pick a few at random, Cube’s Longtail Hybrid 725 will set you back £3,999, while the Tern GSD S10 LR will set you back at least £5,100.
So what does Estarli give you for the money? As with a lot of rivals, it features a heavy duty aluminium frame with a folding steerer tube for ease of storage. Atop the downtube sits a huge 700Wh battery, which Estarli says gives up to 120km or 61 miles of assistance. Despite the battery’s bulk it sits under a lowered top tube that means I had no problem getting on and off the bike, which means few worries if you’re wearing a skirt or dress (or, like me, not as limber as you used to be).
The battery sends power to a Bafang 250W mid-drive motor, sitting directly between the pedals and driving the cranks. While 250W is the maximum power allowed on e-bikes through UK law, the eCargo has beefed up the assistance by way of 80Nm of torque. In comparison, most of the folding e-bikes we’re tried have 40Nm.
Rather than a chain, the eCargo uses a Carbon Gates belt drive. I’ve used this on other electric bikes and it’s been great, with little-to-no-maintenance needed, but they’re always been on single-speed bikes. When you’re lugging up to 90kg of cargo or children around, you need a few gears to choose from…
Which takes us onto the back wheel. Mounted in the hub is a very clever alternative to traditional gears, called the Enviolo CVT, which stands for continuously variable transmission. Rather than using a set number of stepped gears, it essentially allows the rider to select an infinite number of ratios between top and bottom ‘gear’, using a twist grip on the handlebar. It’s low maintenance and, in theory, should eliminate the issue of finding one gear too high but the next two low. You can read more about how I got on with it in the Performance and Handling section below.
Back to the specs. The brakes are Tektro hydraulic units, which should help with slowing down what is a heavy bike. The eCargo weighs 28kg in base form and that’s before you’ve added a rack or child seats. Or indeed children. Between the brake levers sits a black-and-white LCD display, controlled by a button pad on the left handlebar. There’s also enough space on the bars for a phone mount.
The 20-inch wheels are clad in fat Schwalbe Super Motor-X tyres, which should give reasonable comfort while still allowing room for the rear rack/seats, and the front wheel sits inside a Suntour suspension fork to further cushion the ride. Front and rear lights are both integrated, which is great, although I was disappointed to see the cable for the front light just flapping around under the additional front storage rack. It would be easily fixed with some cable ties, but it’s a shame that wasn’t done from the factory. That aside, build quality and attention to detail seems very good.
Safety and security ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Estarli eCargo Longtail is a hulking great bike, but that doesn’t mean that someone couldn’t quickly swipe it if you weren’t paying attention. You can quickly remove the battery with a key and take it with you – good luck to anyone trying to grind out a getaway without any power assistance. That said, the battery is a whopper, so you might not want to take it around the supermarket with you. Better perhaps to use a couple of big D-locks, and there are numerous areas on the bike where you can attach them.
You could also fold down the steerer tube for an extra layer of security – it’s quickly done via a catch, and while it’s designed to aid storage rather than put off thieves, the prospect of unexpected reassembly might put off opportunist scumbags.
The inclusion of hydraulic disc brakes is most welcome. The Tektro units are well proven for quality and longevity, and while I was cautious about how well such a large machine would stop at short notice, a few practice emergency stops showed me that I needn’t have worried. The brakes grab firmly and scrub off speed impressively quickly, but I found them easy to modulate to avoid locking up and skidding.
If you’re headed out early in the morning or into the evening, the integrated front and rear lights are nice and bright, and a click of the button on the handlebar turns them on and off.
Performance and handling ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The two things that always concern me about riding a bike like this – will it have enough power assistance, and does it feel stable? To which my answers are – yes, and yes.
Not everyone is a confident cyclist, and fears about wobbling over at low speeds are entirely understandable. Those fears are magnified when you have a large and heavy machine like this, especially if you have kids on the back, but the integrated kickstand means you can start from a stable position, and the weight distribution and design means I never felt at risk.
Moving away from standstill is a doddle. The advantage of the mid-drive Bafang motor, which sits between the pedals, is that it instantly detects foot movement and promptly deploys 250W of power, and more importantly a very beefy 80Nm of torque. This is plenty to get a fully loaded bike moving, and with five levels of assistance to choose from I never felt low on power assistance, even when moving away on a slope. Three sensors are integrated into the Bafang unit, measuring torque (how hard you’re pushing the pedals), crank speed and wheel speed, all of which mean the assistance was beautifully matched to my efforts at different speeds and intensities.
We need to mention the Carbon Gates belt drive. If you’re unfamiliar with the system, it’s an alternative to a chain that uses a ridged belt between the chainring and the rear wheel. The advantages are that it won’t wear out for tens of thousands of kilometres and that it doesn't need maintenance in the form of lubrication. It’s faff-free and rides beautifully.
However, on many belt-drive e-bikes you don’t get gears, because a belt can’t work with a traditional cassette and derailleur setup. Some models use hub gears mounted in the rear wheel, which were very common in The Olden Days, but fell out of favour due to weight, cost and the fact that most had only two or three gears. Today, however, the hub is making a comeback, and in this case it’s in the form of the Enviolo CVT.
I won’t go into the technical details of exactly how it works, but let’s give you an example of why it’s useful. While riding along a cycleway with level 3 assistance on, I start going up a small rise. Normally I’d click down a gear to make it easier to keep my preferred pedalling cadence. There’d be a ‘clonk’ and the pedalling would get easier, but there'd be a break in my rhythm, and I’d probably have to change my cadence at least slightly. With the CVT, however, a small twist of the right handlebar slightly changed the ratio to make pedalling slightly easier. Or a bigger twist made it much easier. I loved that I could choose exactly what gear I wanted, rather than having to choose a set ratio. And when I shifted, there was no break in my rhythm, no ‘clonk’. It’s seamless, and works brilliantly well on this type of bike. Between the gears and the power assist, it can cope with even hefty hills.
The tech is great then, but surely such a big bike is unwieldy? Well, at very, very low speeds I needed to be aware of just how long the eCargo is while threading in and out of obstacles, but actually manoeuvring it around was much more of a doddle than I expected. It doesn’t feel heavy or like it’s about to topple over. After a few minutes of getting used to it I could swing through tight corners with no issues, and at higher speeds it’s fantastically stable and composed.
According to Estarli you can get up to 120km/62 miles of assistance from the battery before you need to recharge it. That will vary depending on your weight, how much you’re lugging around and what kind of riding you do. The colour LCD display shows you, in percentage form, how much battery life is left, as well as info like your current speed, average speed and distance covered, as well as what mode you’re in – you can switch between normal, Eco and Sport to maximise fun or battery life.
About the only criticism I have of the riding experience concerns the kids’ footrests mounted on the Family version of the bike. I’ve got fairly large feet, and a couple of times my heels bumped into the front of the rests while pedalling. A small adjustment in my foot position sorted it out, but it’s worth noting for those with similarly clown-like trotters.
Comfort and practicality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
When you’ve got your kids on the back of your bike, a bumpy, firm and spine-rattling ride is unacceptable. To combat this, the Estarli eCargo Longtail has 20-inch wheels with wide, resilient Schwalbe Super Moto-X tyres, as well as a Suntour front suspension fork. The tyres give the bike at least a small amount of off-road potential (think gravel paths rather than downhill mountain-bike trails) but mainly they provide a lovely cushion of air to protect your derriere, your kids and/or your shopping. A soft but supportive saddle is included and feels great. I have zero complaints about the comfort of the bike, nor about the riding position, which is relaxed and upright.
As for practicality – well, look at it. In cargo form I felt like I could move house with the Estarli, such is the space on the back, and there’s another smaller rack on the front. You’ll need to supply your own bungee cords to secure stuff, but that’s not a big issue.
One major practicality consideration will be storage – this is a large, heavy bike. While lifting it up onto a pavement isn’t a problem, lugging it up multiple flights of stairs is a no-go, and if this were mine I’d want somewhere secure to keep it. Factor that in if you’re considering a purchase and don’t have a shed or garage.
Changing the configuration at the back of the bike might not be something many owners will need to do, but if you do want to swap cargo carrying ability for child space, it’s just a matter of a few minutes with a hex key.
The almost maintenance-free drivetrain is another big plus for this bike – I had no worries about getting oil on my trousers, and there’s no risk of accidentally knocking a derailleur out of alignment. All you’ll need to do is occasionally wipe the belt drive to get rid of any dirt, while the CVT is sealed and needs no upkeep.
Phill Tromans has been a journalist and reviewer since 2001. As both a keen road cyclist and car aficionado, he’s fully embraced the concept of e-mobility, and while he still loves pure pedal power, he also likes not being a sweaty mess at the end of every bike ride.