An electric moped in the truest sense of the word “moped,” the ONYX RCR is a beast of an electric motorbike. I’ve admired this bike for nearly two years now. I’ve covered the development and rollout of the ONYX RCR since the very beginning, starting with the company’s crowdfunding in the summer of 2018. Yet a chance to actually ride one had eluded me until now.

And so it was with a supreme sense of delayed gratification that I finally swung my leg over an ONYX RCR last week.

And the fact that the company’s own CEO James Khatiblou was leading me on my joy ride along with his own ONYX RCR made it that much more epic.

Our pair of twin little electric hell-raisers tore it up all afternoon. But before I jump into the review, let’s take a look at the bike’s tech specs so that we know what we’re working with here.

ONYX RCR electric moped tech specs

  • Motor: 3kW continuous (5.4 kW peak) rear hub motor
  • Top speed: 60 mph (96 km/h)
  • Range: Up to 75 mi (120 km)
  • Battery: 72V 23Ah (1.66 kWh) removable battery
  • Frame: Steel tube chassis
  • Weight: 145 lb (66 kg)
  • Suspension: Front suspension fork, dual rear coilover suspension
  • Brakes: Front hydraulic disk brake, rear regenerative braking and hybrid hydraulic disc brakes
  • Extras: Large LED headlight and rear LED tail light, 3 drive modes, backlit LCD display panel, bench seat, wide range of accessories (also accepts many third-party aftermarket moped accessories)

ONYX RCR electric moped video review

Make sure you check out my video below to see the ONYX RCR electric moped in action!

ONYX RCR: Old meets new

The ONYX RCR is a perfect case of old meets new. It combines that classic moped charm with a powerful and modern electric drivetrain.

How powerful?

Incredibly. Deceptively. Hilariously powerful.

With a twist of the wrist, the ONYX RCR launches you with a force that betrays its small size. I’ve ridden electric motorcycles ranging from 3kW to 80kW of power. And despite the RCR falling on the lowest end of that spectrum, the bike pulls like a much larger motorcycle.

In fact, its spec sheet lists a 200 amp controller. Unless they are sandbagging that controller, 200A at 72V means a peak electrical output of around 14kW or 18hp. In a bike that weighs less than 150 pounds. Yikes!

What is the ride like?

Have you ever heard of the “e-grin”? It’s a stupidly large smile that people get the first time they try an e-bike and experience the thrill of a silent, electrically powered motorbike.

As something of a professional e-bike rider, I’m on a new model seemingly every week, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a true ear-to-ear e-grin.

The ONYX RCR brought it back in force. I felt this weird, child-like glee as I whizzed off at admittedly dangerous speeds on a vehicle that felt no larger than a standard bicycle, yet rocketed me up to 59 mph. While I never saw the promised 60 mph figure, I got close enough that I can’t complain.

The coolest thing about riding such a powerful, lightweight electric moped is how nimble it is. The strong steel frame and motorcycle-style 17-inch wheels give a strong, rigid feel, while the overall size and wheelbase makes carving up a canyon road effortless.

I was having so much fun that I had to remember to focus on my lines as I entered turns at speeds I would have never even considered attempting on an electric bicycle.

onyx rcr

And with sufficiently long travel suspension, off-road riding is a blast, too. James took me down a fire road at speeds that I probably wouldn’t have selected if I had taken point, but that the ONYX RCR ate up like Skittles. The fire road ended in a dirt bowl, and we got the chance to play around with little jumps and hops over the rim, rocks skipping and dust flying.

At the end of the joy ride we headed back on city streets, blending into traffic like we belonged. Which I’m not sure if we actually did, but hell, we were there. Deal with us.

That’s probably the only sticky part about the whole vehicle. It’s a giant legal gray area. On the one hand, it’s an electric bicycle in every way. It’s got two wheels, pedals, handle bars, and an electric motor. But on the other hand, it’s a 60 mph motorcycle with a couple of pedals stuck on it. Sure, the pedals work. But I wouldn’t want to pedal it very far.

Thus, as long as you keep it at electric bicycle speeds (alternatively 20 mph, 28 mph or 30 mph, depending on where you live) and keep it in the 750W power limited mode, it’s theoretically a compliant electric bicycle. But good luck explaining this concept to a police officer on the side of the road while jabbing at a print-out of this page.

onyx rcr

At higher speeds, forget about it. With a published top speed of 60 mph, you’re almost certainly in electric motorcycle territory in nearly any US state. And while I have a motorcycle license, I don’t even know how I’d begin to register the RCR at the DMV, since the RCR lacks homologation parts like turn signals, mirrors, etc. There are mounts to add your own mirrors, and ONYX is working on adding turn signals as an optional or standard feature, but they aren’t quite there yet.

So while the specifics of vehicle classification are still a bit of a riddle, there’s no doubt about the ride. The ONYX RCR is a blast and half, offering a motorcycle-level ride with the approachability of an electric bicycle.

If you’d like something with the nice build quality of the ONYX RCR but with a more clear-cut road to legality, you might want to check out the ONYX CTY. It’s a step-through electric moped with similar DNA to the RCR, but the company uses a lower power drivetrain that helps it top out at 30 mph. It was initially offered when the company first launched, but demand for the RCR was much greater, causing the company to put the CTY on the back burner after delivering the few initial pre-orders. I got to ride one, and it was still a blast, albeit a bit slower of a blast. And James assured me that ONYX plans to bring it back, just as soon as they are sure that their heads are staying above water after drowning in demand for the RCR.

Room for improvement?

As much fun as the ONYX RCR is to ride, it isn’t perfect. The team should be commended for such a great moped on their first try, but the design can still be improved.

The center of gravity is a bit high with the battery carrier mounted in a typical “top tank” format. And the battery cover is a bit annoying to remove and put back on, requiring some persuasion, a lit bit of massaging and a tad bit of luck each time you pull it off and put it back on. Since most riders will store the RCR in a garage, though, you likely won’t need to remove the battery often.

I had expected to complain about the rear brake. The front gets a beefy hydraulic disc brake caliper while the rear has a dinky little bicycle-style disc brake. However, James explained to me that 80% of the rear braking comes from the powerful regenerative braking, with the little disc brake just there to help lock up the wheel if necessary. Plus, we all know that most of your braking comes from the front end anyways, and I never wanted for more braking power in all of the riding we did.

onyx rcr

Made in America

Lastly, believe it or not, these aren’t just imported e-bikes. ONYX actually has not one but two US production lines running in California. The company’s San Francisco factory has been up and running for a while now, and the huge demand has led ONYX to open a second factory in LA that is just now coming online.

Even though most e-bikes in the US are built in Asia, I can confirm that ONYX actually builds theirs in the US. They’ve got people in their US factories turning wrenches and plugging connectors. They laugh. They answer questions if you pester them while they work. They even let you shove a camera in their faces (sorry again, about that…).

In summary

In summary, I am absolutely kicking myself for not pre-ordering from the Indiegogo campaign two years ago, when the RCR was priced at $2,299. Now you’ll have to fork over $3,899 for one, but I’d still say it’s worth it.

The ONYX RCR offered a unique kind of thrill that I haven’t experienced in a long time. I’m jonesing for another chance to go canyon carving on one.

What do you think of the ONYX RCR electric moped? Let us know in the comment section below!

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