Like among the greatest client tech from the final decade, I didn’t know I wanted an e-bike till I used to be on one, breezing down the bike lane considering my newfound freedom.
Earlier than shopping for a Nintendo Change, I’d have by no means guessed how a lot a candy-colored gaming console that I may come out of a dock and into my backpack for lengthy flight would fill me with pleasure. An e-bike, significantly this e-bike, the VanMoof X3, appears like that.
I dwell in Portland, Oregon, land of ample bike lanes and bare bike rides. Once I first moved right here, I biked all over the place, however that behavior slowly dissolved over time. First, I purchased a automobile for weekend tenting journeys, which slowly grew to become weekday errand working.
A number of years later, I received identified with a continual sickness and all of the sudden discovered myself a lot much less assured in what my physique may do and the place it may comfortably take me. Over time, my bike would solely see a handful of rides a season on lovely days, once I’d all the time sigh and suppose I want I biked extra — it makes me really feel good!
Earlier than testing the X3, I’d discover excuses to drive brief distances as an alternative of using my bike. What if I received drained and didn’t really feel like biking residence? What if it begins pouring rain? What’s if it’s too scorching? What if I’m too sweaty once I get to the workplace? Using an e-bike erases most of these issues outright.
The X3 is a simple sufficient journey that I can nonetheless zoom to work if it’s 95+ levels out. It’s quick sufficient that I can get out of a shock rainstorm rapidly if want be. If I don’t need to be sweaty initially of the day, I can lean on candy, candy electrical energy to whisk me away, rolling as much as my workplace with out breaking a sweat.
And it could possibly’t go unspoken that going quick on a motorcycle — the entire time, with as a lot or little effort as you are feeling like placing in — is basically, actually enjoyable. In the event you haven’t had an opportunity to strive an e-bike, know that the feeling of effortlessly zipping round, electrical energy near-imperceptibly buzzing beneath you, is tough to explain and greatest skilled first-hand.
VanMoof’s good-looking pair of excessive tech bikes, the X3 and its bigger cousin the S3, are removed from the one choices available on the market, so a few of their pluses would maintain true for any electrical bike. However that doesn’t make the VanMoof interchangeable both. The VanMoof X3 has a really particular look, really feel and have set that can completely swimsuit a sure type of rider (myself included) however different e-bike buyers will nonetheless need to play the sector. We’ll get into that — right here goes!
I examined the VanMoof X3 over the S3 not by alternative — its geometry is somewhat wacky wanting in footage — however as a result of I’m 5’4″. The X3, which inserts anyone from 5′-6’5″, is somewhat smaller and fewer conventional wanting than the S3, which fits anybody taller than 5’8″. The X3 has 24″ wheels relatively than the S3’s 28″ wheels and it has somewhat bungee-corded platform within the entrance the place presumably you might carry one thing, however I nonetheless don’t know what (You can too purchase an add-on entrance basket that slots in there and appears very cute.)
Like most e-bikes, the X3 is far, a lot heavier than a traditional highway or commuter bike. The listed weight is 45.8 lbs and also you’ll really feel each pound of it should you ever want to hold it very far. I dwell in a standalone home in Portland, Oregon and needed to carry the X3 down a really brief entrance step to journey it — completely wonderful!
I used to dwell in a fifth flooring walkup in Brooklyn and carrying it up or down that will have been not possible. In the event you can’t retailer the X3 (or most any e-bike) round floor stage with entry to a charger, it may not be match for you. (Word that in our footage, the small platform above the chain space is the place an optionally available exterior battery pack, mentioned later, sits. The platform is detachable.)
Although on paper I’d want the look of the S3, the X3 doesn’t look unusual in any respect IRL, whether or not parked or with someone using it. It’s cute, futuristic however not conspicuous and will get loads of compliments. My spouse described its aesthetic as “Demise Star stylish” and whereas I don’t completely know what which means, she’s not fallacious. On the way in which to my workplace a sanitation truck driver rolled down his window to bellow “HEY—THAT’S A REALLY COOL BIKE.” Thanks, my dude!
The present era of VanMoof e-bikes are coated in matte paint and you’ll select between a traditional, attractive matte black or a pleasantly cheery matte gentle blue. A earlier model of the bikes used shiny coating, however apparently the matte is meant to be extra scratch resistant. The paint does appear fairly robust although it’s not completely bombproof. In some way the handlebars picked up somewhat nick within the paint, although I nonetheless don’t know the place it got here from or what did it (owls?).
One thing vital to notice is that neither the VanMoof X3 or S3 seem like e-bikes. They don’t have an unpleasant bulge jutting out from the body and the highest tube and down tube are each thick however uniform — and never so thick you’d suppose twice about it.
The digital parts are nestled away within the body and even the drivetrain is tucked away and enclosed. And whereas there’s a deeply cool LED matrix show embedded within the prime tube, solely the rider actually sees it. For anybody searching for an e-bike that doesn’t scream e-bike!!!! the VanMoof is likely one of the greatest decisions if not the only option you might make. It’s an superior wanting bike — not simply an superior wanting e-bike.
The VanMoof X3 is a nice-looking bike — you get it. However what about, you already know, the biking? I can confidently report that from the primary time you hop on it to your twentieth commute to work, the X3 is an absolute pleasure to journey.
As an e-bike newcomer I had reservations. Would the electrical help cheapen the magic of using a motorcycle? Do I actually desire a bike doing the shifting for me? Because it seems, fairly the alternative and sure, completely.
The VanMoof X3 (and its sibling the S3) offer you an electrical enhance whereas pedaling — you’ll nonetheless be pedaling however it feels enticingly straightforward and also you’ll go sooner with much less effort. The bike additionally encompasses a Turbo Increase button on the right-side handlebar that provides you a giant enhance on prime of the smoother regular digital help, as much as 20 miles per hour within the U.S.
You may select the quantity of assist that you really want. Utilizing the VanMoof app, which we’ll get to, or a bodily button, you possibly can choose what stage of energy help you’d like from zero to 4. Zero is you pedaling a heavy-ass bike alone with no assist (it sucks) and 4 makes every little thing really feel really easy there’s virtually no technique to break a sweat.
In my time testing the bike, I’d use “two” once I felt like getting a little bit of a exercise with additional pep in my pedal, 4 once I was in a rush to get to my co-working area within the mornings and three the remainder of the time, like using to brunch on a weekend. Having the ability to select the extent of pedal help is a large perk and it makes the bike really feel versatile for various makes use of.
No matter mode you’re on, the turbo enhance button is a killer function. It flattens steep hills and makes it really feel approach safer to zip throughout busy intersections the place you’re undecided drivers are paying consideration. It’s enjoyable and superior for secure, defensive metropolis using.
It takes somewhat bit to get used to the automated digital shifting however that’s silky clean too. I initially assumed that, like many issues that labored completely nicely earlier than having some extraneous “sensible” high-tech nonsense draped over them (fridges! lamps! vibrators!) the know-how would fail simply typically sufficient to be a nuisance.
After a couple of months of testing, I can report that the X3 rides as clean and seamless because it did out of the field. Each infrequently I’d crunch down on the pedal or a gear gained’t catch immediately however it’s tremendous uncommon. You may even use the app to customise when the bike shifts up and down and it’s price enjoying round with that to seek out one thing that feels excellent.
What else? The X3’s most assisted pace is within the U.S. is 20 mph (32km/hr), however anybody in Europe shall be restricted to fifteen.5 mph (25km/hr). The U.S. pace feels nice and it’s painless to stand up to 20mph and preserve that pace with the X3 in a approach I’d need to destroy my quads to handle in any other case, even on my zippy non-electric highway bike.
Past that, the seat may be very comfortable and the journey is pleasantly upright and pure. After using the X3 for some time I had a tough time going again to hunching over on my (cute) little Bianchi and pined for the comfortable journey I’d gotten so used to.
The VanMoof X3 is a wonderful worth, all issues thought-about. The corporate has a bizarre behavior of tinkering with its pricing, however after a redesign and a colossal worth drop in 2020 ($3,398 to $1,998 on the time) the bikes really feel very nicely priced. Now they’re retailing for $2,298 — $300 greater than the earlier worth however nonetheless a wonderful deal for anybody searching for a really full-featured e-bike with out spending greater than round $2,000.
That’s not that way more than you’d spend on a daily new bike, sans electrical energy and VanMoof’s many, many cool bells and whistles. In the event you’re into greater finish bikes, it may even be rather a lot much less. And realistically, it’s simply as possible that you just’re purchasing for an e-bike to rely much less on a automobile, public transportation or no matter else you’re paying for to get round — to not substitute a standard bike. (For one thing within the U.S. within the sub-$2,000 vary, take a look at Rad Power Bikes and Charge for some good choices.)
VanMoof’s pricing can also be considerably lower than you’d pay for the high end tier of feature-rich e-bikes with top quality parts, however the firm nonetheless manages to compete with these on seems to be and options. Nonetheless, it’s type of demanding that VanMoof is quietly messing round with the pricing with the bikes already out within the wild. It could suck to plan to purchase one solely to see the worth shoot up earlier than you’d pulled the set off.
The corporate needs to be extra clear about this, giving set future dates for deliberate worth modifications. There additionally appear to be updates inside generations of the bikes, so an X3 you purchase now may differ from an X3 you might purchase in 2020. That’s complicated and all of it needs to be made clearer someplace apparent on the web site.
One of many greatest concerns with an e-bike (or an e-anything!) is vary. VanMoof says the X3’s vary is 37 miles utilizing “full energy” and as much as 93 miles in economic system mode. In the event you’re getting 93 miles out of the battery, you most likely aren’t even utilizing the pedal help in any respect, so you possibly can simply toss that quantity out. The low finish estimate of 37 miles could be somewhat beneficiant for somebody who’s utilizing the bike on the fourth energy help stage and smashing the turbo enhance recurrently, however 35-45 miles feels about proper from my testing (normally mode 3 or 4, often 2, gentle use of turbo button).
The vary feels good. Even utilizing the X3 most days out of the week, charging is rare sufficient to by no means really feel annoying. In my case, that meant day by day brief rides (2.5-5 miles, normally) and the occasional longer journey (10-20 miles). In the event you’re utilizing the X3 or S3 to commute to work someplace that’s farther away, you’re going to seek out your self plugging in additional. Even so, I by no means received right into a scenario the place I used to be involved that I’d run out of battery removed from residence. And even should you do, you possibly can nonetheless pedal the bike — it’s simply actually heavy. Most individuals will most likely cost up in a single day, however you possibly can refill the battery in 4 hours if you’ll want to.
One thing to notice is that you just’ll plug in a wall charger on to the bike to cost it. For anybody who can’t cost and retailer the X3 on floor stage, know you’ll have to hold the entire dang bike to an outlet. The shortage of a detachable battery could be a strike in opposition to the VanMoof bikes for people who dwell in walk-ups or small flats, however for individuals with someplace straightforward to retailer it, this wasn’t one thing I believed twice about.
Whereas the built-in vary is completely ample for lots of use instances, VanMoof simply launched an exterior add-on battery pack for each the X3 and S3. The battery slots into somewhat platform, pictured under and mounted on our check bike, and it extends the X3’s vary significantly. VanMoof sells the PowerBank accent for $348. The factor isn’t small — it weighs six kilos — however VanMoof says it’ll offer you anyplace from 28 to 62 miles of additional vary. Once more, virtually no person goes to hit the excessive finish of this, however even on the low finish it virtually doubles the bike’s present vary.
The PowerBank is huge and fairly clunky. It doesn’t look terrible, however it positively makes the X3 seem like an e-bike. It’s not elegant just like the detachable battery on the Cowboy, one other extraordinarily good-looking e-bike, however it’s okay. If every little thing else a couple of VanMoof fits you completely however you want extra vary, it’s nice to have the choice, even should you’ll be shelling out for it.
The tech bells and whistles are one thing that actually makes the VanMoof X3 and S3 stand out from the gang. The X3’s worth feels affordable for a dependable, great-looking e-bike, however on prime of that you just’ll be getting an electrical steed with some fairly candy methods:
- Matrix show: On the bike’s prime tube an array of LED lights constructed into the metallic shows your pace, battery life and different helpful information. This can be a killer function, it’s extraordinarily cool!
- Alarm. You may activate an alarm that can *actually growl* at anybody who jostles your bike. It’s intense and actually loud.
- Kick lock. You may kick a small bodily button to alarm the bike and lock the again wheel. In the event you dwell in a metropolis with bike theft, somebody may nonetheless toss the bike in a truck simply so this isn’t a single safety resolution (I used a traditional mini Kryptonite lock and that labored nice.)
- Discover My on iOS. In the event you’re an iOS person you possibly can track your bike’s whereabouts easily. It’s a pleasant function, although ideally in case your bike is well-locked you aren’t going to be messing with this a lot.
- Lights. The VanMoof X3 has nice built-in lights, back and front.
- App: Surprisingly, the app is definitely fairly good. You may customise plenty of small issues (bell noise, alarm on or off, shifting preferences), use it to trace your rides and extra. You additionally don’t need to be related to the bike with the app to do essentially the most important stuff, liking using it, unlocking it and altering your stage of electrical help. I had an occasional connectivity downside with the app (normally on Android) however this was simply resolved and by no means stored me from biking anyplace, although it did imply some rides weren’t mechanically tracked. Importantly, you may also monitor your bike’s whereabouts by way of the app and VanMoof touts this function mixed with its alarm system and restoration group for serving to individuals get their bikes again.
Total, one thing nice in regards to the X3 is that the tech options aren’t simply fancy methods — they actually improve the expertise. And even so, they’re optionally available. You may journey the bike and profit from the ability help with out utilizing the app. You should use a daily lock and skip the alarm system should you select to, or use a bodily button code to disable it manually. You may change the ability help mode with the identical button. That is all large and allows you to use the e-bike the way you need to. Personally, I’d by no means purchase an e-bike that required connectivity, a telephone or an app to function it; that’s simply asking for bother.
Delivery and Meeting: The VanMoof X3 and S3 come within the mail in a giant field. The meeting course of was virtually painless — apart from this one actually fiddly bit it’s important to slide into one other fiddly bit which took me the higher a part of an hour and a few looking out on the VanMoof subreddit (not the one one with this downside!)
Additional Assist: VanMoof presents three paid plans to maintain your bike in working order and in your possession. You should purchase a three-year upkeep plan for $348, a three-year theft restoration plan for $398 or a mixed plan for $690 (damaged down by way of VanMoof under).
Upkeep: The place you reside needs to be a serious consideration when enthusiastic about shopping for a VanMoof. In my time testing it for reliability over an prolonged interval, I used to be shocked by how few issues got here up. I needed to fiddle with re-centering the entrance wheel in some unspecified time in the future as a result of a brake pad was rubbing, however other than occasional app connectivity points, that was just about it. In fact, important put on and tear means any bike may benefit from a professional tune up from somebody who is aware of the mannequin.
VanMoof has full-fledged shops in Amsterdam, London, Paris, Berlin, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Tokyo. Past its flagship shops, the corporate relies on an expanding network of service centers and “licensed workshops” to take care of its bikes, so you should definitely examine what’s close to you. Personally, I’d need to be close to sufficient to a VanMoof retailer or at the very least a service heart to ensure my $2,000+ funding and its many, many technological bits might be maintained in good well being. No person needs to ship a motorcycle again for repairs, particularly a heavy, technologically complicated one.
Previous to testing out the X3, e-bikes aren’t one thing I’d thought rather a lot about and I wasn’t actually certain who they had been for. I first heard of VanMoof a few years in the past when an in depth good friend and way more critical biker than me purchased one for towing her canine (the goodest woman) on a protracted work commute. We rode to the farmer’s market collectively and I admired her VanMoof, however I used to be skeptical that one thing with a lot know-how underneath the hood may show dependable over time.
Bikes are mechanical and easy — that’s one thing great about them! Might an e-bike actually translate the joyful simplicity of biking into one thing way more excessive tech? Because it seems, sure. After check using the VanMoof X3 to get a way of its reliability and the way its options maintain up in regular day-to-day use, I remorse my early skepticism.
I don’t know if I can overstate how a lot using an e-bike, particularly this e-bike, enhanced my life in small methods for the higher whereas I attempted it out. Biking extra — and e-bikes do get people biking more — makes me happier and more healthy. Biking extra has helped me ease out of an intensely sedentary pandemic interval into new habits that make me really feel extra related to the world round me. I’m seeing my metropolis with recent eyes, biking to new neighborhoods I’ve by no means explored and appreciating all the little issues I took as a right. My solely e-bike remorse is just not hopping on one sooner.
All images by Taylor Hatmaker/TechCrunch