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VanMoof S3 e-bike review: better than the best

Electrical bikes, like automobiles, are available in tiers of high quality and status. Reliable commuter bikes begin at round $1,000. At $1,500, they begin to look good, with batteries and motors built-in into the general aesthetic. Above $2,000 you begin seeing glossy designs, superior electronics, and a preponderance of high-end or unique parts. On that scale, VanMoof’s premium costs have made it the BMW of e-bikes (or Tesla, for those who desire).

VanMoof is now taking preorders for its latest pedal-assisted electrical bikes: the S3 and X3. They’re follow-ups to the full-sized S2 and compact X2 theft-defying e-bikes launched in 2018 and two of the highest-rated e-bikes we’ve ever examined.

Regardless of an analogous look, VanMoof says the S3 and X3 are “an improve to the S2 and X2 in each method,” but they price $400 to $1,400 much less than VanMoof’s earlier generations of electrics. Priced at $1,998 / €1,998, VanMoof is aggressively setting a brand new entry level for premium e-bikes that may price effectively over $three,000.

Higher and cheaper? That’s a daring declare that I put to the take a look at for per week of driving an S3 in VanMoof’s European house metropolis of Amsterdam.

The S3 and X3 fashions are basically the identical underneath the “hood,” differing solely by body varieties and wheel sizes. The S3 is designed for riders ranging in measurement from 170 to 210 cm (5 ft, 7 inches to six ft, 11 inches), whereas the compact X3 suits riders from 155 to 200 cm (5 ft, 1 inch to six ft, 7 inches). Each can be found in “gentle” (white with a bluish tint) or “darkish” (darkish grey) fashions. I’ve been driving a darkish S3 mannequin for the final week.

The S3 and X3 characteristic plenty of enhancements, headlined by the next:

  • New four-speed digital gear shifter
  • Extra highly effective and rapid Turbo Increase
  • Smaller and almost silent 250W / 500W front-hub motor
  • Entrance and rear hydraulic disc brakes for extra correct braking and fewer upkeep

Let me put it plainly: the S3 is probably the most refined trip I’ve ever skilled on an e-bike. Shifting is extremely clean the overwhelming majority of the time, with out requiring a pause between downstrokes just like the $5,000 Gocycle GXi. Often, perhaps one in every of out each 50 shifts, I felt my ft chase the brand new gear for a few third of a revolution, or I heard a mechanical “clink” because the gears superior. In any other case, it was silent and superb, permitting me to pedal together with fixed strain because the gears shifted beneath me, at all times returning to first once I stopped. The VanMoof app lets you tweak the “shift down” and “shift up” moments, however the defaults felt good for me. I used to be blissful to have that fourth gear, too, one thing I missed on the Gocycle’s digital three-speed as soon as I received the GXi shifting quick.

Cutaway of the brand new Four-speed digital shifter.
GIF: VanMoof

VanMoof’s earlier two-speed computerized shifter was purely mechanical, counting on a centrifugal clutch. The brand new gearbox is constructed round an electrical e-shifter. Don’t fear, I additionally examined the S3 with the motor off, and the gears continued to shift, making it simple to trip with out the pedal-assist operate, regardless of the bike’s 19-kg (42-pound) bulk. In case you do run out of battery, VanMoof tells me that the bike holds sufficient energy in reserve to function the lights and shifting till you get house to a charger.

The bike’s smaller, extra refined front-hub motor, just like the gears, can also be lifeless silent, even because it pushes out 250W to 350W of steady energy (500W peak). It’s as quiet as a Cowboy. I needed to pressure to listen to it above the wind, simply making it one of many quietest motors round. And the bike is so balanced that I typically discovered myself sitting upright, fingers off the grips, driving with “no fingers” on lengthy, lonely stretches of asphalt throughout my vary take a look at. Likewise, popping bunny hops off pace bumps was a breeze.

Each e-bike ought to have VanMoof’s Turbo Increase characteristic. The button, accessible from the correct grip, is now much more highly effective and torquey, giving a near-instantaneous increase with out feeling jerky. Push it whenever you wish to make a quick begin, climb a hill, or overtake somebody rapidly. It’s not a throttle, however who cares?

VanMoof says that the 504Wh-capacity battery will eke out a spread of 60 km (37 miles) when driving at full energy or as much as 150 km (93 miles) when driving in financial system. After I examined the X2 final yr towards comparable claims, I averaged about 60 km per cost. I didn’t get that on the S3, regardless of it having the identical 403Wh-capacity battery — however I examined with an S3 working pre-release firmware that restricted a few of the out there energy to guard the battery. As such, I solely made it 47 km (29.2 miles) earlier than empty. I did my take a look at whereas driving within the 32 km/h (20 mph) US mode (an app setting I might select after swiping away a warning that I used to be situated in Europe), the utmost of 4 power-assist settings, and utilizing the Increase button closely to get began pedaling or to climb hills — similar to I examined the X2. With the manufacturing firmware, my vary would have been prolonged, VanMoof tells me. My S3 charged to full in about 4 hours.

The largest criticism I’ve of the S3 applies to all VanMoof e-bikes: the battery can’t be eliminated for charging, though it may be eliminated for service. That might be a deal-breaker for a lot of metropolis dwellers, in case your solely possibility is to cost the bike in your front room. Sure, the X3 is smaller in measurement, making it simpler to maneuver by means of the entrance door (or right into a raise), however it nonetheless weighs the identical because the S3, making it very tough to hold up any stairs.

Different new options discovered on the S3 and X3:

  • New one-piece saddle and pedals (sadly, neither was prepared for me to check)
  • Scratch-resistant matte finishes after homeowners complained of scratching on the shiny S2 and X2 fashions. The matte gray S3 additionally appears significantly better than the shiny S2, for my part.

Fortuitously, many of the sounds might be disabled within the app.

  • New “Ding dong” horn possibility sounds similar to these massive conventional mechanical bells. That’s good as a result of the outdated VanMoof sonar “ping” didn’t sound like a bell in any respect, that means folks typically wouldn’t transfer out of the way in which. It was additionally embarrassing to make use of, although not as embarrassing as the brand new “get together” bell. It’s cute, however please, don’t ever use this. (You’ll be able to disable many of the sounds within the app.)
  • New grips declare to deal with water higher (I didn’t take a look at this declare, nor do I faux to know it)
  • The built-in Matrix Show on the highest tube now reveals the gear you’re in with a dot that progresses 4 ticks throughout the show, in addition to the correct charging standing. It’s largely seen in daylight, though direct daylight can obscure it, not that it’s one thing you’ll be watching whereas driving anyway. It nonetheless appears very cool.
  • Fender flaps now assist scale back spray and flying particles
  • New one-piece metal discs and brake calipers with the hydraulic parts built-in proper into the body for a clear look
  • Extra compact 36V 4A charger
  • New snap spacers modify the one-piece handlebar top with out having to take away it
  • The bikes ship in smaller packages for much less waste
  • Each bike now comes with a foot pump and toolbox with wrenches, lubricant, reusable yellow retaining belt, and… confetti
  • App will mean you can observe your journeys later this summer season exhibiting the whole variety of rides, common pace, distance, and length
  • Oh, VanMoof doesn’t use the “Electrified” title anymore with the S3 and X3

That’s lots of newness! It’s additionally extra alternative for issues to go improper over time. The VanMoof S2 and X2 have been already manufactured from largely customized or unique elements of VanMoof design, and the S3 and X3 use much more, I’m instructed. VanMoof credit “industry-first full provide chain management” and the dimensions of its e-bike gross sales for serving to deliver down costs. Let’s hope that additionally ensures a excessive degree of high quality management to maintain repairs to a minimal. In any other case, that Four-speed digital shifter is certain to flummox quite a lot of native bike outlets.

The S3 and X3 additionally carry over a powerful checklist of options from earlier VanMoofs:

  • The built-in Kick Lock secures the rear wheel and prompts the alarm with a kick of the protruding button. It nonetheless requires correct alignment of the rear wheel to interact, which generally is a finicky maneuver, particularly at evening when you’ll be able to’t see the guides. The lock might be opened within the app or by tapping out your secret code on the Horn button mounted on the left grip (my choice). The Kick Lock can really feel gimmicky in theft-happy locations like Amsterdam the place a motorcycle requires two locks to be secured, however it’s all you want in cities like Tokyo.
  • The built-in alarm system slowly escalates in depth earlier than disabling the bike’s motor and begins broadcasting its location to VanMoof and the proprietor. The non-obligatory Peace of Thoughts theft restoration service prices $290 / €290 for 3 years. If VanMoof’s Bike Hunters can’t find your bike inside two weeks, they’ll change it with a motorcycle of comparable or higher age and situation (first alternative is free, 2nd and third price $98 / €98).
  • A Good Cartridge within the prime tube internet hosting the pc, GSM and Bluetooth theft monitoring, and speaker might be eliminated by the consumer, as can the battery pack in a pinch, and despatched to VanMoof for servicing (as a substitute of the entire bike). It’s one thing it’s possible you’ll have to do for those who don’t dwell near one in every of VanMoof’s international shops / service facilities in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Seattle, Taipei, and Tokyo.
  • Most cables are hidden, however two cables nonetheless snake out of the handlebar, making them vulnerable to snagging in bike racks. It’s a disgrace they’re not fully hidden just like the cables on Gocycle bikes and different premium rides.
  • Chunky 28-inch (S3) and 24-inch (X3) Schwalbe puncture-protection tires
  • Bikes might be up to date over the air when crucial
  • Massive lineup of customized equipment, together with entrance and rear carriers and panniers

VanMoof is again with two bikes which can be remarkably higher than one of the best e-bikes it’s ever constructed. They might look comparable, however the trip is far improved. Extremely, they’re priced lower than $2,000 for the primary time, which is all types of spectacular for a premium e-bike that gives premium options and a premium driving expertise. That’s approaching a mainstream worth for a high-quality commuter bike you’ll rely on for day by day use. To name the S3 and X3 one of the best e-bikes beneath $2,000 is straightforward, however these may be one of the best e-bikes at any worth.

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