VanMoof offers its S3 and its more compact version X3 during a period favorable to electrically assisted bicycles (VAE). The COVID-19 epidemic and deconfinement have been a powerful catalyst for the adoption of the bicycle as an urban transport vehicle (+ 34% in urban areas, + 20% in peri-urban areas and + 18% in rural areas). This S3 is the ideal companion for your daily life, all while selling for 1990 euros (about 2340 $) excluding regional premium. But to get there, it’s going to take a lot more than style.
This test was carried out with a bicycle loaned by VanMoof.
A Well Supplied Box :
A word of advice: buy yourself a torque wrench! It’s a bit pricey, but it allows for the perfect clamping force. There is also oil to lubricate the chain. You understand, who says bike bought on the net says hands in the sludge. You will see, at first it can be scary, but you get used to it quickly, to the point of becoming fun.
A Design That Doesn’t Hide Its Origins :
The other thing that strikes you when you look at it is that it doesn’t look like an electric bicycle. The latter being more expensive and therefore favored by thieves, its classic appearance offers a slight deterrent against theft (but we will come back to that).
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The frame is smooth thanks to sanded welds – on the top at least, at the bottom it is not. The battery is integrated without protrusion – understand that it is invisible – nor a system to remove it and therefore recharge it independently of the bike.
The motor placed in the hub of the front wheel echoes the gears integrated in that of the rear wheel. The almost perfect symmetry offers a clean design that gains discretion with the matte black color. This discretion is more relative concerning the light blue of the model tested.
The motor is located in the hub of the front wheel. An aesthetic advantage, but a questionable choice in use.
A kickstand is fitted as standard, as are well-made plastic mudguards. Luggage racks are optional, count 99 dollars for the front with a maximum load of 10 kg and 60 dollars for the rear with a maximum of 15 kg. A baby seat can be placed on the seat tube. VanMoof offers the Thule Yepp Maxi, but any carrier that adopts this attachment system will do.
The saddle is securely attached and requires a star key to adjust. It is made of a kind of foam. Its comfort is correct, nothing more for a bike of this type.
Dynamic And Firm Driving :
The presentations made, let’s move on to practice. On paper, I was cheap on the bike and had some preconceptions about it. Once in the saddle, a good portion of them erased, but not all.
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The S3 frame is high. Ideal for a height of 1.80m, very good for 1.70m and up to 1.90m. Beyond that, you will have to raise the saddle a little too much, creating a gap with the height of the handlebars which will force your back to bend a little. Nothing dramatic, but if you are taller than 6’8, ask to try it on first: you can do it on the VanMoof website.
If this is your first eBike, the S3 will be a treat and will put a smile that is hard to remove from your face. The impression of freedom and ease of use will take precedence over the few elements that could be improved.
The first is the automatic speed system: the bike chooses the right gear to adopt. In reality, the stages are predefined according to the speed of the bicycle and not the speed of rotation of the pedals or the force exerted on it. This can sometimes lead to hiccups, especially during outright reminders when the bike won’t help you much, when it is precisely at these times that you need it most.
The Sturmey-Archer hub incorporates automatic and electronic shifting gears.
In order to make it a bit more versatile, you have 4 distinct modes, with 4 being the one that will offer the most support. The choice is made when stopped, by long pressing the right button (or via the application). Each mode is obviously configurable by choosing the speeds for each level.
There, you tell yourself that this is a headache … and it is true. In real life, no matter what your rider profile is, you will quickly crank up the assistance (Mode 4) and give up the idea of fixing it all.
If despite everything you feel difficulty, VanMoof has added an option that will reveal the Vin Diesel in you: a “Boost” button which is the right button on the handlebars. When you ride (and only when you ride) pressing it instantly delivers 100% of the torque of the electric motor and it’s both the strength and the big weakness of this bike: the force because it really allows to have this blow from foot to buttocks necessary in difficult (very steep climb) or dangerous (in town to avoid a vehicle) situations.
The weakness is that you end up pushing it constantly. So much so that we begin to think about adopting a switch instead of a push button.
Vin Diesel likes it!
The S3 has hydraulic disc brakes. This is a nice progression from the previous model, but unfortunately they lack bite. For urban use, this is limited, because it forces you to anticipate dangerous situations. It’s always better than cable brakes, but it’s not enough. It will be necessary to avoid arousing with the bike and to regulate the braking well on slippery ground to avoid locking the wheels.
Of course, the hydraulics are an evolution from the previous model, but they are still entry-level brakes and not efficient enough, especially for a 19 kg bike capable of gaining 32 km/h.
The rigid aluminum fork is an excellent choice in my opinion. Of course, the vibrations go directly back to the handlebars and the saddle, which can be a bit disturbing on cobblestones, but a telescopic fork does not really make sense and for 3 reasons:
- Most VTC forks are entry-level, inefficient and need to be changed after a maximum of 2 years of cycling.
- These forks also do not allow you to adjust the hardness of the springs, they make the bike less agile and less responsive.
- Finally, springing means pumping and therefore absorption of energy. To overcome this lack, you must pedal harder or use the engine more, causing a loss of range.
In short, it’s rigid, and rigidity is good. Then the Schwalbe Big Ben tires are thick and attenuate the relief well.
Tires, let’s talk about it. They have excellent cushioning and are ideal for urban use. On the other hand, forget about walks in the forest or a little wild terrain which may cause annoying punctures. The fault was a smooth tread, but sufficiently dug to evacuate rainwater.
The fork is made of aluminum. A carbon fork would not have been of much interest and the weight gained would have been minimal.
In detail, the positioning of the headlight on the frame does not follow the handlebars. It’s awkward in dark areas, but the turns are never long or tight. As for the lighting itself, it does the job to be seen, but you will need a second lamp anyway for safety and better visibility of the road. By the way (although he is not the only one), I regret the absence of a brake light: alerting the vehicles behind that you are braking is an important thing.
Finally, we come to what is for me, the big weak point: the motor in the hub of the front wheel. The concern is the automatic gear and traction combo that makes the wheel spin. Whether it’s getting on something or starting hard on a slippery surface.
In this situation, I would have preferred a motor in the crankset.
On a bike that wants to be accessible to as many people as possible, this is a point that I think is important to correct. You will have to be vigilant on dirt roads or sandy areas. I continue on this engine. Its torque is remarkable and towing a little over 100 kg at 25 km/h (and even 32 km/h) on a slope of 13% did not make it weaken (the “Boost” was engaged).
But this is a model that suffers from a syndrome specific to entry-level engines. As soon as maximum speed is reached (25 km/h in European mode and 32 km/h in US mode), the engine no longer offers assistance and this is normal. But where new generation motors (like a Bosch Active Plus or a Shimano eSteps) “freewheel”, the VanMoof’s exert a resistance force. This electromagnetic braking is characteristic of electric motors.
It is practical on scooters or cars, but on the bike, it adds an extra effort for the rider, in addition to dragging the 19 kilos. Cutting off assistance creates a brutal and unpleasant transition. Consequences ? You will quickly increase the assistance to the maximum and graft your right thumb to the “Boost” button. Therefore, can we still talk about cycling?
The dot-matrix display is original, but unreadable in direct sunlight and poorly placed, forcing you to lower your head.
The S3 is therefore not a bicycle made for exertion, but for moving quickly and efficiently in an urban or peri-urban environment. In this role, the ride is pleasant, easy, fun, and the behavior of the bike is healthy. It forgives approximations thanks to a perfectly balanced frame, which is a small feat considering the height at which the battery is located.
Application, Security And Legality :
Who says connected bike says application. That of VanMoof is rather ergonomic and does the job.
There you will find the answers to all the questions you can ask yourself via a kind of FAQ (for example the need to move the rear wheel a little forward if the “Lock” button does not work).
Once the account has been created and the bike has been registered, you will be able to configure the beast a bit: type of ringtone, lighting of the lights, the level of assistance or even the gear stages.
You have a summary of your runs, total time spent and energy spent. But this is sketchy and you have no plots. Then if you forget to open the app – the bike can be unlocked without a smartphone – you won’t have a follow-up.
As written above, safety has been central to the design of the bike and the creation of the brand. And for good reason ! Bike theft is highest in the Netherlands, with 900,000 bikes stolen for 15 million bicycles.
It is also around this idea of a tamper-proof bike that the S3 and its little brother the X3 were designed: non-removable battery, powerful speakers hidden under the upper axle of the frame, wheel locking system, nuts Standard anti-theft, alarm, but above all, geolocation with the possibility of finding your bike via a dedicated team.
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Indeed, in addition to all the active safety present, which by the way does not replace two good attachment systems – such as a duo chain + “U” for example -, VanMoof offers a service at 290 euros for 3 years. : in the event of theft, the brand will find your bike thanks to a dedicated team and geolocation within two weeks. Otherwise it replaces it for you (up to 3 times).
The alarm can be deactivated from the app, which is not a bad thing when you find yourself stumbling at night on the charging bike, because it is placed on the path that leads from your bed in the WC, triggering the alarm and waking up the apartment (it’s a real experience)! But you will have to remember to activate it again afterwards.
We end with the legal aspect. Indeed, it is possible to unleash the bike simply, via the official application, by selecting the speed limit on the US standard (32 km / h) instead of the European standard. Concretely what does this imply? Already the brand has allowed itself to add a little unofficial trick that gives it an edge over the competition. Then, it prevents it from restricting its customers via geolocation, which would obviously generate complaints (we are free, etc.).
Finally, at 32 km/h, on long, empty, secure cycling zones, you are not dangerous. But be aware that with a bike that does not comply with the legislation, if anything happens to you, your insurance is very likely not to intervene, forcing you to have to assume the financial and human consequences that This would result, including for yourself, even if it is not your fault.
Editor’s note: it is true that on an unassisted bicycle (called “dry” in the jargon), the speed of 32 km/h is often exceeded, and this, without going beyond the legal framework. But in the case of an electric bike, it is the machine that achieves them, not the experience and skill of the rider. The perception of speed and the feeling of effort are therefore totally different.
Autonomy: Average Endurance
Finally, let’s talk about autonomy: with my 100 kg, on courses that go up and down a lot (400 meters of vertical drop in 3 short climbs), the bike allowed me to do 57 kilometers before saving money: the engine no longer works, but geolocation, lights and doorbell still work.
By playing the “Boost” button galore, the range is not that much and despite my weight I have always been able to reach 40 kilometers (42 to be exact).
The remaining battery life display lacks precision.
Finally, on a course with 3 good climbs, with the Boost button permanently activated, with 10 kg of pack on my back and my 100 kg on the bike, I did 51 kilometers.
This means that you cannot travel less than 40 km, even fully loaded and with the “Boost” permanently engaged.
For recharging, count 3 hours 20 minutes to go from 10% to 100%.
An Excellent Urban Travel Vehicle Is Not An Excellent Bike :
The S3 should not be seen as a bicycle, but as an urban mobility vehicle. He is not meant to post his stats on Strava or progress in the effort. He is there to offer an easy and pleasant solution to those who want an alternative to their car or public transport. In this, he keeps his promise perfectly. But inevitably, it loses the clientele of pure cyclists.
Offering the choice to unleash your bike so easily on the app is not trivial and allows the brand to have this little unofficial trick in addition to its competitors, something that sounds like a cheap shot. When it’s dark and cold, and we’ll be exhausted with the only desire to go home with about twenty terminals to go, 32 km / h will be very tempting. The catch is that in the event of an accident, even if it isn’t at fault, it will give insurance a way to clear customs.
Then there is this “Boost” button. Very quickly we find our finger grafted on to provide the minimum effort on the pedals. Because the S3 does not invite you to perform and the resistance of its engine once the authorized speed is reached has a lot to do with it. In this, it reminds me more of an electric scooter than a bicycle.
But is this a problem? Not at all. Because unlike a traditional VAE, you will be much less inclined to fall for your thermal vehicle when the conditions are not particularly favorable (or when laziness hits you) than with a standard VAE. Over a full year, your S3 will quickly cover more terminals than you did in the car. Finally, the security solution, combined with two good locks (chain and “U” system) should prevent your mount from disappearing as easily as another bike.
Finally, this VanMoof S3 does not target Strava cyclists, but others who are looking for a bike-like solution for their daily life. Those people who simply want to get to work with a reduced and regular commute time, in almost maximum comfort and with a smile and a well thought-out safety solution. In this, the VanMoof stands out as an excellent choice. But if it’s a bike to get you high that you’re looking for, you’ll have to look elsewhere and even forgo the electric to go “dry”.
MOST ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT VANMOOF S3 :
– Is there a 100% assisted mode?
– Is a child seat possible on the VanMoof S3?
– Anti-theft level and battery what is it like?
I detail it in the test, but the protection is based on these points: non-removable battery, locking of the rear wheel, powerful alarm, geolocation and a protection service directly offered by the brand (300 dollars for 3 years) which is responsible for finding the bike or provide you with another.
– Are you less late in the morning with?
Honestly, no. But at least it’s all my fault! More seriously, with an eBike, we take the same travel time and unless there is an accident or a puncture, we cannot be delayed. The return, however, may take longer, but that’s because we will enjoy strolling outside. Casually, it lightens your mind considerably not to have any more random travel time beyond your control.
– Why is the battery non-removable?
Probably to ensure sufficient battery power for geolocation during the 15 days that the VanMoof teams leave to find the bike. Then it reduces the risk of theft a bit by making the S3 look like a conventional and non-electric bike.
– Are the gear changes smooth?
No. It’s a bit choppy and sometimes it doesn’t pick the best gear.
– It’s automatic, how does it work?
Like a car’s automatic transmission. We pedal and the bike adapts the ratio according to the speed of the bike. The values of the speed steps are fully customizable. There are 4 levels (or 4 profiles) that can only be changed when stationary, either on the bike (via the right button) or in the application.
– How does the smartphone lock work?
– Anti-theft systems?
Yes integrated. But it will still require a chain + U-lock combo in addition.
– Maximum autonomy?
You can do 70 km without problem, provided you do not play too much boost. But never less than 40 km no matter what.
– Weight distribution with the motor in the hub?
That’s not embarrassing. On the other hand, its position creates the risk of skidding when you have to lift the front to climb a sidewalk, for example. In the rain or on slippery surfaces, it can be dangerous.