Anyone who knows me will tell you a couple of things: 1) I’ve been cycling about as long as I’ve been walking; and 2) when it comes to large purchases, which is anything over $100 in my book, I do exhaustive research and am usually very happy that I’ve done so. I’m one of those unabashed nerds who like to geek out on details of products, especially electronics.
2020 was labeled, The Year of the eBike as consumers looked for alternatives to public transportation during the pandemic. Instead of riding one, I spent most of last year researching electric bikes. The more I learned about the positive ways in which they can change your life, the more I wanted one. My plan is to try to eliminate most short car trips entirely. I finally narrowed my list down to three finalists this past autumn and Van Moof, not the least expensive or even the most powerful, eventually rose to the top and I’ll tell you why a little later.
First, I’ll share my trepidations about buying a Van Moof. The company has struggled tremendously from explosive sales last year due to Covid. They simply couldn’t keep caught up with buyer demand. As a result, ten percent of the bikes they shipped were reportedly defective and wait times were three months or more.
My other reservation was, nearly everything on this bike is proprietary, made in-house, so this means if something breaks chances are you can’t just go down to the local bike shop to have it fixed. Parts must be ordered from Van Moof or you must box it up and send it to them for the repair if you don’t live in a city with a brick and mortar Van Moof store. They also have a network of Bike Doctors that will travel to you but I think this service is limited to a few select cities.
Van Moof received an influx of over fifty million dollars of investment capital last fall and seems to be putting this money to excellent use. I ordered the S3 and my wife ordered the smaller X3 model and each of our bikes arrived at our doorstep in around ten days and in (nearly) flawless condition.
Ride The Future. This is Van Moof’s slogan and after spending a few days with one I realize why. The bike seems like something that was stolen by time-travelers from the year 2100 and taken back to our, more primitive and pathetic, time. The S3/X3 have a built-in lock, electronic horn, GPS tracking, alarm system, and automatic transmission/lighting, and all this is controlled via their mobile app. The Dutch know their bikes, the design is both beautiful and brilliant and definitely turns heads. I've had several of our neighbors already asking me about it. The build-quality is some of the best I’ve seen on any bike, the welds are so smooth the frame seems to be 3-D printed in one piece.
The S3 rides like a dream. The motor is nearly silent and unbelievably fast. There’s no throttle, so you have to pedal to get any level of assistance from the motor but I like that because I still want the exercise. The Van Moof does have a boost button on the handlebars that you can press when you need a little extra umph and I can tell you it feels like a freaking warp-drive. It’s going to take a lot of discipline not to abuse this particular feature, it’s like a happiness delivery device. The disc brakes are substantial, more than adequate to bring you back down to Earth and allow you to ride with confidence.
Van Moof is headquartered in one of my favorite cities in the world, Amsterdam, but the bikes are manufactured in Taiwan. From what I understand, they own their manufacturing facility and the bikes aren't built by a third-party and rebranded like many other e-bike companies.
The bikes arrive to the customer about eighty-percent assembled. Van Moof provides lots of instructional videos on YouTube and assembly was a breeze for the most part, except for one small step...the motor wire harness cover. I won’t gloss this over, this step was an absolute bastard.
This little plastic cover is installed over the wiring harness on the inside of the fork and secured with two tiny little flat-bottomed screws. Van Moof forum members offered warnings about how difficult this step was but I had no idea.
Putting a tiny plastic cover over a wiring harness took nearly an hour, longer than all of the other assembly steps combined. The pre-drilled holes in the fork were only a few millimeters off center compared to the plastic cover. So close, yet so far away. This forced me to drive the screws in at an extreme angle and hope for the best. After having suffered through this process with both bikes we realized Van Moof could easily fix this hassle with clearer instructions, self-tapping screws, and a slightly redesigned cover with oblong holes that allow for horizontal adjustment. The harness itself can be pushed into the fork much more easily if it’s angled at about 30 degrees (my wife discovered this online in a forum somewhere), however, all of the official instructional videos tell you to just push it straight in. I’ve given this feedback to Van Moof so hopefully they take the initiative to make this step easier for future Moofers.
Update: Van Moof responded to my suggestion on how to improve this tiny albeit painfully frustrating assembly step!
I’m still waiting the delivery of my rear rack and pannier bag which are on back-order and should arrive in a month or so.
The Amazing (and Final Thoughts)
This is the bike after the final adjustments were made and accessories installed.
On the advice of some Van Moof forum members, I bought the German-made Abus Bordo 6000 lock to use in conjunction with the built-in lock on the rear wheel for extra protection. For an additional fee Van Moof offers a Theft Protection and Maintenance Program ($390 each or $540 for both) but since we don’t live in a city with a Van Moof store I’ve opted out of purchasing these subscriptions.
For the moment, I couldn’t be more satisfied with my decision. Considering my experience with the two bikes we ordered, Van Moof seems to finally be moving beyond their initial growing pains. They have created a really special product with this new generation (S3/X3) of eBikes. This is that rare kind of product that you develop and almost instant emotion connection with.
Similar to Tesla, Van Moof has also built a community of loyal and dedicated riders, many of whom share an early-adopter mentality. Even if they experience a few difficulties the majority of them seem to love the product enough to deal with the occasional hiccups that may arise with the bikes. If Van Moof continues on their trajectory of improving quality control and customer support they'll become a household name. I sincerely hope so, because more of these Van Moof bikes on the road would make the world a more beautiful, healthier, and happier place.
I’ll be updating you on my first proper ride once Minnesota experiences it's much-anticipated spring thaw. Until then I’ll be zipping through our parking garage, trying my very best to go easy on that boost button.
(Videos sourced from Van Moof)
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