25th - 26th SEPTEMBER 2019  |  OLYMPIA

VanMoof S3 and X3 Review: Ready for Any Commute

Wired 04 May 2020 01:00

The new VanMoof is a very good looking bike, but I was still surprised how much of a conversation piece it became as I rode it around New York city. People regularly walked up to ask about it, and little crowds actually formed around it when I grabbed a bite to eat near Central Park, which was honestly kinda scary during a pandemic. The last thing I rode that got this much attention was a bright red, late-'60s-design Corvette.

I put more than 130 miles on the VanMoof S3 (the company is Dutch; "Moof" rhymes with "loaf"), and I was rough on it. For a week and a half, it was my only transportation all over New York, which is an absurdly difficult place to bike at times. I ran packages to the UPS Store, bounded over SoHo's fender-shaking cobblestones and the Brooklyn Bridge's wood slats, hit unavoidable potholes in East Williamsburg, and survived a couple slam-and-rams from Spandex-clad cyclists. The S3 held up.

The larger S3 is on the left. The smaller X3 is on the right.

Photograph: VanMoof

Two Sizes at Better Prices

The S3 is a full-size bike with 28-inch wheels that should be good for riders between 5'8" and 6'8". It joins VanMoof's X3, a more compact design with 24-inch wheels that can accommodate riders between 5'0" and 6'5". The S3 is more stable, and the X3 is more agile, but aside from the sizes of the wheels and the frames, they're the same bike.

The S3 and X3 each cost $2,000 and come with four-speed automatic shifting and hydraulic brakes. Both models are a lot cheaper than the S2 and X2 they're replacing, which were $3,400 bikes with two-speed automatic shifting and cable brakes. Even though these models are much cheaper, nothing about them feels downgraded. The frame construction hasn't changed, although the paint now has a matte finish to prevent scratches. VanMoof attributes the price drop to the fact that it's moved production to a new factory which churns out bikes more efficiently.

Photograph: VanMoof

The range per charge seems to fall between 37 and 93 miles, depending on the level of pedaling assistance you select in the smartphone app. Level 0 turns off electric pedal assist completely, and level 4 gives you a heavy boost at all speeds.

One day, I took the S3 out on a 47-mile journey from Queens, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and into the Bronx and back to see how it dealt with the hills of Upper Manhattan along the route. That trip sucked up 94 percent of the battery, which isn't bad, especially considering that I wasn't making any attempt to be economical and was using power level 3 the whole time. (That's my favorite level, giving enough boost to keep me speeding along and still providing decent range.) There was a lot of stop-and-go traffic in the Financial District, and once I got to Riverside Park I worked it to the maximum speed of 20 miles per hour as often as I could. You can extend the range if you ride a little more easily, but even if you're a power hog you'll have enough battery for a work commute and a daily errand run without worrying about the battery. The frame's top tube has an array of LED lights that show the battery's charge level whenever the bike is on, and show the current speed whenever you're moving.

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