VanMoof S5 e-bike review: nice but twice the price


“Typically you must kill your darlings,” is a phrase utilized by designers to justify the elimination of components they discover personally thrilling however fail so as to add worth.

The final time I heard it was in April, 2022, once I rode pre-production variations of VanMoof’s new full-size S5 and smaller A5 electrical bikes. The phrase was uttered by co-founder and CEO Taco Carlier to justify the elimination of VanMoof’s iconic matrix display for a brand new “Halo Ring” interface. 

One yr later and each e-bikes at the moment are — lastly — being delivered to prospects, effectively after their authentic goal of July 2022. The worth has additionally been raised to $3,998 / €3,498 from an early preorder value of $2,998 / €2,498, which was already way more costly than what you’d pay for VanMoof’s earlier era e-bikes — the VanMoof S3 / X3 — when launched for a relatively outstanding value of $1,998 / €1,998 again in 2020.

Look, the whole lot is costlier in 2023, e-bikes included. However when it comes to worth for cash, the $4,000 VanMoof S5 must be twice nearly as good because the $2,000 S3, proper? In any other case the newest flagship e-bike from this former funding darling is perhaps useless on arrival. 

If solely it was that easy.

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Though the S5 and A5 pedal-assisted e-bikes nonetheless appear to be VanMoofs with that prolonged high tube capped by entrance and hind lights, the whole lot from the body right down to the chips and sensors have been reengineered. The corporate says that solely a “handful of elements” had been carried over from the earlier fashions. 

Listed here are a number of the most notable adjustments:

  • New LED Halo Ring visible interfaces flanking each grips.
  • An built-in SP Connect cellphone mount (you present the case) with USB-C charging port.
  • New nearly utterly silent Gen 5 front-hub motor with torque sensor and three-speed computerized e-shifter (the S3 / X3 had four-speed e-shifters).
  • New multi-function buttons have been added under the bell (subsequent to left grip) and increase (subsequent to proper grip) buttons.
  • The increase button now presents extra oomph with torque rising to 68Nm from 59Nm.
  • The S5 body which has been criticized for being too tall has been lowered by 5cm (2 inches) to raised accommodate riders as tall as 165cm (5 ft, 5 inches), whereas the A5 caters to riders as tall as 155cm (5 ft, 1 inch) and permits for a neater step-through than the X3 it supersedes.

These be part of a really lengthy listing of ordinary options discovered on VanMoof e-bikes like a effectively designed and helpful app, built-in Kick Lock on the rear wheel, baked in Apple Discover My help, hydraulic disc brakes, muscular metropolis tires, shiny built-in lights, mudguards, and a sturdy kickstand. And since it’s VanMoof, you can even subscribe to 3 years of theft safety ($398 / €348) with assured restoration or substitute inside two weeks, and three years of upkeep ($348 / €298) in choose cities.

Built-in hind lights which can be seen from the perimeters.

Built-in entrance lights and cables routed by body.

A brand new smaller multi-function button under the digital bell.

VanMoof e-bikes now have built-in mounts and USB-C charging to your cellphone.

I picked up my darkish grey (additionally obtainable in mild grey) VanMoof S5 loaner in late March however I bumped into just a few points that delayed this evaluation. These included intermittent connectivity failures between the app and bike, a Kick Lock that didn’t at all times disengage, and an alarm that will briefly set off for no obvious cause. These points had been all corrected by an over-the-air firmware (v1.20) replace launched in mid-April earlier than I might even report them again to VanMoof help.

I’ve blended feelings about this. In March the S5 and A5 began delivery in amount — albeit, eight months late — so that you’d assume they’d have had time to type out any points in VanMoof’s new testing labs. That’s annoying given VanMoof’s historical past of preliminary high quality points and assurances supplied by the corporate that they wouldn’t be repeated. Then once more, premium e-bikes from corporations like VanMoof are more and more complicated machines, and seeing the corporate clear up points so shortly is commendable.

One difficulty that hasn’t been fastened is idle battery drain, however VanMoof tells me {that a} firmware replace is coming to resolve it in “two weeks” time. In my case, the problem prompted the idle S5’s battery to empty from 86 p.c to 65 p.c over a interval of 10 days. I typically lose about two p.c cost every day whether or not I experience it or not.

Oh, and since I’ve put in a number of firmware updates within the final month (I’m at the moment at v1.2.4), I want to say this: the S5 performs a jaunty little tune the complete time the firmware is being put in. It was cute at first, my daughter even supplied a bit of dance to go along with it. Nevertheless it takes 5 to 10 minutes, and after the primary time you hear it, it’s simply annoying and there’s no option to flip it off. 

Relating to new options, the Halo Rings subsequent to every grip are probably the most seen change from earlier VanMoofs. At the very least till you hit daylight and people weak LEDs washout nearly utterly. The Halo Rings are supposed to present velocity, cost remaining, present pedal-assist energy degree, and extra by a collection of sunshine bars and animations. Total they’re high-quality, if gimmicky, however I don’t have a lot of a necessity for standing data when bicycling. I additionally didn’t miss the outdated top-tube matrix show.

Driving a 23kg / 50.7lbs VanMoof S5 appears like an S3 albeit with fewer shifts and a lift button that gives extra torque when attempting to cross somebody or get an early leap off the road. The fifth era 250W motor of VanMoof design is completely quiet, even at its high velocity of 25km/h in Europe (which will increase to 20mph within the US). And the brand new three-speed e-shifter does a greater job of precisely discovering the fitting gear than the S3’s four-speed e-shifter did. I nonetheless felt just a few clinks and spinning pedals, particularly when mashing down arduous on the cranks when in a rush. However total the S5’s predictive shifting is far improved, particularly when rolling alongside at an informal tempo. Nonetheless, it’s not as clean as the automated shifters from Enviolo, for instance, so there’s nonetheless work to be carried out.

It’s a disgrace VanMoof doesn’t provide a easy belt-drive choice for its e-bikes. That coupled with the S5’s torquey increase button would obviate the necessity for any gears when driving in all however probably the most hilly environments. That’s why I’m an enormous fan of the premium belt-driven pedal-assist e-bikes offered by Ampler and Cowboy. They price lower than the S5 however are additionally extra enjoyable to experience due to their lighter entrance ends (each manufacturers use rear-hub motors).


The brand new built-in cellphone mount (with USB-C charging port on reverse aspect).

As to vary, VanMoof says I ought to have the ability to get 60km on full energy mode. Nonetheless, I used to be solely capable of eke out 48.6km (30.2 miles) from the S5’s 487Wh battery when driving in full energy mode and incessantly urgent the increase button, in temperatures that ranged from freezing to 15C (59F). That’s about the identical vary I bought when testing the VanMoof S3 — 47 km (29.2 miles) — and its greater 504Wh battery. The difficulty that at the moment causes the battery to lose power in a single day actually didn’t assist my vary. The battery could be charged from zero to one hundred pc in a really sluggish 6 hours and half-hour by way of the included charger.

I had been questioning how VanMoof would use the brand new multifunction buttons situated just under the bell and increase buttons. The small button on the fitting (under the increase) let’s you modify your motor energy on the fly, whereas the one on the left (under the bell) makes your lights flash, as some form of warning to folks round you. Each of those options tick containers on advertising and marketing sheets however aren’t very helpful in on a regular basis utilization.

And since it is a VanMoof, the battery is built-in and may solely be eliminated throughout upkeep. The corporate does have a brand new “click-on” model (no velcro!) of its prolonged battery coming for the S5 and A5 you can cost inside the house.

The darkish grey VanMoof S5: too complicated for its personal good?

I’ve had a nagging concern about VanMoof e-bikes for the previous couple of years that I even talked about within the S3 evaluation. Are they getting too complicated for their very own good? 

Electrical bikes — particularly commuter e-bikes just like the S5 — are subjected to each day put on and tear in every kind of climate circumstances. Even primary bikes are tough to keep up when used on a regular basis and VanMoof’s e-bikes are costly rolling computer systems. 

Truthfully, I might do with out the flamboyant computerized chain-driven three-speed shifter, superfluous multifunction buttons, programmable digital bell, Halo Ring interface, Apple monitoring, and perky sounds for startup, shutdown, and firmware updates. Give me one gear and a maintenance-free belt drive alongside that torquey increase button on a pedal-assisted e-bike that may get me forwards and backwards to my workplace on daily basis, it doesn’t matter what, in type and with out fail. However that’s not the S5.

Don’t get me flawed, the VanMoof S5 is an excellent electrical bike with an extended characteristic listing than every other e-bike I can title. It additionally has the most effective networks of service hubs obtainable in cities all over the world. That’s essential as a result of most S5 / A5 elements are solely obtainable from VanMoof so be sure to have a service heart close by if you happen to’re excited about shopping for.

Too many darlings, not sufficient killing.

VanMoof for all its early covid successes bumped into monetary points on the finish of 2022 when it was pressured to ask traders for an emergency injection of capital simply to pay the payments. However your entire e-bike business was struggling post-covid as gross sales plummeted and provide chains wobbled. Rivals like Cowboy and industry giant Stella also had to raise cash to deal with overstock after e-bike inventories swelled. 

Pretty much as good because the S5 is, the characteristic set is verging on gimmickry, for my part, maybe in an try to justify its new increased $3,998 / €3,498 price ticket. They’re cute, entertaining, and certain, a tad helpful at first. However many simply aren’t wanted for normal commuters. The S5 has too many darlings, and never sufficient killing.

For context on that value, the VanMoof S5 is at the moment $500 costlier than the comparable Cowboy 4 collection and $1,000 greater than the less complicated Ampler Axel. Considered in these phrases, VanMoof’s pricing appears about proper.

Is the S5 price it? I’ll depart that so that you can resolve on this unsure and inflationary world. Whereas it’s positively an enchancment over the S3, it’s not twice the bike.

All pictures by Thomas Ricker / The Verge


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