It was a breezy three-kilometer ride on VanMoof’s A5 e-bike around Battersea Park in London. Starting from VanMoof’s flagship London store, the company’s CEO, Ties Carlier, took the lead. He shot off on the more typically framed S5 ($3,498), while I got to grips with the boost and controls on the VanMoof’s new, shorter A5 (also $3,498). A few seconds later, I caught up. I hadn’t broken a sweat. My brief test ride around the neighborhood was almost too easy.
I had briefly ridden VanMoof’s e-bikes before, but its latest generation of e-bikes usher in changes across the board. The company has tried to make most of the parts on its newest e-bikes itself. The most significant change might be the removal of the tube-based display of the S3 and X3 bikes, swapping it for a duo of Halo Rings near the buttons on each side. (One rings the digital bell, while the other controls boost.) In addition to indicating battery life, it also shows how much the bike’s motor is working, along with the bike’s lock status.
Anti-theft technology (and a team of bike hunters)
E-bike security is a significant selling point for VanMoof’s bikes. Carlier explains that deterring theft is one of the biggest challenges to making “the perfect city bike," which has been the company’s aim long before it even started designing its first electric bike.
“A good bike – a good ride – requires more money,” he said. “With an e-bike, that’s even more true.” He added that whatever solution companies like VanMoof come up with, thieves will get smarter. The threat of it getting stolen has put me off from investing substantial money into bikes, and has deterred me from e-bikes entirely.
The anti-theft technology in the S5 and A5 (both priced at $3,498) includes an improved kick lock on the rear wheel. In addition, the bikes will automatically unlock if they detect the user’s phone nearby, and riders can otherwise unlock it with a numerical code that you can tap into the left handlebar – another instance where the new Halo Rings come into use.
If someone does manage to steal the S5/A5, tampering (or breaking) – which is integrated into the e-bike’s computer within the tube – the lock will first sound an alarm and, a short while later, immobilize the e-bike functions. For the thieves, then, it’s just a heavier push bike with a mildly distinctive frame and built-in lights that won’t work.
And if you’re willing to pay an extra $398 for three years of coverage (and that’s a fraction of the cost of replacing these $3,000-plus bikes), your VanMoof ride will come with support from a retinue of bike hunters – which still sounds cool. The e-bike transmits its location over 3G and the hunters are equipped with more fine-grain Bluetooth signal detectors to sniff out stolen bikes. If your bike goes missing, you can mark it as stolen on the VanMoof app, and if the hunters can’t find it within two weeks, the company will replace the bike for you.
It’s peace of mind, for sure, but it’s also yet another subscription. The S5 and A5 are even more expensive than their predecessors, which cost just less than $2,500. VanMoof’s latest rides each cost $3,498 – a $500 increase since they were first revealed. The company has also added support for Apple’s Find My network, but that’s more likely to help you locate your bike in a parking lot, not track down a thief.
VanMoof’s new stepover A5
The A5 model has a lowered step-in, meaning the bike is smaller and VanMoof believes it gives riders a feeling of being closer to the road. VanMoof’s premium-priced e-bikes don’t look like typical electric bikes – there’s no visible battery to begin with – but I like the unusually low-profile A5. When I use a bike, it’s multiple short trips, with several stops. This step-through model felt easier to ride. It was more of my thing.
The S5 and A5 come with 487 Wh and 463 Wh batteries, respectively. With the included charger, both take roughly six and a half hours to charge. VanMoof teased a fast charger too, but pricing is still TBC. On a full charge, the A5 can hit around 34 miles on full power, or 87 miles on economy power mode. Meanwhile, the S5 has a 37 mile-range on full power, which can be stretched to 93 miles on economy power mode. If VanMoof’s claims are accurate, both bikes should be able to handle plenty of short trips before needing to be plugged in overnight. The company also plans to offer a battery expansion pack that should double the bikes’ range.
A smoother ride
Both of the new bikes have upgraded gear shift tech as well. I tried a friend’s VanMoof S3 bike and could tell the newer rides had smoother gear transitioning. The motor has plenty of pep, but the A5 swaps around three gears incredibly gently. It’s hard to forget this was a premium e-bike.
While you can’t adjust gears yourself, it keeps the bike “interface” (can I call it that?) simple. That’s part of the plan. VanMoof’s Carlier says the company is targeting people who might not consider themselves bike people. The challenge is convincing them to invest in an e-bike. (At these prices, I’d call it an investment.) And if you’re waiting on the company’s even pricier high-speed e-bike, the VanMoof V, expect to wait a little longer. Due to supply issues, production has been delayed from fall 2022 to late 2023.
We plan to test out VanMoof’s latest bikes more extensively soon. Both the A5 and S5 are available to order directly from the company, with delivery dates currently estimated to be around January and February 2023.