VanMoof S3 Review
Cons: Less control over gear and pedal assist shifts, no throttle, more expensive
Compare to Similar Products
|Price||$2,448 List||$1,695 List||$1,095 List||$999 List|
$999.00 at Lectric eBikes
|Pros||Modern design and style, integrated security features, smooth ride, quick-handling, relatively easy assembly, VanMoof app integration, very quiet||Sky-high price-to-performance ratio, lots of included features, comfortable-smooth ride, comes in step-thru and step-over frames and 2 sizes, massive distance range||Reasonable price, high price to performance ratio, 28 mph top speed, comfortable ride for a rigid frame, in-frame battery integration||Reasonable price, no assembly required, Class 2 and 3 capable, convenient folding design, wide range of fit, loads of features||Affordable price, in-frame battery integration, responsive handling, comparatively lighter weight, sold in 2 frame styles and 2 drivetrain configurations|
|Cons||Less control over gear and pedal assist shifts, no throttle, more expensive||Heavier weight, more involved assembly||Limited included features, motor is a little noisy, additional steps in assembly process||Small wheels, somewhat twitchy handling, smaller battery||Rigid frame and narrower tires - less forgiving ride, Not the most powerful, smaller battery equates to shorter range|
|Bottom Line||A unique tech-forward model with a modern design, sleek looks, integrated security features, and city bike flair||This bike checks all of our boxes and handily bested the competition in this test||Affordable and high performing, we think you'd be hard pressed to find a better bike at this price||Not only is this bike affordable, but it's the best folding model we've tested||A sporty Class 2 city-style model with responsive handling, sleek battery integration, and a reasonable price|
|Rating Categories||VanMoof S3||Ride1Up 700-Series||Ride1Up Core-5||Lectric XP Step-Thr...||Aventon Soltera|
|Specs||VanMoof S3||Ride1Up 700-Series||Ride1Up Core-5||Lectric XP Step-Thr...||Aventon Soltera|
|Battery Size (Wh)||504||720||500||460.8||346|
|E-Bike Class||Class 1||Class 3||Class 3||Class 3||Class 2|
|Motor Power (torque)||250-350W||750W||750W||500W||350W|
|Number of pedal assist settings||4||5||5||5||5|
|Top speed throttle||N/A||20 mph||20 mph||20 mph||20 mph|
|Top speed pedal-assist||20 mph||28 mph||28 mph||28 mph||20 mph|
|Measured Distance Range||24.1 miles||32.4 miles||23.0 miles||20.7 miles||18.8 miles|
|Weight Limit||265 lbs||275 lbs||275 lbs||330 lbs||300 lbs|
|Measured Weight||48 lbs 6 0z||63 lbs 11 oz||51 lbs 15 oz||61 lbs 10 oz||44 lbs 5 oz|
|Drivetrain||Integrated electronic automatic shifting 4-speed||Shimano Acera 8-speed||Shimano Altus 7-speed||Shimano Tourney 7-speed||Shimano 7-speed or single speed|
|Brakes||Hydraulic Disc||Tektro Hydraulic Disc||Tektro Mechanical Disc||Tektro Mechanical Disc Brakes||Tektro Mechanical Disc|
|Additional features||Fully enclosed drivetrain, automatic shifting, integrated lights, keyless lock, touch unlock, rider recognition, integrated alarm, Bluetooth theft tracking, VanMoof app||Fenders, rear rack, front and rear lights, ..?||Kickstand, bottle cage mount||Fenders, rear rack, front and rear lights, folding design, front suspension, mounting points for racks, baskets, and a bike lock, IP-65 rated for water resistance||Integrated lights, Aventon app compatibility, ?|
|Warranty||3 years||1 year||One Year||One Year||One Year|
Our Analysis and Test Results
VanMoof may not be a household name in the electric bike market, but their S3 model certainly grabbed our attention with its stunning, modern design. Not only does this bike look like it's from the future, but it's loaded with tech features that complement its eye-catching style. Everything about this bike, from its packaging, app compatibility, integrated security features, and obviously its looks, is unique among the bikes in this test. To find out how it performs, we tested it against a diverse selection of the best and most popular e-bikes on the market. Read on to see how it compares.
The S3 stands out for its smooth and stable ride, quick handling, and general lack of noise coming from the bike. The brand's Dutch heritage is evident in the almost retro European city bike style redone with heaps of modern flair. This model feels solid and well put together providing a very responsive ride, although with a fully rigid frame you'll notice larger cracks and bumps in the road. Despite its city bike looks, it provides a comfortable and fairly upright seated position, plus it comes in two styles, the S3 (tested) and the X3 to suit riders of varying heights.
One of the first things we noticed when riding the S3 is just how quiet it was and how well built it felt. This bike is nearly silent while riding, with very little noise coming from the motor and no chain bouncing around or cables rattling. This is due in no small part to the fully enclosed drivetrain and automatic shifting, which we found to be much quieter than a standard drivetrain. With beefy thru-axles, a one-piece handlebar/stem, and tough wheels and tires, the bike just has a really sturdy feel to it, and the lack of noise helps to reinforce the impression that it's well made. While riding, the bike is impressively smooth and stable, and the 28-inch wheels and moderately skinny tires roll quickly. We found it to have very responsive handling and it made a variety of turn shapes well. Whether negotiating tight turns at lower speeds or making longer turns at 20 mph, the S3 felt right at home in all situations. While fairly skinny, the tires do have a decent amount of air volume that helps make smaller cracks disappear, but it is a fully rigid bike and the lack of suspension means that larger cracks and rougher surfaces certainly don't go unnoticed.
The S3 looks super streamlined and well designed, and that's because it is. The modern design aesthetic is very noticeable throughout the entire bike, including the uncluttered and slick-looking one-piece handlebar/stem combo, fully enclosed drivetrain, and mostly internally routed cables. The bike's shifting is automatic, with 4 speeds that change for you while you ride. Through the app, you have the ability to set the shifting for your terrain (flat, hilly, custom, or manual), and we found that it works fairly well, although we occasionally felt like it lagged and was a few pedal strokes late from time to time. Being used to controlling our own shifting, this took a little time to get accustomed to, but it actually works pretty well. On the fairly hilly terrain around GearLab HQ, we found that it also doesn't have the widest gear range, and we used the turbo button quite frequently when climbing hills. For flatter terrain, this wasn't an issue at all, and we found it even rides quite well without any motor assistance. The hydraulic disc brakes proved to be very powerful, providing very confidence-inspiring stopping power and control. The security hardware used on the wheel axles and the seat clamp bolt is a nice theft deterrent, although this could give you some headaches if you ever get a flat and need to install a tube while riding or want to make an adjustment to your seat height. The included pedals have a little texture added to their surface and they work just fine, but we found they aren't the grippiest.
The S3 we tested has a claimed user height range of 5'8" to 6'8", and our six-foot tall lead tester found it to be a perfect fit for his long-legged frame. The horizontal top tube of the bike is higher than most, so those on the lower end of the height range may encounter some standover issues. Fortunately, VanMoof also makes the X3 which is essentially the same bike with a modified frame design and smaller wheels to accommodate shorter riders between 5'0" to 6'5". The seatpost offers a large range of height adjustment, and VanMoof also includes some spacers that can be installed under the stem to adjust the handlebar height by a couple of centimeters. We found the S3 to have a comfortable and fairly upright seated position, as the swept-back handlebars don't force you to lean too far forward. Our lead tester didn't get along famously with the seat as it has a relatively flat profile, but others found it to be comfortable.
Tech features are one place the S3 really stands out from the competition, but VanMoof didn't skimp on the essentials either. It comes with quality front and rear fenders to protect the rider from road spray if riding in inclement weather. It also has front and rear lights integrated into the ends of the top tube of the frame. These lights are bright and work well for riding in dim light conditions or to make yourself more visible to motorists and other riders. Through the app, you can choose to set your lights to always on or always off, or turn them on and off when you please. Speaking of the app, it is well designed and user-friendly, and you can track your rides or easily make changes to settings like shifting preferences, pedal assist levels, the bell sound, auto wake up, personal passcode, and various security features. It's up to the user to set these up how they want, but with an integrated alarm and kick lock to immobilize the rear wheel, it should make it more difficult for bike thieves to make off with your bike. If they do, you also have the option to use Apple's Find My network to locate your bike on a map. If all else fails, VanMoof also offers theft protection for an additional fee ($398 for three-year coverage), and their Bike Hunters will find your bike for you or replace it if they can't. The S3 also comes with a 3-year warranty. One thing it doesn't come with is racks, but they sell front and rear racks for an additional fee.
The S3 pleasantly surprised us with its range and it scored an 8 out of 10 in this metric. Given that this bike does not technically have a throttle, we had to modify our throttle-only range test slightly, but it was easy enough to make the S3 do all the work to determine the low end of its range potential. Rather than simply pushing a throttle for the duration of the test, we turned the cranks, but applied no force, to trigger the cadence sensor and engage the pedal assist while holding down the turbo button the whole time. This technique makes the S3 function a lot like you're using a throttle even though it doesn't have one.
Using this modified technique, the S3 managed to travel for 24 miles with 1,314 feet of elevation gain loss. The test took an hour and 30 minutes to complete, giving us a fairly impressive average speed of 16 mph. While this is a few miles shy of the top performers in this metric, we feel it's still quite good considering the S3's 504Wh battery capacity. In fact, it outperformed some other models with similar size batteries by approximately 4 miles. VanMoof claims a very wide range of 37-93 miles for the S3, and considering this is a Class 1 bike, we assume that range estimate involves some pedaling effort on the part of the rider. While 93 miles seems like a stretch, we think you could easily double our 24-mile test range with moderate pedaling input from the rider and more conservative use of the turbo button. Regardless, 24 miles is still a pretty long way to travel with virtually no effort. If that doesn't sound like enough range for you, VanMoof also sells an optional Power Bank that attaches to the frame and plugs into the bike's charging port. The Power Bank provides you with an additional 378Wh of power, which should be plenty to carry you for just about any length of ride.
The S3 is different from the other bikes we tested in many ways, and that includes its power output. At first, it's a little confusing, but like other elements of this bike's operation and performance, we got used to it fairly quickly. The S3 is a Class 1 bike that only has pedal assist and a supported top speed of 20 mph, although it also has a unique turbo button that acts a lot like a throttle when the cranks are turning. With a smaller 250-350W front hub motor, our expectations of the S3 were fairly low, but we were pleasantly suprised.
To test its acceleration against the throttle-equipped competition, we performed our tests while "soft-pedaling" (turning the cranks but not applying any pedaling force) to engage the pedal assist, and pressing the turbo button. Using this technique, we were shocked by how quickly the S3 was able to get up to its top speed of 20 mph, just 11 seconds. That's very quick. In fact, that's as fast or faster than some of the bikes with larger 500 and 750W motors. It impressed us equally during our hill tests, easily accelerating up the pitch to around 16 mph, before slowing to just 15 mph on the steepest part. Again, that's better than most. We feel it is important to point out that the S3 feels a lot less powerful when you aren't using the turbo button, more in line with its smaller 350W motor size, but we'd argue that the turbo button easily doubles its power output.
The S3 has up to 4 levels of pedal assistance, a feature that you can customize through the VanMoof app. Unlike other bikes where you manually shift through the different levels, the S3 makes automatic changes to the assistance level based on cadence and speed that seem to coincide roughly with the automatic gear changes. We found this to work well enough, with fairly smooth and seamless changes to the assistance. Without the use of the turbo button, it provides a relatively medium amount of power while pedaling, and as mentioned above, a major boost when you press that button.
The S3 is quite different from most other models on the market, but its operation is super simple once you get used to it. If like us, you're used to using more typical e-bikes with a throttle, buttons to change pedal assist levels, and a display screen, the VanMoof's minimalistic and modern interface feels a little foreign initially. After a few minutes, however, our testers quickly learned how the bike works and came to enjoy its simplicity and super clean looks. The S3 also integrates with the VanMoof app, where you can make all kinds of changes to the bike's settings.
There are only two buttons on the handlebar of the S3 and they are integrated into the clamps of the brake levers for a very clean look. On the left is the horn (which can be changed between three different sounds through the app), and on the right is the turbo button. To turn on the S3, there is a small power button on the underside of the downtube next to the battery charging port. There are various ways you can configure the security settings of your bike through the app, with features like touch unlock, unlock through the app, or you can turn off the lock feature altogether, it's completely up to you. Furthermore, the app gives you the option to configure your motor assistance, gear shifting (flat, hilly, custom, and manual), auto wake-up, alarm, Find My, etc. The app is really easy to use, and it allows the rider to personalize the bike to their needs. When you initially set up the bike, the app walks you through the various settings, so you can dial it in just how you want.
The S3 is a Class 1 model, meaning it has pedal assist, but it does not come equipped with a throttle. Instead, it has a turbo button by the right grip, that provides a serious power boost when pedaling. It works and feels a lot like a throttle, except that the cranks need to be turning for it to work. While testing, we found ourselves using the turbo button more often than not, mostly just for the fun of it, or anytime we wanted to go a little faster. Through the app, you have the ability to adjust the number of pedal-assist settings, and the bike makes automatic changes to the assistance level, as well as automatic gear shifts based on factors like cadence and speed. We'd be lying if we said this wasn't a little bit odd, as we generally prefer to have more control over the bike, but honestly, we found it works relatively well.
Unlike most other bikes that have a digital display screen, the display on the S3 is a matrix of small LED lights that are integrated into the top tube of the frame. This is very unique, and while it can be a little confusing at first, we found you get used to it pretty quickly. The lights change depending on the situation, showing a lock symbol, the alarm symbol (a skull), your current speed and remaining battery, etc. While riding, for example, it shows your current speed as a number along with a battery icon below it with 21 small LEDs that turn off sequentially as the battery is depleted. While its location isn't necessarily in the easiest place to see while riding, we have to admit that it works just fine and does wonders to keep the handlebars looking clean and clutter-free.
The super streamlined design of the S3 also includes a battery that is integrated into the top tube of the frame. Unfortunately, the battery is not removable (other than for maintenance), so you'll need to get your bike within the charging cable's range of an outlet for charging. The charging port is located on the underside of the downtube next to the power button, with a small rubber cover to keep out the elements.
As previously mentioned, even the packaging and assembly process ooze modern design. The box itself is fairly unique, with a "zip" open end to quickly and easily open the box before taking out the tool box and sliding the partially assembled bike out from inside. Once out of the box, the bike is supported at the fork by the packaging, making the removal of the other protective materials a relatively easy process. In fact, all of it can be removed without any tools, including the reusable zip ties.
The tool box contains the charger, a tire pump, assembly instructions, and a tool kit with all of the tools you need to complete the assembly of the S3. The tools are actually quite nice, and they include the special adapter you need for the axles' security hardware, as well as a special security head Torx wrench for the seat clamp bolt (you'll want to be sure to hang on to these as you may need them for future service or adjustments). The bike comes mostly assembled, with only a few easy steps remaining that are clearly detailed in the instruction manual. You need to turn and tighten the handlebar (stem spacers are also included if you want to change the handlebar height), install the front wheel, plug in the motor cable and cover it, and attach the pedals. Plugging in the motor cable and attaching the cover is somewhat fiddly and annoying, as it is slightly awkward to reach your hands and tools in between the spokes and fork where it attaches. Once the bike is put together, you'll also need to adjust the seat height and pump up the tires. The bike comes locked from the factory, so you also need to download the VanMoof app, connect to the bike, adjust your settings, etc. The app is pretty straightforward, and it leads you through all the steps. We found the assembly process to be pretty simple, and it took us about 30 minutes to complete, plus a little additional time to download the app, connect to the bike, and set it up how we wanted.
Should I Buy the VanMoof S3?
If you're a fan of modern design, app integration, and tech features, or you prioritize your bike's security, then the S3 is a very compelling option to consider. This bike's super clean, futuristic, city-bike aesthetic is obviously eye-catching, but it also impressed us with its excellent ride quality, responsive handling, and unique features that really set it apart from the competition. The VanMoof app is well designed and integrates nicely with the S3, allowing you to change your settings, keep track of your bike with Find My, lock and unlock the bike, and more. Plus, you'll have added peace of mind with the optional alarm, personal passcode, kick lock, optional theft coverage, and even the security hardware. It's one of the more expensive bikes we've tested, but we feel it's worth it if you're interested in what the S3 has to offer.
What Other E-Bikes Should I Consider?
If you're interested in a similar style of bike but want to spend significantly less, the Aventon Soltera is a great option. It's not quite as striking to look at, but it's still an attractive bike with great battery integration and a city-bike style. This Class 2 model has a 350W motor that easily supports speeds up to 20 mph using the throttle or pedal assist, along with a 418 Wh battery that gives it a respectable range. It's light on features, but the integrated lights are a nice touch, as is the ability to sync with the Aventon app. If you're interested in something a bit more powerful, the Ride1Up 700-Series is an excellent choice. This Class 3 model has a 750 W motor, 28 mph top speed, and a 720 Wh battery giving it class-leading distance range. It has a super smooth, stable ride, and it's loaded with features like fenders, lights, and a rear rack for several hundred dollars less than the S3.
— Jeremy Benson
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