The VanMoof X3, as posed in Seattle’s Carkeek Park. [credit:
Sam Machkovech ]
For some people, a review of the VanMoof S3 electric bicycle can begin and end with its stunning design. The same goes for its eyebrow-raising $1,999 price tag. Both seem to go hand in hand: this is a pricey electric bike, and it sure looks like one.
Honestly, I’ve never tested a bike that has garnered so much universal drool, and I emphasize that at the top of this review because everything else about the VanMoof X3 ranges from serviceable to questionable. My month-long testing period was never interrupted with serious issues in terms of reliability or battery life, thankfully. Instead, I kept wondering what, exactly, this company was charging a whopping $1,999 for. Usually, each time I had that thought, I’d see yet another passerby make a face, like I was a bikini model in an ’80s beach-romp comedy, and think, “Right. It’s the looks.”
Starting with the automatic gear shifter
The VanMoof caught our eye for reasons other than its aesthetics (though those didn’t hurt). We accepted VanMoof’s offer of a tester bike primarily because of its unique, automatic gear-shifting feature. The bike’s basic sales pitch appeared to be: set it up via an Internet-connected app, then comfortably ride with adjustable, motor-powered pedal assists, made all the niftier by not needing to click your bike’s gear up or down.