VanMoof X3 Electric Bike Review Leave a comment


Commuting can be a drag. If you’re looking to add some joy to your daily grind, the latest offering from Dutch e-bike brand VanMoof, delivers. Priced at $2,198, the VanMoof X3 is one the sleekest and smartest commuter e-bikes on the market. Featuring an automatic gear shifter and lights, four power assist levels, a Turbo Button for fast getaways, and a matrix display on the frame that shows your speed, the X3 is a dream to ride. It allows for a maximum assisted speed of 20mph (the legal limit in the US), and delivers up to 93 miles of range on a charge depending on your choice of power assist level and how often you tap the Turbo Button. Its companion app tracks your rides, lets you quickly adjust the bike’s settings, and lock and unlock it with a tap. For security, it features built-in alarms and theft tracking. It’s not meant for offroading, but VanMoof X3 is a top-notch city e-bike. 

VanMoof X3 vs. S3

Founded in 2009 and based in Amsterdam, VanMoof focuses on commuter e-bikes, and has two models in its current lineup: the X3, which is meant for riders between 5′ to 6’5” tall, and the S3, meant for riders 5’8” to 6’8” tall. Both models cost $2,198 (plus shipping) and are available in light blue and black. They feature the same motor, battery, and smart technologies (more on these features in the next section), and only differ with respect to frame design and wheel size. 

The X3 has a more compact frame, 24-inch wheels, and a small metal rack on the front with two elastic cords to secure your cargo. The S3, by comparison, has 28-inch wheels and no built-in storage. At 45.8 pounds, the X3 is just slightly lighter than the 46.3-pound S3. Both bikes are tested to support up to around 265 pounds (including you and your cargo). 

VanMoof X3
(Photo: Ali Jaber)

For this review, VanMoof sent me the black X3. I’m 5’6”, and the bike is a perfect fit. 

Based on its current delivery date estimates, VanMoof appears to be having trouble keeping up with demand for its latest e-bike models. At the time of this writing, the company’s site says that delivery lead times for the X3 can take three to four months. I eagerly waited about four months for my review unit to arrive (no preferential treatment here).

Both the X3 and S3 come with a three-year limited warranty covering all original components minus the tires. The warranty is limited to the replacement of defective parts, and doesn’t cover normal wear and tear, improper assembly, or maintenance. 

VanMoof X3
(Photo: Ali Jaber)

VanMoof offers three years of theft and maintenance coverage for $398 apiece, or both services for $690 (a $106 discount compared with buying them separately).

If your bike is stolen, you can report it missing in the app (even if you don’t get the theft coverage). VanMoof will then email you a tracking link, which you can use to locate your missing bike. If you have theft coverage, the company will replace your stolen bike if it’s not recovered within two weeks. Bikes ordered after April 7, 2021 work with Apple’s Find My app, so you can locate a lost or stolen bike from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. 

The maintenance service, which is only available in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle at this time, covers preventative check-ups and normal wear and tear. It doesn’t cover flat tires and vandalism. 

If you don’t want to pay for the bike in one lump sum, you can finance it through Klarna for $81 per month for 36 months, which includes theft and maintenance coverage as well as shipping fees. VanMoof also sells a range of accessories for the bike, including a $348 PowerBank that gives you up to 62 miles of extra range, an $89 front basket, and a $69 rear carrier for extra cargo storage.

Sleek and Smart

The X3 features a quiet 250- to 350-watt front-wheel hub motor with 59Nm of torque. In the EU, the motor’s continuous power is limited to 250W to comply with local regulations. Riders in the US can utilize the full 350W of continuous power.

The bike offers four power assist levels. When set to Level 0, the motor is switched off, so the X3 functions just like a regular, non-electrified bike. Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4 offer low, medium, high, and maximum motor support, respectively. The motor only engages when the pedals are turning. 

VanMoof app
Screenshots of the VanMoof app

The bike also offers a unique Turbo Boost feature, which when activated maxes out the motor torque to help you quickly accelerate. The X3’s maximum assisted speed depends on your local regulations. In the US, it allows for a maximum assisted speed of 20 miles per hour, the legal limit for e-bikes. 

To slow down, you can simply stop pedaling or press the brake lever on the left or right handlebar. The X3 features front and rear hydraulic disc brakes. The lever on the left handlebar controls the front brake, while the lever on the right controls the back one.

VanMoof X3
(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)

The bike features a 504Wh Integrated LG cell battery, which offers 37 to 93 miles of range on a charge, depending on your power assist level and use of the Turbo Boost feature. The lower the power assist level, the longer the bike’s range will be. The 36V 4A charger plugs into the frame, offering a 50% charge in 80 minutes and a full charge in 4 hours. 

A matrix display on the frame shows your speed, power assist level, and battery level when you’re riding. While charging, the matrix display shows a lightning bolt and battery indicator.

VanMoof X3
(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)

The X3 features multi-function buttons on the left and right handlebars. When the bike is in motion, the left button honks the horn, and the right button activates Turbo Boost, which increases the pedal assist power for as long as you hold it down. In the app, you can set the horn to either a party horn, submarine, or chime sound.

When the bike is stopped, you can press and hold the right handlebar button to cycle through the power assist levels, which will appear on the Matrix display. When you reach your desired level, just release the button to set it. When the bike is connected to your phone, you can switch the power assist level in the app. You can’t switch the power assist level when the bike is in motion, but you can always press the Turbo button if you need to quickly speed up. 

VanMoof X3
(Photo: Ali Jaber)

The X3’s other hardware features include a fully enclosed drivetrain and automatic chain-tensioning system, a four-speed automatic electronic gear-shifting system, and a comfortable padded saddle. A Smart Cartridge hidden in the frame controls the bike’s onboard systems. 

For safety, the bike features automatic 40-lux front and rear LED lights (a white headlight on the front to illuminate your way at night, and a red one beneath the seat to make you visible from behind). The X3 offers a number of anti-theft features, including onboard alarms and smart location tracking. A Kick Lock button lets you quickly immobilize the rear wheel and activate the alarms, or you can remotely lock the bike from the app. 

Assembling, Charging, and Connecting the X3 

The X3 is neatly packaged in a box that contains all the tools and parts needed to assemble the bike, including a tire pump and chain lubricant. The setup process is fairly straightforward, but if you’re not particularly handy, you may need help, as I did. 

VanMoof
(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)

First, you need to take the partially assembled bike out of the box and remove all the protective packaging. Inside the box is a triangular front wheel stand as well as a shoebox-sized toolkit containing the various bolts, nuts, washers, hex keys, a wrench, and other parts you’ll need to complete the assembly. 

VanMoof
(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)

After removing the bike and readying your toolbox, the first real step in the assembly process is to adjust and tighten the handlebar, which I managed to complete without assistance. 

Next, you need to attach the front wheel; this is where I ran into some trouble. The manual says to first remove the brake disc cover, a small plastic insert that prevents the brake pads from squeezing together. I spent more time than I care to admit searching for this little plastic piece, but eventually realized it wasn’t there. My guess is that it accidentally snapped off when I was unboxing the bike; either that, or my unit shipped without one. 

Regardless, because this part was missing, the front brake pads on the bike were pressed together, preventing me from being able to attach the wheel. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for this issue: gently wedge a flathead screwdriver between the brake pads and wiggle it a bit to pry them apart. After doing that, I was able to attach the wheel, and secure it with VanMoof’s anti-theft nut and wrench. 

VanMoof
(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)

Next, you need to connect the motor cable, feed the cord into the front fork as far as possible, then screw on a plastic motor cable cover. In the manual, VanMoof says this is the hardest part of the assembly process. The company even includes a cheap party horn in the toolkit so you can celebrate after successfully completing this step. 

Indeed, I found this part challenging, especially given that you have to mount the motor cable cover screws from an angle. After fumbling with it for a bit, I called in my neighbor for assistance, and he completed this step for me.

From there, it’s just a matter of attaching the pedals, double-checking that your handlebars are secure, inflating the tires (to 2.5-3.5 bar/50psi), then adjusting the saddle and handlebar height. The included tire pump was a pain to use, but eventually got the job done. 

VanMoof app

Finally, you need to turn the bike on (press the reset button on the frame or insert the charging plug) and connect it to the VanMoof app. Charging the bike is as easy as charging your phone. You simply plug the included power cord into the port located on the frame beside the reset button, and the other end into an outlet. 

When creating a new account in the VanMoof app, it asks you to enter your name, email address, phone number, and country. As part of a recent app update, VanMoof removed an option that let riders switch between region settings. The company said it did this to prevent riders in the EU from setting their country to the US so they could go faster than local law allows. 

To register your bike and connect it with the app, you need to enter your frame number and validation code, both of which are printed on the back of the manual. The app will then automatically connect to the bike via Bluetooth (just make sure your phone is near the bike and it has Bluetooth enabled). The app will instruct you to set up a four-digit backup unlock code, which will let you unlock the bike without your phone. 

Getting to Know the X3

When connected to your phone, the X3 is easy to unlock. You simply bring your phone close to the bike, then press and hold the unlock icon in the app. A five-second timer will appear on the matrix display and you’ll hear a ticking sound; at this point, move the bike forward or backward to release the wheel. 

In the app settings menu, VanMoof also offers a Touch Unlock option, which when enabled lets you unlock the bike with a single press of the left handlebar (horn) button. If you use this option, you still need to move the bike forward and backward to release the wheel. 

Most of the time, I just unlock the bike via the app. This method worked so reliably during my first month or so testing the X3 that I never really learned how to manually unlock the bike, and that turned out to be a mistake. 

VanMoof app

One time, when I was out on the bike at night, the app wouldn’t work, and I couldn’t remember how to manually unlock it. I stupidly kicked the Kick Lock when the bike was already locked, setting off the alarm, which makes a jarring sound and flashes a skull icon on the bike’s matrix display. At the same time, a group of teenagers was exiting a nearby ice cream shop. They looked on, curious and amused, as I struggled to unlock the bike, which was flashing and making a racket. After a few minutes that seemed like an eternity, the app connected and I was able to unlock the X3. 

In my defense, the manual unlocking process is a bit complicated. First, you hold the left handlebar button to switch the bike into personal unlock mode. Next, you enter the first digit of your backup unlock code by pushing the left handlebar button the same number of times. So if your code starts with a number 1, you push the button once. When you hear a beep as a confirmation, you move to the next number. If the second digit of your code is a 5, you press the button 5 times. After entering all 4 numbers, you have to move the bike backward and forward within 5 seconds, and it will unlock. 

VanMoof X3
(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)

The app offers an excellent auto light feature, which when enabled will automatically activate the bike’s lights when it gets dark. This feature has been reliable in testing, and the light is bright enough to illuminate my way at night. You can also manually control the front and rear lights via the app. 

Keep in mind that the X3 is meant to be a commuter bike for the road. In the manual, VanMoof specifically cautions against using it for “racing, mountain biking, or any other form of non-urban cycling.” As someone who lives near the beach, this is a big con. Some have taken the bike on sand, but I haven’t risked it. I took it on a gravel path, which VanMoof says is OK, and it worked fine. 

My Experience With the X3 

Of all the products I’ve tested and reviewed for PCMag, I have probably spent the most time and had the most fun with the VanMoof X3. I use it for recreation, fitness, and commuting.

No Peloton or any other stationary bike can ever truly replicate the feeling of riding outdoors (though the NordicTrack S22i comes close). On indoor fitness bikes, I can only last about 45 minutes, max. On the X3, I can comfortably and enjoyably cycle for an hour or longer, covering 10 miles or more. 

VanMoof X3
(Photo: Ali Jaber)

I typically ride using power assist level 1 or 2, and find that is all I need. When using power assist level 1, I still feel my legs burning on a 10-mile ride. When set to level 3 or 4, I barely have to exert any of my own energy.

I love being able to look down at the matrix display to check my speed as I ride. On power assist level 1, I can reach speeds up to around 17 to 18 miles per hour when pedaling as hard and fast as possible. 

VanMoof X3
(Photo: Ali Jaber)

When using it for fitness, I often ride to a steep highway overpass on a local bike trail. Approaching the climb, I pedal as fast as possible, then continue to push at maximum intensity until I reach the top (similar to REHIT-style sprints on the Carol smart stationary bike). It’s a good thing the X3’s brake levers are easy to engage with one finger, because I always ride the brake on the way down. 

Another feature that comes in handy when riding on my local bike trail is Turbo Boost. One time, I used it to quickly get away from a seemingly intoxicated woman who was shouting at me, saying I cut her off the day before (I wasn’t there the day before). Another time, I used Turbo Boost when a rollerblader gave me the creeps. 

The X3’s automatic gear shifting feature is spot-on. In the app, you can toggle the gear shifting setting to Flat, Hilly, or Custom, and the bike will respond accordingly. I do find that if it automatically switches gears when I’m not paying attention, my foot will sometimes slide off the pedal. I have never fallen off, thankfully.

The bike offers excellent battery life. A 10-mile ride on power assist level 1 only drains around 8 to 9% of the battery. I always get several rides out of one charge. 

VanMoof

I love how the VanMoof app keeps track of your rides. In the four months I’ve been testing the X3, the app says I have taken 38 rides, covering 193 miles at an average speed of 9.1mph. 

In April alone, it says I took 11 rides totaling 9 hours, 42 minutes. The highlight was a 23-mile ride over three local bridges with my friend, Charlaina, an experienced road cyclist. Toward the end of the ride, Charlaina was way ahead, and the only reason I could keep up was Turbo Boost. I ended up draining the battery on that ride, and struggled through the last mile on leg power alone. 

VanMoof X3
(Photo: Charlaina Stevens)

In May, the X3 became my primary form of transportation after my car broke down. The VanMoof app says I took 21 rides totaling 8 hours, 21 minutes that month. If you plan to haul anything, I recommend getting the front basket accessory. I don’t have a basket, so I usually just strap my backpack to the front of the bike. 

The X3 attracts attention. Many people have approached me to admire and ask about it, especially when I chain it up at a public place. In this regard, the X3’s anti-theft features are nice, but I wouldn’t rely on them alone. 

VanMoof X3
(Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)

As mentioned, locking the bike with the app or Kick Lock immobilizes the rear wheel, preventing would-be thieves from being able to ride away on it. But that’s not going to stop someone from simply picking it up, throwing it in their vehicle, and going on their merry way. If you’re going to drop more than $2,000 on a premium electric bike, It’s wise to spring for a high-quality lock.

The Future of Commuting

If you’re looking to jump on the e-bike bandwagon, the $2,198 VanMoof X3 is an excellent option worth serious consideration. With its sleek, minimal design, it’s arguably the best looking e-bike on the market. It offers an exceptionally enjoyable ride, and impressive technology for its price, including an automatic e-shifter and lights, four power assist levels, a matrix display on the frame that shows your speed, and, best of all, a Turbo button for when you need to zoom away at maximum speed. Its companion app automatically tracks your rides; lets you customize your gear shifting, lighting, and other settings; and quickly lock and unlock your ride. For peace of mind, it features built-in alarms and anti-theft location tracking. 

The X3 is strictly made for city streets, so if you’re in the market for a rugged, off-road e-bike, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a fun commuter, it’s hard to beat.

That said, if the VanMoof X3 isn’t right for you, there are several compelling alternatives in this price range worth checking out, including models from French startup Angell and the Belgian brand Cowboy. Angell sells a € 2,490 (around $3,400) connected e-bike with a 2.4-inch touch screen on which you can view your speed, battery level, and more. Cowboy makes several models, including the € 2,490 (around $3,000) C4, which supports wireless phone charging. Cowboy doesn’t currently ship to the US, but plans to start offering its bikes here in 2022. 

Connected e-bikes are a new product category for us here at PCMag, and as this market continues to grow, we look forward to testing the VanMoof’s competitors in the future.

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