For several years, electric bicycles have been hailed as the Next Big Thing, with trend forecasters promising that they will transform the way we travel, any day now.
三级成人视频So why haven’t they taken off? In 2018, 2.5 million bicycles were sold in the UK, but only 70,000 of them were battery-powered.
Perhaps the prices have been too high, maybe health-focused riders haven’t seen the point, or possibly there just hasn’t been an ebike on the market that captured the imagination of consumers looking for their next major, must-have lifestyle purchase.
Should I be thinking about buying an ebike now?
That could all be about to change. With millions of us worried about our post-lockdown commutes on public transport, you don’t have to be Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government to predict that cycling will spike sharply in 2020.
Sadiq Khan has unveiled a programme to allow London’s streets to accommodate a 10-fold increase in the number of cyclists this year, with similar initiatives expected.
But how many of those new cyclists will be going electric? In December, two months before Covid-19 had been officially named, Deloitte released its, and announced that 130 million ebikes would likely be sold globally between 2020 and 2023. That might have seemed a bold estimate at the end of 2019; now, it seems conservative.
So if the is (almost) there, and the public are suddenly more receptive to the idea of bike-commuting, what’s the final piece of the jigsaw to take ebikes into the mainstream? A head-turning product that makes thousands of people who previously weren’t that fussed about owning an ebike suddenly really, really want one.
Such as the new .
What is VanMoof?
Founded 11 years ago by Dutch brothers Taco and Ties Carlier, VanMoof’s aim was to persuade people in cities from London to Tokyo to embrace cycling like they have in the Netherlands (in Amsterdam, half of commutes are by bike).
三级成人视频The Carliers had no bike industry experience but had a background in industrial design, and felt that building the ideal machine meant starting from scratch with brand new components, rather than lifting elements from existing bicycles.
The first bikes from VanMoof (it rhymes with loaf, not hoof) weren’t powered by motors, but had a distinctive industrial frame shape and eye-catching features such as integrated front and rear lights (the prototypes came from airport runways).
In 2018 and several later, the brand went fully electric. Its motorised bikes looked great and were loaded with tech, but unfortunately they cost as much as a small used car.
三级成人视频This month, with most of the world locked down, the Dutch start-up released two new models – the X3 and S3 – and this where things get interesting. The latest bikes are a technological leap forward; lighter, faster, packed with features and – at £1800 – significantly more affordable (40 per cent cheaper than the previous iteration).
And if launching a big-ticket product in the middle of a pandemic sounds foolhardy, it could turn out to be a genius move by VanMoof.
What does the S3 look like?
It’s clear as soon as you see the clever, tactile packaging (which shouts 21st-century tech start-up rather than bicycle brand) that this is something out of the ordinary.
三级成人视频In matte black (the only other colour option resembles Farrow & Ball’s posh “”), the S3 is a stealthy, futuristic machine with a respectful nod to a traditional upright Dutch bone-shaker, mostly visible in the moustache-shaped, cafe-style handlebar. Think Batman on an Amsterdam mini-break.
三级成人视频There’s a pleasingly uncluttered exterior; wires, cogs and electrical components are all hidden from view. Unlike most ebikes, which have a plug-ugly external battery (or oversized tubes if the battery is inside the frame, which aren’t fooling anyone), you wouldn’t know it was an electric bicycle at all at first glance.
Look closer, and there are lots of satisfying details. The matte finish on the mudguards matches the frame perfectly; there are hardly any of the messy welding marks you find on most bike frames; and even the clear plastic dust caps on the tyre valves show that imagination has gone into even the most mundane parts.
三级成人视频There’s also a complete lack of third-party components. While most bikes are built with gears, brakes and other bits and pieces that bear the logos of other suppliers, everything on the S3 feels bespoke, because it mostly is, thanks to VanMoof’s team of 50-plus designers.
“We work differently to most of the industry, designing most parts ourselves,” Taco Carlier said last year. “We learned a lot from Apple.”
What can it do that my existing bike can’t?
The Apple comparison is apt. It’s not a huge overstatement to say that thinking about the S3 as just a bike is a bit like thinking of the first iPhone as just a mobile telephone – there’s so much more going on.
An automatic four-speed e-shifter, with customisable shifting levels, means no more manual gear changes. There are hydraulic brakes (maintenance free, VanMoof says), plus inbuilt GPS and Bluetooth to connect to the VanMoof app, while a matrix light display built into the crossbar shows the current speed and battery level.
You can choose from four levels of electric pedal assist: 1 being minimal assistance (I still want to get fit), 4 being much less human effort (I’m lazy and I’m late for work). While on the right handlebar, a discreet boost button provides an extra blast of torque for pulling away at the lights or tackling a steep hill with ease.
This is all down to the 250W front wheel hub motor and the in-frame battery, which VanMoof claims is good for between 37 and 93 miles between charges, depending on your level of assistance.
三级成人视频Arguably, there’s more tech here than the average commuter really requires from his or her bicycle. A lot of the gadgetry in the S3 could be filed under “I don’t actually need that, but it sure is fun to have it”.
You could say the S3 is more smartbike than ebike, and it’s interesting to note that the Carlier brothers are pitching it more as a groundbreaking tech-packed vehicle.
As Ties Carlier has pointed out, “We see Tesla and BMW as competition, not other bike companies.”
What is it like to ride?
The thoughtful design means the S3 provides a really comfortable, stable ride. The big (28 inch) wheels and large frame mean it might not be the most agile bike for tight cornering, but the cushioned seat and well positioned handlebars provide an ache-free experience, even over long distances, and an excellent upright riding position, perfect for busy urban streets.
But it’s the on-board tech that makes this such a pleasure to ride. I’ve been recreating my five-mile commute (featuring south London’s answer to the rolling hills of Tuscany三级成人视频) for the past few days, and choosing assist level 3 or 4 on the app means I no longer end my journey a sweaty mess - one of the factors that puts large numbers of people off cycling to work.
三级成人视频The boost button is by far the bike's most enjoyable feature, flattening any incline in my path with the flick of a thumb, and best of all, allowing me to pull away from junctions quickly, safely and ahead of the traffic.
It’s as quiet as a monk too. Even on full power mode, the S3 makes significantly less noise than my rattly, clangy non-electric bike; there’s nothing more than a faint hum.
How fast does it go? And are ebikes more dangerous?
三级成人视频Like any bike, it’s as the person riding it. Deploy the boost button on setting 4 and, even from a standing start, within a few seconds you’ll be zipping along at high speed, although the motor will stop helping you once you go beyond 15 mph.
三级成人视频(That’s unless you change the app setting from EU to US, in which case your top assisted speed will be 20 mph, but obviously no law-abiding British cyclist would do such a thing.)
And while the boost button is a hoot, it feels like a handy safety feature too. Being able to get ahead of cars, buses and looming lorries easily at traffic lights in London made me feel considerably less vulnerable.
Isn’t a fancy ebike more likely to get nicked than an ordinary bike?
Yes, and one of the factors deterring commuters from cycling to work is. So VanMoof have gone to great lengths to make the S3 as thief-repellent as possible. First, a nifty “kick lock” button locks the rear wheel and activates the on-board security system, so no one will be able to ride off on your expensive new toy.
三级成人视频The bike is automatically unlocked via the app when your phone is within Bluetooth range. But if someone other than you starts manhandling it, the bike emits a few warning beeps and an ominous skull icon appears on the crossbar display. If a potential thief doesn’t let go at that point, a full alarm sounds.
Even if the bike is stolen, that’s not the end of the story. For an additional insurance fee (£270), VanMoof’swill track it down for you via GPS. If they can’t locate it, they’ll simply replace the bike.
What are the downsides?
三级成人视频Electric bikes are getting less heavy, but weight is still an issue. The S3 is neither the heaviest nor lightest on the market, and it’s not a bad weight considering how much it’s got going on.
When you’re riding with maximum assist, it feels almost weightless. But when you climb off and try to manoeuvre it up a few steps and into your house – which you’ll need to do in order to charge it – you’ll feel all of its 19kg. Unlike many ebikes, the S3’s battery isn’t detachable, so you’ll have to place the whole bike near a plug socket (a full charge will take 4 hours).
三级成人视频It’s a large bike, too, and will take up plenty of room in your hallway. The S3 is one-size-fits-all, though if you’re 5’ 8” or under you’re going to find it a little on the big side. (The S3’s smaller, more angular sibling, .)
三级成人视频The crossbar matrix display is a nice feature, but very hard to read on even a slightly sunny day. And the electronic bell/horn may be loud, and may come in three sound options, but some will feel it’s tech for tech’s sake; what’s wrong with an old-fashioned bell?
So, do I want one? And when can I get one?
With so many of us suddenly considering an ebike purchase, VanMoof’s launch is very well timed, while the S3’s good looks and long list of hi-tech features make it a highly desirable option.
三级成人视频At £1800, the upfront cost is still significant, and repair costs will be higher because of all those bespoke components (though for an extra £270 VanMoof will cover your maintenance costs for three years).
三级成人视频However, a lot of commuters in London and other major cities will be spending close to two grand annually on public transport. So the S3 is affordable in a relative sense, and it does give you a lot of bang for your buck.
VanMoof have also got closer to solving concerns around security and theft than any other manufacturer to date (although you’ll still want to invest in a decent lock of your own – bike theft is up 50 per cent 三级成人视频since lockdown began).
三级成人视频The bad news is that if you want to join the world’s 120,000 VanMoof riders, you’ll have to wait until at least late September, and the waiting list is growing daily.
Seems everyone does want an ebike after all.
If you want to put your name down, visit