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VanMoof S3 review

Smart and stylish urban ebike

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £1,998.00 RRP | USD $2,298.00 | EUR €2,198.00
Pack shot of the VanMoof S3 eBike

Our review

User-friendly, slick design, bags of fun – it's one of the very best urban electric bikes available right now
Pros: Wonderfully smooth ride; impressive range; great price
Cons: Slippy pedals; auto-gear shift
Skip to view product specifications

Dutch brothers Taco and Tiers Carlier launched VanMoof in 2009, building stylish, urban commuter bikes. Now VanMoof has taken its award-winning designs into the world of electric bikes with the S3.

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VanMoof’s signature design is a top tube that extends beyond the head tube and past the seat-tube junction, integrating the front and rear lights.

On the S3, this integration is taken to the next level with the frame housing a 504Wh battery, while a 250W motor is built into the front wheel hub.

Integration doesn’t stop there either, with a 4-speed electronic auto-shifting rear hub, integrated security (more on that later) and a very slick display incorporated into the top tube. All these features make the S3 a rival for the best electric hybrid bikes.

The bike is designed for riders between 5ft 8in and 6ft 8in, but if you’re smaller than the size range, VanMoof’s X3, with its compact frame and 24in wheels (the S3’s are 28in), is designed to fit riders from 5ft to 6ft 5in.

All the electronics of the VanMoof 3 ebike are in the top tube
All the clever electronics are in the top tube.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

VanMoof S3 LED display and controls

The Matrix display is a board of 166 LEDs under the surface of the top tube, which illuminates to show battery level, with a bank of 21 lights (three columns of seven) showing internal battery level, and 20 more for the PowerBank piggyback battery.

The remaining lights, when riding, show current speed; when stopped, it changes to a ‘V’ logo.

When the bike is secured, the display is dormant unless you try to move or knock it, when it will make an audible warning noise and the display will turn into an animated skull.

The one-piece bar and stem complement the bike’s slick appearance and the ergonomically shaped grips transition smoothly into the bar.

Aside from brake levers to control the powerful hydraulic disc brakes, each side of the bar has a small button within easy reach of your thumb.

The left-hand button operates the bike’s electronic bell (which can be selected through the accompanying app as a classic ‘ding dong’, VanMoof’s own horn noise or a ‘party’ sound, which is akin to a clown car’s horn and provides endless amusement).

The right-hand button hosts the S3’s other party trick: the turbo.

This button provides a bit of electronically assisted overdrive, which means you’ll safely beat traffic away from the lights or give yourself a welcome boost at the start of a hill.

VanMoof S3 additional features

The LED display is situated in the top tube of the VanMoof 3 eBike
The top tube’s LED display shows when the bike is locked.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

When parking, align the marks on the frame and the rear hub, then use your foot to kick a button on the rear non-driveside dropout. This locks the bike, renders the rear wheel immovable and sets the in-built alarm, which works in conjunction with the app on your phone to track the bike.

It’s a very smart yet simple-to-use solution that means you don’t have to worry about a second lock to secure the bike, and if the worst happens, you can notify VanMoof at the touch of a button.

The VanMoof 3 eBike has both front and rear integrated lights
The integrated rear and front lights are very practical.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Unlocking can be done either via a smartphone or by inputting a three-digit code.

The auto-gears work well for the most part – you can choose flat or hilly settings, or set up your own custom change points.

The app also controls the lights, plus you can set it all up on iOS in Apple’s Find My app.

VanMoof S3 integrated systems

The power assistance smoothly matches your pedalling and, largely, the automatic gear-shifting changes just when you need it to.

I did find on occasion the auto-shifting held onto a gear for a fraction too long on drawn-out climbs (admittedly, not the usual topography you’d expect to tackle with a town ebike) and occasionally when descending, the gears were sluggish to change and keep up with my cadence.

That’s only in VanMoof’s standard hilly setting, though. Cleverly, you can adjust when the bike changes gears via custom settings within the app.

Unlike the Cowboy ebike, which offers a similarly slick and integrated ebike system, I never felt the VanMoof needed my phone mounted on the bar to impart information (though the VanMoof app does offer myriad data, should you want it).

The LED display on the S3’s top tube shows accurate speed, and with 21 (40 if you count the spare battery too) individual lights representing the level of charge, it gives a very accurate remaining power indicator.

Male cyclist riding the VanMoof 3 eBike
The bike’s range is impressive, I managed 80 miles and nearly 5,000 feet of elevation.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

VanMoof S3 range

The S3’s range is perhaps its most impressive feature. With the add-on PowerBank turned off and not connected, I managed to get the S3 to a remarkable 129.42km (80.42 miles), with 1,521m (4,990ft) of elevation.

The PowerBank adds an additional 378Wh of power to the S3’s standard 504Wh and should up the range to in excess of 100 miles.

That’s a lot of commuter trips, and with a charge time of four hours (80 minutes will get you 50 per cent charge) the S3 is a more than capable commuter for even the biggest mile-munchers out there.

  • PowerBank spare battery: £315 / $348 / €348

VanMoof S3 ride impressions

On the road, the VanMoof is a winner, and my 6ft 2in frame felt absolutely at home with the bike’s shape.

The simplicity of the ride experience is matched by the lovely upright riding position and the very comfortable, but not overly squishy, saddle.

VanMoof 3 eBike saddle
It may look odd, but the saddle is very comfortable.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

It’s wonderfully stable and smooth, while the tough ebike-approved Schwalbe tyres offer plenty of grip in the wet, along with their generous, rough-road-smoothing volume.

I tested the S3 without referring to the retail price and I fully expected it to be far more expensive than it is. At under £2,000, it’s a steal for something so very well sorted and with such a great ride, range and good looks.

When you study some of the detail, you can see where money has been saved, such as the standard square-taper and sealed-cartridge bottom bracket being decidedly old-school in comparison to the bike’s slick design and clever ebike system.

Male cyclist riding the VanMoof 3 eBike
The simplicity of the ride is matched by the lovely upright riding position.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The position of the motor in the front hub may seem like an odd choice compared to the mid-mounted or rear-hub systems of its rivals.

However, it works rather well here, with a sense of the bike pulling you along without it affecting the handling or steering.

VanMoof S3 bottom line

Overall, I’m mightily impressed by the S3. It’s a joyful bike to ride, with a range that eliminates any thoughts of battery woe.

The assistance matches your effort smoothly and the turbo button provides a jolt of speedy power if you need it.

The contact points are comfort personified and the package is excellent, with all the tools and accessories you’ll need, including a fast charger as standard, which charges both internal and PowerBank batteries simultaneously.

My only niggle is the occasionally dumb auto-shifting (but the auto-shifts on my Shimano Nexus Di2 ebike can also be pretty dumb on occasion), plus the rather average platform pedals.

Their grip-tape inserts are kind to office shoes, but in anything but the driest of weather they just don’t supply the ample grasp that I’m used to.

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I can forgive this, however, because the S3 gets 95 per cent of what it needs to do just right.

Product Specifications

Product

Price EUR €2198.00GBP £1998.00USD $2298.00
Weight 21kg (One size) – plus 3.8kg for the PowerBank
Brand Vanmoof

Features

Features Gears: Four-speed electronic auto-shift Sturmey Archer rear hub
Mudguard: VanMoof front and rear
Lights: Integrated front and rear
Pedals: Platform pedals
Available sizes One size
Brakes VanMoof hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm front/140mm rear rotor
Fork Aluminium
Frame Aluminium
Handlebar One-piece VanMoof bar/stem with integrated ergonomic grips
Motor Electric motor system VanMoof 250W front hub motor with LG 504Wh internal battery, (optional range- extending PowerBank 378Wh battery)
Saddle VanMoof saddle
Seatpost Alloy
Stem One-piece VanMoof bar/stem
Tyres Schwalbe Big Ben puncture protected 50c
Wheels VanMoof 28in anodised aluminium rims and stainless steel spokes