VanMoof X3 e-bike review: Transportation revelation – TechCrunch

by Joseph K. Clark

As some of the best consumer techs from the last decade, I didn’t know I needed an e-bike until I was on one, breezing down the bike lane and contemplating my newfound freedom.

Before buying a Nintendo Switch, I would have never guessed how much a candy-colored gaming console I could pop out of a dock and into my backpack for a long flight would fill me with joy. An e-bike, particularly this e-bike, the VanMoof X3, feels like that.

I live in Portland, Oregon, with ample bike lanes and naked bike rides. I BIKED EVERYWHERE when I first moved here, but that habit slowly dissolved over the years. First, I bought a car for weekend camping trips, which gradually became weekday errand running.

A few years later, I got diagnosed with a chronic illness and suddenly found myself much less confident in what my body could do and where it could comfortably take me. Over time, my bike would only see a handful of rides a season on beautiful days, when I’d always sigh and think I wish I biked more — it makes me feel good!

Before testing the X3, I’d find excuses to drive short distances instead of riding my bike. What if I got tired and didn’t feel like biking home? What if it starts pouring rain? What if it’s too hot? What if I’m too sweaty when I get to the office? Riding an e-bike erases most of those concerns outright.

The X3 is an effortless enough ride that I can still zoom to work if it’s 95+ degrees out. It’s fast enough that I can get out of a surprise rainstorm quickly. If I don’t want to be sweaty at the start of the day, I can lean on sweet electricity to whisk me away, rolling up to my office without breaking a sweat.

VanMoof X3

And it can’t go unstated that going fast on a bike — the whole time, with as much or little effort as you feel like putting in — is fun. If you haven’t had a chance to try an e-bike, know that the sensation of effortlessly zipping around, electricity near-imperceptibly humming beneath you, is difficult to describe and best experienced first-hand.

VanMoof’s handsome pair of high-tech bikes, the X3 and its larger cousin, the S3, are far from the only available options, so some of their pluses would hold for any electric bike. But that doesn’t make the VanMoof interchangeable, either. The VanMoof X3 has a distinct look, feel, and feature set that will perfectly suit a certain kind of rider (myself included), but other e-bike shoppers will still want to play the field. We’ll get into that — here goes!


I tested the VanMoof X3 over the S3, not by choice — its geometry is a little wacky looking in pictures — but because I’m 5’4″. The X3, which fits anybody from 5′-6’5″, is a little smaller and less traditional looking than the S3, which suits anyone taller than 5’8″. The X3 has 24″ wheels rather than the S3’s 28″ wheels, and it has a little bungee-corded platform in the front where presumably you could carry something, but I still have no idea what (You can also buy an add-on front basket that slots in there and looks very cute.)

Like most e-bikes, the X3 is much heavier than a standard road or commuter bike. The listed weight is 45.8 lbs, and you’ll feel every pound if you ever need to carry it very far. I live in a standalone house in Portland, Oregon, and had to take the X3 down a concise front step to ride it — fine!

IIt might not be a good fit for you if you can’t store the X3 (or almost any e-bike) around ground level with access to a charger. (Note that the small platform above the chain area is where an optional external battery pack, discussed later, sits in our pictures. The platform is removable.) I used to live in a fifth-floor walkup in Brooklyn, and carrying it up or down would have been impossible.

Though I’d prefer the look of the S3 on paper, the X3 doesn’t look strange at all IRL, whether parked or with somebody riding it. It’s cute, futuristic but not conspicuous and gets plenty of compliments. My wife described its aesthetic as “Death Star chic,” while I don’t know what that means, she’s not wrong. On the way to my office, a sanitation truck driver rolled down his window to bellow, “HEY—THAT’S A COOL BIKE.” Thanks, my dude!

The current generation of VanMoof e-bikes is coated in matte paint, and you can choose between a classic, sexy matte black or a pleasantly cheery matte light blue. A previous version of the bikes used glossy coating, but apparently, the matte is supposed to be more scratch-resistant. The paint does seem pretty tough though it’s not bombproof. Somehow the handlebars picked up a tiny nick in the paint, though I still have no idea where it came from or what it did (owls?).

Something important to note is that neither the VanMoof X3 nor S3 looks like an e-bike. They don’t have an ugly bulge jutting out from the frame, and the top tube and down tube are both thick but uniform — and not so thick you’d think twice about it.

The electronic components are nestled in the frame, and even the drivetrain is tucked away and enclosed. And while a profoundly excellent LED matrix display is embedded in the top tube, only the rider sees it. For anyone looking for an e-bike that doesn’t scream e-bike!!!! The VanMoof is one of the best choices, if not the best, you could make. It’s a fantastic-looking bike — not just an excellent-looking e-bike.


The VanMoof X3 is a nice-looking bike — you get it. But what about, you know, biking? I can confidently report that from the first time you hop on it to your twentieth commute to work, the X3 is an absolute joy to ride.

As an e-bike newcomer, I had reservations. Would the electric assistance cheapen the magic of riding a bike? Do I want a bike to do the shifting for me? As it turns out, quite the opposite, and yes.

The VanMoof X3 (and its sibling, the S3) gives you an electric boost while pedaling — you’ll still be pedaling, but it feels enticingly easy, and you’ll go faster with less effort. The bike also features a Turbo Boost button on the right-side handlebar that boosts you on top of the smoother everyday electronic assistance, up to 20 miles per hour in the U.S.

You can choose the amount of help that you want. Using the VanMoof app, which we’ll get to, or a physical button, you can select what level of power assist you’d like from zero to four. Zero is you pedaling a heavy-ass bike alone with no help (it sucks), and four makes everything feel so easy there’s almost no way to break a sweat.

In my time testing the bike, I’d use “two” when I felt like getting a bit of a workout with an extra pep in my pedal, four when I was in a hurry to get to my co-working space in the mornings, and three the rest of the time, like riding to brunch on the weekend. Choosing the level of pedal assistance is a huge perk, and it makes the bike feel flexible for different uses.

The turbo boost button is a killer feature in whatever mode you’re on. It flattens steep hills and makes it safer to zip across busy intersections where you’re not sure drivers are paying attention. It’s fun and fabulous for safe, defensive city riding.

It takes a little bit to get used to the automatic electronic shifting, but that’s silky smooth too. I initially assumed that, like many things that worked perfectly well before having some extraneous “smart” high-tech nonsense draped over them (fridges! lamps! vibrators!), the technology would fail just often enough to be a nuisance.

After a long testing period, I can report that the X3 rides are as smooth and seamless as ever. I’d crunch down on the pedal every once in a while, or the gear won’t catch immediately, but it’s super rare. You can even use the app to customize when the bike shifts up and down, and it’s worth playing around with that to find something that feels just right.

What else? The X3’s maximum assisted speed in the U.S. is 20 mph (32km/hr), but anyone in Europe will be limited to 15.5 mph (25km/hr). The U.S. speed feels excellent, and it’s painless to get up to 20mph and maintain that speed with the X3 in a way I’d have to destroy my quads to manage otherwise, even on my zippy non-electric road bike.

Beyond that, the seat is comfy, and the ride is pleasantly upright and natural. After riding the X3 for a while, I had a hard time going back to hunching over on my (adorable) little Bianchi and pined for the comfy ride I’d gotten so used to.


The VanMoof X3 is an excellent value. The company has a weird habit of tinkering with its pricing, but after a redesign and a colossal price drop in 2020 ($3,398 to $1,998 at the time), the bikes feel very well-priced. Now they’re retailing for $2,298 — $300 more than the previous price but still a good deal for anyone looking for a full-featured e-bike without spending over $2,000.

That’s not much more than you’d spend on a regular new bike sans electricity and VanMoof’s many cool bells and whistles. It could even be a lot less if you’re into higher-end bikes. (For something in the U.S. in the sub-$2,000 range, check out Rad Power Bikes and Charge for some good options.) and realistically, it’s just as likely that you’re shopping for an e-bike to rely less on a car, public transportation, or whatever else you’re paying for to get around — not to replace a traditional bike.

VanMoof’s pricing is also substantially less than you’d pay for the high-end tier of feature-rich e-bikes with high-quality components, but the company still manages to compete with those on looks and features. Still, it’s stressful that VanMoof is quietly messing around with the pricing with the bikes already out in the wild. It would suck to plan to buy one only to see the price shoot up before you pulled the trigger.

The company should be more transparent about this, setting future dates for planned price changes. There also seem to be updates within generations of the bikes, so an X3 you buy now might differ from an X3 you could buy in 2020. That isn’t very clear, and all of it should be made more apparent somewhere apparent on the website.


One of the most significant considerations with an e-bike (or an e-anything!) is range. VanMoof says the X3’s capacity is 37 miles using “full power” and up to 93 miles in economy mode. If you’re getting 93 miles out of the battery, you probably aren’t even using the pedal assistance so that you can toss that number out. The low-end estimate of 37 miles might be a little generous for someone who’s using the bike on the fourth power assistance level and smashing the turbo boost regularly, but 35-45 miles feels about right from my testing (usually mode 3 or 4, occasionally 2, light use of turbo button).

The range feels good. Even using the X3 most days of the week, charging is infrequent enough never to feel annoying. That meant daily short rides (2.5-5 miles, usually) and the occasional longer ride (10-20 miles). Most people will probably charge up overnight, but you can fill up the battery in four hours if needed. If you’re using the X3 or S3 to commute to work somewhere farther away, you’ll find yourself plugging in more. Even so, I never got into a situation where I was concerned that I’d run out of battery far from home. And even if you do, you can still pedal the bike — it’s just cumbersome.

Something to note is that you’ll plug in a wall charger directly to the bike to charge it. For anyone who can’t capture and store the X3 on ground level, know you’ll have to carry the whole dang bike to an outlet. The lack of a removable battery might be a strike against the VanMoof bikes for folks who live in walkups or small apartments, but for people with somewhere straightforward to store it, this wasn’t something I thought twice about.

While the built-in range is adequate for many use cases, VanMoof introduced an external add-on battery pack for both the X3 and S3. The battery slots into a bit of platform, pictured below, and is mounted on our test bike, extending the X3’s range considerably. The thing isn’t small — it weighs six pounds — but VanMoof says it’ll give you anywhere from 28 to 62 miles of extra content. Again, almost nobody will hit the high end of this, but even at the low end, it nearly doubles the bike’s existing coverage. VanMoof sells the PowerBank accessory for $348.

The PowerBank is big and pretty clunky. It doesn’t look awful, but it makes the X3 look like an e-bike. It’s not elegant like the removable battery on the Cowboy, another extremely handsome e-bike, but it’s ok. If everything else about VanMoof suits you ideally, but you need more range, it’s great to have the option, even if you’ll be shelling out for it.


The tech bells and whistles make the VanMoof X3 and S3 stand out. The X3’s price feels reasonable for a reliable, great-looking e-bike, but on top of that, you’ll be getting an electric steed with some pretty sweet tricks:

  • Matrix display: On the bike’s top tube, an array of LED lights built into the metal displays your speed, battery life, and other helpful info. This is a killer feature; it’s incredibly cool!
  • Alarm. You can activate an alarm that will *growl* at anyone who jostles your bike. It’s intense and loud.
  • Kick lock. If you live in a city with bike theft, someone could still toss the bike in a truck easily, so this isn’t a single security solution (I used a standard mini Kryptonite lock, which worked great.) You can kick a tiny physical button to alarm the bike and lock the back wheel.
  • Find Me on iOS. If you’re an iOS user, you can easily track your bike’s whereabouts. It’s a nice feature, though ideally if your motorcycle is well-locked, you aren’t be messing with this much.
  • Lights. The VanMoof X3 has great built-in lights, front and back.
  • App: Surprisingly, the app is pretty good. You can customize lots of small things (bell noise, alarm on or off, shifting preferences), use it to track your rides, and more. You also don’t have to be connected to the bike with the app to do the most basic stuff, like riding it, unlocking it, and changing your level of electric assistance. I had an occasional connectivity problem with the app (usually on Android), but this was quickly resolved and never kept me from biking anywhere. However, it did mean some rides weren’t automatically tracked. Importantly, you can also track your bike’s whereabouts through the app, and VanMoof touts this feature combined with its alarm system and recovery team for helping people get their bikes back.

Overall, something extraordinary about the X3 is that the tech features aren’t just fancy tricks — they enhance the experience. And even so, they’re optional. You can ride the bike and benefit from the power assistance without using the app. You can use a regular lock and skip the alarm system if you choose to or use a physical button code to disable it manually. You can change the power assistance mode with the same button. This is huge and lets you use the e-bike how you want. I’d never buy an e-bike that required connectivity, a phone, or an app to operate; that’s just asking for trouble.


Shipping and Assembly: The VanMoof X3 and S3 mail in big boxes. The assembly process was almost painless — except for this one fiddly bit; you have to slide into another one that took me half an hour and some searching on the VanMoof subreddit (not the only one with this problem!)

Extra Support: VanMoof offers three paid plans to keep your bike in working order and your possession. You can buy a three-year maintenance plan for $348, a three-year theft recovery plan for $398, or a combined program for $690 (broken down via VanMoof below).

Maintenance: Where you live should be a significant consideration when buying a VanMoof. I was surprised by how few problems came up when I tested it for reliability over an extended period. I had to mess around with re-centering the front wheel at some point because a brake pad was rubbing, but aside from occasional app connectivity issues, that was pretty much it. Of course, significant wear and tear mean any bike could benefit from a pro-tune-up from someone who knows the model.

VanMoof has full-fledged stores in Amsterdam, London, Paris, Berlin, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Tokyo. Beyond its flagship stores, the company relies on an expanding network of service centers and “certified workshops” to maintain its bikes, so check what’s near you. I’d want to be near enough to a VanMoof store or at least a service center to guarantee my $2,000+ investment, and its many, many technological bits could be maintained in perfect health. Nobody wants to ship a bike back for repairs, especially a heavy, technologically complex one.

Before testing out the X3, e-bikes weren’t something I’d thought a lot about, and I wasn’t sure who they were for. I first heard of VanMoof a couple of years ago when a close friend and much more severe biker than me bought one for towing her dog (the good girl) on a long work commute. We rode to the farmer’s market together, and I admired her VanMoof, but I was skeptical that something with so much technology under the hood could prove reliable over time.

Bikes are mechanical and straightforward — that’s something extraordinary about them! Could an e-bike translate the joyful simplicity of biking into something much more high-tech? As it turns out, yes. After test-riding the VanMoof X3 to understand its reliability and how its features hold up in regular day-to-day use, I regret my early skepticism.

I don’t know if I can overstate how much riding an e-bike, specifically this e-bike, enhanced my life in small ways for the better while I tried it out. Biking more — and e-bikes do get people biking more — makes me happier and healthier. Biking more has helped me ease out of an intensely sedentary pandemic period into new habits that make me feel more connected to the world around me. I see my city with fresh eyes, biking to new neighborhoods I’ve never explored and appreciating all the little things I took for granted. My only e-bike regret is not hopping on one sooner.

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