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VanMoof’s new theft-defying Electrified bikes are serious, fun

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Commuting with a smile on the totally redesigned Electrified X2 and S2

VanMoof Electrified S2.
Image: VanMoof

VanMoof, the maker of electric bicycles you’d love to steal — but you can’t because that would be wrong, and the company’s Bike Hunters would track you down and toss your ass in jail anyway — is taking the wraps off a pair of new flagship commuter bikes today: the Electrified X2 and S2.

The smaller, more portable X2 is VanMoof’s first electric X-frame bike to become available globally. It packs all the same tech as the Straight-frame S2. Both models are being overhauled with a redesigned frame, display, motor, battery, and smartphone app. They’re also getting an enhanced security system that adds the alarm and integrated speaker already found in VanMoof’s nonelectric Smart bikes and an “invisible” Stealth Lock built right into the rear hub. It’s a lot of serious newness. It’s also a lot of fun — I know because I was able to take an Electrified S2 prototype for a test ride.

First, a reminder: VanMoof’s Electrified bikes are not cheap. The X2 and S2 will list for $3,398 / €3,398, which will be discounted by $1,000 / €1,000 for the first 2,000 buyers. But pedal-assist bikes like VanMoof’s can serve as replacements for cars for some urban dwellers by greatly extending the radius of what you’d consider bikeable. By comparison then, it’s a far less expensive means of travel that also promotes a healthier person and planet. And if you don’t want to buy a VanMoof outright, you can subscribe to a bike for less. (VanMoof+ subscription pricing for the X2 and S2 will be announced later in the year.)

On the outside, the first thing I noticed when viewing the prototypes was a new glossy coat of paint. I saw the S2 in both white (muted with hints of blue) and gray (aka, black). The finish certainly screamed “premium,” but I’ll miss the rough, anodized aluminum frames of the older models. (I’m not a fan of glossy paint on anything.) The next thing I noticed was the redesign of the iconic front and rear lights that better integrate into the reengineered aluminum frame that’s now devoid of welding seams. Other tweaks, like new front forks, mean fewer visible screws and cables. Even the new 166 LED matrix display disappears into the top tube when not showing the speed, remaining battery, or power-assist level currently engaged. The result is incredibly sleek, approaching a fit and finish we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on highly refined products from Apple or Telsa. But this is an electric smart bike from a small (about 130 employees globally) family-run business founded by two brothers in Amsterdam. And just like our mamas taught us: real beauty comes from within.

On the inside, the new Electrified S2 and X2 are just as pretty with lighter, more efficient motors and higher-capacity batteries that charge to 100 percent in four hours (improved from six hours), or 50 percent in 80 minutes. They also offer a better eco mode range of 150 km (was 120 km) on a full charge, according to VanMoof, thanks to beefier 504Wh (was 418Wh) batteries. The bikes still sport a 250W front-wheel hub motor with a max speed of either 25 km/h (Europe) or 32 km/h (US) depending on local laws. A little birdie tells me that they have a bike that will do 45 km/h (28 mph) on the drawing board that will extend the commuting radius that much farther.

New LED display and thumb buttons for horn / lock (left) and boost (right).
Image: VanMoof

The new Electrified bikes also feature two buttons on the handlebar: a boost button, now on the right, and a new multifunction button on the left. The new boost offers 50 percent more acceleration than previous models, according to VanMoof. During my testing on the prototype S2, the enhanced boost felt just right, with the power being applied smoothly (no jerk) and just enough oomph that I felt compelled to pedal faster in order to keep up with the motor. While riding, a press of the left side button sounded a pleasant bell-tone to alert riders of my presence. While parked, the left button can be used to key in a passcode to manually activate / deactivate the new “Stealth Lock” integrated into the rear wheel. If your passcode was 3-4-2, for example, you’d tap the left button three times, wait for the confirmation beep, hit it four times (beep), then two more presses to lock / unlock your bike. Would-be thieves will have an entirely different experience.

Activate the Stealth Lock and theft defense with a kick.
GIF: VanMoof

VanMoof is well-known for its Peace of Mind service whereby you pay the company a nominal fee for its team of Bike Hunters to track and recover your bike, no matter where in the world it’s taken. If they can’t recover it within two weeks, you get a replacement bike for free. It’s all part of VanMoof’s grand strategy of securing its bikes by making aspiring thieves move on to targets that are easier to steal and sell. The Stealth Lock, then, is an extension of that strategy, and it’s unlike any bike lock you’ve seen. First, it’s not a chain or a cable. It’s a pin that renders the rear wheel immobile when set either manually with a kick, passcode, or the app, or automatically just by walking away from the bike. (Hi, Bluetooth.) And since the lock is integrated into the hub assembly, it can’t be cut, torched, or sawed. Should a would-be thief try to tamper with your new X2 or S2, it’ll emit a series of warning sounds before escalating to an ear-splitting panic mode that also sends alerts to both you and VanMoof’s Bike Hunters. Naturally, VanMoof’s iOS and Android apps are also getting updates that let riders customize the sounds and the new antitheft settings while adding a useful reminder that shows riders where they parked their bike.

During my test ride, I saw the Stealth Lock activated both manually and from the app. The pin you’re meant to kick is rather small, so it might get tweaked to present the rider with a larger target once the bikes ship. The prototype wheel I saw tested had to sometimes be rocked back and forth a bit before the pin would find its groove to lock. That’s not unlike the experience of nudging the rear wheel slightly to align the spokes with those ring locks you’ll find mounted below the saddle stem on many city bikes. But I do wonder what that will mean for those who opt for automatic locking. Unfortunately, the firmware on the prototype S2 wasn’t ready to show the Stealth Lock in auto mode. Previously, I’ve had issues with the automatic Bluetooth locking feature on the current Electrified S. So, even with VanMoof’s assurance that the S2 and X2 will work much better, I’ll have to see it in action to believe it. It’s definitely more intuitive now, and, if all else fails, the lock can always be set and released manually without reliance on Bluetooth.

Another notable, but less visible change will make servicing your rather unique Electrified bike easier: both the S2 and X2 feature a removable “Smart Cartridge” that contains the printed circuit board, radios, display, controller, etc. That way, if there’s ever an issue with the bike’s brains, and VanMoof can’t remotely repair it with a software tweak, you can detach the cartridge yourself and send it to VanMoof without shipping the entire bicycle. Even the battery has been designed to slide out with the removal of a few screws. These are important changes for anyone who is looking to buy the bike online from anywhere in the world since VanMoof operates only a handful of service centers in Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Taipei, and Tokyo. London and Paris locations are coming soon.

Normal-sized human Job Stehmann (left) next to Ties Carlier (right).
Photo by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

Now, I know what you’re wondering: since the battery is already removable for maintenance, is VanMoof planning to take that a step further and offer an Electrified bike with a modular battery that can be topped off with a home charger? The answer is no, at least not in the coming year or two — but the company has certainly given it some thought. As VanMoof co-founder Ties Carlier sees it, for city commuters who need to charge more than once a week, the smaller X2 with the flat-folding handlebar option is a better solution than removable batteries. Modular batteries require bulky housings. So either the frame gets bigger to accommodate it or the battery gets smaller. Those are two options Carlier isn’t, yet, keen to embrace. Fine. But the X2 and S2 are not lightweight bikes. Carlier tells me that they should weigh about the same, maybe a kilo more, than the 18.4 kilograms (40.6 pounds) weight of the current models. That’s a nontrivial load to hoist up the steep, often narrow stairs of an urban apartment.

VanMoof’s head of R&D, Job Stehmann, estimates that well over 90 percent of the new Electrified bikes’ parts are designed in-house and then manufactured to spec by some 200 suppliers (tires being an obvious outlier). It’s a strategy not unlike Apple’s, with VanMoof wanting to own every aspect of the product and the customer experience. It’s this Jobsian approach to product design that allows VanMoof to seamlessly integrate features like the matrix display and Stealth Lock into the Electrified S2 and X2. These are integrated bikes. That’s very different from bikes that integrate hundreds of off-the-shelf components, which almost any Kickstarter can do.

You can reserve the X2 and S2 starting on June 7th for $100 / €100. The first 2,000 orders will pay $2,398 / €2,398, after which the price jumps to $3,398 / €3,398. Deliveries begin in September. Both bikes will eventually be offered with VanMoof+ subscriptions, but pricing won’t be set until the bikes are in stock later in the year.