The VanMoof X3 looks as though it comes from the future and, with its unusual design as well as its overall concept, is the most individual commuter bike in our group test. But different doesn’t have to mean bad. We tested the unusual ebike for you.
Get an overview of the grouptest here: The best ebike of 2021 – The 19 most exciting concepts for everyday use
You live in two worlds: in the morning you travel from your rural surroundings to work. On the way to the train, you cruise past the town petrol station and used-car dealership aboard your ebike. They seem like a relic of an era gone by. Get off the train and you find yourself in the middle of a pulsing metropolis. You’ve arrived in the future. Your ebike has to manage both worlds – but different bike brands are far from united on how best to achieve this. In this group test, the biggest manufacturers enter the race boasting decades of company history. Their expectations of what an E-city bike should look like have been shaped over time, ending up simply as an evolution of their existing portfolio. Many people in the city who are considering their urban mobility requirements and opting for an ebike have never owned one before. In contrast to the big players of the bike sector, this audience doesn’t have any preconceived notions of what an E-city bike should do and what components it should have.
What does this button do? VanMoof X3 spec in detail
The look of the VanMoof is hard to describe and splits opinion. On the one hand, the lines of the compact aluminium frame look like a first attempt at drawing something with the line tool in MS Paint. On the other hand, it’s simply industrial bike design taken to its logical conclusion. The three frame triangles, which give the ebike its name, have been cleanly finished with weld seams removed. For the components, VanMoof also rely on significant integration and a high proportion of their own components.
The one-piece cockpit looks like it’s cast as one. For the grips, bar and brake lever clamps, which house the multi-functional controls, painstaking attention has been given to maintaining the same diameter, resulting in a unified and tidy look. The cockpit height can be adjusted in two 15 mm steps with spacers. The bar is missing a display but instead, the top tube houses a clever matrix display consisting of 166 LEDs which shows lots of information graphically.
Forget about TV thrillers! The team of VanMoof Bike Hunters is much more exciting, going on the hunt for stolen bikes in the city and on YouTube.
The VanMoof’s bell rings electronically via the button on the bar with the noise adjustable via the app. The lights are also VanMoof’s and are integrated into the ends of the top tube. Instead of a light switch in the cockpit, the VanMoof app has options to control the lights and calibrate them. As soon as a defined ambient light value is reached, the lights will turn on or off automatically. The drivetrain is completely covered, keeping both the chain and rider completely free of dirt. The automatic 4-speed shifting is housed inside the rear hub and shifts depending on your speed. It has a very limited range tuned towards riding in flat cities and it can’t be controlled manually but, like almost every other part, can be configured via the app. This can then be assigned to a profile for both hilly and flat terrain.
Theft protection consists of both a software and hardware solution for the VanMoof, as well as an optional service component. The ebike has a practical kick lock in the dropouts. A quick tap is enough to lock the rear wheel and activate the alarm. Depending on its settings, the VanMoof can be unlocked via the phone app, with a three-digit combination on the bar remote buttons or with a simple press of the button when the owner’s phone is in proximity to the ebike. If a thief does want to carry away the 21 kg VanMoof, they’ll be greeted by a loud alarm and skull on the display. If that doesn’t scare them away, VanMoof offer a comprehensive recovery guarantee. It costs € 348 for 3 years and includes a recovery service for your stolen bike by the VanMoof Bike Hunters within two weeks, or VanMoof will give you a new ebike. To track it down, the Bike Hunters use mobile technology integrated into the ebike, while theft-prone components like the wheels are secured with special bolts which can only be loosened with the corresponding tool.
The transportation concept of the basic X3 is straightforward: up front, there’s a small cargo surface on which you can secure unwieldy luggage with bungee straps. Without the optional € 79 front basket with a 10 kg capacity or the rack at the rear costing € 59 and rated for 15 kg, you can carry little on the VanMoof X3. While the list of surcharges for optional items is long, VanMoof’s pricing is nonetheless quite reasonable. While prices are spiralling upwards for most other manufacturers, VanMoof have managed to reduce them drastically for the current, third-generation ebike. That means that the VanMoof X3 we tested costs just € 1,998, making it the second most affordable bike in the group test – only the minimalistic Brompton folding bike beats the price of the VanMoof by € 200.
Motor VanMoof 59 Nm
Battery LG 504 Wh
Display Matrix-Display im Oberrohr mit Sound
Fork VanMoof Alu
Seatpost VanMoof 34 mm
Brakes VanMoof 160/140 mm
Drivetrain VanMoof elektronische Nabenschaltung 1x4
Stem VanMoof Cockpit
Handlebar VanMoof Cockpit 680 mm
Tires Schwalbe Big Apple 24 x 2"
Size ONE SIZE
Weight 21,04 kg
immobilizer function and recovery warranty
GSM and Bluetooth location services
highest degree of integration
Range-Extender w/ 378 Wh available for € 348
Super Mario Kart instead of stop and go – The E-drive of the VanMoof X3 in detail
The hub motor, like many components on the X3, comes directly from VanMoof. With the space in the rear hub taken up by the gears, the motor is in the front hub – a unique feature in our group test. It delivers 59 Nm torque and propels you noticeably more powerfully than the competition from Movea, Schindelhauer or Ampler. Alongside the balanced weight distribution, an important benefit of the concept is that propulsion remains uninfluenced by the automatic shifting. That said, on very wet and surfaces with limited grip, you’ll have to anticipate a slipping wheel. The system and all the electronic features are powered by a fixed 504 Wh battery. A plug has to be available where you keep your bike for charging or you can buy the 378 Wh VanMoof range extender for € 348. The external range extender can’t just be used as the biggest power bank in the world for your smartphone but also charges the VanMoof X3 while riding or when it’s parked.
Which button fires the blue turtle? With the Turbo button, the VanMoof turns into a playful and fun racer.
While stopped, the right button on the bars lets you choose between assistance modes from 0 to 4, with the selected one shown on the matrix display on the top tube. If the light doesn’t let you properly read the somewhat dim display, you can also change the modes via the app. While riding, the same button activates Turbo, which ekes out the full power from the VanMoof. This is strongly reminiscent of the Mario Kart powerup and is more than enough to overtake a line of bikes before you merge back into the cycle lane at a leisurely pace.
VanMoof X3 on test
Quickly connect the VanMoof X3 to your smartphone, choose the hill profile for the gear hub and off you go. From the first few metres, it’s quickly clear that the VanMoof sees itself as a versatile problem solver in city traffic, instead of trying to win over its target audience with sporty handling or long-distance comfort. The slightly dropped top tube makes getting on easier. The riding position aboard the X3 is also pleasantly upright and relaxed thanks to the curved bars. As a result of the slack seat angle, larger riders will end up pedalling from behind the pedals. However, this design means the riding position adapts better across a range of heights, with the reach to the bars increasing as the saddle is extended. That makes a lot of sense because the VanMoof X3 is offered in just one size that is supposed to fit all riders from 155 to 200 cm tall.
While the riding position is relatively comfortable, the comfort of the ride is limited. The Schwalbe Big Apple tires are the only component on the bike that provide any damping. The stiff frame, one-piece cockpit and massive seat post transmit all impacts directly making the X3 unsuited to rides on unsurfaced roads. Nor is it made for sportier riding, with the ebike missing the necessary braking power to come to a stop quickly from high speeds. On top of that, the handling is less manoeuvrable than you’d expect from such a compact ebike and the gear hub has a mind of its own with unpredictable gear shifts when accelerating. On the other hand, in the default setting for flat roads, it permits relaxed cruising at low cadences while the overall level of noise produced by the ebike is pleasantly quiet. The motor gets the VanMoof into motion gently even in the highest assistance mode, while the afterburner Turbo mode gives the ride more pep and results in a lot of fun. Thanks to the Turbo function, slight inclines can be mastered without much effort but the system lacks power on steep ramps. With the front-wheel drive requiring some getting used to and its complex smartphone control, the VanMoof X3 isn’t immediately intuitive and requires some getting used to. Once you’ve done so, hardly any bike can match the VanMoof X3 in the city.
Tuning tip: the optional front rack and basket, as well as the rear rack, lets the range of applications of the bike be sensibly expanded
VanMoof X3 conclusion
The VanMoof X3 is as unconventional as it is smart. It’s almost perfect for short rides in the city and easy to use here. Thanks to its numerous connectivity features and affordable price, it offers unbeatable value for money, taking our Best Buy recommendation. Adapting it for long-distance rides or tours isn’t as easy to accomplish, meaning we would want to keep the stylish city flyer firmly in urban environments.
- innovative concept that shows the way for the bike sector
- smart connectivity features
- maximum level of integration
- compact dimension and easy to live with
- great value for money
- front-wheel drive is unintuitive
- drive system and components only suited for relaxed rides on the flats
- low level of comfort
You can find out more about at vanmoof.com
Get an overview of the grouptest here: The best ebike of 2021 – The 19 most exciting concepts for everyday use
All Bikes in this group test: Ampler Stout (Click for review) | Brompton M6L Cloud Blue (Click for review) | Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon Lefty LE (Click for review) | Canyon Commuter:ON 7 (Click for review) | Diamant Juna Deluxe+ (Click for review) | FEDDZ E-Moped (Click for review) | FLYER Upstreet6 7.10 HS (Click for review) | Haibike Trekking 9 (Click for review) | Kalkhoff Endeavour 5.B Excite+ (Click for review) | MERIDA eBIG.TOUR 700 EQ (Click for review) | MERIDA eONE SIXTY 10K (Click for review) | Moustache Samedi 27 Xroad FS 7 (Click for review) | Movea Modo 20” (Click for review) | Riese & Müller Homage GT Rohloff HS mit DualBattery (Click for review) | Riese & Müller Packster 70 Vario (Click for review) | Riese & Müller Roadster Touring (Click for review) | Schindelhauer Arthur VI/IX (Click for review) | Specialized Turbo Vado SL 5.0 EQ (Click for review) | VanMoof X3
Words: Rudolf Fischer Photos: Valentin Rühl, Benjamin Topf