5 months in the past yesterday, I took supply of a VanMoof X3 e-bike. It’s up there as one of many costlier private purchases I’ve ever made, dwelling as I do in Tokyo with none want for a automotive. However like plenty of different folks this 12 months, I felt moved to keep away from public transport because the coronavirus pandemic intensified, and VanMoof’s newest fashions got here on the proper time.
I used to be fairly certain I’d just like the X3. I’d test-ridden the original Electrified X three years prior, when it was first launched as a motorcycle designed with Tokyo in thoughts, and I’d needed one ever since. The $1,998 X3 is extra highly effective and extra reasonably priced, with a bunch of latest options that sealed the deal.
5 months on, I’m comfortable to report that I do certainly just like the X3. However that’s not the identical as having the ability to give a wholesale advice to everybody. Greater than possibly every other product I’ve ever ordered and owned, the X3 has made me really feel like an excessive early adopter — regardless that that is the third model.
The X3 is actually a smaller model of the S3 that Thomas Ricker reviewed back in April, with 24-inch wheels versus the 28-inch S3. The unremovable 504Wh battery is built-in into the body, that means you get a sleeker design than many rivals however must plug the bike instantly into an outlet to cost. A number of the key options embody an automated four-speed gearbox, a turbo increase button for a fast jolt of velocity, and a kick lock on the rear wheel that secures the bike and prompts its motion-sensitive alarm.
So far as the overall driving expertise goes, I principally agree with Thomas’ impressions of the S3. I actually just like the design, together with the built-in lights and lock. I’ve discovered the gear shifting to be easy far as a rule, albeit with the very occasional clunk. The thought of an automated gear field for a bicycle is kind of odd to me, as somebody who prefers to drive guide automobiles, however you principally neglect about it when driving. Whereas there are undoubtedly occasions while you’ll end up within the “flawed” gear on your supposed velocity or stage of exertion, you may usually drive a shift up with a fast burst of the turbo button, or a shift down by simply stopping pedaling for a number of seconds.
I’m undoubtedly glad I received the X3 over the S3, and I say that as a six-foot-four man who would in all probability feel and appear extra pure driving the bigger mannequin. It takes dwelling with the bike to understand how far more sense the smaller measurement makes for Tokyo. I respect it each time I park in a tiny alleyway squeezed between two Shinjuku buildings, or at any time when I wheel it into my condo’s elevator — which occurs to be the precise size of the X3.
Wheeling the X3 into my elevator is a reasonably vital use case, as a result of I’d haven’t any option to cost the factor in any other case. I reside in a sixth-floor condo that thankfully has an influence outlet instantly outdoors the entrance door, which is invaluable as a VanMoof bike proprietor. It will be a lot much less handy to must wheel the bike inside each time I wanted to cost it, however after all it could even be far more handy if I might simply take away the battery myself and go away the bike downstairs.
I haven’t tried to hold out measured vary testing as a result of in observe, it isn’t actually one thing I take into consideration. I cost the bike a few times every week and that’s effective for what I take advantage of it for. VanMoof claims between 60 km (37 miles) and 150 km (93 miles) of vary relying on how onerous you push the electrical motor. I can say I’ve ridden a little bit greater than 60km in a single day, utilizing the turbo increase loads to get to the opposite aspect of town and return dwelling shortly with about 12 p.c battery remaining. However it is a bike designed for on a regular basis use, and I believe the purpose is admittedly that it’s not going to unexpectedly die on you when you’ve labored out your charging routine. The caveat is how straightforward that might be for you and your private dwelling scenario.
I do have a number of nits to select. I discovered the Android app constantly extra dependable than the iOS model, which I sometimes needed to force-quit with a purpose to get it to unlock the bike. The non-obligatory front-mounted steel basket (10,000 yen, or $89) seems good however functionally type of sucks, with large gaps between every “wire” in its “mesh”. (It did a minimum of make me swear off plastic procuring baggage as soon as and for all, since all my groceries would simply fall by means of the holes.) The dot-matrix show can be very a lot type over perform, because it’s near-impossible to see in daylight — particularly set in opposition to the lighter paint possibility I went for on the bike.
Crucial factor to say concerning the X3 is that I actually love driving it. It’s by far my favourite option to get round Tokyo and I take advantage of it at any time when sensible, together with on journeys that I in any other case would by no means have thought-about a bicycle for. It’s usually quicker than driving or taking the subway, and it’s all the time a complete lot extra enjoyable than both possibility. It’s liberating to journey a automobile that feels equally suited to roads and aspect streets, taking within the metropolis at floor stage as you journey. I’ve realized a lot about my neighborhood and past this 12 months simply because it’s trivial to get wherever inside a 5-mile radius.
General, I’m pleased with my buy. Proudly owning a motorcycle like this has actually made an enormous distinction to my high quality of life, which isn’t one thing I’d usually say concerning the issues that I purchase. However I additionally really feel fortunate that issues labored out for me, as a result of that hasn’t been the case for everybody.
I ordered my X3 on April twenty second, the day preorders went reside. I used to be given a supply date of June twenty seventh, which wasn’t splendid, however I didn’t thoughts ready for one thing that I knew I needed. (I spent that interval driving round Tokyo on Docomo share bikes that just about invariably turned out to have practically depleted batteries upon unlocking, which did make me additional anticipate proudly owning a motorcycle I might cost myself.)
Whereas I used to be ready for the bike to ship, I joined a Fb group of different VanMoof clients, lots of whom had additionally preordered an S3 or an X3. Alarmingly, lots of people appeared to be receiving S3s in poor situation, with the packing containers and bikes having been broken in transit. It’s onerous to know what quantity of individuals had been affected by this, however VanMoof’s co-founders Taco and Ties Carlier confirmed the issue in a September interview with The Verge, saying that the cheaper, smaller packing containers initially didn’t provide sufficient safety. The corporate anticipated round 1 p.c of bikes to have points “vital sufficient for a buyer to provide us a name,” in keeping with Ties, however the precise determine ended up being “nearer to 10 p.c.”
I used to be a little bit anxious about what state my X3 would finally arrive in, as a result of it’s no small inconvenience to return one thing that enormous for restore or substitute. S3 bikes had been being despatched out forward of the X3, and no-one within the Fb group had reported receiving their X3 but. Thankfully, I had no issues in any respect when my bike did present up. It was coated in protecting foam, a further measure VanMoof took to guard the bikes contained in the field, and I couldn’t fault the situation it arrived in.
It was, nonetheless, delayed from the preliminary June twenty seventh date I’d been given. I received in contact with VanMoof in Might to substantiate the date, since I observed my card had been charged, and I used to be instructed the June twenty seventh date nonetheless held. On June twenty fifth I received an automatic e-mail saying my order was “nonetheless on observe and scheduled to ship inside your supply window,” however two days later I hadn’t obtained any transport notification. VanMoof responded to a different e-mail on June twenty ninth saying that they might “begin transport tomorrow,” and I received a transport affirmation on July 4th. The bike finally confirmed up on July seventh.
This wasn’t an enormous deal to me. There’s an unprecedented pandemic happening. Issues occur. However I noticed plenty of on-line stories of much more intensive delays, and it’s clear that VanMoof didn’t have its provide chain and buyer help altogether in place at launch. The corporate instructed us as a lot. It’s one thing to remember when you’re contemplating ordering a motorcycle and want it to reach on time.
As soon as mine did arrive, all was good. The packaging was well-designed, if just for a motorcycle protected in extra foam, and setup was straightforward barring one fiddly cable cowl that took plenty of effort to connect. The X3 shortly turned an vital a part of my day by day life.
Then in October I received a worrying e-mail titled “Motion wanted in your VanMoof X3 bike.” I’ll simply reproduce the physique right here for full readability:
We’re getting in contact since you personal (or have owned) a VanMoof X3 bike.
Just lately we’ve had some riders report that the bolts on the rear fender of their VanMoofS3 or X3 bike got here unfastened in use. Upon additional evaluation we’ve ascertained that these incidents are linked to an early batch of bikes – the place it seems that on some bikes, the rear fender bolts weren’t tight sufficient. This challenge doesn’t exist on later batches of bikes. Our preliminary evaluation didn’t present that unfastened fender bolts might trigger a security danger to our riders. We’re nonetheless now investigating what brought on a critical accident involving a VanMoof S3. Now we have not decided what brought on that accident to happen, however whereas we conduct that investigation we need to take additional precautionary measures now.
Sadly, your bike with *body quantity XXXXXXXXXX* got here from that early batch (round 1,600 bikes). As an additional security precaution, we’re asking you to have your rear fender bolts checked earlier than your subsequent journey.
The e-mail really helpful that I am going to a VanMoof model retailer to have the fender bolts tightened, or take it to a daily bike mechanic. There was a hyperlink to a video exhibiting what to do, and VanMoof supplied to reimburse any restore prices. Not eager to become involved in a “critical accident,” I took my bike to the Tokyo retailer, the place the useful workers took it to the again and gave every thing a checkup. quarter-hour later I used to be again on the streets.
I ought to say right here that I undoubtedly wouldn’t have purchased this bike if there wasn’t an official VanMoof retailer close by. This fender challenge was comparatively easy to repair, if a little bit scary to search out out about, however I don’t suppose many native bike retailers right here would have a lot thought what to do with the X3’s battery or automated gears. This can be a difficult sufficient product that I’d by no means have risked the opportunity of needing to ship it again. However, I respect that VanMoof shops in cities across the globe are even a factor within the first place. It made the X3 a way more viable possibility for me than some of the cheaper e-bikes you’ll find on the market on-line.
Life with my X3 and its newly-tightened fender bolts continued. In November, nonetheless, I received one other e-mail from VanMoof alerting me to an upcoming change to its cell apps that may take away the power to vary area settings. The default prime assisted velocity is 25kph, however there’s an possibility in keeping with US rules that allows you to increase as much as 32kph. The e-mail didn’t point out what the settings truly do, however a note on VanMoof’s help web site says that the transfer was made in response to some house owners within the EU being stopped by authorities for having the ability to exceed the velocity restrict.
I’m not going to litigate the ins and outs of regional e-bike velocity limits right here, however this entire scenario actually struck me as an newbie transfer on the corporate’s half. The bikes ought to have simply been offered with the suitable velocity settings for every area. You’d in all probability not be very comfortable when you purchased a automotive that the producer unilaterally determined to limit to your native freeway velocity restrict after you obtain it. VanMoof isn’t accepting returns over the matter.
The entire motive I’m scripting this story is as a result of it’s onerous to get a way of actual possession in a brief assessment interval, significantly with regards to a product with the potential to have a significant influence in your day-to-day life. Most of what Thomas wrote concerning the S3 applies to my expertise with the X3, which is to say I believe it’s an amazing bike and I don’t remorse the acquisition.
However that’s not the entire story. It’s additionally the primary $2,000-plus buy I’ve made that concerned transport delays, characteristic removals, and warnings about potential bodily hurt. I’m used to being an early adopter of expertise — it comes with the territory on this job. Nonetheless, I’d have most well-liked a smoother onboarding expertise with a product that I journey on precise roads subsequent to actual automobiles.
VanMoof does have an amazing product on its palms, and the corporate has been open concerning the modifications it’s making to the shopper expertise. I like my very own X3 and may’t think about a time once I received’t personal an analogous e-bike sooner or later. However I’d simply strongly advise potential consumers to work out which e-bike firm is the best one for their very own scenario, bearing long-term service and security in thoughts. Whereas I’ve had an general constructive expertise with my X3, it’s proven me that it might not be the best match for you.