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Testing VanMoof’s refreshed e-bikes, which are again available to buy

Trust is a tricky thing, and VanMoof’s new owners are about to discover if they’ve earned it now that the re-engineered S5 and A5 e-bikes are back on sale.

For €3,298, you can buy the light gray models in the key markets of the Netherlands and Germany. Sales will expand to more European countries over the next month as the company more than doubles its network of service and sales partner locations. The dark gray model will also be on sale again soon, according to co-CEO Elliot Wertheimer, who sat down with The Verge in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

I’ve had one of the 2024 S5 e-bikes to use as my daily driver for the past two weeks. It looks and rides exactly the same as my review e-bike from a year ago. Still, it was delivered with a software issue that created a mechanical “pop” every 30 minutes or so when parked in my living room, as if the integrated Kick Lock was trying to disengage. It’s a very minor annoyance that didn’t affect usage, from what I can tell, and VanMoof says it’s a known but very rare issue. Nevertheless, it’s still concerning, given VanMoof’s messaging around re-engineering everything in the name of quality.

When VanMoof says the S5 and A5 (known collectively as the SA5) have been “re-engineered,” it doesn’t just mean the bikes themselves. New parent McLaren Applied says it thoroughly evaluated everything it acquired after the VanMoof bankruptcy in the summer of 2023, including the supply chain, operations, service centers, individual parts, firmware, and the app. Importantly, McLaren Applied — which is an expert at gathering and examining telemetry data — also helped examine extensive reliability data.

The S5 and A5 were far superior to the troubled S3 and X3 e-bikes by all accounts, but they were rushed into the sales channel in late 2022 for reasons that are now abundantly clear. And, despite the issues being relatively minor, some SA5 owners had to wait weeks to schedule an appointment due to the backlog of S3/X3 repairs that continued to overwhelm support in some regions. Bankruptcy has freed the new VanMoof from legally having to honor any of those S3/X3 warranty claims, but it also created a few hundred thousand angry customers who’ll likely never trust the brand again, no matter who owns it.

Same old outside, a lot of newness on the inside.

Local bike shops trained to support VanMoof e-bikes will feature this logo.

Image: VanMoof

Today, the re-engineered SA5 launches without VanMoof-branded service centers. Instead, the company has created a new network of service and sales partners using the local bike shops already found in major cities. Also, the e-bikes aren’t shipped direct from the factory to customers anymore. Instead, the new SA5 e-bikes arrive at quality control centers where a final round of checks is done before being shipped to local bike shops. Those bike shops are then responsible for managing the ongoing relationship with the customer.

The SA5 series is launching with several improvements. These include a new firmware release that fixes connectivity issues between the e-bike and smartphones, improved waterproofing, screws that don’t come loose as easily (notably at the brake lever), a reinforced motor bracket and longer connector to help ensure longevity and servicing, and a new saddle connector that won’t droop over time. But it’s still an e-bike made from lots and lots of proprietary parts that the company says are now in ample supply from its re-engineered supply chain.

The bikes also arrive with a few new software features. The rear light can act as a blinking “deceleration light” and can also be configured to indicate left and right turns (with accompanying sound effects) when holding the secondary left and right buttons. In practice, I’m not sure any of these are too useful, especially during the day. More useful are new battery notifications that will alert you in the app when the battery reaches your predefined threshold. The company will be delivering more features to its rolling computers over time.

One thing that’s gone is the company’s SX4 series. It was supposed to be a simpler VanMoof but was scrapped after its new owners looked at the data, namely the bike’s socket design, which would be too hard to fix when it fails. VanMoof does still promote the dual-motor V superbike on its website, and it remains on the company’s product road map, I’m told. But it won’t launch until 2026, at the earliest.

Also gone is VanMoof’s Peace of Mind insurance that replaced stolen bikes when the company’s Bike Hunters couldn’t recover them. GPS tracking is still enabled in the VanMoof app as is Apple’s Find My service for iPhone owners.

Vanmoof S5 E-Bike eBike Review

Same old outside, a lot of newness on the inside.

Photo by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

Instead of writing a new review for the 2024 S5, I’ve updated our S5 review from May 2023 because my conclusion remains the same:

Honestly, I could do without the fancy automatic chain-driven three-speed shifter, superfluous multifunction buttons, programmable electronic bell, Halo Ring interface, Apple tracking, and perky sounds for startup, shutdown, and firmware updates. Give me one gear and a maintenance-free belt drive alongside that torquey boost button on a pedal-assisted e-bike that will get me back and forth to my office every day, no matter what, in style and without fail. But that’s not the S5.

I also lowered the score because we’re now talking about an untested company, and similarly priced but better e-bikes have since been introduced, like the Cowboy Cruiser (€2,699) and Veloretti Ace 2 (€3,299), to name just a few.

But the question that remains is this: does anyone trust the company enough to still buy a VanMoof e-bike?

Author Stephen Covey — that Seven Habits guy — describes trust as an emotional bank account between people, but I think the metaphor can be extended to cover the relationship between people and brands. Basically, if a company makes deposits through honesty and keeping commitments to you, it builds up a reserve of trust. It can make mistakes up until the point the account is depleted.

If you think the current VanMoof is the same company as the original VanMoof, then its trust account is already in the minus. But if you view the current VanMoof as a new company making a fresh start, then consider the following:

The company’s new leaders have so far delivered upon everything they’ve promised. In December, Wertheimer told me the company would soon start delivering spare parts again. Check. Next, he said it would open up a partner network of third-party service and sales centers. Check. Then it would restart e-bike sales. Check. All that’s left now is for the LaVoie VanMoof-branded e-scooter to launch before mid-year which I’m told is still on track.

Maybe that’s enough earned credit to offset the fact that it delivered a review bike to me with a bug. Maybe not.

Regardless, the company has given itself about three years to turn things around. And you can bet that the perception created by these new old S5 and A5 e-bikes will be critical to the new VanMoof’s prospects.