Electric bicycles are expensive. The simplest pedal assist engines, those with unsightly, stuck batteries, start at around $ 1,000 and quickly climb well above $ 3,000 if a little finesse is applied to the design.
But what if an e-bike can be shared with the whole family to justify the costs?
Imagine the value that you would have obtained from an e-bike that you use as a daily commuter during the week, and which was then handed over to a teenager for her absent-minded football matches or an aging grandparent taking a ride through it during the weekend. park searched.
To do that, you need a bike with a broad visual appeal and a frame that is suitable for both large and small riders. Something like $ 2,598 Electrified X2 from the Dutch bicycle maker VanMoof, a miniature e-bike that I tested with three generations of riders.
First a question: have you ever tried a pedal-assisted e-bike?
Sharing the Electrified X2 with the first timers reminded me of how magical a pedal assisted e-bike can be for people who have never ridden one. It looks like the first time you put on a VR headset. It is a gee-whizz moment that you will never forget because you have just looked to the future.
In Europe, especially in bicycle-obsessed cultures such as the Netherlands and Denmark, electric bicycles with pedals have been the domain of the elderly for years. Large, ugly e-bikes have ensured that our parents and grandparents can stay active longer while at the same time maintaining their independence. You can't put a price on that.
Commuters now also discover the benefits of electrified personal travel. The best options are $ 1,399 e-boards, $ 1,599 scooters, $ 3,000 e-bikes or $ 7,000 electric Vespas. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and laws that regulate performance and use on the road. For most people, the e-bike has a good balance between price, convenience, safety, comfort, range and familiarity.
Pedal-assisted e-bikes greatly expand the radius of what is normally made bikeable, so riders arrive sweat-free and at the same time promote a healthier planet and person. Many e-bike commuters have been able to replace or at least reduce their need for cars and public transportation to compensate for the cost of the bike.
Thanks to older buyers and now commuters, e-bike sales are flourishing in general, and in particular at VanMoof. In april, the company announced it is the most successful pre-order period in its ten-year history, with the sale of more than 11,000 of its Extruded S2 and X2 city bikes of more than $ 33 million. Better yet, buyers are replacing their old transport methods. "Nearly 70 percent of people who bought the S2 & X2 now use the Electrified as their primary transportation mode," said Van Moof co-founder Ties Carlier in April.
Unfortunately, the pre-ordering period of VanMoof is ending. The price for the Electrified X2 jumps from $ 2,598 / € 2,598 to $ 3,398 / € 3,398 on 1 June. For that much money it is quite a damn good bike.
The Electrified X2, available in black or white, is suitable for passengers of only 5 feet (155 cm) or as high as 6 feet 5 inches (200 cm). The compact X-frame design, popular in Asia, also has 24-inch wheels instead of the larger 28-inch ones that can be found on most city bikes. The X2 is small, but not as embarrassing as a Brompton, with its itty bitty wheels and comically long handlebars and seatpost. However, the VanMoof does not fold like a Brompton bicycle. This can cost you if you plan to take the X2 by public transport, where folding bicycles can often be worn for free.
A non-removable 504Wh battery is housed in the down tube and can be removed by any bicycle shop when it needs to be replaced. The 250 W motor is housed in the front wheel hub and produces a maximum speed of 25 km / h (15.5 mph) for European riders, or 32 km / h (22 mph) for the US. (Fortunately, anyone can select the faster US setting after wiping out a warning message.) The engine isn't quiet, so you can't fool your super-fast speed: it's a little louder than those last-generation Bosch mid-drive engines, but not that hard as the Mate X. I wish it were quieter.
The brains of the bicycle are also designed to be maintained. Both the X2 and the larger S2 have a removable "Smart Cartridge" in the top tube, which contains the printed circuit board, radios, display, controller, etc. In this way, if VanMoof cannot repair your bike remotely with a software modification, the cartridge can always loosen and send itself without sending the entire bike.
A very useful boost button in addition to the right grip can be held down if you need an extra push from the starting line or a slope. It is addictive to use, but will shorten your expected range. During my test week, with generously the boost button and with the power at its maximum 4 position, I was able to pull out about 60 km (37 miles) per load on mainly flat, but windy surfaces. VanMoof claims a range of 150 km in eco mode, but that must be very annoying and slow. The battery of my test X2 is fully charged in about four hours. It charges 0 to 50 percent in 80 minutes, the company says.
Although the battery is not removable, the X2 easily fits through doors or in a lift where it can be charged indoors. The X2 is surprisingly heavy with nearly 42 pounds (19 kg); something to consider if you live in a five-story walk.
The Electrified X2 has an automatic transmission with two speeds. I prefer 10-speed e-bikes, because shifting in a flat city like Amsterdam is annoying. I might feel different if I lived in hilly San Francisco. What I don't like is the feeling of play in the chain when the bike changes to second gear at around 10 mph (17 km / h). If you stop peddling at that speed or above, you basically freewheel about half a turn of the pendulum before you feel resistance on the pedals again. It is initially disturbing and then irritating, but not as annoying as a 10-speed lever would be if it were mounted on an X2.
Even with the engine off, I found the VanMoof surprisingly easy to push forward with just my leg strength, which is good if you ever run out of battery.
One of the characteristic designs of VanMoof bicycles is the extended top tube with integrated front and rear lighting. It is still just as impressive on the X2 as on the company's first bicycles from ten years ago. The front light produces 40 Lux (that's clear!) While the rear light is designed for a large viewing angle. The lights can be set to on, off or automatic, the latter being my preference for setting and forgetting.
The X2, such as the Electrified S2, comes with a whole range of gadget technology. The most important among them is the display, 166 LED & # 39; s seamlessly integrated into the aluminum of the top tube. It is such a nice piece of technology that the display alone could persuade you to buy a VanMoof. It can be difficult to see in direct sunlight, but it shows the battery level, speed and other useful information of the bike, as well as whether it is locked or not.
The X2 has a built-in "Stealth Lock", a locking pin that kicks you to lock the rear wheel and smash the theft-defense system (more on that later). The trick is to align the bars on the rear hub with the opposite check mark on the chain guard before you kick the pin. The display confirms the maneuver with a lock and shutdown animation (and a sound if you are anti-social enough to keep the devices switched on). It is satisfactory to kick the lock in place, but aligning things so that the hub assembly does not block can make the locking pin difficult.
Of course Amsterdam is not like Tokyo, so I also wore a second chain lock (wrapped around the seat post) to lock the X2 on a bicycle rack (tree trunk or lamppost) when it was not in use. Yes, I liked to leave it & # 39; outside overnight because the X2 is designed to help thieves move easier targets.
For example, if someone displaces your X2 after the Stealth slot is turned on, a sinister animated skull appears on the screen, an alarm sounds, and the front and rear lights begin to flash. It sounds a bit gimmicky, and it sometimes feels that way when you accidentally trigger the alarm on a busy sidewalk, but theft protection is VanMoof's calling card.
If the movement lasts longer than a minute, the alarm sounds continuously. If it is not turned off within two minutes, the X2 switches to theft mode: S.O.S. appears on the display, the bike starts broadcasting its location to VanMoof and the engine and all smart functions are disabled. That is the moment when VanMoof & # 39; s Bike Hunters get involved.
You can sign up for the applicable Peace of Mind service from VanMoof for € 100 / $ 100 per year, or less if you commit yourself for three years. If your bike ever gets stolen, VanMoof & # 39; s Bike Hunters have two weeks to fix it, otherwise they will replace your bike for free. You can even request a loan bike while the yacht persists if you live near a VanMoof store in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, New York, Paris, Taipei or Tokyo. In my opinion, the theft protection from VanMoof goes a long way to give owners of the company's expensive e-bikes the feeling that they are leaving their bikes outside in cities where small apartments are the rule and organized bicycle theft is a scourge.
There is also a VanMoof app for those who want to lock / unlock their bikes this way. I do not do. Instead, I used the app to set all my preferences and I used the multi-function button next to the left handle to unlock the X2. It's a pretty good sign: you hold down the button, wait for the beep, and then tap in your code. For example, if it is 1-2-1, tap once, then twice, and then again. You will see a padlock open on the display and you have five seconds to let the bike roll to release the locking pin.
The app also has options that allow you to unlock the bike when you are in the area. It worked great the few times I tested it. But personally I don't trust Bluetooth for such an operation. The app also shows the location of your bike, which can be useful if you are looking for your bike in the huge bicycle parking garages spread over a few European cities.
The multifunction button changes to a bell when the bike is unlocked. However, it is a good idea poorly executed. It doesn't sound like the bells on most city bikes – it sounds more like a series of tones than a warning and as such no one responds. That can be dangerous for you and for those around you. If you buy a VanMoof, you also want to buy a mechanical bell.
Like a city bike, a courier is essential for trips to the market and what not. The front carrier on the X2 is just as compact as the bike itself. It is large enough, for example, to carry a small shoulder bag or a sturdy suitcase that is held in place with two bows with balls sliding into grooves on the back of the wearer. Fortunately, Vanmoof sells two more drag options for the X2: a nice bamboo basket with a weight of $ 79 / € 69 that can hold up to 10 kilos of goods, or a rather boring, but probably more convenient rear carrier of $ 59 / € 59 that can support 33 kilos.
Riding the X2 feels like riding a full-sized city bike. I did a number of long-distance tests with two drivers: myself at 183 cm (183 cm) and my wife at 163 cm (5 feet 4 inches). We have adjusted the seat using the VanMoof-supplied Allen key, but the height of the handlebars has not been changed (this may be the case) raised with spacers). She tested it during her normal 17-kilometer commute to work while I tested it on a number of 15-kilometer shots through the city. The X2 brought us into a relaxed, mostly upright, cycling position that leans forward a bit more than a traditional "grandma's bicycle"Design. But it was still comfortable even after 40 minutes of non-stop driving.
My teenage sons (the tallest with 188 cm) have probably enjoyed driving the X2 more than anyone else. It was the effortless speed and the visual design that held them. My 10-year-old daughter was able to cycle well, but she was not tall enough (145 cm) to gracefully stop the bicycle. (She needs to be an inch taller, an accordion for the X2 specification sheet.) She said the X2 was "nice" and asked if we could "keep it."
I also gave the VanMoof to a 73-year-old grandmother with a bad knee. She loved it. She, like many Europeans older than 65, already drives an electric bicycle and has been that for five years. She was sold to the looks of the X2, although she thought it might be more suitable for a younger audience. She was very surprised by how lightweight it felt to ride, to notice it repeatedly, and how easy it was to roll in and out of her house compared to the five-year-old Victoria tank of an electric bike that she drives normally. She said, however, that she still prefers her full-sized e-bike because it feels "firmer" and fits the two child seats needed for her grandchildren – the X2 fits precisely. Yes, three-on-one bikes are not unusual in the Netherlands, even with septuagenarians at the wheel.
I got away from my week of testing with a revelation. E-bikes must be shared. Why should I buy a "men's bike" with a straight top tube that makes the bike too big for half of my family to ride, while I could buy a shorter x-frame bike that anyone can use. I grew up with a shared family car, so why not a shared e-bike for families? Especially one that approximates the price of a used car.
The Electrified X2 is an extremely impressive e-bike that is suitable for sharing, thanks to its ability to accommodate such a wide range of rider heights. I thought I would be put off by the relatively small size, but in a large, densely populated city, its smaller size is a real advantage. And, for what it's worth, doesn't make me a dagger like I thought it could.
The X2 currently lists for $ 2,598 / € 2,598 and in my opinion is worth every bit, especially for families, or any shared living situation that can maximize its use. Yes, you can get cheaper pedal assisted e-bikes, but not with such advanced technology, thoughtful design, a long list of useful functions and proven commitment to service.
Unfortunately, the price jumps to $ 3,398 / € 3,398 on 1 June. So if you've thought about buying a VanMoof Electrified X2, or its bigger brother or sister, the S2, this is the right time.
Photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge
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