Comfortable e-bike with app: VanMoof S5 in the test

If the price trend continues like this, the smart e-bike VanMoof S5 is also suitable as an investment: announced for 2500 euros, it now changes hands for 3000 euros – and thus costs 1000 euros more than the previous model introduced in 2020. We test drove it extensively to find out if it’s worth the money.

Anyone who has ever seen a VanMoof will also recognize the S5 as such, because the manufacturer has hardly changed the design. The straight top tube stretches over the fork at the front, over the seat tube at the back and ends with headlights integrated into the tube – the overhang on both sides is significantly smaller than on the predecessor.

Because the bike’s battery is in the fat frame and you can’t see the relatively small front motor, you only unmask the S5 as an e-bike at second glance. The front wheel hub motor is almost a unique selling point, because the majority of all competitors use mid or rear motors. You will look in vain for a display. Two small LED rings in the handlebars provide information about the battery status, speed and motor support while riding. There are also four buttons to ring the bell, change the support level, turn on the light or briefly release the full power of the motor. There is no manual transmission, the S5 changes the three gears in the rear wheel hub automatically.

The handlebar unit of the VanMoof looks minimalist and tidy.

The Dutch bike heritage is striking the first time you sit on it: the cranked handlebars stretch far back, so people up to around 1.85 meters tall sit high in the saddle with a straight back. Taller people have to bend down slightly towards the handlebars. The relaxed position relieves the wrists, invites you to cruise comfortably and is perfect for commuting or shopping around the corner. On longer tours, the buttocks hurt because they have to carry almost the entire weight.

The powerful engine of the S5 provides the maximum permitted rated continuous power of 250 watts and pulls forward in four different support levels. Thanks to the torque sensor – the predecessor didn’t have one – the bike develops its power very harmoniously. Since the bike is a heavy hum (around 23 kilograms), we always activated at least support level two in everyday life. The VanMoof doesn’t lose its cozy character, even with the highest support.

But alas, you briefly release the maximum power with a little button. With 68 Newton meters, the motor literally catapults horse and rider to 25 km/h. For comparison: The Cowboy S3 is only 30 Newton meters strong. However, the VanMoof only ignites the turbo for a very short time and then switches back to normal operation. With this thumb gas you leave all other e-bikes at the traffic light or in the intermediate sprint. You can also use the power button to climb short inclines with alibi pedalling. VanMoof has the brute force of the engine well under control. Only in slippery or wet corners should you keep your thumbs on the power button so that the front wheel doesn’t skid. When we accelerated from a standing start with all our power, the front wheel sometimes slipped a bit.

The distinctive lights in the top tube are a distinctive feature of VanMoof e-bikes. The charging port is located between the seat stays.

The biggest shortcoming of the previous model was the four-speed hub from Sturmey Archer: It was annoying with rattling and gear jumps. The S5’s three-speed hub gear, which was specially developed for VanMoof and also by Sturmey Archer, does not have these problems. Occasionally it reports with an audible “click”, but unwanted gear jumps or air pockets are a thing of the past. An automatic system controls the change between gears; in the app you can only define the speed at which it should shift. This works without any problems on flat land – but not on inclines. When tackling short climbs like bike paths on a freeway at high speed, the VanMoof often only downshifted when we had already reached the “summit”.

VanMoof advertises the S5 with a range of 60 to 150 kilometers. We’d drained the first filling after just 40 kilometers in city traffic with lots of stops at traffic lights and at low temperatures of around 5 °C. With a firmware update from version 1.1.07 to 1.1.10, VanMoof wants to have fixed this problem, the battery should now last longer even in cold weather. In fact, after the update imported via the app, we managed around 80 kilometers with medium support – albeit at higher temperatures. The 150 kilometers specified by VanMoof still seem very optimistic to us and at best possible with the lowest support and maximum self-discipline, if you don’t push your thumbs. An almost inhuman undertaking, because the power button is simply too much fun for that.

It takes a whopping six and a half hours to fully charge the 463 Wh battery. You always have to transport the bike close to a socket because the battery cannot be removed. Speaking of charging: You can charge your smartphone on the go via USB-C directly on the bike. VanMoof has hidden a USB-C socket under the handlebars.

For more range and more flexible charging, the manufacturer has announced a battery pack that can be clicked into the frame triangle. This doubles the capacity and makes the bike 3.66 kilograms heavier. When the battery will be available and how much it will cost, VanMoof left open on request.

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