Battery capacity: 504 Watt hours
Weight: 46.3 pounds
Wheel size: 28 inches
Motor: 250W - 350W, front hub
Charger: 36V 4A (full charge in 4 hours)
When I sat on the VanMoof S3 for the first time, I was transported back to a long-ago visit to Amsterdam, where I rented a bike to wend my way through the canal-lined boroughs. The rental bike was nothing special, but was cleanly designed and great for getting around the largely flat city.
The VanMoof S3 electric bike evokes that same Dutch practicality in design, but adds in a few high-tech twists, including an electronic locking system and hydraulic brakes. For more hilly environs, it has a boost mode that turns on its electric motor for an added kick.
While riding the bike for this VanMoof S3 review, I came to enjoy all that it offered, and I would recommend it as one of the best electric bikes for those looking for a stylish cruiser.
VanMoof S3: Price and availability
The VanMoof S3 retails for $2,298; you can get it with an all-black frame, or one that’s painted a grayish blue. It’s designed for riders from 5-foot 8 inches to 6-feet 8 inches.
For those of shorter stature (5 feet to 6-feet 5 inches), VanMoof recommends the X3, which has a more compact frame, a lower crossbar and a small storage area in the front.
VanMoof S3: Design
It’s hard not to admire the clean lines and simple, practical design of the VanMoof S3. One look, and it’s no surprise that it won a Red Dot design award in 2020.
How else do I know the S3 is cool? When I took it out for a ride, a couple of teenagers gawked at it. One of them even called it “tight.”
At first glance, you wouldn’t even know the S3 is an electric bike. The LED display virtually disappears, and the buttons on the handlebars (the left is for the horn, the right for the throttle) blend in perfectly. Like those bikes that fill the streets of Amsterdam or cruising shore towns in the U.S., you sit in a very upright position, which really lets you enjoy the view.
The main crossbar of the S3 extends out the front and back by a few inches and has a headlight and taillight built into the ends.
On the top side of the crossbar, near where it meets the handlebars, is an LED display that shows your speed and battery level. Underneath is a power button and charging port, and towards the seat post is a speaker.
There are mud guards on both the front and rear wheels, and the bike can be fitted with a front or rear carrier. However, unlike the Charge Bikes City, the S3’s battery can’t easily be removed, so it’s not as practical for those who live in apartments and want to leave the bike in one place while they charge up the battery inside.
At 46 pounds, the VanMoof X3 is a lot heavier and a bit larger than most non-electric bikes; it made my old-school Trek 830 look dainty by comparison.
VanMoof S3: Performance
I rode the S3 around my town, which is far hillier than the floodplains of northern Europe. On all but the steepest of inclines (a rise of 75 feet over a tenth of a mile), the S3’s pedal-assist motor was able to push me up the hill with minimal effort on my part. On one road in particular — which rises about 400 feet over the course of a little over a mile — I cruised right along at around 15 miles per hour without breaking a sweat.
The pedal-assist button is a tad small, and became a little uncomfortable to depress for long periods of time, but then again, it’s meant for short boosts. The company says the S3’s 504-Watt-hour battery will last from 40 to 90 miles between charges, depending on how often you use the boost button.
This bike is no speed demon; it’s meant for smooth and steady riding. I found that on level roads, it was most comfortable at around 20 miles per hour. Any faster, and I found myself really pushing.
While the S3 lacks a suspension, its large tires and large padded seat made it very comfortable to ride for an hour or more.
There’s a small but surprisingly loud speaker in the S3’s frame. When the bike gets within a few feet of your smartphone, it automatically turns on and makes a woomp-woomp-woomp sound, which never failed to startle me. (You can turn this off in the app). If you’ve locked the bike using its electronic lock and someone tries to steal it, the bike will emit a loud siren, which should help deter them.
VanMoof S3 review: App and smart features
Within the VanMoof app, you can customize a number of settings on the bike. The one I found most useful was the gear-shifting settings; here, you can set when the bike shifts between its four gears, either by choosing a preset (flat or hilly), or by creating a custom profile.
It’s one thing you want to spend some time with, as you’ll have a much more enjoyable time. Before I dialed it in to my pedaling style, the bike would change gears either before or after I would have liked. Once I set things to my preferences, the electronic shifting cycled through the bike’s four gears smoothly.
The app also lets you set when the S3’s lights turn on, the sound the horn makes, and how close to the bike you need to be before it unlocks.
Another tab in the app provides a summary of all your rides, with speed, distance, and battery usage. It’s handy, but I’d like it to also show a map of where I went.
VanMoof S3 review: Verdict
As U.S. citizens are once again embracing the bicycle as a means of transportation, electric bikes have become increasingly popular. The VanMoof S3 checks a lot of boxes for those who want a stylish, well-built cruiser for getting about town and that doesn’t cost too too much. (Two grand isn’t cheap.)
Riders looking for a more apartment- and commuter-friendly electric bike should check out the Charge Bikes City, which costs more than $500 less and has folding pedals and handlebars as well as a removable battery. But if space is less of an issue and you want a high-tech electric bike, be sure to check out the VanMoof S3.