VanMoof S4 e-bike review: The one to buy

Well this is a surprise. Despite saying they would jump straight from the 3 Series to the 5 Series electric bikes, VanMoof just announced two new e-bikes — the full-size S4 and smaller X4 — days after the $4,000 S5 and A5 e bikes started shipping. At $2,498 / £2,198 / €2,198, the S4 and X4 models are not only priced to compete, they should require fewer support calls, as there’s far less that can go wrong.

Gone are the fancy Halo Ring displays from the S5 and A5, as is the integrated Apple Find My tracking, the complicated three-speed automatic e-shifter and redundant multi-function buttons that most casual commuters don’t need.

VanMoof’s e-bikes are notorious for their initial quality issues, and it’s easy to find complaints about long wait times for support on Redditthe Vanmoof-ing Facebook fan pageand comment threads here The edge.

According to VanMoof co-founders (and brothers) Taco and Ties Carlier, the S4 and X4 are meant to allay concerns that VanMoof’s e-bikes have become too complicated for their own good.

Easier, more accessible and more reliable

“We spend a lot of time listening to our future rider. And what we clearly heard,” says Ties Carlier, “was the desire for our key features and iconic VanMoof design – in an e-bike that was even simpler, more accessible and more reliable. We designed the S4 and X4 with iconic VanMoof technology and design, but with a vastly simplified user experience, specifically to meet their needs.”

We’ll see as far as the reliability claim goes. But what I can already say after riding an “evergreen” colored S4 for the past five days is this: if you’re looking for a VanMoof, the S4 and X4 are the e-bikes most people should buy – not the more expensive S5 or A5.

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The S4 and X4 are essentially the same bike with different frame types and wheel sizes. Collectively referred to as SX4, they are composed of a mix of technology inherited from VanMoof’s older e-bikes and new flagship SA5 models. The SX4, in particular, has the better kick-lock of the SA5 and uses an upgraded two-speed internal gear hub like you’d find on the company’s pre-2020 SX3 series e-bikes. The S4 is based on the larger S3 frame, so choose the X4 model if you are not at least 170 cm tall.

Here’s a full rundown comparing the SX4 to the discontinued SX3 and new SA5 models:

VanMoof S4 and X4 compared to previous generation S3 and X3 and new S5 and A5.
Source: VanMoof

There’s no display whatsoever on the SX4 models, which I’m fine with. But the SX4 comes with one SPConnect phone holder (you supply the cover) that lets you launch the very good VanMoof app to use as a dashboard if you want. Sadly, the SX4 models lack the USB-C charging port of the SA5, but you do get hydraulic disc brakes, which is the norm for VanMoof.

Iconic front and rear lights integrated into the extended top tube.

The “evergreen” colorway and orange wordmark are new.

Phone holder instead of any screen.

Improved two-speed internal gear hub has its legacy in VanMoof’s pre-S3 e-bikes.

Driving the S4 is a treat. I am 183 cm tall and prefer the S4, which is a few centimeters taller than the S5. And since I live in a city that doesn’t require a car, I appreciate the new 27.5-inch wheels with wide 2.25-inch puncture-resistant tires as someone who’s been riding every day in all weathers for 20 years. I need a strong foundation to carry the kids to school, commute to the office, and then return home with groceries, small appliances, or the occasional Christmas tree. However, the increased tire width poses a challenge in some bike racks designed for standard tires.

And despite the SA5’s lack of a torque sensor, the S4’s 250W front hub motor, coupled with the two-speed automatic (mechanical) shifter and RPM sensor, still offered a fairly intuitive pedal-assist ride, especially when things are topped off with occasional push of a button. of the boost button. However, the ride can be improved.

The pedals can be slippery when it’s wet outside, and sometimes the S4’s pedal-assist power can be delivered a fraction of a second too long after pedaling has stopped. And often after coasting at medium to high speeds, stepping on the pedals frees them up to a full revolution before coming back into contact with the chain drive. You know the feeling if you’ve ever ridden a VanMoof S2 or X2.

Still, I’ll echo what I said in the VanMoof S5 review, I wish VanMoof offered a single-speed belt drive option along with that boost button. That would be magical and further reduce the chance of something going wrong.

1/15

The S4 (left) next to the S5 (right) and an S3 in the background standing in front of VanMoof’s store and service center in Amsterdam West.

I don’t have enough data for a range test yet – I’ll update this review with real world numbers as I get them. VanMoof says the SX4 should have the same 60km (37 miles) range as the SX3 and SA5 in max power mode and my testing on both e-bikes was between 47km / 29.2 miles (S3) and 48.6km / 30.2 miles ( S5). I’d expect the same from the S4 and its 478WH battery, perhaps more as it’s unaffected by the battery drain issue I discovered on the S5. Notably, the SX4’s batteries charge from 0 to 100 percent in 4 hours and 30 minutes with the included charger – two hours faster than the flagship SA5 series.

The SX4 models – like all VanMoofs – do not have user-removable batteries, which is a problem for anyone faced with hoisting the 21.6kg (47.6lb) e-bike up the stairs. VanMoof does offer a $348/€348 378 Wh PowerBank range extender option for the S4 that can be charged inside.

The S4 at home in Amsterdam.

The S4 is defined by what it is not. At $2,498, it’s inexpensive for a premium e-bike in 2023, a price that undercuts the $1,000 Cowboy 4 Series. The S4 also isn’t overloaded with features that most daily commuters don’t need and that could cause a service headache later on.

One thing the SX4 models do add is color. You can choose a deep green color like my review bike, a pastel purple, yellow and don’t call it white “foam green”. Colors that should help brighten up the most bleak city streets.

The VanMoof X4 shows all four color options for it and the S4.
Image: VanMoof (edited by The edge)

The S4 I tested is an excellent e-bike – one of the best and superior to the VanMoof S5 in terms of value for money. Whether the S4 and X4 remain great e-bikes after months of wear and tear is anyone’s guess.

I asked VanMoof to respond to owner concerns about reliability and support. This is the statement I received from CEO and co-founder Taco Carlier:

Improving service is our top priority. Increased reliability is at the heart of the S4 and X4 design and development process by addressing the six key challenges of the S3 and X3 and incorporating lessons learned from the SA5. Our service network strategy has expanded to more focus on bike maintenance to get closer to our riders, offer more options and more capacity. More news here will follow in the coming weeks.

Yes, I’m also curious what’s to come.

VanMoof currently offers one of the most comprehensive networks in the world service hub available in cities in Europe, Japan and the US. That’s important because most VanMoof e-bike parts are custom made and only available from VanMoof. So make sure you have a service center nearby if you want to buy something. You are also covered by one two year warranty in Europe, one in the USand free 14 days return.

Sales are now starting staggered before shipping in August. You can pre-order the S4 and X4 in the same “evergreen” color I’ve reviewed starting today, purple in late May, yellow in late June, and “foam green” in late July.

I suggest waiting a tick if you’re tempted to buy. Let the early adopters test VanMoof’s claims of improved reliability and service – you have better things to do with your time.

All photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

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