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VanMoof X3 e-bike review: Transportation revelation – TechCrunch

As some of the best consumer techs from the last decade, I didn’t know I needed an e-bike until I was on one, breezing down the bike lane contemplating my newfound freedom.

Before buying a Nintendo Switch, I would have never guessed how much a candy-colored gaming console that I could pop out of a dock and into my backpack for a long flight would fill me with joy. An e-bike, particularly this e-bike, the VanMoof X3, feels like that.

I live in Portland, Oregon, land of ample bike lanes and naked bike rides. When I first moved here, I biked everywhere, but that habit slowly dissolved over the years. First, I bought a car for weekend camping trips, which gradually became weekday errand running.

A few years later, I got diagnosed with a chronic illness and suddenly found myself much less confident in what my body could do and where it could comfortably take me. Over time, my bike would only see a handful of rides a season on beautiful days, when I’d always sigh and think I wish I biked more — it makes me feel good!

Before testing the X3, I’d find excuses to drive short distances instead of riding my bike. What if I got tired and didn’t feel like biking home? What if it starts pouring rain? What’s if it’s too hot? What if I’m too sweaty when I get to the office? Riding an e-bike erases most of those concerns outright.

The X3 is an effortless enough ride that I can still zoom to work if it’s 95+ degrees out. It’s fast enough that I can get out of a surprise rainstorm quickly if need be. If I don’t want to be sweaty at the start of the day, I can lean on sweet, sweet electricity to whisk me away, rolling up to my office without breaking a sweat.

And it can’t go unstated that going fast on a bike — the whole time, with as much or little effort as you feel like putting in — is really, really fun. If you haven’t had a chance to try an e-bike, know that the sensation of effortlessly zipping around, electricity near-imperceptibly humming beneath you, is difficult to describe and best experienced first-hand.

VanMoof’s handsome pair of high-tech bikes, the X3 and its larger cousin, the S3, are far from the only options on the market, so some of their pluses would hold true for any electric bike. But that doesn’t make the VanMoof interchangeable either. The VanMoof X3 has a distinct look, feel and feature set that will perfectly suit a certain kind of rider (myself included), but other e-bike shoppers will still want to play the field. We’ll get into that — here goes!

APPEARANCE

I tested the VanMoof X3 over the S3 not by choice — its geometry is a little wacky looking in pictures — but because I’m 5’4″. The X3, which fits anybody from 5′-6’5″, is a little smaller and less traditional looking than the S3, which suits anyone taller than 5’8″. The X3 has 24″ wheels rather than the S3’s 28″ wheels, and it has a little bungee-corded platform in the front where presumably you could carry something, but I still have no idea what (You can also buy an add-on front basket that slots in there and looks very cute.)

Like most e-bikes, the X3 is much, much heavier than a standard road or commuter bike. The listed weight is 45.8 lbs, and you’ll feel every pound of it if you ever need to carry it very far. I live in a standalone house in Portland, Oregon, and had to take the X3 down a concise front step to ride it — totally fine!

I used to live in a fifth-floor walkup in Brooklyn, and carrying it up or down that would have been impossible. If you can’t store the X3 (or most any e-bike) around ground level with access to a charger, it might not be a good fit for you. (Note that the small platform above the chain area is where an optional external battery pack, discussed later, sits in our pictures. The platform is removable.)

Though on paper I’d prefer the look of the S3, the X3 doesn’t look strange at all IRL, whether parked or with somebody riding it. It’s cute, futuristic, but not conspicuous, and gets plenty of compliments. My wife described its aesthetic as “Death Star chic,” and while I don’t totally know what that means, she’s not wrong. On the way to my office, a sanitation truck driver rolled down his window to bellow, “HEY—THAT’S A REALLY COOL BIKE.” Thanks, my dude!

The current generation of VanMoof e-bikes is coated in matte paint, and you can choose between a classic, sexy matte black or a pleasantly cheery matte light blue. A previous version of the bikes used glossy coating, but apparently, the matte is supposed to be more scratch-resistant. The paint does seem pretty tough though it’s not totally bombproof. Somehow the handlebars picked up a tiny nick in the paint, though I still have no idea where it came from or what did it (owls?).

Something important to note is that neither the VanMoof X3 nor S3 looks like e-bikes. They don’t have an ugly bulge jutting out from the frame, and the top tube and down tube are both thick but uniform — and not so thick you’d think twice about it.

The electronic components are nestled away in the frame, and even the drivetrain is tucked away and enclosed. And while there’s a profoundly excellent LED matrix display embedded in the top tube, only the rider really sees it. For anyone looking for an e-bike that doesn’t scream e-bike!!!! The VanMoof is one of the best choices, if not the best choice you could make. It’s a fantastic-looking bike — not just a fantastic-looking e-bike.

Gemma Broadhurst
Gemma Broadhurst is a 23-year-old computing student who enjoys extreme ironing, hockey and duck herding. She is kind and entertaining, but can also be very standoffish and a bit evil.She is an Australian Christian. She is currently at college. studying computing. She is allergic to milk. She has a severe phobia of chickens

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