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VanMoof Electrified S2 e-bike review: the slick city cruiser

VanMoof Electrified S2 e-bike review: the slick city cruiser

As the market for e-bikes continues to become increasingly competitive, being battery-powered is no longer enough to attract consumers. In Europe, we are entering the era of the e-bike as a style choice, a fashion statement, as well as means of getting from A to B. No e-bike typifies this more than the VanMoof Electrified S2.

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What is the VanMoof S2

Founded in Amsterdam in 2009 by two brothers, Ties and Taco Carlier, VanMoof now sells its range of e-bikes and smart bicycles in more than 40 countries. The brand is all about the urban lifestyle. VanMoof itself says it is obsessed with cities, and with the Electrified S2, it has created an e-bike designed to take the stress out of cycling around town.

AndroidPIT VanMoof S2 Parked 1
The battery is well-hidden in the frame / © AndroidPIT

The Electrified S2 is made of coated aluminum, comes with 28-inch anodized aluminum rims, Schwalbe Big Ben puncture-protected tires and a 250-500W front-wheel hub motor with four power levels. The drivetrain is fully enclosed and there's an automatic chain-tensioning system plus integrated automatic 2-speed gears.  There are two buttons on the handlebars, one on either side. They do different things when the bike is in motion and when it isn't. The button on the right is your boost when on the road, and can be used to adjust the power level when static. On the left, you've got a digital bell and control for manually unlocking the bike without the app.

There's plenty of extra cool techy stuff in here too. I really like what VanMoof is calling its Matrix Display. It's made up of 166 LEDs that sit on the top of the frame, so you can see it when you glance down from the riding position. It is able to display your current speed, battery level, and power level, as well as being used for unlocking the e-bike without the app via a PIN method. There's also an integrated speaker which is used for both the high-frequency bell and system and alarm sounds. The battery has a 504Wh capacity and is removable for servicing, but not really for charging - but more on that later.

AndroidPIT VanMoof S2 Chain and Pedals
Front and rear mechanical disc brakes, fully enclosed drivetrain / © AndroidPIT

Security is a major feature of this bike, at least in the brand's marketing. There's plenty of anti-theft tech in here too, such as a smart stealth lock, integrated theft defense system, automatic rider recognition, anti-theft nuts and bolts and GSM and Bluetooth theft tracking. VanMoof also employs what it calls Bike Hunters. Once reported stolen in the app, the Electrified S2 sends out a tracking signal. You can either go and find it yourself or have the Bike Hunters do it for you.

AndroidPIT VanMoof S2 App
 The app is available for both iOS and Android / © AndroidPIT

What's good about the VanMoof S2

You can clearly see the Dutch influence in the design of the Electrified S2. It's slick, and does not hide its robustness. Everything feels extremely well-made and sturdy, and the sharp tailored look of the frame certainly turns heads in the city. Several times during my week with the VanMoof S2 a fellow cyclist approached me to ask what I was riding.

I'm all about the boost! Pressing the small, discrete button on the right handle provides an extra helping of power. It's a hold and release system for on and off. This is not really a turbo button, before you start thinking all The Fast and the Furious, but it's incredibly addictive once you get the hang of when to use it. For jumping to the front of the pack after a red traffic light, or for effortlessly cruising up steep hills, the boost button is your best friend. Over the course of the week, I felt my relationship with the boost button grow stronger, as we developed a deeper understanding of how to work together. Every e-bike should have one of these, it really makes the riding experience special on the VanMoof.

AndroidPIT VanMoof S2 David 4
The boost button is a joy to use / © AndroidPIT

There are two ways to unlock your VanMoof Electrified S2, via the app or by using the three-digit PIN system. Unlocking via the app is really quick. As soon as you come into range of the bike your smartphone will connect via Bluetooth and then all you have to do is tap the big padlock. You can also unlock the bike without the app. Long-pressing the left button will start a PIN code sequence on the Matrix Display. It works well, and its nice of VanMoof to have thought of this as not every e-bike company has a solution for when your phone is dead. I mostly used it when I could not be bothered getting my phone out of my backpack.

I was also impressed with the battery life of the VanMoof Electrified S2. The manufacturer says that range is 60km in full power mode and 150km in economy mode. There are two other modes in between, where the range will adjust accordingly. The battery takes four hours for a full charge and you can get to 50 percent in 80 minutes.

AndroidPIT VanMoof S2 Charger
The charging brick is large, but the cable is long enough / © AndroidPIT

Obviously, the battery life on something like an e-bike is really difficult to measure objectively given the number of variables that can affect your range such as temperature, road conditions, how hard you pedal etc. I used the S2 to cycle 10km to and from work every day, as well as for some longer and shorter rides in between. I charged it twice in seven days.

Charging is done via a port on the underside of the frame. A proper, easily removable battery is always an advantage when it comes to charging, but you don't get that here. After charging to 100 percent, I switched to maximum power and rode to work with VERY liberal use of the boost button. When I arrived, I had used 11 percent of the battery - 11 percent for 10km when it's really being pushed is absolutely fine in my book.

AndroidPIT VanMoof S2 Lock Button
The Smart Lock can be activated with a simple kick of this button / © AndroidPIT

What's not so good about the VanMoof S2

As much as I like the idea behind the Matrix Display, it is not always readable in bright sunlight. I will admit that I mostly used the bike during the day, and we are experiencing some very hot, sunny weather in Berlin at the moment, but there were times when I glanced down and couldn't make out the battery life, for example. It's worse when wearing sunglasses, of course, which was kind of essential for most of my rides. I imagine the display is clearer on the Thunder Gray model, where you'd have more contrast between the white LEDs and the dark frame.

I'm also not a huge fan of the sound effects built into the VanMoof Electrified S2. There's a revving engine sound when the bike wakes up, which happens automatically when you come within range and the bike connects to the app (you can turn this off) and it sounds a bit childish. It reminds me of a bike I had as a kid, which had a sound effects box on the front simulating machine guns and lasers and stuff. I forget the name of it, let me know if you remember what I'm talking about! I was also reluctant to use the bell for similar reasons. The alarm is really loud though, which is not a bad thing.

AndroidPIT VanMoof S2 Skull
Cool display, not so cool sound effects / © AndroidPIT

Finally, whilst the automatic gears work really well, I wish there was a third gear for sustained periods of faster cycling. The low gear is simply a starting gear, and you can feel the change just a couple of seconds after moving off from a standing start. From there, you are stuck with a fixed gear. I often found myself maxed out in terms of pedal power and wanting a little more resistance in the pedals on long stretches of straight road.

How much does the VanMoof S2 cost?

There's no point beating around the bush here, the VanMoof Electrified S2 is not a cheap piece of tech. The recommended retail price is £3,198 in the UK, although VanMoof is currently offering an "electrified launch price" of £2,598. It comes in two colors, Thunder Gray and Fog White (like the one I tested). You can order an S2 from the VanMoof website. You can also visit one of VanMoof's stores in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Taipei or Tokyo.

AndroidPIT VanMoof S2 Light
Front and rear lights are integrated into the frame / © AndroidPIT

The Smart S2 (the not electrified version) qualifies for the company's subscription service, VanMoof+. This allows you to essentially lease one for a little of as long as you want. The monthly subscription fee is £24 per month, and for that, you get unlimited servicing and repairs and theft protection. If you do need to call in the Bike Hunters, the fee is £88. There's also a one-time key fee of £98 to pay to unlock your subscription.

Final verdict

It took me a couple of rides to really understand the VanMoof Electrified S2. This is not a speedster for those wanting to race through the city as quickly as possible. The S2 is true city cruiser. The aim here is to take the stress out of cycling around urban environments, enabling riders to go further with little effort. My moment of realization came when I decided to ride to the office with as little effort as possible - it was hot and I didn't want to turn up all sweaty and sticky - and it is here where the S2 really shines. Coasting along at 28 kph is an absolute breeze, flattening slopes and slicing through bicycle traffic with the boost button is effortless.

AndroidPIT VanMoof S2 David 2
I grew to like this e-bike / © AndroidPIT

By the end of my week with the VanMoof Electrified S2, I was a little sad I had to return it to the shop. That's the best way I can sum up the impression it made on me.

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