This is the Electrified S smart bike by VanMoof. Of all the tech toys I was sent this month to review, it’s one of my favorites.
Having spent a few weeks with it, it’s going to be difficult to give back. Before I get into that story, I’m going to explain what made the VanMoof Electrified S so enjoyable to ride.
Under the Hood
Electrified S is a $2800 electric smart bicycle available in black and silver. It looks similar to your typical Dutch bike, but inside the frame is a 420WH, 36V, 2A battery. This battery runs a 250-350W front-wheel hub motor at four different speeds along with an LED headlight and tail light.
The bike has 28″ wheels and is appropriate for riders from 170-210cm. (5’6″-6’8″). At 6’2″ I was very comfortable riding it, especially when the peddle assist kicked in. A speedometer shows on the screen and it connects to your phone via bluetooth. In addition, it uses GSM cell networks to track the bike’s location.
VanMoof’s Electrified S also includes a built-in locking mechanism that can be locked/unlocked using either your phone or the included keychain. As terrified as I was taking this expensive bike around town and leaving it at risk of theft, I knew it was necessary to find out how well it actually works, so that’s what I did.
Riding Smart and Electric Compared to Normal Bikes
Although it’s packed with technology, this electric bike isn’t much heavier than the analog Schwinn I’ve been riding. The engine is whisper quiet and only kicks in when you pedal.
Flagstaff is full of hills, so the pedal assist really comes in handy. Although it still gives my calves a bit of a workout, the assistance and power is noticeable. On flat ground, you barely have to move one foot down on the pedal to hear a barely audible whiz of the motor and feel yourself being pulled forward.
Riding downhills, I mostly worried about brake control. I’ve owned and ridden enough bikes in my life at this point to understand the basics of checking pedals, tires, and brakes before riding, but when you start hitting 35mph and above down a hill, you can’t help but pray everything holds up.
The front wheel guard was missing a nut, so I rigged it to work, but I did get nervous and suddenly aware I’m not riding a helmet as I slowed to below 20mph and leaned into a sharp curve that included a bit of a ledge to jump.
Having survived, the weight lifted off my shoulders and I realized this bike was made by cyclists and could handle anything I threw at it.
I rode around for at least 5 miles around town before I went back through the instruction booklet and realized it has a turbo boost button right next to the bell. This thing was like hitting the nitro button in Mario Kart, and I used it sparingly for risk of overdoing it.
Testing the Anti-theft Promise
I had been considering an electric bike for a couple years now but couldn’t justify the expense – the cheapest ones started around $600 and the outside engine in these bikes is often large and gaudy.
Having the opportunity to review the Electrified S was exciting to me on multiple levels. I had already been checking out the usefulness of Tile and Zus bluetooth trackers and had read about brothers Taco and Ties Carlier, the bike’s designers.
This bike is easily the most expensive one I’ve ever ridden, and when considering the value, I also have to consider the security. I’m now riding a bike that’s admittedly more valuable than the van I’m driving, even with the solar setup in it. Electrified S does come with a pretty heavy duty lock, but what happens if someone decides to steal it?
VanMoof guarantees it’ll find and return the bike if it’s ever stolen, which is an interesting idea to me. The bike includes a Frame #, IMEI #, and MAC address, which I assume VanMoof tracks through my registered account.
If I report the bike stolen, this information will be used to help the police locate it.
This puts VanMoof in an interesting position at the intersection of technology, privacy, and law enforcement. It also puts them in an interesting position with me. Because of this, I was curious and started reading up on a preview of the bike from The Verge that explains a bit more of how the technology works.
In order to keep costs down, storing all the bike’s locations isn’t happening, but there is a Vodafone GSM radio built-in. The pirate and hacker in me pondered what would be necessary to get away with stealing this bike.
If someone were to cut the included chain (which wouldn’t be easy, but is certainly possible), they’d have to disable the cell radio too without messing up the rest of the electronics. Doing so without knowing exactly where that radio is would be difficult.
I imagine it’s in the top bar where the picture of the wireless radio is and the sign that says “Wireless Tracking Inside,” but how would I know?
Those radios appear to be where the locking mechanism is too. I’m not willing to destroy a $3000 loaner bike to find out if my hunch is correct, but it did make start to think.
VanMoof sent this bike to me with no written contract signed. I already registered it with them, and while it would be a dick move to keep a startup’s bike, nothing is stopping me really. In fact, now that I registered it, if they were to retake possession, I can simply report it as stolen through the app.
And then what happens? Does VanMoof follow through on their guarantee to either return my bike or ship me a new one?
Now the owners of VanMoof don’t even have to use the tracking technology on the bike to find me because they shipped this bike to me and know my address. The only option for them to get it back is to come have a drink with me, and talk in person.
Arizona is beautiful year-round, and I’ll happily return the bike whenever you come. But please take your time, because I kinda like it haha 😉
Final Grade: A-