“Sometimes you have to kill your darlings,” is a phrase used by designers to justify the removal of elements they find personally exciting but fail to add value.
The last time I heard it was in April, 2022, when I rode pre-production versions of VanMoof’s new full-size S5 and smaller A5 electric bikes. The phrase was uttered by co-founder and CEO Taco Carlier to justify the removal of VanMoof’s iconic matrix display for a new “Halo Ring” interface.
One year later and both e-bikes are now — finally — being delivered to customers, well after their original target of July 2022. The price has also been raised to $3,998 / €3,498 from an early preorder price of $2,998 / €2,498, which was already much more expensive than what you’d pay for VanMoof’s previous generation e-bikes — the VanMoof S3 / X3 — when introduced for a rather remarkable price of $1,998 / €1,998 back in 2020.
Look, everything is more expensive in 2023, e-bikes included. But in terms of value for money, the $4,000 VanMoof S5 needs to be twice as good as the $2,000 S3, right? Otherwise the latest flagship e-bike from this former investment darling might be dead on arrival.
If only it was that simple.
Although the S5 and A5 pedal-assisted e-bikes still look like VanMoofs with that extended top tube capped by front and rear lights, everything from the frame down to the chips and sensors have been reengineered. The company says that only a “handful of parts” were carried over from the previous models.
Here are some of the most notable changes:
- New LED Halo Ring visual interfaces flanking both grips.
- An integrated SP Connect phone mount (you provide the case) with USB-C charging port.
- New almost completely silent Gen 5 front-hub motor with torque sensor and three-speed automatic e-shifter (the S3 / X3 had four-speed e-shifters).
- New multi-function buttons have been added below the bell (next to left grip) and boost (next to right grip) buttons.
- The boost button now offers more oomph with torque increasing to 68Nm from 59Nm.
- The S5 frame which has been criticized for being too tall has been lowered by 5cm (2 inches) to better accommodate riders as tall as 165cm (5 feet, 5 inches), while the A5 caters to riders as tall as 155cm (5 feet, 1 inch) and allows for an easier step-through than the X3 it supersedes.
These join a very long list of standard features found on VanMoof e-bikes like a well designed and useful app, integrated Kick Lock on the rear wheel, baked in Apple Find My support, hydraulic disc brakes, muscular city tires, bright integrated lights,