Review: The Vanmoof
- by Martin Hartley
- Published: 6 April 2010
When I was first asked to ride and review the Vanmoof, I took one look at it and thought that it must be some sort of marketing gimmick. Solar-recharging lights, aircraft-grade aluminium alloy frame, puncture-resistant white-wall Schwalbe cruiser tyres and a Brooks saddle are standard. It also weighs in at only 13kg, which is far lighter than your typical city bicycle. They explained that the Vanmoof was designed to have everything good about the traditional city bicycle, with none of the problems of the traditional city bicycle.
My verdict? They’ve succeeded.
I took this bicycle through the city and out to the suburbs. It handles beautifully. It has the right balance of stable and sporty features. Although it is not intended as an off-roader or a stunt bicycle, the Vanmoof is more versatile than a narrow tired city or road bike. I successfully tackled potholes, gravel and dirt paths that you would usually avoid on another bike.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature is the solar-recharging lights. They are the same as the LED lights used to mark aircraft runways, so are near enough to indestructible. They work well in urban and suburban environments. While they throw a good pool of light, they should not be relied upon to light up the street for you. Rather, they are primarily intended to keep you visible. The lights are typically recharged with the integrated solar panels (inside the light), but if you leave your bike indoors too long it can also be recharged using a mini-USB phone charger.
The Vanmoof comes in single-speed and 3-speed versions with either 26-inch or 28-inch wheels, fitted with durable Schwalbe tyres and inner tubes. The 26-inch wheeled version is sensibly geared as a 3-speed with gears of 45″/61″/83″. Shimano’s 3-speed hubs use the slightly wider gear spacing of 36% jumps compared to 33% jumps on traditional 3-speed hubs. The 28-inch wheeled version had a taller gearing, which meant that I was switching between first and second gear a lot. I feel that it should be fitted with an 18-tooth sprocket to bring the gearing in line. (The Australian distributor has told me that this change in specification will be made available).
New riders might feel nervous because the front brake has a rather mushy feeling. This is due to the modulator – a feature of Shimano’s front roller brakes. The brakes are actually much more powerful than you think. The rear coaster (back pedal) brake is far better than coaster brakes of old, and I was able to confidently control fast descents on winding roads on this brake alone.
Who should buy this bicycle?
The Vanmoof would suit urban-dwellers, especially students. The frame is light, though sturdy, making it faster than your traditional city bicycle, and easy to carry up and down stairs. You only need to have one tool – a 10mm spanner to perform all the necessary maintenance and adjustment.
Compared to other available bicycles, the Vanmoof is practical for your trip to work/study and is also stylish when you are out and about in the evenings. You would not look out of place riding to the shops in a T-shirt and shorts, going out for a casual evening in jeans or heading to the opera in a dinner suit.
The Vanmoof in a nutshell.
Pros: A modern, stylish, practical bicycle, which I would highly recommend to any urban-dweller. Aluminium frame makes it at least 30% lighter than most city bicycles. For RRP $998 it is an afforable and virtually complete urban transport solution in one package
Cons: Just one – no real luggage carrying capacity (and a front basket or rear saddle pack would obscure lights). You would either have to use a back-pack or fit a rear carry rack and panniers.
When designing this bike, Vanmoof aimed to retain all the benefits of the traditional Dutch city bicycle and leave out all of the problems (weight, weather durability and reliable lighting). They’ve done it and done it brilliantly. Cyclists in hilly areas may want to have the gearing changed by installing a larger rear sprocket. 3-speeds are plenty for riding around Sydney, and in the future I would welcome an 8-speed version. If you are considering buying, you may also wish to consider changing the supplied unsprung Brooks B68 saddle for a B67 or B72 for a little bit more comfort – some of our roads can be rough on our bicycles and our backsides.
Details and dealers on www.urbanbicycles.com.au
Vanmoof – front with integrated solar powered light
Vanmoof – rear with integrated solar powered light
Vanmoof – cockpit with 3 gears
Vanmoof – the modern city bike