Hands-on vanmoof’s new bike uses spooky sci-fi sounds to scare thieves astrid y gaston lima menu english


It has made steps to address this before with its (paid for) Peace Of Mind service. If you subscribe to this initiative and report your bike stolen, its dedicated team of Bike Hunters track it down. If they can’t find it within two weeks, they’ll replace your bike free of charge. It seems successful too. The Bike Hunters find 70 percent of the stolen bikes compared to a recovery rate of 4 percent in the EU as a whole.

Carlier’s vision is a world where “we don’t lock our bikes at all,” but realises this has to go “step-by-step.” So, with the Smart series, he wants to eliminate the large chain lock, acknowledging that the smaller back-wheel one common in Amsterdam will have to stay.

How does VanMoof plan to do this? With its new rider recognition and theft defence systems. Through Bluetooth, the bike notices when its owner is near and disables its alarm, but, when it’s fiddled with by a stranger, the Smart series starts to wail. Albeit, in a different way to what you’d expect.

Working with composers and sound designers Nando Eweg and Melcher Meirmans, VanMoof focused on creating noise that spooks and unsettles thieves, rather than alerting the public. The idea is that the general populace have become immune to the screech of sirens on cars and mopeds, so trying to prevent theft by warning them is, well, pretty pointless.

Its theft defence system works across three stages. The first is a sonar-esque beep. Then, after around thirty seconds, the second part starts. The beeps accelerate and guttural, sci-fi noises swell underneath the sounds. Finally, after about a minute, the noises and the bike’s features are disabled – apart from the lights blinking SOS in morse code.

Carlier responded by saying that the market for stolen VanMoofs is small, due to the bike’s features – such as the lights – being disabled when reported missing. He then pointed out that since the 2016 launch of the Bike Hunters, the number of VanMoof bikes being stolen have dropped, with thefts going down 20% in the last 6 months alone. All good and well if you subscribe to the Peace Of Mind service.

Looking through the T&Cs, the Bike Hunters will help you recover or replace your VanMoof for free once, then the next two times will cost €98. If it happens a fourth time? You’re on your own. To be fair to him, Carlier did say that he wouldn’t recommend leaving VanMoof bikes outside at night, despite the new tech, so I guess we’re not in a bike-thief free utopia yet.

With the Smart series more ‘connected’ than previous models, I also brought up the issue of hacking. VanMoof agreed that this is more of a possibility now the bikes are ‘smarter’, but said it has rigorously tested the security. The answer was vague, but with no breaches so far, it’s hard to be too critical.

The overall build quality is great, something the company puts down to designing all the parts itself. Carlier expects that – aside from pumping the tyres or dealing with an occasional puncture – you should be able to ride the Series S daily for two years without maintenance.

The quality comes at a cost though. The Series S or X frame starts from €898 for the 3 speed model, rising to €1098 for the 8 speed version. Which, considering the low price of second hand bikes in many cities, is, well, an awful lot of money. The subscription model

You’re charged a one-time “key fee” which starts at €298, before paying €19 a month, something that includes maintenance and theft-protection. If you decide to leave the service, you can also sell on your subscription and recoup some of that initial “key fee.”

Is it worth it though? Well, this is where ‘pub-maths’ comes in. Asking around the office, it seems that – on average – people get their bikes stolen in Amsterdam around 1.5 times a year. The average bike seems to cost in the region of €100 (with some people paying €50 and others €200), with maintenance expenditure hovering around €20.

It comes down to personal preference. The VanMoof Smart S is a lovely bike, but whether it’s worth it to you depends on a lot of factors in your life. If you have a long commute, or just enjoy the finer things in life, it could be right down your alley. While if all you want from your bike is to get you from A to B – and you don’t care how it does it – the new model and subscription service won’t change your mind.