If you notice such things, chances are you have caught a glimpse of a Vanmoof bicycle somewhere already. The stylish new Dutch commuter bike has been featured everywhere from Treehugger to GQ Magazine. Even the Bike Snob had something snide to say about the striking Vanmoof when he spotted one outside the Apple Store in Soho. The innovative brushed aluminum frame with integrated solar powered lights are something Steve Jobbs would probably approve of.
When the Vanmoof No. 3 caught the attention of a Milwaukee police officer, he went to Vince at Ben’s Cycle to get one. Vince didn’t stock the bikes, but he was happy to order one, er make that two. It seems he had to order two to get one and Ben’s is now listed as a Vanmoof dealer. Vince was nice enough to let me put the extra bike through its paces for this review. You will find it back on his showroom floor now if you just can’t wait to get your hands on it. The price is about $600.
In the US, the No. 3 comes standard with a singlespeed rear hub with a coaster brake and a front rim brake (thanks to the lawyers). Minimalists will appreciate that it is sold without the front brake elsewhere in the cyclocivilized world because it looks a lot cleaner without those cables and the coaster brake is enough stopping power for getting around town. The No. 3 is also available in the “Over the Top” model with Shimano 3-speed rear and rollercam front hubs.
Like a teenage boy with his first girlfriend, the first thing that hooks you about the No. 3 are the striking good looks, but it isn’t until you put a leg over her that you really know what you are in for. The bike only comes in two frame sizes, the 28-inch-wheeled 56cm (center-to-center) and he 26-inch-wheeled 51cm frame. The 56cm has a longish 59cm top tube, which is offset by a very short stem. It also has long chainstays (46cm) which give it a bump-smoothing stretch limo-like 110 cm wheelbase.
Hop on the big-wheeled bike and you feel like a soccer mom in a jacked up Cadillac Escalade thanks to the combination of the cushy
white walls, long wheelbase and the a tall (300mm) bottom bracket. Two friends independently said they felt like they were walking when they took the Vanmoof for a spin, because the high bottom bracket gives the rider a head and shoulders over traffic view. But that high bottom bracket combined with the fat level top tube results in an unusually tall standover height for a 56cm frame. I am 5’10” tall, normally ride a 56cm road bike, and I could just barely stand over the top tube. I measured the standover height at 34 inches, but the specs say is 36 inches (850mm). If you are shorter than me you will need to order the 26 inch-wheeled model to gain precious crotch clearance.
The bike has a 71 degree head tube angle and a 72.5 degree seat tube angle, on the slack side, but well within the realm of most modern road bikes sold in the US compared to more traditional European commuter bikes. This means it rides faster and steers quicker than bikes like my Oma. I’m not comparing the Vanmoof to racing machines, but the modern frame geometry combined with a long wheelbase and fat tires might yield the perfect combination of comfort and speed. I did not miss the lack of gears. This bike still climbed faster than my Oma because it was easier to stand and pedal.
Other than the standover height, the only problem I can see s if you leave your bike in dark storage (bike locker, garage, basement) for more than a few days, the solar lights won’t work if you pull it out to ride in the dark. From what I hear though, the next model will have a usb port so you can power the lights with your cellular phone if they go dead.