Update April 11th, 6:00AM ET: VanMoof stopped sales of the S5 and A5 series following its bankruptcy in 2023. The re-engineered e-bikes were put back on sale in April 2024 with several internal tweaks and a few new features. The original review has been updated below, and the score lowered from an 8 to a 6 to reflect the current competitive landscape.

“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 the company’s co-founder and former 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 were finally being delivered, well after their original target of July 2022. It was priced much higher than 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. In hindsight, VanMoof was likely selling those bikes for a loss in order to gain marketshare, and the volume grab contributed to the company’s eventual bankruptcy.

The 2024 S5 and A5 have now been re-engineered by the company’s new owners, with new features and many internal tweaks to ensure robustness and ease of service.

But can a two-year old e-bike priced at €3,298 still compete?

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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 re-engineered. First in 2022, when the company said that only a “handful of parts” were carried over from the troubled S3 an X3 models, then again in 2024 when the new owners evaluated reliability data to fixed several short-comings of the original SA5 e-bikes that were rushed into the sales channels for reasons that are now abundantly clear.

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.
  • Low battery notification alerts, blinking brake-light indicator, and turn signals.

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 GPS tracking and Apple Find My support, hydraulic disc brakes, muscular city tires, bright integrated front and rear lights, mudguards, and kickstand. In 2024, however, the company discontinued VanMoof’s Peace of Mind insurance service which guaranteed recovery of stolen bikes.

The 2024 S5 and A5 e-bikes are launching with several improvements you can’t see, meant to solve known issues with the 2022 models and improve long-term durability. These include a new firmware release that fixes connectivity issues between the e-bike and smartphones, improved waterproofing, screws that don’t come loose as easily (notably at the brake lever), a reinforced motor bracket and longer connector to help ensure longevity and servicing, and a new saddle connector that won’t droop over time. But it’s still an e-bike made from lots and lots of proprietary parts that the company says are now in ample supply from its re-engineered supply chain.

I’ve had one of the 2024 S5 e-bikes to use as my daily driver for the past two weeks. It looks and rides exactly the same as my review e-bike from a year ago. Still, it was delivered with a software issue that created a mechanical “pop” every 30 minutes or so when parked in my living room, as if the integrated Kick Lock was trying to disengage. It’s a very minor annoyance that didn’t affect usage, from what I can tell, and VanMoof says it’s a known but very rare issue. Nevertheless, it’s still concerning, given VanMoof’s messaging around re-engineering everything in the name of quality.

Back in 2023 when I first reviewed the S5, I picked up my dark gray (also available in light gray) VanMoof S5 loaner in March but I ran into a few issues that delayed publication. These included intermittent connectivity failures between the app and bike, a Kick Lock that didn’t always disengage, and an alarm that would briefly trigger for no apparent reason. Those issues were all corrected by an over-the-air firmware (v1.20) update released in mid-April before I could even report them back to VanMoof support.

I had mixed emotions about this. The S5 and A5 had just started shipping in quantity — albeit, eight months late — so you’d think they would have had time to sort out any issues in VanMoof’s new testing labs. That’s annoying given VanMoof’s history of initial quality issues and assurances provided by the company that they wouldn’t be repeated. Then again, premium e-bikes from companies like VanMoof are increasingly complex machines, and seeing the company solve issues so quickly was commendable.

One issue that wasn’t fixed at the time was idle battery drain, but VanMoof told me that a firmware update would solve it in “two weeks” time. In my case, the issue caused the idle S5’s battery to drain from 86 percent to 65 percent over a period of 10 days. I generally lost about two percent charge each day whether I ride it or not, back in 2023.

Oh, and that 2023 e-bike required several firmware updates (v1.2.4 was my last). Annoyingly, the S5 plays a jaunty little tune the entire time the firmware is being installed. It was cute at first, my daughter even offered a little dance to go with it. But it takes five to 10 minutes, and after the first time you hear it, it’s just annoying and there’s no way to turn it off. It still does that in 2024, even at firmware v1.5.0 I tested.

Regarding new features, the Halo Rings next to each grip are the most visible change from previous VanMoofs. At least until you hit sunlight and those weak LEDs washout almost completely. The Halo Rings are meant to show speed, charge remaining, current pedal-assist power level, and more through a series of light bars and animations. Overall they’re fine, if gimmicky, but I don’t have much of a need for status information when bicycling. I also didn’t miss the old top-tube matrix display.

Riding a 23kg / 50.7lbs VanMoof S5 feels like an S3 albeit with fewer shifts and a boost button that provides more torque when trying to pass someone or get an early jump off the line. The fifth generation 250W motor of VanMoof design is absolutely quiet, even at its top speed of 25km/h in Europe (which increases to 20mph in the US). And the new three-speed e-shifter does a better job of accurately finding the right gear than the S3’s four-speed e-shifter did. I still felt a few clinks and spinning pedals, especially when mashing down hard on the cranks when in a hurry. But overall the S5’s predictive shifting is much improved, especially when rolling along at a casual pace. Still, it’s not as smooth as the automatic shifters from Enviolo, for example, so there’s still work to be done.

It’s a shame VanMoof doesn’t offer a simple belt-drive option for its e-bikes. That coupled with the S5’s torquey boost button would obviate the need for any gears when riding in all but the most hilly environments.


As to range, VanMoof says I should be able to get 60km on full power mode. However, in 2023, I was only able to eke out 48.6km (30.2 miles) from the S5’s 487Wh battery when riding in full power mode and frequently pressing the boost button, in temperatures that ranged from freezing to 15C (59F). That’s about the same range I got when testing the VanMoof S3 — 47 km (29.2 miles) — and its bigger 504Wh battery. VanMoof claims the 2024 S5 and A5 models use the battery more efficiently but I wasn’t able to confirm this.

The battery can be charged from zero to 100 percent in 6 hours and 30 minutes via the included charger — that’s slow, but it’s also good for the long-term health of that expensive battery.

I had been wondering how VanMoof would use the new multifunction buttons located just below the bell and boost buttons. The small button on the right (below the boost) can be configured to change your motor power on the fly with a press or hold it to indicate a right turn (by flashing the right half of the rear light). The left button (below the bell) makes your front lights flash rapidly when pressed, akin to a BMW driver bearing down upon you on the autobahn. It can also be configured as a left turn indicator when held, with an accompanying — and slightly embarrassing — sound effect. All of these features tick boxes on marketing sheets but aren’t very useful in everyday usage. The company promises more features in the future via software updates to the firmware and app.

And since this is a VanMoof, the battery is integrated and can only be removed during maintenance. The new VanMoof selling the 2024 S5 and A5 has no plans to re-introduce the “click-on” version (no velcro!) of its extended battery that could have been charged inside the home.

I’ve had a nagging concern about VanMoof e-bikes for the last few years that I even mentioned in the S3 review. Are they getting too complex for their own good? 

Electric bikes — especially commuter e-bikes like the S5 — are subjected to daily wear and tear in all kinds of weather conditions. Even basic bikes are difficult to maintain when used everyday and VanMoof’s e-bikes are expensive rolling computers. 

Honestly, I could do without the fancy automatic chain-driven three-speed shifter, superfluous multifunction buttons, programmable electronic bell, Halo Ring interface, Apple tracking, and perky sounds for startup, shutdown, and firmware updates. Give me one gear and a maintenance-free belt drive alongside that torquey boost button on a pedal-assisted e-bike that will get me back and forth to my office every day, no matter what, in style and without fail. But that’s not the S5.

Don’t get me wrong, the VanMoof S5 is a very good electric bike with a longer feature list than any other e-bike I can name. But the brand is now owned by an untested company using an untested partner network of third-party sales and service centers. And since most S5 / A5 parts are only available from VanMoof, you’d better make sure a sales and service center is nearby if you’re interested in buying.

Too many darlings, not enough killing.

The VanMoof S5 is currently €599 more expensive than the comparable Cowboy Cruiser and the same price as the better Veloretti Ace 2 (€3,299). Viewed in those terms, VanMoof’s pricing is too high.

As good as the S5 is, the feature set is verging on gimmickry, in my opinion. They’re cute and entertaining, sure. But many just aren’t needed for regular commuters. The S5 has too many darlings, and not enough killing.

All photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge


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