I should have known better. I broke one of my cardinal rules, and now I’m paying for it. I went online, did some cursory research, and then bought a VanMoof X3 eBike for errand running and for my teenage sons to get around town. After a six-month weight turned to eight months, the bike finally arrived. This was peak pandemic. I didn’t feel surprised or dismayed. When the bike finally arrived, it went together easily, and the first few rides were fine, about what you’d expect from a middling eBike.
I rode the bike three times, and my son took it out once or twice. Then winter settled in, and we put it aside in the basement, ready for the spring.
In the spring, that’s March of this year, my son needed to go somewhere, so he went to get the bike. The battery was dead. No problem. We plugged in the charger. Odd sounds emerged. The bike was clearly not charging. We went through the troubleshooting guide with no change in the problem. Then we emailed VanMoof customer support, receiving a note back that our issue would be addressed in 2-3 days.
Five weeks later, VanMoof support reached out, with an apology for it taking so long. Over a period of two weeks there was a casual back and forth as they confirmed that none of the basic troubleshooting steps would get the battery to charge. It’s April by now.
VanMoof informed me then that I’d need to send the bike to an official service center to have the battery replaced. I live in Boston. The nearest (and maybe only) repair center in the US is in Washington, DC. This seemed insane to me, but VanMoof insisted they could not send a replacement battery either to me or to my local bike shop (which also sells and services eBikes).
At that point, I was told to request a shipping box via their app. I wondered why I needed to do this through an app, when obviously the tech support person could just put in the request themselves. Nonetheless I put in the request. Two weeks later, I asked where my box was, and was told that they couldn’t find my request, but not to worry, NOW the tech would register the request themselves. Now it’s May.
No box arrived. I checked back in and was told everyone was working very hard on it, though this was demonstrably not true. I renewed my request to have the battery sent to me directly or to my shop, but was again denied. I suspect now that no batteries exist. They won’t ship them because they don’t have any. Evidently, they also don’t have any shipping boxes.
Along the way, the support person chastised me for letting my batter drain and sit and then for not keeping the massive box the bike arrived in along with all the packing materials.
By mid-June, I’d had enough. I requested a refund. Here was a “bike” that had been ridden fewer than 20 miles, then failed. The company was unwilling or unable to service it. I was four months into “tech support” with zero action being taken, VanMoof unable even to send me a shipping a box.
Unfortunately, I was told, I was not eligible for refund, since I was outside the 14-day trial window.
I let VanMoof know that I was a member of the cycling media (which I ABSOLUTELY HATE saying), and that I’d likely be filing a defective product complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and was told that I should do whatever I “thought was best from my end.”
VanMoof is very actively advertising and selling its bikes online, and if you are a cyclist, there is a high likelihood that you’ve seen their ads. My experience may be uniquely bad, but I don’t believe so. I believe that every step along the way they’ve lied, delayed, obfuscated and stone-walled me. Everything is couched in helpful language (except when they try to make the bike’s failure my fault), but no help ever comes.
Despite VanMoof being a company I wouldn’t trust to fix a flat, I am, in part, responsible for this disaster. I ought to have bought a bike from my local bike shop. I ought to have bought a bike that I had test-ridden. I ought to have consulted my friends who already own eBikes. This much I can own. The rest, the scam that is the VanMoof X3, belongs entirely to them.
I’m not going to sully any of our subscribers or sponsors by mentioning them in association with this product.