It’s simple to identify VanMoof electrical bikes on Amsterdam’s streets. The riders are sometimes younger professionals who’re barely pedaling as they whiz previous fellow cyclists.
However these driving the glossy bikes nowadays aren’t sitting so comfortably.
VanMoof, the Dutch e-bike maker that gained a zealous following, tripled its gross sales within the pandemic and raised greater than $180 million in funding, declared chapter final month, leaving riders in limbo. That’s as a result of the eye-catching e-bikes, which begin round $2,000, are constructed from proprietary elements that solely the corporate makes, out there principally at company-run service facilities. And lots of the bikes’ features are linked to VanMoof’s smartphone app.
“If I break it, or one thing else occurs, I don’t know the place to go,” mentioned Gideon Sutaman, 28, who lives in Amsterdam and has been driving his VanMoof e-bike since December.
Because the e-bike market boomed, the corporate offered about 200,000 bikes and opened shops throughout Europe, america and Japan. Within the e-bike world, VanMoof was typically likened to Apple or Tesla, given its elegant designs, heavy use of customized supplies and premium costs.
The speedy, technologically superior bikes shift gears robotically and embody a lift button that gives an additional kick. An app can lock and unlock the bike, fine-tune its settings and monitor a machine’s location. (For an additional charge, VanMoof employed “bike hunters” to get well stolen bicycles.)
These distinctive options at the moment are on the coronary heart of VanMoof house owners’ nervousness.
“Your bike will stay useful and rideable, as we goal to maintain our app and servers on-line and goal to safe the continuing providers for the long run,” VanMoof mentioned in a press release. The directors managing the corporate’s chapter within the Netherlands “are at the moment organising a gross sales course of for the property and actions of VanMoof,” the assertion mentioned.
When contacted, the directors declined to enter specifics, however confirmed that there have been corporations interested by shopping for VanMoof.
VanMoof, named as a Dutch spin on the phrase “transfer,” was based in 2009 by the brothers Ties and Taco Carlier, and didn’t begin off making battery-powered bikes. However in 2014, the founders got here up with a design that put the battery contained in the bike body, serving to defend it from rain and thieves, and giving VanMoof bikes their signature streamlined look. The model took off within the bike-friendly Netherlands, and phrase unfold to early adopters elsewhere.
Regardless of the excitement, VanMoof ultimately bumped into monetary issues, together with a manufacturing backlog that led to monthslong waits for gross sales and repairs.
“They tried to do an excessive amount of without delay,” mentioned Horace Dediu, a co-founder of Micromobility Industries. “Total the trade could be very wholesome,” he added.
World gross sales of VanMoof e-bikes have been halted, and at firm places that stay open, like its store in Brooklyn, repairs will be accomplished provided that the elements are in inventory.
In Amsterdam, the place all VanMoof places are shut, most bike restore outlets can’t, or is not going to, restore the model’s bikes. And that’s an issue, as a result of VanMoof bikes have developed a status for breaking down.
VanMoof riders round Amsterdam mentioned that they had skilled issues with the bikes, whilst they praised the machines.
“When it’s working, there’s nothing higher,” mentioned Michiel Smit, 28. However, he added, the bike “breaks typically.”
VanMoof’s future is murky. No less than one bidder has come out publicly, the e-scooter rental agency Micromobility.com (unrelated to Micromobility Industries). Its nonbinding takeover bid was “positively acquired,” Micromobility mentioned on Monday. A value was not disclosed.
Salvatore Palella, Micromobility’s founder and chief government, mentioned that if the bid was profitable, he wish to maintain the model in addition to lots of VanMoof’s workers. “We’re fascinated by what we’re seeing and the way VanMoof created this superb model within the final 10 years,” Mr. Palella mentioned. He mentioned he would submit a binding supply by Friday.
One of many few locations in Amsterdam the place clients can nonetheless get their VanMoof bikes mounted is a slender alley within the heart of town at WheelGood, a VanMoof-licensed bike store.
On some days, as many as 20 individuals cease by with damaged VanMoof e-bikes, mentioned Felipe Martinez, who works on the store. However they will do solely easy repairs that don’t contain VanMoof’s elements.
Others are in search of workarounds on-line. In Fb and Reddit teams, VanMoof house owners commiserate and ask for recommendation on repairs. Others are providing their bikes for discount costs on e-commerce websites.
Christa Brethouwer, a resident of Amsterdam, mentioned she had not skilled any issues together with her VanMoof, which she acquired three months in the past after an eight-month wait. She additionally bought the three-year theft safety bundle, now nugatory.
Different riders expressed concern about theft, partially due to the elevated demand for elements since VanMoof’s chapter.
“Right here within the metropolis, individuals hate you as a result of you’ve a VanMoof,” mentioned Nadia Piet, an Amsterdam-based entrepreneur, who purchased her e-bike two years in the past. “Now individuals take a look at you with pity.”
Ms. Piet, 29, mentioned the “dreamy” bike changed the necessity for a automotive. Her accomplice, Steven Elbers, additionally owns a VanMoof. “I’m nonetheless an enormous fan,” Mr. Elbers, 40, mentioned. “I don’t perceive how this might’ve occurred.”
For others, the corporate’s collapse was not a shock.
“We noticed it coming for a very long time,” mentioned Joseph Web page, a mechanic at WheelGood who used to work as a “bike physician” for VanMoof. The e-bike maker’s advertising and marketing was spectacular, however “we knew it wasn’t nice from the beginning,” he added.
Maria van Aa, a motorcycle maker in Amsterdam for 38 years, who typically does easy fixes to VanMoof bikes, referred to as it an “overpriced” product with too little consideration paid to the technical particulars.
She mentioned there was a way of schadenfreude amongst her clients and fellow bicycle makers. “It’s the discuss of the city,” Ms. van Aa mentioned. However it’s not all dangerous, she mentioned, with VanMoof’s fashionable design elevating the general public picture of bikes and bike makers.
“It’s a pleasant bike,” mentioned Emiliano Frigerio, a VanMoof-riding mechanic at WheelGood, “when it really works.”