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  • Flywheel: What's next for VanMoof? | Vehicles from Ariel Rider, Kona, Trek, Rad Power, & Orbea

Flywheel: What's next for VanMoof? | Vehicles from Ariel Rider, Kona, Trek, Rad Power, & Orbea

Reflecting on VanMoof’s reported financial struggles & featuring the top 5 vehicles of the week


Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the owned and used micromobility. Each newsletter will highlight an observation of trends emerging in the industry and feature five of the most interesting used vehicles being sold in the secondary market.

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The observation of the week reflects on VanMoof’s reported financial struggles. This week’s featured vehicles are a 2WD scrambler, a longtail cargo bike, a performance commuter, a fat-tire off-roader, and a compact urban ebike.

Observation of the Week

Reflecting on VanMoof's Reported Financial Struggles

The undoubted talk of the micromobility town this past week is VanMoof and their reported financial troubles. After customers noticed that VanMoof paused new orders earlier in the week, news broke that the D2C brand is currently unable to pay their bills and just received an official suspension of payment provision from Dutch courts. They’re even temporarily closing their stores, citing safety concerns for their employees.

While this isn’t a guaranteed indicator of impending bankruptcy, it will require some level of a miracle for VanMoof to pull out of this tailspin. The postponement of payments can be in effect for up to 18 months, which gives VanMoof about a year and half for the existing management and court appointed administrators to either find emergency funding or an acquirer.

So how did this happen? What defined VanMoof’s approach is the vertical integration of their ebikes. Every element of the vehicle’s powertrain, chassis, and software were custom designed and/or manufactured by the company. Additionally, VanMoof ebikes were highly-tech forward and came with a series of features never before seen on ebikes. This led to VanMoofs being highly complex vehicles, far moreso than other ebikes, which in turn led to a series of growing pains around reliability and servicing. It’s no secret that VanMoofs had their fair share of maintenance problems, and it’s clear that the brand had major losses due to warranty claims and maintenance plan fulfillments. Combined with their hyper-growth, the rising cost of capital, and the tightening of the venture market for hardware startups, it feels like the rope might have just run out before VanMoof could learn how to manage these growing pains.

Some have hypothesized that VanMoof’s theft protection plan may have been their killer. The company offered a 3 year “theft insurance” subscription for $398 where stolen bikes would either be retrieved by their iconic Bike Hunters or replaced by the brand. As Ryan Johnson of Culdesac points out, this is way cheaper than typical bike insurance. However, while the plan may seem like an expensive liability for VanMoof, what I’ve heard is that customers rarely ended up using this plan. It seems like its value came from the peace of mind it provided customers to know that their bikes were protected as well as the way in which it gradually trained thieves to realize that it wasn’t worth stealing a VanMoof.

So what’s next for the brand? While VanMoof finding emergency funding is a possibility, the more likely outcome seems to be an acquisition. Despite the growing liabilities and debts around the business, the value of its brand and IP is significant. Jon Denby, founder and CEO of ebike safety startup Roadio, has some interesting thoughts on potential acquirers:

“I assume that any of the main players (like PON) would gladly snap up VanMoof because of their brand value, if nothing else. However, because the entire industry is facing a lack of liquidity right now, potential acquirers are probably balking at the price tag set by the 2021 funding round.

I think brand aggregators/conglomerates are the most likely acquirers, and I think PON seems like the best fit because their portfolio is more centered around euro brands. The other major aggregator is Accell, but they seem more focused on cost efficiency over brand. Giant and Trek are the antithesis of the vertical/D2C model so I doubt they’re interested. It could also be an interesting strategic acquisition for Canyon, since they’re already invested in D2C and it would be a good fit for the skill set of Tony Fadell (Former SVP of Apple’s iPod division, inventor of the iPod, Founder of Nest, and Canyon investor and Board Member). Everyone else is too small I think, unless VanMoof severely lowers the price tag.”

Other interesting acquirers could be those outside of the micromobility industry looking to enter the space via an existing marquee player. One to keep an eye on is Porsche. They’re one of the few automotive companies still actively invested in micromobility (majority stakeholders in Greyp and Fazua, established a joint venture with Ponooc), and VanMoof’s design and aesthetic is clearly in line with Porsche’s premium, luxury vehicle brand ethos.

VanMoof is one of the most important brands in micromobility, and I’m a massive believer of the product and vision they’ve built. VanMoof is the reason I fell in love with ebikes, and for those that know me personally, you no doubt have noticed that I wear the VanMoof shirt I received when I bought my S3 on a weekly basis. The company has tremendously moved the industry forward and introduced a new level of technology that has elevated ebikes beyond recreational vehicles to viable transportation options. They’ve inspired an emotional connection and passion within their customers for their vehicles, and they’ve increased the appeal of ebikes as a whole. While their ebikes have their fair share of problems, VanMoof is one of the only OEMs to work backwards from the vehicle’s job to be done and vertically integrate their technology accordingly. This approach has created an incredible user experience, one that has largely been unmatched by anyone else in the industry.

Hardware is hard, no matter how amazing your product is or how much your customers love it. I sincerely hope that VanMoof is able to find some way back from this tailspin. It’ll be a significant loss to the industry if they can’t, but regardless, their legacy will long inform the future evolution of micromobility.

For more observations and resources on owned and used micromobility, check out rideflywheel.com/resources.

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Top 5 Vehicles of the Week

The Ariel Rider D-Class is a two-wheel drive (2WD) scrambler. Its powertrain is monstrous, featuring two 75Nm Dapu M155 geared hub motors and an 864Wh removable battery pack. The D-Class is configured to be a class-2/3 hybrid, but there’s an off-road mode that lets you hit a max speed of 33mph. Given the street-legal modes and pedals, the D-Class is technically an ebike. However, its performance is really closer to that of an emoped or even an emotorcycle. A switch on the handlebars lets riders alternate between 2WD drive mode and rear-wheel drive mode. The power of the 2WD is frankly a bit excessive for commuting and can cause riders to spin out the tires, so I recommend mostly riding in rear-wheel drive mode and flipping the switch over to 2WD mode when needing an extra push. This extra power, however, makes the D-Class an excellent ebike for carrying a second adult passenger. The bench seat is comfortable and long enough for two adults, and there’s even built-in rear passenger foot pegs. Lastly, the 20” by 4” fat tires combined with a front suspension fork make the D-Class glide over roads, even when its loaded with a second passenger. The D-Class is no longer available online, so this listing for a practically new D-Class (mileage of 58.1mi) is an excellent find. Listing can be found here.

The Kona Ute is a class-1 longtail cargo bike. Despite being best known for their mountain bikes, Kona also has a long history in cargo bikes, starting off around 2010 with both a pedal and an early electric version. The latest Kona Ute is built on a Bosch system, featuring a 75Nm Bosch Performance Line CX mid-drive motor and a 500Wh Bosch PowerPack battery. Given Kona’s mountain biking heritage, it’s no surprise that the Ute features MTB finishings and a mid-drive motor typically reserved for mountain bikes. Most notable about the Ute is its extra long 85” frame, which is about 10”-20” longer than most other longtail cargo bikes. This gives the Ute extra stability when hauling cargo, and makes it more planted and secure when turning. However, this extra length also makes it harder to store or park the Ute in urban settings. One additional feature that seems small but is highly practical is the Ute’s center kickstand, which is really useful to keep the bike balanced when it’s being loaded/unloaded. Particularly for a cargo bike with a Bosch powertrain, the Ute is a relatively affordable vehicle with plenty of utility and cargo payload capacity. This listing has a Flywheel estimated mileage of 340.14mi, and offers an extra battery for an additional $650. Learn more here.

The Trek Super Commuter+ 8S is a well-kitted, practical class-3 commuter. Meant to rival the likes of Stromer’s ST line ebikes, the Super Commuter+ 8S is a stiff commuter with agile handling and premium componentry. Its powertrain features a 63Nm Bosch Performance Line Speed mid-drive motor and a 500Wh Bosch PowerPack battery pack that is sleekly integrated into the downtube. Combined with the 11-speed Shimano transmission and shift detection, the Super Commuter has quick yet smooth acceleration that makes it extremely fun to ride. Unlike most ebikes from dealer brands, the Super Commuter also comes standard with fenders, lights, and other accessories required for commuting right out of the box. Trek is one of the bicycle industry’s big 3 OEMs, and as such has a massive maintenance network that makes it easy to keep your Super Commuter serviced. The Super Commuter+ 8S was discontinued in 2019, and was a bit expensive for a commuter when bought new even when it was available. However, this listing that was “consistently and professionally maintained by [Palo Alto bike shop] Summit Bicycles” and only has a mileage of 573.87mi is an affordable and reliable option. Listing can be found here.

The Rad Power RadRover is a class-2 fat-tire ebike and, as Forbes calls it, the Hummer of ebikes. Its powertrain features an 80Nm rear geared hub motor and a 672Wh battery pack, and the vehicle’s 26” by 4.5” fat-tires combined with a front suspension fork truly make the RadRover feel like you’re riding on a cloud. The Hummer analogy is apt given that the RadRover has monstrous performance that gives it the ability to easily tackle everything from casual cruising on paved trails to off-roading. This versatility is actually why the RadRover is one of the most popular ebikes you’ll see used by ebike tour companies or at nature resorts/national parks. However, while the RadRover is certainly agile and fun to ride, its 71.4lbs weight and 75.25” length makes it cumbersome to store really anywhere other than a garage. Fat-tire ebikes are often poorer quality budget vehicles, but the RadRover strikes a nice balance to provide a bike that is both affordable and relatively high quality. The RadRover’s electric components (motor and battery) are excellent, but its more traditional bicycle components (i.e. brakes), while sufficient, are mostly cheaper basic parts. This listing is in Good condition, but at a mileage of 894mi and a listing price that is ~$670 over the Flywheel Vehicle Value, its considerably overpriced. Listing can be found here.

The Orbea Katu-e is a compact class-1 urban ebike. Orbea is a Spanish brand, and they’ve been making bicycles for almost a century. Their history originally started in racing and mountain biking, but they’ve more recently delved into the world of urban-optimized ebikes. The Katu-e’s mini frame makes it extremely manauverable. With a low 26” standover height, short 63” frame length, and small 20” wheels, the Katu-e keeps your center-of-gravity low and your handling ultra nimble. Its powertrain features a 63Nm Bosch Performance Line Cruise mid-drive and a 400Wh Bosch PowerPack battery. The vehicle even has decent cargo capabilities given its mounts for solid front and rear racks and a center double-leg kickstand. Notably, the front rack is actually frame mounted, which keeps your cargo from swinging side-to-side when turning. The Katu-e can be a bit uncomfortable on bumpier roads, particularly due to its lack of suspension, stiff frame, and smaller wheels. This issue is somewhat compensated for with slightly fatter 2.25” tires, but many riders note that a suspension seat post is a must-buy accessory that significantly addresses the problem. The Katu-e’s small size makes it great for storing in smaller apartments/garages or taking up elevators. However, it still weighs 50+ lbs so it’s not quite as portable as folding ebikes or escooters. This listing is in good condition with a Flywheel estimated mileage of 879.43mi. Listing can be found here.

That’s it for this edition. Thanks again for joining, see you next week!

- Puneeth Meruva

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