Core77 Design Awards
- Other Years
VanMoof is founded by two Dutch brothers in Amsterdam who had disruption in their blood and invention in their DNA. Born and raised in the Netherlands, they loved getting from A to B on two wheels, but had never found the perfect city bike. They started VanMoof in 2009, determined to develop the perfect city bike from scratch, and taking it to every major city in the world.
Ten years later we're unlike any other bike company in the world. We're a global team of riders, designers, dreamers and doers united by one goal Getting the next Billion on bikes. You'll only be able to buy a bike directly from us, because the closer we are to our riders, the better we can make the experience.
For most people commuting is the worst part of their day. Bikes are in many ways a true transportation alternative to taxis, subway and other ways of public transportation. We've been leading the transition from regular bikes to electric bikes, they interest a broader audience. Electric bikes shrink cities to save you time, improve urban liveability and above all are a fun way to get around town.
There is this big wave around bike and scooter sharing systems, providing transportation on demand. We still hold on to the feeling of ownership, this incentivises riders to take good care of their bikes and the environment, while we take care of maintenance and it lasting through an entire lifetime. Our monthly subscription service makes owning a high-tech bike accessible for a larger group, they have always availability not having to find a scooter and have exclusive access. We believe this model drive us to make better products and compels us to take responsibility for maximising the bike's lifetime.
As Product Design team at VanMoof we try to do one thing. Build the best bike in the world to move around in cities. To do that we have to be in every major city in the world and it's no accident that our team sits above our brandstores. The closer we are our customer, the better we'll understand their needs, the faster we'll crack their problems, and the more perspectives we'll stay open to. We have a unique fully integrated design team of coders, electrical engineers, developers and product designers, All Inventors by heart and we don't stop solving, inventing and improving until things hit the production line.
The Electrified S2 and X2 is the result of reconsidering everything. The complete experience from buying, to riding, to repairing, to recovery. So it's utterly effortless. Reconsidering our 2" round iconic top tube, which dictated the shape of our bikes for years, using the latest manufacturing techniques, and enhancing smart tech to its fullest potential. Removing all barriers to city cycling, helping you outsmart the city. It's more than a bike. It's the culmination of 10 years' passion, innovation, and expertise.
As a child I have always been creating and inventing things on wheels. It was at that time when I learned how to develop something new, bounded by using materials and tools laying around in the neighbourhood. I grew up in Amsterdam, my parents owned an old Renault 4 car which never worked. So for our family the bike was taking care of all the transportation need. At the age of 16 I was truly intriqued about the bicycle. The simplicity of it's function but also the efficiency that it gets you around town, up to 10 times faster than walking. I quickly found myself working in a professional bike-shop in the city centre during the weekends. There I saw all the ins and outs of the technology, industry and I learned how to customise a bike to user needs.
After studying Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering, It was my dream to build the perfect commuter bike, I saw so much opportunities for improvement. In 2010 I met two brothers, Taco and Ties, they were as crazy about bikes as me, and the rest is history.
At VanMoof our passion lies in deep understanding of technology and manufacturing principles, no matter hardware or software. We travel 50% of our time around the world, visiting production facilities, machine vendors, material suppliers and chipset makers. That is where everything starts, understanding what is possible and then fully leveraging it throughout the design process. We select and involve all these suppliers in a very early stage of development, when the design specification does not even exist yet. We end up with strong partnerships and building personal relations. We share the same passion, which allow us go further than anyone else.
Design directions naturally evolve from technological opportunities, and creative solutions for the cities future problems. Every time we face design challenges, existing solutions do not fit. That's why we end up designing and manufacturing every single part of hardware and software in house. We rapidly iterate and prototype, allowing for mistakes, and enable a steep learning curve. During the design process we constantly re-consider design criteria, all the way towards mass production. If needed during production. Working at VanMoof means no standardised processes, but a lot of freedom and fun. We hardly look at competition and are strongly driven by our intuition.
Our product design team in VanMoof is relatively small, but international and multi-disciplinary. App, backend, electronic and product engineers are working together in one room, essential for owning every aspect of the product and creating a seamless user-experience. Every single part, from the bespoke chain cover to aluminium frame, from the integrated lights and matrix display, to the anti-theft tracking and app, are designed to make it totally hassle-free to get from A to B.
I have wanted to redesign our iconic frames for a long time now, that was one of our key starting points in the development of the Electrified S2 and X2. It's not because we wanted it to look different, but because different shapes reduce the boundaries of what we can do. Since the start of VanMoof, we've integrated functionality like lights and locks into round aluminum tubes. It protected them from vulnerability in a city environment.
We started the design process inside out this time, battery pack layout, removable electronics for servicing, and aluminium hydro forming, aeroforming, cnc and extrusion techniques dictated the shape of our frame. It's very important that you let go of wanting to create 'another VanMoof'. Otherwise it won't be driven by the functionality. But at the same time, you have to view it iteratively. As you remove lines and components, at what point do you stop recognising it as a VanMoof?
It was very difficult to convince the design team to move away from such an iconic shape. Everyone was scared to touch it, it's such an integral part of the brand. You also have to push that out of your mind, otherwise you limit yourself too much. But by being so function-driven, the bike naturally looks like an evolution of the same product. It's a classically Dutch mindset – you work with a shape which is the result of a function.
We sell directly to our customers, online first. Providing serviceability worldwide, especially for non-common bike parts, is a challenge in itself. Solution; a removable smart cartridge that contains the IoT board, speaker, display, controller etc. If there is ever an issue with the bikes brains and we cannot remotely repair it with a software tweak, customers can detach the cartridge from the top tube themselves and send it to VanMoof for servicing or replacement. Important changes for everyone who is buying online. In addition the cartridge had to be a modular system that fits in both our S and X frame. Same for our stem and handlebar designs. It is made out of one piece aluminium, it comes with height adjustable spacers to make the user create a perfect ergonomic fit, right out of the box.
One of the most difficult design challenges was to seamlessly integrate the display. I remember looking at my MacBook, and seeing the sleep indicator light 'pulsing' through the metal chassis – like the aluminum itself was glowing. It's such a beautiful experience, but not so simple to make. We wanted to see if we could create the same effect on the S2 and X2 by making a 166 very precise holes in the tubing and allowing a network of LEDs to shine through. Idea was to update the imagery remotely or change it based on your location or riding conditions. It's a really exciting piece of tech, and this is just the start – the Matrix Display is going to get even better the longer you ride. We ended up making at least 200 prototype display tubes, experimenting with water jetting, EDM, lasering and even simple drilling. Not even talking about the painting techniques to make the top tube look super smooth. That took the team many weeks of problem solving in the factory, day and night. Selling the product before production starts is a well considered decision at VanMoof, but it always puts an enormous pressure on the team. It must be like developing in Formula 1 racing, you have until the race starts.
The result is something we're all very proud of. When switched off, it's near-invisible. But turn it on (or bring your phone into Bluetooth range) and the bike literally lights up, displaying rider info on the surface of the frame itself.
We can build bigger and tougher locks, or we can truly solve the problem by making our bikes pointless to steal in the first place. Using smart technology we've created a bike that can take perfect care of itself, leaving no more worries for the rider. The Electrified S2 & X2 come with a revolutionary (and virtually invisible) Stealth Lock that stops the wheels from turning and activates the theft-defense system with a kick, automatically unlocking and disarming when the owner is nearby. Combined with the integrated alarm and lock-down system that makes it impossible to ride (let alone sell) if stolen, it's a completely new way of thinking about bike security—one where the rider never has to worry about a thing.
You never know, it could have ended up pretty monstrous. You don't want to be the one who ruined VanMoof. But it's a good kind of scary – if you want to take a big step forward, it's important to feel really uncomfortable. Otherwise you already know it's not a big enough step. We really pushed ourselves to step away from the past and reconsider everything anew