VanMoof’s Bankruptcy Worries Owners of Electric Bikes

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 smooth bikes as of late 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 most of the bikes’ features are linked to VanMoof’s smartphone app.

“If I break it, or something else happens, I don’t know where to go,” stated 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, the US and Japan. Within the e-bike world, VanMoof was usually likened to Apple or Tesla, given its elegant designs, heavy use of customized supplies and premium costs.

The speedy, technologically superior bikes shift gears mechanically 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 payment, VanMoof employed “bike hunters” to get better stolen bicycles.)

These distinctive options are actually on the coronary heart of VanMoof homeowners’ nervousness.

“Your bike will remain functional and rideable, as we aim to keep our app and servers online and aim to secure the ongoing services for the future,” VanMoof stated in a press release. The directors managing the corporate’s chapter within the Netherlands “are currently setting up a sales process for the assets and activities of VanMoof,” the assertion stated.

When contacted, the directors declined to enter specifics, however confirmed that there have been firms enthusiastic about shopping for VanMoof.

VanMoof, named as a Dutch spin on the phrase “move,” 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 thrill, VanMoof finally bumped into monetary issues, together with a manufacturing backlog that led to monthslong waits for gross sales and repairs.

“They tried to do too much at once,” stated Horace Dediu, a co-founder of Micromobility Industries. “Overall the industry is very healthy,” he added.

International gross sales of VanMoof e-bikes have been halted, and at firm areas that stay open, like its store in Brooklyn, repairs may be accomplished provided that the elements are in inventory.

In Amsterdam, the place all VanMoof areas are shut, most bike restore retailers can not, or won’t, restore the model’s bikes. And that’s an issue, as a result of VanMoof bikes have developed a fame for breaking down.

VanMoof riders round Amsterdam stated they’d skilled issues with the bikes, at the same time as they praised the machines.

“When it’s working, there’s nothing better,” stated Michiel Smit, 28. However, he added, the bike “breaks often.”

VanMoof’s future is murky. At the least one bidder has come out publicly, the e-scooter rental agency (unrelated to Micromobility Industries). Its nonbinding takeover bid was “positively received,” Micromobility stated on Monday. A worth was not disclosed.

Salvatore Palella, Micromobility’s founder and chief government, stated that if the bid was profitable, he want to hold the model in addition to lots of VanMoof’s staff. “We are fascinated by what we are seeing and how VanMoof created this amazing brand in the last 10 years,” Mr. Palella stated. He stated he would submit a binding provide 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, stated Felipe Martinez, who works on the store. However they will do solely easy repairs that don’t contain VanMoof’s elements.

Others are on the lookout for workarounds on-line. In Fb and Reddit teams, VanMoof homeowners 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, stated she had not skilled any issues along with her VanMoof, which she acquired three months in the past after an eight-month wait. She additionally bought the three-year theft safety package deal, now nugatory.

Different riders expressed concern about theft, partially due to the elevated demand for elements since VanMoof’s chapter.

“Here in the city, people hate you because you have a VanMoof,” stated Nadia Piet, an Amsterdam-based entrepreneur, who purchased her e-bike two years in the past. “Now people look at you with pity.”

Ms. Piet, 29, stated the “dreamy” bike changed the necessity for a automotive. Her accomplice, Steven Elbers, additionally owns a VanMoof. “I’m still a big fan,” Mr. Elbers, 40, stated. “I don’t understand how this could’ve happened.”

For others, the corporate’s collapse was not a shock.

“We saw it coming for a long time,” stated Joseph Web page, a mechanic at WheelGood who used to work as a “bike doctor” for VanMoof. The e-bike maker’s advertising was spectacular, however “we knew it wasn’t great from the start,” he added.

Maria van Aa, a motorbike maker in Amsterdam for 38 years, who generally does easy fixes to VanMoof bikes, known as it an “overpriced” product with too little consideration paid to the technical particulars.

She stated there was a way of schadenfreude amongst her clients and fellow bicycle makers. “It’s the talk of the town,” Ms. van Aa stated. However it’s not all unhealthy, she stated, with VanMoof’s fashionable design elevating the general public picture of bikes and bike makers.

“It’s a nice bike,” stated Emiliano Frigerio, a VanMoof-riding mechanic at WheelGood, “when it works.”

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