Emerging Tech

VanMoof ebikes aren’t that easy to steal. Here’s what happened

Earlier this week, Digital Trends ran a story entitled “This $ 3,000 ebike is allegedly impossible to steal. We stole it in 60 seconds.” VanMoof does make that claim about its S2 ebikes, and we did steal it in 60 seconds, but if you own one, don’t worry: It looks like our bike was a lemon.

As a service to our readers and in fairness to VanMoof, we’d like to explain what happened.

VanMoof’s claims

VanMoof’s electrified S2 ebike comes with some impressive security features, including GSM anti-theft tracking, a built-in alarm, and rear-wheel lock that VanMoof says “makes it impossible to ride, let alone sell, if stolen.” The company describes the bike as “theft-proof” and  “almost impossible to steal.” For $ 100 a year or $ 240 for three years, VanMoof offers what it calls Peace of Mind service that promises to track down your bike if it’s ever stolen or replace it if they can’t recover it within two weeks.

Our testing

Our original article claimed that we were able to “disable the bike’s whole tracking system without ever setting the alarm off” by removing the internal “Smart Cartridge” computer and then taking out a SIM card. We also claimed that “once the SIM card is removed, the S2’s alarm and wheel lock cease to function.” All of that is true, but we only tested on one bike, provided to us by a VanMoof buyer who asked to remain anonymous.

VanMoof responded to our story with a blogpost and video showing the bike functioning correctly – when they locked the bike and removed the SIM card, the rear wheel lock remained engaged – effectively rendering the bike useless. The company claimed we had a defective model.

Upon further testing, that appears to be the case. When we purchased a used S2 to conduct another test, the alarm sounded and the rear wheel lock engaged – which is exactly what happened in VanMoof’s video. The bike was essentially rendered unusable.

Clearly, the issues we discovered in one bike aren’t universal. How common is this issue? It’s not clear yet. We’re working with VanMoof to see why this bike doesn’t perform as expected, and to find out whether the same glitch could affect other S2 bikes. We’ll update this story if and when we receive a response.

Doing better

We’re here to hold companies accountable. Testing extravagant claims – like that a bike is nearly impossible to steal – is exactly the type of journalism Digital Trends endeavors to offer consumers. Sometimes we hit the mark, like exposing Monster’s shady foray into online gambling, Nissan’s faulty in-car radar, and Facebook’s dismal customer service. But we hold ourselves accountable, too. And in this case, our initial testing wasn’t comprehensive enough to identify a widespread issue.

We’ve updated our editorial policies to include more stringent rules on anonymous sources, a mandate to seek comment from the companies when their claims don’t hold up, and additional vetting from senior editorial leadership before publishing contentious claims.

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Emerging Tech – Digital Trends

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