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The Dutch bicycle icon VanMoof has gone bust. Known for their stylish, minimalist design, it had become a staple within the bicycle landscape in Amsterdam.

The company received court protection from creditors last week after failing to find new investment. VanMoof posted a loss of nearly €90 million in 2021 and has never made a profit. They closed all of its sales rooms two weeks ago, resulting in angry customers who had ordered bikes or those who were trying to retrieve them after repairs.

The origins of VanMoof

VanMoof was founded in 2009 by brothers Taco and Ties Carlier.  Early versions of the bicycles were single speed bikes with a coaster brake, integrated lights, offered in silver and black. It was a bike that made “dinking” (a.k.a. double riding) on the top bar popular with their signature straight top tube. It was a sought after bike, but it wasn’t until they made the switch to a fully electric lineup that VanMoof really took off.

The Game Changer

VanMoof stayed true to their earlier versions in terms of style, offering two models of the E-bike. They made electric bikes sexy and hip, only to be complimented with top-notch performance. It was the first bike in Amsterdam that was left outside unlocked thanks to an alarm system and internal tracking.

Each new version surpassed the previous model in terms of advancements in technology. Some may argue that they had become more like expensive gadgets rather than bikes. But the popularity continued to grow. Slick marketing campaigns also led to companies buying them for employees as a fringe benefit. One could say that you either had a bike or you had a VanMoof. It had truly become the measuring stick for the urban E-bike.

What went wrong with VanMoof?

As with any electric bike, there could be a plethora of problems with electronic components. Detractors of VanMoof are quick to list them and trust me when I say I’ve heard them all. Sometimes literally, as the bike has customisable alarms and electronic bells, I’ve heard VanMoofs cruising around town that got stuck in a sound loop resulting in something resembling a form of dubstep.

Then there’s the story that’s become a bit of an urban legend. It begins with someone’s father who was riding a VanMoof at high speed and then the brakes completely failed. They rode through an intersection and crashed into a car, resulting in serious injuries like broken ribs. While, I won’t deny this ever happened, it’s a story that continuously gets embellished.

The real problem is the company has been struggling for some time, spending a substantial amount on repairs.

Warranty coverage is among the most glaring issues with many of the bicycles sold with defects. Since all the components were bespoke, they were not replaceable. You simply couldn’t bring it to the bike shop around the corner for repairs.

Another problem was high production costs which were all kept in-house but without mass production. While components were manufactured in Asia, the pandemic caused issues in the supply chain along with a shortage in personal. This created an insurmountable glut and there many stories of people waiting months for their bike to be repaired or the delivery of a purchase.

What will happen now?

VanMoof is currently looking to find a buyer for the parts of the company, so at least repairs can be done on the bikes. But some of the parts are no longer in supply. Owners of a VanMoof who need answers from the current situation can find them here.

In a separate email to employees, Taco and Ties Carlier said they were “extremely sorry” about the news. They thanked employees “from the bottom of our hearts” for their dedication and loyalty. “We feel sadness, but most of all, we feel an immense sense of pride for what we have achieved together,” the Carlier brothers said.

An end of an Era

It’s a sad day for the owners of a VanMoof and for everyone involved in the company. There is little doubt they had revolutionized the bike industry and made unforgettable, historic mark on the streets of Amsterdam.

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