A recent change in traffic in Plymouth has led me to embrace a completely different way to get around.
My normal week involves three days of car commuting as I bring my daughter to nursery on those days, and two days on the bike. The city has recently undertaken some major work around the hospital which has killed the already strained traffic flow, and having to spend 45 minutes getting to work was threatening my sanity. I needed an alternative way, and fast.
I switched to getting the bus and bringing Evie in a pram which was fine, and although the walk was time consuming, it was still a good ten to fifteen minutes faster than in the car. I had been toying with the idea of getting a child seat for my bike, and then from a safety perspective I settled on a trailer. After being let down by a facebook marketplace seller, I ended up buying a new Burley Honey Bee trailer and hooking it up to my road bike. It worked, but it was work. Hard work.
The Honey Bee also doubles up as a massive stroller when you arrive at your destination which is a very handy feature.
On my first journey out I was a little apprehensive and concerned about the handling of the trailer, so I ended up going a slightly longer route with a steeper hill. That was a poor choice, and I struggled to even move the trailer in the lowest gear. After that it got slightly easier, but the constant climb on the way to nursery was rough. I was going to have to get fit quickly, or find a different way.
A Different Way
I had my eye on an e-bike for a little while and the increase in traffic gave me the impetus to put in an order. While reading reviews I came across the VanMoof S3, a Dutch e-bike packed with technology. It appealed to my aesthetic eye and the gadget-freak side of me. On the surface the matt black frame looks like an ordinary push bike, but the insides are what counts. A front hub motor is powered by a battery hidden within the frame, and an automatic gear shifter tops it off. The top tube display is also a really nice touch, offering a speedometer and battery indicator.
The bike arrived with the front wheel strapped to the frame. The assembly was a little fiddly in places but it wasn’t too long before I was ready to ride. The package included a nice toolbox with some quality tools, something I haven’t encountered very often.
Towing the trailer was a breeze, and there was plenty of room in the boot for Evie’s nursery bag. The VanMoof S3 will get you up to 15 mph, but this is as far as the motor can help you and still be road legal. That said, riding up hills at 15 mph is really nice. There’s also a boost button on the right side of the handlebars which gives you a little extra power to get up to speed. I’ve found that function very handy when setting off a roundabouts or crossing the road when you need to get up to accelerate as quickly as possible.
The S3 isn’t designed to pull a trailer, but fitting the Burley hitch was a breeze. I just unscrewed the anti-theft bolt and fitted it between the washer and the bolt. It was an area of concern for me before buying the bike as I didn’t read any reports of a Burley trailer combined with a VanMoof S3, but I can happily report that there have been no issues. With the trailer, that is. The bike is another story.
As soon as I assembled the bike and registered it in the app (yes, there’s an app…for a bike) I was confronted with an error 44. Troubleshooting within the app highlighted an issue with the e-shifter which appeared not to be communicating with the bike. It suggested checking the cable connection, which was fine. The next step was replacing the e-shifter. That seemed like a big escalation to replace the whole part, but before I knew it VanMoof confirmed they were posting a replacement part out for me to fit. That’s where I’m at now. For the first couple of days the bike was changing gears, but I’ve been stuck in the one gear since. It’s not ideal but still manageable as I’ve relied heavily on the motor to get me started at traffic lights. Gears would be nice though.
To be perfectly honest, I was half expecting this. For all the praise lavished on the S3, there are as many posts complaining about technical difficulties. It appears to be an excellent bike when it wants to work. I’m hoping the replacement part will sort the issue, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered taking them up on the 14 day no quibble refund policy. And then I remember how much fun it was and all of the nifty features that appear to be far beyond the price tag. Having the bike registered so that I alone can use it, and an in-built security lock that locks the back wheel and triggers an alarm if anyone messes with the bike. It’s even compatible with Apple Find My so it can be tracked down if stolen or lost.
I will be back with an update once the new e-shifter arrives, and hopefully that will be the end of the teething issues. It’s a beautiful bike and has already done it’s fair share of hauling the trailer back and forth to nursery.
Hollow Knight continues to enthral and frustrate me in equal measures. I’m facing two boss battles and trying everything I can to avoid doing them. For a game that can be at times very calming, it’s brutally hard.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a little more approachable, and we spent a few hours collecting the last few eggs and gemstones missed on the first run through. Spyro can be frustrating but it’s a completely different level, and wrapped up in a lot of nostalgia for a (slightly) simpler time in gaming history.