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Design & Tech

Ride the future: Hydraulic brakes

Ride the future: Hydraulic brakes

When talking about e-bikes, the focus is normally about moving. Moving faster, moving further, and moving with less effort. But with the new electric VanMoof S3 & X3, we’ve thought just as hard about how you’ll slow down. That’s why we’ve completely redesigned our signature disc brakes – and built the world’s first integrated hydraulic braking system.

Hold up – hydraulic brakes? What does that even mean? Well, in non-bike nerd terms, there are two types of disc brakes, mechanical and hydraulic. Mechanical disc brakes use a cable pull system, so when you squeeze the brake lever you’re pulling a long cable attached to the brake calipers. The force of your pull closes the calipers around the disc, which then slows you down.

It’s a very simple mechanism, but it’s not without its drawbacks. As you pull on those cables, you’re gradually stretching them, so you’ll need to regularly adjust them to maintain the same level of ‘tightness’. Likewise, it’s easy to pull the calipers out of alignment, resulting in more time fiddling, and less time riding. Lastly, a physical cable pull is not an efficient way of applying force, and you have to pull the brake lever harder when you’re going faster. At best this can be tiring, and at worst it can be dangerous – you might find your brakes suddenly failing when you need them most.

Hydraulic brakes don’t share these issues. Instead of a physical cable, they use a fluid-filled ‘circuit’. When you squeeze the brake lever, you drive a small piston which pressurizes the internal fluid. At the other end of the circuit, the change in pressure instantly closes the caliper around the brake disc. It’s a much more direct transfer of energy, and there is nothing to stretch or weaken with time. In general, hydraulic brakes deliver much greater stopping power with very little effort. You can stop quickly and safely in a full downpour, with the pull of a single finger.

Of course, all that power comes at a price. And with hydraulic brakes, the cost is simplicity and design. Hydraulic brake assemblies are typically bulky, requiring external reservoirs to be mounted on the handlebars. The exposed elements are also susceptible to damage, and any wear and tear on your tubing could result in pressurized oil spraying everywhere.

In typical VanMoof fashion, the solution was to design a hydraulic system which integrates the braking elements into the frame itself – for protection and streamlined aesthetics. Take a look at the new VanMoof S3 & X3 and you’ll see the oil reservoir sleekly engineered into the one-piece handlebars. The tubing is then routed through the frame as much as possible, and the callipers themselves are the smallest ever mounted on a VanMoof.

“It’s taken us a long time to develop hydraulic brakes which fit the minimalist, maintenance free VanMoof philosophy, explains Project Manager of Smart Products Jean-Paul Niellissen. “With the new VanMoof S3 & X3, we’re proud to have successfully integrated the braking elements into the bike. It’s not a standout feature like the E-shifter, but you can really feel the benefits every time you get on the bikes.”

So there you have it. With the VanMoof S3 & X3, you’re getting an easier, safer, and more maintenance free ride. And that’s just from the brakes. With everything on the bikes tweaked and tuned to perfection, you’ll be riding in a league of your own.

Take control with the new electric VanMoof S3 & X3, and book your test ride today.

Peter Gigg

About this author

Peter Gigg is VanMoof's resident Brit. He enjoys writing, running, and remaining in the EU.