A connected app turns your smartphone into a digital dashboard
The Cowboy 4 is a sleek electric bike with a clever smartphone app.
- – Single gear may be tough for hilly areas
- – Lacks throttle
- – Phone mount is iPhone-only
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Is the Cowboy 4 the future of electric bikes? This sleek model features a smartphone dock between its handlebars that turns your iPhone into a digital dashboard, letting you navigate, find your bike and see your speed in real time. (It also charges your phone in the process). I had a chance to take a test ride with the Cowboy 4 around Central Park in New York to see how well it performed, as well as try out its Smart features.
Cowboy 4: Price and availability
Both models of the Cowboy 4 cost 2,990, and are available now for purchase. They come with mudguards (which is nice), but if you want the phone case — which is a necessity — you’ll have to fork over an additional 29. It seems a bit cheap for a bike that costs this much.
At the moment, the company is only selling cases that are compatible with the iPhone (the SE, XR, and everything more recent are options). For Android owners, the company suggests purchasing the Universal Fit from Quadlock, which costs 60.
A kickstand and rear rack are sold separately for 99.
Cowboy also offers a few other services, only available by subscription.
Cowboy Care (20/month) provides maintenance (such as a full bike checkup), brake pad and tire replacement, and a free duplicate battery key in case of loss. Currently, this service is only available in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York (Manhattan and Brooklyn only), San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Washington, DC.
The company is also planning to offer Theft Insurance, details of which should be available by the end of January.
Like many other products, there’s a bit of a backlog between the time you order something and the time you can get it. The company says that bikes ordered in September should start shipping to U.S customers in the next two weeks, and bikes ordered in January should arrive in May. From May onwards, the company hopes to reduce delivery times to 4 weeks.
Cowboy 4 design and specs
Like the VanMoof S3, the Cowboy 4 has a real minimalist design that makes it look futuristic but not fussy. All the wires are contained within the black matte frame; more than a few onlookers asked about it as I was pedaling through Central Park.
The bike’s battery is detachable, and is just behind the seat post. I like it. it keeps the rest of the frame from looking too bulky. Built into one edge of the battery is the bike’s tail light. A rectangular light in the front adds to the bike’s high-tech look.
In between the handlebars is a small dock to attach your phone. You need to first insert your phone into a special case, which then connects the Cowboy app on your phone to the bike’s electronics. It turns your phone into a dashboard, and turns this ebike into a Smart bike. Even better: the bike will recharge your phone via a Qi wireless charger when it’s docked, so you don’t need to worry about running out of battery.
Unlike most of the best electric bikes we’ve tested, the Cowboy 4 does not have a throttle button, so you can’t just sit back and enjoy the ride — you’ve got to pedal.
The company sells two models: A step-over and a step-through version. The step-over model is meant for riders from 5’6” to 6’4,” while the step-through version is built for those who are 5’3” to 6’2.” Either way, it’s not a small bike.
Both versions are available in black, green, or off-white, and have the same specs: A range of up to 43.5 miles, a top assist speed of 20 miles per hour, a 250W rear hub motor, and a 9.8Ah, 360 Wh battery. Both models tip the scales at 47.1 pounds. Also standard with both are hydraulic disc brakes, a carbon belt, and custom 27.5 x 1.85 tires.
Cowboy 4 app
What separates the Cowboy 4 from most other electric bikes is its connected app, which turns it into — for lack of a better term — a Smart bike. Launch the app, and your phone turns into a dashboard for the bike, showing your speed, distance, and duration of travel. The GoCycle G4i has a similar smartphone app, but a much flimsier method of attaching your phone — and certainly not with a built-in charger.
In addition, the app has navigation built in, so you can program a route to get you from point A to B. During my test ride, I didn’t have a chance to see whether or not it followed bike lanes like you can do in Google Maps, or if it just used roads.
Other features in the app include a digital lock, predictive battery life, weather alerts, activity tracking and Find My Bike — helpful if you forgot where you parked it. Crash detection will offer to alert your emergency contacts if you go headfirst into a tree, while Theft Alert will ping your phone if someone tries to make off with your bike. However, this last feature requires a subscription.
In addition to tracking your activity, the app will also let you share your achievements with other Cowboy bike owners, and see how you compare to other riders. It’s probably a lot smaller than Fitbit’s user base, but you gotta start somewhere, right?
Cowboy 4: Performance
If you want to ride the Cowboy 4, it helps to be tall. I’m about 6’ and fit comfortably on the bike, but its geometry doesn’t allow you to raise or lower the seat all that much.
While the Cowboy 4 is only a single-gear bike, I didn’t have any trouble getting around the fairly flat lower half of Central Park. The bike’s pedal assist, which is applied based on your speed and torque, kicked in fast, and its motor was quiet, too.
The overall ride felt smooth, but the bike lacks suspension of any kind, so you’ll feel bumps and potholes more than you would on a bike with that feature.
While I didn’t get a chance to test out all the features of the app, it was nice to be able to look down and see where I was going.
Cowboy 4: Outlook
Between its design and its Smart features, the Cowboy 4 aims for a different market than sub-2,000 electric bikes like the RadPower Rad City 5, our current top pick among the best electric bikes. Aesthetically, its biggest competitor would seem to be the Van Moof S3, which costs about 700 less, and has a few of the same Smart features, including a Find My Bike and activity tracking. The S3 also has a few things the Cowboy 4 lacks — namely, an automatic transmission and throttle.
However, the Cowboy 4 has a removable battery, and it can recharge your phone on the go, too. And, the convenience of using your phone as a digital dashboard for your bike is something that I anticipate will become a more standard feature in future electric bikes.
Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and Smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom’s Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.
Cowboy 4 Review
I’m PCMag’s expert on fitness and Smart home technology, and I’ve written more than 6,000 articles and reviews in the 10-plus years I’ve been here. I unbox, set up, test, and review a wide range of consumer tech products from my home in Florida, often with the help of my pitbull Bradley. I’m also a yoga instructor, and have been actively teaching group and private classes for nearly a decade.
The Bottom Line
The Cowboy 4 is a fun, easy-to-use commuter ebike with one pedal-assistance level, a built-in wireless phone charger, and a useful companion app that tracks your stats and helps you locate your ride.
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- Quick, easy assembly
- Smooth ride
- Streamlined design
- Integrated phone mount with wireless charging
- Removable battery
- Excellent companion app tracks the bike’s location and your rides
- Crash detection
- In-app leaderboards
- Only one pedal-assist level
- Can be noisy
- Quad Lock phone case, kickstand, and storage racks are all separate purchases
- Must remove battery to charge, and app doesn’t show battery level when charging
- No onboard alarms or wheel locking
- Not meant for off-roading
- Minimum rider height of 5’3”
The Cowboy 4 (2,990) lured me with its aesthetics and smarts. This sleek, pedal-assist commuter ebike has a single-speed motor that propels it at a maximum assisted speed of 20mph and a removable battery that delivers up to 43.5 miles of range per charge. Adding to its appeal is a built-in Quad Lock phone dock that makes it easy to follow directions, monitor your speed and other metrics, and—here’s the kicker—wirelessly charge your phone as you ride. Aside from the VanMoof X3 (2,448), it’s the smartest and most stylish ebike I’ve tested. With a more powerful motor, four assistance levels, a Turbo button, longer range, more anti-theft features, and a lower price, the VanMoof X3 remains our top recommendation, but the Cowboy 4 stands out as a strong alternative for its wireless phone charging and excellent companion app.
Cowboy 4 vs. VanMoof X3
Cowboy, which is based in Europe and recently launched in the US, sells two versions of this ebike: the 4 and 4 ST. Both models cost 2,990 and are available in black, kahki, or sand color options with an attractive matte finish. The Cowboy 4 features a traditional step-over frame and is meant for riders between 5’6” and 6’4” tall. The Cowboy 4 ST has a step-through frame (hence the ST at the end) and is meant for riders between 5’3” and 6’2” tall.
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The only difference between the 4 and the 4 ST is their frame design. Other than that, they have the same specs and features. I’m 5’6” so I could have gone with either, but the company sent me the sand-colored ST for this review, along with a kickstand (29 on its own or 99 with a rear rack) and a Quad Lock phone case (29). The company gives you the option to add these accessories to your order (along with a 113 lock, though you can find one for much cheaper elsewhere), and I suggest you at least get the phone case.
The Cowboy 4 is constructed of aluminum 6061 and weighs around 42 pounds. It features a carbon belt drive instead of a traditional chain, integrated front and rear lights for visibility in low light, and a comfortable Selle Royal saddle. Ergonomic grips on the handlebar make for happy hands and wrists, while levers on the left and right let you easily trigger the front and rear custom hydraulic disc brakes to bring the bike to a complete stop.
It rolls on slick, puncture-resistant tires that measure 27.5 inches in diameter and 1.85 inches wide. The tires have a flexible grip on the outside and minimal tread, making this bike best suited for city riding. It’s fine on gravel, but if you’re looking for a fun off-roader you can take to the beach or dirt trails, check out the 1,999 Aventon Aventure, which features 26-by-4-inch fat tires.
The Cowboy 4 offers pedal assistance via a custom-designed motor integrated into the rear wheel that delivers 45Nm of torque and 250W of power. You have just two options for pedal assistance: on or off. With assistance on, the bike offers a maximum assisted speed of 20 miles per hour. Its 360Wh, 5-pound battery, which snaps into the frame beneath the seat and can be easily removed with an included physical key, offers up to 43.5 miles of range on a charge. The battery charges from dead to 100% in about 3 hours and 20 minutes. Eight tiny LEDs in the cockpit indicate the remaining battery level.
For comparison, the VanMoof X3 features a more powerful 59Nm/350W front-wheel hub motor, four motor power levels, and a Turbo Boost button on the handlebar that maxes out the motor torque when you hold it down. The X3’s 504Wh battery offers up to 93 miles of range on a charge, depending on the power level and your use of the Turbo Boost button.
As for smarts, the Cowboy 4 has Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for connectivity with the Cowboy app for Android and iOS, a necessary companion that lets you lock the bike and control various features including the lights, pedal assistance, and wireless phone charger. The app also shows the bike’s battery level, predicted range, and location. Sensors in the bike frame can detect a crash and alert your emergency contacts via the app, too.
Eight tiny LED lights in the cockpit indicate the remaining battery level (Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)
In the middle of the handlebar is a built-in Quad Lock smartphone mount. While you’re riding, you can dock your phone (so long as you have a Quad Lock phone case) and pull up the Cowboy app to conveniently monitor your real-time speed, distance, duration, remaining battery percentage, and estimated range. It also offers a good viewing angle for following directions on your phone.
The bike supports wireless phone charging, a feature not available on the VanMoof X3, via a 36V charger integrated in the cockpit. If your phone supports wireless charging, it will automatically juice up when you dock it here (though you can always disable this feature via the app if you prefer). In testing, the bike wirelessly charged my iPhone 12 Pro Max without issue.
For added security, the Cowboy 4 has built-in GPS, so you can see and track its real-time location in the app. This feature came in handy when I locked up the bike at the beach and walked 1.5 miles along the shore to find a quiet strip of sand away from the crowds. Periodic checks in the app assured me that the bike was still in the same spot, and allowed me to enjoy my beach day with minimal anxiety about someone cutting the lock.
The VanMoof X3 offers more sophisticated anti-theft features, including a physical Kick Lock that lets you quickly immobilize the rear wheel and activate onboard alarms. That won’t stop a motivated bike bandit, but it makes the VanMoof bike a bit harder to steal than the Cowboy. Either way, if you’re going to spend the money for a premium electric bike, it’s wise to spring for a high-quality lock.
The Cowboy 4 doesn’t feature onboard alarms, and locking the bike doesn’t immobilize the wheels. That might be a plus for you: The absence of this technology means less can go wrong with your bike. There have been times when I’ve struggled to unlock the VanMoof X3, which isn’t rideable when locked because the rear wheel is immobilized. Locking the Cowboy 4 simply turns off the electronics, including the lights, pedal assistance, and phone charger. In other words, when you lock it, the Cowboy 4 still functions as a non-electric bike, so anyone can ride away with it.
Cowboy offers theft alerts (Opens in a new window) as part of its optional insurance package, which isn’t available in the US at the time of this writing. With this service, the app sends you a notification if someone messes with your bike after you lock it.
The company also hopes to launch its on-demand maintenance service, Cowboy Care, in the US soon. This service is already available in 22 cities globally for around 20 per month, but Cowboy is working to establish US partners and pricing.
Assembling and Charging the Cowboy 4
The Cowboy 4 arrives in one large box, almost fully assembled. To complete the assembly, you simply adjust and tighten the handlebar and brake levers, attach the pedals, secure the saddle at your preferred height, and attach the bell. All of the tools you need to complete the job—3mm, 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm Allen keys—are in the box.
The package also comes with four spoke reflectors, a rear reflector, and front and rear accessory lights (along with a USB cable for recharging them), all of which make you more visible to others and may be required depending on your state and local laws. Because the bike already has a built-in red taillight (which flashes when you brake) and a bright white headlight, I omitted the extras. You can easily toggle those lights via the app,
Even a newbie can likely assemble this bike without assistance. Thinking the process would be more difficult, I enlisted the help of a handy friend, who completed the job in less than an hour. The VanMoof X3, by comparison, is trickier to assemble because it requires you to attach the front wheel and connect the motor cable.
To adjust the Cowboy 4’s saddle height, you must remove the battery using one of the two physical battery keys that are in the box. I’m 5’6” and surprisingly had to set the ST’s seat position as far down as it will go. Though Cowboy says the ST is fine for riders at least 5’3” tall, it might be too big if you’re on the low end of the recommended height range.
While you have the battery off the bike, you can use the included charger to juice it up via a standard electrical outlet. One small gripe is that you cannot charge the Cowboy 4’s battery while it’s on the bike; you must remove it to access the charging port. over, the Cowboy app doesn’t show the real-time battery percentage level while the battery is charging. You have to watch the LED on the charger itself, which changes from red to green when the battery is fully juiced.
The VanMoof X3, by comparison, doesn’t have a removable battery (though the company offers a detachable PowerBank that offers 62 miles of extra range). You plug the power cord into a port on the X3’s frame and can monitor its charge level in real time via the bike’s integrated matrix display or the companion app.
The Cowboy App
In testing, I had no problem pairing the bike with its companion app, and it always automatically connects when I bring my phone within Bluetooth range.
After downloading the app on your phone and accepting the Bluetooth connection request, it walks you through the steps of creating an account and pairing your bike to it. You’ll need to scan a QR code from the bike’s frame or in the rider manual, and give the app permission to use your location so it can track your rides. You may also need to download firmware updates. Finally, it asks you to name your bike and optionally enable several features, including notifications, crash detection, auto-unlock, and community leaderboards.
As its name suggests, auto-unlock will automatically unlock the bike when you approach it. Just note that you must have Bluetooth active on your phone and the Cowboy app running in the background for this feature to work. You can also configure the app to notify an emergency contact if the bike detects that you took a tumble. The Apple Watch Series 7 offers a similar feature that saved the life of one ebike cyclist (Opens in a new window).
During the Cowboy 4 setup process, you can add a publicly visible profile photo and display name for the community leaderboards, as well as select location-based interest groups, such as #Amsterdam, #London, and #Paris. Unsurprisingly, there was no option for #Largo, the Florida city where I live.
The Cowboy app is intuitive and easy to use. With a few taps, you can lock and unlock the bike as well as toggle the lights, pedal assistance, and phone charger features. As mentioned, when you dock your phone to the Quad Lock mount, the app serves as your ride dashboard and lets you monitor your bike and trip stats at a glance.
You can also get directions inside the Cowboy app, but I prefer to use Google Maps because I find it offers more cycling route options. For instance, when I search for a park near my house, the Cowboy app gives me only one route option that takes me along a busy road without a bike lane. Google Maps offers an alternate and safer route (albeit a windier one) through a quiet neighborhood. Incidentally, as ebikes explode in popularity (Opens in a new window). Apple Maps still has a lot of catching up to do on this front; its cycling directions are still limited to a small number (Opens in a new window) of cities and states, and unavailable in Florida.
When you search for directions in the Cowboy app, it offers battery drain estimates for both your arrival and return, a nice feature that gives you a good idea of whether you have enough power to get there and back with pedal assistance. It even shows a color-coded map of the air quality along your route. You can also save any location in the app for one-tap directions to access in the future.
The Metrics tab displays your riding stats, including your trip count, average speed, duration, calories burned, and CO2 saved over the last week, month, and year, and for all time. You can also tap into any of your tracked rides to see a map of your route and your stats for that session. The tab also lets you see where you stack up on Cowboy’s rider leaderboards over the last week, month, and for all time.
The Settings tab lets you toggle various bike features (auto-unlock, auto-lock, and crash detection), set the LED brightness, and change your bike’s nickname. If you set an auto-lock timer, the bike automatically locks after a specified period of inactivity (2, 5, 10, or 30 minutes). If your bike goes missing, tap into the Help tab and Find My Bike; the app then displays its real-time whereabouts and location history.
My Experience With the Cowboy 4
In the two months I’ve been testing the Cowboy 4, I’ve taken 14 rides totaling 75.8 miles, predominantly on asphalt.
The Cowboy 4 offers a smooth ride with what feels like a consistently moderate level of pedal assistance. Considering it’s not adjustable, I’m happy the pedal assistance isn’t more powerful (for reference, I typically ride the VanMoof X3 on assistance level 2 out of 4).
I’ll admit that, at first, I was a bit bummed it offers only one power level, but Cowboy CEO Adrien Roose tells me that was an intentional decision driven by the goal of making the riding experience as seamless and user-friendly as possible. The assistance level automatically adjusts as you start to pedal, accelerate, and climb hills.
Essentially, we know how fast you’re going, how hard you’re pushing the pedal, and how much assistance you need, Roose says.
You can feel Cowboy’s motor helping you pedal, but it never feels jerky or abrupt, an issue I experienced when accelerating on the Aventon Aventure. And while the VanMoof X3’s automatic gear shifter occasionally catches me by surprise, causing my foot to slip off the pedal, that’s not an issue on the single-speed Cowboy 4.
My testing has verified Cowboy’s range claim of 43.5 miles on a charge. A 10-mile ride with assistance enabled typically drains about 24% to 28% battery. That’s true whether I’m using the bike to charge my phone while riding or not.
I was expecting the wireless phone charging feature to have a significant impact on bike battery drain, but I haven’t found that to be the case. I thought this feature was a bit gimmicky until I wanted to go for a ride after work with a nearly dead phone. With a limited amount of daylight left, I was grateful I didn’t have to wait around for my phone to charge before heading out.
My first few rides on the Cowboy 4 were noisy. On its maiden voyage, I rode 10 miles and the bike emitted a loud, high-pitched, almost chirping or screeching sound the entire time. Needless to say, the sound was driving me crazy and caused me embarrassment whenever I passed anyone.
The next time I rode it, I heard the same noise, but it got louder the faster I went. I’m not sure what caused this problem, but the noise seemed to be coming from the front wheel. I don’t think it was a problem with the motor, which is located in the rear wheel hub.
Regardless, the noise thankfully went away on its own. I’ve taken the bike on numerous quiet rides since then. I occasionally hear the chirping sound when riding on uneven asphalt, but only for a second.
The crash detection feature works almost too well. Before I installed a kickstand (which, again, you need to purchase separately), I gently set the bike on the ground, and that action triggered the crash detection feature. Fortunately, I was able to stop it before it called my emergency contact. After that happened, I disabled crash detection.
The app offers lots of interesting riding stats, including my average speed (12mph), longest ride (10.3 miles), fastest 5 miles (19:50), and fastest 10 miles (47:31). This data can motivate you to ride faster and farther to beat your records; I recently upped my highest recorded speed from 20mph to 21.1mph.
Hitting 20mph on this bike still requires significant leg power. When riding at this speed, my legs burn and I can’t maintain it for any significant duration of time.
If someone says you can’t get a good workout on an ebike, they’re wrong. Cycling purists might say they’re inefficient for fitness, but my view is that the best form of exercise is the type you enjoy. With pedal assistance, you might have a more enjoyable riding experience than you would on a traditional bike, motivating you to keep going for a longer duration and more often. Even ebikes with both pedal assistance and a pedal-free throttle that propels you with the push of a lever, such as the Aventon Aventure, can give you a great workout (especially when you take them off-road).
The Cowboy 4 delivers the premium experience you should expect for its price. This Smart commuter ebike is seamless to assemble and use, rides smoother than competitors with zero jerkiness, and offers more than 40 miles of pedal assistance on a charge. With a Quad Lock case, you can even charge your phone wirelessly while the Cowboy app monitors your speed and battery level in real time. The app automatically tracks all your riding stats, can help you locate the bike if it goes missing, and calls for help if you take a spill. At 2,990, it’s not quite as strong a value as the 2,448 VanMoof X3, which offers four pedal-assist levels instead of one, a Turbo Boost button, longer range, and a built-in storage rack. But the Cowboy 4 is worth considering if you’re interested in its ease of use and Smart features.
Given the high demand for assistance and repairs on their bikes, Cowboy sent me to replace the defective parts on his own, sending the parts to my home. Both pieces received are wrong. A waste of time!
Date of experience : June 12, 2023
Hello Lorenzo, Thank you for your review. We noticed that you’ve been in touch with our customer service team, who sent you spare parts and a tutorial to help you fix your bike. We’re sorry to hear that you received the wrong spare parts.
Our customer service team is aware of the issue and will contact you soon to sort it out. We appreciate your patience and cooperation during this process. If you have any more questions or need further assistance, please feel free to reach out.
Great product and customer experience.
Great physical product that works better than expected. The best part of buying Cowboy was the insanely fast, friendly and convenient customer support! So glad I went with this brand.
Date of experience : June 06, 2023
Bad service and communication
Bad service and communication. No personal contact possible to discuss the problems with the bike. After two years of using the bike without problems, the trouble begins and no one can help or offers you a normal service
Date of experience : June 11, 2023
Hello Peter, Thank you once again for your review. We’re sorry to hear that you have not had a positive experience with our service and communication. We understand that you’re facing ongoing problems with your bike and feel that the issue hasn’t been properly addressed. Rest assured, our customer service team is dedicated to resolving these issues promptly and providing the necessary support. Thank you for your understanding and patience.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to assist you in any way we can.
I ordered screws allen keys (saddle)…
I ordered screws allen keys (saddle) to perform testrides for the company.Waiting for weeks now for the screws.Disappointed, Wouter (Antwerp). 5y partner
Date of experience : June 12, 2023
I won’t lie, I got a lot of issues with my bike. It was a new brand at this time, and of course they got some industrial problems.
Still, the support has been awesome, answering even on Sunday, sending me pieces, helping me to mount them or to reach profesionnals.
The app is wonderful and the bike is what we should expect of a modern bike. Integrated light, GPS tracking.
Date of experience : June 06, 2023
I would Never recommend this bike to…
I would Never recommend this bike to anyone for a couple of reasons. My husband has bought one of these bike and it broke already 3 times in the last months. He bought around a year agoTheir customer service is only via email and they respond to you after 24 hours. You cannot call them. They sent a technician to repair the bike the first time but he did not repair it so then he had to come a second time. This all process took 2 months, meaning that my bf could not use the bike for this time. After that, the battery stop working. So he sends again and email. After many weeks, they send a battery.the new battery also does not work. So they send another one. weeks pass and still my bf cannot use the bike cause he is waiting for this battery to come. Finally the 2 battery comes but guess what? Not working ! So another technician checks it again and They found out that it was actually not the battery but something else…. So we are still waiting for a resolution. Everyone who is reading this : please do not buy cowboy.
Date of experience : June 15, 2023
Hello Antonella, Thank you for sharing your review. We’re sorry to hear about the numerous issues your husband has faced with his bike, and we understand the frustration it has caused. However, we’re glad to hear that the problem has been identified, and our customer service team is actively working on resolving the issues.
We see that our team is already in contact with your husband, and they are dedicated to getting him back on his bike as quickly as possible. We appreciate your patience throughout this process. If you or your husband have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Cowboy vs Vanmoof Review: Top Connected City E-bikes
This review is taking a closer look at the two already classical brands in the world of electric bicycles. Today, we are going to review the best two models of connected city bikes released this very year. The Cowboy 3 and Vanmoof S3 have improved a lot. How do they stand against each other with their new e-bike releases?
Table of Contents
Despite being identical in price and very close in some technical characteristics, the Dutch and the Belgian e-bikes are very different from each other, especially when it comes to geometry and their smartphone apps.
In fact, it is clear now that those two e-bikes are based on completely different theories, which are designed for the same purpose. The approach of the e-bikes is radically different but they have won our hearts in style and poise.
E-bike aesthetic choices, what do they mean?
Cowboy 3 and Vanmoof S3 are simply different in style. The aesthetics and geometry of the frame, location of the battery, and sensations of the handlebars, all are different. To start with, both manufacturers have used opposing approaches to create the best-connected bikes for the city.
First of all, it is noticeable in the new models that the design has hardly changed. This is probably due to the fact that it was widely praised in the past by almost all cyclists, who tried to ride them. And, you will have to take a very close look if you want to really distinguish between Cowboy 3 from Vanmoof S3/X3. The design of the two models is very similar and subtle. Of course, you can differentiate between them by the color, if not anything else that is noticeable from first sight.
Frame geometry and seating position
The geometry of both bikes has remained unchanged. Vanmoof has opted for a straighter and a more comfortable seating position along with a wider handlebar that enables the rider to tilt the shoulders and adopt a quasi-contemplative position.
In comparison, the design of Cowboy 3 is a little more sporty, assuming a leaning forward seating position of the rider. The latter gives its own sensations and you feel as if you were attacking the road throughout the journey. Cowboy 3 has shorter handlebars, making it an agile e-bike and therefore, giving more control to the rider.
How was this frame geometry achieved? Well, by cutting down the e-bike’s weight by 2 kgs and working more closely on some of the e-bike frame details.
Motor and battery placement
It was brave for both of the brands to go for different batteries and their locations. Cowboy, like last year, housed a removable battery along the vertical tube. The engine is placed nicely in the hub of the rear wheel, which helps now to lose nearly any energy from the battery.
Ideally, rear-hub motor location is not as good a solution as placing a central motor and a battery with a lower center of gravity but it gives a decent performance and constitutes a suitable choice for what Cowboy is trying to achieve.
In comparison, Vanmoof S3/X3 decided to go for a non-removable battery and the engine at the hub of the front wheel. All these choices by the manufacturers sure have an impact on e-bike riding sensations and we will take a look at those shortly.
Equipment gap is not as much as you think
Vanmoof and Cowboy share quite a few common technical characteristics and features. For example, both e-bikes do not have a gear level and have opted for an automatic transmission.
Automatic transmission and speed controls
However, the approach to making their e-bikes – the best-connected city e-bikes, is not the same. The S3/X3 models oscillate between 4 different e-bike speed options. This setting can also be fine-tuned in the smartphone app settings.
Cowboy has gone one step further by integrating a torque sensor in the e-bike, allowing the e-bike to automatically calculate the speed of the electric bicycle as well as the pedaling intensity. This then allows to measure and provide the necessary level of electric assistance.
At this point, it is possible to say that the dynamics and settings of the Belgian bike are easier to understand and configure. On Vanmoof Electrified S3/X3, the settings are more detailed, making it difficult for the rider first to understand and then to set them up correctly.
Electronics and control display
Both Cowboy 3 and Vanmoof S3/X3 do not have traditional control displays on their handlebars. Instead, they opt for two alternative solutions.
On Vanmoof S3/X3, the control display is integrated on top of the frame in the form of an LED matrix. It gives an overview of the speed, autonomy, and even electric assistance level. All you have to do is look down at the central tube, which is right in front of your eyes when you are on your e-bike.
You won’t find anything like that on Cowboy. On the frame, you can only see the modules with 4 LEDs. And those LEDs only display the level of autonomy. To access other information about your e-bike (speed, travel distance, etc.), you will have to use the smartphone app, which needs to be connected to your e-bike.
Security and accessories
Vanmoof S3/X3 comes with the Quad lock solution, which is one of the greatest factors that helps Vanmoof compete with its rivals. Vanmoof also comes with the necessary e-bike accessories such as a kickstand and mudguards.
As for Cowboy, you will have to spend a bit more to buy those accessories yourself, as the e-bike is sold without accessories. However, you can find a kickstand and mudguards easily, just a price below 100 euros.
Brakes and chain
The gap is more significant between the two e-bikes when we discuss the brakes. Vanmoof Electrified S2 opted for mechanical disc brakes last year but now. With the S3/X3 version, the choice is with hydraulic disc brakes, just like Cowboy 3. However, they are still not as effective as Cowboy’s brakes.
The last notable difference is the chain. While Vanmoof S3/X3 still uses a classic chain, Cowboy 3 opted for a belt. A belt has two advantages over a chain. Firstly, your fingers do not get dirty and secondly, you won’t have to worry about maintenance as much.
Overall, Cowboy 3 has made not as much progress in its equipment as the previous version. This has enabled Vanmoof S3/X3 to catch up with its upgraded transmission and now-hydraulic brake system.
On the road: very different riding sensations
This is one of the most interesting points to discuss, especially when talking about Cowboy and Vanmoof. Despite the general proximity of these two e-bike models, they offer very different riding sensations. The riding style with Cowboy and Vanmoof will not be the same.
To start with, the two e-bikes differ in delivering electric assistance to the rider. The assistance is progressive and constant with Cowboy while it is explosive with Vanmoof.
The sensations on the road, are, in fact, very contrasted if we compare Cowboy and Vanmoof e-bikes. Riding a Cowboy 3 e-bike seems more natural as the torque sensor does its job perfectly despite having lower overall torque (30 Nm against 59 Nm for the S3/X3).
In addition to the above, a very precise automatic speed setting of the Belgian e-bike give better acceleration than that on S3 (which it can only compensate by abusing the Boost button).
However, once the first pedal strokes are given to push the motor, Vanmoof S3 starts to take advantage of its advanced torque and leaves Cowboy behind.
For straight lanes or for speedy turns?
This comparison is also reflected in the posture adopted by the rider and how one would ride the two e-bikes. As the S3 model is more comfort-oriented, it gives a smoother ride, although it can reach high speeds if the rider wants it. In fact, the e-bike’s favorite playground is the wide cycle paths or the bus corridors of the main avenues.
As for the Cowboy, the sporting attack position leaves little room for doubt. On Cowboy v3 as well as on the previous model, driving is dynamic and more committed. Due to its small handlebars and the overall reduced size, these are two characteristics, which are perfect for narrower streets or for driving in heavy traffic. In general, what the Cowboy loses in top speed, it compensates with lightning accelerations when those are needed the most.
Legal speed limits for EU and USA
Finally, a major change from last year which is worth mentioning – these two connected city e-bikes previously used the same approach to bypass the legal assistance limit of 25 km/h (which is required in most EU countries). This approach involved changing the geographic area of the e-bike in the application settings and switching to North American legislation which allows electric assistance for up to 30 km/h.
In Cowboy v3, the famous “off-road” mode disappears to stick to the legal framework of EU regulations. Conversely, Vanmoof has kept this option but accompanies it with a notification that alerts the rider of the illegality of the procedure.
Read also: What are traditional e-bike and speed e-bike rules and regulations in the US, UK, Canada, Australia?
Sporty or more relaxed?
In the end, the performance differences between Cowboy 3 and Vanmoof S3/X3 are not that significant. Those differences will mainly show depending on the type of journeys one is making and the style the cyclist prefers to ride the e-bike.
Nevertheless, the question of a sporty and engaging e-bike seating position vs a more comfortable and relaxed one is the question that needs to be asked. The answer could be the major element that decides between these two contenders.
Cowboy plays well with its upgraded smartphone app
This is Cowboy’s biggest development axis this year, but Vanmoof is not keeping still either. Overall, if Vanmoof has tried to correct the technical and equipment aspects of its new bike, Cowboy insisted on the connectivity of its v3.
And what is the result? Well, the following 4 key features differentiate the upgraded Cowboy 3 app: automatic unlocking, real-time theft alert, pollution measurement, and fall detection.
To date, only the first two features have been deployed, the remaining two are to be deployed in the coming weeks.
The “auto-unlock” option allows you to ride your e-bike without your smartphone. It also enables you to launch your e-bike without your smartphone, which was not the case in Cowboy 2019. And this is great progress for Cowboy.
This was one of the main criticisms of the 2019 version when the e-bike was completely dependent on the smartphone application. It was simply impossible to start your Cowboy e-bike without going through your smartphone.
Read also: Cowboy 3 vs Vanmoof S3 review, top connected city e-bikes. And, Angell vs Cowboy vs Vanmoof, which one would you choose?
Now, the automatic unlocking option corrects this defect. It is enough to have the application open in the background for the electric bicycle to wake up when being approached by its rider. It is a pity though that the locking mechanism does not work according to the same principle. It is still necessary to actively turn off your e-bike by using a smartphone app.
Real-time theft alert
As for the real-time theft alert, you will have to use the application, no matter what. There is no workaround.
Has Vanmoof done anything with its app?
Although VanMoof has slightly improved its application, allowing you to refine some settings or customize the bell, for example, the features are not as advanced as those of Cowboy 3. All the Belgian manufacturer’s work over the past year has been to make its bike even more connected and to offer new services via the smartphone application.
At Vanmoof S3, which already had automatic unlocking, it was more necessary for the company to upgrade the mechanical part, which left less room for improving the smartphone app.
Speaking of the anti-theft feature, Vanmoof takes a different approach. The physical button on the rear of the bike allows you to lock it by blocking the wheel and activating the alarm. This will alert you by sound whenever an attempt to steal the bike is made.
In the end, it is clear that both Cowboy and Vanmoof are on the verge of mastering the connectivity of their e-bikes. All basic functions (location of the bike, route history, unlocking) are already present in the smartphone apps of both models. At the same time, for the moment, Cowboy seems to be showing a greater ambition for connectivity.
Road autonomy: impossible to decide
This is obviously a major criterion and a question that could be discussed for much longer. At this stage, it is not easy to conclude, which e-bike takes the lead, as range characteristics are quite comparable and depend on how e-bikes are used in real life.
Indeed, the number of possible miles/kilometers covered with full battery charge in Vanmoof S3 will very much depend on the frequency at which the cyclist will use the Boost button. If the Boost mode is used mainly to start and when crossing small hills, then its autonomy is very close to what Cowboy 3 offers (65 km on average). On the other hand, with intensive use of the Boost mode, the effective range of Vanmoof S3/X3 would drop to around 50 km.
Ultimately, the two e-bikes offer fairly equal performance in terms of autonomy, but it may make sense to expect a bit less range from Vanmoof for the reason we have discussed above.
On the other hand, the choices of battery integration are pretty clear. The Cowboy’s removable battery is one of its main assets in this game. The choice of a non-removable battery for the S3 proves to be the main drawback of this model of the e-bike. And can be a decisive argument for some potential buyers.
Does Cowboy win over Vanmoof this year?
Cowboy won this duel quite convincingly last year, but in 2020 it is more difficult to decide between these two great connected electric city bikes.
Even though both e-bikes are offered at the same price, these two bikes can only rely on their performance and their equipment for someone to make the final decision.
In this game, Vanmoof S3/X3 seems to have taken a step ahead with a more complete proposal, especially in terms of equipment (it is not necessary to have your smartphone on the handlebar of your e-bike to know its speed or the level of electric assistance). This option is not available in Cowboy and you have to use the smartphone app to control the e-bike.
Read also: Selection of our favorite e-bike accessories to help you find the right gear for your needs.
But is there a detail, in which Cowboy 3 still takes the lead and Vanmoof S3 is not able to compete? Well, it is its choice of a non-removable battery that will purely and simply divert some potential buyers from purchasing S3/X3.
On overall performance and road feel, the match is much more balanced and will mainly depend on individual preferences. Comfort and speed define Vanmoof S3 while acceleration and agility perfectly define Cowboy 3.
Others joining the game?
The duel could eventually become a match for three or even more over the summer. Angell, the French connected e-bike, is entering the competition and requires proper review and comparison, given its high price and great features.
When compared to Cowboy and Vanmoof, Angell connected city e-bike is priced at 2690 euros and is somewhat lighter 12.9 kg.
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