Innovative e-bike at a bargain price: the Cowboy 3 in test
This bike is certainly not an oldie — although the current circumstances almost make it seem so: while the Cowboy 3 was introduced in 2020, this spring the successor Cowboy 4 was already presented. While the Cowboy 3 has remained in the program at a reduced price of 1,990 euros, a second — and rather drastic — price reduction has now followed: until December 10, Cowboy 3 will be sold for 1,490 euros. For comparison: the successor model C4 is now a whopping 1,000 euros more expensive at 2,490 euros!
The review of that Cowboy 3 shows the qualities of the electric singlespeed bike, but also compares it with it’ s successor, the C4.
Cowboy’s bike design has been consistent for generations — and so you have to take a closer look at the bikes to recognize the particular model generation. While the first model series were always kept completely in black, the Cowboy 3 is now also offered with a frame in light mineral — or still in matte black, as can be seen here on the review bike.
Regardless of the frame color, all other components are also kept in matte black and Cowboy seems to be very careful to ensure that no foreign logos or labels are visible there either. Only the Cowboy lettering decorates the top tube, otherwise nothing distracts from the shape of the bike.
As is typical for Cowboy, the voluminous seat tube is the most striking element, because this is where the removable battery is hidden. Integrated into it is a rear light, analogous to this is a formally identical front light is integrated into the front of the frame.
COWBOY vs VELORETTI vs VANMOOF! Which bike should I chose?!?!
The minimalist look is matched by the equally purist drive: the Cowboy bike has no gears, power is transmitted by a compact rear-wheel motor with a modern belt drive instead of a conventional bicycle chain.
Compared to the successor C4, the Cowboy 3 is only available with a diamond frame and a high top tube. The new C4, on the other hand, is additionally available as the C4 ST with a comfortable low step-in frame. Apart from the frame shape, however, the design of the bikes is essentially identical. However, the C4 looks even sleeker thanks to an integrated handlebar-stem unit with internally routed brake lines. However, the fact that this integration also has disadvantages will be discussed below.
First, the basics: The Cowboy 3 has a hub motor in the rear wheel, which is supposed to offer a torque of 30 Nm. Compared to the new C4 with a torque of 45 Nm, the motor of the Cowboy 3 is thus significantly weaker. However, it is doubtful whether these technical values will be reflected 1:1 in reality. At the very least, it’s better not to firmly assume that the new model will also feel a full 50% stronger.
The battery offers a capacity of 360 Wh, and a proven Gates model is now used as the belt drive. This is good, because the problems of the no-name belt from the predecessor model are a thing of the past. The motor is controlled via a torque sensor in the bottom bracket, which measures the pedaling force. If you pedal strongly, the motor supports just as powerfully. If, however, you pedal only weakly, the motor support is also lower. The drive system on the Cowboy is operated (almost) entirely via the smartphone, which means that there are no additional controls on the bike.
As already mentioned, the bike has front and rear light — both unfortunately not StVZO-approved. The rear light serves its purpose well and even offers a brake light function. The front light, on the other hand, is at most usable as a position light, which makes it easy to be seen by other road users. As a real headlight, with which you can also see something, it is not suitable.
The tires on the Cowboy 3 are pleasantly wide with 42 mm, which makes it possible to roll well even over worse roads. As brakes are installed hydraulic disc brakes from Tektro, the handlebar is unusually narrow with 540 mm width — this has also become almost a typical feature of Cowboy.
Now as standard on the Cowboy 3 mudguards are installed, which are very sturdy made of aluminum and tailor-made for the bike. This equipment probably also contributes to the fact that the Cowboy 3 with its (weighed) 18.4 kg is certainly not one of the absolute lightweights. At least the components are solid and designed for everyday use.
In these points, the Cowboy 3 is better than the Cowoby 4
Visually striking on the C4 is the new handlebar stem unit, which not only has the brake lines routed inside, but also has an inductive charger including holder for the smartphone integrated. Here, the Cowboy 3 can only offer a regular stem with a classic handlebar mount.
But these standard components give the Cowboy 3 a real advantage that the C4 can’t compete with: Namely, handlebar and stem can be easily exchanged for other parts. Especially in view of the fact that the Cowboy bikes are only available in one frame size, this offers some valuable options. Tall riders can fit a longer stem, while shorter riders can fit a shorter stem. You want more comfort? Then a steeper stem is an option, alternatively you can also install a suspended stem. The same applies to the handlebars: if the regular handlebar is too narrow, simply install a wider model. But even better: you install the Lightskin handlebar with integrated headlight and so have a neatly integrated, StVZO-approved front light on the bike. Options that the successor simply can not offer!
When retrofitting such parts you should always be careful not to destroy the minimalist appearance of the cowboy bike. If you pay attention opting for matte black parts with as few and discreet logos as possible, the result should be quite pleasing. One choice of recommendable parts would be the aforementioned Lightskin handlebar, which was recently tested here. In combination with it, Cannondale’s C3 Intellimount stem is a good choice: it offers a mount from SP Connect in the middle (tested here), which allows the smartphone to be attached in a similarly elegant way as on the C4 – only without the charging function. Who likes it more comfortable, should look at the parts of RedShift: this matte black stem is suspended, as well as a matching suspended seatpost.
If you’re looking for an e-bike for the city, you’re going to need a pretty good reason not to buy a Cowboy 4. One of the two best value machines on the market, we think it also has a slight edge versus its main rival when it comes to both hardware and user experience.
Designed by Belgian bikemaker Cowboy, this fourth version of the firm’s machine delivers pretty much everything you could want from a bike made for helping you navigate town. Very simple, very low maintenance, and, thanks to a wirelessly charged smartphone interface, able to point you in the right direction, it’s brilliantly clever and a blast to ride.
Very neat looking, the bike uses a combination of a quality rear-hub motor and a single-speed drive to propel its rider along. These are powered by a removable battery that should manage most commuters’ journeys several times over before needing to be recharged.
It’s available with a standard or step-through frame, both of which use almost identical components including in-built and centrally powered lights, an oil-free belt drive, and hydraulic disc brakes. Finished with mudguards, both models are fairly upright for a low-stress riding position, while wide tyres and a rigid fork continue the bikes’ generally utilitarian design.
That’s all very modern, although the Cowboy 4 deserves to gain diverse fans it’s clearly designed to appeal most to occasional cyclists, or those previously put off conventionally powered bikes. Further helping attract this non-traditional crowd, the Cowboy is controlled via a very slick smartphone app.
Best of all, for an extra £29 (about 40 / AU50), a compatible smartphone can be attached to a wireless charger, placing all the bike’s stats, along with internet-based mapping right on your handlebars, leaving most of the Cowboy 4’s rivals lost down a dead-end street.
The only downside is range; at 43.5 miles with power assistance, it’s the same as the Ampler Curt, but less than the Ribble Hybrid Al e, which can keep running for up to 60 miles and carries a similar price tag. The Cowboy smartphone app doesn’t let you customize the power options to eke out a little more distance at the expense of power, which may disappoint some riders who want to embark on longer weekend treks, but for those who want to simply climb aboard and ride the city streets, that will be less of a concern.
Price and release date
Both conventional and step-through versions of the Cowboy 4 are available to pre-order now direct from Cowboy in Europe and the US. In Europe, the bike is due to ship in September 2021 and costs £2,290 / €2,490 including delivery.
In the US, the Cowboy 4 is available for an early bird price of 450,990 until 31 October 2021, with a 100 deposit payable up front. The first bikes are due to start shipping to US customers in January 2022.
That’s certainly not cheap, but is a reasonable price for an e-bike with these specifications, and is slightly less than the similarly sleek WAU Bike.
The Cowboy 4’s design boasts a high degree of integration, along with a minimalist parts list. Largely because of the motor assistance, it’s able to get by with a single-speed drivetrain, relying on the extra electrical assistance rather than any gears helping it to deal with hills or headwinds. In turn, this keeps the whole bike both lightweight and low maintenance.
The motor allowing for this trick is hidden away in the rear hub, while its battery can easily be spotted behind the seat tube. Able to be locked in place for security while parked, it can also be removed for convenient indoor charging.
The components that make up the rest of the bike, like the brakes and tires are all unbranded and have mostly been commissioned by Cowboy. However, a real nerd could probably identify their manufacturers, and happily, it’s all quality stuff. The disc brakes are hydraulic, meaning they run on reliable fluid rather than more fiddly cables.
The broad tires can roll over most things and allow enough of a cushion that you won’t notice the absence of a suspension fork. At either end of the bike are in-built lights powered via the central battery, while the space above the stem is filled by a Quad-Lock bracket for holding your phone.
Rounded off with fenders to keep your backside dry, the Cowboy 4 is available with either a conventional or step-through frame. Both come in a single size, with the step-through being optimized for riders between 160-190 cm and the standard model serving those 170-195 cm tall. This leaves anyone in between free to pick which they prefer. Having tried both, we think the step-through is not only a great choice for those looking to use a child seat or panniers, but perhaps the most carefree feeling of the two.
Regardless of which you pick, both the bike’s mechanical and electronic features are excellent. Zipping along confidently with the motor sensing when to add power to your pedalling, they’re great for getting a head start in traffic.
However, unlike most bikes, the level of assistance can’t be customized through the smartphone app. That’s potentially annoying for those that want to do more of the work themselves, it’s also less than ideal when navigating through areas shared with pedestrians, where a less enthusiastic motor response would be better. However, 95% of the time the level of support is spot on. Certainly, it’s not the sort of bike that’s likely to leave you sweaty when you reach your destination.
The other downside of the lack of customization is that you can’t tweak the Cowboy 4’s power settings to reduce the motor output in exchange for a little extra range. The bike has a maximum range of 43.5 miles, which isn’t exceptional (the Ribble Hybrid Al e keeps rolling for up to 60 miles, and is also an excellent e-bike for city riding). That said, the absence of adjustable settings means that it’s simpler to simply climb aboard and start riding. Just be aware that this is a bike built for city streets rather than long weekend tours.
Its operation is also as close to silent as we’ve found, while the handling of the bike is nicely composed and never feels skittish. Some bike snobs might lust after a centrally mounted motor, but working in conjunction with the Cowboy 4’s single-speed drive, its hub-based system gives little away versus this more expensive alternative. Its brakes are powerful, even in the rain, while the contact points like the saddle and grips are comfy.
This leads us on to the bike’s clever digital extras, of which there are plenty. To start with, to unlock it, you simply have to have your pre-paired phone with you and hop aboard. Once activated, your phone could remain in your. however, a far better spot would be in the bike’s additional Quad Lock case. Here it will not only benefit from wireless recharging but can act as a personal digital assistant to help you find your way.
Bear in mind, however, that charging your phone will put a little extra drain on the battery. Cowboy says a complete charge takes 3.5 hours, and we found this to be accurate. We preferred to detach the pack and charge it under our desk during the working day; unlike e-bikes with a fully integrated battery like those from Ribble, you don’t need to connect the entire bicycle to a mains outlet.
Although it’s occasionally an afterthought with some brands, you can tell almost as much work has gone into Cowboy’s app as the bike. Drop a pin or search a location, and not only will it find you quick, low-traffic routes, but it will also tell you how long it’ll take you to get there, and how much of your battery you’re likely to have left on arrival.
Forget where you left your bike, or worse, have it stolen, and an inbuilt GPS tracker will help you locate it. At the same time, the app will display things like current speed and distance travelled, while also letting you log all your daily journeys. It’ll even notify a pre-chosen contact of your location in the event of a crash.
The clever stuff doesn’t stop with the bike or the app either. One of the biggest difficulties of riding in many cities is holding onto your bike. As an extra, Cowboy will also insure your bike against theft for £10 (about 15 / AU20) per month. Much cheaper than stand-alone insurance, taking up this offer is likely to mean your bike gets even more use while cutting out one major stress of inner-city cycling. Currently, Cowboy also offers a mobile repair service, although unlike many brands it doesn’t yet have dedicated service centres.
E-motor and driving fun
Cowboy installs a 250 W electric motor in the rear wheel of the Cowboy C4. This offers 45 Nm and is controlled via an extremely precise torque sensor in the bottom bracket. You don’t have to worry about shifting gears on the C4 because as a single-speed, there’s no gearshift. The gear ratio is designed for higher speeds, accordingly, the cadence is also convincing at 25 km/h.
- Good gear ratio for higher speeds (2.86: 60/21).
- Very precise torque sensor.
- High ride comfort thanks to high tires.
With the C4, Cowboy addresses a sporty target group that mainly lives in the city. Accordingly, the seating position is forward-facing and sporty. As an alternative, they recently introduced the cruiser model with a Hollandrad’esquer seating position. Although the C4 is designed as a sporty e-single-speed, Cowboy uses very thick tires and thus stands out from the Sushi Maki, which I also tested.
For the city, I find this quite clever, because with my private bike, a non-electric singlespeed with road bike tires, I’m always worried about my tires. In the city, you always have to ride through broken glass or jump off a curb. At the same time, there are uncomfortable surfaces such as cobblestones, which are cushioned a little by the thick tires. As with the VanMoof S4 (for review), this compensates for the lack of springs or shock absorbers.
Due to the thick tires, however, I felt the ride a little too ponderous for an agile city bike. Despite the high weight, you get off the mark quickly, but between cars at traffic lights (complaints please below in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев, thx!) or on winding roads, the bike felt a little sluggish. Here I would have preferred thinner tires for a sportier feel.
What really works wonderfully on the Cowboy, however, is the torque sensor. After various e-bike tests in recent months, I have not used an e-bike that responded more elegantly to my pedaling strength. If you want to stay on one speed with the C4, this is quite possible with slow pedaling. Here, you usually have to re-brake with the competition. The opposite also works: If you pedal hard at the traffic lights, the C4 gets the maximum power out of the engine.
This results in very good control that does not necessarily require additional support levels via app or button press. Still, I’ve included it as a point of criticism once, as some of you would surely miss it. At least the Cowboy Bike has an Eco mode to save power. You can stretch the maximum range a bit with this.
Last but not least, I would like to mention a point that I found very negative on the Jeep FR 6020 (for review), the Rover FFR 701, and the Angell M Cruiser: the cadence at maximum speed. This is very good on the Cowboy Bike C4 thanks to a gear ratio of 2.86. Continuous driving at 25 km/h is possible without any problems and I even found 35 km/h pleasant, apart from the effort due to the high weight.
Range Smart functions
Cowboy states the range of the C4 as 40 to 80 km. My impression after three days of testing is that this is a realistic value. It is particularly pleasing that you can remove the battery of the e-bike and charge it indoors. Thanks to the Connect app, the tested model was also a great help when getting around town.
- Very good range for the city.
- Good handling of the battery.
- Offers the best navigation integration of all e-bikes.
- Theft protection without immobilizer.
- Repair and theft protection only by subscription.
Cowboy only provided me with the C4 for three days. Accordingly, I could not collect too detailed data on the range of the e-bike. However, since this depends on the weight of the rider, the heat, inclines, and riding behavior anyway, I can only say one thing: I consider the manufacturer’s specifications of 40 to 80 km to be realistic. In the city, that is easy enough to get by for two or three days without recharging. For weekend tours, you should possibly take a charging break. A full charge takes 3h 20m.
It’s very convenient that you don’t have to carry the whole bike into your apartment. Instead, you simply remove the battery, which is secured with a key, from behind the seat post and take it with you into your home. The concept works and Cowboy has even thought of a rubber to protect the bike’s paint when inserting it.
But what’s particularly practical about the Cowboy Bike C4, in my opinion, is the clever handling of the range. The Cowboy Connect app not only shows you the current range but if you enter a destination in the integrated Google Maps, the remaining range is also displayed upon arrival. This means you’ll know immediately whether you’ll be able to return without recharging at all. Cowboy also sends you notifications in this regard or recommends that you recharge the bike before your usual rides.
In any case, Cowboy works a lot with usage data to offer you the smoothest UX possible. For example, if you ride your bike through the city, the manufacturer informs you when you are riding in areas with a high theft or accident rate. If you lie down on the proverbial beard, the bike can also send a message to an emergency contact all by itself.
All of this happens, along with a repair service, in the very good Connect app, which is available for iOS and Android. The control center for your e-bike also includes some community functions that allow you to network with other Cowboy users. There is also an online store for purchasing accessories.
All of this worked together wonderfully in the test. However, Cowboy wants to see quite high for it. For the full range of functions, you’ll have to budget 3,490 from August 1st. In addition, there are subscription costs of €30 per month. €20 for the Cowboy Care maintenance service and €10 for the theft protection. If you buy the bike and use it for three years, the price rises by €1,080 to an impressive €4,370—and that’s not even counting the electricity costs.
Ah, and you’ll have to buy a lock, too, in any case. Because unlike VanMoof, there’s no steel bolt that locks the bike rudimentarily. Even though the bike and its anti-theft device can be tracked, it is not secured against being moved or pushed away when parked.
Next to the Sushi Maki, the Cowboy C4 is one of my favorite e-bikes that I have been able to test so far. This is due to the sleak design, the high build quality and the sporty riding experience. At the same time, charging is much more convenient than with VanMoof thanks to the removable battery and the app is even tidier. So Cowboy’s e-bikes could well fill the gap left after VanMoof’s impending insolvency.
But I paid nothing for my test drive except for a few cents in electricity costs. And therein lies the crux of the cowboy bike. With the price increase in August, the fully-equipped C4 costs a whopping 3,490. The cost of the base version drops to 29490 and that’s already a bit reminiscent of the strategy VanMoof drove with the S5 and S4. With Cowboy, however, subscription costs of €30 per month are added after the purchase if you want to use all the features.
Even though the e-bike was really convincing during the test period, it is really expensive. The C4 thus has a certain status symbol character, which could be quite attractive for some customers. Compared to other e-bikes, however, Cowboy falls behind in terms of price-performance ratio. A lifestyle bike that you have to fall in love with. But since Cowboy puts in the necessary effort on the drawing board, that’s not even hard to do.
The only real drawbacks are therefore the lack of availability of different frame sizes, the inability to adjust the handlebar height, and the pedals that offer too little grip. Nevertheless, the e-bike only makes it to 4 stars despite its qualities due to the very high costs.
So what’s new
Alongside its standard horizontal top-tube, sling-yer-leg-over style frame is a new step-through option.
Old-fashioned cantankerous men with beards would refer to these as “women’s bikes.” Really they’re the best option if you carry luggage on the bike, as it makes getting on and off easier when you have rear mounted panniers.
The latest rumblings from the EU tech scene, a story from our wise ol’ founder Boris, and some questionable AI art. It’s free, every week, in your inbox. Sign up now!
Being able to step through the frame, rather than throwing your leg over the saddle will always be the easiest method of mounting and dismounting a bike.
Cowboy AdaptivePower | Earth is Flat
What’s more, the step through frame, the C4ST, fits riders between 160 and 190 cm tall. The standard frame C4 fits riders between 170 and 195 cm tall.
While the new frame now makes the Cowboy an option for shorter riders, it also provides a more comfortable upright riding position. A great option for those that don’t want the aggressive sportiness of Cowboy’s last model or the C4.
Despite the different frame styles, both ebikes share the exact same hardware. We can assume that the riding experience of each bike will be largely the same as a result.
According to Cowboy, the drivetrain has received a nice little bump in power too. Each bike now features 50% more torque than the previous model.
The improvements in power don’t come at the expense of range. The C4 and C4ST are both rated for 70 km of travel on one charge.
Another significant addition is the integrated handlebar setup. The previous Cowboy model had a separate handlebar, stem, and phone mount, which was fine, but not as classy as competitors’ options.
Now, the C4 models feature a neat and tidy, fully integrated setup. Cables are routed internally, and there are no unsightly bolts, it makes the whole thing look more premium than before.
Back when my colleague Callum “bike boy” Booth reviewed the 2nd generation Cowboy a couple of years ago, he loved it. But he did mention a few things that could be done to improve the Cowboy.
Specifically, he criticized the bike’s lack of accessories. The lack of mudguards left him with a “wet ass,” and no rack means that carrying luggage was a challenge. While the 3rd gen model had mudguards, they were an optional extra for 90.
Thankfully, the new Cowboy models can be specified with a kickstand or a rack at the point of purchase.
Better than that, Cowboy is fitting its bikes with mudguards as standard. Praise the lord! No more wet asses!
It keeps the good stuff
I’m really pleased to see that Cowboy is keeping pretty much all the features that made it such an excellent ebike to begin with, and only adding subtle improvements.
It still has the removable battery, integrated lights, and the Gates carbon belt drive to keep things clean.
Based on what we know now, it looks like Cowboy has really though about what it needed to add and improve on its bikes to make them better.
Indeed, with the improvements Cowboy has made, it seems like the C4 and C4ST might be close to being the perfect ebike. But will it be enough to topple the likes of VanMoof in the Smart ebike sector?
We’ll have to test one to find out for ourselves if that’s the case. Watch this space for a full review!
The C4 and C4 ST are both priced at £2,290 (€2,490) that’s including the mudguards. There’s a choice of three colors, black, sand, and khaki.
Deliveries are going to begin in September.
Do EVs excite your electrons? Do ebikes get your wheels spinning? Do self-driving cars get you all charged up?
Then you need the weekly SHIFT newsletter in your life. Click here to sign up .