Cowboy, maker of some of our favorite pedal assist electric bikes, is back with two new models for 2021. The Cowboy 4 is a complete overhaul of last year’s Cowboy 3, while the Cowboy 4 ST features the company’s first entry-level frame. Both engines benefit from a new powertrain with 50 percent more torque than last year’s C3, and from a new integrated “cockpit” with Quadlock mount that wirelessly charges your phone while you drive. But that’s just the start of the many minor and major tweaks that Cowboy hopes will justify a € 2,490 / £ 2,290 (about $ 3,000 USD) price tag when the bikes start shipping in September.
I had the chance to ride almost the latest pre-production versions of the Cowboy 4 and Cowboy 4 ST alongside Adrien Roose, co-founder and CEO of Brussels-based Cowboy. While the two bikes have the same specs, the rides couldn’t be more different.
“We have stayed true to our original vision of providing a better alternative to the car – in form and function – and with the Cowboy 4 it is a shift that we will accelerate and lead,” Roose said in a statement.
The fourth-generation C4 maintains the same sporty riding position and ultra-responsive handling as any Cowboy before it. But this year’s model has a redesigned 250W rear hub motor that stays quiet while assisting riders up to a maximum speed of 25 km / h (15.5 mph), even though it’s smaller and produces noticeably more torque. The bump from 30Nm to 45Nm of torque is evident on the first downstroke, with the lightest touches propelling the slightly heavier 18.9kg / 41.67lb e-bike forward with enough gusto to smooth out hills.
The C4 ST has a lower saddle and higher grips that allow the rider to stand more upright. That coupled with a lower gear ratio (2.71 on the C4 ST versus 2.85 on the C4) makes the ride feel more relaxed, despite having the same engine and Gates Carbon belt drive as its brother. The C4 ST is the model you buy for long, lazy trips with a laptop bag, or anyone who doesn’t fit the C4’s higher frame.
The C4 e-bikes, like their predecessors, offer only one power setting without throttle and without additional gears. They rely on a torque sensor to adjust power delivery as needed, traditionally resulting in one of the most intuitive pedal-assisted rides on the road.
Cowboy calls the Quadlock holder with integrated wireless charger the ‘cockpit’. It can charge your phone up to 15W via the e-bike’s removable 360Wh battery, but requires a Quadlock compatible cover to be purchased separately for around € 29 / £ 29. Although the cockpit is large enough to hold Fitting another battery in, most of the space, I’m told, provides a wide base for the wireless coils and frame access to run brake cables.
The new Cowboy app.
The Cowboy apps for iOS and Android have also been completely redesigned with an emphasis on health and fitness in addition to navigation, with many new features rooted in game design theory. “What we’re trying to achieve is a weird mix between Strava, Peloton and Pokémon Go, ”Said Roose,“ just to encourage people to cycle more. “
The fourth generation Cowboy 4 improves on the Cowboy 3 in a number of other ways as well:
- The C4 has been redesigned down to the component level, making one of the best looking e-bikes look even more cohesive and sleek. Cowboy says the C4 now includes ‘200 custom parts’ assembled by Flex in Hungry, including the engine, tires and hydraulic brakes. The Selle Royal saddle and Gates drivetrain are the standout highlights.
- The € 89 Cowboy fenders are finally standard, which partly explains the extra weight and price of the new e-bikes.
- The C4 and C4 ST still don’t come with stands, but at least Cowboy is now making its own as a € 29 / £ 29 add-on. It also makes an optional rear rack for € 99 / £ 99.
Cowboy doesn’t currently sell e-bikes in the US, but that will change next year, said Roose, who is particularly optimistic after hearing President Biden’s plans to cut carbon emissions. “Our growth, and the growth of the US e-bike market, makes a move very attractive for us and we want to jump,” said Roose. “We’re talking about the next 12 months.”
For Europeans, the purchase price of € 2,490 / £ 2,290 for a Cowboy 4/4 ST includes free on-demand mobile repairs available nationwide in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Austria, Luxembourg, the UK and in selected cities in Spain and Italy. Cowboy also touts customer satisfaction of 94.4 percent, noting that on average, owners get replies to support requests within six minutes. A small poke at e-bike rival VanMoof, perhaps, who struggled to support buyers of its S3 and X3 e-bikes as sales increased during the pandemic.
The C4 and C4 ST are available in three colors: black, khaki (greenish) and sand (off-white). Test rides begin in July before the bikes are shipped to Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK in September. Preorders start today after a deposit of € 100 / £ 100.
The Cowboy 3 is also being reduced to € 2,190 today and now comes standard with fenders. That is a price decrease of € 189 compared to the same e-bike that was purchased last year.
Photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge