Cowboy, maker of some of our favorite pedal-assisted electric bikes, is back with two new models for 2021. The Cowboy 4 is a complete overhaul to last year’s Cowboy 3 while the Cowboy 4 ST features the company’s first step-through frame. Both bikes benefit from a new powertrain with 50 percent more torque than last year’s C3 as well as a new integrated “cockpit” with Quadlock mount that wirelessly charges your phone as you ride. But that’s just a start to the bevy of tweaks both big and small that Cowboy hopes will justify a price tag of €2,490 / £2,290 (about $3,000 USD) when the bikes ship in September.
I had a chance to ride near final 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 share the same specs, the rides couldn’t be anymore different.
“We’ve stayed true to our initial vision of providing a better alternative to the car — in form and function — and with the Cowboy 4 it’s a shift we will accelerate and lead,” said Roose in a press statement.
The fourth-generation C4 maintains the same sporty riding position and ultra-responsive steering as every Cowboy before it. But this year’s model has a redesigned 250W rear-hub motor that remains silent as it assists riders up to a max speed of 25km/h (15.5mph), even though it’s smaller and produces noticeably more torque. The bump from 30Nm to 45Nm of torque is apparent on the first downstroke, with the lightest of touches propelling the slightly heavier 18.9kg / 41.67-pound e-bike forward with enough gusto to help smooth out hills.
The C4 ST has a lower saddle and higher grips that put the rider into a more upright position. That coupled with a lower gear ratio (2.71 on the C4 ST vs. 2.85 on the C4) makes the ride feel more relaxed despite having the same motor and Gates Carbon belt drive as its brother. The C4 ST is the model you buy for long, lazy commutes with a laptop bag, or for anyone who won’t fit the C4’s taller frame.
The C4 e-bikes, like their predecessors, offer only a single power setting with no throttle and no extra gears. They rely on a torque sensor to adjust the power delivery as needed, which has traditionally resulted in one of the most intuitive pedal-assisted rides on the road.
Cowboy refers to the Quadlock mount with integrated wireless charging unit as the “cockpit.” It can charge your phone at up to 15W from the e-bike’s removable 360Wh battery, but requires a Quadlock-compatible case that must be purchased separately for about €29 / £29. Although the cockpit is bulky enough to fit another battery, the space is mostly empty I’m told, providing a wide base for the wireless coils and access to the frame to run brake cables through.
The Cowboy apps for iOS and Android have also been totally 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 some weird mix between Strava, Peloton, and Pokémon Go,” said Roose, “simply to encourage people to bike more.”
The fourth-generation Cowboy 4 also improves upon the Cowboy 3 in a number of other ways:
- The C4 is 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 features “200 custom-made parts” assembled by Flex in Hungry, including the motor and tires. The Selle Royal saddle, SunRace hydraulic brakes, and Gates drive are the notable outliers.
- The €89 Cowboy mudguards are finally standard, which partially explains the added weight and price of the new e-bikes.
- The C4 and C4 ST still don’t come with kickstands, but at least Cowboy now makes its own as a €29 / £29 add-on. It’s also making an optional rear rack priced at €99 / £99.
Cowboy doesn’t currently sell e-bikes in the US, but that will change next year, according to Roose, who’s particularly bullish after hearing President Biden’s plans to cut CO2 emissions. “Our growth, and the growth of the US e-bike market, is making a move for us quite appealing and we want to jump,” said Roose. “We’re talking the next 12 months.”
For Europeans, the €2,490 / £2,290 purchase price for a Cowboy 4 / 4 ST includes theft and crash detection, and free on-demand mobile repairs available nationwide in Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, France, Austria, Luxembourg, the UK, and in select cities in Spain and Italy. Cowboy also touts its 94.4 percent customer satisfaction rate, noting that owners get replies to support requests within six minutes, on average. A little poke at e-bike rival VanMoof, perhaps, which struggled to support buyers of its S3 and X3 e-bikes as sales ramped up during the pandemic.
The C4 and C4 ST are available in three colors: black, khaki (greenish), and sand (off-whiteish). Test rides will begin in July before the bikes start shipping in September to Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK. Preorders begin today after a €100 / £100 deposit.
The Cowboy 3 is also being reduced to €2,190 today and now comes standard with mudguards. That’s a price drop of €189 compared to the same e-bike purchased last year.
Photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge