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E-bike maker Cowboy finally moseys its way to the US from Europe

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The Belgium-based company is finally bringing its elegant, impressive e-bikes to the US

Photo by Andrew Hawkins / The Verge

Belgium’s finest electric bike maker, Cowboy, is crossing the pond and expanding its operations to the US. Cowboy will only have one model available to American customers: its fourth-generation e-bike, aptly named the C4. The C4 comes in a high-step or step-through frame and is available for pre-order for the early bird price of $1,990.

This is a very big deal for Cowboy, which has quickly grown into one of the more interesting and impressive e-bike companies in Europe since its launch in 2017. Cowboy has raised $42 million in venture capital funding and sold over 25,000 bikes across 11 different European markets. And now they’re saddling up and heading to the US.

“I’ve never done business in the US,” Cowboy co-founder and CEO Adrien Roose told me when we met up in Central Park in New York City earlier this week. “So it’s quite exciting for me personally.”

Photo by Andrew Hawkins / The Verge

Roose credits the rise of electric scooter- and bike-sharing services like Bird and Lime, in addition to the Covid pandemic and the effect on travel habits, with the growing popularity of e-bikes and electric-powered mobility. He also cited the recent news that Congress may approve tax breaks for e-bike purchases as a factor in the growing level of excitement among e-bike companies for the US market.

“We’ve seen strong signs that the US has reached some form of inflection points,” he said. “We really feel that the time is now.”

The Verge has been tracking Cowboy’s progress for a number of years. We called the Cowboy 2 “the best looking pedal-assisted electric bike with a removable battery” and the Cowboy 3 a more “mature” e-bike that was focused on “on safety rather than fun.”

The C4 is a complete overhaul of the previous generations, with 50 percent more torque and a new integrated “cockpit” with Quadlock mount that wirelessly charges your phone as you ride. I got a chance to ride the high-step C4 around Central Park this week and found the pedal-assist to be nearly instantaneous and incredibly intuitive. Hill climbing was a breeze, and the elegant, simplified design was extremely easy on the eyes.

The C4 reminded me a great deal of the S3 by VanMoof, Europe’s other maker of beautiful e-bikes. VanMoof has been selling e-bikes in the US for a number of years, and it’s likely that Cowboy will be competing with many of the same customers.

VanMoof is definitely larger and sells more e-bikes than Cowboy. But the Dutch company isn’t without its missteps. Last year VanMoof was hit with hundreds of customer complaints about bikes that were scuffed or damaged upon delivery. Others complained about wobbly wheels, faulty brakes, or a wide range of cryptic error codes that flash on their disabled bike’s display. The Dutch company said it would direct some of the money it has raised in venture capital toward addressing these issues of delivery and quality control.

By comparison, Roose was quick to tout Cowboy’s high customer satisfaction ratings and also the company’s unique approach to software. “In terms of comparing value proposition with Cowboy, there’s really only VanMoof,” he said. “And because we believe that we already have an edge in terms of software, we see ourselves a bit creating our own category with connected e-bikes.”

Cowboy’s customers can connect with one another on the company’s app for shared rides, where they can also compare stats related to health and fitness. It’s not something you see from a lot of e-bike companies, most of which are focused on battery power, motor performance, and other metrics.

Roose said the hope is that Cowboy can help change the conversation around e-bikes, with many cycling purists dismissing battery-powered biking as cheating. He noted that there have been several studies refuting this notion that e-bikes don’t provide any health benefits.

“When you ride on an e-bike, you get to charge your vascular system that’s high enough to make an impact,” he said. “And people who have an e-bike, they use e-bikes more often and to go further.”

To start out, Cowboy’s mobile service and support team will be available in eight US cities, in which customers can make appointments through the app. Customers who live in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, will have access to the company’s remote repair team. Preorders for the C4 can now be placed at Cowboy’s website, with the first bikes expecting to ship in January 2022.