Cowboy has returned with his third generation e-bike. It's still the best looking pedal assist and replaceable battery electric bike I've ever seen that has adopted the same physical design as the original Cowboy. While the Cowboy 2 from last year was athletic, the Cowboy 3 is mature and focuses more on safety than fun.
The Cowboy 3 is equipped with a variety of safety features, including automatic crash detection, a lower maximum speed and new puncture-proof tires in a cowboy design. Like the previous model, the third version has integrated lighting with a rear light that flashes red when braking. And believe it or not, Cowboy is finally making fenders.
It's like this Belgian startup wants to become the Volvo of e-bikes. Not that it's a bad thing.
8.5 from 10
- Looks great
- Packed with services like crash detection and home repairs
- Removable battery with a range of 70 km
- Super intuitive and quiet pedal assistance
- A bit expensive
- RIP 30 km / h off-road
- Fenders and stands cost extra
- Requires a phone to turn on for now
The main function is automatic crash detection, which the company calls the first industry. It is available for both Cowboy 3 and older Cowboy 2 motorcycles via a free software update. Crash detection analyzes the data captured by the wheel's speed sensor, torque sensor, and accelerometer to determine if a crash has occurred. The company can tell the difference between an accident and an emergency stop if you drop your bike on its side, hit a pothole, or ride over cobblestones.
When an accident is detected, the driver has 60 seconds to confirm that the app is OK. Otherwise, the SIM card integrated in the Cowboy e-bike sends a warning to one or both of your predefined emergency contacts. A real-time map is also sent showing the rider's position as measured by the bike's GPS radio.
With the help of a soft couch, I was able to simulate a crash. After dropping the bike while holding the brakes and depressing a pedal, the front and rear lights blinked quickly to draw attention to the area. At the same time, my emergency contact received a text message that I might have been involved in a bicycle accident, with my approximate address and a link to a live map showing my exact location. I can imagine this being a useful and even life saving feature when crash detection works so well in real life scenarios. Otherwise, false positives could cause a lot of stress for loved ones (Cowboy claims a false positive rate of "near zero").
Removable battery and future on / off.
250W single speed rear hub motor.
The taillight flashes when braking.
Another safety feature was added by taking something away: off-road mode, a setting that allows cowboys to be ridden on private property. Cowboy e-bikes are now limited to the European limit of 25 km / h. Previously, Cowboy's off-road mode increased the speed limit to 30 km / h to complement the e-bike's sporty riding position. In practice, I envision many, if not most, cowboy owners using this mode all the time. I've really done it, especially when I'm outside the city limits where I regularly drive between 25-30 km / h. I really missed the faster and more exciting mode in my tests. I was told that Cowboy removed it for safety and insurance reasons: Cowboy offers owners Easy Rider insurance plans starting at € 8 per month for theft or € 10 per month to increase damage coverage.
The Cowboy 3 has a free Find My Bike feature that uses GPS and Bluetooth to locate your bike. However, you need to pay at least € 8 per month to receive theft detection notifications. The theft protection is activated two minutes after the cowboy is switched off. Then if your bike is bumped into, presumably by a thief, an alert will be sent to your phone showing the reported GPS location. The bike can then be tracked using the (very good) Cowboy app with bluetooth so that you can edit your bike more precisely.
Theft detection was activated on my test bike and it worked for the most part. When this option is activated, the lights of the bike will flash briefly (there will be no siren or warning tone) and the alarm will arrive quickly in the app. You can then ignore it or click “Find My Bike” and take your risk by facing a potential thief or someone who innocently knocked your bike against the shared bike rack.
Cowboy continues to offer one of the most natural pedal-assisted riding experiences of all e-bikes
Cowboy's quiet 250W rear hub motor combined with a new, more durable Gates Carbon Belt drive and lower gear ratio make for an extremely intuitive experience. The power is released as soon as the bike detects pressure on the pedal for effortless escape routes in the apartments. The bike's speed and torque sensors constantly adjust power transmission as your pace and pedaling change. However, when I tested it on hills, I felt that the bike lacked the vertical momentum that other belt-driven single-speed bikes like Gogoro's Eeyo 1S offer, which requires more effort than I expected. Overall, however, the Cowboy still offers one of the most natural pedal-assisted riding experiences of all the e-bikes I've tested.
My range test returned 70.5 km (43.8 miles) from the 360 Wh battery, which is exactly what Cowboy claims "up to 70 km". Best of all, the battery can be removed and taken with you for convenient charging. The bike can still be ridden on a dead battery, but many will have difficulty riding a 16.9 kg bike long distances in a single gear.
Unfortunately, the cowboy needs an escort phone because there is no power switch on the bike itself. Most of the time this isn't a problem, but after a long night, all it takes is a dead phone battery to realize how myopic this approach is.
New for this year is an auto-start option that uses Bluetooth to detect when you're nearby. It works as long as the app is running in the background. The new feature allows you to leave your phone in a pocket or pocket when you are ready to drive. In practice, it works pretty well: the bike felt me approach and then asked me to move it a little to actually turn the motor on. The bike can also be set to automatically turn off or not after a period of inactivity, so you can lock it with a chain (or two) and walk away without breaking the anti-theft device.
Cowboy is working on a feature that will allow you to turn on the bike by removing and reinserting the battery. It was originally promised last year, but I was told it will definitely come by the end of 2020.
The last big feature for cowboy owners is the free cowboy mobile service. During the two year warranty, Cowboy will send a technician to your home, office, or places in between to fix your bike. The CMS service is currently available in 25 European cities and will expand to 70 by the end of the year, according to Cowboy. For example, Rad Power offers a similar service, but charges a fee for each use.
The new function guides you through areas with poor air quality.
- Cowboys don't have throttles – they're just pedal assistants and either on or off, with no power options like eco or sport found on other e-bikes.
- The spongy handles, the standard saddle and the wide, puncture-proof tires in cowboy design have devoured the road vibrations well, even on the bumpy brick roads common in Amsterdam.
- The Cowboy app will shortly inform riders about the air quality in the region in early October and suggest the least polluted route.
- Cowboy 3 is now available in two shades of gray to match the black model.
- The LEDs in the battery indicator on the top tube can be set to light or dark and are mostly visible in the sun in light mode.
- The cowboy logo above the battery gauge isn't a power switch, but it should be.
- Cowboy 3 weighs 16.9 kg and is about 900 grams heavier than Cowboy 2, mainly due to the sturdy new tires. The fenders add additional, undisclosed weight. It is also suitable for relatively tall drivers, five feet, seven inches to six feet, five inches tall.
- The battery charges in about 3.5 hours.
- Hydraulic disc brakes stop the bike safely.
- The cowboy app is one of the best in the industry with its clear layout and useful functions.
The Cowboy 3 costs € 2,290 / £ 1,990 (about $ 2,665). That is € 300 more than last year's Cowboy 2 and VanMoof-comparable S3 and X3 commuter e-bikes. A VanMoof includes fenders that Cowboy can buy for € 89 and a stand that Cowboy doesn't offer at all. At least Cowboy now ships his bikes with bells. Knowing you can get a removable battery, free mobile repairs, and free crash detection makes the Cowboy's price tag a little easier to accept.
The third generation cowboy is available in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, the Netherlands and Great Britain. Denmark is in the works. US sales will happen someday, but right now the European e-bike market is ten times the size of the US market, says Cowboy. So there is no rush.
Use 33 million euros sensibly
Cowboy was clearly busy using the $ 33 million raised since 2018 to add and improve features while maintaining the pace of slow and steady expansion. Cowboy 3 is an excellent electric bike that has been enhanced with a selection of free and subscription-based services designed to deliver real value over the life of the bike. But I can't help but think that it's a little confused.
The geometry puts the driver in a sporty driving position, but the highest speed with pedal assistance has been reduced by 17 percent compared to the previous year's model. And it is sold as an urban commuter, but it lacks urban necessities that should be included as standard components. Cowboy 3 reminds me of a college grad torn between the ruthlessness of youth and the cumbersome demands of the corporate world, knowing that growing up is inevitable.
Photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge
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