Callum BoothManaging Editor
Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional odd video.
In my mind, there are two brands operating at the top of the ebike game: VanMoof and Cowboy. I’m a big fan of both, but, with the Cowboy 4, the company may have just edged ahead.
Recently, I had the pleasure of riding the Cowboy 4 and Cowboy 4 ST for about a week — and damn, I was impressed.
Long story short, the Cowboy 4 is an excellent iterative upgrade. The company ironed out many of the issues with the Cowboy 2 and 3, and created a truly exceptional ebike.
So, without further ado, here’s the Cowboy 4 review.
What’s new with the Cowboy 4 bikes?
Well, we wrote a full article that covered all the new updates to the Cowboy 4. If you want a more comprehensive listing, go there. But, because we’re all busy people, I’ll sum up some of the fresh features here:
- A new step-through frame shape, meaning there are two models available: the Cowboy 4 and Cowboy 4 step-through (referred to as the ST)
- 50% increased torque.
- Integrated frame setup, combining the handlebars, stem, phone mount, and cables into a neat package.
- A new app.
Overall, the sense is of evolution, rather than revolution — which is really what you want from a vehicle you’re going to use every day.
So… what’s the Cowboy 4 like?
In a word: fantastic.
I would refer to myself as a functional cyclist. To put that another way, I’ve got zero interest in owning any Lycra. I also have a long-term partner. And at least one friend.
What I want from an ebike is something that works well, rides smoothly, and looks good while doing it. The Cowboy 4 is that in a nutshell.
How’s the design?
It’s a serious jump forward. While the Cowboy 3 and the company’s previous ebikes were hardly ugly, the Cowboy 4 kicks things up a notch. The soul of the main bike is the same, but everything is just cleaner now.
It looks like a sleek piece of modern machinery, eye-catching in a minimalist sort of way.
The Cowboy 4 ST is less traditionally stylish, but is still a gorgeous bike. This is a personal opinion though, you may well look at the step-through model and think it’s the bomb.
Anyhow, I’d say the design of the Cowboy 4 has been streamlined, with many of the less aesthetically pleasing elements of the last bike smoothed out. Now, it’s a more complete package.
To put it another way, it’s a stunner.
How has the Cowboy 4 improved from the 3?
In a myriad of ways. The handgrips and seat are new, making a more comfortable ride — something you definitely notice when you start clocking up the miles.
Another feature that’s absolutely genius is the option to include a phone holder and wireless charger for about $40 on the handlebars. First off, this makes your phone feel like a more integral part of the bike.
Secondly, it’s a bit of a lifesaver. One of the big issues with smartphone-first ebikes is what the hell happens when your phone’s out of battery? Well, this charging feature doesn’t quite solve that (you still need to turn on the bike with your device to get some juice), but it comes close.
There were a couple of times when my phone battery was almost dead, but I was able to turn the Cowboy 4 on and it’d charge my device as I rode.
This is a small, but brilliant innovation. I applaud thee, Cowboy.
The tyres have also undergone a change, as they’re a bit wider on the Cowboy 4 than the previous edition. In my experience, this gave the bike a more solid and smoother ride.
But you know one of the biggest improvements? Mudguards are now a standard.
On one hand, this really shouldn’t be celebrated. It was one of my big criticisms with the Cowboy 2, as cycling on that bike when there’s any sort of liquid on the road left me looking like I’d shit myself.
For some reason, Cowboy didn’t include mudguards as standard with its third iteration of the bike, but now? They come included, bud.
It may have taken some time, but at least the company listened.
What’s it like to ride the new Cowboy ebike?
I found the experience of both the Cowboy 4 and Cowboy 4 ST terrific.
In some respects, not much has changed. There’s still a rear motor with only a single-speed drive. Instead of a chain, there’s still a carbon drive belt.
But there has been one big change: increased torque.
Now, a lot of ebikes have struggled over the past few years with increasingly stringent regulation. What used to be a little taste of the Wild West has matured and everyone has to accept the 25km/h limit within Europe.
This is unavoidable, but what Cowboy has done in a clever fashion is to improve the power at low speeds. This is something I felt as soon as I stepped on the ebike. There’s still a smooth transference of power, but it feels meatier and more capable of munching through inclines.
It’s a recognizable step-up from the Cowboy 3.
Aside from that, the Cowboy 4 range delivers the same smooth ride that I’ve come to love from the brand. Of all the ebikes I’ve tried, it has the creamiest power distribution. It never jerks or yanks you along, instead it adds power in a consistent and velvety way.
What I’m saying is I’m a big fan.
It was also interesting testing the Cowboy 4 ST. Although the components and motor are the same, riding the step-through is a far more relaxing experience. There’s something deeply pleasurable about cruising the streets while you’re in a more upright position.
Long story short, the Cowboy 4 has become my favorite ebike riding experience.
What needs to be improved?
On balance, one of the best things about the Cowboy 4 is its battery. The fact it’s removable is a huge selling point over something like the VanMoof S3, an excellent ebike certainly, but one you have to literally lug around to charge.
Yet, the max range of the Cowboy 4 is 70km — the same as the 3. This isn’t bad, but I really would’ve liked to see an increase in distance here. Indeed, even an option where you could choose between a “power” mode with high torque, and a “distance” one that could get you closer to 100km.
Another change I’d like to see — although this is very personal — is making the riding position on the standard Cowboy 4 more relaxed. When the ebike can’t power you past 25km/h, the racing-style posture of the vehicle isn’t so useful.
In an ideal world, it’d be cool to have a bike that puts you in a slightly more vertical posture. I realize that I live in Amsterdam though, so I’m definitely biased towards this style of riding. I’m sure people in other cities would feel differently.
Finally, the last issue I have with the Cowboy 4 is the price.
For an ebike that has hundreds of custom elements, it feels thrifty to say that it costs too much — but here we are. At €2,490 (roughly $3,000) it’s a nose above a perfect price.
If it sold for closer to €2,000 (around $2,400), it wouldn’t even be a question whether this is the ebike you should buy. Again, I get why it costs what it does, but I wish it didn’t.
It’s also a close race between Cowboy and VanMoof. It feels as though each time one releases a new vehicle, they edge in front of their competitor — and the Cowboy 4 is no exception.
Currently, this is my favorite ebike on the market.
It’s a certainty that some may prefer the VanMoof S3, but, for me, the removable battery and smoother operation of the Cowboy 4 means it edges the contest.
Overall, the latest ebike from Cowboy does almost everything right. It seems as though the company has genuinely listened to consumer feedback and made a vehicle that shows dozens of small improvements.
It may not be perfect, but damn, it’s getting pretty close. And yeah, this is an ebike good enough to eat.
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