Gadgets for humans

The Cowboy e-bike is so good I want to cycle with it off into the sunset

We'll start a new life together and I'll grow a moustache

header image cowboy bike

I’m going to get straight to the point: I’ve tested out a few electric bikes in my time, and while I love the VanMoof Electrified 2 series, the Cowboy might be the best.

Uh, Cowboy?

Yep, it’s a Belgian company that makes electric bikes. The version I tested over the last month or so is the bike’s second iteration, but was still an engineering model. Despite this, I didn’t come across any huge, glaring flaws during my testing.

Also, an interesting little fact before we begin, the company actually managed to get the cowboy.com URL. Lord knows how much that cost them.

Yeah, but what about the Cowboy e-bike? What does it look like?

Honestly, it’s fucking beautiful. It’s a finely designed, gorgeous piece of engineering. Take a look at this thing:

And the bike’s not bad either AMIRITE?!?!

The lines are sleek, understated enough that it’s not an attention-seeker, but stylish enough that I’ve had a fair number of people stop and comment on it. Basically, it made me feel all kinds of ways.

One of the reasons for this aesthetic pleasure is also one of the Cowboy’s downfalls: the lack of mudguards. While this makes the bike look minimalistic, it made it basically impossible to ride in the rain without — as our Editor-in-Chief put it — getting a “wet ass.”

The company doesn’t make its own range of accessories (yet), but the bike is compatible with a wide range of third-party hardware, like mudguards, child seats, luggage carriers, and so on. It’s not ideal, as it’d be so much better to have bits of kit that fit perfectly in with the Cowboy’s design, but it’s not a huge deal. You just need to pick up something

Features. Tell me all about the Cowboy e-bike’s features

One of the things that really marks the Cowboy e-bike out is the removable battery. While many electrified bikes (including the VanMoof ES2) have a power bank in-built, the Cowboy has one you can remove. Now, on the surface, this isn’t a huge deal, but it makes the general usability of the bike far better.

All you have to do is jam the key in, unlock, and you walk away with the battery.

Depending on your commute, you’re probably going to have to charge your e-bike a couple of times a week. Now, if a battery is built into the bike, you might need to manoeuvre the (most likely weighty) thing up some stairs, or into a tricky space to find a safe charging point.

But if you have a removable battery on your bike? That pain point is gone. For example, with the Cowboy, all you do is unlock the battery, take it wherever you desire, and plug it in.

Nice, anything else?

There are a few other nice touches. For one, the Cowboy only weighs around 16kg with the battery. While it’s not super pleasant to ride the bike without power, this weight makes it possible at least — well, if you’re in a flat city like Amsterdam.

So buff, so strong, so much toxic masculinity.

The Cowboy e-bike also has a rubber and glass fiber belt, rather than a chain. In my time with the bike I didn’t see any particular usage differences between the two methods, but I’d imagine a plastic belt would hold up better over time. Only time will tell.

I know you wanted to see what this looked like, so here you go. Thank me later.

Go on then, tell me how the Cowboy e-bike rides

Like a dream. Like a goddamn beautiful dream. Ugh, I like it so much.

First what the Cowboy doesn’t have. There’s no boost button, or throttle you can use to push yourself along — the Cowboy simply gives more power to your peddling. Thing is, it’s almost perfect at it.

Many of the e-bikes I’ve used have a jittery kick motion when the motor kicks in. This means you’re cycling and get this sharp push from the e-bike. The Cowboy has none of that. It’s a seamless expression of power, one that makes you feel like you’re gliding across the ground.

On top of that, the bike‘s also fun as hell. Although it’s capped to an EU regulation of 30km/h, there’s something about zipping along on the Cowboy that’s both exhilarating and controlled. I’m not sure what else I can say apart from the fact it’s brilliant.

While it might not look like it, I’m having a goddamn ball here.

In terms of distance, the company says battery lasts for around 70km, something I found to be generally accurate. This meant it basically covered a week of my commutes without needing a charge, but that figure will change depending on your journey.

What else should I know?

Well, the Cowboy e-bike runs from an app. You approach the bike, the vehicle and your phone connect via Bluetooth, and then you can unlock it. And, by unlock, you enable the motor. There’s no automated locking system (which would be awesome), so you’re still going to have to use a chain to keep it safe.

On the topic of safety, Cowboy also has a SIM card inside it. This means you can track the bike using using GPS, so you know where it is at all times. If someone robs it, you can track your two-wheeler down. I didn’t actually test this feature (thankfully, no one stole the Cowboy), but the GPS seemed broadly accurate in my experience. All this is useful, but not quite the same experience you can get from VanMoof’s bike hunters.

My advice? Buy the best locks you can and use them.

Ugh so pretty

So, back to the app. This is available on iOS and Android and is pretty slick. It includes a map, let’s you toggle lights, and turn the power on and off. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s solid enough — and works without issue.

One downside of the Cowboy is that you can’t unlock the e-bike without this app. This means if your device runs out of battery, you aren’t cycling anywhere with power.

Cost-wise, the Cowboy will set you back €1,990 ($2,247). Yes, that’s expensive, but is actually pretty reasonable for an e-bike. For comparison, the VanMoof Electrified 2 series retails normally for $3,398.

Does the Cowboy e-bike have any major weaknesses?

There are a few. The lack of gears is fine somewhere like Amsterdam, but if you’re in a hillier region, you might struggle. I’ve already mentioned the inability to unlock your bike without a phone and the lack of mudguards, but these aren’t deal breakers.

So, who’s the Cowboy for?

If you’ve got a long, cyclable commute you want to make an absolute breeze, the Cowboy’s for you. It really is that good.

Here’s another photo, just for you. And you. But not you — you know what you’ve done.

Round this up for me.

I love the Cowboy e-bike. It’s probably the best electrified two-wheeler I’ve had the pleasure of testing. Of course, an e-bike is still a luxury, and $2,247 will only be worth it if you’ve got a long commute.

Despite this, I love the Cowboy. All I want to do is hop on that saddle and ride off into the distance, hoping the company never catches me or asks for it back.

You can find more info about the Cowboy e-bike here. If you’re interested in what I thought about the VanMoof Electrified 2 series, you can watch the video review here:

For more gear, gadget, and hardware news and reviews, follow Plugged on Twitter and Flipboard.

Published July 3, 2019 — 15:14 UTC