(Pocket-lint) – Getting a good electric bike can usher in a change in your relationship with where you live, which is something that not a lot of technology can claim to deliver. Top of the stack is Cowboy, an e-bike brand that’s been delivering strongly for years.
We’ve ridden both of Cowboy’s second- and third-gen electric bikes and both sit firmly in the top-end luxury category. These well-designed bikes boast impressive range and the killer feature of an easily removable battery for convenient charging.
Now the fourth-gen Cowboy has arrived – with a minor design change in the form of smartphone-based ‘dashboard’, along with many of the same impressive perks – is it the best e-bike money can buy?
A new look
- Weighs 18.9 kg (including battery and mudguards)
- New Cockpit ‘dashboard’
- Phone charging
- 47mm tyres
Cowboy’s bikes have, from the start, looked great. The Cowboy 4 is no exception to that rule, with a sleek and thin frame that passes the ‘secret eye test’ – by not obviously looking like an electric bike that will be an instant target. It’s got a modern aesthetic appeal and a fairly dynamic saddle position too.
For the first time, it’s available in more than just black or light grey, too, with a new green option that looks really fetching. We were riding the black version for this review, though, which is stealthy and subdued in all the right ways.
There’s a Cowboy label on the crossbar, but the most eye-catching part of design are the lights, which are built-in and nicely sculpted out of the frame itself. Both get impressively bright, although they’re still aimed at urban use rather than lighting a totally unlit road ahead of you.
The biggest change in the bike’s design between generations comes in the form of a new Cockpit – that’s what Cowboy is calling it – where you can integrate your phone to act as a ‘dashboard’. Up between the handlebars, there’s now a QuadLock mount for compatible phone cases, along with some LEDs to let you see the bike’s battery level.
Clicking your phone into place will wirelessly charge it as you ride, letting you keep a GPS route up while you ride without that familiar battery drain. It’s a neat idea, although it does make the handlebars look bulkier – we’d have loved it to be an optional extra as you order your bike (although it may give reason to buy the Cowboy 3 instead, if you can find one).
Round at the back of the bike is one of its biggest selling points: a removable battery tower that’s extremely easy to take off the bike by using an included key, so that you can take it inside for charging without having to carry your whole (heavy) bike around.
It’ll charge up in a few hours, so for commuters or those without a power point near wherever they store their bike, this is a huge benefit over competitors that don’t let you remove their batteries, like the otherwise-stellar VanMoof S3.
Ideally, you’d keep the Cowboy 4 covered from the elements while the battery is detached, to avoid the risk of moisture getting into its plug, and that’s one area we think Cowboy could look into in the future – having a bike that’s completely weatherproof both while in use and when it’s not.
- Range of up to 70km/44m
- 45Nm of torque
- Step-through model available
Of course, good looks don’t matter if they’re not backed by solid power, but Cowboy has packed in some small-yet-telling upgrades to its bike on the assist front. The torque bumps up from 30Nm to 45Nm, which effectively means you get more speed more quickly as you pedal (speed is still capped, though, as is regulation – it’s just the getting there part that’s more rapid).
The Cowboy 4 keeps things really simple too. There aren’t various modes for different types of cycling or levels of assist, or any manual gear-changing controls, the assist is either on or off – that’s it. You can control this in the companion app at a touch though, or simply ride without any phone/app connected at all if you’d prefer.
The level of assist is great, too – it’ll have you cycling around without getting out of breath or sweaty, and we cycled to and from a football match without it impacting our already shocking match fitness at all.
If you tackle particularly steep hills you will have to up your effort a little, as the Cowboy 4 won’t cruise up them without any input, but we found the amount of help was almost always just right. It let us glide along most of the time, pedalling a little to keep our speed up – but never having to really go fully at it. Plus, in central London the quick-start it lets you get at a green light is worth its weight in gold.
Range anxiety also wasn’t much of a factor for us, with up to 70 kilometres (44 miles) of distance from a fully-charged battery. Plus, while the bike isn’t super light objectively, it’s decent for an electric bike, which makes cycling without any assists entirely bearable if you do run out of charge. It actually has less mass by quite some kilos than the city’s famous Santander Cycles (“Boris Bikes” as many used to call them) – and that’s with the Cowboy’s battery included!
High-quality disk brakes mean going down hills even in wet weather won’t feel dangerous, while the included mudguards (which lacked on the Cowboy 3 – they were pay-for extras) look great and do a super job of keeping the rain away from you. The package is pretty top-notch, in effect, although there’s also been a steep price rise compared to the third-generation bike, with the 4 now landing at a seismic £2,490/€2,590/$2,990 – so you’re very much paying for what you’re getting.
- App can unlock (manual also available)
- Allows navigation, lighting controls
- Light social networking included
Cowboy isn’t just nailing the fundamentals of the ride and electric assist with the Cowboy 4 – it’s also continuing to punch well above its weight where software is concerned. The Cowboy app is easily one of the best electric bike apps we’ve used.
It’s got a modern, clean design that’s easy to navigate around, and packs in features that are genuinely useful, from an in-built GPS navigation hub to quick controls to lock your bike, turn its lights on or off, and turn off assistance if you like.
Mount it on the Cockpit and you’ve got a useful dashboard without needing to buy your own clamp or mount (so long as you have a case that’s compatible), but even when you’re not cycling it comes in handy.
You can review your rides easily to see your routes, check how many calories you burned (or didn’t burn by using power assist), and control settings like an auto-unlock feature that detects your phone near the bike (a bit like a Tesla does in the automotive world).
This is also where you’ll download firmware updates, set the bike’s name (aww, cute), and opt into Cowboy Care – which nets you free services and repairs from helpful nearby professionals at a monthly cost. It’s all slick on a level that you’d expect from a much bigger name.
Cowboy has made another superb bike in the 4, a great ride that’s perfect for those looking to widen their cycling radius but without any desire to show up to social occasions tired or sweaty. The addition of a QuadLock ‘Cockpit dashboard’ has added functionality that many will welcome – although we wish it was optional, really – and the new step-through version is also a huge win for accessibility.
However, a price hike means that the Cowboy 4 is a rather expensive option, albeit in a market full of pricey picks. We think that the third-generation bike probably makes more sense for people who don’t need a phone mount, so long as you can accept the lesser torque. That said, if money isn’t a concern then the upgraded Cowboy 4 really is as good as e-bikes get right now.
Writing by Max Freeman-Mills.