Unlike in the US where electric bicycles are still coming into their own, e-bikes are already used widely across Europe. In most markets, there are two main options: budget Chinese e-bikes and higher end yet expensive European or American e-bikes. Now, Belgium startup Cowboy is throwing their hat in the ring in an attempt to create a high-end e-bike for an affordable price.
So far it appears that they have significant support, raising $3 million in seed funding led by the VC firm Index Ventures, who also backed the electric scooter startup Bird that is quickly spreading around the US.
The Cowboy electric bike uses a slick and elegant design that departs from most previous electric bicycle design innovations. Unlike most cheap Asian imports that use bolt-on batteries on the down tube or rack, Cowboy’s e-bike incorporates their proprietary sub-4 lb (1.8 kg) battery directly into the seat tube.
While other innovative e-bike designs have hidden their batteries inside the down tube, this usually leads to bulky looking frame members that are an instant e-bike giveaway. By designing the lockable battery directly into the seat tube, it will usually be hidden by the rider’s legs and make the bike look even more like every other innocent pedal bike out there.
Adrien Roose, one of Cowboy’s co-founders, says that the sleek design is meant to target younger riders and people who use their e-bikes for daily commuting and work, such as bike couriers. According to Roose, it is those groups that haven’t yet embraced electric bicycles as readily as older generations.
Cowboy is betting that with a minimalist design and smart connected features, they can tap into a wider market of young riders.
Those smart connected features are meant to make Cowboy simpler and easier to use. An integrated SIM card slot and GPS module interface with Cowboy’s app to allow your smartphone to act as a live dashboard for navigation, GPS tracking and realtime ride stats. Unlocking of the e-bike is also performed via your smartphone.
Designed as an urban commuting e-bike, Cowboy includes many features designed to stand up to the punishment of daily riding. A carbon belt replaces a standard bike chain, allowing for smoother and quieter pedaling. Bright headlights and taillights are integrated directly into the bike frame as well, so you never have to worry about replacing your light batteries again.
Cowboy also includes hydraulic brakes, which provide superior braking performance with less effort, and are a very nice addition for those that use their bikes daily in stop-and-go urban traffic.
At just 35.2 lbs (16 kg), Cowboy is definitely on the lighter end of the electric bicycle spectrum. That’s another plus for urban commuters who might need to carry their e-bike up a flight of stairs.
The 252 Wh battery is rated for 31 miles (50 km) and recharges in 2.5 hours. The Cowboy can only be used in pedal assist mode, where it provides electric power assist solely when it senses that you are also pedaling. That means that the Cowboy is really meant for cyclists that want an extra boost, not for thrill seekers looking for a lightweight electric motorcycle.
Price is where Cowboy really shines, listed at just € 1,790 including a 21% Belgian tax (approximately $1,760 at today’s exchange rate and without the Belgian tax), though it is currently only available online and with delivery in Belgium. At these prices though, let’s hope that Cowboys start popping up in our cities soon too.
I’m pretty excited about this e-bike. The design looks simple but elegant, the components are fairly high quality and the price is reasonable for what you’re getting. Of course to reach that price point, it appears that some sacrifices were necessary.
You’ll notice there’s no derailleur or gear options, making this bike a single speed, though the added motor assist means that a range of gears isn’t as critical as for non-electric bikes. The frame is only available in one size, but Cowboy claims it should fit anyone from 5’5″ (165 cm) to 6’4″. And lastly, like Henry Ford famously said about the Model T, “you can have it in any color you’d like, as long as it’s black.”
The top speed is conspicuously absent from the website and marketing material, but we can assume that it tops out at 15.5 mph (25 km/h) in accordance with EU regulations. This is no speedster, but certainly enough for riding around the city, and most bikes like these can be pedaled faster than the max motor speed anyways, assuming the gearing supports this.
It will always be possible to buy cheaper Asian imported e-bikes for a third of the price of Cowboy, but for anyone who wants higher quality bike parts in a better looking package, this is definitely an affordable option.