How beautiful is this Cowboy. Dashing, with a sleek design and a neat matte black dress. This electrically assisted bicycle (VAE) from the Belgian start-up Cowboy is coming to France. With its wide and comfortable tires, it looks like a mountain bike. The Cowboy certainly looks good. But does it live up to its aesthetic promises?
The bike is produced by a Belgian startup created by the founders of delivery startup Take it Easy, which went bankrupt in 2016. In their last months of work, the delivery drivers and restaurant partners received no income or compensation. The former founders of Take it Easy thus went from bike delivery software to the little queen herself. Nearly 13 million dollars have been raised to produce the bikes for France, Germany, the Netherlands and of course Belgium. The company aims to sell 10,000 bikes this year.
We tested this bike in the streets of Paris for several days. Both for business trips and daily commuting. The bike offers a first impression of high quality with its hydraulic disc brakes, its large and powerful LED headlights (white and red). Not to mention the battery level indicator that lights up on the frame depending on its use. In use, the braking is really efficient. An important safety asset.
All this is accessible only… through its smartphone application (iOS or Android). It is pleasant to be able to unlock and turn on your bike with a push on your smartphone. Once the wow effect is over, it’s time to come back down to earth with your bike of the future. If you lost or had your smartphone stolen, or if you run out of battery, or even a Bluetooth bug, you can forget about the electric assistance of your Cowboy. Any plan B in place? No plan B. What starts out as a good idea to make it less attractive to steal your bike, actually makes it very difficult to use your electric bike on a daily basis. And without electric assistance, your Cowboy will weigh 16 kg on the scale.
The application we were able to test was certainly a beta version. But it remains very poorly thought out and often dysfunctional. It gives the speed in real time and offers a GPS that has geolocation in name only, as the application was not working properly. Above all, the application offers the driver the degree of battery charge in real time, the number of kilometers of autonomy. As well as in real time the degree of consumption of the battery.
The main positive point of the Cowboy is the battery that can be placed and removed from the frame, which gives a comfortable autonomy of 70 km. In fact, it is even higher. It will take a little more than 3 hours to fully recharge a discharged battery. Is such an important autonomy attractive? Not really. If the battery offers more kilometers than announced… it is because the assistance of the electric bicycle does what it wants. And in this case, it is triggered very rarely. The Belgian start-up promises that the electric assistance is triggered in an intelligent and timely manner with a torque sensor. During our use, it was not the case. On the starts, the electric assistance is perfectly dosed and does the work required.
Except that when we have to face a steep climb, it remains hopelessly absent. While it helps us on the flat for no apparent reason… So most of the users opt for an EV to avoid arriving sweaty to a professional meeting. Well, as it is, the Cowboy will not be able to meet your expectations. Badly adjusted, it cannot offer what it is made for. That is to say an efficient and proportionate electric assistance.
The Cowboy can hardly, in our opinion, be a smart purchase given its purchase price of nearly 2,000 dollars. In addition to its structural problems: impossible to access it without a smartphone, and a sometimes deficient electric assistance, there are many shortcomings to report. There is no kickstand in the marketable version of the Cowboy to make your stops more convenient. More annoying in Paris for example, no mudguards are present, condemning you to ride your bike only in good weather. Finally, there is no horn system. When a scooter or a pedestrian cuts you off for no reason, what to do? All you have to do is scream. Not really worth your initial investment. And this picture can be extended when you think about the absence of a luggage rack…
However, this is a good time to sell electric bicycles. The bicycle plan, the generalized implementation of bicycle paths in large cities, the rise of environmental awareness… The arguments are piling up in favor of the development of electric bikes. Demand is following with 338,000 electric bikes sold in France last year, a 21% increase over the year, representing 40% of the value of the cycle market in France. The average purchase price is 1,585 dollars.
In short, the Cowboy is undoubtedly a very successful product. It hides some flaws that are prohibitive for many at almost 2,000 dollars. However, with some improvements it could live up to its attractive promises.