One of the coolest looking and most talked about pedal-assist e-bikes in the world made its debut in New York City last week, and CleanTechnica got to take one on a ride around Central Park to see — and feel — what all the excitement is about. That would be the new Cowboy 4 from Cowboy, the Belgian maker of e-bikes with a difference.
More E-Bikes For The US
If you’re in the US and you already heard about Cowboy and are dying to get your hands on one of its e-bikes, you’ll have to wait. So far in its short life Cowboy has sold more than 25,000 e-bikes in 11 markets, but they are all in Europe.
The good news is that the wait is coming to an end. Cowboy 4 will be the company’s first model available for sale in the US, including a new step-through frame architecture as well as the classic diamond frame.
Early birds can nail one down for $1,990 with free shipping if they order by October 31, with limited delivery expected by January.
E-Bikes & The Seamless Ride Of The Infinity Motor
The Cowboy 4’s sleek, no-seams styling speaks for itself, but what about that ride everyone is talking about?
It’s all true! A typical test ride for me begins with a couple of minutes on a level surface to get the feel of the gearshift, but not on this bike. The starting point was at the top of a hill at 72nd Street and Central Park West leading down into the park, and soon as I stepped down on the pedal the bike took off, smooth as silk and eager to please.
The secret sauce is an infinity motor that seamlessly responds to the force of your pedaling. There is no need to think about shifting gears going uphill and downhill because there are no gears to shift.
I’ve tried out e-bikes with a similar setup, but the Cowboy 4 takes the feel of a seamless, responsive ride to a whole ‘nother level. Within seconds I was floating downtown at a good clip.
The other thing I like to do on a test ride is to wear something impractical for biking, like pencil-leg jeans. If you can get a comfortable, easy bike ride in tight denim, the electric assist is doing its job.
Jeans or no jeans, the Cowboy 4 flew up the hills of Central Park without batting an eye.
The original plan was to follow the road down to 59th Street and take a shortcut back to 72nd for a quick five-minute spin, but I must have taken a wrong turn accidentally on purpose and looped around the whole park, from 72nd to 59th, across to the east side and on up to 110th Street, where it would have been so easy to accidentally take another little detour and head back west in traffic to the separated bike path in the Hudson River Greenway, which goes to 218th Street or thereabout, and then turn around and take the path back down to the Battery and come up along the East River and then maybe cut across from East 72nd Street back to the starting point.
Oh, well. I was really, really sad to get off the Cowboy 4 after a 20-minute ride around Central Park, but someone else was waiting for their turn, so the loop finished across 110th and back down to 72nd.
The really wonderful thing about e-bikes is the variety. Once you get past the basics, you can drill down into the details and find a bike that fits your needs, reflects your personality, and impresses people that you’d like to impress.
With that in mind, here are a few details about the Cowboy 4, as described by Cowboy:
“The 4th generation of Cowboy bikes and winner of the Red Dot Best of the Best 2021 design award is available in both a step-over and step-through frames and features a built-in cockpit, the latest motor technology for optimal performance when cycling uphill and the acclaimed crash detection sensing technology for the safest ride in town.”
Picking that apart, the meat of the cockpit is a built-in mount for your phone, which is partly an aesthetic choice if you want a mount that perfectly matches your bike instead of something off-the-rack which does not match your bike.
More importantly, the mount is also a functional feature that wirelessly charges your phone off the bike’s battery so there’s no chance of winking out on navigation, unless you forgot to charge your bike. The chances of that happening are practically zero if you pay attention to your Cowboy app, which can predict how much charge you’ll have when you arrive at your destination.
The app also provides some cool extras like air quality monitoring, and it will count the calories you burn.
As for the crash detection system, that’s basically a tilt-o-meter that sends an alert to a person of your choice if your bike tips over. They can track your location and call 9-1-1 if nobody else is around to help. Good to know in those hit-and-run situations that can happen.
The tracking thing also applies to theft detection, with the help of a built-in (of course) chip. If anybody steals a Cowboy 4 e-bike they will have to melt it to keep it, which kind of sinks the whole idea of stealing a bike.
Step-Through E-Bikes Forever
So, why does a super cool-looking bike like the Cowboy 4 come in a step-through model? After all, some people don’t consider step-through frames as cool-looking as diamond frames. Until recently, step-through bikes were mainly associated with the hauling of cargo, not with looking cool and elegant. They were also good for mounting, riding, and dismounting a bicycle easily while wearing a skirt, which in most places around the world meant being favored by women. So uncool!
The notable US feminist icon Susan B. Anthony was a big fan of the step-through, for enabling women to go about on wheels even when forced to wear long, heavy skirts.
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling,” she famously said in 1896. “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
The days of trammeling upon womanhood are still yet to pass, but at least the world of cycling has moved on. Here in the US and several other countries around the globe, the forced-fashion function of a step-through frame faded from the picture way back in the 20th century. By the 1970s the diamond frame dominated across all genders in pursuit of a cool, sporty, sophisticated look.
That began to change with the growing popularity of off-road biking, and now the smashing popularity of e-bikes has provided non-diamond bike architectures with a new foothold on cool, sporty, sophisticated, and even badass. For proof, consider that Harley-Davidson has dipped a toe in the pedal-assist, step-through electric bicycle waters.
Circling back around to Cowboy, e-bikes enable cyclists to get from point A to point B without breaking a sweat, no matter what they are wearing, so it makes sense for one of the coolest-looking e-bikes in the world to come in a step-through model which anyone can mount without fear of ripping a seam in their really tight pants, or awkwardly bunching up their skirts, whichever comes first.
Stay tuned for more test rides on some other very different e-bikes, coming soon.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: Classic diamond frame and step-through e-bikes by Cowboy (credit: Tina Casey).