Commuting to work by bicycle is a great way to save money otherwise spent on fuel costs and inner city congestion charges, and be kinder to the environment while you're at it. But you don't really want to arrive at the office all out of breath and sweating, so two-wheelers that offer some form of motor assist will get you where you want to be without tiring you out. But they can be expensive. Belgian startup Cowboy decided to tackle that with an affordable commuter e-bike that provides electric assist when it's needed, and allows the rider to pump away at the pedals when not.
"We designed the Cowboy bike to appeal specifically to people who are yet to be convinced that electric bikes are a practical and mainstream mode of transport," said company CEO Adrien Roose. "We focused our attention on the three main reasons people are reluctant to purchase electric bikes: high cost, poor design and redundant technology – or a combination of the above – and we set about fixing them all."
At the heart of the Cowboy e-bike is an intelligent motor assist system that kicks in when the rider starts off, to make initial acceleration less of a chore, and when going up hills, to smooth out the ride. When the sensors detect that a rider is rolling along quite happily or an incline flattens out, the motor eases off and lets the rider do the work.
The 252 Wh battery can be unlocked by key and removed from the bike's slightly fattened seat tube for topping up in the office or gym and slotted back in when the rider is ready to roll, and is reported to offer 50 km (30 miles) of assisted range per 2.5 hour charge. A battery level indicator to the front of the top tube makes keeping an eye on charge status as easy as quickly glancing down.
Riders can wirelessly connect to the e-bike via a companion iOS/Android app running on a smartphone, which offers a secure key function, live ride stats, built-in navigation and GPS tracking. And there's integrated front and rear lighting too, with brake lights illuminating when the hydraulic brakes are employed.
Elsewhere, the Cowboy features Brooks Cambium Comfort Grips, Schwalbe tires, a belt drive instead of a chain, and tips the scales at just 16 kg (35 lb), including the battery.
Cowboy has launched the e-bike on its home turf, which is reported to be Europe's third largest bicycle market and one where nearly half of all bikes sold in the country are electric, for €1,790 (US$2,125). We asked about availability beyond Belgium and were just told "not yet."
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