Let’s take a look at the two, arguably, best electric bikes of this year that compete in a tight match. Which one of the two – VanMoof Electrified S2 or the Cowboy can claim the title of the best connected electric bike for city rides?
Among dozens of electric bicycles that cross city streets every day, there are two that seem to be more exciting than the rest of them. And there is a reason for that.
Cowboy (2019 model) and the Electrified S2 from VanMoof each have a fan base that is very convinced of the superiority of its favorite e-bike. It is not only their performance that brings these two e-bikes close to one another. It is also their design and features (both are connected e-bikes), as well as their urban and trendy positioning.
In order to decide between these two serious contenders for the best connected e-bike for a city, let’s see how they compare.
E-bike design: the Dutch school against the Belgian
Cowboy and VanMoof seem to be completely opposite from an aesthetic point of view. And for good reason, each company has it own vision of what the perfect urban electric bicycle should look like.
At VanMoof, the S2 stands out thanks to the thickness of its frame, its large handlebars and fully integrated and well-hidden battery. As with Cowboy, it’s front and rear lights are integrated into the frame and nothing pops from the handlebars except for the brake handles and its famous boost button. The only visible feature is its matrix LED display within the frame, indicating speed and e-bike locking status.
The geometry of VanMoof S2 invites the cyclist to adopt a very upright sitting position. With shoulders pulled well back and head up. In fact, this kind of riding position helps to have a smoother and more relaxing ride.
At Cowboy, the design is the exact opposite. The frame is also a one-piece, without any apparent trace of soldering. While the battery remains easily accessible from the outside. It can be disconnected from the frame and taken off the e-bike. There is no integrated display, which could give its rider details of the trip and performance of the e-bike. This part is entirely left to a smartphone.
In terms of geometry, Cowboy’s approach is also the opposite of that of S2. A reduced and refined frame (which allows Cowboy to gain an additional 3 kg compared to VanMoof S2) accommodates a small handlebar, which is positioned quite low. The result of this design is that the rider is sitting on Cowboy e-bike a bit like on a racing bike, which encourages a more dynamic ride.
Duel winner for design is: Cowboy
While it is very difficult to compare the two e-bikes from a purely aesthetic point of view, and knowing that each company has adopted a very different approach, it should nevertheless be stressed that Cowboy’s choices better correspond to urban use.
Small handlebars and overall smaller size of the Belgian bike allow it to easier slip between cars in traffic. The same is true for the choice of a removable battery. This is a wise choice at Cowboy because not all riders have a garage to store their e-bikes.
A Dutchman could always argue that Cowboy’s handlebar is too small and is less comfortable to ride, but when it comes to carrying the e-bike three floors up, this argument weighs less than its 19 kg.
E-bike equipment: brakes make the difference
However connected they may be, even the new generation of electric bikes remains dependent on their mechanical parts. It may, therefore, make sense to compare both models on the equipment they use, especially since it largely determines the quality of a bicycle.
It should be noted that in both cases, there is no major fault. Whether it is for tires (Panaracer Gravelking at Cowboy and Schwalbe Big Ben at VanMoof), frames or saddles, both manufacturers have made wise choices.
Batteries are also chosen wisely. Both batteries offer similar performances, i.e. about 60 km of continuous use. Where the two competitors differ is in the transmission. VanMoof has chosen a classic option, which is a chain (well hidden behind a plastic cover). While Cowboy opts for a belt, which has the advantage not only of not getting dirty, but also of not requiring any maintenance.
Finally, the choice of brakes is very different. VanMoof opted for mechanical disc brakes, which are easier to maintain, while Cowboy opted for performance by equipping its e-bike with hydraulic disc brakes.
And another not-so-good choice for the Dutchman is its selection of low-end plastic pedals that just need to be changed.
Duel winner for equipment is: Cowboy
We think that VanMoof could have claimed the draw score for equipment if it had opted for hydraulic disc brakes like its competitor. Hydraulic disc brakes require more maintenance, but they are also more effective. In a city, more than anywhere else, good brakes can save even the most cautious cyclist from a few troubles.
E-bike accessories: Cowboy hardly has them
It is not that difficult to compare the two competitors on e-bike accessories as the gap between the two offers is so wide. To put it simply, there are no accessories on Cowboy. Or not yet. Or not official. Or not really…
In short, the bike is delivered without any gadgets except for a bell and two reflectors (to comply with the law). Could not be more stingy… An offer of accessories should soon be available on the manufacturer’s online shop but it is slow to show up.
On the same theme, in 2020 Cowboy plans to launch a “comfort” version, i. e. a better equipped one. In the meantime, the Cowboy’s rider community is now self-organizing and starting to advise other accessory manufacturers of compatible alternatives.
At VanMoof, on the other hand, there will be no need to get your hands on the wallet. The minimum requirements for a city e-bike are all included in the package price. Mudguards, lever handles, and other chain protection covers are provided by default.
What about the locking system? Theoretically, the S2 model does not need a conventional anti-theft device thanks to an integrated security system. This integrated security system locks the e-bike and alerts its owner when a theft attempt is detected. Even if the e-bike is stolen, VanMoof could still track it with a GPS chip hidden in the frame.
Duel winner for accessories is: VanMoof Electrified S2
Without any real competition for accessories from Cowboy, VanMoof easily wins this round. Cowboy could have competed, at least, on the minimal level if its manufacturer had taken the trouble to make even a minimum of effort. This effort could have been to provide, at least, the mudguards, an element that is simply essential.
Application: the limits of all-connected e-bike
Because of the need for a connected bike, both e-bikes need to be linked to a smartphone app (on Android or iOS).
At Cowboy, taking the smartphone out of your pocket and launching the app is even essential to activate the e-bike. If you forgot your phone or your battery is dead, you will have to do this without electrical assistance.
VanMoof has thought of an alternative way to unlock its e-bike using a specific manipulation via the “boost” button.
This potentially problematic dependence of the Cowboy on its smartphone app could, arguably, prove its usefulness. However, once launched, the app does not allow you to interact much with your e-bike. Of course, it is possible to find your last trips there or to switch between European and American legislation to “derestrict” the e-bike to up to 30 km/h, but that’s about it.
Compared to Cowboy, VanMoof Electrified S2 deploys some of its e-bike settings directly to the app. Level of electric assistance, speed restriction, switching lights on and off, unlocking… the app really allows you to act on your bike. Still, those actions are not smartphone exclusive. All these functions are accessible directly on the S2 with fairly simple operations.
Duel winner for connectivity is: VanMoof Electrified S2
When it comes to the smartphone app, the balance is clearly in VanMoof’s favor. Cowboy suffers here from a flawed approach. Its app limits the owner of the e-bike, as it is used both for locking and unlocking the e-bike and for operating it.
E-bike on-road behavior: your choice for comfort or performance
Logically, completely opposite design choices produce very different road sensations.
The Electrified S2 is a roller, very comfortable on wide curves and on long straight lines. It is, therefore, more difficult to ride when traffic increases and more maneuvering is required. Its geometry inspired by Dutch cycles allows a pleasant riding experience while offering the comfort that Cowboy cannot match. To get a feeling of performance on the VanMoof, you have to use the “boost” button. This occasional usage can give an interesting experience but does not provide permanent torque change.
However, what Cowboy is good at, is precisely power and performance, even beyond electrical assistance. Indeed, its large platform allows you to continue driving “fast” (over 35 km/h) without over-pedaling.
The result: on the Belgian e-bike, the search for speed is a permanent quest. This is reinforced by the very sporty position which this e-bike model invites the cyclist to try. And since Cowboy offers itself the luxury of being light and easy to handle, driving in the city is much simplified.
Duel winner for on-road behavior is: Cowboy
For the on-road behavior, VanMoof will probably have its defenders. Those could be cyclists who prefer the sit back riding position, for example. But in the city, the goal is often to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible and without endangering the rider. And at this little game, Cowboy doesn’t really have a rival.
Two top connected e-bikes – what is the verdict of the duel?
It should first be pointed out that these are two excellent e-bikes, well designed and having well above average performance. That being said, the goal of the comparison is to determine the winner.
And in this duel, the victory can only go to the Cowboy.
Despite its lack of accessories, despite its lower level of comfort and a less useful more smartphone app, it stands out thanks to its better design and its very relevant approach to urban rides.
The question of price has not been raised in the comparison. And the price does not rebalance, but rather reinforces the choice. And for a good reason. Even though VanMoof’s S2 regularly benefits from promotional offers, its final price is 1400 euros higher than the 1990 euros, which Cowboy asks for. That is more than enough to compensate for any lack of equipment.