This is the" classico of pedelecs , the duel of the two most prominent bike models each year. S3 and Cowboy 3 have improved a lot, but has the match changed?
The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down the whole planet but it will not prevent the match of connected electric bikes. In 2020 the two representatives of thisrelatively recent segment are back with new models that are full of new products. The VanMoof S3 and Cowboy v3 were released a few weeks apart in the midst of a boom in sales of electric bikes. Despite a similar price and similar technical characteristics, the Belgian and Dutch bikes make radically different choices as much on their geometry as on their software part. In fact, more than a simple match, it is a real opposition of style that allows us to assess because if the purpose of these two is the same, to establish itself as the best electric bike for the city, their approach is radically different.
Aesthetic choices with multiple consequences
The design of a bicycle is not only a matter of taste. The aesthetics of the frame, the location of the engine or the battery, also define the geometry of a bike and therefore the sensations that we will have once on the handlebars. On this point, the two VAEs have made radically opposite choices from the start. The first observation cIs that their design, widely praised in the past, has hardly changed. You have to have a keen eye to differentiate a Cowboy 3 from its predecessor and in, apart from a new color, the differences are even more subtle. As a result, the frame has not moved an iota, and the geometry is therefore unchanged. In fact, there is one with a straighter and more comfortable position and above all a very wide hanger which allows you to tilt your shoulders back and adopt a quasi-contemplative position. Conversely, on the Cowboy, the position is more sporty, (bent forward), more tense. The latter gives very different sensations and gives the impression of attacking the road constantly. The Belgian's very short handlebars also make it a more agile bike, therefore more maneuverable and more playful. This impression is reinforced by slightly smaller dimensions and a 2 kg lower weight.
These are also aesthetic choices which have resulted, in both cases, in opting for a different engine and battery location. last year, the removable battery is housed along the vertical tube, and the engine is placed on therear wheel hub acting rather by propulsion. From a general point of view, it is a solution which is not as ideal as a central motor and a battery with a lower center of gravity, but it offers on the one hand decent performance and constitutes a more suitable choice. judicious than the non-removable battery of the S3 or its engine in the hub of the front wheel. Obviously all of these aesthetic choices also have an impact on driving, we will come back to this.
The equipment gap is narrowing
VanMoof and Cowboy share another common characteristic, they do not have gear levers and opt for an automatic transmission. This approach, which aims to simplify the use of cycling in the city, is managed differently by the two players. The S3 oscillates between four preset speeds that can be fine-tuned in the application settings. VSowboy goes one step further by incorporating a torque sensor on its bike that continuously calculates the intensity of pedaling and the speed of the cycle to measure the assistance required. On this point, the Belgian solution is not only more natural but also easier to understand for its user. On the S3, although the settings are more detailed, it is difficult to take full advantage of them.
The two pedelecs also do not carry a traditional display on their handlebars and offer alternative solutions. At VanMoof, the display is integrated into the frame via a matrix LED screen which allows you to have an overview of its speed, the level of assistance or even autonomy by looking down on the central tube. Chez Cowboy… nothing like that… not to say nothing at all. The Belgian only has a module with four LEDs which allows to have an indication of the autonomy, as for other information, it will be necessary to refer to the application and therefore probably invest in a support to attach your smartphone on the handlebars.
As part of our test, we used the Quad lock solution. It is not the only point of equipment on which the S3 is more complete than its rival. VanMoof has by default essential accessories cycling in the city, such as crutches and mudguards. At Cowboy, you will have to (still) get your handspocket, since the bike is sold naked. The brand's mudguards exist and their design fits perfectly with that of the bicycle but they cost 89 euros.
In the brakes, the gap was substantiallast year, the S2 having chosen mechanical disc brakes. The difference is shrinking this year because VanMoof has decided to invest in hydraulic versions like its competitor. However these lack a bit of bite and are not as effective as the Cowboy Tektro. Finally, the last notable difference between the two competitors concerns the chain. VanMoof uses a very classic chain where Cowboy chooses a belt (which has been reinforced on the v3). This solution has two advantages, it does not dirty the fingers and pants of the user and above all it does not require maintenance.
Overall Cowboy has made very little progress on his bike in terms of equipment, which has enabled VanMoof to catch up by making a few well-felt changes to its S3, be it in terms of transmission but above all brakes.
Sensations on the road: opposing style
This is probably the most interesting point of this duel at the top. Despite their proximity, the two connected bikes offert very different driving sensations. There are simply two schools, or two ways of cycling in the city, that oppose each other. The antagonism even goes so far as to conceive differently the way in which electrical assistance must be delivered, progressive and constant at Cowboy, on demand (via the boost) and explosive at VanMoof.
In fact, on the roads, the sensations are also very contrasted. The driving of the Cowboy 3 seems more natural, the torque sensor doing its job perfectly despite a lower power (30 Nm against 59 Nm for the S3). In addition, the extremely precise settings of the Belgian give it better acceleration than the S3 can only compensate for by abusing the boost. However, once the first pedal strokes are given, the VanMoof takes the advantage of speed and leaves the Cowboy behind. This opposition also has repercussions on the posture adopted and the way in which we ride with the two pedelecs. More oriented comfort, the S3 invites a more flexible driving, although it can reach high speeds. In fact, its favorite playground, these are the wide cycle paths or the bus lanes of the main avenues which en make a very good roller. As for the Cowboy, the sporting attack position leaves little room for doubt. On this v3 as on the previous model, driving is dynamic, more committed. As for its small handlebars and its reduced size, these are two characteristics perfect for narrower streets or for driving in heavy traffic. In general, what the Cowboy loses in top speed, he therefore compensates with lightning accelerations.
Finally, we should highlight a change major compared to last year. These two pedelecs used the same device to circumvent the legal assistance limit to 25 km / h. This consisted in changing the settings of the application the geographical area of the bike and pass on the North American legislation which authorizes assistance up to 30 km / h. On Cowboy v3, the famous "off road mode disappears to stick to the legal framework. Conversely VanMoof kept this option but the accompanied by a notification which alerts the user to the illegality of the procedure.
In the end, the performance differences are not so great and will mainly depend on the type of journey made and the way you ride a bicycle, however the question of a sporty and engaging bike or a more comfortable and relaxed version must be asked his answer may well be the major element to decide between these two prextending.
Cowboy duels on the app
This is the most, but VanMoof is not to be outdone. Overall, if VanMoof tried to correct the technical and equipment aspects of its new bike, Cowboy insisted on the connectivity of its v3. Result: (automatic unlocking, real-time flight alert, pollution measurement and fall detection).
To date, only the first two have The two others will be deployed in the coming weeks. However, the famous “auto-unlock, which allows you to do without your smartphone to start your bike, is a major step forward for Cowboy. of the main criticisms made with regard to the 2019 version concerned the dependence of the bicycle on the application. It was simply impossible to start your e-bike without going through your smartphone. The automatic unlocking corrects this defect with a certain class, since you just need to have the app open in the background for the bike to wake up when the wearer approaches it.It doesn’t work the same way and you have to turn off your bike with your phone. As for the flight alert in real time, it is an “Easy rider” option (at 8 or 10 euros per month depending on the level of insurance), which allows you to receive a notification on your smartphone as soon as the bike detects an unexpected move attempt.
Although VanMoof has slightly improved its application, by allowing to refine some settings or to personalize the doorbell, the functionalities are not as advanced as at Cowboy. All the Belgian work over the past year has been to make your bike even more connected and to offer new services via its application. At VanMoof, which already had automatic unlocking, there was more need to upgrade the mechanical part, which left less room for improving As for the anti-theft device, that of the Dutch offers a different approach, since a physical button on the rear of the bike allows to lock it by blocking the wheel and activating an alarm which will sound when an attempt is made. in bothIn these cases, these two pedelecs have a GPS chip which makes it possible to locate them.
In the end, connectivity is mastered in the two contenders and the basic functions (location of the bike, history of routes, unlocking) are present in both applications, but it should be emphasized that on this point Cowboy has greater ambition than its competitor.
Autonomy: impossible to decide between
This is obviously a major criterion but, in the context of this duel, we will only give it a relative importance since it is very difficult to oppose the two models on this point. Indeed, the number of possible kilometers with a battery charge of the VanMoof S3 will very much depend on the frequency at which the cyclist will request the boost button. If it is used primarily on starts and when it comes to crossinga small bump, so its autonomy is very close to what a Cowboy 3 offers with 65 km on average. On the other hand, with intensive use of the boost, the range reaches 50 km.
Dicefinal, the two VAE offer fairly equal performance in terms of autonomy, but it is possible to do less well in VanMoof where Cowboy ensures a floor level. However, on the recharge, there is no photo. The Cowboy’s removable battery is one of its main assets in this game ... and the choice of a non-removable battery for the S3 proves to be the main defect of the bike. This is even a crippling argument for some potential buyers.
L Cowboy had won this duel quite convincingly last year but in 2020 it was much more difficult for us to decide between these two very good electric and connected bikes. Now offered at the same price, the two pedelecs can only rely on their performance and their equipment to decide. In this game, the S3 seems to have taken a step ahead with a proposalion slightly more complete in particular in terms of equipment (it is not necessary to have your smartphone on the handlebars to know its speed or the level of assistance), those of the Cowboy being optional. On the other hand, what could be a crippling brake for the S3, it is this choice of a non-removable battery which will purely and simply divert some potential buyers. On the performance and the feeling on the road, the match is much more balanced and will depend above all on the preferences of each. Comfort and speed for VanMoof, acceleration and agility for the Cowboy.