In April VanMoof presented the new S3 and shortly afterwards in June Cowboy followed up with the third generation of the smart bike. What both innovations have in common is that the smart functions of the bikes are in the foreground and the drive systems have each been improved. Furthermore, both bikes are only marketed directly via the manufacturers’ websites, which is reflected in the attractive sales prices. But there are also numerous differences, which this article is intended to highlight.
Update: There is now a new comparison available with the 2021 models from VanMoof, Cowboys S4 and the new Veloretti Electric.
Both bikes are e-bikes that are equipped with a motor of 250 watts continuous power according to the european pedelec regulations and provide electrical assistance up to a speed of 25 km/h. There is no classic display on the bikes, instead there are lights integrated into the frame that inform about the battery status. The VanMoof can also display information about speed or theft protection. All further information is outsourced to the corresponding free Smartphone app, which is a fixed part of the use of both bikes. In addition to technical settings, the apps are also used for navigation or for locating the wheels, for which both models have an integrated GPS transmitter.
Both bikes are equipped with hydraulic disc brakes and a lighting system is also integrated. Due to the integration into the frame, the headlights on both models do not illuminate into the curve either. The frames of the bikes are only available in one size each. Cowboy recommends this frame size for riders from 170-195 cm height, VanMoof for riders from 170-210 cm. The VanMoof X3 should also be mentioned — this is suitable for smaller drivers, but looks quite different in form. Fenders are fitted as standard on VanMoof, but can be ordered as an option on Cowboy.
VanMoof vs. Cowboy: the differences
Despite all the – especially smart – similarities, there are also some differences. First of all the battery should be mentioned here: VanMoof has integrated it fixed in the frame and offers a capacity of 504 Wh. Cowboy, on the other hand, relies on a smaller battery with 360 Wh, which is, however, detachably mounted in the seat tube. The VanMoof has a larger capacity, but the bike has to be brought to the charger for charging.
There are also big differences in the motor and drive system: Cowboy uses a single-speed drive with only one gear, with the motor in the rear wheel. The power transmission now uses a high-quality Gates belt drive, which is largely maintenance-free, quiet and free of oil or grease. The drive system is controlled via a torque sensor. This provides a very natural support as it is linked to the pedalling force of the rider. So if you pedal hard, the motor will also provide strong support, and if the pedalling force is weak, the motor will also be weak.
The VanMoof S3 is completely different: here the engine is installed in the front wheel, creating space in the rear wheel for a four-speed hub gear. This is electronically controlled according to speed levels, which can also be changed via app. This means that the transmission automatically changes gear at defined speeds. The power transmission from the pedal is done by a classic bicycle chain, which runs in an encapsulated chain case and is therefore protected from the weather. The VanMoof does not have a torque sensor, i.e. the support of the engine is independent of the driver’s pedalling force.
The tires used on the Cowboy are 42 mm wide and from Continental, while the Schwalbe Big Ben tires used on the VanMoof are even slightly wider at 50 mm — in both cases a comfortable choice for the city, especially since the size of the tires should make it possible to drive with relatively low air pressure. As mentioned at the beginning, Cowboy offers the mudguards as the only accessory. VanMoof, on the other hand, offers a huge range of accessories, from front and rear racks to luggage bags and child seats.
The difference between the two models is quite significant on the scales: while the Cowboy is quite light at 16.9 kg, the VanMoof S3 is around 4 kg heavier. Also worth mentioning is the narrower handlebar of the cowboy and its higher price: with 2.290 Euros it is almost 300 Euros more expensive, if you add the mudguards you get a price difference of exactly 381 Euros.
To make the comparison easier, we have summarized the important differences and similarities between the Cowboy Bike and VanMoof S3 in a table:
|VanMoof S3||Cowboy 3|
|Motor||250 W Motor|
59 Nm Torque
in the front wheel
|250 W Motor|
30 Nm Torque
in the rear wheel
|Battery||504 Wh Capacity|
fixed in the frame
|360 Wh capacity|
|Range according to manufacturer||60-150 km||70 km|
|Drive system||4-speed automatic transmission|
(hub gear) with chain
with Gates belt drive
|Brakes||Hydraulic disc brakes||Hydraulic disc brakes|
|Wheels||28″ with 50 mm wide|
Schwalbe Big Ben tyres
|27.5″ with 42 mm wide|
Continental Contact Plus Tyres
|Software Features||Automatic unlocking|
Recording of rides
Recording of rides
Air quality display
and notification via App
(optional, monthly subscription)
|Frame size||One-size for 170-210 cm|
|One-size for 170-195 cm|
|Weight||approx. 21 kg||16,9 kg|
Light (light blue)
|Mudguards||Integrated||Optional (89 Euro)|
|Price||€ 1.998||€ 2.290|
|Optional accessories||Front carrier|
and child seats
|Sales model||Online direct sales||Online direct sales|
|Return option||14 days||30 days|
|Warranty||3 years||2 years|
So which is the better, smart e-bike? This answer cannot be given in a general way, as both bikes have their advantages and disadvantages.
Basically, the cowboy bike is designed to be more sporty, which is evident from its light weight, narrow handlebars and especially the single-speed drive with torque measurement. But the bike also offers a very practical function: the removable battery will be appreciated by everyone who cannot get the bike to the charger without effort.
And it is precisely here that the comparatively high weight of the VanMoof is clearly noticeable — you certainly don’t want to have to permanently lift this bike to higher floors. But if you don’t have a problem with this subject thanks to a suitable loading option, the VanMoof is the more comfortable and more suitable for everyday use. The software functions seem to go a bit further here than with Cowboy (alarm system and electronic bell as an example), and the matching accessories in the form of racks are also quite interesting. Finally, the VanMoof is currently also a lot cheaper than the competitor from Belgium. It remains to be seen whether this price difference will continue for a long time — after all, VanMoof originally communicated the price as an introductory price.
Update: We have published a review of the VanMoof S3 here!