VanMoof vs. Cowboy: The new and smart e-bikes in direct comparison


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.

The similarities

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 S3 vs Cowboy E Bike Comparison
Similar and yet different: VonMoof vs. 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.

Vanmoof S3 vs Cowboy E Bike Motor System
The VanMoof with front engine, Cowboy with rear engine

Direct comparison

To make the comparison easier, we have summarized the important differences and similarities between the Cowboy Bike and VanMoof S3 in a table:

VanMoof S3Cowboy 3
Motor250 W Motor
59 Nm Torque
in the front wheel
250 W Motor
30 Nm Torque
in the rear wheel
Battery504 Wh Capacity
fixed in the frame
360 Wh capacity
Range according to manufacturer60-150 km70 km
Drive system4-speed automatic transmission
(hub gear) with chain
Single-speed drive
with Gates belt drive
BrakesHydraulic disc brakesHydraulic disc brakes
Wheels28″ with 50 mm wide
Schwalbe Big Ben tyres
27.5″ with 42 mm wide
Continental Contact Plus Tyres
Software FeaturesAutomatic unlocking
Recording of rides
Electronic bell
Alarm system
In-App Instructions
Automatic unlocking
Recording of rides
Crash detection
Air quality display
In-App Support
Theft Insurance
and notification via App
(optional, monthly subscription)
Frame sizeOne-size for 170-210 cm
great riders
One-size for 170-195 cm
great riders
Weightapprox. 21 kg16,9 kg
ColorsDark (black)
Light (light blue)
Anthracite grey
Mineral Grey
MudguardsIntegratedOptional (89 Euro)
Price€ 1.9982.290
Optional accessoriesFront carrier
Rear rack
Matching locks
and child seats
Sales modelOnline direct salesOnline direct sales
Return option14 days30 days
Warranty3 years2 years
Vanmoof S3 vs Cowboy E Bike Side by Side
Cowboy with single speed and belt drive, VanMoof with hub gear and chain


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.

Delivery times for both bikes are currently end of September for the VanMoof and mid August for the Cowboy Bike. More information about both models can be found on the websites of VanMoof and Cowboy.

Update: We have published a review of the VanMoof S3 here!




2 thoughts on “VanMoof vs. Cowboy: The new and smart e-bikes in direct comparison”

  1. The new VanMoof Bike Doctor Network is not the same as the $340 Peace of Mind: Maintenance subscriptions that VanMoof offers in 21 cities today. POM, as Ties calls it, sends VanMoof’s Bike Doctors to your home or office to replace worn tires, lubricate the drivetrain, and perform other routine maintenance tasks at defined intervals. The on-demand mobile service network kicks into action as issues arise and will be available to all VanMoof customers who need assistance in the cities supported. Pricing for the new mobile service network hasn’t been finalized.

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