Cowboy just announced it's successfully raised $80 million funding for the nextphase of its development. Nestled among its financial figures were some interesting statistics about how people use them, and some revelations about how good they are for your fitness. Most people would naturally assume that an ebike is not as good for developing health-boosting cardio vascular fitness as a normal bike. And they'd be right… but not by as much as you probably think.
The Cowboy 4 ST is one of the best electric bikes I've ever tried – very much in the mould of the VanMoof S3 but with arguably even greater ease of use, and even more innovative technological gizmos packed into it. The brand, which hails from Belgium, says it's on target to have 100,000 riders by the end of 2022. Given that each of its bikes costs over £2,000/$2,700/AU$3,800 that is a tidy earner.
The most effective form of fitness equipment you can get is the one you actually use. And if you're shelling out that sort of money for a very snazzy ebike, I'd hate to think you're just going to leave it in the shed or on your balcony forever. However, the health benefits of riding an ebike apply whatever you pay for it. The single-speed Pure Electric Pure Flux One, for instance, costs under £1,000 and will give you a very good workout but without ever wiping you out.
- What is the problem with ebikes? What are the disadvantages of electric bikes? Your questions answered
Cowboy says its Red Dot design award-winning bikes are used by owners on average nine times per week, 'typically cycling over 4.5 km'. The brand's co-founder and CTO Tanguy Goretti says Cowboy riders are travelling, “further and more often – an 8% increase in distance traveled and a 15% increase in moving time,” since the launch of Cowboy's latest app. “That’s really our ambition here at Cowboy," Goretti says. "As we look to further enhance the connected ride, we can be that everyday companion encouraging the community to ride and anticipating their needs along the way.”
The good news here is that even with an average cycle distance of 4.5 kilometres per journey – which is really not very much – the Cowboy user base is burning an extra 648 calories per week, compared to taking the bus. That is, apparently, the equivalent of 90 minutes of running at moderate intensity – but considerably less hassle and effort.
Here's the interesting bit, though. Cowboys says that studies have shown that the potential for ebike riders to improve cardio-vascular fitness – ie: the fitness of your heart and lungs, which is the most important metric of overall fitness – is similar to that of riders of non-electric bikes. 'After a month,' Cowboy says, 'differences in peak oxygen consumption, blood pressure, body composition, and maximal ergometric workload were within 2% for ebike and regular bicycle riders.' Or to put it another way, ebike riders gained only a 2% smaller fitness boost than their fully pedal-powered peers.
Presumably after a month, the fitness of riders of non-ebikes starts to pull away from those who are assisted by a battery and motor, but that's still an impressive and heartening statistic.
As Brompton's Will CarleySmith said when I spoke to him recently, it's impossible to underestimate the value of everyday exercise. As Will put it, "It's a beautiful thing to have a bike as part of your daily routine – it's exercise for free."
Cowboy intends to double down on this with new wellness and 'riding coach' features appearing on its app. Already, it helps riders track their power output and caloric burn, and compare it to how other members of the Cowboy community are getting on. Of course, you could get any ebike and don something from our best fitness tracker or best running watch guides and do much the same. It's a very easy way to take a deeper interest in your own fitness, and to improve your general well-being.
Cowboy says, and studies bear this out, there’s a 'global health crisis' going on right now. Mental health issues have increased, and 'the percentage of the overweight adult population in the U.S. reached an all-time high at 74%.'
While an ebike may never give you the super fitness associated with regular use of a road bike, it does give you a fitness boost. You have to pedal the things at any speed, and as that 'assisted' workout cuts out at 15.5mph, if you want to go faster than that it becomes real exercise – ebikes are heavy, and forcing them up to 20mph is hard work, believe me!
Ebikes are also good for the environment, compared to cars and public transport. Although again, clearly, a bike with no motor is even better, the key thing here is that people who might normally do no exercise will happily ride their ebike every day. Cowboy says electric bikes are, 'already the fastest-selling form of electric vehicle, well ahead of electric cars, and the market is expected to reach a size of over $50 billion in just six years.'
As Cowboy and other brands develop the ebike to new heights, the result could be a huge boost to the fitness levels of the Western world.
“Since day one at Cowboy, we have focused on designing the simplest, most intuitive ride feeling anyone has experienced in an electric bike,” says Karim Slaoui, Co-Founder and VP Hardware Technologies. “Now we can go even further with the technology in the bike and how it pairs with the app for a truly seamless cycling experience for every rider.”
Cowboy 4 ST: price and availability
The C4 and C4 ST are in Black, Khaki, and Sand. Pricing is £2,290/$2,490/€2,490 with free shipping. There's no availability in Australia as yet, but plenty of ebikes are available there, of course. Just scroll down for the best electric bike deals in your local area.