August 4, 2016

Table of Contents


elevation_profileI was looking for an entry point into the e-Bike scene and decided to go with the ProdecoTech Phantom 400. I bought it from eBikeDirect, which is based in Florida, so it had to be shipped to me in pieces. It is a basic, sturdy, no nonsense bike with a motor, and it gets the job done. While I have nothing to compare it to, since this is my first foray into this world, I'd say this is a pretty good solution for my specific needs. I live about 9 miles from my work, and if you map the elevation, it's entirely uphill when starting from home, with about 500 feet of elevation gain. I have been interested in biking to/from work for a while now, and I recently started riding my standard bike home. This meant I had to get a ride to work, since I didn't want to show up at work covered in sweat from a constant uphill bike ride. The Phantom 400 eliminates that issue. I can now ride comfortably to work in the mornings without relying on anyone else. It handles the 9 mile ride without any problems, both directions. It has cut about 15 minutes off my commute compared to a standard bike.

Initial Review

ProdecoTech Phantom 400 shipping boxI feel like the Phantom 400 was a good choice, even though it doesn't have some of the more fancy bells and whistles of the more expensive bikes, like suspension (funny enough, it does actually have a bell though!). The gearing is a little strange. When I received my bike, it appeared that the SRAM x4 derailleur was bent. The box didn't look like it was damaged in shipping, so I'm not sure how that happened. When shifted to gears 1 or 2, the wheel would just stop rotating because the derailleur was actually caught on the bolts holding the motor casing together. I straightened it out as best as I could, but I can still only shift through gears 2-4. It tries to get to 1, but just clicks at me until I shift it back to 2. If I twist the shifter past 4 nothing happens. I imagine this is just some tuning, but I'm disappointed that it doesn't work properly fresh from the factory. Once I figure out wtf the manual is trying to tell me, I will try to tune it so I can get more gears. So far 2-4 have gotten me where I need to go well enough, but I've noticed that I can barely keep up with the motor in 4th, so I give up pedaling altogether until I slow down. I'd prefer to help out with my legs as much as possible to conserve battery life and get a little exercise, so gears higher than 4 would be beneficial to that.

ProdecoTech Phantom 400 fresh out of the boxThe seat that came on it was a little hard for my tastes, so I swapped it with a softer one from my mountain bike. I imagine the harder seat would be fine if the bike had suspension. I really like the rack on the back. It is well built and has plenty of anchor points so that I can strap my backpack to it with bungie cords. No more sweat-soaked back when I arrive at my destination! The battery seems to be sufficient for my ride, but only just. I noticed on the first ride home, after about 16 miles that the motor wasn't putting out as much thrust. When I got home, the battery was at one bar of life, which according to the manual means it's about exhausted. That's quite a bit less than the 25-35 miles claimed, but I'm willing to attribute that to my uphill morning climb. I imagine if I was in a flat place like Florida (where ProdecoTech is based) I could get the rated mileage out of it, but here in hilly southern California, it's not going to happen. The brakes seem adequate, and like the manual says, they are very easy to lock up the rear wheel, even with 50+ lbs of bike and 160+ lbs of human on top of it. I've noticed once or twice on quick stoplight changes that the rear brake alone is not enough to completely stop before crossing into the crosswalk. I'm always afraid to hit the front brakes on a bike due to terrible experiences as a kid (who hasn't gone over their own handlebars at least once in their life?), but I've started using them and I haven't felt any less in control. I think having all the extra weight over the back wheel keeps the tail down when hitting the front brakes. No stoppies on this thing for me, which is a good thing, but I can stop safely before rolling into cross traffic.

ProdecoTech Phantom 400 AccessoriesI have only had the bike for a few days now, but so far it has definitely met my expectations. I'm excited to keep getting to know it and experience everything it has to offer. If I can offer one crucial tip, it's this: if you order this online and have it delivered, go through and check ALL of the bolts on the bike, even the ones that were factory installed. You will have to install the handle bars and pedals yourself, so definitely tighten those as well, but make sure to check the factory ones. I failed this step, and noticed the handlebars were loose after a few rides. It wasn't the bolts I put in, but the stem bolts. As an experiment I loosened them even more when I got to a safe location, and I still was unable to cause a failure, but it was definitely something that was worrying me when my handlebars were rattling around on a rough road.

So far, this has been a good purchase. If anything changes, I'll definitely try to update my review, but for now I have decided it was definitely worth the cost of entry, and I would recommend it for anyone wanting to get in on the e-Bike scene without dropping a ton of cash.

Update #1

As of 11/1/2016, I have ridden this thing over 780 miles. I have gotten two flat tires, both because of a combination of my stupidity and the excessive weight on the back wheel. Note to self: slow down before going up driveways and avoid potholes, you'll be fine. The battery still seems adequate, I can still make it to/from work on a single charge. I tend to charge it at work to stay topped off, just in case I need to go anywhere else on the way home. The brakes are still a little troublesome. I've tried adjusting them many times, but they always seem to squeak slightly, especially at very, very low speeds. I think the brake rotors may be slightly warped. It's not a major issue since I can just apply throttle and can't even tell that they are rubbing. They still stop me quickly and accurately, so I am not worried about that, just the annoying squeak when moving the bike around while parking it. My left pedal completely ceased up during a ride home, and I had to replace it. I submitted a warranty claim with ProdecoTech, and within a week I had a new set of pedals in the mail. By that time, I had already bought a set of Free Agent pedals that I like much better than the stock ones that came on the bike. I will keep the warranty-replaced ones on hand in case I run into another pedal issue.

Bike Distance Graph - 2016

Update #2

It's now the end of January, 2017, and I am still riding this thing to/from work every day that it doesn't rain. I am up to 1,321 miles so far, which I easily keep track of on my Bike Management website. I've noticed that the battery has less oomph now. Whereas originally if I had a fully charged battery on the way to work, I'd still be going pretty fast towards the end of my ride. I don't know if it's because it's much colder outside now, usually in the low 40s on the way in, or if the battery life is degrading, but everything feels slower going up hills, even at the beginning of the ride. I know there is a limit to the number of charges for a battery, and I am charging it twice a day, but it still seems like it shouldn't be running this slowly this early in its life. I will wait until the weather warms up again before making any definite conclusions. A new battery pack for this bike will cost me just under $500, so I'm hoping it's just the cold, and not a permanent problem. In the tire department, it's the same with my previous update. I've had two more flats, both times seemed to be pinch issues from the excessive weight on the tires and hitting potholes. The streets of San Dimas are f***ing terrible. I still haven't found a good solution. For now, I have bought a patch kit and compact pump, so I can at least repair my tires on the side of the road.

Update #3

April, 2018. I now have over 5000 miles logged on the bike, and some things have needed replacement and/or repair. Most of the items that needed to be fixed were normal wear-and-tear type things. So far I have replaced both tires, as the tread has worn out in the center of them. The rear tire wears out much faster than the front, due to the extra weight placed on it by the battery and my normal cargo (backpack with change of clothes and lunchbox). I've also needed to replace the brake pads on both the front and rear wheels. I also had to have the bike shop bleed the brakes, as my puny brain was unable to comprehend the brake-job myself and I accidentally drained the hydraulic fluid. The largest issue so far has recently cropped up. The bike was performing "phantom pedaling" for a few weeks, and then on a ride home one day the chain physically jumped off the chain ring. After some experimentation, I determined that the freewheel hub was buggered. I had it replaced at my local bike shop and the bike is back up and running. I received no response from queries to ProdecoTech's support department to see if it was covered under warranty. I am still very happy with the bike at this point, and I hope it will go at least another 5000 miles. I am less impressed with ProdecoTech's support department.

Update #4

October 2018. I'm just over 7000 miles logged, and some new things have happened recently. First, the warranty on the bike has expired as of August. The frame is still covered under warranty, but all other parts are not. Shortly after leaving my house one day, I was traversing a railroad crossing, and some important welds on the battery rack snapped. The part of the rack that connects the front to the frame below the seat had both welds broken simultaneously. ProdecoTech support was willing to send me a replacement rack for about $70 including shipping, but I decided I could just repair it myself. The battery rack is not considered part of the frame, and was not covered under warranty. I made some "C" clamps out of some aluminum strips and was able to clamp the rack in place with some slightly longer M5 bolts. Surprisingly, it now seems sturdier than the original mounting method. The battery life has definitely degraded substantially. During the summer, I forgot to charge while at work, and it did not quite make the trip back home on the morning's full battery charge. Where it used to be able to do 20+ miles on my commute without issue, it could no longer even handle the 18.6 miles I attempted to ride that day. Now, the second week of October 2018, I am having difficulties making it from work to home on a single charge, which is roughly 9.3 miles on my favorite route. The battery still functions, and the bike still moves at a decent speed, it just doesn't have the range it used to. When pressing the status button on the battery now, it only lights up 3/4 LEDs when the charger finishes and goes green. Update 5 will most likely have information on how I resolved this, as the bike is my primary means of commuting now, and I won't revert back to driving my truck. In the maintenance department, I've replaced both tires again with the same model originally put on the bike because the "better" ones I bought at my LBS wore out in less than 2000 miles of riding. I'm on my second front tire and fourth rear tire. I had to have both wheels trued, as the spokes had become loose and the wheels were a bit wobbly, causing the brakes to rub while riding. I have not had a flat tire in over a year; my new routes seem to help me avoid the worst of the shitty roads in San Dimas.

Update #5

I replaced the battery at the beginning of November 2018. ProdecoTech support was entirely unhelpful in procuring a replacement battery. After multiple attempts to get a price quote both directly from the manufacturer as well as one of their local dealerships, I never received any response. If you plan on buying a ProdecoTech bike, don't expect any support once the warranty expires. I gave up, did a little research and figured that as long as I provide 36v to the controller, it doesn't matter which battery I use. I bought a 13Ah battery from AliExpress and jury-rigged it to work. This is slightly more capacity than the 10.4Ah battery that originally came with the bike. I can now go to and from work again on a single charge. The new battery did not fit inside the rack that came with the bike, so I ended up having to put in the basket on top of the rack. Between this and my previous rack fix, there must have been two much stress on it, because the aluminum tubing the rack was built out of just snapped; not on a weld, but right in the middle of a solid piece of aluminum. I'm at just over 8000 miles ridden on this bike now, and the stresses of the road are starting to show up more frequently. I've got a new rack on order, as well as a temporary one from my other bike installed. At this stage, I have replaced about a third of the original components on the bike with aftermarket replacements. I'm not sure if any more updates will be posted here, or if I should start discussing the mods I've done on a separate page.

Update #6

In early 2019 I had InCycle replace the hydraulic brakes with mechanical ones so I could maintain them easier. I don't have any experience with hydraulic systems, and I screwed them up trying to fix them myself. The new mechanical brakes are working perfectly fine, since the bike rarely ever gets over 22mph. I also replaced the basket system on my rack with a set of panniers that I am very happy with. They hold a lot of cargo and let me carry all of the necessary tools to repair flats on the side of the road when they occur.

Update #7

In December 2020 I had to replace the battery again. The one bought in Update #5 was not lasting very long on short rides during the pandemic. It was also quite heavy due to the design. I bought a new "soft" battery from Amazon instead of AliExpress due to shipping issues from China. This was a good choice, as this battery seems to be much better quality. As of November 2021 and 15,900 miles, I am still getting more than 30 miles per charge and can easily do the 24 miles per day to/from work without recharging in the middle of the day. To mitigate having so much weight over the back wheel, I moved the motor controller and battery into a triangle frame bag. Since doing this, I feel like I have been even more comfortable on the bike and am very happy with this modification. With less weight over the back wheel, I can navigate the small lips at street crossings at a much faster speed without worrying about a tire blowout. I have had to change the tires a few more times since the last update, just due to the massive number of miles I have put on this bike. One thing to note is that Prodecotech, the company who made the bike originally, has gone out of business. There is no more support from them, so this bike has become a DIY system at this point. I'm keeping it alive by replacing things with aftermarket parts as necessary.

Accessories I have added to make this bike better