- Entry level electric bike with more basic components offered at a good price
- Includes mechanical disc brakes, LED lights, throttle mode and pedal assist
- Single speed design reduces maintenance but is difficult to pedal if the battery runs out
The Big Cat Phantom is a value driven electric bike with more basic components but a range of accessories that make it functional. My biggest complaint is the single speed design because the bike pretty heavy at ~68 pounds. If you run out of juice it’s not going to be fun to pedal (or walk) home. That said, the lack of a cassette and derailleur means you don’t have to tune this bike up as often and won’t drop the chain as easily when riding over bumps. Ultimately, the inclusion of a twist throttle and pedal assist mode along with LED lights and disc brakes for under $1,500 make this a decent option for people with more limited budgets.
The motor is a standard 350 watt geared design with good torque and efficient freewheeling. It’s light weight (compared with most gearless designs) and small so it doesn’t stand out. Geared motors produce a bit of noise and can wear out faster than gearless but should last several years. This one is modular with a quick disconnect plug on the right seat stay for wheel maintenance or motor replacement. It’s powerful enough to move most riders but may struggle to climb moderate hills or reach the 20mph top speed without a bit of pedaling help.
The battery pack on this bike offers 36 volts of power and 8 amp hours of capacity. It’s not the largest configuration so range is a bit limited but replacements are only ~$249 so you could potentially buy a second one to keep at work. The pack is removable which is great because it makes charging and storing inside much easier. It also reduces the weight of the bike if you need to lift it up for transport. The cells inside are Lithium-ion which are known for being light weight and long lasting. To maximize their lifespan I’ve been told it’s best to discharge to ~50% the first few times but always avoid completely depleting. Store them in moderate temperatures (avoid extreme heat and cold) and top the pack off when finished riding with refills every couple of months if you haven’t gone out.
The cockpit area of this bike is relatively simple and easy to use. After inserting the key into the battery pack and turning it to on, the bike is in pedal assist mode. There’s only one level so you just start pedaling and it takes off. At any time you can twist the grip throttle for an extra boost but this drains the battery faster. A basic LED battery indicator gives you some idea of how much battery is left and there’s a separate button on the left to activate the lights. It’s a simple design that was common on electric bikes around 2010 that helps to keep the price low here. In order for the bike to operate the keys have to be left in the pack (so they can jingle around a bit when riding) and this reduces tampering when the bike is parked if you take the keys with you.
All things considered, the Phantom is one of the most affordable electric bikes I’ve tested and it has quite a few features. I like the addition of assist and throttle mode. Even though the frame is heavy, the steel design reduces vibration and the larger knobby tires also feel good. The rear heavy design is less balanced (especially with the high-mounted battery pack) but the rear rack is welded on for strength which is nice. I also appreciate the LED lights which are wired right into the main battery pack and Big Cat offers a basic warranty on factory defects for a year which is cool. The biggest downside here is the single speed but again, that can reduce maintenance and works just fine as long as you don’t run out of juice.
- One year warranty covers covers the motor and battery pack against factory defects
- Battery uses higher end Lithium-ion cells and is removable for easier charging and transport
- One of the more affordable electric bikes available at under $1,500
- Large tires with knobby tread reduce the impact of cracks and potholes when riding
- Includes both twist throttle and a basic pedal assist mode (for extended range, climbing or exercise)
- Available in several color configurations with different accents and wheel highlights
- Comes with front and rear LED lights that run off the main battery pack
- Solid 160mm mechanical disc brakes with brake levers that cut power to the motor
- Sturdy double legged kickstand supports the weight of the bike and keeps it stable
- Plastic chain guide on front ring keeps the chain on track when riding over bumpy terrain
- Heavier design due to large wheels and steel frame, harder to pedal without assist with only one gear
- Less balanced with motor and battery weight at the back of the bike and high up
- Doesn’t work very well with a rear bag or panniers since the battery is mounted to the rack
- No mounting points for adding a water bottle cage or fenders to the bike
- Larger tires and tubes are less standard and may not be sold locally (order online to replace)
- No LCD display showing speed, distance or precise battery capacity
- Only available in one frame size (kind of medium) with high-step configuration