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Electric bicycle hub motors vs Mid-drive motors: Which is suitable for you?

Electric bicycle hub motors vs Mid-drive motors: Which is suitable for you?

Electric bicycles are becoming increasingly popular forms of two-wheeled electric transportation for both commuting and pleasure riding. The two most common electric motor styles used in today’s electric bicycles are hub motors and mid-drive motors. Which one is best for your needs?
Hub motors, which place the electric motor in the center of a bicycle wheel, are certainly the most common form of electric bicycle motors.

Mid-drive motors, which house the motor closer to the center of the bicycle and transfer the motor’s power to the rear wheel via the bicycle’s chain drive, have become much more common over the last 2-3 years, and are cutting significantly into the hub motor’s lead as the king of the e-bike motors.

Both have a number of unique advantages and disadvantages, so choosing the right motor for you will largely depend on your requirements and which advantages seem more useful to your needs.

Electric bicycle hub motor advantages

electric mountain bikes for men

One of the biggest advantages of hub motors is that they require little or no maintenance. They are an entirely independent drive system that retain all of their components inside the motor casing, leaving nothing for you to mess with or maintain.

There are two types of hub motors: geared hub motors and gearless hub motors, Geared hub motors usually have just one point of weakness: the gears. Over time, a tooth can break off and the reinforced nylon gears will eventually strip.

Gearless hub motors, on the other hand, have zero moving parts aside from their bearings, so there is basically nothing to wear out. As long as they don’t rust out or wear down their bearings, they can pretty much last forever.

Hub motors also help reduce other bike maintenance tasks compared to mid-drive motors. Since they don’t connect to the main pedal drive system, hub motors don’t add any extra stress to your chain or shifters, and don’t cause any of those parts to wear out more quickly. If anything, your chain will probably last longer than a non-electric bike because the hub motor will be doing more work, allowing your chain to often sit idle.

Lastly, hub motors are much cheaper than mid-drives.

Electric bicycle Mid-motor advantages

mid drive electric bike (7)
Mid-drive motors were designed to improve upon a number of shortcomings found in hub motors.
The single largest advantage that mid-motors have over hub motors is their gear ratio. They allow the rider to power the rear wheel via the same chain and gear set as the pedals, which means that a low gear can be selected for powering up steep hills or accelerating from a stop with massive torque. A mid-drive motor in low gear can climb steeper hills than a hub motor of similar power, and can climb hills for longer than a hub motor, which could overheat on long steep hill climbs.

A mid-drive motor is also usually smaller and lighter than a hub motor of similar power. Smaller and lighter mid-drive motors are often stealthier because they can be incorporated directly into the bicycle’s frame. Many people don’t even realize that a mid-motor bike is an electric bike just by looking at it.
Changing a tire on a mid-drive motor e-bike is much easier, since you don’t have a heavy hub motor to deal with. You just change it out like on a normal pedal bike. Plus, since you can use normal bicycle wheels, you have the freedom to use any wheels, tires and cassettes that you wish.

Lastly, mid-drive motors allow the use of true torque sensors for pedal assist systems, which regulate the motor power based on how hard you push on the pedals as measured at the crank. Hub motors often rely on cadence sensors for pedal assist, which only regulate motor speed based on pedal speed, and can cause jerky or awkward motor timing, especially when hill climbing or moving the bicycle around obstacles.

So what’s the verdict?

Mid-drives have a lot of improvements over older hub motor technology, but they have their own unique issues. There’s a reason hub motors have been around so long – they work.

The main advantages of mid-drive include lower weight and better gear usage, which makes them more appropriate for off-road use and those with hilly terrain to traverse.

Hub-motors, on the other hand, are fairly bulletproof and low maintenance, and thus are usually better for commuters and those that want a simple, reliable e-bike with very little maintenance.

However, many off roaders like the power and reliability of hub motors, and many commuters prefer lightweight, stealthy and unobtrusive mid-drive motors. It really depends on which features fit you best.

At the end of the day, the best e-bike motor is the one you have. So just get out there and ride!

What type of e-bike do you have, or which would you prefer to buy? Please leave us a message below

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