Mid-Drive Vs Hub-Motor: Which Motor Suits Your Riding Style?

mid-drive vs hub-motor refer to two different types of electric bike. The difference between the two lies in the position of the engine on the bike.

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The positioning of the motor is one of the crucial specifications you need to consider when buying an electric bike.

The mid-drive vs. hub-motor debate depends mainly on how you're planning to use your bike. In addition to the benefits they offer, each has some drawbacks you need to consider.

But first, let's get to know all about electric bikes or e-bikes.

What Are Electric Bikes?

Electric bikes are taking the bicycle world by storm. They're similar to regular cycles but with an electric motor to give you a bit of added assistance.

Electric bikes operate with the help of several components. They use an electric motor, battery, sensor, and electric display.

All e-bikes use pedal assist. Pedal-assist is when the motor starts up only when the pedals are already in motion. This also means that you have to keep pedaling to keep the bike moving, just like regular bikes.

The e-bike industry has seen significant advances in the last couple of years. Back then, there were only hub-drive motors on the market. Mid-drives were only manufactured by Bosch.

Nowadays, most e-bike manufacturers are gearing more and more towards mid-drive because of its many advantages over hub-drive.

Mid-Drive vs. Hub-Motor: Which is Better for You?

You have to consider important factors when it comes to comparing mid-drive vs. hub-drive motors. Having a clear understanding of each type will make it easier to find the e-bike that best suits your needs.

Mid-Drive

mid drive

Mid-drive motors refer to e-bikes that have the motor positioned in the center of the bike. It's situated between the pedals. The power is transferred to the rear wheel with the help of the bicycle's front gear, also known as the chainring. The power directly drives the chain.

This creates a low center of gravity and gives the feeling you're riding a regular bike but with more power. Mid-drive motors drive the crank rather than the wheel itself. This delivers more power and range to your bike.

The fact that it's right in the middle of the bike means riders won't feel the extra weight of the motor. It also means better stability and easier maneuvering.

Riders will feel the efficiency of mid-drive motors on long rides and uphill rides. This is because mid-drive engines work with the bikes' gear to increase their ability. In short, it amplifies the mechanical advantage provided by the bike's gears.

Types of Mid-Drive Motors

There are 4 main mid-drives. Their immediate power output is measured in watts (W)

250W

Electric bikes with a 250W motor would be a good choice if:

You ride in flat to somewhat hilly areas

You plan to pedal most of the time but need the motor for a little boost

the rider's weight is below 200 lbs (91 kg)

350W

The 350W motor is highly efficient. It generates almost the same power as the 500W, but with less battery power. It's a great choice if:

You ride in areas with steep hills

You don't plan on pedaling all that much

The rider's weight exceeds 200 lbs (91 kg)

500W

Opting for an e-bike with a 500W motor should be a good choice if:

You ride in extremely hilly areas

You require a great deal of torque power to go uphill

Doesn't compromise cruising speed

The rider's weight exceeds 200 lbs (91 kg)

750W

This is the most powerful motor available. The 750W will help you ride over any terrain practically on its own. You don't even have to pedal all that much. In fact, 750W is equivalent to 1 horsepower.

Advantages

  • Mid-drives are becoming increasingly popular because of their many advantages. To name a few:
  • They offer more driving force when riding up steep hills
  • Higher performance and torque
  • They're better suited for off-road riding and mountain biking
  • They provide a longer climb than hub-motors
  • They're more capable of accelerating from a stop with massive torque
  • Smaller, lighter, and easier to maneuver
  • Even weight distribution
  • Being in the center of the bike helps to stabilize the bike's center of gravity
  • Changing a tire is easier and hassle-free
  • Allows the use of torque sensors for pedal-assist systems
  • Takes advantage of bike's existing gears

Disadvantages

  • Increased power output can cause the chain and gears to wear out and snap
  • More points of failure due to the higher number of moving parts
  • Can be more expensive to replace
  • Gears can't be shifted unless you're moving
  • If the chain breaks, you have to push the bike back home

Hub-Drive

hub drive

With hub-drive, the motor is placed in the center of the bicycle wheel. It could be placed on either the rear or the front wheel.

Rear-wheel configurations are more common. This is because it provides better control over your bike and higher power output. Plus, it's safer and easier to transport.

Hub motors aren't joined to the bicycle frame. They act as an independent unit. The controller powers the battery, which, in turn, powers the engine.

They depend on cadence sensors for pedal assist. This regulates motor speed based directly on pedal speed.

Geared vs. Gearless Hub Motors

There are two main types of hub motors:

Geared Hub Motors

These motors have internal planetary gears, which boost their torque. This is why they're great at going up steep terrain.

Their internal gears amplify the power. This makes them more efficient with a longer range than gearless motors.

Their one weak spot is in the gears. Over time, these gears can wear away, and a tooth may break off.

Gearless Hub Motors

With gearless motors, you don't have to worry about anything wearing out or breaking off. They have no gearing. Gearless means they connect the lower RPM motor stator's axle with the bike directly.

Gearless motors are less expensive than geared motors. Yet, they do come with their drawbacks.

They're bigger and heavier because they need to have room for their many electromagnetic parts. And since most of these parts are intricate, they tend to heat up quickly.

You can't really ride them on steep hills because they don't offer much torque. Plus, they have a much shorter range than geared motors. Last but not least, they can't be placed on the front wheel.

Advantages

  • Hub-drive motors are the most common form of e-bike motors with a number of advantages such as:
  • They're Cheaper than mid-drive motors because they're mass-produced
  • Require very little maintenance, if at all
  • Their enclosed case means they rarely fail
  • They don't put any added stress on the chain or gear shifters, making them last longer
  • If the chain snaps, you can still ride it home because the wheel is driven directly

Disadvantages

  • There are also some disadvantages you have to watch out for, such as:
  • They're heavier than mid-drive e-bikes
  • Changing tires can be more of a hassle
  • They can overheat if driven up steep hills for a long time

A few other issues to watch out for is that the cadence sensors can cause awkward or jerky movements when maneuvering through challenging terrain. Plus, some bikers feel that they're either being pulled along or pushed, depending on whether the hub motor is placed on the front wheel or the rear.

If it's in the back, it can cause a loss of balance, especially for inexperienced riders. On the other hand, if it's placed on the front wheel, it can cause problems when steering due to the extra weight.

Video: Hub Motor vs Mid Drive

FAQs

How long does it take to recharge the battery?

A: Most e-bikes contain lithium-ion battery packs. On average, they take about 3.5 hours to recharge completely.

How fast do electric bikes travel?

A: All electric bikes are required by law to have an assisted speed of 15 mph. You can pedal the bike yourself to go faster. Yet bear in mind that the assistant speed will be disabled after 15 mph.

How far can they travel?

A: Almost all electric bikes can travel 20 or 30 miles. But that mainly depends on the riding conditions and how much you're pedaling. It also depends on how much weight the bike is carrying through cargo.

How do I clean my e-bike?

A: Similar to cleaning a regular bike, e-bikes can be cleaned with a hose and a soft brush. You can also use a mild cleaner. Try to do this after every ride. Also, remember to apply a lubricant after each cleaning. This keeps everything running smoothly.

Don't use a pressure washer, though. It can dry up the internal bearings. This can result in reduced efficiency.

The Verdict

Now you know all there is to know about e-bike motors. It's time to choose between mid-drive and hub-drive motors. It all boils down to which features best suit you and your riding needs.

Hub motors have been around for many years, and time has shown that they're durable and dependable.

They're low-maintenance and are much better suited for commuters. Hub-motors are also great for those who want to enjoy riding their e-bike without fussing over maintenance.

Then, there's the mid-drive motor. It offers better gear usage while maintaining a low weight. Mid-drive works great on hilly terrain and off-road riding.