Electric Bike Hub Motor vs. Mid Drive

Electric bikes are a rapidly growing subsection of the bicycle market. They are becoming increasingly popular for various uses. They are used for transportation, where the rider can have the best off-roading experience.  

Electric bikes are well-known among bikers and riders, thanks to their advantages. They are known for increased speed and range and reduced tiredness.

There is a wide selection of bikes for riders to choose from, each with its style, engine, and price point. However, many users aren’t clear on specific criteria.

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If you plan on buying an electric bike, you must be familiar with motor placement and differentiate between hub-drive and mid-drive designs.

Hub Drive and Mid Drive Categories

Electric bikes have motors that are divided into the following two designs:

Hub-Drive System

Electric bike motors are often concealed within the hubs of the bicycle’s front or rear wheels. The motor spins the tire, propelling the car ahead.

The strange feel of a hub motor on an eBike is a deal breaker for some riders. It becomes challenging for beginner riders to keep their balance because of the additional weight on the back wheel. The additional weight on the front wheel becomes more challenging to steer.

Mid-drive e-bikes have the drive unit centered between the rider’s pedals. This helps keep the vehicle’s center of gravity low and centered, contributing to a smooth ride.

Regarding handling and tracking, mid-drive eBikes thrive since riders don’t have to account for the extra weight of the motor.

Since the motor is synced with the gears, you can cover more ground on a single charge with a mid-drive bike. It’s easier for the riders to take their electric bike on hills.

Like car engines, electric motors thrive when they can spin swiftly. When the rider changes gears to match a normal cycling rhythm, the motor between the pedals works most efficiently (usually 50 to 100 revolutions per minute).

A hub-drive electric bike’s motor turns the wheel, which might be sluggish when going uphill. Irreparable damage to the magnets within the motor may result when the hub motor rotates slowly, and the rider relies heavily on the hub motor.

Replacing a flat tire is as simple as swapping out the wheel with a mid-drive. This phenomenon is similar to the regular bike, without disturbing the motor. It is beneficial for those who take frequent and lengthy rides.

Users unfamiliar with extensive eBike maintenance should avoid purchasing a bike with a hub motor, as minor issues like a flat tire can turn into a significant ordeal.

Damaged rim repairs for hub-drive eBikes can be a considerable nuisance and expensive to cater to because re-spoking the wheel requires removing the motor from the rim.

Advantages of a Hub Motor for an Electric Bike

  • Low maintenance is a significant plus for hub motors.

Hub motors have their own drive system, so you won’t have to worry about maintenance or changing anything. The system is closed, so much less can go wrong.

  • Geared hub motors connect the axle of a high-RPM motor to the bike using planetary gears, whereas gearless hub motors connect the axle of a low-RPM motor to the bike via a direct drive.

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The gears are usually the weakest link to a geared hub motor. There is a possibility that the reinforced nylon gears will wear out and lose teeth.

On the other hand, gearless hub motors have bearings as moving parts, making them exceptionally long-lasting. There is no end to their usefulness till the rust sets in or the bearings give out.

  • Unlike mid-drive motors, hub motors don’t get in the way of regular bike maintenance.

Since hub motors are not part of the primary pedal drive system, they do not add additional stress to the chain or shifters. Because the hub motor does most of the work, your chain should last longer than a standard bike.

  • Hub motors are not just a backup drive system but also a completely separate mechanism. You can still return to your house even if you lose the hub motor or the pedal drive system.

Imagine you’re in the middle of a strenuous trail ride, and your chain breaks. You can make it home using only the motor. There’s no need to drag the chain along.

However, what if the hub’s motor fails? You will have to slow down and stop moving forward so rapidly. This way, you are prepared for the worst-case scenario. This is especially helpful for long-distance cyclists who are either elderly or using e-biking as a rehabilitation method.

  • The additional mass of a hub motor can either raise or lower the bike’s center of gravity, depending on the terrain and riding style.

The motor’s bulk could be optimized by moving it to the front or rear of a single tire. This is especially true for electric motors with batteries mounted at the rear.

 When this happens, the rider can move their weight to the front hub motor without upsetting the bike’s center of gravity.

  • Cost-effectiveness is a significant factor, as hub motors are considerably less expensive than mid-drives.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of bicycles with hub motors, are produced yearly. The same designs have been used for manufacturing for over a decade in some cases. Therefore, the prices are absurdly low.

Disadvantages of Hub-Motored Electric Bikes

Of course, hub motors aren’t perfect.

  • It’s important to note that virtually no hub motors have more than one gear ratio.

While one gear is acceptable for flat terrain, hill climbing calls for a gear with a lower top speed but higher torque. A single-speed motor is inefficient in the lower RPM band while under load.

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  • A hub motor adds unsparing weight to a bike.

The additional weight reduces the effectiveness of the suspension and increases the rider’s perception of road imperfections.

  • Using a hub motor could reduce the versatility of your wheels and their components like rims, tires, and cassettes.

The rim on the hub motor may not fit the tires you choose. Most of them might be too broad for cassettes with more than seven speeds.

  • Tire replacements are more of a bother when your bike is equipped with a hub motor.

 Since you either have to disconnect the wire from the motor or juggle the heavy wheel while it’s still linked to the bike, tire replacements might be challenging.

 However, certain bicycles’ inner tubes are made to be changed without removing the wheel, which is particularly helpful for hub motors.

Mid-Mounted Motor and Drive System

The mid-drive motor is seamlessly incorporated into the drivetrain. It is common for mid-drive electric bikes to employ a chain, chainrings, and cassette to transfer torque from the motor to the rear wheel, allowing the rider to propel the bike ahead by pedaling.

A belt drive is an alternative that uses a similar technique to power the vehicle’s rear wheels. In any case, the pedaling force you apply is amplified by a mid-drive motor.

The motor’s internal sensors can monitor the rider’s pedaling to make this happen. It interprets the data and increases its output to the chain or belt, propelling you ahead with greater force.

The mid-drive motor on some hybrid electric bikes is suitable for enthusiasts who appreciate responsive pedal assistance since it gives the most direct response from a pedal-assist motor, e.g., the daily commute and weekend excursions.

Mid-drive motors are often selected for electric mountain bikes because they can deliver more peak assistance than hub motors. This is especially helpful for riders who frequently need extra help to deal with challenging terrain.

The drivetrain can experience premature wear from the combined effects of your pedaling effort and the higher forces created by the engine, which is a potential downside of this direct connection. This might cause a rise in component replacement needs in the not-too-distant future.

More powerful motors are often found in mid-drive electric bikes in the United States. Therefore, larger batteries are sometimes required to meet the higher power demand. There is the potential for the bike’s portability and weight to increase due to the addition of batteries.

However, specialized mountain bike manufacturers ensure that the battery is as inconspicuous as possible so that it does not affect the bike’s handling and is also simple to remove.

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Advantages of a Mid-Drive Motor for an Electric Bike

  • A mid-drive electric bike in the USA can travel between 10 and 15 miles further than a hub motor bike.
  • The engine relocation results in a more centrally located and balanced frame, enhancing the bike’s handling.
  • Comfort is increased on mid-drive e-bikes because their power comes from the drivetrain and is measured in terms of torque. This is how electricity is controlled.
  • Energy from the mid-drive motors is sent to the wheels through the transmission.
  • The mid-drive motor is lighter to carry. There is a significant weight saving when using a mid-drive motor instead of a hub motor. The difference is recorded between 2 and 10 pounds.
  • They are much less hassle to get into due to their ability to move lower.
  • Compared with rear- and front-wheel-drive models, mid-drive electric motorcycles excel in acceleration, climbing abilities, and top speed.
  • The mid-drive motor is safer, with less risk of frame breaking.
  • The optimal rotational speed of the motor is preserved by the gearing, resulting in greater efficiency.

Disadvantages of a Mid-Drive Motor for an Electric Bike

  • The drivetrain experiences more wear and tear when a mid-mounted motor is used.
  • Mid-drive electric bikes are relatively more expensive than hub motors. They can be purchased for around $2000.
  • The expense of maintenance is also higher.
  • Mid-drive motors are less reliable due to the higher number of moving parts.
  • There are fewer electric bikes with a middle-range transmission. Riders do not have many options to choose from.
  • The transmission defaults to neutral when the gas pedal is not depressed.

What’s the Difference between a Hub Motor and a Mid Drive Electric Bike?

The fundamental distinction between mid-drive and hub motor electric bikes is the placement of the motor on the bike.

The drive train of a mid-drive bike is housed in a tunnel in the frame, midway between the rider’s feet. An electric motor is built within the hub of one wheel to propel the vehicle forward.

The motor’s power delivery mechanism is also novel. Mid-drive motorbikes are pushed by the pedaling action of the rider’s legs. They’re the ones who turn the cranks with a tightening force.

This is what actually rotates the chain and the back wheel. Hub motors provide direct power to the wheel without wiring or a gearbox. The force being applied to the wheel is known as torque.

Electric Bike Hub Motor vs Mid Drive
Electric Bike Hub Motor vs Mid Drive

Several different kinds of pedal-assist devices can be found in stores. A torque sensor measures the force applied to the pedals on most mid-drive electric bikes.

Because of this, the technology may modify the pedal assistance’s difficulty level to correspond to your level of exertion.

 Most electric bicycles with a hub motor also include cadence sensors that monitor your pedaling speed. When you get on the pedals, the motor immediately kicks in and provides a steady stream of power.

Moreover, the bike frames are one-of-a-kind. The motors of mid-drive electric bikes are often built into the bottom bracket of the frame.

However, not all motors can be used with all frames. Hub-motorized electric bikes look and feel like standard bikes. Only the powered wheel stands out as an unusual addition. The cost is another striking difference. A hub motor electric bike is substantially more affordable than a mid-drive model. They are cutting edge in their technology yet are more complicated to operate.

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