Deciding to purchase an electric bike and then going to look at and hopefully test-ride a few different models can be an exciting time. At Bakcou, we’re aware that it can also be extremely overwhelming. One of the most important things to consider when purchasing an electric bike is what type of electric bike motor you need. There are a lot of decisions to make when purchasing an electric bike. Everything from frame type, battery size, and motor, all the way down to something as simple as the frame color, are all just a few of the decisions you will face in your purchasing journey.
The team here at Bakcou wants to help make sure purchasing your electric bike is as stress-free as possible. We’re here to help lay out the facts for the available options to give you all the information you need to make the best, informed decision possible for you and your needs.
One of the first aspects to consider and decide on is the motor type. At this point, we’re not talking about the brand or motor size. We simply want to look at a mid-drive motor versus a hub drive. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and our goal is to teach you everything you need to know to choose which is best for you. If you’re wondering what the differences between the two are, it's okay! We’ll start by giving you a simple overview of both types of motors, and then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of all the details to consider. We hope that this article will help you feel more confident in your decision to help you head out and enjoy your new electric bike to its utmost potential!
Overview of Mid-Drive Motors
Mid-drive motors are installed between the pedals and in the middle of the frame. A bike frame typically has to be designed around a mid-drive motor, and it can be difficult to retrofit a bike with a mid-drive motor. Typically, electric bikes with mid-drive motors will provide significantly more torque than hub drive motors with the same power output. They also have a torque sensor, which makes for a smoother ride.
The mid-drive motor directly drives the front chainring and the crank. Both of these can result in multiplied power. A mid-drive electric bike motor can take advantage of the bike’s gearing. Taking advantage of the gearing will influence the overall performance of the electric bike. A mid-drive motor eBike can utilize gearing while a hub-drive bike cannot. Climbing is where the mid-drive motor shines.
Electric bikes with mid-drive motors typically have a better range because they operate at more efficient RPMs. A better range means you go farther on a single charge on a mid-drive versus a hub-drive.
Because a mid-drive motor is considered a premium option in an electric bike, they are typically a little more expensive than comparable hub-drive motors. The extra cost can be a worthwhile investment when considering the extra torque and power your bike will have.
On a hub-drive electric bike, the motor will be integrated into either the front or rear wheel of the bike, but the rear wheel is more common. Some bikes even have the motor integrated into both wheel hubs. The hub-drive motor operates independently of the gears and applies torque directly to the wheel. Because the motor is integrated into the wheel hub, hub-drive electric bikes typically cannot be used in conjunction with most internal gear hubs.
One of the most beneficial aspects of a hub-drive motor is that it will still work off of just the throttle if your chain breaks. Because the torque from these motors is applied directly to the wheel, they place less tension on the chain and require less focus on proper shifting. Hub-drive motors can be activated by pedaling OR using a throttle, which means you won't be stranded if your chain breaks.
Hub-drive motor electric bikes tend to be less expensive than comparable mid-drive motor electric bikes because they are less complex to design and build. It is also much easier to retrofit a traditional mountain bike with a hub-drive motor. In addition, many users feel that the hub drive has a sleeker, more subtle look because of the hub integration.
Traction of Hub-Drive vs. Mid-Drive Motors
The traction of an electric bike is a factor that should heavily influence your decision when choosing a bike. When comparing a mid-drive to a hub-drive motor, the traction of each should play a factor. On a hub-drive eBike, the weight of the bike motor is entirely in the front or rear wheel. The wheel without the motor will be much lighter than the one without. As a result of the weight differences, the non-motor wheel is likely to be too light to get enough traction to keep you riding. On the other hand, a mid-drive motor is centered on the frame, and the weight is equally dispersed. This equal distribution results in better traction between both tires.
Handling of Hub-Drive vs. Mid-Drive Motors
It's also important to consider how an electric bike handles when you're deciding to purchase one. An electric bike with a hub-drive motor is balanced differently due to the weight not being evenly distributed. The unevenness can significantly impact handling because so much of that comes from balancing the bike. On the contrary, a mid-drive electric bike will typically handle better because the weight of the motor will be centered on the frame. When the weight is closer to the center of gravity, balancing the bike becomes easier. Balancing the bike is especially important when going on off-road trails.
Maintenance and Durability of Hub-Drive vs. Mid-Drive Motors
You want an electric bike that will withstand the demands placed on it. At Bakcou, we pride ourselves on building top-of-the-line, high durability bikes in both our mid-drive and hub-drive motors. One of the most noticeable differences in durability between hub-drive and mid-drive motors is the durability of the bike chain. Because the hub-drive supplies the torque directly to the wheel, there isn't as much demand placed on the chain. As a result, it is less common for riders to break a chain on a hub-drive bike. While that doesn't guarantee that you won't have a broken chain, it does mean they're not as common of an issue.
On a mid-drive electric bike, the motor will place more torque and, as a result, more stress on the chain. More stress on the chain can result in a higher frequency of breakage. This is especially likely if the rider is incorrectly using the gears. However, a higher likelihood doesn't always mean that it will occur. If your chain does break, there is always the option to carry extra chain quick links or even a spare chain with you to repair on the trail.
When we talk about the maintenance of your electric bike, mid-drive motors come out on top for having easier and more convenient maintenance. Hub-drive electric bike maintenance is a little more time-consuming and difficult. It is especially true when you consider changing out a flat tire. Because the motor is wired into the wheel on a hub-drive bike, it can be challenging to take off the wheel and swap it out in the event of a flat tire. On a mid-drive, you won't have to worry about the motor, or any wiring, getting in the way. You take the wheel off, change the tire, and go.
Power of Hub-Drive vs. Mid-Drive Motors
When you invest in an electric bike, you expect it to have the power and performance necessary to meet your needs. For this reason, it is crucial to evaluate both hub-drive and mid-drive motors to make sure you are getting the best bike for you.
Mid-drive motors tend to have a higher level of performance and a higher torque output. A mid-drive motor drives the crank, which will multiply the power output. A mid-drive takes advantage of the gears, which gives it more climbing power and makes it the ideal choice for riding up hills or back in the mountains.
A hub-drive motor operates independently of the gears and only applies torque to the wheel. As a result, a hub-drive bike has less power output and is less powerful and less efficient for hill-climbing.
So, Which is Better?
There is not a cut-and-dry answer for determining which bike is best. It depends on your intentions for using the bike. If you are looking for a city cruiser or something for flatter ground, then a hub-drive motor might be best for you. If you’re looking to do mountain-bike-style riding, or you know you’re riding in steep terrain, then a mid-drive would be the easy answer. In the end, it is a matter of personal preference and what your budget allows.
Both mid-drive and hub drive motors have their advantages and disadvantages. When making a decision, consider your goals for using the bike. Things like where you’ll ride your bike and how much power you want out of your eBike are things to think about before purchasing.
Personally, being out in the Uinta Mountain Range of the Rocky Mountains, we prefer a mid-drive motor. We like, and need, the climbing capabilities and the amount of torque they output. We also appreciate the ability to still use the rear gears of the bike in conjunction with the power of the motor. The added advantages of better hill climbing, more torque, the ability to use the gearing, and better handling far outweigh the disadvantage of the increased chain tension from the higher torque, in our opinion. While we haven't run into the issue of a broken chain yet, we always make sure to have quick links available in our Trailside Repair Kit to make a quick fix on the trail just in case we do happen to break a chain.
Choosing between a mid-drive and a hub-drive motor when purchasing an electric bike is a matter of personal preference. It's important to note that there is no right or wrong choice. Here at Bakcou, we have one rear-hub model and seven mid-drive models. Because of their power and performance, we lean towards the mid-drive motor, as noted above. Regardless of whichever you choose, we hope you love your electric bike!
Which type of motor do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below. Have other questions or concerns? Or, maybe there is a topic you would like to see us cover? Feel free to reach out. We are always happy to help!