The topic of hub motors vs mid-drive motors is a popular topic for DIY e-bikes.
Mid motor vs hub motor
A mid-drive motor gets its name from its position on the bike. Located in the middle of a bicycle’s frame near the bottom bracket where the cranks are connected. Mid-drive motors are directly attached to the drivetrain and your pedalling inputs. In most cases, the drivetrain of a mid-drive electric bike is made up of a traditional chain, chain rings and a cassette, which work together to drive the rear wheel and move you forward.
It can do this because there are sensors within the motor itself that measure your pedalling. The motor reads this data and responds by offering up extra power and applying it directly to the chain or belt, which has the effect of pushing you along with greater force.
Some people love mid-drive motors, and in some instances, they absolutely make sense. Avid mountain bikers prefer mid-drive motors for technical riding because the centre of gravity is weighted at the lower-middle of the bike, which is preferable when navigating technical trails. The ability to better control the motor traction also fits well with the variable terrain encountered when mountain biking, particularly when climbing.
The downside to this direct attachment is that you can experience increased drivetrain wear, because it has to handle the effort that you’re putting in through the pedals plus the often-higher forces that the motor delivers. In the medium to long term, this may mean that you need to replace some components more often as they wear.
Mid-drive motors require a specially designed frame to contain the motor in the center. Almost all crank drive motor options on the market, such as Bosch, Shimano, Yamaha or Brose or Bafang, have the controller integrated into the motor, this integration makes maintenance and occasional repairs more challenging for bike owners.
A hub motor is located on the rear or front hub of the e-bike. It is completely sealed and self-contained and requires no additional maintenance.
Fundamentally, hub motors work the same way as mid-drive motors—they create assistancet that increases your pedaling force, allowing you to accelerate faster and ride easier.
The differences come in the way a hub motor gets its data and applies its assistance. Plus, the positioning of the motor changes things a bit too.
A hub motor seamlessly delivers power where and when it’s needed, working independently of your pedaling and gear shifting. Overall, hub motors end up being a smoother ride.
Hub motors can be activated by pedalling or using a throttle. The motor uses either a cadence or a torque sensor. A torque sensor supplies more power if you push harder.
Mid-Drive vs Hub Motors: Which one could I choose?
I’d like to give you the facts and allow you to make your own decisions. I’ll ask five questions and give you a recommendation based on each of those scenarios.
- What Is Your Budget?
What I often see is hub motors on entry-level bikes, but that's not always true. A hub motor e-bike may be premium, but it's still generally more affordable than a mid-drive motor. If you are strictly looking to spend as little money as possible, a hub drive bike would be your best option.
- How Often Do You Ride Your Ebike?
The maintenance costs of mid-drive bikes tend to be higher than hub motors because more moving parts need to get looked after. If you’re worried about high maintenance costs, hub electric bikes are your best option. But, if you’re after convenience, then mid-drive motors are the better choice.
- What Distance Do You Typically Ride?
The range you get with mid-drive electric bikes is far greater than that of a hub motor. So if you ride anything more than 15 to 20 miles per day, you should consider getting a bike with a mid-drive. Even though you have to constantly pedal, you won’t feel as fatigued riding a mid-drive motor e-bike the same distance as a hub motor bike, especially over long distances.
- What Type Of Roads Do You Ride On?
If you ride on terrain mostly made up of straights or even downhills, hub motors will be perfectly fine. And you’ll be able to take quite a few breaks while cruising down the straights.
If you have a few hills on your route, you want to consider buying a mid-drive motor e-bike because it’ll assist you better with pedaling uphill.
- Do You Like Taking Breaks?
The mid motor works with the gears instead of directly powering your wheels, the motor only works when you pedal, but thanks to the efficiency of the mid-drive motor, you will feel less tired while riding. But since a hub motor applies power directly to the wheels, you can stop pedaling and still have power delivered to the wheels to keep moving.
So, which one is better?
Well, it depends! Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. The final answer may depend on the sort of usage you have in mind for your e-bike. We believe that for a casual urban rider a geared hub motor is the best fit, as it requires less maintenance and provides a more reliable system. If you are in that group of riders that ride technical single track and steep climbs, the reliability of the mid motors is your best choice.