Mid Drive and Hub Drive Motors – Electric bikes are one of the fastest-growing modes of transportation, and it’s not hard to see why. They help riders go faster, further, and longer. Because of their popularity, there is a wide range of styles, motors, and price points that riders can choose from depending on their needs.
Motor positioning, and how it affects performance is one of the most discussed topics when it comes to e-bike purchases. It’s important to know the differences between the two main types of motor positioning: mid-drive vs hub motor. We receive many questions about the difference between hub motors and mid-drive motors on electric bikes. We thought it would be a good idea to post an article outlining the differences between the two motor types.
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. The mechanisms required to coordinate the motor’s power with pedaling and shifting are a bit more complicated than hub systems – it’s more important to be in the correct gear when riding an e-bike with a mid-drive motor.
Depending on the programming, the shifting may not feel as smooth as an e-bike with a hub motor. For example, if you don’t pedal with smooth, even pressure, you can experience power surges as you ride.
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 center 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.
Generally, mid-drive motors require a specially designed frame to contain the motor in the center. For nearly all crank-driven motor options on the market, such as Bosch, Shimano, Yamaha or Brose, or Bafang, the controller is integrated into the motor, making it simple for OEM electric bike manufacturers. On the other hand, this integration makes for maintenance and occasional repairs more of a challenge for the bike owner.
A hub motor is located on the rear (or occasionally front) hub of the e-bike. It is completely sealed and self-contained and requires no additional maintenance.
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 because you don’t need to worry about shifting as much or maintaining proper chain tension.
Hub motors can be activated by pedaling or using a throttle. The motor uses either a cadence or a torque sensor. A torque sensor supplies more power if you push harder. The cadence sensor simply detects when you are turning the pedals and at what rate. The e-bike’s computer smoothly turns the motor on at whatever level of power you have selected, eliminating the need to monitor what gear you are in.
MID-DRIVE VS HUB MOTORS: WHICH ONE IS BETTER?
Generally speaking, hub motors have proven to be more reliable and durable. Even if your hub motor fails, in most cases you still have a regular bicycle to pedal back home. On the contrary, failure in the mid-drive system or bicycle transmission means you are stuck with a bike that may not move.
Performance-wise, it doesn’t matter for the casual rider or urban commuters as the differences are relatively subtle. After a month or so, whatever system you are riding, you will have adapted to it and will be riding without a single thought about sensors and motors. We recommend you take both types of motors out for a test ride and see which one you prefer.