So, what’s the difference between a hub and a mid drive motor?

(…and how do I choose between them?)

If you’re on the verge of buying your first ebike and you’re wondering why there are such huge price differences, you’ve probably discovered there are two major mechanisms that power most ebikes: hub and mid drive motors. Choosing one of these is one of the pivotal decisions for your new ride. Let me break it down for you, and compare the key pros and cons of each option.

TL;DR: Where the power comes from, the price, complexity and maintenance, and noise are the areas where they differ. Want simple and cheap? Hub. Want a better ride and don’t mind the extra price tag? Choose mid drive.

Where the Power Kicks In

Understanding where the source of power lies can have a profound impact on how your ebike performs and feels during your ride.

  • Hub Motors: These motors are situated within the wheel hub, either in the front or rear. When you activate the pedal assist or throttle, the motor directly propels the wheel forward, akin to the way a motorized vehicle operates. This design translates into a straightforward and predictable riding experience, making it easier for beginners to grasp.
  • Mid Drive Motors: Positioned at the bike’s bottom bracket, where the pedals and crankset are located, mid drive motors work differently. Instead of driving the wheel, they power the crank, simulating the sensation of pedaling a traditional bike. As you pedal, the motor amplifies your efforts, providing a more natural, bike-like experience. This design is favored by riders who seek an engaging and efficient ride.

Price Differences

Budget is a critical factor for most ebike buyers, and the choice of motor can significantly influence the overall cost of your purchase.

  • Hub Motors: Generally, ebikes equipped with hub motors are the more budget-friendly option. Their simplicity in design and reduced number of components result in a more affordable price tag, making them an attractive choice for those conscious of their spending.
  • Mid Drive Motors: In contrast, mid drive motors tend to come with a higher price point. This is due to their more complex construction and the additional components required. While they offer enhanced performance and efficiency, these benefits often come at a premium.

Complexity and Maintenance

Long-term satisfaction with your ebike hinges on maintenance and an understanding of the complexity involved.

  • Hub Motors: Hub motors are relatively uncomplicated, with fewer parts that can wear out. They require less frequent maintenance and are generally less susceptible to mechanical issues. However, in the rare event of a problem, repairs may be more challenging.
  • Mid Drive Motors: Mid drive motors introduce greater complexity as they interact with the bike’s drivetrain, including the chain and gears. This complexity can lead to increased wear and tear on these components, necessitating more regular maintenance. Additionally, the intricacies of mid drive systems can result in more potential points of failure, possibly leading to more trips to the bike shop for repairs.

Noise Levels

For a serene and peaceful ride, the noise level of your ebike is worth considering.

  • Hub Motors: Hub motors generally produce less noise compared to mid drive motors. This is primarily because they are sealed within the wheel hub. However, the noise level can vary depending on the manufacturer and specific design of the hub motor.

Choosing the Right Motor for Your Needs

So at this point you’ve probably figured out that mainly making a choice between your budget (short and long term) and how the ride itself feels when the motor is assisting you. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Hub Motors: If you’re on a tight budget, new to the world of ebikes or bikes generally, but eager to get started, and your riding terrain is mainly flat, a hub motor is a practical and cost-effective choice. They’re straightforward and accessible: ideal for beginners.
  • Mid Drive Motors: For those with a bit more financial flexibility, a desire for a more natural riding feel, and intentions of tackling challenging terrain with hills or off-road adventures, a mid drive motor is more ideal. They deliver superior performance and efficiency, making them the preferred option for experienced cyclists.

Whatever you opt for, you’re on your way to getting out there more. If you haven’t already started test riding different types: head to your local shop and compare for yourself!