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Ebike Mid Drive Vs Hub Motor. Which Is The Best?

ebike rear hub motor closeup

When it comes to ebikes, there are a ton of choices these days in bikes and motors. The 2 most common motor types are hub motors and mid drive motors. When considering Ebike Mid Drive Vs Hub Motors, which one is best? There is no one perfect motor system for everyone. Let’s take a like at hub motors and mid drives for bikes and their advantages and disadvantages.

Ebike Mid Drive Vs Hub Motor. Which one to choose.

For a long time hub motors were the only option. Recently mid drive ebikes and conversions have become much more common and popular. Right now there are many choices on the market for both. Both can operate in pedal assist and throttle only modes. Both can work with a variety of wheel sizes including 26 inch, 700c (29inch) or fat bike wheels. Both can have lots of power and long range.

What is a hub motor?

Hub motors are located in the hub of the front or rear wheel. The motor is built into the wheel hub. It can be located in the front or rear wheel or a bike can have both a front and rear wheel hub motor.

Advantages of a hub motor for an ebike

Hub motors are cheap. Most are made in China for very low cost. They are simple. The motor can be geared or direct drive inside of the hub.

Hub motors are easy to install. They replace the front or rear wheel with a new wheel. That is all there is to it. Rear wheel hub motors will have a freewheel built into them to work with a 7 or 8 speed pedal driveline.

See the below video for a demonstration installing a hub motor.

They are good for high speed riding. The motor directly drives the wheel so it is efficient without losses in the pedal driveline. They can make the bike feel more like a moped or motorcycle. In throttle only mode it makes the bike go quick.

Hub motors still work if you break the chain while riding. They directly power the wheel so they don’t need the pedal driveline. If your chain brakes, you can still use throttle only mode to get home. Hub motors work if you break the rear derailleur or freewheel as well.

Disadvantages of a hub motor for an ebike

Hub motors weigh a lot. The weight is on the front or rear wheel. This isn’t that noticeable when riding on smooth pavement. It’s very noticeable riding offroad especially riding off drops or steel climbs.

Front hub motors do not work on offroad riding up hills. When climbing off road up a steep climb, all your weight is on the rear wheel. The front wheel won’t have any traction and it will spin.

Hub motors are not great for climbing steep hills. Hub motors apply power directly to the wheel. They have no gearing. Going up hill at low speeds you can stall the motor or overheat it. Hub motors work best going above 5 mph where the wheel turns enough RPM where the motor isn’t near stalled.

Hub motors are not easy to service. You must remove the entire wheel to service it. The motor is built into the hub.

Hub motors make the bike difficult to service. You can’t change the tire on the wheel with the hub motor without unplugging it and unbolting it.

Rear hub motors only work with a narrow range of bikes. They almost all use a freewheel driver instead of a freehub body. Freewheels are only available in 7 or 8 speeds. They are only found on relatively inexpensive bikes in the $100 to $400 range. Most available rear hub motor kits are only for normal spacing. It is very difficult to find one with boost spacing.

Front Hub vs Rear Hub motors

Front hub motors have the advantage that they are easier to install. Rear hub motors get much better traction especially going up hills. Front hub motors need to be bolted into the fork. You lose your front wheel quick release. If you need to put your bike in your car or anywhere with the front wheel off, a front hub motor will make it difficult. Rear hub motors only work with 7 or 8 speed freewheel bikes. Front hub motors can work with only normal spacing front wheeled bike.

How long do hub motors last?

A hub motor can last thousands of miles if properly maintained. It will out last your tires, chains, cables and other bike parts. You should get years of use out of any quality hub motor.

Are hub motors reliable?

Hub motors are very reliable. They do not have that many parts to break or wear out. If it is a direct drive motor it has even less to worry about. A big failure point of mid drive motors is the chain. Hub motors don’t need the chain to operate. Rear derailleurs are another common bike failure point. Hub motors don’t need those either. If you want a simple, reliable ebike, a hub motor is the way to go.

Ebike Hub Motor Pros
✔️ Low cost
✔️ Easy to install
✔️ Good for high speeds
✔️ They are reliable and still work with broken chains and derailleurs
Ebike Hub Motor Cons
They are heavy
Front hub motors don’t work for offroad trail riding and steep climbs
Not easy to service
It’s difficult to change the tube or tire on the wheel with the motor
Rear hub motors only work with a narrow range of bikes

What is a mid drive motor?

Mid drive ebike motors mount to the bottom bracket and cranks. Mid drive motors directly power the chainring. They apply power to the pedal driveline. There are bikes designed mid-drive that integrate them into the frame. There are conversion kits also that bolt on through the bottom bracket.

ebike mid drive motor bosch

Advantages of a mid drive ebike motor

Mid drive motors can apply more torque. They power the bike through the pedal driveline. They can take advantage of the bikes gearing. You can use low gears for climbing hills and high gears for riding at speed. You don’t overheat the motor making it run at low RPM while crawling up hills.

Mid motors can use torque sensing for pedal assist. Torque sensors on the crank can apply pedal assist in a much faster and smoother manner. The assist is powering the crank it feels much more natural. With hub motors, there is more delay in getting assist.

Mid motors are smaller and lighter weight. They are designed to operate at a higher RPM range since they can use the bikes gearing. They do not need to have torque at 0 RPM to directly move a large wheel. They are located at the center of the bike so they don’t make the bike feel unnaturally front or back heavy.

The bike is easier to service with a mid drive. You can have quick releases on the front and rear wheel with a mid drive. That makes changing tires or tubes much easier.

You can install a mid drive on almost any bike. There are mid drive motors available to work with almost any bottom bracket. They don’t care how many rear speeds you have. They can work with a 7 speed through 12 speed rear end. They don’t go on the wheels so they also work with normal or boost spaced wheel hubs.

Disadvantages of a mid drive ebike motor

Mid drive motors cost more. The cheapest hub motor kits are available for around $200. The cheapest mid drive motor kits run around $400. You can buy a complete ebike powered by a hub motor for under $500. You have to spend $1000 or more to get a bike with a mid drive motor.

Mid drive motors are much more difficult to install. You only need to take off a wheel and replace it with a new wheel to install a hub motor. For a mid drive you must remove the cranks and bottom bracket. Some bikes have shifter and brake cables running under the bottom bracket. These must be rerouted also. There are many types and sizes of bottom brackets and it’s not always easy to tell which your bike has. You must get a mid drive motor that is compatible and can fit between the pedals on that bike.

See the below video for a demonstration installing a Bafang mid drive motor.

Mid drive motors are not as reliable because of the chain and pedal driveline. Mid drive motors power the bike through the chain. Chains break while your riding. If you have never broken a chain yet, you will if your ride long enough. The mid drive motor adds extra stress to the chain on top of your pedalling force. This can make the chain even more prone to breaking. If your rear derailleur or freehub breaks, you also have no power. There are a lot more failure modes in the driveline with a mid drive motor.

Ebike Mid Drive Motor Pros
✔️ Much more torque through bikes driveline
✔️ They use torque sensing. More natural feeling pedal assist
✔️ Smaller and lighter weight. Weight is in the center of the bike
✔️ Easy to change tires, tubes, and service the bike.
✔️ Can be installed on almost any bike
Ebike Mid Drive Motor Cons
Much more expensive
Much more difficult to install
Not as reliable because of the chain, derailleurs, and freehub/freewheel

See the below video for demonstration of ebike mid drive vs hub motor advantages and disadvantages.

Are Bafang motors any good?

Bafang mid drive motors are excellent. They have great power with a good integrated controller and torque sensor. They have pedal assist and throttle mode. They have a ton of display options and batteries available. They make conversion units that will fit almost any bottom bracket size. They have several chainring sizes available as well. There are very few bikes you can’t convert to an ebike with a Bafang mid drive.

What is the best electric bike for the money?

There are many good ebikes available at different price points. Like almost anything in life, you get what you pay for. You can’t get a high powered ebike for a bargain basement price. See our below guides for the best value e-bikes.

How fast does a 1000w electric bike go?

Most likely a 1000 watt ebike will be limited to 20mph or 28mph to make it comply as a Class 1, 2 or 3 ebike. With the speed limiter removed it will have a top speed somewhere between 25 to 35mph. See our article on making an ebike go faster to learn more about Ebike power systems including top speeds.

Is 250 watts enough for an ebike?

A professional cyclist generates about 400 watts of power. They can make up to 1000 watts for very short periods. 250 watts more than 50% of what a professional athlete could make while riding. 250 watts is enough to get up to 20mph on flat lands and will make climbing hills easier. See our article on ebike voltages, amps, and watts to learn more about Ebike power systems and what the numbers mean.

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About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an outdoors and electric mobility enthusiast always looking forward to my next adventure. I spend as much time biking, boating, and skiing as I can. I decided to start Endless Rush Electric as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for all things electric transportion and to help other people have as much fun as me.