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Choosing between a Mid-Drive and Hub-Drive Motor

Choosing the right motor for your eBike is essential for getting the right ride for your needs, so what are the pros and cons of each?

One of the first things to consider when purchasing an eBike is its motor configuration. This choice can greatly affect how your eBike operates, and depending on where you do most of your cycling, can be the make-or-brake in reaching your destination. Luckily, there are only two different styles to consider, and both are readily available at Third Rail EBikes!

The most common motor found in the current eBike market is the rear wheel hub motor. Some front wheel setups exist and while functionally is very similar, it's less common. Hub drive motors are in the center of the wheel and directly apply torque to the wheel, operating separately to your bike’s gears. Its simple design means that they are somewhat less expensive to manufacture and buy. You will most often see hub-drives on eBikes in the sub-$2000 price point. That lower cost comes with some drawbacks and when investing in an eBike that you plan to use for years to come, it's important to make the choice that best suits your needs.

The main differences in a mid-drive are in its performance, maintenance, and handling. Mid-drive motors are installed between your pedals and operate by spinning your eBike's chainring directly. This means that the gear you are in impacts the ride and performance of your eBike, as the motor is applying torque to the chain just like your legs. One result is that the motor spinning feels smoother and more natural than in a hub-drive, which can feel like it's pushing you forward. The center and low placement also means that the center of gravity is maintained in the middle of the frame, which feels more balanced and similar to a conventional bicycle.

Is the maintenance of a conventional bicycle and an eBike similar? Yes, and it's easier with a mid-drive than with a hub-drive. The components on eBikes that require the most attention are the same as on any other bike. The chain, brake pads, and tires see the most wear and will need to be replaced with time. Replacing a flat tire on a hub-drive is more involved as you'll need to snip cable ties and disconnect wires before taking off the wheel. In a mid-drive, it's exactly the same as with a standard bike as none of the cabling is connected to the wheel, and changing is a breeze. The extra torque on the chain does result in slightly more wear, so keep it well lubricated and expect to replace it slightly more often than on a hub-drive.

The biggest difference is in how a mid-drive motor uses your bike's gearing to move you forward. Just like how in a low gear it's easier to pedal with your legs, a low gear means it's easier on your motor too! This efficiency translates directly to more torque and more battery mileage-especially on hills. If your commute is on the long side or has a lot of hills to cover, then a mid-drive is absolutely the way to go. It will be easier to pedal on steep inclines while being less demanding on your battery, allowing you to go farther on a single charge.

A mid-drive definitely has its advantages, and as a result is a bit more “premium” in pricing. The choice is up to you and depending on where you see yourself doing the most riding, that cost is certainly worth it. If budget is a concern or you simply do not see yourself taking advantage of the benefits of a mid-drive, there are some fantastic hub drive options out there that will be a blast to ride!


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