Mid Drive vs. Hub Drive Electric Bikes: Which Is Best For You?
- Mid-drive eBikes have centrally-located motors that apply power directly to the bike's drivetrain—leading to balanced weight distribution, efficient power usage, and a more natural cycling feel. However, they can put more strain on the drivetrain and require more frequent maintenance.
- Hub-drive eBikes have the motor positioned in the wheel's center. They are simple, cost-effective, and put less strain on the drivetrain, but the motor's placement can affect handling and efficiency.
- The Michael Blast Vacay Mid-Drive Hi is a prime example of a mid-drive eBike, while the Michael Blast Greaser is a classic hub-drive eBike. Both feature a 500W Bafang geared brushless rear hub motor, but the motor is located in the rear wheel hub for the Greaser and at the pedals for the Vacay.
- Choosing between mid-drive and hub-drive eBikes depends on your personal needs and preferences. Mid-drive eBikes are best for uneven terrains and heavy loads, while hub-drives are excellent for city commuting and flat terrain.
The rise of eBikes has revolutionized two-wheel transport, making cycling more accessible, less strenuous, and more enjoyable. But not all electric bikes are equal—and the same goes for the motors they use.
Mid drive and hub drive motors each have pros and cons—but what kind should your next eBike have? Don’t worry; you've come to the right place. Below, we explain the differences between mid-drive and hub-drive eBikes using examples from some of today’s top eBikes to help you figure out which kind will suit you best.
Mid-Drive Electric Bikes
Let's start with mid-drive eBikes. These bikes feature a motor placed centrally, usually at the bike's bottom bracket (where the crank arms are attached). The mid-drive motor assists the bike's drivetrain (the gears and chain) instead of directly driving the wheel.
For a quintessential example of a mid-drive eBike, look no further than our own Michael Blast Vacay Mid-Drive Hi. This bike boasts a 500W Bafang geared brushless hub electric motor that sits right at the pedals.
Advantages of Mid-Drive Systems:
- Better weight distribution: With the motor placed centrally, mid-drive eBikes have balanced weight distribution. This leads to improved handling and stability, particularly beneficial on hilly terrains or when carrying heavy loads.
- Efficient power usage: Mid-drive systems take advantage of the bike's gears to provide power more efficiently. You'll find yourself using less power when climbing hills or accelerating.
- More natural feeling: Because of their efficiency, mid-drive systems typically offer a more "bicycle-like" feel, especially when pedaling without power assistance.
Disadvantages of Mid-Drive Systems:
- More strain on the drivetrain: The motor's power goes through the bike's gears and chain, potentially leading to more wear and tear.
- Usually more expensive: Mid-drive systems are often more complex and therefore more expensive than hub-drive systems.
- Maintenance: Since they create more wear-and-tear, mid-drive systems can require more frequent maintenance.
Hub-Drive Electric Bikes
Now let’s take a closer look at hub-drive eBikes. In these bikes, the motor is positioned in the center of either the front or rear wheel (hence the term 'hub'). Hub-drive motors directly power the wheel, independent of the bike's gears.
Our Michael Blast Greaser is a great example of a hub-drive eBike. Like the Vacay, it uses a 500W Bafang geared brushless rear hub motor—but places it at the rear wheel instead of the pedals.
Advantages of Hub-Drive Systems:
- Simplicity: Hub-drive systems are generally simpler and more straightforward than mid-drive ones. They're easier to install, replace, or maintain.
- Lower cost: They are usually less expensive than mid-drive systems, making them a great choice for budget-conscious riders.
- Less wear on the drivetrain: Since the motor doesn't interact with the gears or chain, hub-drive systems put less strain on the bike's drivetrain.
Disadvantages of Hub-Drive Systems:
- Weight distribution: A hub motor adds weight to either the front or the rear of the bike, which can affect handling, especially on loose surfaces or steep climbs.
- Efficiency: Hub-drive systems don't take advantage of the bike's gears, which may mean less efficiency when climbing hills or accelerating.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mid-Drive vs. Hub-Drive eBikes
Why Buy a Mid-Drive eBike?
Mid-drive eBikes shine in hill climbing and off-road biking. Their power distribution and efficient torque usage make them ideal for uneven terrains and heavy loads—so if you like to ride on the more adventurous side, these bikes are probably your best bet.
Why Buy a Hub-Drive eBike?
Hub-drive eBikes are excellent for city commuting or riding on flat terrain where climbing steep hills isn't a major concern. They're also an excellent choice for those looking for high-value, lower-maintenance eBike options.
Do mid-drive eBikes always cost more than hub-drive ones?
While mid-drive systems tend to cost more than eBikes with hub-drive motors, that’s not always the case. Other factors that determine the price of an eBike include:
- Brand and model: Brand recognition and visual appeal play a role in the price of an eBike, just like with motorcycles. Buying an expensive bike from a big-name brand won’t guarantee that it comes with a mid-drive motor!
- Features: Bikes with premium brakes, suspension, or other components will likely be on the pricier side no matter what kind of motor they have.
- Part quality & availability: High-quality parts make an eBike more expensive. The exception is eBikes that use off-the shelf parts from respected manufacturers like Shimano suspension, Bafang motors, and Samsung batteries—the availability of these components makes them easier and more affordable to obtain without compromising on reliability.
Are mid-drive or hub-drive eBikes faster?
The speed of an eBike depends more on the motor's power and the bike's design than on whether it's a mid-drive or hub-drive. Both types can offer similar speeds if their motors are equivalent. For example,
Are mid-drive or hub-drive eBikes quieter?
Generally speaking, mid-drive eBikes tend to make less noise than hub-drive models. This is because hub-drive eBike motors typically have larger gears that turn at lower speeds, creating a more robust and audible sound.
Buy an eBike Based on Your Needs
Choosing between a mid-drive and a hub-drive eBike boils down to your personal needs and preferences. Both systems have their strengths and areas where they excel.
But remember: there's no one-size-fits-all in the world of eBikes. Whether it's the balanced feel of a mid-drive eBike or the straightforward efficiency of a hub-drive system, the 'best' choice is the one that brings you the most joy on two wheels.
Now that you know more about the differences, it’s time to choose your next eBike! Whether you end up with a mid-drive or a hub-drive, we look forward to helping you experience the joy of cycling—with all the freedom and adventure that comes with it.