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Mid-drive vs hub motor: how to choose the one that best suits you?

Mid-drive vs hub motors: whether you are a bike enthusiast or a beginner, you have heard about the differences between these two types of electric motors at least once. The commonly asked questions are: how should I choose the most suitable type of motor? What information should I keep in mind? These aspects definitely deserve a closer look, since there are several pieces of information to consider, depending on the type of e-bike, its usage, and the individual requirements.

Before discussing this topic, let’s take a step back to the word “e-bike”, the generic term for all electric-driven bicycles. Basically, it refers to two main categories: pedelecs – which we will focus on in this article- and speed pedelecs.

  • Pedelecs, also known as pedal-assisted bikes, are classified as velocipedes. They are equipped with an electric mid-drive or hub motor that assists the rider while pedaling up to 25 Km/h (legal speed limit in Europe).
  • Speed pedelecs are classified as mopeds or even motorcycles. They can deliver a boost up to 45 km/h, and for this reason, the riders must have a driving license and insurance.

As many things in the world of cyclism, both types of motors have a number of advantages and disadvantages. But which one is the best? Well, we are sure that reading this article will help you understand which type of motor is more suitable for your ebike, based on your riding needs.

Mid-drive motors: pros and cons

Ebike con motore centrale Shimano

Mid-drive motors are becoming very popular, although they are not mass-produced as hub motors. You have surely seen them on more expensive e-bike models, especially on electric mountain bikes. Generelly, they are bigger in size than hub motors, consequently increasing the total weight of the e-bike.

Mid-drive motors are installed between pedals and incorporated into the frame.They are directly attached to the main drivetrain system, which is generally composed of a chain, chainrings, and the cassette, working together to drive the rear wheel and move you forward. In rare cases, you can find mid-drive motors in e-bikes equipped with a belt drive instead of a chain.

A mid-drive motor offers the most direct response that you can get from a pedal-assist motor. It is ideal for enthusiasts who prefer very responsive pedal assistance, as well as riders who use their hybrid e-bikes for multiple purposes: daily commute, recreational riding, or weekend excursions. Moreover, mid-drive motors deliver more peak assistance than hub motors, and that’s why you will probably find them on e-mtb. As you might imagine, e-mountain bikes need higher levels of assistance to deal with when riding on extremely difficult terrain. Furthermore, they may need a more balanced center of gravity for their jumps or climbs .

However, also mid-drive motors do have some downsides to them! You can experience increased drivetrain wear due to the pedal effort and the motor’s usually higher forces. Some components may need to be replaced more frequently over medium-to-long term usage. Additionally, due to the higher power of mid-drive motors, you may have to fit bigger batteries to deliver a good range. But they may be heavier and may not fit as neatly inside the frame, with a result of a clumsy and overall really heavy e-bike.

Hub motors: pros and cons

Ruota Noko con motore al mozzo FSA

Hub motors are the most common type of electric motor found on e-bikes. They are installed in place of the wheel hub, either rear or front, making the motor almost invisible and perfectly integrated with the frame. These e-bikes looks aesthetically sleeker and are perfect for those who want to have a unique style exactly like NOKO e-bikes.

They are generally smaller and lighter than mid-drive systems. Even batteries can be smaller and lighter too, consenting them to be usually integrated into the frame without compromising range. As a result, the e-bike is lightweight, easier to ride and carry during daily commutes, making everyday usage simpler.

One of the biggest advantages is that hub motors require little to no maintenance. Since the motor directly applies torque to the wheel, it operates independently of your bike’s gears, allowing them to last longer. It is an entirely independent drive system whose components are retained inside the motor casing. As a result, you will never have to deal with specific maintenance in general. Furthermore, unlike mid-drive systems, by not being integrated into the main drive system, hub motors do not strain the chain or shifting. And of course, they also do not accelerate the wear on them either.

But there are some downsides to rear hub motors. Removing the wheel in the event of a puncture can be very difficult to perform, especially if needed to be done while out riding, perhaps in the mountains, or non-urban locations. First, you will need to disconnect the motor cable which is a delicate step. However, there are new systems that have made this process easier to perform, such as a thru-axel, or an open-belt system as in NOKOFORZA and NOKOTEMPO.

Mid-drive vs hub motors: which one best suits you?

Uomo con nokoforza fuori la stazione

Mid-drive vs hub motors: who’s the winner at the end? Well, we can say that the hub motors are therefore ideal for urban commuters who prefer a sleeker and lighter design, for their e-bikes. Even road cyclists prefer hub motors, as they don’t dominate the ride nor destroy the aesthetic appeal of the bike. Contrary, for mountain bikers looking for much more responsive assistance, the most suitable choice is definitely the mid-drive system.


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