Which Should I Choose?
When purchasing an electric bike, the first thing to consider is the motor, and quite frankly, a mid-drive motor trumps a hub-drive motor in almost everything but price. Mid-drives are the Holy Grail power-providers for electric bikes. If you want to know how you can get the ultimate in efficiency and performance this is a good start. Mid-drives are not the cheapest electric bikes to build, but are the cream of the crop once you are out riding, especially off road, climbing hills or mountains. The mid-drive motor creates more torque for better hill climbing, it is centered on the bike for better balance, and it utilizes the gears for higher top end speeds and overall performance.
If you’re purchasing an ebike for rugged, off-road, hilly and/or technical terrain, then make sure you buy an ebike with a mid-drive motor. To better understand why a mid-drive motor is superior to a hub motor it’s important to elaborate on each.
A hub motor is typically placed on the rear wheel, although some front hub configurations exist. The hub motor is simple and quite inexpensive to manufacture and is therefore typically found on less expensive ebikes. Hub motors are heavy, cause uneven weight distribution, struggle climbing steep terrain, and have limited top end speed. Hub motors tend to be more about raw power and brute force whereas mid-drive motors tend to be more about smooth and efficient performance.
To better understand mid-drive motors please see below:
Mid-drive motors are known for higher performance and torque when compared to a traditional hub motor allowing it to perform better on hills. One key reason is the mid-drive motor drives the crank, instead of the wheel itself, multiplying its power and allowing it to better take advantage of the bike’s existing gears. This translates to a happier more efficient motor and a lighter better balanced e-bike. Why a lighter bike? When going through the gears, you don’t need as heavy a motor to propel you up hills without smoking, and you don’t need as much battery because a mid-drive is considerably more efficient than a hub motor especially when climbing. Mid-drive motors can leverage the lower gears of the bike and keep the rpm’s in an efficient range without getting “bogged down” like a hub motor. This is a good feature if you ride in areas that have consistently long and steep climbs. However, these motors can also leverage the higher gears of the drivetrain to cruise along at high speeds on flat or inclined roads.
A mid-drive motor is designed to make maintenance and service extremely easy. The entire motor assembly can be removed and replaced by simply taking out a few special bolts – without affecting any other aspect of the bike. This means that virtually any regular bike shop can easily perform troubleshooting and repairs. On the other hand, if you have a rear-hub motor, even basic maintenance tasks such as taking off the wheel to change a flat tire become more complicated endeavors. Removing the front or rear wheel on a mid-drive ebike is easy because there are no motor wires or hardware to remove. The ebike with a mid-drive motor can also use most any front or rear wheel type along with quick release levers.
Mid-drive motors are positioned at the center of the bike. This helps improve the overall handling of your electric bike by better distributing the weight, which contributes to better balance and thus a more classic bike feel. Mid-drive systems also allow for the use of cadence, speed and torque sensors. High-end mid-drive motors are pretty sophisticated with sensors that measure pedal power, wheel speed, and crank speed to provide assistance that blends with the riders’ power to create a very intuitive ride feel. A torque sensor is the best control you can have over an ebike. The harder you push the more assistance you get proportionally. There are also sensors that will reduce power when the system senses that the rider is going to shift gears to make the shift smoother. The BackCountry eBikes Mule and Storm models utilize Bafangs “high-end” Ultra mid-drive motor. The Ultra motor comes equipped with cadence, speed and torque sensors, as well as shifting sensors that reduce power in the motor when shifting to protect the gears and provide for smoother shifting. Please refer to the “Our Motor” page listed under the “Know Before You Buy” tab on our website for more information on this truly elite motor.
Other than price, the key limitation on mid-drive motors is that they are limited by the strength of the chain and the sprocket. Inevitably, a mid-drive will lead to increased maintenance on the drive train, including all cogs and sprockets. Thus, regular and routine maintenance is strongly encouraged and is extremely important.