The Electric bike community forums have this debate each week. Should I buy a Hub Drive? Or should I buy a Mid-Drive? The answer to this question is usually met with the typical internet passion, fervor, and acerbic opinion sharing that is enough to confuse the original question poster back to the point where they were more confused than where they started.
The challenge with the debate is that it really depends on a lot of factors. So instead of going into too much detail, I will try and identify them here and give you our take on this debate. What we try to do for most categories is what we call watts for watts. So a 500W Hub-Drive vs a 500W Mid-Drive.
Mid-Drive wins here too by typically double the available torque. This is where that hill-climbing power comes from and it will be a big consideration on utility and cargo bikes as well. Again, if you were to jump on the saddle of a 3000W hub-drive motor you’d be grinning ear-to-ear with the available torque, but watts to watts the mid-drive wins
Hub-drive engines range from similar weights of mid-drive to upwards of double the weight depending on the model. Some of the high-end mid-drive engines (eg. Fazua Ride 50 Evation) weigh in at only 4.6 KG for both the battery and the engine. When the wattage gets to 300W and above, weight is less of a factor and is almost needed to help keep a faster bike held firmly to the pavement/trail. For any weight saving needs/sports (road/gravel/mountain bikes) then the mid-drive is the winner.
For riding dynamics, mid-drive engines are the best choice. But this is not a huge concern for most applications. For 250-1000W hub-drive bikes on pavement and light trails most riders won’t notice any unfavorable riding dynamics issues. But when you heading up a technical uphill singletrack trail the additional weight in the hub will be noticeable.
Ease of Use
This is not something most people think about, but it is a consideration. Even without the electric engine to think about, what avid cyclists know about working the shifting capability of their bike to achieve smooth shifts, efficient power, and maintain the longevity of the drivetrain sometimes takes years to perfect. When you add in an electric engine into this mix, which can have 2-3x the pedalling power of a human, it can be difficult to manage all of this power efficiently. Hib-drive engines in this case are really simple, they drive from the wheel and don't affect the gears and the rider doesn't need to consider where and when to shift. Mid-drive bikes are a lot more complicated this way, wrongly timed shifts can be tough on the drivetrain and can make your ride a little rough. This can be easily solved by just not shifting gears, and on a 1000W mid-drive you'd be fine to do that for most riders. But it is just worth noting that it is one more thing to think about and for that reason a hub-drive is the winner in the"ease of use" category.
We love both hub-drive and mid-drive engines and it really depends what you’re using them for. We have both on offer in our bikes and we’re always happy to chat about these choices further. Just reach out to us at email@example.com.