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Electric bike: Choosing Between Wheel Hub Motor and Mid-Drive Motor

When buying an electric bicycle, the most important decision you need to make is whether to choose a wheel hub motor or a mid-drive motor. Your choice of motor system will affect your riding quality, and it's best to understand the differences.

The wheel hub motor and the mid-drive motor on electric bicycles

Wheel hub motors are the most common type of motor you'll see on electric bikes. The motor is integrated into the front or rear wheel hub. The latter is more common, but some electric bikes even have motors on both wheels. Wheel hub motors apply torque directly to the bike wheel and operate independently of the bike gears. In contrast, mid motor is installed between your pedals. This type of motor directly drives the bike's front chainring (a sprocket that is part of the crankset), and thus is affected by your drivetrain. Click here to contact hub motor manufacturers and get more information.

Choosing a wheel hub motor and considering riding quality

Since mid-drive motors run on the pedals, they are often considered the more "advanced" choice. The motor's torque is applied to the chain or belt, and riding typically feels more natural.

Because mid-drive motors are placed in the center of the bike and directly below you, bikes with mid-drive motors also tend to feel more balanced and natural compared to electric bikes with wheel hub motors, whose weight tends to be biased towards the rear or front of the bike. A common comment about wheel hub motors is that they feel like they're pushing you (e-bike rear hub motor) or pulling you (ebike front hub motor), which depends somewhat on the bike's geometry.

Perhaps more noteworthy, however, is that the biggest reason why many mid-drive bikes are said to ride more naturally has nothing to do with the drive technology itself. Instead, mid-drive motors usually use torque sensors. You can learn about the differences between these two types of sensors, but the gist is that pedal sensors only detect whether and how fast you're pedaling, while torque sensors measure how hard you're pedaling.

Based on experience, electric bikes with wheel hub motors and with good torque sensors such as some of them ride more naturally than poorly implemented mid-drive bikes. Some of the cheapest mid-drive bikes omit torque sensors entirely. However, most mid-drive motors do include a high-quality torque sensor.