We have written up a pros and cons guide to help you understand the difference between the two key motor designs you will find on electric bikes. There is no better motor to be honest, just one that is more suitable for the riders experience and needs.
It's very hard to know what is right for your experience and budget until you actually ride the bikes so please don't form an opinion until you have actually ridden a good range of ebikes at a real ebike shop - like us. :) In a nutshell here are the pros and cons.
Hub motor Pros
More affordable. More often produced in China where labour costs are lower which is passed onto the consumer.
Less effort by rider to generate the same amount of output as a mid drive motor. Especially more power on hill climbs from the takeoff.
No need for changing ones pedal stroke to minimise chain and cassette wear. Rider can pedal through the stroke in the same way as a normal bike.
Repair of parts in the motor is often but not always possible whereas most mid drive manufacturers don't support replacement of internal parts but suggest an entire motor replacement. Fine within the warranty period but not ideal outside of it.
Hub motor cons.
Far more weight in the front or rear wheel which does not give ideal weight distribution. The bike will feel quite different and heavier to a mid drive setup. This will be most noticeable when mountain biking.
Not ideal traction if the motor is on the front wheel. If the bike takes off from a steep slope especially if its wet the wheel can spin and slide. Not suitable for mountain biking at all.
The possibility of breaking spokes is higher as the wheel is laced with a relatively heavy motor in the middle of the rim. Spokes and hubs are under more stress. Imperative that the rider lifts off the saddle going over any speed jumps and pot holes. This is a skill that all riders should have but is crucial on electric bikes with rear hub motors to minimise broken spokes and fatiguing the rim.
Changing a flat tyre is more complex on most hub motor models. It will require more skill to remove and generally a spanner rather than the ease of quick release.
Mid drive pros
Much nicer weight distribution with the motor low and centred to the frame. Bike will feel more like a standard bike.
More efficient use of the your contribution as the motor is designed to leverage the gears like a motorbike. A mid drive bike will get further range than a hub motor especially on big ascents.
Flat tyres and removing wheels is easier as the wheels on the bike are standard. No need for any tools to remove the wheels except when the ebike is setup with internal hub gears in the rear wheel.
Mid drive cons
More expensive than a hub motor. Generally the motors and bikes are made in Europe so a higher price point but this is changing with brands like Bafang from China producing mid drive kits and motors designed for frame manufacturers.
Will require more effort from the rider to get the same power as a comparative hub motor. In this way it is better suited for customers who are already regular riders.
Chain and cassette wear can be worse than a hub motor unless the rider is able to slow the pedal stroke to accomodate the heavy loads on the chain and cassette. On some mid drive motors like Bosch and Impulse the motor will power off when the rider shifts gears but the motor is still engaged while it spins down so the rider should slow the stroke before shifting to minimise clunky and intrusive gear shifting. In some models like Brose and Shimano e8000 this is imperative as there is no sensor to turn off the motor when shifting gears so the chance of snapping a chain or hangar is high especially on full power and on steep offroad hill climbs.
Repair of most mid drive motors apart from Bafang are not offered by the manufacturer. It's a case of replace the whole motor which is fine within the warranty period but not ideal outside of it.
So which motor design is right for you?
This is our suggestion. If you're an experienced rider and love to pedal hard, don't want to get less aerobic exercise and your adept with using your bikes gears through all of its range then a mid drive motor is going to suit you. The weight distribution and power delivery of the motor is going to feel very familiar to you. You already understand the technique of correct gear shifting on a bicycle.
If you are looking at buying an ebike because you want to get back into riding and haven't ridden much before and you want maximum assistance for less effor then a hub motor will suit you better. The choice of gears you select is not as crucial and you'll be able to ride in work clothes and not break as big a sweat. The weight distribution is not as nice as a mid drive but you probably won't care that much anyway. You just want power baby!
So there you go. So come in and test ride to make your own kind up. A lot of customers will have a predisposed idea of what will work for them based on "researching" ebikes online but this often changes once the customer actually rides a range of ebikes at our shop.
See you in the shop.