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Is It Common To Go Without Your E Ring As A Bridesmaid – E-bikes are becoming an increasingly popular form of two-wheeled electric transport for both commuting to work and cycling for pleasure. The two most common styles of electric motors used on electric bikes today are hub motors and mid-drive motors. Which is best for your needs? Read on to find out more and find out!
Hub motors, which place the electric motor in the center of a bicycle wheel, are by far the most common form of electric bicycle motors.
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Mid-drive motors, which house the motor closer to the center of the bike and transfer power from the motor to the rear wheel via the bike’s chain drive, have become much more common in the last 2-3 years, and they are significantly dethroning the hub motor leader as the king of electric bike motors.
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Both have a number of unique advantages and disadvantages, so choosing the right motor for you will largely depend on your requirements and which advantages seem most useful for your needs.
One of the biggest advantages of hub motors is that they require little or no maintenance. They are a completely self-contained drive system that keeps all the components in the motor housing, leaving nothing for you to handle or maintain.
The closed system also means that there is much less to fail. There are two types of hub motors: geared hub motors that have internal planetary gears to slow down a higher RPM motor, and gearless hub motors, which have no gears and directly connect the stator shaft to the lower RPM gear motor of the bike. Geared hub motors generally have only one weak point: the gears. Over time, a tooth can crack and nylon-reinforced gears will eventually wear out.
Gearless hub motors, on the other hand, have no moving parts other than the bearings, so there is basically nothing to wear. As long as your bearings don’t rust or wear out, they can last forever.
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Hub motors also help reduce other bike maintenance tasks compared to mid-drive motors. Since they don’t connect to the main pedal’s drive system, hub motors don’t add extra stress to the chain or derailleurs, and they don’t cause either part to wear faster. If anything, the chain will probably last longer than a non-electric bike because the central motor will be doing more work, allowing the chain to idle frequently.
As a standalone drive system, hub motors also provide redundancy. Since the hub motor and pedal drive system are completely independent, you can lose one and still come home with the other. Does the chain snap while hitting a trail hard? Throw the chain in your bag and drive home on electric power alone. Does the hub motor somehow fail? Pedal backwards. Either way, you have a backup. This can be huge if you are away from home, especially for older cyclists or those who use e-bikes as a form of rehabilitation.
The weight of a hub motor can both positively and negatively affect the balance of a bike, depending on the circumstances. In some cases, it can be good to have the weight of an engine more forward or aft on one of the wheels. This applies in particular to e-bikes with rear-mounted batteries. In such cases, a front hub motor can redistribute the weight so that the center of gravity remains in the center of the bike.
Finally, hub motors are much cheaper than mid motors. Hub bikes are mass produced by the hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, depending on the factory. The same designs have been in constant use for over a decade in some cases. This means that the prices are incredibly cheap.
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As we’ve covered in some of our previous DIY ebike articles, you can get a complete 1000W hub motor kit, including electronics, gas, etc., for less than $200. The same level of power in a middrive kit can easily cost 3-4 times as much .
Perhaps most importantly, almost all hub motors only allow a single gear ratio. While this is usually fine for cruising on flat ground, lower speed but higher torque will be preferable for hill climbing. It’s just not as efficient to use a single speed motor when running in the lower RPM range under load.
Hub motors are usually heavier than mid-drive motors, and that weight is the unsprung weight of suspension bikes, which can reduce the effectiveness of the bike’s suspension and transfer more shock to the rider.
Hub motors can be more restrictive when it comes to wheel components such as rims, tires and cassettes. Because you’re limited to the rim that comes with the hub motor, you may not be able to fit your favorite tire, and the width of hub motors often precludes cassettes with more than 7 speeds.
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Changing tires is also more difficult with hub motors, as you often have to disconnect the motor cable or break a heavy wheel while still attached to the bike. However, there are some really great bike inner tubes that can be swapped out without removing the wheel from the bike, which is great for hub motors.
Of course, hub motors can be installed on either wheel, and the difference also creates some other unique advantages and disadvantages.
Since more weight is generally concentrated on the rear wheel, front hub motors can help balance the weight better.
The front wheels also tend to get fewer punctures than the rear wheels, as they often lift debris off the road and prepare it behind. A front hub motor leaves the rear wheel unsprung for easy tube and tire changes.
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But the less weight on a bike’s front wheel means less traction, so more powerful front hub motors can sometimes cause burnout when you hit the gas. Front forks are also not as robust as rear dropouts, and so a powerful front hub motor can even damage the fork over time, although this can be mitigated by installing a device known as a torque arm. Strong hub motors of 750W or more are generally best kept on the back of a bike.
Perhaps what I like best about rear hub motors is that they give you more of the pushy motorcycle feel rather than the pulling feel of a front motor.
But when you reach a constant speed and drive in a straight line, the differences between a front and rear hub motor are almost imperceptible.
The single biggest advantage that midrange motors have over hub motors is the gear ratio. They allow the rider to drive the rear wheel via the same chain and gear set as the pedals, meaning a low gear can be selected for climbing steep hills or accelerating from zero with massive torque. A mid-drive motor in low gear can climb steeper hills than a hub motor of similar power and can climb hills longer than a hub motor, which can overheat on long, steep hills.
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A mid-drive motor is also usually smaller and lighter than a mid-drive motor of equivalent power. Bafang recently introduced a new range of mid-drive motors for racing bikes weighing just 2.3kg. Smaller and lighter mid-drive motors are usually quieter because they can be mounted directly into the bike frame. Many people don’t even realize that a mid-engine bike is an electric bike just by looking at it.
Changing tires on an e-bike with a mid-drive motor is much easier since you don’t have to deal with a heavy hub motor. You just give it as on a normal pedal bike. Since you can use regular bicycle wheels, you also have the freedom to use whatever wheels, tires and cassettes you want.
Finally, mid-drive motors allow the use of true torque sensors for pedal assist systems, which regulate motor output based on how hard you press down on the pedals, as measured at the crank. Hub motors often rely on cadence sensors for pedal assist, which only regulate motor speed based on pedal speed, and can cause choppy or difficult motor timing, especially when going uphill or moving the bike around obstacles.
Of course, there is also another side to this coin. Mid-drive motors can be brutal in their drivetrain, which is perhaps their biggest flaw.
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A healthy person can generate 100W of power for quite a long time, and 250W of power during an intense sprint is reasonable. But mid-drive motors can generate between 250 and 750W of power.
It’s like having a professional cyclist hammering away at your pedals all day. A cheap bike chain simply doesn’t stand a chance. Nap!
Mid-drive e-bike dealers usually carry upgraded bike chains for that very reason, as broken chains are probably the #1 maintenance problem on mid-drive e-bikes. And because both the motor and the pedals need the chain to drive the wheel, riding a mid-engine bike with a broken chain is strictly downhill.
One way to completely mitigate the chain problem is to choose a belt-driven mid-drive e-bike, but also factor additional cost into your equation.
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Due to the greater number of moving parts in a mid-drive motor,
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