Off-road hill climbing ability mid-drive vs rear hub

Little Bear

New Member
I'm new to this forum and I posted this on another topic but there's been no response. Maybe it hasn't been seen or I'm not being patient enough. I'm super confused on which bike to purchase (rear hub or mid-drive). My primary application will be off-road trails for getting to hunting locations including lots of hills that I will need to creep up (low speed). A review on M2S said the rear hub would pull you up a hill at a slow pace letting the bike/throttle assist only do most of the work. But then I read some threads on here that mid-drive has more power for hill climbing. I was nearly settled on the RadRover 750 but again, would like to hear from those with real world experiences. Can anyone help a newbie out before I lay down a lot of cash on my first e-bike?
 

Banzai

Member
Hi Little Bear and welcome to the RAD Power Bikes forum.
I would first suggest watching a lot of the biking videos found on YouTube, and you will probably see the difference in how the different e-bike motors work, each being favored for somewhat different riding environments.

I love my Rover, which is perfect for the sandy desert riding where I live. If you watch some of the New Mexico Outdoors videos, that is very similar to what I ride, except that they are not riding e-bikes. As such I could ride a Motobecane fat bike around here and be just as happy. The motor in the Rover however, allows me to successfully do more difficult riding where hills and other difficulties become a factor. It's also nice being able to power over miles soft deep sand.

The e-bikes with mid-drives are more popular on long, steep, technical mountain trails, and the motor is a blessing when riding back up to the top of the mountain for another downhill run. But aside from being heavier, they also command twice as much in price as the Rover. Even more, depending on how much technology you want and can afford. For instance, that Specialized in my avatar sells for $5k and also has a built-in GPS bundle that tracks your performance.

Watch the videos from the various individuals, brands, and bike clubs because they can provide a lot of insight on what is going to work best for the riding you wish to do.
 

mrgold35

Well-Known Member
How rocky, steep, and varied will the terrain be?

I haven't tried out a mid-drive fat tire ebike. I've had my two Radrovers for +2 years with 6000 miles between them. I do a lot of trail riding in ABQ, NM, near the Rio Grande river trails (hard-packed, single track, and sometimes make your own trails). I've also ride in the foothills trails at +6500 feet that are a little steeper and tend to be more rocky. The Radrover is heavy, weather resistant, and can take a punch on the chin. I've had plenty of wipe-outs that left me more hurt compared to only minor damage to the rover. I had to use the throttle only a few times to get me home +4 miles.

The trails near the river are level, narrow, flat, a lot of twist/turns, thick overhead and side-to-side vegetation/bushes/trees, and the occasional deep sandy spots. The summer vegetation can be so thick where I had to use the throttle only because the pedals would hit the ground plants or I had to duck and squat on the down tube to keep from hitting my head. The throttle is an excellent feature to get you out of trouble for areas like sand or short/steep inclines to keep your momentum.

The foothill trails tend to be a little bit more technical with much steeper inclines/declines that can be really rocky, sharper turns, rock areas that would catch your pedals, and sandy patches. The rover falls short in the foothills because of only having 7 gears, cable brakes, limited PAS levels, spring front suspension, and being tail heavy with rear hub motor. Very hard to pop a wheelie to climb rocks, very difficult to bunny hop being tail heavy, or handle extremely steep inclines/declines very well.

The closer you are to flat terrain is where the Radrover performs best. The fat tires can handle pretty much any surface that would stop thinner tires. A lighter mid-drive might work better if you ride anythings like our Sandia foothills.
 

Alaskan

Well-Known Member
If you want a more varied and perhaps less biased perspective you should ask for advice in a more general forum. People tend to make recommendations that support their own decisions and tastes. If you ask about a rad bike in a rad forum you will are likely to get two types of answers, either those who want validation through your agreement or the disgruntled ones who have a bone to pick, neither of which are balance dviewpoints.

As someone who rides a mid drive bike and lives in a hilly area, I think you are on track. Keep exploring and learning.
 

TForan

Well-Known Member
If you want a more varied and perhaps less biased perspective you should ask for advice in a more general forum. People tend to make recommendations that support their own decisions and tastes. If you ask about a rad bike in a rad forum you will are likely to get two types of answers, either those who want validation through your agreement or the disgruntled ones who have a bone to pick, neither of which are balance dviewpoints.

As someone who rides a mid drive bike and lives in a hilly area, I think you are on track. Keep exploring and learning.

Yes, confirmation bias is alive and well on EBR.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
For the sheer amount of torque available, as available at the rear wheel, I would think that the mid drive would have the advantage. One thing for sure, if you didn't have enough power to go where you want, you could re-gear easily by simply changing the freewheel/rear cartridge. That advantage not availble with a hub motor. This coming from a Rad owner BTW. -Al
 

fillerupmac

New Member
I'll ditto what AHICKS said. I have a RAD ROVER and two Biktrix ebikes. Have 2 hubs and 1 mid drive. The mid drive is a larger motor, so lots more torque. Better handling too. The cost of changing either the rear gears (freewheel) or front gear (chainring) should be less than $100, including the extra tools you'll need to do the work. In either case, I went from a bike that was difficult to negotiate steep hills to one that would do the job comfortably.
 

indianajo

Well-Known Member
My 1000 W geared hub motor will start on a 15% grade at gross weight 320 lb. 7/8" rise in 6". That is on road though. It is not a rad bike, it is a conversion of a huffy savannah cruiser with cargo baskets.
I have another 1000W direct drive hub on the cargo bike left. I think it might overheat if I tried to start it on a 15% grade more than once. I won't buy a mid drive bike because I pedal mostly and the mid drive drags too much to pedal except yamaha. I use the electric drive for strong headwinds or trips over 25 miles save my *** from sitting too long.
 

Little Bear

New Member
I appreciate the responses and will keep doing some research and watch more videos as suggested above. To define the terrain, we don't have extreme rocky places where I live. Rather logging roads and such in mountains of West Virginia. I recently saw an ad for a front wheel drive ebike now that claims to pull hills better that the other alternatives, so more research again...it's a lot of money to put down so I want to make sure I make a good decision. Also, I'm not real mechanically inclined so re-chaining doesn't appeal to me personally. Thanks again for the responses.
 

Alaskan

Well-Known Member
I live on a steep hill about 400 feet above the town center. Every ride ends with a 8-15 degree climb. Some of my favorite rides climb up and go down up to 2,000 feet. I have both a Bosch powered CX bike with a 11 speed Shimano and a Bosch speed bike (lower torque than the CX) with a Rohloff 14 gear hub. Both are very capable climbers and have been rock solid with no issues. I have over 5,000 miles combined on them since April with no malfunctions or service needed on the motor, battery or controller.
 

indianajo

Well-Known Member
So was drew's hub bike a geared hub or direct drive? Market share alone indicates 95% of hub motors are direct drive, which are not designed for lugging on hills. Geared hubs are, but they are hard to find.
My geared hub was front drive, and I loaded down the front tire with an 18 lb battery. Traction was fine on road on the 15% hills. If I was going off road I would try a rear geared hub as steep slopes bias your weight towards the rear. Warning the gears in the hub motor are not going to last 20000 miles the way a direct drive hub motor will. But my geared hub kit was $320, not an exhorbitant amount. And a replacement geared motor alone is(was before tariff) under $200.
Off road, definitely buy a kit or bike that has a throttle. And make sure the freewheel has a 32 cog gear; if you have to buy an aftermarket freewheel and take off the 28 tooth standard one yourself. Note most mid drives besides yamaha do not have a choice of front sprockets; you are stuck with only one. Geared hubs are compatible with 22-32-42 front sprockets on mountain bikes.
As a side note, what county of WV are you riding in Little Bear? I did some hiking on fire roads and over the ridge in Boone county in the seventies, which I had to myself in summer. Coal company land was deserted. But the prevalance of stories of marajuana farms backcountry and now gensing wars publicized on TV shows like Appalachian Outlaws has spooked me from going back to my home state. I'm sure the 4 wheelers are tearing up the fire roads, but the rumors of man trap snares & shotguns has kept me away. I could get to Boone country in 3 charges of my electric bicycle, now. Kanawha and Lincoln cty are closer and have a marked trail I believe I saw from signs on rte 119.
 
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cayjak

Member
Random thoughts from someone who has never ridden in any "off-pavement" conditions other than flat dirt roads.

I have both mid-drive and hub motor bikes. If you ignore the rider power input through the pedals, and only look at the motor power, then it seems to me that mid-drive would be superior in most "climbing" scenarios. I say this because the mid-drive motor torque can be significantly multiplied by the available gearing (front chain wheel and rear cassette/freewheel). With a hub motor, you are always limited to a single gear "ratio" (basically determined by the circumference of the rear wheel). Given the same size/output motor, I believe a mid-drive will be capable of climbing a steeper grade than a hub motor (although at a very slow speed).

On the other hand, if you are out in the boonies and break your chain (with no spare or repair kit), then you are dead in the water with a mid-drive. A hub motor will get you back to civilization a lot easier and quicker!
 
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LimboJim

Well-Known Member
The problem with throttles for offroad use is that the ebike would no longer be "Class 1," which on the few MTB trails that "allow" ebikes, are excluded.
 

Alaskan

Well-Known Member
I am neither telling you what you should buy nor even making recommendations. All I did was state my experience with the bikes I chose in the area in which I live. You be the judge whether my input is relevant to your needs and make your own decision.

It is very easy to change the front sprocket on a Bosch powered ebike, with replacement chain rings available for under $20. There are several Youtube how-to videos on the topic.
 

indianajo

Well-Known Member
The problem with throttles for offroad use is that the ebike would no longer be "Class 1," which on the few MTB trails that "allow" ebikes, are excluded.
There are no park rangers on WV coal company land. I don't see them on the marked trails even in Kentucky which has a bigger parks budget. There is a lot of garbage appliances & dead cars dumped by people who are too cheap to pay the trash truck. Which the police don't enforce either. They are busy with drug overdoses & assaults on the roads. In Manongahela Natl Forest I saw a dead horse dumped off the fire road, which probably wasn't written up by the rangers either. The Appalachians are really wilder than the Rockies IMHO.
 

fitzmotor

New Member
I vote for a mid drive, I had good off road bike that I added a Bafang BBS02 mid drive to, it was great off road, 1200w, enough power to climb and enough range for 20+ miles.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
I live on a steep hill about 400 feet above the town center. Every ride ends with a 8-15 degree climb. Some of my favorite rides climb up and go down up to 2,000 feet. I have both a Bosch powered CX bike with a 11 speed Shimano and a Bosch speed bike (lower torque than the CX) with a Rohloff 14 gear hub. Both are very capable climbers and have been rock solid with no issues. I have over 5,000 miles combined on them since April with no malfunctions or service needed on the motor, battery or controller.

Since you brought it up, would you share the maintenance required on your chain, sprockets, and shifting mechanism in that 5000 miles? And just trying to get a better understanding, when climbing, are you shifting to maintain rpm as the bike slows (as you would cadence)? How frequently do you shift? Lets say from a level cruise, you approach your 400' climb. Do you shift once because you know what gear will be required for that climb, or more often? Thanks!
 

Alaskan

Well-Known Member
Since you brought it up, would you share the maintenance required on your chain, sprockets, and shifting mechanism in that 5000 miles? And just trying to get a better understanding, when climbing, are you shifting to maintain rpm as the bike slows (as you would cadence)? How frequently do you shift? Lets say from a level cruise, you approach your 400' climb. Do you shift once because you know what gear will be required for that climb, or more often? Thanks!
I actually have three bikes. One is a Cube with Bosch CX and the Shimano 11 speed. I did have to replace a bent derailleur hanger after a crash.

The next bike is a Riese & Muller Nevo with Bosch CX which my wife rides. It has a carbon fiber belt drive so no chain maintenance That bike has the Nuvinci hub which is maintenance free.

The bike I ride the most is a Riese & Muller Homage with Bosch High Speed and a Rohloff Hub. The hub had an oil change at 1,000 miles and a cable adjustment.

I wipe down the chain every 50 miles or so. I ride an average of 20 miles per day so that is every third day or so. I put fresh lube on every 100 miles, more frequently if the chain has gotten dirt and grit on it. I replaced the chain at 2,000 miles although it could have gone longer. It was .5% longer and could have gone to .75% For $18 I did not want chain wear to start causing excess sprocket wear.

As to shifting, I try to get into the hill at speed and gear down to the right gear for the hill. Most hills have a variable grade which requires shifting part way up to maintain optimal cadence. That can means shifting from 12th gear on the flat down to 3rd hitting a steep hill. The nice thing about the Rohloff is that you can do that with ease. I try to maintain a cadence of around 70 on flats and 80 or more on hills. This seems to get the most torque out of both me as well as the Bosch motor to the rear wheel .