Best Drive Type For the Unfit: Mid-drive or Geared (Rear) Hub?


Well-Known Member
For those who are not very fit (raises hand), are not "experienced or advanced cyclists," and are looking to purchase an ebike, which type of drive would be best? Type of terrain to be ridden: road, general use path, light rails to trails, but not any kind of off-roading or mountain biking type trails.

Here are the general needs:

- Dependability (#1 priority)
- Noise Level (quieter the better), stealth is optimal
- Ease of going up hills with a grade as steep as 10% for as long as 1 mile
- Range using mid or high assist level 60% of the time > 25 mi.
- Assist levels easily get an unfit person moving up to 20mph where the person can assist with light to normal pedaling. (cyclist pedaling 60 to 70 rpm on flat and much less on hills).

The numbers are just guidelines to provide some context.

Shea N Encinitas

Active Member
The apparent simple answer is a mid-drive because of the torque, but some hub motors are geared as well, so back to basics - power. "Range using mid or high assist level 60% of the time > 25 mi." - I think that is just about on the mark for any 400 watt hour battery, hub or mid-drive. So take your pick, the one that feels sturdy and correct for your body type. I'd put you in a Stromer ST1 Platinum or Elite, with the latter being a bit more torquey VS faster at the top end. Haibike Trekking or 29'r would be my choice of mid-drive systems, but it is all about the fit and test rides to find your machine. -S

George S.

Well-Known Member
- Dependability (#1 priority) -- No easy answer. Buying a $5,000 Bosch mid-drive might be buying the toughest system, but the bikes aren't matched to a low fitness level, exactly. Most people mention a budget. An unlimited budget would be optimal.

- Noise Level (quieter the better), stealth is optimal -- The direct hubs are quiet. Some mid-drives are noisier than others. You can listen on many of the videos

- Ease of going up hills with a grade as steep as 10% for as long as 1 mile -- Depends on your weight. You could figure using the max, which is 500w and 750 w peak. A mid-drive will let you use a true climbing gear, so it will probably get you up any hill, but it might be very slow at the extremes.

- Range using mid or high assist level 60% of the time > 25 mi. -- Well, going up hills or into the wind, and going 25 m with a lot of assist is going to test most batteries. You're not in good shape but you think you will do 25 mile trips? Those two don't generally go together. I would aim for a 12AH battery or larger, or figure on a second battery.

- Assist levels..... -- Any ebike has an assist, whether a throttle or a pedal sensor system. Either way you can generally pedal a lot or a little. With a throttle you turn it to get going and pedal when you feel like it, intensely, lackadaisically, or nothing.

Basically, you are mixing your current fitness with your long term goals. Most people start out, get better, and then get a sense of where they can go with it (like ride 25 miles).

Maybe rent a bike, see how it feels, see how it handles the hills, see how far you can really ride it to start. Best money you could spend.


Well-Known Member
Thanks for the responses!

I think for me the best combo would be PAS and a throttle. I could use the PAS at a mid to lower level and put all my energy into pedaling (say, 5 to 10 mi) and then still be able to get home with very light pedaling and use of the throttle on the way back if I was too tired to pedal much or at all.

My assumption is I would probably need greater assist level until I was able to build up some better level of fitness then I could maybe back off on the assist level and be able to pedal more and harder and for a longer time. I live in an area with rolling type hills, not flat, but not mountainous either. If the range of the battery is > 25mi it means I would have plenty to go on a 15 to 20 mi roundtrip ride and get myself back to the starting point, assuming I'm not going straight up hill into a strong headwind for mile after mile. That's my assumption, right or wrong.