Hub or Mid-Drive?

Jack Tyler

Active Member
I'm reading comments that praise the nature of the hub drive ride but others praise the benefits of the mid-drive. Please help me by evaluating their pro's & con's for my intended purpose & budget.

My ebike uses will be: typical in-town commuting (level terrain), in-town recreational trail riding on maintained trails (some elevation change), and countryside travel with mixed elevation changes but nothing truly steep. Ride distances ranging from 5 to 25 miles RT before recharging.
My budget: $3K (which for the mid-drive choice, apparently eliminates Bosch mid-drives)

Do these uses recommend one choice over the other? My tentative conclusion is that they recommend a hub drive simply because, for the $3K budget, there are more hub model choices and more chance of hardware upgrades. Plus, it may make a lower budget possible, something unlikely if preferring a mid-drive.

I'd welcome your comments - pro's & con's - on this fundamental choice.

Jack
 

Nirmala

Active Member
I wish I could make a comparison for you, but since all I have ridden are hub motor bikes, I can only share that in my experience, a decent hub motor of 350 watts or more should easily do everything you describe. From what I have read, the hub motor will give you a livelier ride with faster acceleration. Also you can access that potential for acceleration in a hub motor without being concerned about which gear you are in which is handy for taking off from a stop with the throttle only. I have found I like having the motor input and my own effort work independently although connected through the pedal assist function.

The lower price mid-drives also often do not have shift-sensing which can mean more wear and tear on the drivetrain.

At your price point, I would stick with the hub motor choices and focus on getting the best drivetrain/braking components and largest high quality battery that you can find. A larger battery should last longer also even if you do not need the extended range as you would not be draining as high a percentage of the charge with each ride. A good warranty and reputation for customer service would also be key with any ebike.
 
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D

Deleted member 803

Guest
Hub drives are offered in geared and direct drive models. The differences are noticeable. Easy Motion makes a geared 350W drive that has solid torque off the line and can get you to 20mph or higher easily. They have moving parts and hence will suffer wear at some point. Direct drive hubs have no moving parts and may appear to have less off-the-line torque. In todays market you should set 500W as a base line for a direct drive rear hub. Mid-drives can be had for less than $3K (Shimano Steps models). Mid-drives apply power to the crank and not to the rear wheel. They are more sensitive to correct gearing and their use will have long term impact upon the chain and front chainrings, meaning more maintenance. Mid-drives are slower to speed but typically have much more pulling power. This is especially important for hill climbing. Also, mid-drives tend to have greater efficiency and hence longer ranges for equivalent batteries.

The choice for an ebike is (in order)

a. Does the bike geometry fit your body type and your riding style (this is the single most important consideration)
b. Is the ride compliance satisfactory...meaning do you require front or rear suspension for comfort
c. Is the battery capacity sufficient to handle your distance needs and is there enough battery life as a failsafe. i.e. If you travel 25 miles max, get a battery that will give you 30 miles under any and all conditions.
d. Does the controller apply power in a natural way i.e. you should not feel any jerking or lunging of the bike as the power goes on and off
e. Buy a bike that is designed for your use: road vs. mountain
f. Buy locally and establish a solid relationship with your dealer for post sale support (critical)

Lastly, ride as many bikes as you can so you can see and feel the differences and understand how a mid-drive performs vs a rear hub.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
Just a thought about battery capacity. I rode 16 miles yesterday. The DOT opened a new section of a road for cyclists only, but they had a time schedule and I got there late. So I went faster than normal, but hardly fast for most ebikers, around 19 mph average. There was one 13% grade, but a lot of up and down. The thing is that on my amp hour meter, this ride took 8.5 amp hours (36V battery). If your max ride is 25 miles, or 50% more, that would be around 13 amp hours from a 36 volt battery. That's getting pretty far up there, not really a 'stock' battery. You really don't want to max out the battery, and you really want to charge to 90%, not 100%, most of the time. More and more people are bumping up on the limits of their batteries. It's something to think about because I think any motor that can deliver 700 watts peak will do what you need to do. You can figure out the speeds and how hard you have to work, but then the battery becomes the limiting factor. Batteries are basically freedom. :)

You might find a Bosch from Crazy Lenny around $3k. The Yamaha Haibike has pretty good reviews, relative to the Bosch sibling, but reviews are reviews. I would build a bike and buy a big battery. That would allow you to get a mid-drive.

pkwy ride.JPG
 

Jack Tyler

Active Member
Hubs are cheaper and - for my uses - suitable, or at least that seems to be take so far. So no one wants to speak for the benefits of mid-drives for my needs? (I'm egging on the opposition).

George, what type motor are you using when reporting on your St. George ride? I'm assuming 'hub'...but is it? Rating? Good point about battery capacity. My max range assumed the worst: 10 mile ride, not depleting the bank fully, and not charging at the airplane hangar I rode to (because I forgot to bring along the charger). But maybe assuming 'worst case' is a 'good case' to use before buying.

I'd surely welcome more comments. Please visit the first post for my specific uses & budget.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
Hi,

This is the exact motor I used:

http://em3ev.com/store/index.php?route=product/product&path=50_36&product_id=56

I'm pretty sure I would go with the rear version if I had it to do over again. This kit includes the controller and some accessories. I assumed it was a 350 watt motor but it pulls 1,000 watts without much stress, and that's too much for my original fork. Upgrading the fork added $$$. The rear mount is probably stronger, and the crash if the wheel strips out is less dramatic. Torque arms are worth looking into.

You might run into disk clearance issues (front or rear) with this motor. You would go from a cassette to a freewheel, which isn't always trouble-free. There are spacers for the disk problem, or narrow calipers.

I've owned a couple of very basic aircraft. My brother owns a Cirrus, which is nice enough. Once a pilot, always a pilot? It's pretty great flying out West.
 

EddieJ

Well-Known Member
I run both systems, in fact I have two Bosch crank drive bikes, one that uses a Performance Line motor, and the other an Active Line motor. The hub drive bike uses a Panasonic system.

I rate both systems, and both have plus and minus points. I have no preference for either, and often think that the bias towards one over the other is actually very narrow minded.

From everything that you have said, I'd have no hesitation in joining everyone else in saying that hub drive would suit your requirements quite nicely. :)
 

Jack Tyler

Active Member
Thanks for that, Eddie. So far, that seems to be the theme here.

George, I agree. We base at KBZN, Bozeman's airport, when in Montana. Lots of eye candy all around. Utah is definitely 'on the list'.
 

MLB

Well-Known Member
I have both, they both have their advantages. For your mostly flat riding, a hub is hard to beat and a lot less wear and tear on the drivetrain. (power not transmitted through the chain)
Hub motor bikes shift significantly better than mid drives because the chain isn't under as much tension. I can shift whenever I want with a hub motor, unrelated to motor load. Don't want to do that with a middy.
Mid drive riders will be replacing chains and sprockets a lot more often. Some every year. ;)
Both are great, you couldn't take my mid drive Haibike away from me. LOL But I expect more maintenance issues and cost with it.
 

Nirmala

Active Member
If you will be riding to your hangar a lot, then it could make sense to buy a spare charger and keep it there. One less thing to think about when you are headed out the door. And it is easier on the battery to recharge more often.

@George. S: How do you charge to just 90%? Do you have a fancier charger or do you use a timer and roughly calculate how long to keep the charger hooked up? If the former, what charger do you recommend?
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
How do you charge to just 90%? Do you have a fancier charger or do you use a timer and roughly calculate how long to keep the charger hooked up? If the former, what charger do you recommend
Hi,

This is one of those things where you still have to dig around. The kit vendors, who are pretty techie, sell some user "set" versions of chargers for some voltages. I think EM3ev has a few, and Luna Cycle has a 48 volt adjustable charger. You can buy the Satiator, from Grin, but the list price is $300. I've seen it around $220. I think the Satiator works at all voltages, but you may only need one, like 36v or 48v. The adjustment is just selecting maybe 80%, 90%, or full charge. It's essentially the cut-off voltage for the charger, so maybe 8 cents worth of parts? Some chargers are just much better made, so the price is not just the one thing.

I monitor the amp hours out of my battery, and I can put an AH monitor from the charger to the battery. I have enough experience to know, now, to just look and see I used 7 amp hours and that is 2.3 hours. If you just want to maintain 90%, you get the battery down to 90% and then put back what you took out. I always feel I make this stuff complicated, but if you do it, it makes sense. Most people do a top up full charge every week or so, just to activate the balancing and to know where they are starting. Then they go back to 90%. It's much easier to just set a charger on 90%.

I'm switching to a 48 volt battery from Luna, and also bought their charger. I'm hoping to get some understanding with this setup, but the capacity loss is slow so I doubt I will know much. Maybe in a year.

I'm guessing there will be '90% chargers' around, generally, in a few months.
 

Nirmala

Active Member
Thanks. That is a little above my current level of understanding. I have been unplugging my charger sometimes before full charge. It sounds like I would need to wire in an AH monitor between the charger and my 36 volt battery, and then learn how to read it. I was hoping there was more of a plug and play solution that cost less than the Satiator. I looked at the chargers on EM3EV but I still was not sure which one would work for my particular battery.

I hope you are right that there are more 90% chargers coming out soon.
 

Jack Tyler

Active Member
One thing no one has commented on is the difference should a rear wheel be bent or damaged. With a hub drive, doesn't that mean the rear wheel & motor combo need to be replaced? As opposed to a mid-drive where the inexpensive wire wheel alone needs replacing. Am I right in that assumption?
 

JoePah

Well-Known Member
A rear rim with a hub motor can be easily trued or replaced. The spokes may be a custom length.

The biggest complaint about hub motors is changing a flat tire. And that the spokes come loose.
1. Make sure you install a great tube and tire, like a schwalbe marathon or maxxis excel. Get thick tubes. Avoid slime.
2. Practice changing a rear tire at home. Experience makes all the difference.

3. When you get your bike, check the spokes and rim after 100 miles. Factory jobs are usually off.
 

MLB

Well-Known Member
MOST chargers charge to 85-90% by default. Jack, it's really a no-brainer for the hub drive if you aren't a bike "techie". Lots more maintenance to be concerned with on the EDIT (MID!!) drives. Frequent replacement of sprockets and chains means watching them for wear and a LOT more ongoing expense down the road.
On Hubs, only real concern is spokes loosening and the freewheel getting stuck on (apparently)
To ME, there's very little real decision on the best for "your" riding type and environment. Hub all the way.
 
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JoePah

Well-Known Member
Mlb are u saying that about hub motors? Cause that's no the usual experience. They are pretty much maintenance free
 

Ravi Kempaiah

Well-Known Member
One thing no one has commented on is the difference should a rear wheel be bent or damaged. With a hub drive, doesn't that mean the rear wheel & motor combo need to be replaced? As opposed to a mid-drive where the inexpensive wire wheel alone needs replacing. Am I right in that assumption?
That is a rare occurrence and it is often experienced by those who mod their bike beyond certain weight/torque limits.
If you go on Endless Sphere, you will see many such reports for mid-drives too. If your bike was not designed from ground up to be an Ebike, the extra torque from bottom bracket will twist/splay the frame. There are any number of reports of bent frames as a result of running high torque setup on a simple Aluminum frame.

If your weight is 175-210 lbs or so... a geared hub 350-500 will be more than enough.
If you like to pedal a lot, get a mid-drive but my hunch tells me that you will be happier with a hub drive for a number of reasons like cost, choices, speed and ease of maintenance.
 
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