What’s the Difference Between Electric Bike Motors?


Staff member
Hi guys! I'm moving some content off of the main site and into the most relevant categories of the forum. This post was originally made on January 20th 2017:


One of the biggest questions about electric bikes is “What’s the difference between motors?” and that’s because there are several different types including geared and gearless hubs, mid-drives and shaft drives. Not to mention brushed and brushless… I’m hoping this post can help to clarify the space a bit so you can focus in on finding the right ebike for your intended use.

What are Hub Motors?

Hub motors were the first type of drive systems for bicycles to be patented and they continue to be popular today. Instead of trying to integrate a motor into the bicycle drivetrain (complimenting the gears and chain that the rider uses) hub motors stay completely separate. Electricity is run through copper wires to create electromagnets which repel traditional rare Earth magnets and create force that rotates the hub forward (and sometimes backwards). In the early days brushed motors were used because they are inexpensive and require less sophisticated control systems but the brushes wear out over time and require replacement. These days, nearly every hub motor (geared or gearless is brushess and uses direct current DC).

Hub motors for bicycles are usually positioned at the middle of a wheel and when the bike is powered off they function much like a traditional hub (connecting the tire, rim and spokes to the axle. Spokes are flexible and light weight, they absorb some shock when riding but can come out of true over time. Regular bicycle maintenance is still required with an electric bike and one downside to hub motor designs is that they add additional weight to the wheel and require extra wires to deliver electricity and communications about operation. This means that truing wheels and repairing flats requires more effort.

So hub motors take the place of regular light weight hubs, connecting the wheel to the bicycle axle. As they receive electricity and spin, the bike is propelled forward and some of this energy is exerted into the frame at the dropouts. Usually the sturdiest place to mount a hub motor is in the rear wheel because these dropouts are reinforced and have four legs connecting them to the rest of the frame instead of just two on the front fork. These four arms consist of two seat stays and two chain stays.


In some cases a front mounted hub motor is preferred because it allows an internally geared hub or continuously variable transmission CVT hub such as the NuVinci to be used in the rear. Some of the newest electric bikes like the Smart ebike combine an internally geared hub (that the cyclist pedals) with a hub motor and are able to put both in the rear wheel.

Now that you’ve got an understanding for what a hub motor is… let’s talk about the benefits, drawbacks and ride quality. Hub motors tend to be peaky vs. torquey meaning they operate best at medium and high speeds. This makes them zippy and satisfying no matter which gear you’re pedaling in but less efficient over a range of speeds, especially slower ones. For example, if you’re starting from rest going up a hill and try to accelerate with a hub motor, it may struggle and even shut itself off. Here’s a short video I shot with a smaller 250 watt hub motor climbing a hill to demonstrate this.

A big drawback to hub motors is that they position weight further out towards the end of the bike (either the front or back) which reduces balance. This can play a role when jumping a bike or taking it off road. Additionally motor weight is built into the wheel which increases unsprung weight, that is weight that cannot be “sprung” as a part of the main frame. This can be a tricky concept so I’ve made a short video to help clarify. In short, suspension can perform better if the elements it is suspending are lighter because they do not have to deal with as much inertia.

Ultimately, hub motors allow the rider can choose whichever gear they want, pedal at any cadence desired and apply varying force with each stride without playing a material role in how the motor functions. I love hub designs for this reason, there’s nothing pulling on your chain, making it difficult or jarring to change gears… but while the motor is always ready to go, it’s not always performing optimally (for either power or speed).

What are Geared Hub Motors?

Hub motors come in two different types including geared (usually a planetary design) and direct drive or gearless (relying on larger magnets and no gears). Gears provide leverage, enabling smaller and lighter weight motors to achieve greater output but also produce friction, noise and wear. Most modern geared hub motors are built very well and should last for many years so don’t get too spooked. It may seem counter intuitive but geared hub motors do not add resistance when coasting. This is because they usually contain a freewheel mechanism that can unlatch from the axle and spin with little to no friction.

Pictured below is a 350 watt geared hub motor on an Easy Motion ebike:


This is a picture of what one geared hub motor looks like inside, you can see the three planetary gears that step down the speed and help produce torque for starting and climbing:


What are Gearless Hub Motors?

Moving on to the next motor type, gearless hub motors deliver smooth, quiet performance and are often considered “bulletproof” by shops due to their simplicity. That said… I’ve heard of the glue inside that holds the magnets onto the canister or frame coming loose due to heat and excessive vibration. Gearless hub motors rely purely on electromagnets and may not include a freewheel mechanism because when the magnets are powered off there is very little friction or magnetic resistance to overcome. Motors that do not freewheel are called direct drive and this actually enables regeneration (the production of electricity based on repelling magnets inside the motor).

Not all gearless direct drive hub motors offer regenerative braking or regen modes because you don’t tend to recoup much energy this way (although it can help reduce wear on brake pads). It’s a neat feature but it costs more to implement and adds complexity to the system. Some ebikes that do offere regen are the Specialized Turbo, all of the Stealth electric bikes and all of the BionX kits and bikes that use them like the Smart electric bike.

Gearless hub motors may require a larger casing (in order to accommodate the magnets) and ultimately weigh more. This is of course a generalization because the technology has evolved to the point where some direct drive hub motors are quite small and lightweight.

Pictured below is a 500 watt direct drive hub motor on a Pedego ebike which does not offer regen but is still quiet, powerful and durable:


Here is a picture of what the inside of one gearless, direct drive hub motor looks like. You can see the magnets glued around the outside of the cylinder and just inside from them are electromagnets (made from metal and copper wiring) that create repelling force to drive the motor forward without the use of gears:


So to recap… hub motors operate independently of the rider pedaling, they can be geared or gearless, can fit in the rear wheel, front wheel or even independently from the wheels as with the Organic Transit ELF (though this is very uncommon) and they can sometimes generate electricity. Some drawbacks of all hub motors include increased unsprung weight, which can reduce traction, limit efficiency and strain spokes and rims. They usually have just one gear setting that can operate at a faster or slower speed but cannot shift for improved torque or speed. They also tend to make wheels more difficult to service (changing flat tires or fixing spokes) because they add weight to the wheel and require extra cables to deliver electricity and operation signals (unless they are an all in one hub motor like the FlyKly or Copenhagen Wheel).

What is a Mid-Drive Motor?

As we transition into mid-drive systems, imagine this scenario. A rider with a hub motor driven electric bike approaches a very steep hill, stops completely and then uses a twist throttle to power forward. The motor is likely going to struggle because it is designed for relatively flat surfaces and provides “peakey” output as mentioned before. So the motor groans and slowly pushes the rider forward. Without pedaling along, most hub motor designs just cannot carry an average sized passenger up a steep incline from rest. This is where we get into the benefits of a mid-drive system.

Pictured below is a 350 watt Bosch Centerdrive mid drive motor system on a Haibike ebike:


Climbing is where mid-drive motors really shine. Unlike a hub motor, this design lives at or near the bottom bracket (the point where the crank arms attach through the frame for pedaling) and drives the chain forward instead of the wheel itself. Mid drive systems benefit from many of the same mechanical drivetrain systems as the rider (the use of gears for climbing or going fast) and reduce unsprung weight. This is the optimal setup for efficiency (extending ride distance) and climbing.

Imagine a full suspension electric mountain bike with a mid drive motor. The front and rear wheels can rebound quickly and efficiently because their mass is lower and the overall weight of the bike itself is connected to the main section of the frame making it feel fluid. When approaching a large hill, the rider can shift into a low gear providing mechanical advantage making it “easier” to pedal and climb. Just as the rider benefits in this scenario so too does the motor. While the overall speed of the bike is reduced for climbing, neither the rider, nor motor will be over exerted thanks to the gears. In this scenario the rear dropouts also endure less strain because the weight and force of the motor are spread out and connected to the major tubing of the bottom bracket.

Gears are both a blessing and a curse with mid drive systems because now instead of just the rider exerting force into the system (the chain, rear cassette cog teeth and derailleur), the motor is as well. If you’ve ever changed gears when pedaling hard, you may remember the awful sounds and sensations of mashing, crunching or grinding. The teeth used to pull the chain and the derailleur arms used to move the chain from one sprocket to another are sensitive, requiring a certain finesse to activate properly. Doing so will extend the life of your bike and help you to avoid tune-ups and cassette replacement.

To shift optimally I suggest gaining speed then relaxing the force being applied to the pedals, shifting, then maintaining a gentle cadence until the chain is correctly aligned before exerting more force. This may be difficult on a pedelec system where the rider relaxes their input but the motor continues to pull hard. In this kind of situation it may be ideal to shift on a flat surface where little force is required to keep the bike moving forward. The problem here is that often shifting is done when encountering hills or starting from rest; just as more force is required to maintain speed. Long story short, be gentle when shifting and recognize that mid-drive motors pull the same chain that you do as a rider.

Ultimately, I have a love hate relationship with mid drive systems because I appreciate their efficiency but miss some of the zip and instant gratification that hub motors offer. They are often noisier as well… Some mid drive systems can feel clunky and frustrating to shift but others are actually very satisfying to use. I’m talking about the Bosch System and similar high quality offerings which can actually sense that you’re trying to shift and gently cut the motor so you won’t strain the drivetrain. The final advantage with mid-drives is that the motor weight is located centrally on the frame in addition to being low. This is going to provide stability when riding or lifting the ebike for transport or storage. One quick downside is that the motor may be vulnerable to rocks and logs on the trail with a mid-drive because it’s not surrounded by spokes and a wheel like hub motors are. In my experience, most mid-drives are protected with some plastic or metal casing that can take a few hard hits before suffering damage.

One other drive system that sort of splits the difference between mid drive and hub drive is the shaft drive. It works like an automobile, positioning the motor more towards the center of the bike while driving the rear wheel with a shaft. These are not very common today, perhaps because they require extremely customized frames that are not symmetrical. While a rear wheel drive truck often has a drive shaft extending from the motor (under the hood) back to the rear wheels that is located centrally under the body, a bicycle has to use one of the chain stay arms to support the shaft. This makes it look a bit awkward and perhaps difficult to service as well.

In summary, the drive system you choose will impact the overall weight and weight-distribution of your electric bike. It will provide more or less efficiency for riding fast, climbing or navigating bumps and it will cost more or less depending on how customized the frame is and whether it offers regeneration and special sensors for shifting gears. I lean towards geared hub motors for affordable light weight around-town transportation, direct drive hub motors for quieter riding, increased power and regenerative braking and mid drive motors for mountain biking or lots of hill climbing.
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Staff member
Following are some of the original comments that were made on that post:

For dd hubs, i think a big drawback is the cogging torque when pedalling unassisted. It may be unnoticable at 5-10mph, but trying cruising at a normal 15 mph and it has “flat” feeling. Freewheel in geared huib abd mid drives roll magnet -free and that should be mentioned, imo.
Another difference is motor rotational speeds. ddhubs are 1:1 and spin slower at 250-300 rpm. The mid drives and geared hubs can spin faster and then go thru reduction gears. There are tradeoffs to both platforms.

Excellent points Dan, thank you so much for chiming in… I was trying to keep the article approachable for newbies but also capture “everything” and I think it could get better with some work. I’ll take your suggestions and try to work them in ;)

Hi, Until reading your article, I knew nothing at all about how hub motors actually worked in practice. I have a serious agenda by contacting you. My wife and I purchased an Italian make of mobility scooter that uses a hub motor on the front wheel of a tricycle type, fold up machine. It is a very clever design, but after using the scooter In Puerto del Carmen that, although scooter friendly, has some steep hills, we have encountered some serious drawbacks. After using the scooter for about two weeks total, my wife had the scare of her life when driving down a slope, she released the throttle expecting the scooter to brake but nothing happened, resulting in her shooting across a busy street, thankfully devoid of traffic at the time. Could this be that some sort of internal friction brake is wearing out due to extreme use in hilly streets or are the electronics that should control braking failing? I tried the scooter myself and found that when travelling down hill, unless a really slow speed is maintained, should you speed up, it appears that the mass (me, 93Kg)) and inertia (gravity/speed) overcome the braking system and the machine carries on regardless. I would be interested to hear you opinion. I have issued a “customers report” both to the retailers and the manufacturer’s, going into greater detail on my “field testing” but I have yet to hear back from the manufacturers. I feel this is a serious issue as it could affect other customers in similar circumstances. Brutally honest feedback should be exactly that, otherwise it is useless.

Hi Derek, most engines produce a bit of drag when power is not being exerted because the pistons are still rotating (unless you shift into neutral) and this is why large trucks downshift to “engine brake” down hills. Electric motors are different and don’t produce as much drag, instead, direct drive gearless motors possibly like the one you rode with create a bit of “cogging” which is the staters repelling the magnets inside and this resistance can be increased by actively generating and storing electricity like a little power generator using regenerative braking but most electric bikes don’t offer this. Some motorcycles and higher-end ebikes do but most light weight low speed electric bicycles opt instead for standard brakes… usually disc brakes that do offer enough power to stop but require the user to apply them actively (usually the brakes also cut power to the motor when pulled for safety). I hope this information helps to guide your use of the mobility scooters and I wish and your wife you safe riding! It’s difficult for me to be any more detailed with feedback as I do not know the exact vehicle you’ve got and may not have tried one similar.

I`m trying to figure out a system that offer the less drag possible when pedaling ,but can assist me if the dogs chase me or strange person in the road appears. I don` t mind pedaling heavy weights 250 all include ,what really bother me is the drag .Can you point me in the less drag direction ,and assist power.Thank you in advance.

Hi Jose, sorry to hear about dogs and strangers making you feel insecure on your bike :/ the most drag-free system I’ve reviewed so far is the Add-E because it doesn’t even touch your rear wheel when pedaling and it’s super light weight too. The only downside is that it’s not very powerful… It would still assist you well though and the 600 watt version can go over 20 mph if you pedal along and then keep you there more easily. The basic 250 watt system cuts out at 15.5 mph to comply with European laws but also costs less.

Incredible amount of help this article was for me. Thankyou.

Court- Excellent article (and I have read a lot). I wonder if you can weigh in on a system I am trying to build. I have a Montague Paratrooper (a bike that folds). I need to fold it and put it in a drift boat. It needs to weigh as little as possible and must have a removable battery and about a 10 mile range with an average speed 20+ mph. I had sort of “settled” on a Bafaang 750 or 1000 watt with Dolphin 52V battery (kit at Lunacycle). Now I am not so sure after reading the pro/con of your article. Cost is certainly an issue and ease of installation. I have been biking with out the motor, and I have numerous fairly steep (6-8%) hills. What do you think I should do? Rear hub, smaller battery. Thanks!

This is a very useful and accurate summary of the different e-bike drive systems out there. It helps both the suppliers and the customers. My favorite is geared hub motor! They’re light-weight, affordable, and provide excellent torque, and as you mentioned, high quality geared hub motors last for many years. Thanks Court.

Sure thing Ben, I hope it helps people to navigate the landscape and I agree with you that geared hub motors are great. I just visited your website by the way, are you a shop that offers ebikes?

Yes, geared hubs motors are great. Until they overheat and conk out on a hill. New Jersey isn’t exactly known for hills, but of course it’s my luck to have a long, steep one on the road to the nearest trail. I have to get off and push my 500 watt Heinzmann geared hub equipped bike halfway up that hill. At least until I get in a lot better shape. Meanwhile, my 250 watt mid-drive bike handles that hill pretty well. That’s my experience, which may or may not be typical, but if you need to do ascents, test drive that hubbed bike before buying.

I’ve heard that newer hub motors have heat sensors to protect the system and they automatically shut themselves off if overloaded (is that what yours is doing?) mid-drives can be a great solution if you shift properly, it makes the job a lot easier for the motor (just like it does for you pedaling) and works pretty well in my experience.

Hey Court – I would have replied sooner but I wasn’t notified you had replied, guess I will have to check this site more often. I never thought of a front drive system before, I will check it out. From what your article said, I think I can still pedal and probably need to to go up a 8% grade. I like the idea of being able to simply detach the battery and the hub when I put it in the boat. I am going to look around for a more powerful motor as I need to get it up to closer to 28 mph if possible. Just did the ride yesterday and let me tell you the whole way I was like, “need that ebike NOW” If you have any other thoughts let me know….. Thank you, Eric

what I would use is a tongda front 2-speed hub, that gives you 2 wheel drive and your original gearset. The battery can be mounted any where. Total added weight 10-12 pounds.

Thanks for the article, Court. I’m researching so much it feels like a part time job! I have a morning newspaper route that is about 22-25 miles and I would like to start using an ebike for the delivery, as weather permits. According to your article, I’m not going to be able to escape a compromise on some level. If I understand correctly, the constant starting, stopping, and slow speed adjustments could be taxing and uncomfortable with a geared hub. I’ll post my unique situation in the forum instead of hijacking this space.

It’s all good Ben, choosing an ebike based solely on the motor is tough because the strength and design of each motor varies. I wouldn’t avoid geared hubs just because there’s more potential for wear over time. I just tested one today that is 5+ years old and still going strong (along with the battery pack). I’ll look for your post in the forums and try to help out if you provide your height, weight, terrain and desired budget :)

I really don’t know. It only happened once, because I didn’t take chances after that. But the battery was toasted, so perhaps there was no cut off.

Hi Court. I am a bit of a newbie but learning fast. Thanks for your help and the reviews. I like the idea of geared hubs and torque and 500 W w/ 48 amp. But can I be more experience specific? I’m about 180 lbs and moving to San Fran. I love the flats of the marina, the Embarcadero, Chrissy Fields, the Presidio etc but I live on the hills of Pacific Heights, some quite daunting. I also love to just cruise along and look. i like step thrus. I like to sit up in comfort and I love comfortable seats. Can you taylor make a reccomendation for me as to bikes to look at? The Pedego City Commuter looked interesting but the seat wasn’t comfy. I want ease, assist and throttle, cruiser comfort as well as nibble and quick with good endurance. AND critical, I want ease on the steep hills of Pacific Heights. Thoughts? Help?

Hi Frank! I used to live in San Francisco and love riding through all of those spots. Hope the city treats you well, ride safe out there. Regarding your “ideal bike” I suggest copying and pasting this question into the Help Choosing Ebikes Forum where people can share their opinions. I’d love to help but am currently traveling and trying to post new reviews with the extra time. The first thing that comes to mind is the Optibike Pioneer City which is a step-thru and uses a powerful mid-drive motor that will be excellent for climbing hills. There’s no twist throttle on this bike but the assist is very satisfying and more efficient overall. Hope this helps!

Great article. As the average ebike shopper does a lot of product research, this explains really well the differences and benefits of the three major drive set ups..none are perfect in all situations. I need all three in my garage. Direct drive rear hub for my high speed 30 mph+ ebike. No gears to melt down. Mid drive for my mountain goat super climber and my real favorite and most used, the internally geared rear hub (not a big fan of front) for everyday riding. The free wheel aspect while coasting or in torque sensing pedal assist makes for a much more enjoyable ride. Keep the review pedal to the metal Court!

The hills around here have fried my 500W hub motorized bike, while my 250W Panasonic mid-drive works wonderfully.

Loved your comparisons as I’ve been thinking about an e-bike. I ride rurally with gravel roads and lots of long hills, some up to 3 miles and some steep. The plan was to take my cross bike and install a kit but not sure what brands are out and what type would work for my setup especially after watching your hill video. The other issue is durability and dealing with gravel dust. I’d hate to wreck and break something and would gravel dust ruin internal parts? Thanks!

Hi Bethany, glad you enjoyed the article and videos I’ve posted. Good question about dirt and dust… most ebike motors are sealed pretty well and can withstand light rain, dust etc. but should not be submerged or sprayed off directly, best to just use a damp rag to wipe them down. Depending on how much help you want up the hills and how much you and your bike weigh, you might be able to go with something light weight and simple like the Hill Topper or for more power and the addition of pedal assist you could get the BBS01 mid-drive kit which will cost more but offers great balance with a downtube battery. If you want even more power, they make a BBS02 which is 750 watts vs. 350. If you need help finding this or another kit just reach out and I’ll do my best to connect you.

Thanks for the response and the information. Turns out Lincoln, NE has a ban on e-bikes but Omaha doesn’t so I’m glad I asked a friend. Still need to save money and will look into the different kits out there.

Glad to help! It’s an interesting time for ebikes because some states and cities place restrictions but the national law is < 20 mph unassisted and < 750 watt motor = bicycle. I've been to towns where citizens have challenged the local rules and won... and the rules are rarely enforced for people who are riding responsibly. If you were concerned about legality in the event of an accident it might be worth looking into bicycle insurance.

Was doing some more looking and found BionX. Are the BionX kits worth looking into? My LBS had a Trek e-bike in stock several years ago and it was fitted with that system. Not sure he still has the bike and if he does, the technology is outdated and/or the battery is dead.

Hi Bethany, great question! I may have recently reviewed the Trek eBike you’re talking about here. Anyway, yes, it did leverage the BionX system but rebranded it as EPS (electric propulsion systems) or something like that. Trek may have some newer ebikes but the ones I reviewed were from 2011/2012 and the battery on the cargo bike was losing capacity. The standard FX+ did work pretty well despite the age (and possibly lack of care from the shop, not keeping it charged regulary). In my opionion BionX makes some of the best motors and battery systems around because they are durable, quiet, have nice battery mounting options (like on the downtube to keep weight low and center) and they also offer regenerative braking and four regen modes plus a variable speed trigger throttle. They are used on many high end ebikes like the SMART Ebike but you can also work with your local shop to install one of the kits. If you’d like more info from owners, check out the BionX Forums here. I hope this helps you out! There are lots of ebikes to choose from and many kits but BionX is known for being higher quality which is why I approached them about advertising on the site. I trust their products :)

I’m so glad I found this web site; I’ve found it so useful. Advice please between 300w Bafang hub drive and mid-drive :
My decision making is relatively simple with a choice between:
a) a southern commute, 25km including ferry = NZ$50 per week, mostly flat but 1 big hill each way, 1 1/2 hrs each way, some riding in Auckland traffic (not known for being excessively cyclist savvy).
b) northern commute route, 25km, no ferry, a 2km and a 6km big hill, 1 1/2 hrs each way, some scary traffic sections but manageable.
I’m over 60 and these options wear me out and take too much time.
I have:
a) a 30 year old steel English, steel commuter which needs a new rear wheel and drive train and I love riding it.
b) a ? 6 yr old aluminium Avanti commuter, with worn our drive train, lighter than the a)
c) a newly put together 2 wheel SWB Bent which I have not yet quite got my nerve together to commute with
From observations, local e-bikes seem to wear quicker than I would wish.
My goal is to reduce commuting time by 20 mins each way, eliminate ferry costs, keep exercising and enjoy the open air, but reduce being worn out by 1000km per month, reduce the payback period and keep replacement (battery/motor/other) costs low.
ADVICE NEEDED – hub or mid-drive
Local options are a 300w Bafang 700c hub wheel kit for NZ$1000 vs a 250-350w (local limit) mid-drive and I’m guessing that they could be transferred between bikes (????).
Apologies for the length, but advice would be appreciated.

Hi Keith, I recommend reposting this in the forums here for feedback. I’m currently traveling and limited on time answering comments but didn’t want to leave you hanging. my short thoughts are that mid-drives (especially the BBS01 and BBS02 from Bafang) offer better climbing and range. The downside is that they take more energy to install and are more difficult to transfer between bikes. A basic hub motor (especially a front wheel) will be light weight, affordable and easy to work with. If you find that you need more range you could always bring your charger along or get a second battery. I hope this helps!

Court, great site you have here. I will tell you want i think i want but realize i don’t really know what i am talking about: i am looking for the best bike i can get. i want speed, endurance, great on hills, smooth ride and easy gear change, light weight (but not if it is in exchange for a lesser battery), max battery (48v and 17/18ah, and max watts) and anything else you can think of. i am a little confused on the different systems, but want the best of all worlds (of course) but realize that there will be compramise. maybe you can tell me the best balance of all that i am looking for as i am not price sensitive. What do you think of the Stromer ST2? any other bikes i should look at? c

Hi Craig, the ST2 is an awesome ride with some really neat features. I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it over another model until I knew your height, weight, desired distance and terrain (off-road, packed trails or mostly street). I personally have some neck and back issues so I like the full suspension ebikes with large knobby tires for a bit of trail riding. I’m not a large rider so I prefer my frame size to not be too large or heavy and I don’t want to go over 20 mph so that helps me focus on a specific group of bikes… If you share your details maybe I can make some more informed recommendations here.

Thanks for your reply. I am 190 lb. and 6 feet. I want to do mostly road work with some hills. I also want to do gravel trails made from old rail lines and so not really “off road” but not asphalt either. I love speed and acceleration and the ability to go far (even have a second battery on the rack to change out if needed? ). I am not a long time experienced bike guy and don’t like the totally bent over road bike ride. But can go from a somewhat lean forward and exercise ride to maybe putting on “after market” handle bars that allow for a more upright cruise ride as an option with my wife. Does this help? Also looking for an electric recumbent for my wife. c

Hi Craig! Sorry for the delayed response here… extremely busy times including some family stuff going on right now. Given your mostly road + a bit of gravel and the desire to go fast and far I’d recommend the Focus Thron Impulse Speed… This thing goes up to 28 mph, has a range of 100+ depending on the assist level you use, offers slick but cushy tires for road but also has full suspension for a bit of trail. Given your height, this bike would offer an excellent fit because it comes in four frame sizes and you’ll get a lot of utility with the integrated lights and mirror for those longer rides which might expose you to different times of day and busy traffic. Your idea about adding an aftermarket bar is a good one and I’ve done just this on a hybrid Trek I used for commuting in Austin years ago. You could explore stems that are shorter and more angled (upwards) and bars that are swept back a bit so you don’t have to lean forward as much. The full suspension should really help with your back and neck and is very nice to have when riding at higher speeds for longer time periods. Honestly, 100 miles is a long way to go so I wouldn’t bother with an extra pack right away, feel your way into it because I’m sure it will be $700+. As for your wife, there are very few electric recumbents available. It seems that many people use a kit to convert their trike and BionX has been popular because it’s available in many wheel sizes, offers throttle and assist and has regeneration. As an alternative, you could explore the Ridekick Power Trailer but it’s much noisier than the gearless hubs from BionX. Either of these options allows you to choose the perfect bike first and then go electric. I hope this helps! The Stromer ST2, Specialized Turbo, Easy Motion Nitro City and IZIP E3 Dash are also good speed pedelecs but don’t get the same range or offer the same comfort as the Focus Thron.

Wow. Thanks for the info. Do you mind if I ask more? How fast does the ST2 go? Does focus thron impulse (FTI) have the same torque as the ST2. The video mad e the ST2 look very good. what do I get from FTI that I don’t get from ST2 other than suspension? Is there a price delta? I have not looked at the other bikes you mention. Can you web site to a comparison of them all? I really want to buy before summer. Thank you so much for the info. craig

Hi Craig, here’s a full comparison of the Thron with the ST2. In addition to suspension, the Thron has a better weight distribution given the mid-motor. The ST2 has more fancy smart phone technology and self-updates from the cloud (not sure if that’s online in the US right now). Both are great bikes and the price point is very similar. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you end up with one of these :)

I’m buy a emotion bike 350 watt I’m going to ride it back and fourth to work going to work Is 7 blocks and 7 blocks back will it be fast enough or have the power I’m spending 3 grand I just want to know if I’m doing the right thing we don’t have many places to buy bike like this in Alaska so there hard to find

Hi Wesley, the Easy Motion electric bikes are some of my favorite. They use quality battery cells, have a good motor (that feels more powerful than comparable 350 watt designs) and their range of models offer good on or off-road capability. It would be easier to help you determine range if you could approximate mileage vs. blocks.
According to some quick research I did, a city block is about 100,000 square feet which means that you can fit 17 blocks per mile. Given your round trip distance of 14 blocks… that’s way less than one mile and in my experience the new EVO line of Easy Motion bikes (which have ~417 watt hour batteries) will get upwards of 15 miles per charge even after hundreds of uses and on uneven terrain. Of course, your weight and the hills and wind all have a factor but you should be very good for just a mile or two of use.
I used to own an Easy Motion Neo Jumper and would commute to work 5 to 8 miles round trip per day and never ran out of batteries. Here’s a video of what I did and it shows my commute. Hope this helps!

Court, I have enjoyed reading and watching your reviews of ebikes. I bought a Neo 29er today from a San Francisco area ebike dealer mainly due to your high opinion of Easy Motion ebikes. Dealer gave me a very good price. Hopefully with the battery change on the new Evo BH will continue to support the Neo line.

Hi Pete! I did really enjoy the Neo line and it seemed like they sold a lot of them so hopefully there will be packs available for several years. Considering that the same pack was used on all of the different models, I feel like you should be in great shape :)

Court, Appreciate all the research you do on E-bikes! Have found your videos to be quite informative! Will you be doing a review for the Focus Aventura Impulse speed 1.0 soon?

Hi David, I sure hope so! The last time I visited the Focus/Kalkhoff offices in Southern California they said that more models were on the way. I plan to go back and do more updates and videos at some point but am currently traveling in Texas (lots of rain and wind in Dallas right now!) keep an eye out and I’ll post the review once it is shot :)

3 years ago
Thanks for your quick reply Court, Just FYI if you are in Dallas, Zach Arnt at Small Planet Bikes says he will have one in store very soon!

Yeah! I spoke with Zach today and it sounds like the bike is in the Colorado store… Maybe I can get them to bring it down to Dallas for a review?

Hi there , I’m a new newbie looking at a front hub drive bike but notice most of the later models are rear hub drive but price is $1500 diff are front hubs ok? Mostly sealed road and footpath riding nothing too rugard but there will be hills!!

Hi Lisa! Front hub motors can be fine, they do tend to impact steering a bit and can spin out easier but are way simpler to either install or service because they aren’t surrounded by gearing cables. The fork on most bicycles isn’t as strong as the rear dropouts (especially if there’s a suspension fork) and this is another reason why most purpose built models don’t use them. Some simple city bikes do however and you can get a good example of this with EZ Pedaler. They opted for front motors because they put geared hubs in the rear which makes shifting at standstill possible, reduces exposure to bumps if the bike tips and is generally cleaner and less likely to need tuneups (but only offers 3 gears in this case). I hope this helps you to find the perfect ebike, feel free to post in the forums if you’d like more info or some help from fellow electric bike owners :)

trying to decide on an e-bike for a 15 mile, hilly commute. I’m a heavier rider. tested haibike with mid drive (loved it), and specialized turbo S (also loved it). It seems the mid drive does better on hills, which kill me. there also seems to be a big difference in price on the 20mph systems and the 28mph systems. for a heavier rider, is it worth the extra cash for the 28mph system?

Hey Barry! I really like the Haibike and Specialized models, both offer great quality and have several sizing options. I agree that mid-drive tends to perform better for climbing and offers more efficiency overall but most of the pre-built bikes are limited to 250 or 350 watts and top out at ~20 mph unless you get one of the speed pedelecs like the Haibike XDURO Race or Focus Aventura Impulse Speed. One alternative would be to purchase a kit like the Lectric Cycles e-RAD 500 which is a mid-drive with shift sensing, throttle and a max speed of ~30 mph if you unlock it for off-road use. This ebike kit can be pre-installed on an Electra or Origin 8 or you can have a local shop add it to a bicycle you already own. One drawback here is messier wires but the price tends to be lower and they can even adapt it to fat bikes and other frame types like cargo or cruiser if you want.

Hi I was looking into getting a electric bike my job is 20 miles away I found this bike online do you know anything about this company I watch a lot of your videos on YouTube but I don’t know what I want to buy just yet to many to choose from and I just want to find the best one for me here is the name of the bike falcon ghost 1500w Thanks for all your help and resources

Interesting… that’s a beefy looking electric bike! I haven’t heard of Falcon or tested this bike (or anything quiet like it) but the specs are impressive. Note that it’s actually not classified as an ebike due to the large motor, it would need to be 750 watts with a top speed limited to 20 mph, and this could create a liability issue if you crash and damage property or injure someone. Given your desired range, it seems like the super large battery pack would be good, it will impact weight and handling to some extent but that’s the trade, an alternative would be a mid-drive ebike with pedal assist like the Volton 350. Note that the Falcon website doesn’t have an address, just this phone number (855)-661-7337 so it feels less trustworthy than a local dealer or large company that is more willing to expose who they are and potentially offer ongoing support. Hope these thoughts help :)

Hi, Court! I am from Slovenia – EU! Escuse me for bad english. I found this site, because I want to change my ordinary trekking bike to ebike, and I am searching forums etc….Your advices are great, really! But, I am still confused. Here in Slovenia, some sellers say that the motor in front weel isnt safe!? I am driving to work 8km one direction each day, exept bad weather…winter…This road is flat. But when I make longer trip cca. 100km, there are also hills. So I need help! I am 58 years old and 172cm height, weight 75 kg. So, cca. 20 km per day and 2000-3000 km per year. Thanks for the answer. Best regards, Miran

Hi Miran! The Pulsar 250 watt hub motor sounds decent, for your short commute it could work fine and in my opinion front mounted hub motors are alright for basic city riding. They can change the steering dynamic and handling a bit but with a small motor like the one you shared I don’t think it would be a big deal. I really like the Bafang mid-drive but that will be very fast, powerful and possibly illegal where you live. Also, it might be difficult to install compared to the front kit. Here is one I reviewed that might be similar to your Pulsar: https://electricbikereview.com/clean-republic/hill-topper/

I have a Stromer ST1 and I just got my wife the Optibike Pioneer allroad. We both are short (5’6″ and 5’4″, 150 pounds and 100 pounds) but we pull our sons in the Weehoo Trailer. So that adds another 60 pounds. We have very steep hills in our area. We just took our first ride with the optibike and it feels like it has about 1/2 the power on the steep hills as the Stromer. I thought the mid motor would do better on hills (optibike is 500W mid mount, stomer is 600W rear hub). Can you help me understand this and help with a better option for more power? Thanks! Oh, and I should add. We want peddle assist and throttle modes.

Hi Craig, sounds like a fun setup! Honestly, power and efficiency are very difficult to calculate on ebikes because some motors list a nominal and peak while others do not. There is a potential leverage boost from a mid-drive like the Optibike has but it really depends on the system. The Pioneer series is much more basic than their R Series or something like the Bosch Centerdrive or Impulse 2.0 but that doesn’t mean those are more powerful, just more responsive. I do my best to provide an overview on here but I’m not able to actually compare “power” and usually don’t even get to find out the Amp rating on the systems. Knowing the motor wattage and battery voltage is a start… along with the motor type, but that only goes so far. I’m sorry, I guess trying it out is the best way to decide for yourself.

Bridges are a given. What sort of electric drive do you recommend for a recumbent pulling a trailer w/ cargo weight on tours?

Hi Jairus, I really like the BionX D-Series for power, reduced noise and the efficiency of regenerative braking. It’s a high quality kit with throttle and pedal assist mode with a solid warranty. You could also check out the e-RAD kitsbut they might not work on a recumbent setup. One final option could be the Ridekick but it’s a bit noisier and may be back ordered. Recumbent riders like that one because it doubles for power and storage ;)

What could I build to go up a mountain path? say 4000 ft long. It’s too steep for me & most bikers to pedal. I want to assist ..but the motor drive train will do most of the work. Down hill one needs good brakes or something electric generating. I bike 5 miles now up and down local hills but walk up the steep hills for sure. For a good bike rig …I would enjoy building a few prototypes. Any advice appreciated…I love to bike on green trails!

Hi Zoom, I really like the Haibike and Felt models because they offer full suspension or hardtail trail ebikes. They are well balanced, efficient and fairly quiet. You could build an ebike using something like the e-RAD kits if you want throttle mode and are willing to get your hands a little dirty :)

Hi, Court Rye! Thank you for your response . As I supposedly said, I do cca.20 km per day. 2000 – 3000 per year. The main road is straight, as well as highs. Just for them I need help of the engine. I send you pictures of the engine that are offered to me . They said that discourage hub motor ( in the first wheel ) , as well as the Mid – Bafang , because often corrupts !? So, what do you mean? Thanks and best regards, Miran

Please share a link to the models you are considering, I’m not sure I can comment on failure or corruption. Usually my reviews are limited in scope and I don’t have exposure to the durability of different designs (especially outside the US).

I am looking to purchase my first electric bike. I have test ridden many and narrowed my favorites to the eMotion City Wave and the Pedego City Commuter, with 28″ wheels. I don’t anticipate lengthy trips – likely up to 30-40 miles tops, however we live in the hills of NH, so I would be using pedal assist and/or throttle for the tougher climbs. While I love the City Wave ride, I worry a bit about the 350W vs. the possible 500W on the Pedego. I am 5’8″ and weigh 138 lbs. Your thoughts?

Hi Carol, 30 to 40 miles is quite a ways for most mid-range ebikes. If you’re truly going that far and won’t have an opportunity to charge part way I’d recommend a mid-drive with larger battery like one of the Kalkhoff models. They cost a bit more but you get a really sturdy motor, well positioned battery and often fenders, rack and lights. There are other great mid-drive ebikes but these ones have shift detection. Between the Easy Motion and Pedego I’d lean towards eMotion because their bikes tend to be lighter and 350 watts should be fine given your weight. They offer torque sensing pedal assist which is more responsive but requires input vs. cadence on the Pedegos. Hope this helps :D

I built my own ebike using the Gearless hub motor conversion kit on line. it works great. now i want to convert one of those Fat Tire Beach Cruisers into an ebike, the problem is that they don’t have the pre-made motors already attached to the wheel. i would have to do this myself. is it possible? you just need to connect all of the spokes of the bike to the motor? what are your thoughts on the feasibility of this? great website. thanks, Bert

Hi Bert! great question, you definitely can “lace in” a hub motor to work with a fat wheel… but that’s a lot of work and given the larger diameter and heavier tire you won’t get the same efficiency and might need a larger, heavier motor. In my opinion, a mid-drive can be a great solution to this and a company called E-Rad offers an excellent modification option specifically for fat bikes. You can choose the motor and battery size you want then specify the bottom bracket size and bam! You’ve got everything you need to do it yourself. Alternatively, you could buy a pre-built fat ebike and go for something affordable like the RadRover.

Hi, First of all, thanks for all the information we can find on EBR website, and a special thanks for the video reviews. I’m living in South of France, I have two baby girls of 2 and 4 and currently I have simple bike, with a Hamax seat at the rear and a Yepp seat at the front on the handle bar… so I am looking for the next bike I’ll need daily for carrying my growing girls, down and up hills, with electric assistance. I’ve seen the Yuba elMundo and the competitive RadWagon. I tried the elMundo with the girls, but there is still a strong torque and a balance limitation with the passengers weight and the high center of gravity, especially at low speed, in town when we have to stop or slow down with the traffic. The Xtracycle EdgeRunner and the Yuba Spicy Curry that lower the center of gravity with a 20 inches rear wheel seem a good, but very expensive, option. So my question is: have you planned to make some video review also about the Spicy Curry cargo bike (with a Eurobike price) which also seem really adapted for kids transportation? Regards, Pâmini

Hi Pâmini! Yes, I’ve definitely been planning to review the Spicy Curry and I agree with you that the smaller 20″ rear wheel helps to improve balance. It also improves power because less torque is required to turn a smaller wheel. For the price, it seems like one of the best options. You can see my thoughts on the TranzX mid-drive motor by watching this review of the IZIP E3 Peak which uses the same setup. I admit that I do not like this drive system quite as much as Bosch but it is getting better and for the price it is quite good. I hope you and your girls have a blast riding whatever bike you choose and maybe in time you can let one of them tag along with a trailer like this that teaches riding. Also, here’s a video I made a while back that teaches the balance for riding a bike on your own :)

Hi Court and thanks for all the info. I am in Montréal and would like to know in minus 15 and minus 25 what range may i expect? I am 160 pounds and would pedal, mostly flat and asphalt with 1/3 old railroad now small gravel. I am looking at a Surface604 Element 60 pounds 3 assist levels plus throttle. Weekly i go to a secondairy house 65 km away wich i pedal in 2.75 hours on my 18 pounds summer road bike.

Hi William! I’m going to do a bit of guesswork here based on what I hear and what I have experienced myself. The first thing you can do is to store and charge the battery inside. This will keep the cells warm and help them deliver greater range than if they were very cold to start. The second thing you can do is use mostly pedal assist to help the bike. Your 65 km ride is no joke… that’s a long way to go. Given your moderate weight of 160 lbs and obvious fitness level from riding a regular bike that far I think you’d enjoy the Surface 604 Element but you will have to pedal to make it all the way… If you tried to use throttle only and the battery is cold I bet you’d only get 10 miles (~16 km). You could order a second battery but that increases your weight and is inconvenient. Keep the battery warm, use pedal assist and if you are really needing a long-range electric fat tire bike then consider the Felt OUTFITTER. I realize it’s much more expensive but you will get MUCH better range and power… though you will not get a throttle mode. This is the most affordable Bosch powered fat e-bike I know of right now… if you want to improve comfort you can add the front suspension fork aftermarket or go for the Haibike XDURO Fatsix which has it pre-installed :)

hi, recently, i try the BOSM intelligent torque sensor. its a miracle. It makes your ebike become a real ebike, like a human, it know your idea,you wanna fast,slow,climb mountain, across the grass , against the wind etc. It will adjust the output power intelligently.

Interesting, I hadn’t heard of the BOSM torque sensor before but I just Googled and found a website talking about it. Which ebike model did you try out that had this installed?

Hi Court, I am considering buying an ebike for touring. I live in Australia but would like to take it to Europe to tour so it has to be as light as possible, capable of carrying some weight (25 kg) plus me at 65 kg. I like pedalling but just need a little extra boost to go around 50 to 80 km per day. Stability is important, speed not so important. Any thoughts?

Hi Pip! In addition to size and weight constraints battery size and design is also a bit factor for traveling with an ebike because flights are very restrictive with Lithium-ion cells. One bike that comes to mind that might fit your needs is the Brompton ebike conversion from NYCeWheels. The bike itself is solid and their custom bag systems and motor choice are all very well thought out. The downside is that I believe this only offers throttle mode… and is pretty expensive. Another approach might be to purchase a bike on location in each country then sell before you leave, or even explore renting? Here’s (Link Removed - No Longer Exists) from the US FAA (the rules might even be more restrictive for international). I’d love to hear what you come up with and what you decide on… There are portable kits that you can use with normal bicycles for that boost if you’re open to something a bit different. Check out the ShareRoller here, they have a newer design now that’s lighter and quieter.

I want to build an electric cycle . But I am confused which motor should I use. I have a gearless cycle but I want to build such an e cycle that the battery can be powered by paddling. Plzz tell me which motor should I use?? And how to control its speed ??? Plzzz reply. Thank you

Hi Om, most electric bike kits that I’ve reviewed don’t offer regeneration and those that do are incredibly inefficient (like ~20%) so you’re losing much more energy than you capture. It’s a neat feature for helping you slow down when descending big hills and it creates a nice feeling to think that you’re getting a charge but I would not set out to generate electricity by pedaling unless you want to simulate hills and use your bicycle for rigorous exercise. If that is your interest then check out the BionX kits which all offer regen, you can even buy them preinstalled on bikes from OHM and others.

Hi Court, Love your work. It appears that you have one of the best jobs going! Just wondering if you are considering reviewing the 2016 KALKHOFF INTEGRALE 8 any time soon? If so I would be interested to hear the noise level of the Impulse EVO RS mid drive system coupled with the Gates belt as I intend to commute 75 km per day and want a really quite and fast commuter

Hi Peter! Yes, I’m definitely planning to review all or most of the Kalkhoff and Focus ebikes for 2016… I’m just not sure when exactly?! I’ve been kind of distracted with the site redesign and some new features but the reviews are starting to happen now! I’ll try to get a good shot of the sound for you once I have one in my hands for a test :D

Once you get a mid-drive bike you simply won’t go back to a hub.

Disagree, hubs can be much quieter… some offer regeneration and they area all easier on the chain and sprockets. For a hardtail trail bike or road bike they work really well and tend to cost less. Each technology offers some great benefits :)

Hi, I am trying to decide between motors for client, a fanatical surf fisherman, who wants to use his fat bike for surf fishing. He mostly heads out for his day’s fishing when the tide is low and the sand damp and compacted. But his return journey is often when the tide is in and his ride will then be above the high water mark and the sand will be soft and deep. So, the choices are:
  1. 48V 750W Bafung BBS02: huge disadvantage – salty sea sand and seawater will continuously be thrown up against the motor by the front wheel, increasing the occurrence of rust.
  2. 48V 1,000W geared rear hub motor – somewhat removed from the spray and sand thrown up by the front wheel
  3. 48V 1,000W direct drive rear hub motor – ditto as for item 2 above. I’m trying to get clarity on the torque issue – does the DD deliver more or less torque than the geared motor.
I have been thinking of throwing in a 350W front hub motor as well (on a separate throttle) to be used only if and when the rear wheel digs into the really soft sand – to create a 2×2 wheel drive. I’m not worried by different speeds and power of the front and rear motors as they would only be used simultaneously very occasionally and then only if and when the the rear wheel is slipping badly. Regards, Len

Hmm… All of these are going to be impacted by rust if he’s near the salt water a lot. I’d probably go with the mid-drive BBS02 just for torque and balance given the difficult soft terrain. To answer your question about torque on geared vs. direct drive, I find that geared is more powerful and lighter weight but also louder and sometimes less reliable long term. If you want to go the cheap route I’d go with the geared rear hub (no front hub motor… just more to break). You could consider a front hub only to make it two wheel drive by him pedaling to move the rear wheel and the front wheel using electric but then it might spin out more. The front wheel would probably be best protected from the sand and water and the easiest to install… but again, less traction there as most body weight goes towards the rear wheel, especially when accelerating. I’d love to see pictures of the end result and hear your thoughts in the forum, maybe others could chime in on this subject there as well.

Hi Court, thanks for the reply. Yep – I’m dead scared of the salt thing. Everything I’ve read says the steel components rust really badly. This, despite spraying with lubricants and washing after every ride with fresh water.
You may have missed the point – I’m considering both front and rear motors together – 1,000W DD in the back (I figure there will be less wear and tear given the action in the looses sand) and a 350W geared motor in the front. They would be on separate throttles and the front motor would only be used very occasionally – if and when the back wheel really digs in. The rider’s pedaling is by way of assistance to the rear motor.My reluctance to deploy a BBS02 is based on:
  1. it’s position: it would get all the spray and salt filled sand from the front wheel – I’m concerned it would rust just that much quicker than a hub motor
  2. it would be applying huge amounts of force to the chain, which because of rust could become a weak point – if the chain were to snap, then the rider would be without any power whatsoever and might end up pushing his bike for 5 or10 km through soft sand while trying to get home after a long day’s fishing – I suppose he could always carry a spare chain.
In terms of torque, I am confused. ome articles argue that a DD provides more torque than a geared motor, whereas I’d have thought that a high revving geared motor (with a slow turning axle) would provide more torque. Am I nuts? nard

Hi Len, I think I understand and was recommending against the added weight and complexity of two motors. It has been done (Easy Motion sells a couple of all-wheel-drive ebikes) but wiring both motors into a single battery could be tricky and the alternative of having two batteries would take up a lot of space and add weight. In terms of torque from mid-drive vs. rear hub, I think it depends on the system you go with, both can be powerful and effective… You made a good point about the chain and rust. I don’t have enough data to recommend one way over the other, both have pros and cons… I might go with the cheaper option since it sounds like the bike is going to get run down in the environment so replacement will be less expensive down the road.

I live in Western PA in a fairly hilly area and I’m looking for a good way to get back and forth to work.
Here’s the problem: I’m legally blind. Now, I can see just fine to ride a bike (I’m currently riding a 1999 GT Slipstream which weighs about 7 tons) I just can’t get a driver’s license.
So, I’ve been doing some research about eBikes (I started looking at them back when Lee Iacocca was pushing his eBike). I’ve recently become interested again and I’m looking for some advice about what kind of bike to look for.
I started out looking at something from Pedego, then saw some things from Specialized…and I think I even saw something from Ford???…then today I came across the Indiegogo campaign for the Flux eBike. I’m a complete novice about eBikes and have no idea what I should even be looking for or trying to avoid.
This bike only needs to get me to and from work on paved roads (and some sidewalks) and I don’t plan to ever take it on any trails but it does need to be able to handle hills. I have a local bike shop near me, but they currently don’t sell anything electric (the guy did warn me against Pedego bikes, though…saying they were not good quality. I mention that to say this: I don’t know how good any local service options are going to be for me, so simplicity and having a bike that works are important. Also, I’m on disability and don’t have much money, so price is a factor (that’s why the Flux on Indiegogo appeals to me).
It seems like there’s a lot of options out there, even on individual bikes…better batteries, better components, etc. Where’s the happy medium for a price-conscious, street-riding only, out of shape blind guy?

Hi Ben! I had an opportunity to test ride an old Lee Iacocca eBike a while back and was impressed with how forward thinking the design was. I can see why you’re excited about the space, especially with all of the new products coming out, and given your lack of a driver’s license.
I’ve reviewed all of the bikes you mentioned including those from Pedego (which also makes one of the Ford Ebikes), Specialized and Flux. I disagree with your local bike shop about Pedego being low quality… some of the models are a bit basic and “classic” in terms of design but the company provides good support and honors their warranty, they even did a voluntary battery recall a year or so back which was proactive and upstanding. The downside there is going to be higher price and finding a local dealer.
The Flux ebike is neat and priced relatively low, it’s not a super large bike and won’t offer the same power as a 48 volt Pedego but it’s going to be lighter weight. Depending on your body size and weight it could work well enough and has the added benefit of mid-drive which frees up the front and rear wheels for easy maintenance. The downside is more shifting and higher forces on the chain, sprockets and derailleur. Have you checked out the Rad Power Bikes at all or maybe the VoltBike models? These companies ship internationally, have a large selection of styles and are priced pretty well. I hope this helps guide you, poke around the site here a bit and use the advanced search engine to narrow down by price, size, power etc. :)

Hi Court, great site and appreciate your insight, and obvious care. I am also ebike noobie, but have been doing my homework (hours of googling). Personal specs are, old guy, out of shape (5′ 10″ 270# but physically intact), looking to “upgrade” self. I am a mechanic for living, so nothing technical worries me. You have done great job of laying out the general parameters and options, so now I “get” that, and have evolved to the confused info overload stage. Application would be recreational/touring, hills/long grades are always in play, some trail riding, but no serious mountain biking at all. Range not so much a big deal, and plan to “pedal” for the exercise, assist would be for hills, and overextending (needing a lift back to the barn). Issues for me are quality/durability, and rider stability including push off and simple shifting (as opposed to complicated timing and planning routines). I may also see a fair amount of urban stop and go when vacationing etc.I don’t see myself speeding along at 30mph (scares the bejeebers out of me to even think about that speed on a bike). Lots of questions, but will focus on one … It seems like most of the issues (other than battery, range, regeneration and such) revolve around drive train concerns. I like the idea of the mid-mount, but am concerned about the shifting and stress on chain etc. Can a quality mid-mount add on kit, easily work with an internal shifting rear hub. The idea being simplicity…no front shifter, single cog, and easy rear shifting (especially when stopped, or going slow). I am a little confused over the internal geared options, seems like several methods Including external gear set for more increments). Problem may be the shifting while motor engaged. But I believe the internal shifting (similar to the old 3-speed bikes) can be done while pedaling or not, so likewise would not be affected by motor load. If true, that reduces the need(benefit?) of a motor disengage feedback when shifting. This setup also seems like it would benefit from a torque(? not sure I understand this) aware feedback mechanism (seems cadence ones are not really so great) for the “assist” with a few selectable assist modes. If not applied to an external geared internal hub, then only 2 cogs now, and perhaps can use the gates belt system, which seems like a good (dependable) upgrade (not sure how well gates deals with hard shifts if that is a concern). Anyways, hopefully I have asked a reasonable (as opposed to ridiculous!!) application question. If viable, could you suggest the actual brands/models you would use? Thx again.

Hi Joseph! Sorry for the confusion… I realize it can be overwhelming when you really dig down. Two things come to mind for you regarding a good mid-drive system available after-market and the internal shifting question.
  1. Consider one of the E-Rad mid-drive kits which include shift sensing (physical shift sensing) and offer both throttle and cadence activated assist… yes, it’s not as good as Bosch, Impulse or Brose which offer torque or advanced multi-sensor activation but none of these are available aftermarket. Yes, E-Rad looks like the 8Fun BBS02 but it’s actually custom and the shift sensing is worth it in my view, along with the variable widths for use with more frame types. Since you mentioned mostly pedaling, get a 500 or 750 watt kit and stick with the first or second assist level… if you buy the 1,000 watt kit it costs more money and makes the bike illegal in most states plus in my experience it’s just overkill
  2. Internally geared rear hubs can work very well with mid drive motors and belts but you seem to need a special cut-away frame to use a belt drive and those frames are custom and more expensive. I’d consider a Rohloff hub with a chain or a Shimano Nexus and if you really want to get fancy consider the continuously variable transmission hub from NuVinci
Hope this helps! It may be difficult to find at a shop but here’s a purpose built belt-driven Bosch powered ebike with a NuVinci so you can see it in action :D

Sir, Your article does not describe the different methods to activate and control the motors. Do you have a separate article that deals with that? I am hearing about throttle, cadence and torque sensors, and others. Where can one learn about that aspect of the bikes? Thank you.

Hi Clyde, each electric bike or brand uses a different system with different displays, throttles (thumb or twist) and pedal assist (cadence or torque). I’ll try to break it down for you quickly but you can see me using and explaining each system by watching video reviews here on the site :)
  • twist throttle: usually a half-grip mechanism but sometimes full that twists 1/4 turn and sends a signal for variable power output of the motor
  • trigger throttle: usually a plastic lever to be operated with the right or left thumb that twists down 1/4 turn and sends a signal for variable power output of the motor
  • cadence sensor: magnets pass an electronic sensor and send a signal to the controller and motor to switch on or off based on movement
  • torque sensor: the rear hub mount, a spring loaded chain sensor or bottom bracket flex as the rider pushes on the pedals and crank arms which sends a variable output for more or less power to the controller and motor
Any electric bicycle could use any of these sensor types (or multiple sensors like throttle and cadence sensing assist) but Class 1 only allows for assist while Class 2 allows for throttle and assist. So it’s not a matter of linking motors with sensors and input types (even though some motors only work with specific sensors) it’s a matter of how the manufacturer built the bike and which control systems they chose. All Bosch driven bikes use a combination of cadence, wheel motor and torque… Some BionX use a trigger throttle and a torque sensor. Hope this helps

Hi Court. Would you have any information on Bikee bike’s new mid drive. If you do can you tell me what you think about it. I’m currently looking at mid drives. I pull a heavy load. Almost 400 pounds total. So, i am looking for something that would work for me. Any advice would be very helpful. Thank you Court

Hi Eric! It looks cool, I was just over at their site exploring but unfortunately I can’t comment on performance… Haven’t seen or tested one myself in person but maybe someone in the forums has and can chime in? If you end up getting this kit I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback and in the mean time I’ll keep an eye out and try to get a review done ;)

Thank you Court for your quick reply, and yes, if i get this kit i would be glad to give you my thoughts and feedback about it.

I am happy with my Stromer st2 which I have had for 3 monthes now but am tired off the 28 MP assist cut off thus 2 questions.
  1. How to disable the governor.
  2. Which front hub motor to install for max speed without speed cut off & any drawbacks from adding something like 1000 watt front wheel motor. Will add extra 48 volt battery as well I expect.
Great questions Charles and I have no idea! Sounds like a cool project and I bet people in the Stromer forumscould help you with tips. I heard the ST1 models could be unlocked to go faster but I have less experience with the ST2. Adding a front hub motor would be really neat but make sure it works with the larger thru-axle or consider swapping the fork. I think adding suspension would improve the ride a lot and enable a front hub motor but not sure how you’d wire in a second battery or whether you could use the existing one? Would love to hear how it all turns out or see pics someday :D

Thank you for your time and consideration and in such a timely fashion. I had not considered that through axle thickness issue. You have no doubt saved me money and frustration! A local gent intends to produce a custom shaped battery to occupy the open triangle of the frame under the cross bar which I would wire in parallel with the existing battery. Extended range is also desired. Had thought about front shocks due to the weight factor but was “wishing/hoping” might not be needed. Oh well just some more time doing research I guess. This is a new realm for me so having fun scaling a learning curve again. Thanks again Court.

Cool! Glad I helped a little, it’s a fun journey creating something custom. I love doing the research, drawing designs and sharing ideas. If you do create a custom bike be sure to post some pictures and updates in the forum! I’m sure other people would love to see how it all turns out if you’re open to sharing :D

I shall post photos but it will be sometime before I do as research, purchase, assembly & bugs worked out first as well as putting daily issues to sleep.

I need your input on a trike conversion. I’m disabled, and working on converting a trike I got on the cheap to electric powered. I’m unable to petal, and handcycles are sooo out of budget it isn’t funny. I have a Trailmail Joyrider Junior. (i’m rather short so it’s a good size for me. The way it’s designed I can do a chain drive, mid drive or a hub (since I’m really just working with the frame) Which would be better for a full assist situation? I do have some graded hills around me too. Which one would be best?

Hi Lara! Sounds like a neat project… I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I’m not sure any standard electric bike drive system will work with the trike I saw in Google image search. I can’t be sure I’ve found the exact model you’re describing but the tiny front wheel is too small to be swiched out with a hub motor and so far up front that it would likely spin when activated (most body weight tends to be distributed through the rear wheels on trikes and the one I found was super long). The rear wheels might work with a hub motor swap but there appear to be axles fixed to the frame (not poking through on both sides like bicycles), a hub motor would require no axle on the bike, just a dropout like on the fork of a bicycle. You might have luck with a system like the RideKick that pushes you but I’m not sure if those are still for sale? Consider buying a purpose built electric trike vs. doing a conversion, it will tend to work much better and sometimes people post them for sale on Craigslist or in the forums here. Hope this helps!

Hi, I am currently in the process of converting an attendant controlled wheelchair (one with the small back wheels) to an electric version as part of a university project. I have found this article useful looking into the different types of motor available. I’m struggling to find a motor that might give me the torque values required using the smallest possible motor. Do you have any suggestions for a particularly ‘powerful’ motor I should look into?

Hi Jasmine! Interesting question, I think you could use a geared hub motor mounted in a 20″ wheel but am not sure if that would match your wheelchair perfectly or mount to a side axle vs. one that’s built into the hub (most ebike hub motors I’ve seen are permanently fixed to the axle). Lots of companies offer basic motor, battery, controller kits but this one from Dillenger appears to come in the small 20″ wheel size. Maybe there’s a way to add a mounting system between the two rear wheels to have this third wheel act as power? The other challenge is reverse, most electric bikes don’t offer this but one company called E-BikeKit does with their trike conversion kit here which may also come in 20″ wheel size. I hope this helps you get started, if you call the E-BikeKit company ask for Jason and maybe he can even give you some more advice as they offer some models designed to be more like personal mobility trikes vs. fast commuter bikes. One such model is their Liberty Trike here.

Cheers Court! Maybe you have some insight into a great question a friend asked me: “If there were a scientific experiment done where all variables were the same with the exception of the drive motor, one being a mid drive and the other being hub drive (both of good quality and used on higher end mainstream e-bikes), is there a clear winner when it comes to which drive system delivers more efficient power. I guess what I’m hoping to find out with this question is: Which style of drive system more efficiently transfers the potential energy in the battery into actual motion. I could see this being answered with units like distance or speed, but remember the only thing I am comparing is two types of drive systems… Things like battery size, pedaling effort, rolling resistance, total bike/rider weight, air friction are all constants. So is there a clear winner???”
Thanks for any info you might be able to give. ~Jeff~

Hi Jeffrey, I’ll do my best to answer this question based on my experience testing. Mid-drive motors get a lot of attention for being efficient because they can be empowered through gear shifting if they are setup to pull the same drivetrain as you, the rider, and the bike actually has gears. So a mid-drive on a single-speed electric bike might actually be less efficient than a hub motor because it’s transferring energy through a chain or belt before reaching the rear wheel. There several mid-drive designes out there which pull a completely separate drivetrain like this, and are therefore not as efficient as they might otherwise be but still benefit the bike design by balancing weight at the center of the frame. And so, if you have something like the Bosch Centerdrive, Yamaha, Impulse, Brose or others which pull a chain or belt and benefit from the mechanical advantage of a cassette, internally geared planetary hub or continuously variable transmission AND you actually shift appropriately… then you will generally go further, climb easier and even accelerate faster than most hub motors. Geared and gearless hub motors usually have a sweet spot for efficient operating speed RPM and that is usually translated to above 10 mph on the bike. So when you start from zero the motor is struggling and only once you’re reaching those higher speeds does the motor start to “relax” and perform optimally. I hope this helps, there are some excellent hub motor designs out there… they tend to be easier on the drivetrain and less expensive but increase unsprung weight (if the wheel is on a suspension) and can create imbalanced weight distribution compared to mid-drives.

Hi Court, I have a 2005 Giant Trance 2 mountain bike I’d like to convert. I want to commute to work which is 15 miles away using trails and minimal road exposure. There is also a fair amount of hills. The trance has a small triangle and I fell I would need a fairly large battery. I see a 52 volt 20ah at Lunacycle that is a triangle that looks like it will fit but its $600. I’m leaning toward a 1000 watt BBSHD unlocked.. all of this said, I recently rode a fat bike with a BionX hub drive that was so smooth I couldn’t believe it. The BioniX battery would never fit the triangle. Any thoughts or guidance would be appreciated. Thanks

Hi Vincent! In my opinion, there are a whole bunch of great possibilities out there. Luna has high powered stuff and the BBSHD worked great for me when reviewing a Lectric Cycles conversion a year back (using their e-RAD kit). Of course I also like BionX but the stuff is more expensive and proprietary. I’m doing less conversions these days (at least review wise) so I’m a bit behind on the category. For me, the frame makes a big difference and depending on what sort of terrain I’m encountering I’ll lean towards hubs for smooth and zippy feel or mid-drive for better climbing with the understanding that it might wear my drivetrain down, especially without shift sensing. That’s one area where e-RAD and maybe Luna now too, have some good options and accessories.

Hello Court! I have spent a good deal of time the past few months researching e-bikes. I read your introductory book and nearly every online review you have written over the last year or so. The closest e-bike shops to me are about a two hour drive and are limited in what brands and models they stock (mainly city style bikes). So before I venture out to test drive a few models, I am seeking your advice to narrow down the type of bike and drive train that makes the most sense for my application.
I am in my early 60s, weight 165#, and in fairly good shape but atlas do not have the stamina and leg strength I used to have even in my 50s. Aging sucks! I live in a hilly rural area and do most of my biking on paved and unpaved (70/30%) back roads for recreation and exercise. The latter includes gravel and hard packed dirt and the occasional deeply rutted farm road. I do not intend to do any serious mountain biking nor commute using this bike. The routes I take have several long and moderately steep grades which is good exercise but too exhausting to tackle these days on my non-powered carbon road bike. My priorities are the optimum combination of comfort (including relaxed geometry), quality/reliability, versatility, range, and ease of use.
My first question is whether a hybrid or a hard-tail mountain e-bike is best suited for my needs? Most hybrid models I have seen are set up for commuting and since I am a fair weather rider I have no need for added features such as fenders and lights. I do, however, desire the option to mount a rack. I love the versatility and looks of mountain bikes. Bull has a few HT mountain bike models (29ers and 27.5) that may work but wonder if the riding position may be too aggressive and/or the tires too wide (i.e., too inefficient) for riding on the paved road sections.
My second question is what drive train you would recommend? I am leaning towards a mid-mount motor (Bose or Bosch) primarily for the added torque and extended range. The mid-mount systems also seem to be the trending direction for major e-bike manufacturers even for city bikes. I love the integrated look of the Bose models but appreciate the design and simplicity of the Bosch system. Since I come from a recreational road bike background, which mid-mount motor do you think would feel more natural to me the Bose or Bosch? A single front sprocket has its appeal for reduced shifting/complexity but 2X have their advantage also. Alas, a very difficult decision. Since this an expense endeavor, any insights you may have to guide me down the right path would be greatly appreciated.
Keep up the great work!

Hi Paul! I enjoyed reading your words and envisioned myself riding along rural streets and gravel roads with beautiful clouds and sunsets. Cycling is wonderful… but I can empathize with your desire for some assist. I got into this because of a knee injury, I wanted to keep the fun and freedom of cycling without the knee sensitivity developed over the course of longer climbs and more regular riding.
Based on everything you wrote, I believe that both the Bosch or Brose motor system would be a good fit. I have owned one of each and appreciate their wider cadence range. You get shift sensing with Bosch but it sounds like you understand how shifting works given your nice carbon road bike… the Brose is a bit quieter and gentler feeling. Perhaps it comes down to which models appeal to you and fit your body size. I didn’t see your height there? Either motor system would be capable of moving your standard 165 lb body.
I like the approach you’re taking, possibly a hardtail with hybrid or knobby tires… the suspension fork adding some comfort along with larger inner tube diameter. When you ride further and at higher average speeds, you tend to feel it in your back and neck more. For this reason, I have become a big fan of full suspension electric bikes… but you can approximate this with a hardtail frame and a seat post suspension. This setup is going to work with standard racks (that tend to stay put compared with beam racks or the Topeak seat stay Pack N’ Pedal rack).
I’ve had good luck with Bulls and Haibike but any frame manufacturer that gets to work with Bosch or Brose is going to be good. Easy Motion has a couple models now with Brose. If possible, try to buy from your local shop so they can fit you and offer warranty support. Do you know what brands they carry? I’d say, pick one based on pictures, special order the correct size and go in to pick it up… when you go, have the shop also order a riser or even rise + swept-back bar and maybe some ergonomic grips. Get a Thudbuster or BodyFloat or the Suntour NCX seat post suspension in the correct size and have them fit you. You could swap tires too but I love riding knobby tires even on the road, they a huge difference on dirt and it sounds like you spend some time on surfaces like that.
I realize this isn’t as prescriptive as it could be, I think there are many models that could work for you but the sizing and possibly style are really up to you. I’d love to hear how it works or possibly which ones you’re zooming in on and please, share your story in the forums to help others once you get an ebike and have time to ride it around. You can also call me using the contact page info to chat a bit if you’d like :)

Hi Court. Thanks for your prompt response. Based on your input and further consideration I have narrowed my selection down to three Bulls e-stream brose MTB models: Evo 3 29er, Evo 3 FS 27.5 plus, and Evo 45 FS. I selected Bulls for a variety of reasons but I have to admit I am a pushover for good looks. Bulls offers a wide range of models and there is a dealer in PA within a reasonable drive from my home in MD. Unfortunately, they do not stock any MTBs but may be getting one or two in soon I can test out. I am still on the fence with regards to a full suspension bike but I realize my back is not getting any younger and I may learn to appreciate the extra comfort on the paved and unpaved hilly roads I ride. One of the suspension seat posts you suggested would definitely help with the hardtail but these are heavy and fast riding bikes (especially the EVO 45 FS which you reviewed in February) so if comfort is of prime concern a full suspension probably is the way to go.
The bigger decision for me is whether or not to go with a 29” or 27.5” wheel set. I believe Bulls in the US only offers a hardtail in the 29” size. There is a lack of information out there on the pros and cons for my particular application (i.e., 60/40 paved and rough dirt roads) specifically with regards to e-bikes. I know you prefer the 27.5 size as an “all-arounder”. At around 5’ 10.5” tall (barefooted) and 160 lbs, I most likely could find a good fit in either wheel size since Bulls offers at least three sizes in most of their bikes. Since I do not plan on commuting or doing much mountain biking, is one size better than the other for my rural mixed road use? Would there be any significant benefits with the larger wheels with regards to riding efficiency (i.e., less effort pedaling, improved battery life, etc.) or does the mid-drive motor make this mostly a non-issue? Not yet having ridden these e-bikes, my gut feeling is it may just come down to fit and preference. I would be interested in what you think based on your experience.

Hi Court. Thank you for the additional insights. I feel like I owe you a consulting fee :). Your enthusiasm for your profession is inspiring. It obviously shows in your reviews and follow up comments which are very informative, especially for folks like myself who are new to this area and trying to determine the most suitable type of e-bike for their needs. I am a big fan … it’s now time to take a few test rides.

I am trying to decide if I need a 350 watt hub motor for a bike conversion or would a 500 watt hub motor be better. I weigh almost 230 lbs but live where there are minimal hills. My husband would be doing the conversion with an all inclusive kit. Does a person’s weight have anything to do with what size motor you buy?

Hi Kim! Great question… I’ve heard some ebike companies and shops guestimate that 180 lbs is a good cutoff when jumping from 350 to 500 or 750 watts (750 is the highest allowable in the US). I’m sure you could get away with a 350 just fine, especially if you pedal along a little to help it get started each time and ride mostly on flats. Here’s a video interview I did with an individual of similar weight who was riding a 350 watt motor for over two years and using a throttle with higher powered 48 volt batteries… you can hear some grinding when the bike starts and I believe this is based on accelerated wear and tear. I hope this helps and welcome you to share what you choose and how it works down the line. I personally appreciate the compact size and efficiency (and lower price) of 350 watt motors but most people would recommend that you aim for 500+ watt in this case.

Hi Court, I have recently purchased a new adult tricycle with the intention of converting it to an electric motor. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the different motor options and configurations available. I want something that will provide me with enough power to get up to speed, and have a long ride time. I have seen YouTube videos where they have linked multiple batteries to get extended ride time. What are your recommendations to get a long ride, with the power for a tricycle and a big rider?

Hi Adam, this is a question that I’m not fully qualified to answer. I haven’t been focusing on kits as much recently but have had some good experiences with pre-converted trikes. Lots of companies are offering this type of product now (IZIP, Raleigh, Pedego, and Sun). It’s fun to create your own thing and geek out on power and range, I just feel like my knowledge is out of date and would recommend that you ask in the forums or rely on your friends who have done it.

Hi Court, Very nice information. I want to know, is it almost similar when it comes to e-motorcycle motor compared with e-bicycle motor? Thanks in Advance.

Hi Srinidhi! I’m not as familiar with electric motorcycles but I’d say that depending on what type of motor it is, they could be similar (just larger and more powerful for the motorcycle due to high speeds and more weight). If they use a hub motor, they could be very similar to the Stealth Bomber I reviewed many years ago. It’s almost like a motorcycle with pedals :p

Okay. Thanks for the reply.

What can you tell me about a mid motor manufactured by Bofielli?

Hi John, I don’t know much about their mid-motor. Perhaps someone else will chime in or you’ll be able to get some answers using the EBR Forums here.

Court – I’m looking for a Bafang rear hub geared motor conversion kit for my Giant Cypress DX. Can you point me to someone? Many thanks – Jeff M.

Hi Jeff! The three companies that come to mind for me are Electric Bike Outfitters out of Denver Colorado, Dillengerout of Australia (but also sell in the USA) and possibly Luna Cycles out of California. I hope this helps point you in the right direction. You can also ask around in the kits section of the EBR Forums here.

Hi Court, I discovered your site and it’s great. I’m 6’8″ tall, 274 lbs., and 71 years old and still biking but needing some help and assistance on long hills of pavement or crushed rock. Wouldn’t mind having a few coasting breaks too. And the step through appeal to me as I get older. Looking at ebikes and especially the Pedego step through Interceptor with magnesium wheels for weight carrying capacity. What do you think? Good choice or is there another out there that would fit this old boy?

Hi Dave! I’m a big fan of Pedego to be honest. Yes, their battery placement isn’t ideal and the prices are a bit higher… but you tend to get very good service, lots of size and color choices, and their battery and motor technology tends to be reliable and powerful. The Magnesium cast wheels are especially cool and useful if you’re heavier, or plan to carry heavy loads, so with your taller and larger body that’s a great option that very few other companies provide. I think you’re definitely on the right track. Do you live near a Pedego dealer?

Hello Court, Great information! I survive by involving in technology then no worries understand the concepts and fixing the stuff. I have spent a good deal of my time researching e-bikes in past as well fixed some e bicycles for friends for fun. Hope you could give me a hint on hub motors with lower prices but reliable machines. This is in order to support some low income crowd in Africa. What do you think about the Chinese parts? Any recommendation?

Hi Lalith, cool name you have! If you are buying a high volume of electric bike motors and batteries, then you could probably buy direct from China and maybe use a website like Alibaba. However, if you need a small or medium number, maybe you could research a company like Clean Republic. I reviewed their affordable Hill Topper kit a while back and thought it was good. If you are buying for Africa, it might be easiest to source parts in Africa or find a wholesaler in China that can ship there vs. going from China to the US and then Africa. I hope this helps you! Be careful if you are planning to buy and then fly with products like this because high capacity Lithium-ion batteries are not usually allowed.