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Mid-Drive vs. Hub-Drive Electric Bikes


  • Mid-drive and hub-drive are the two main types of motors for electric bikes, each with its own pros and cons.
  • Mid-drive motors offer better balance and are more efficient—but are generally more expensive and complex to install.
  • Hub-drive motors are cost-effective and easier for DIY installations but are generally less efficient on hilly terrains. This can be offset by using a hub-drive eBike with torque sensors.
  • Your choice should depend on your specific needs, riding style, and the terrains you'll be tackling. Both types also have unique maintenance needs—mid-drive motors may require more attention to drivetrain wear and tear, while hub-drive motors can make changing a tire more challenging due to their placement.
  • Calgary eBikes offers high-quality mid-drive and hub-drive models. Visit one of our dealers to find the perfect electric bike for your needs.

Mid-drive and hub-drive motors are the two most popular options for powering electric bikes, but these systems offer different pros and cons. The best choice for you depends on your specific needs, riding style, and the terrains you'll be tackling.

Our collection at Calgary eBikes contains a wide range of high-quality electric bikes with both mid-drive and hub-drive motors, so we’re here to offer you a balanced perspective on the differences between them. Read on for the power you’ll need to make an informed decision next time you’re in the market for an electrifying ride.

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  • Mid-Drive eBikes
  • Hub-Drive eBikes
  • Mid-Drive Michael Blast Vacay eBike

    Mid-Drive Motors Explained


    Better Balance and Weight Distribution: Because the motor is positioned at the center of the bike, it offers better balance and weight distribution. This makes for a more natural ride and better handling, particularly on rough terrains.

    Efficiency: Mid-drive motors take advantage of the bike’s existing gears, allowing for better power efficiency. This is particularly beneficial on hilly or uneven terrains.

    Performance: Generally speaking, mid-drive motors provide superior torque and speed compared to hub motors of the same wattage. This makes them ideal for more demanding uses like mountain biking.

    Ease of Maintenance: The motor is separate from the wheel, making tire changes and maintenance easier.


    Cost: Mid-drive systems are generally more expensive to purchase or retrofit on a bike.

    Complexity: The addition of a mid-drive motor often requires a more specialized frame and can add complexity to the bike’s overall build.

    Wear and Tear: Because the motor makes use of the bike’s chain and gears, it can cause faster wear and tear on these components. You can offset this by learning how to do your own chain maintenance and taking your eBike in for regular service.

    Hub-Drive Michael Blast Vacay eBike

    Hub-Drive Motors Explained


    Cost-Effective: Hub-drive motors are generally less expensive to purchase and install. They're often found on entry-level e-bikes, although high-end models frequently use them as well (especially when they’re combined with torque sensors, which cause the motor to deliver power in an intuitive way that feels closer to the experience of using a mid-drive motor). Read more about torque vs. cadence sensors here.

    Simplicity: These motors are easier to install and are often less complicated than mid-drive motors, making them easier for DIY e-bike conversions.

    Independence from Drivetrain: Hub motors operate independently of the bike’s chain and gears, resulting in less wear and tear on these components. That doesn’t mean hub-drive electric bikes are maintenance-free, but it does mean you might spend a little less time oiling your chain!


    Weight Distribution: The weight of the motor is concentrated at the wheel, which can make the bike feel less balanced and harder to handle, particularly on rough terrains. However, an eBike with the right frame geometry can offset this effect by compensating for the motor’s weight elsewhere in the design—like the Surface 604 collection, which seamlessly integrates hub-drive motors in ways that feel natural.

    Hub-Drive Surface 604 eBike with torque sensors to improve power delivery

    Efficiency: Hub motors are sometimes less efficient on hilly or uneven terrains because they’re further away from the pedals, which means more of the energy you produce can be lost before they kick in. High-quality hub-drive electric bikes sometimes use torque sensors to offset this problem by carefully measuring the amount of work you do while pedaling and using this to adjust the motor’s output.

    Maintenance: Replacing a tire can be more complicated on hub-drive eBikes, due to the integration of the motor in the wheel hub.

    Comparison Chart: Mid-Drive vs. Hub-Drive Electric Bikes

    Mid-Drive eBikes

    Hub-Drive eBikes


    Center of the bike (near pedals)

    In the wheel hub (usually the rear)

    Weight Distribution

    Balanced; better handling

    Weight focused on one wheel

    Terrain Adaptability

    Excellent; good for hills & off-road

    Generally better for flat terrains


    High (proximity to pedals minimizes energy loss)

    Moderate (distance from pedals allows for some energy loss)


    More expensive

    Generally less expensive


    More complex installation

    Simpler installation

    Drivetrain Wear and Tear

    Potentially higher

    Lower, operates independently


    Easier for tire changes, but more wear on drivetrain

    More complicated tire changes, less wear on drivetrain


    Less DIY-friendly due to complexity

    More DIY-friendly

    Ideal Use

    Mountain biking, hilly terrains, professional use

    Casual riding, commuting on mostly flat terrains

    Final Verdict on Mid-Drive vs. Hub-Drive Electric Bikes

    At the end of the day, mid-drive and hub-drive eBikes are both still popular because there are ideal applications for both types:

    • Mid-Drive: Better for uneven terrains, better weight distribution, higher cost, potentially more maintenance for the drivetrain.
    • Hub-Drive: Good for flat terrains, simpler design, lower cost, less efficient on hills.

    That’s not to say all mid-drive eBikes are better than hub-drive versions. In fact, using torque sensors in a hub-drive eBike can improve the motor’s efficiency greatly and create an experience similar to that of riding a mid-drive model—and often at a lower cost! The important thing is to consider any bike you’re buying carefully and make sure it’s capable of taking you where you want to go.

    Our team at Calgary eBikes is ready to help you find the ideal electric bike for your needs. Find a dealer near you to explore some of the best mid-drive and hub-drive eBikes on the market, and browse the FAQ below for more information that can help you find the perfect ride.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Mid-Drive vs. Hub-Drive eBikes

    How Are Torque & Cadence Sensors Different?

    A torque sensor measures the force you apply to the pedals and adjusts the motor’s output accordingly. This results in a more natural and intuitive cycling experience, which can help hub-drive eBikes feel more like mid-drive versions. Cadence sensors, on the other hand, simply measure how fast you’re pedaling and adjust the motor output based on that, regardless of how much force you’re applying.

    Can you retrofit both kinds of motors to a non-electric bike?

    Yes, you can technically retrofit both mid-drive and hub-drive motors—but the complexity and cost will differ based on the type of motor you choose. Typically, it’s easier to retrofit a hub-drive motor to a non-electric bike, although this can affect the weight distribution. We recommend purchasing an eBike designed to work with the kind of motor you want.

    How Can Frame Geometry Offset Weight Distribution Issues in Hub-Drive eBikes?

    The right frame geometry can help offset the weight distribution challenges of hub-drive eBikes. Essentially, this means that the design of the bike's frame can distribute weight in a way that balances the heavier hub motor, improving the bike's overall handling.

    Do Hub-Drive Motors Only Go on the Rear Wheel?

    Although hub-drive motors are usually placed on the rear wheel, they can also be placed on the front wheel. However, rear-wheel placement usually produces better traction and stability.

    What Kind of Maintenance Is Required for Each Type of Motor?

    Both types require general maintenance like checking for loose connections, ensuring that the battery is in good condition, and making sure the motor is free from debris. However, mid-drive motors may require more frequent drivetrain maintenance due to increased wear and tear on the chain and gears.

    Can I Switch from One Type of Motor to Another?

    Switching from one type of motor to another is possible but can be complex and expensive. It often involves not just replacing the motor but also making other modifications to the bike, like changing the frame or the wheel. This is why researching the kind of motor you want ahead of time is so important!