The first time you ride an e bike we can guarantee that your first hill climb will leave you grinning from ear to ear. That's because you're getting help from an electric drive system. We have been selling and supporting hub-drive and mid-drive ebikes for years now and often get asked which one is best.
The way an electric assist bicycle works is through your pedalling. That is why ebikes can also be known as pedelecs (a term used more commonly in Europe).
There is a sensor near your cranks that activates the motor as soon as you start pedalling. If you stop pedalling, the motor stops. This is why they are still good exercise. You have to pedal, even if just very lightly.
Every ebike has a way to turn the electrics on or off - a bit like turning on your computer. Once you turn your bike on, there are a number of power modes that you can choose depending on how much assistance you want.
Most ebikes have between three to five levels of power displayed as either '1' / ‘Eco’ / ‘Low’ through to '5' / ‘Turbo’ / 'Boost'. If you feel like some extra exercise most ebikes also provide the option of turning your power off completely while you are riding along.
Every pedelec e bike operates in a similar way however there is a huge range of differences in how the motors and overall drive systems work and, therefore, in how they deliver power.
Electric drive systems have either hub-drive or mid-drive systems.
A 'Mid Drive' system is where the motor is in the middle of the ebike and integrated with the cranks. A 'Hub Drive' system is where the motor is in wheel, replacing the hub.
Which one is best? Rather than ‘best’ the better question is which e-bike drive system is best suited to your needs?
As a general rule Mid Drive motors (or Crank drive motors as they are sometimes referred to) are more efficient than their hub drive counterparts. Therefore you tend to get a much bigger range from your battery.
Mid-drive motors also generate more torque. This is what helps hill climbing. When combined with the gearing on your bike, it means they are generally able to climb steeper hills. Haibike (the #1 German electric mountain bike manufacturer) demonstrate this in their promo video featuring a rider riding up an Olympic Ski Jump!
BOSCH is currently the number 1 supplier of mid-drive systems for electric bikes and has been voted the best drive system in the world for the past four year in a row. Bosch eBikes offer four different drive systems, each with different levels of torque, to support the various e-bike categories ranging from relaxed city cruisers to high performance electric mountain bikes. See the Bosch motors here. For an over view of what's new for Bosch in 2019, and the Bosch-powered brands that we stock read here.
Shimano also feature in a number of brands eg. in Focus mountain bikes and other global drive systems such as Brose, Yamaha and Bafang are starting to appear on the market in Australia.
The mid-drive motor systems are designed to make the power assistance feel very natural. It is an intuitive and smooth power delivery that feels like you are a super strong rider rather than the strong push or pull that the hub motors deliver. If you are a keen cyclist already chances are you will prefer the feel of a mid-drive system…. Not always though!
The downside of mid drive bikes over hub drive motors is that they usually cost more to buy due to the extra technology in the motors and displays. They also generally have higher quality and lighter batteries which make them lighter and very efficient.
Absolutely! We still sell just as many hub drive e-bikes as mid-drives and there is still a place for well-designed hub drive electric bikes in the future. They offer great performance and value, and could be the perfect introduction to the world of e-bikes without breaking the bank. The SmartMotion and Dyson range, for example, offer some excellent and very popular options.
One big advantage of the hub-drives is their strong power delivery, regardless of the effort you are putting in. This makes them very popular for those looking for the 'no-sweat' commute as the way the power is delivered means you can get away with doing very little work if you want. Great if you are riding in to work in your work clothes and don't want to get hot and sweaty.
There is some extra maintenance with hub-drives over the long term and they can be trickier to repair electrical faults however these drive systems have been around for decades. If you look after it and get it serviced regularly you should have an ebike that will last just as long as a mid-drive ebike.
Back to the E-Bike Buyers Guide