Why buy a hub drive motor?
For eBikes worldwide, the hub drive motor was integral to the initial introduction of Electric Bikes, this dates back to the tail end of the 1800s! Rad Power has done a pretty extensive article on the history of eBikes. If you want to check that out I’ll list it at the bottom of the blog! Of course since these times we have seen a huge improvement on how these work and operate, main features such as size of the motor, the power they can hold and of course lithium-ion technology lending extra torque to these motors.
As we offer only purely hub driven eBikes, we often get asked why that is, and whether a mid drive (also known as a crank drive) is worth spending the extra on? In this blog we will be looking into the benefits of a hub drive and why they suit so many riders – and why it might save you some money! We’ll also explore the advantages of mid drives and the type of rider they could suit.
I want to start this off by saying while we do have a hub-drive only range, we also see huge benefits to the mid-drive for those they suit, and I (Kris) also own a mid-drive bike alongside my personal Oxygen S-Cross MTB MKII that I use for different purposes in which I will get into.
How hub-drive motors work
For those who aren’t quite sure what a hub-drive really is, I’ll briefly describe what they are and how they work. Hub-drive motors are either located in center of the front or rear wheel (more common in the rear wheel and that is where all of our models have theirs), and they come in two types, Geared and Gearless, Geared have planetary gears inside of the motor to reduce the speed of a higher RPM motor while Gearless have no gearing and directly connect the lower RPM motor stator’s axle to the bike. Hub-drive systems often work until a “Pedal Assist Sensor” which engages the motor upon turning the crank (pedals).
Key advantages to hub drive motors
This is the most important part to consider when looking at eBikes from our standpoint, do the hub-drive motors tick all your boxes and will you realistically need to spend more for a mid-drive system or not. I’m going to run through a few good indicators on hub-drives, coming from the wealth of knowledge we at Oxygen have gained over the past 10 years.
This is probably one of the biggest benefits of getting the hub-drive eBikes, the price anywhere from £800+ up to around the £2000 mark, anything more than that usually enters the mid-drive territory. Not only is the cost of a brand new bike reduced, but the price of a hub-drive motor is also a lot cheaper, which is something to consider for those who plan to use their bikes for commuting or for commercial use as replacement hub motors are quite a bit cheaper than the mid-drives. I will note that you will find on a lot of the £2000-3000 priced eBikes with the mid-drive will carry the same components as the £1400+ hub-drive bikes anyway which is something to keep in mind whilst looking around for an eBike.
As the hub drive is a fully enclosed system it needs little maintenance and will generally provide years of trouble free use. Hub drives that use internal planetary gears (the smaller, lighter models that we see and use at Oxygen) may need these internals replacing every few years with heavy use, but this is often fairly straightforward for your local bike shop to do – and certainly much easier and cheaper than a mid drive replacement! In addition, as the electrical power to the wheel is independent of your chainrings, chain and cassette, these components will last MUCH longer than on a mid drive system.
We always advise to keep on top of all your maintenance and to thoroughly read your manual. Your local bike shop is invaluable, use them or lose them!
- Performance and suitability
Now this one isn’t talked about as prominently as it should be out there when researching ebikes, but a lot of bike shops, including many of our customers, always ask the question, what do you need out of your eBike? For example, are you out in the mountains? How many miles are you planning on riding? We often see that people will buy a bike based on either popularity or what they have seen, but we encourage those to look at what they need from a bike? This ties into why hub motors are practical. The big difference between the mid-drive and hub-drive motors is how they engage but also how much torque they give (this is very relevant when it comes to inclines). Hub-drive motors will cover the majority of the leisure rider or commuter’s needs with torques being up to 45NM.
Potential pit falls
While I have outlined some of the key pros of the hub-drive motors, it is important that I lay out some of the common downsides or notable cons for them.
- Power & Torque
As we have outlined above, the mid drive can feel like it has more punch, especially in lower gears – the drivetrain gears work to amplify torque at the rear wheel. Great for those tricky climbs where you are judging traction and control. They can also be more efficient which extends the range of the battery.
- Removing Wheel/Tyres
With the rear or front huHub drive wheels can be a little more tricky to remove. Rather than using quick release mechanisms, they have to use a much stouter bolts and keyed safety washers. The power cable also needs to be disconnected. This can make a puncture repair a little more involved whilst out riding, therefore we recommend puncture prevention systems such as Slime or foam inserts.
- Weight Distribution
If you have either front or rear it can be sometimes quite awkward to carry due to Hub drives naturally displace the centre of gravity of the bike to the front or rear. Couple this with battery placement – a rear rack for example – then lifting the bike can be more problematic. Mid drives naturally have a centred weight distribution, and with their downtube batteries, the overall balance can mimic a non ebike and this can be advantageous in techinical off road situations. Oxygen S-Cross models are all down tube battery mounted and this helps to minimise weight imbalance.
Summary from Oxygen
In the end your decision on what type of motor to buy is purely personal preference. But there is no doubt that your style of riding and choice of terrain should play a huge part in that process. Our team here at Oxygen ride and enjoy both types of design and, if you are into serious mountain biking where the power delivery and balance is of more benefit then sure, we’d say go mid drive! But if more a leisure rider that enjoys tow paths and gentle trails, the road and commuting, and just need that extra boost, then a hub drive will easily meet your demands – and save you money! They offer perfect price to performance for so many people.
We are actively developing mid drive models to complement our hub drives and will be something that we will offer in the future.
As always we are always happy to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to get in touch, and also if you’re in the market please have a look at our models we have in our range.
Rad Power Article: https://www.radpowerbikes.com/blogs/the-scenic-route/the-history-of-ebikes