Where to start when looking for an Ebike?

Where to start when looking for an Ebike?

Sep 20, 2021

By Rick York | E-Bike Expert
20th, Sep. 2021

Where to start when looking for an Ebike?

Most often I find folks looking first at motors. I’ve heard people say premium Ebikes use mid-drive motors so I need that. I’ve heard others say I want a fast bike, so I need a hub motor. All of this is fine to consider, but we’re missing the real question that needs to be asked first: why am I getting an Ebike?

Your reason for getting an Ebike may be different from mine, and our needs could be totally opposite, so one may be led to a hub motor and another to a mid-drive. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this a recreational or leisure vehicle?
  • Is this for commutes?
  • Is this replacing a car or public transportation?
  • Will this be for trails, roads, or the mountains?
  • Do local laws and ordinances limit what type of bike you can legally use on local trails?
  • Is this a long-term investment or another addition to the fleet?
  • What’s your budget?
  • What’s your experience level?

When you’ve answered those questions and any others that become important in your search, it will begin to illuminate the type of motor that works best for your needs.

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Mid-Drive Motors

Mid-drive motors are an excellent, efficient style of motor. They’re most common on class-1 and class-2 Ebikes, are most popular in Europe, which has a different classification system than America, and are typically pedal-assist only bikes. Some manufacturers have begun adding throttles, despite the groans of mid-drive purists, but ultimately this ride will give you a well-balanced and intuitive experience. The downside to the mid-drive, though the technology is always improving, and this isn’t an absolute detriment, is the added maintenance required on the drive train. There’s simply a lot of pressure on the chain, so I regularly monitor that with my road bike.

Hub Motors

Despite what I sometimes hear folks suggest, hub motors are not inferior to mid-drives, they’re just different. Depending on your needs, they’re actually an upgrade. I currently have a hub motor on my cruiser. It’s a leisure vehicle for me, and I love the way I can cruise around at a solid pace and zoom through town while relying on my throttle. Hub motors also require little maintenance. With hub motors becoming lighter, the issue with your bike being less balanced than a mid-drive becomes almost negligible.

I find that hybrid bikes, cruisers, and bikes used for leisure are fantastic with hub motors. If you want a road bike that imitates the natural feel of an analog bike, then you may want a mid-drive. You’ll often see mid-drives touted as superior to hub motors, but that’s simply not the case. It’s all just a matter of preference and needs.

I recently switched to a hub motor for my commutes. I used to go pedal-assist only on my mid-drive commuter and it was great. As my commute changed, I needed a slightly wider tire, the ability to go heavy on the throttle at times, and something that needed as little maintenance as possible. It was a great change for me.

For electric mountain bikes and road bikes, I prefer a mid-drive. It makes tackling hills and different terrain a breeze. I need that analog feel to my ride for those adventures, and using the mid-drive is perfect. The low center of gravity also maximizes my performance. When searching for your next (or first!) Ebike, always analyze your needs and don’t be afraid to adjust your opinions as you learn new information.