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Understanding the Different Types of Electric Bike Motors

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E-bikes are becoming a hit with those wanting harder commutes or a way to exercise. They come with three power sources: throttle, pedal-assist, or a mix. The motor affects the bike’s range, speed, and performance.

At Big Bam eBikes in Venice, Florida, we get that picking an electric bike can be hard. We made this guide to help you learn about motor systems. Here’s an overview of four types of motors used on electric bikes!

Types of Motors

Shopping for an eBike? Let’s check the various motors! Each has different speeds, power, and weight. Here’s a closer look. We’ll understand their characteristics, so you can make a wise choice.

Hub Motors

Hub motors are the most commonplace electric bike motors used today. They replace the traditional bicycle wheel, with two variations: geared hub motor or direct-drive hub motor.

Geared hub motors have a circular electric motor with planetary gears. The gear system provides extra torque, allowing for increased acceleration and power on hills. But they are not efficient on uphill rides.

Direct-drive hub motors feature an internal coil array around a cylinder, which interacts with a magnet in the center of the wheel’s rim. As there are no gears, these motors require less maintenance. They have high torque but are less efficient at higher speeds. However, this can be improved by pairing them with good electric controller circuitry. This includes regenerative braking and sensorless operation algorithms.

Examples of ebikes with hub motors include Magnum ebikes and Emojo ebikes, both of which Big Bam Bikes carries.

Mid-Drive Motors

Mid-drive motors are a more recent type of electric bike motor. They are better than hub motors as they more closely copy the pedaling on non-electric bikes. They are usually more powerful and responsive.

Torque sensors measure your effort when you pedal. The harder you pedal, the more torque will be delivered from the motor. Accessories like lights and computers can be easily installed since the same battery powers both the motor and frame. Plus, the battery can be removed to charge or upgrade capacity.

Mid-drive motors range from 250 watt to 500 watt, with 10 to 75 NM of torque. They usually reach a top speed of 20 mph. Different versions of the system can have different specs, so check carefully before you buy.

Popular mid-drive systems include:

  • Bosch
  • Yamaha PW Series/PW-X/Speed Sensorless Motors
  • Shimano STEPS E6100/E8000
  • Specialized SL 1.2/2.1

Example of ebikes with mid-drive motors includes Gazelle ebikes. At Big Bam Bikes, we have the best selection of Gazelle bikes in the area. Pamela, the owner, calls Gazelles “Butter Bikes” because they are so smooth and quiet. Gazelles are one of the few ebikes not made in China, they are made in the Netherlands. Stop by our shop to try the difference. You’ll fall in love with Gazelle ebikes!

Friction Drive Motors

Friction drive motors are a popular kind of electric bike motor, ideal for basic commuter or entry-level e-bikes. They are easy to fit and suit a range of budgets.

The motor has a drum shape with a concave surface that connects directly to the bike’s rear wheel. When you pedal, this surface grips the tire and helps propel you forwards. Usually, these motors can reach up to 25 mph (40 km/h), but there are some exceptions.

Friction drive motors come in two sizes – 250 watt and 500 watt. Other factors to consider are torque rating and weight restrictions. They usually work best on flat terrain, so may not be suitable if you’re hilly or carrying a heavy load. However, they are a great value option as they don’t require any additional hardware. Just one component delivers power from the motor onto the rear wheel.

Pros and Cons of Motor Types

Electric bike motors come in many varieties. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Looking for affordability, power or quietness? There’s a motor to fit your needs! Let’s explore the different types and their pros and cons:

Hub Motors

Hub motors are the most popular electric bike motors. They come in two types – front and rear. Front hub motors are usually in the front tire, with either 20 or 26-inch tires. Rear hub motors are set above the rear axle, with a cog between the motor and chainrings.

A key benefit of hub motors is that they don’t require much care. All their elements stay inside the motor. It’s easy to replace a worn out one, since all the parts are contained in one unit. It may be harder to find reliable parts for certain hub motor models due to their smaller market share compared to mid-drive electric bikes.

A disadvantage of hub motors is that they can be heavier than other electric bike motors – though newer tech has reduced the difference. Also, since power goes through one point (the chainring), the bike may accelerate slower than those with mid-drive systems, where power is spread over multiple cogs.

Mid-Drive Motors

Mid-drive motors are super popular for electric bikes. They’re in the center of your bike, making it balanced. It also offers precise gear shifting due to being joined to the rear cassette. On top of that, mid-drive systems are more compact, allowing narrow frames.

There are some disadvantages though. They tend to be pricier than hub motors. They also require more maintenance due to their complexity. Plus, they may not be suited for certain terrain and climates. If you’re in a place with winter ice and snow, this system may not be ideal.

Friction Drive Motors

Friction drive motors are the lightest, simplest and most cost-effective electric motor available for an electric bike. They are known as “motor-in-a-wheel” and are installed in either the front or rear wheel. The power is applied by a roller that creates friction with the tire. This type of motor has no complicated systems, making it easy to use and economical.


  • Lightweight and subtle
  • Fewer parts that can break down
  • Easy to install
  • Low cost.


  • Lower torque than other motors
  • Less torque at low speeds
  • Single chain setup restricts gears.


It’s important to choose the right motor when it comes to electric bikes. From top-of-the-line mountain bikes to adding a motor to an existing bike, the motor makes a difference in performance and range. We hope this guide helped you understand the different types of motors.

If you have any more questions or want to learn about our products, reach out and talk to one of Big Bam eBikes’ friendly experts in Venice, Florida!

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