Are you a rider looking for an ebike with extra range, a more natural-feeling electric assist, and better handling? A mid-drive ebike may be the best solution for you. While they tend to be a bit pricy, electric bikes with mid-drive motors offer an improved experience and added performance, especially for mountain bikers, performance road cyclists, and cargo ebike users.
Mid-Drive vs. Hub-Drive
Before we get into the pros and cons of mid-drive ebikes, let’s look at the difference between mid-drive and hub-drive motors, which are the two main types of motors.
Mid-drive (also known as crank-drive) motors are integrated into the bottom bracket and crankset of the bike. They work synergistically with the pedaling torque of the rider to provide the most accurate power assist. Since the motor is connected to the rider’s pedaling, mid-drive motors only offer pedal assist and don’t provide throttle power (although there are some rare exceptions to this rule).
Hub motors are integrated into the wheel's front or rear hubs and are less expensive to produce. Most hub motors use cadence and speed sensors to calculate power assistance.
Rear hub motors tend to feel like they are pushing the bike, whereas front hubs will have a pulling sensation. Hub motors can provide pedal assist or stand-alone throttle power, where the rider doesn’t have to pedal for acceleration.
Torque is the measurement of the force that the motor applies to rotate the drive wheel of the bike. It’s measured in Newton-meters (Nm). Electric bike motor torque ranges from 30 to 105 Nm.
Extra torque is important if you are carrying heavy loads or riding steep hills. For example, if you are looking at a cargo ebike for hauling multiple kids or a whole load of groceries, you’ll want a motor with 65-105 Nm of torque.
Mountain biking is another area where torque is essential. It provides the necessary power to ride through steep, technical climbs.
Different mid-drive motors are designed for classes of ebikes.
For more information, refer to our guide on ebike classification.
Since most mid-drive motors are pedal assist, they mostly will fall into Class 1 or 3. Many mid-drive ebikes are Class 1, which is sufficient for the average rider’s needs. If you’d like to keep up with city traffic or just want to ride faster, Class 3 ebikes have a higher top-assisted speed of 28mph.
Pros of Mid-Drive Ebikes
Mid-drive ebikes typically have a greater range than their comparable hub-drive counterparts because the integration of the motor into the cranks allows it to run at more efficient RPMs. Mid-drives also utilize a torque sensor which optimizes the assistance to the rider’s effort.
More natural feel
The motor applies power directly to the pedal stroke and provides more natural assistance, matching the cadence and torque the rider applies. Mid-drive motors eliminate the jerky acceleration that is common with hub-drive motors.
Low center of gravity
The positioning of the motor next to the cranks places the heavy weight of the motor (6-8lbs) low and centered between the bike’s wheels. A low center of gravity improves the balance and maneuverability of the bike, which benefits all riders but is especially desirable for mountain bikers.
The controlled acceleration of a mid-drive motor is safer for the rider. Hub motors tend to deliver more vigorous bursts of power that can be jumpy and hard to control. A mid-drive motor delivers smoother, more predictable acceleration for the rider. This is particularly beneficial when riding on tight bike paths with other cyclists and pedestrians or mountain biking on a technical singletrack trail.
Easier to change a flat tire
Flat tires are one of the more common issues people have on rides. A hub motor requires extra tools and expertise to remove and replace the wheel when you have a flat. On a mid-drive ebike, the rear wheel is a conventional hub and derailleur system that is easier to repair on the road.
Cons of Mid-Drive Bikes
Mid-drive motors are more intricate than hub motors and therefore are more expensive. You can expect to pay $2,500-10,000 for a mid-drive ebike.
Mid-drive motors provide pedal-assist power only. If you are looking for a throttle option, you’ll need to look at hub motors (although there are some rare exceptions to this rule).
Mid-Drive Motor Brands
Here’s a list of the brands that build mid-drive motors. When buying an ebike, you can’t customize the motor, but you can choose the ebike that has the motor that fits your needs.
The Best Mid-Drive Motor Ebikes
We’ve pulled together a selection of the top mid-drive ebikes for every kind of user, from urban commuters and families to mountain bikers and road cyclists.
Best Compact Utility Ebike for City Dwellers
The Tern HSD S8i is a small yet capable Class 1 utility ebike. The little sister of the popular Tern GSD, the HSD features a compact design that can carry up to 374 lbs. Tern’s extensive accessory ecosystem allows you to customize your bike to adapt to your changing lifestyle. The Bosch Active Line Plus motor, internal shifting rear hub, and the Gates carbon belt drive combine for a silent and low-maintenance drive system. The HSD is ideal for urban dwellers who need to store their ebike in small apartments or maneuver it into tight elevators and trains.
Best Longtail Cargo Ebike
The Yuba Mundo is a longtail cargo ebike that is ideal for families. Building on its years of experience selling cargo bikes, Yuba created a robust and stable frame that handles up to 3 kids or a whopping 550 lbs of payload capacity. The Shimano EP8 Steps mid-drive motor and 504Wh battery will get you moving. The Magura hydraulic brakes provide reliable stopping power even when carrying full loads.
Best Bakfiet Cargo Ebike
Carry the whole family on your next urban adventure with the Cube Cargo Hybrid. This Class 1 ebike has a 550 lb weight capacity to handle as much stuff as you want to load into it. The bakfeit design lets the rider keep an eye on precious cargo in the front box. The powerful 85 Nm Bosch Cargo Line motor provides enough torque to power up steep streets with a full load.
Best Mountain Ebike
The Bianchi MTN ebikes are aimed at expert mountain bikers that want to shred on any trail. 150mm of front and rear suspension provides plenty of cushion for the toughest terrain and the large 29” wheels let you roll over roots and rocks with ease. Explore farther with the integrated 625 KwH battery that gives you 5 hours of pedal-assistance. Integrated mudguards will keep you and your ebike dry and clean.
Best Gravel Ebike
The Grail:ON is Canyon’s premium gravel ebike. The lightweight carbon frame soaks up vibrations in the road, while the unique cockpit gives serious cyclists more hand positions to easily handle varied terrain. This Class 3 gravel grinder is equipped with an 85Nm Bosch Performance Line CX motor and frame-integrated 500 Wh battery.
Best All-Road Ebike
Are you looking for a performance all-road ebike to extend your journeys? The Giant Road E+ 1 Pro may be the right mid-drive ebike for your road riding adventures. It’s equipped with an 80Nm Yamaha motor and a 500wH battery seamlessly integrated into the aluminum frame. The 32mm tires provide a comfortable yet efficient ride over pavement, chip seal, and the occasional gravel.
Best City and Fitness Ebike
Whether it's weekend recreation or your daily commute the Specialized Turbo Vado 4.0 is an excellent everyday bike. The Turbo Vado 4.0 is equipped with front/rear lights, full-size fenders, and a rear rack to cover all of your needs. The 85Nm Brose motor has plenty of power to tackle varied urban topography.
Best Electric Trike
Do you need more stability than a two-wheeler can provide? EVELO’s Compass electric trike is designed to support less experienced cyclists older riders, and people with limited mobility. This Class 2 electric trike gives you the choice of pedal assist or throttle power. It features a 500W, 105Nm Bafang motor that will easily keep you cruising over any hill. Dual rear drive optimizes pedaling traction. There’s plenty of room to carry your groceries in the wood-lined rear basket/rack.