Differences Between Motor Types On Electric Bikes - What’s Right For You?

Choosing an electric bike can be confusing and overwhelming, and there’s new technology to consider. Different models of electric bikes come with different motors. Before purchasing an E-Bike, you should understand the type of motor you’re getting. It’s a very personal preference as to which motor feels best. We want to take some time to explain each one to hopefully help you decide which is best for you.

Electric bikes work on the concept of ‘pedal assist’, meaning you have to pedal to move, and the assist makes you stronger to move those pedals - it's "assisting your pedals". Some e-Bikes have an added option of a throttle, which allows you to ride more like a moped. You can use the throttle to move the tires to move the bike.

The level of assist means how much assistance you want to move your pedals. Think of it as how much boost or how much stronger you want your pedal stroke to be. Higher assist means literally giving you more assist. So if you’re going up a hill, for example, the higher assistance will give you the ability to get up the hill easier than without any assistance. How much assistance and how much quicker you want to get there will be a combination of your skill, strength, and assistance!

Types of Motors

Let’s talk about the types of motors you can expect to find when shopping for an E-Bike. 

Rear Hub

If you go with the rear hub, you may also have an option of a throttle that's added in. It's going to be a little cheaper than the mid-drive. It's probably going to start around $2,000 up or down for a good rear hub. 

The motion that you're going to feel with a rear hub is a varying level push or assist from behind. At times, this rear hub motor has an option of a throttle that can provide a quick boost of power when you want to take a break from pedaling or want to catch up to somebody. Some people like the feeling of a boost from behind, and some people don't.

A few electric bike brands that use rear hub motors are:

Mid Drive

With the mid-drive, the motor is located in the middle where the pedals are. When you have the motor located in the middle, it is much more efficient than the rear hub drive. The motors themselves are more sophisticated. You usually will never have a throttle added in on it, but you will have a torque sensor. The more pressure or torque you put on those pedals, the more assist you're going to have. The motion that you're going to feel on a mid-drive is very smooth. It's just going to feel like it slowly adds more assist, making you feel stronger and very similar to riding a traditional bike.

The mid-drive is becoming more popular in the past few years. They can be quite pricey, starting around $2,000 and higher. But with that, electric bikes with mid-drive motors have a greater range and can travel quite a ways longer than rear hub bikes because the motor is so much more efficient. One key piece is that the reason they’re more expensive is because of the technical sophistication of the motor itself. Common motor suppliers are consumer brands like Bosch and Shimano. Other popular brands that are high quality include Bafang.

A few electric bike brands that use mid-drive motors are:

What to Know About Motors


It’s important to understand that E-Bikes are 90% bike and 10% motor. So, like any vehicle, they should be tuned up. During a service appointment, we check brakes, tires, and lubricants, just like you would get with a car service appointment. The added element with the motors is that, at times, they need updates to the motor commonly found with firmware updates.

Both motor types should have regular tune-ups and maintenance to have the best performance quality. We typically recommend one tune-up per year. We see most of our appointments come in when the weather starts to warm up since that’s when most people start to use their electric bikes more. You can schedule a service appointment with us here.

Finances: Which is right for me?

As we mentioned, there is quite a big pricing difference between the two types of motors. Sometimes that plays a role in people’s decision of which type of electric bike to get. We realize an electric bike can be an investment. But when it's taken care of properly, it can last you a long time!

Always test each motor out

At Electric Wheels of Colorado, we will discuss your riding needs so we can help guide you through the process. From there, together, we’ll pick out a few e-bikes to demo. You’ll sign a waiver, put on a helmet, and we’ll head out to the back parking lot to demo. Don’t worry! We’ll be right by your side to teach you all about how to operate and ride the E-Bike. After a couple of loops, we’re sure of two things. 1) You’ll start to have a preference for what you like and need, and 2) You’ll be smiling!

We hope this blog helped you better understand the types of motors electric bikes use. As always, we recommend that you test ride both types of motors before purchasing an electric bike. Since they run so differently, everyone has a preference as to which one will work best for them. You can schedule an appointment with us to come in and test ride both here.

About Electric Wheels of Colorado

Electric Wheels of Colorado is your trusted source for electric bikes (e-bikes) accessories, parts, and service. We carry only high-quality brands that we trust the supplier, have a path for service and warranties, and have passed our quality checks. Come visit us for a test ride today! Electric Wheels’ mission is “More Miles, More Smiles.” The owners, Todd and Lori Logan hope that Electric Wheels brings to customers a new healthy experience and a new way to enjoy life. Leading to a new way to be grateful for the opportunities to get out and move, breathe fresh air, and SMILE!