Hub Drive vs. Mid-Drive Motors

Hub Drive vs. Mid-Drive Motors


  • Hub drive motors are positioned in the rear wheels of eBikes. They offer consistent power delivery, typically require less maintenance, and are more cost-effective.
  • Mid-drive motors are centrally located, providing power through the eBike's chain. They can provide more balance but might be pricier and require more maintenance.
  • Hub drives are recommended for riders who prefer a straightforward, lower-maintenance option. Mid-drive motors cater to riders seeking a natural and intuitive cycling experience.
  • Surface 604 provides the best of both worlds by combining hub drive motors with torque sensors. This offers a balance of responsive power, mechanical simplicity, and cost-effectiveness across our range of eBikes.

The motor in your eBike has a major impact on your riding experience—it helps determine your electric bicycle’s performance capabilities, maintenance requirements, and more. The two most common types are hub drive and mid-drive motors—but what’s the difference between them, and which type is best for you?

At Surface 604, we use quality off-the-shelf components to create high-performance eBikes for various purposes—from commuting to mountain biking and beyond. Below, our team breaks down the differences between mid and hub drive motors so that you’ll know what to look for in your next ride.

Diagram comparing Hub Motors vs Mid Driver Motors

How Hub Drive Motors Work

A hub drive motor, as its name suggests, is integrated into one of the wheels' hubs—typically the rear wheel. Here's a quick rundown of how it works:

  • Hub motors operate by providing power directly to the wheel's hub.
  • The motor contains magnets and coil windings. When electric current flows through these coils, it creates a magnetic field that pushes against the fixed magnets, causing the wheel to turn.
  • Once the motor receives electricity from the battery, it sends the power directly to the wheel's hub.
  • The force (or torque) generated moves the wheel directly, propelling the e-bike forward.

Many Surface 604 eBikes use hub motors due to their smooth power delivery and relative ease of maintenance—some people compare the experience of a hub drive eBike to riding a small electric motorcycle. Above, you can see a hub drive motor on one of our 2021 Shred eMTBs.

Hub drive motor on 2021 Surface 604 Shred eBike

How Mid-Drive Motors Work

A mid-drive motor is positioned centrally on the bike, usually near the pedals or the bottom bracket. Here's what you need to know:

  • Mid-drive motors are centrally located, near the bottom bracket and pedals, delivering power directly to the bike's drivetrain.
  • Instead of powering a wheel directly, mid-drive motors generate torque that's applied to the bicycle's chain. This means the motor's force is transmitted through the bike's existing drivetrain—the chain, chainrings, and rear cassette.
  • As the rider changes gears on the bicycle, the motor's torque is increased or reduced, allowing for a broad range of power delivery. When you're in a low gear, the motor provides more torque, making uphill climbs easier. In higher gears, the motor offers speed for flat terrains.

Mid-drive motor on pre-production Surface 604 Shred prototype eBike

The model pictured above is our prototype for a brand-new mid-drive Shred model. While mid-drive motors cost more and can require more complex maintenance, they tend to run in their optimal RPM (revolutions per minute) range more often, which leads to better efficiency and longer motor life.

Comparison Chart: Hub vs Mid-Drive Motors at a Glance

Hub Drive Motors

Mid-Drive Motors


Center of a wheel (typically rear)

Around the bike's crank and pedal area

How it Works

Directly powers the wheel

Powers the bike's chain, using the existing gears

Integration with Gearing

Less integrated

Highly integrated

Maintenance Level



Repair Complexity


More complex

Power Delivery


Dynamic based on gears

Weight Distribution

Heavier at the back

Central, offering better balance


Generally more cost-effective

Often pricier due to advanced mechanics

Ideal For

Flatter terrains, beginners, and casual riders

Challenging terrains, experienced riders, and dynamic activities like mountain or backcountry riding

Should You Buy a Bike with a Hub or Mid-Drive Motor?

It’s not like one type of motor is necessarily better than the other—that’s why you’ll still find both on all kinds of eBikes. But generally speaking, you’ll want a mid-drive motor if you’re comfortable doing a bit more maintenance for a more natural riding experience, or a hub drive motor if you want less maintenance and a ride that feels a bit closer to what you’d expect on an electric motorcycle or moped.

Hub drive motor with torque sensors on Surface 604 eBike

Using Torque Sensors to Enhance Hub Drive Motors

All Surface 604 eBikes with hub drive motors also use torque sensors for smooth power delivery at an accessible price point. Torque sensors are a type of pedal-assist technology that controls the output of the motor based on how much force you apply to the pedals with your feet. When this system is engaged, the power you get from your eBike’s motor is directly proportional to the amount of work you’re doing.

eBikes that integrate torque sensors with hub drive motors provide a similar riding experience to that of mid-drive motors while keeping costs and maintenance down. This allows us to design and sell accessible eBikes that offer superior performance—essentially, it’s how we’re able to bring high-performance eMTBs and reliable commuter eBikes to market for less than $2,000 ($2,600 CAD).

Investing in the Right eBike for Your Needs

Our upcoming mid-drive Shred and other models make ideal solutions for riders who are ready to invest in the smoothest possible power delivery system—but our hub drive models still offer intuitive riding and mechanical simplicity for value-conscious riders. At the end of the day, it comes down to you: your preferences, goals, and budget.

Still, the best way to experience the difference for yourself is to ride a few models with different kinds of technology and choose the one that feels right! Find a Surface 604 dealer near you to take a closer look at any of our models. To learn more, browse the FAQ below.

Rider on Surface 604 eBike with hub drive motor and torque sensors in forest

Frequently Asked Questions about Hub & Mid-Drive Motors

Can I add a mid or hub drive motor to a traditional bicycle?

While converting a bicycle to an eBike by adding either type of motor is possible, it’s not always easy—or recommended. Most bikes aren’t designed to maintain their balance or handling if their power delivery is modified significantly, so unless you’re an engineer, you’ll probably have the most fun just buying an eBike that’s meant to work with the kind of motor you want.

Can I use a throttle with both hub drive and mid-drive motors?

Yes, thumb throttles can be used with both hub drive and mid-drive motors. You might not even notice the difference between motor types if you’re relying on the throttle to move the eBike—it’s when you have pedal assist engaged that it’s most noticeable.

What’s the life expectancy of hub drive and mid-drive motors?

THub drive motors tend to have a longer life due to their simpler design and fewer moving parts, often running smoothly for several years with minimal maintenance. Mid-drive motors can also last for years when properly maintained, but may require more frequent attention due to their level of integration with the drivetrain.

What kind of motor has better weather resistance?

A hub drive motor, being encased within the wheel, tends to be quite well-protected from elements, minimizing the impact of wet or muddy conditions. On the other hand, a mid-drive motor, interacting with the chain and gears, might experience varying degrees of wear and tear due to weather-related influences on the drivetrain.

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