Hub Motor Conversion; Front or Rear Wheel Drive?


When planning your electric bike build, one of the first questions you should ask yourself  before you pick your conversion frame is…do you want a front wheel drive or rear wheel drive?

In this article we will pick out the pros and cons of both.

If  you already own the frame you plan on converting, your task is much easier, you just need to determine if the bike (and your commute) would be better off with front wheel drive or rear wheel drive (or both?).

Picking a hub motor to install:

If you plan on installing a high power motor (over 500W) you are best going with a rear hub. Understand that a high power motor is heavy (up to 25lbs) so when deciding on whether front wheel or rear wheel drive, decide first where you would be most comfortable with all that weight, and how much power you want.

If you go with a geared hub motor (BMC, MAC, Cute, Bafang, etc) its possible to get a powerful motor in a much lighter and smaller package.

When you buy your hub motor or hub motor kit, be sure to specify if you want front or rear drive. Since the spacing is different between front and rear dropout you cannot use the same kit on the front or back. Most people opt to go with a rear hub motor when weighing benefits with rewards, but it all depends on personal preference, and what you want out of the bike.


Front Wheel Drive


All wheel Drive if you pedal! in snow, mud, and rain it can’t be beat.

Keep the rear pedal gears clean, and the same as if there was no motor.

Potential to use any shifting system on the rear including Internally Geared Hubs. IGH’s are sweet. Read our story about Rohloffs on E-bikes here.

Bike is more balanced if battery is in the popular and convenient rear rack.

Easiest E-conversion.

Harder to smoke motor because the front wheel slips during intense climbing.


Traction problems at low speeds especially off road

Traction problems when climbing off road at low speed

Potentially dangerous if not set up correctly because of front drop outs snapping

Cannot use ultra powerful motor.

Probably requires a torque arm (read story)

Looks clearly like a hub motor up front (not a stealthy as rear drive motor)

Front suspension is not recommended, especially at high power levels.

Can be tremendous safety issue if not hooked up correctly (front wheel locking up is bad)


Rear Wheel Drive


Overall quality of ride is better with a rear drive.

Beefy rear drop outs are harder to break than front forks. (safer!)

Better traction when climbing up hillls offroad.

Limited as to the rear cassettes you can use.

Motor is hidden by gear cassette and rear disc brake, looks cleaner and more stealthy

No issues when choosing suspension forks, front disc brakes, or upgrading to hydraulic.


Installation is more intense than front hub.

Rear hub motor can take up to 7 speed freewheel, so bikes with 8 and 9 speed systems will require either downgrade to 7 speeds, or a slight frame spreading to accommodate 8 or 9 speed freewheel.

Rear disc brake may not be an option, requires fussy fitting if its even possible.

IGH hub (ie Rohloff) is not possible. Read our article about Rohloff on ebike here.

Changing rear cassette is required.

Bike becomes back heavy and unbalanced, especially if battery is rear mounted.


Rear flat tire becomes a huge pain. Recommend upgrading tubes and tires.

All Wheel Electric Drive

For extremists, or for those who don’t like deciding between front and back…you can go with both a front and rear hub motor.  Now you have all the power and traction possible.  Lets weigh the pros and cons to such a set up starting with the cons:


Heavy…twice the added weight.

Cost…twice the added cost of an electric bike.

Maintenance…twice the chance something will break.

Complex…with two motors you will need two controllers and maybe two batteries.

Efficiency loss…one motor is more efficient than two motors.

Less steatlhy (twice the wires to hide)


All wheel drive!!

Awesome for traction when climbing or on soft surfaces such as snow or sand

Slightly higher top speed, and alot more torque

Cool as hell

Runs cooler for mega hill climbs

Reliability…less of a chance of the bike leaving you…always have a second motor.

Read our extensive write up on Torque arms here.

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.


    beware–e 1500 china import not deliverable—-SCAM ALERT

    • ElectricBIke

      removed the e-1500 because of slimy marketing practices on endless sphere and shady reputation as this poster is accusing.

  • Jax Lazzo Rhapsody

    Are there hub motors to comvert a tadpole trike to fwd?

  • nonsense

    how about make the front hub charge the battery that drives the rear hub

    • Your old physics teacher

      Sounds like you mean perpetual motion. The charge of the rear is not equivalent to the power it will take from the front. i.e less efficient.

  • jerry wilson

    Would you have a LP 3650 pwer adapter for a front wheel motor. I had one installed on my recumbent several yeRS AGO the red and green light arent working nor does it seem to be charging?

  • Artis

    Haha i just lost my front ebike wheel, i was showing off and drifting, good i was not speeding only drifting high rpm but low speed.
    Must have better way to connect front wheel to bycikle front.

  • Lo Andy Kruth

    I’ve got a montague paratrooper pro that i am gonna convert in to my daily commuter ebike.

    I’ve been spending the best part of the last 2 weeks reading up on the subject.

    For a guy like me who wants to be able to travel at 50-60 km/h and pedal along to get some good exercise on top of it a MAC 6T front hub seems to be the right solution since that would mean i can have a rohloff in the back and a schlumpf high speed drive in the crank.

    But i cant find the right front forks for this setup.
    Any sugestions?

  • crissy

    I have everything for my front wheel electric bike but the wheel cord/wire got tangled so I need just the motor of the wheel. Where can I buy either the wheel with motor in it or Just the motor with cord for 26 ” bike

    • jason

      I want to buy each piece individually and want to keep my spokes, tire and wheel, just replace the center bearing with an electric motor. So my question is the same as yours. Please let me know if you found anything. THANK YOU!

  • Souparno Basu

    i am making a solar car with 48v solar panels 300watt, 4 12v battery in series, 48v 500watt hub motor weight of the car including driver is 250kg… is it possible to drive the car without any difficulty

    • Ariel Lezen

      Horrible Idea. 12v car batteries will explode if you discharge them unless they’re deep cycle. 250kg is a shit ton of weight and your acceleration will be horrible. Your car is a bad idea. you should do some research before you spend money!

      • Souparno Basu

        but sir we are using 4 lead acid batteries which have deep cycle.
        and now we have reduced the weight to 200kg(with driver) and there will be 90kg(i.e included in 200 kg weight) on the shaft of hub motor which has a maximum limit of 120kg.
        is still there is a problem??
        so can u give some suggestions sir…

  • Randy Fehr

    Anyone aware of a dual BLDC motor controller for a 2×2 fatbike project? I.e. speed sync of 2 disimilar motors (light low power front, heavier higher power rear)?