Belt or chain, derailleur or hub?

Stubod

Finding my (electric) wheels
Feb 26, 2020
7
4
Hi all, newbie to forum so please be gentle.

I am currently looking to get back into cycling and get myself an e-bike. I have been looking at TREK as I understand they use Bosch Active line motors which seems to be the hardware of choice in this price range(?).

However I also note that some models now come with a belt rather than chain drive so will obviously only operate with hub gears. This is something that was not originally on my radar, but this combination would seem to offer a cleaner and a more reliable "maintenance free" system?

I am looking to spend about £2 - £2.5k and doing some "gentle" trips of probably no more than 30 / 40 miles range. Just wondering if any experts out there would be able to offer any opinions regarding the benefits or otherwise of going "belt & hub", or if I should be looking at any other bikes?

...many thanks for any replies.
 
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Woosh

Trade Member
May 19, 2012
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Southend on Sea
wooshbikes.co.uk
rustfree chain + derailleur + small rear geared hub motor.
simple, reliable, efficient, quiet, lightweight and low replacement cost.
Avoid plastic!
 
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Stubod

Finding my (electric) wheels
Feb 26, 2020
7
4
Thanks for the reply, and apols for being dull, but please can you confirm which is the plastic bit I should avoid?
 

Woosh

Trade Member
May 19, 2012
13,309
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Southend on Sea
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sorry, I wasn't clear or should I have said rubber and plastic.
The carbon belts are not as long lasting as chains, more so compared to rustfree chains.
Carbon belts are also not repairable.

 
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Electrifying Cycles

Official Trade Member
Jun 4, 2011
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We have several customers who have done more than 7000 miles on their original belt. In our experience they last longer than chains but are more expensive to replace. This experience is based on selling belt drive bikes for four or five years. In this time we have had one faulty belt. The downside I would say is if you damage it you will find most bike shops will not have a replacement in stock whereas chains are more readily available. In addition if the gearing is too low the sprockets are expensive to replace. However most Riese & Muller bikes we sell have belts and I find our customers love them! Also they require less maintenance and no lubricating which makes them great bike if you don't want to worry about things like and replacing the chain. My advice is to try one out and see what you think, it all comes down to personal choice.
 

Woosh

Trade Member
May 19, 2012
13,309
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Southend on Sea
wooshbikes.co.uk
compararison should be under similar conditions. If your belt is protected by a fully enclosed case and drive a hub gear, then it should be compared to a chain in fully enclosed case and driving a hub gear.

I made some carbon belt bikes in the past too:

Woosh Zephyr-C, 2017 with Nexus hub gear.



 
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Stubod

Finding my (electric) wheels
Feb 26, 2020
7
4
Hi all and thanks for the feedback. As I said in my original post, a belt drive was never on my radar until I saw them advertised as an option. The "engineer" in me thinks that a belt drive and hub gear may give the best "low/no maintenance" / robust solution. I have had ordinary bikes for a good few years and at some point always seem to have problems with derailleur type gears.

Although I can also see that a "static chain" and hub gear may also provide a good compromise / robust solution? (I assume a hub drive will probably have a narrower gear set? (ie less range of gears).

I am really looking at the simplest / most reliable option?

..more food for thought, many thanks..
 

Electrifying Cycles

Official Trade Member
Jun 4, 2011
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176
Unless you are going to independently test both it is impossible to answer 100%.

Also it depends when you change the chain as well, you could run it until it breaks or change it based on a wear indicator which would be sooner.

Chains are generally cheaper so even if they don't last as long some people might prefer it. If I was using a bike for commuting or leisure I would prefer a belt drive but equally others would prefer a chain. Comparing boh hub gear to hub gear with a Bosch motor we find the belts last longer though.

I base our findings on comparing the two based on our experiences which might differ from you but we sell different bikes so it is hardly surprising. Also it depends what chains you use, some last longer some less so.

Really it comes down to what is best for the customer which is personal choice.
 
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Woosh

Trade Member
May 19, 2012
13,309
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Southend on Sea
wooshbikes.co.uk
I am really looking at the simplest / most reliable option?
The hub gear is not maintenance free and it still requires adjustments albeit rarely.
The problem with derailleur is not so much in the mech but the aluminium hanger which is exposed to accidental bending and rupture but it is low cost and easy to replace.

the most reliable, least maintenance system is single speed + torque sensor rear hub motor (like the Gtech Sport), beyond that, Sram automatix hub gear with middle motor is the next best, then hub gear + full chain cover + front motor, then hub gear + full chain cover + middle motor, then the conventional rear hub motor + derailleur.
The chain does not need maintenance. Any bike with hub motor will let you ride/limp home even without a chain.
 
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Electrifying Cycles

Official Trade Member
Jun 4, 2011
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Simplest within your budget:
I would go Bosch crank drive with hub gears and marathon plus tyres. If you do get a puncture you have normal front and rear wheels but with these tyres it is less likely.

I would also choose a bike with hydraulic brakes, ideally disc. If you raise your budget slightly you could get a Raleigh bike with a belt drive, hub gears and Bosch motor (£2,850). Otherwise there are plenty of hub gear bikes with a Bosch motor within your budget. We find Bosch to be reliable and there are lots of dealers so it is very likely that you will have someone local so no need to ship things around the country or make repairs yourself.

Best advice try some bikes out and ask the dealer what happens if you have a problem.
 
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Stubod

Finding my (electric) wheels
Feb 26, 2020
7
4
Hi all, and again many thanks for your very helpful replies.
I am now erring towards Bosch crank drive, (was my initial preferred choice), and hub chain drive.
(Last year I got my other half a 2nd hand Giant Prime E-bike, (hub drive, Yamaha motor), which we have been really pleased with.

Just need to review which bikes offer the above options within my budget and see how they ride! (Ideally looking for a "comfortable" 50 mile range)...happy hunting, and again thanks for all your input.
 

Woosh

Trade Member
May 19, 2012
13,309
10,471
Southend on Sea
wooshbikes.co.uk
you may find some shops still have Raleigh Motus with Bosch motor and Shimano Nexus 7-speed.
there are few choices because manufacturers of hub gears simply do not like the high torque of the crank motors that may damage their gears.
 
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Electrifying Cycles

Official Trade Member
Jun 4, 2011
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Definitely go for something with a 500wh battery. There are some new 625wh batteries as well but you might struggle to find one in your budget.
 
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Nosweat

Pedelecer
Sep 2, 2019
51
17
Rear hub gear and front hub motor (so less chain wear than a pushbike - a crank motor would mean more chain wear than pushbike with hub gear and even more besides with deraillure) should be a pretty bombproof commuter design. I will find out as that is what my Woosh conversion is. I can't cycle without a chain despite having a hub motor as far as I understand as I have opted for torque sensor. Better hope the reduced wear theory holds...

I considered crank motor plus belt and rear hub and Riess and Muellers Cruiser has that as an option for £2900. Need a strong motor and big battery as both hub gear and belt add friction however compared to chain and derailleur. But decided that £600 converting my hub geared pushhbike to have a hub motor was nearly as robust for a fraction of the price of a new belt driven bike. We'll see!

Of course I use Marathon Pluses....
 

Nosweat

Pedelecer
Sep 2, 2019
51
17
That's a very interesting link to a Dutch firm I hadn't heard of Mike. Their Eslim full size crossbar frame also has a shaft drive, 490 battery and wait for it, a Brooks leather saddle for 2900 Euros! Supposed disadvantages of a shaft drive include greater resistance (but as with belt drives, that can be mitigated by the fact the bike is electrically assisted at the cost of a bit less battery range) and additional complexity in removing the wheel (but they have a video on the website that makes removal look easier than the removal of a chain-powered wheel). Shaft drive ebike plus hub gears sounds like another "best of both worlds" commuter-reliability level bikes - I hope that's that case.
 

MikelBikel

Pedelecer
Jun 6, 2017
239
125
Ireland
Only handy thing about removing a derailleur wheel is one doesn't have to remove gearchange cable, and if it's a front motor, not the power cable either. So a double win, yay!:rolleyes:
 
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KirstinS

Esteemed Pedelecer
Apr 5, 2011
3,165
868
Brighton
I run an alfine 8 with a BBS mid drive conversion. Love it and near maintenence free. The setup also allows you to use pretty much any chain and deceent 8 speed chains are peanuts.

You can buy various size rear sprockets to play with gearing. Cost a tenner only. Compare that to a new front chain ring for bbs

The gearing is fine for me even on steep off road and tops out at around 30mph when pedaling downhill (obvs doesn't assist to that speed)
 

zerodrum

Finding my (electric) wheels
Nov 6, 2019
8
9
Loved the crank motor nexus 7 hub setup of my previous bike, and the hub outlasted the rims of my rear wheel, so would also highly recommend disk brakes. I believe the 7speed hubs are slightly more robust than the 8speed. Previously always had problems with derailleurs, but my current 8 speed derailleur and rear hub motor is proving a very nice ride. As alluded to by earlier post, get as many amp/hours as you can, as 40 Mile range is very optimistic for most ebikes. There will be times when you need to get home without battery assist, so bear this in mind and make sure you test ride the bike powered down. Previous poster recommended marathon plus tyres, as do I. Commuting in London I was getting punctures every few weeks, post tyre switch almost never. As you have probably already realised there is not one magic best solution for everyone, and you need to get the combination that's suits YOUR needs. Start with the frame and riding posture you prefer, and work from there. I hope this helps. Good luck
 
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Stubod

Finding my (electric) wheels
Feb 26, 2020
7
4
Hi again, and many thanks for so many comprehensive replies! I think I am erring towards a chain drive, 7 speed hub system with 500 watt battery, Bosch crank motor. Just a question of finding the best value bike now!

(NB Are suspension front forks with the extra spend?)
 

sjpt

Esteemed Pedelecer
Jun 8, 2018
992
556
Not that much choice of ebikes with hub gears. We've got a 2016 Motus that we like. 7 speed hub, the modern ones use 8 speed. I had seen reviews (for the hubs, not the bikes) suggesting the 8 speed are more robust.

A few on sale at ebikes direct; they all seem to be out of stock except
https://www.e-bikesdirect.co.uk/brands/raleigh/raleigh-motus-grand-tour-grey-st-hub-gear-26-electric-bike
which is 8 speed and only 400wh battery. (That site would be much more helpful if you could eliminate 'sold out' from the search).

Also 7 speed and 500 battery (not sure what style you wanted)

BUT
~~~
A lot of hub gear ebikes come with Magura hydraulic rim brakes which I have found an absolute pain to adjust.
 
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