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Comparing Derailleurs vs Hub Gears for Electric All-Terrain Bikes

The majority of electric bikes are equipped with a derailleur and a cassette.  The other option is hub gears.  Both of these have been around for many years. It seems most people are very familiar with derailleurs but the internal gear hub actually came before the derailleur. The first patent for a hub gear was recorded in 1895 by an American machinist, Seward Thomas Johnson. The derailleur was invented 10 years later in 1905 by Paul de Vivie, a French cyclist.  Obviously, the technology has advanced and is well tested over those many years.  Derailleur and their gears are external and hub gears are internal.

Derailleur Gears Pros & Cons

Some bikes have two derailleurs, a rear derailleur and a front derailleur depending on if you have a single chain ring at the crank.  If you have more than one chain ring then that is when your bike requires a front derailleur.   The derailleurs are usually connected to a cable that requires a specific tension so that your bike shifts correctly. The bikes we offer for sale at Brevard Bikes generally have Shimano or SRAM derailleurs.

Electric Bikes with derailleurs can give you a very wide range of gearing.  This allows you to more easily climb hills when in lower gears and reach higher speeds in higher gears.  This makes it easier on you (if you are using pedal assist) and the motor on your electric bike.

Derailleurs are open to the elements so they are much more prone to getting dirty and over time need regular cleaning and maintenance to be at top performance.  Since derailleurs are exposed they can also experience damage by contact.  However, it has to be a pretty “hard hit” for significant damage to occur.

Hub Gears Pros & Cons

Hub gears are fully encased in the rear hub of an electric bike. Since they are sealed and protected within the rear hub they require almost no cleaning or maintenance. With less cleaning and maintenance there is greater reliability. With this in mind you won’t need to worry when you are riding through water or rough terrain.  You will also notice that your chain will experience less stress and wear because it’s not being moved from gear to gear. 

Another advantage to hub gears is you can shift several gears at a time when stationary.  This is ideal for the frequent stops and starts you might experience while riding over rough terrain. Another benefit to a hub gear is your rear wheel is just stronger.  This is because the hub itself is larger and therefore the spokes are shorter making for a stronger wheel. This is a real benefit when you are pulling a cart or have loaded your rear rack with gear. For hunters that are looking for a more quiet approach, internal gear systems that you find on our bikes can be much quieter than derailleur geared electric bikes.

Depending on the manufacturer of your hub gear, there is generally less gear range than a derailleur gear system.  However, there are internal gear systems (such as the Rohloff 14 speed) that actually have more gear range. The cost of an internal gear system can be much higher than a derailleur gear system as well. Internal gears will also add some extra weight to your electric bike. Flat tires can be a little trickier to repair on an electric bike with a hub gear.  The main reason is it can be somewhat challenging to get your chain tension adjusted correctly when you remount the wheel. You can remedy this by using tires with puncture protection or tubeless tires, which are becoming more and more available.

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