The freewheel and freehub look alike in terms of physical appearance. However, these two mechanisms are anything but the same. Instead, They both perform similar, uninterchangeable functions in the ebike.
The freewheel and freehub help cyclers take breaks from pedaling while riding. Usually, several cyclers take pedaling breaks while riding on smooth, flat roads. At this moment, they only guide the handlebars as they coast along. The presence of a Freewheel/freehub is The reason your ebike doesn't stop moving when you stop pedaling. The freewheel/freehub system is usually installed in the rear wheel of your ebike
What is a freewheel, and what is a freehub?
The ebike freewheel is a system whose coasting mechanism is built into a gear cluster. The freewheel system is screwed to a set of threads on the right hand side of the ebike’s wheel. While pedaling, the freewheel system grips the wheel to propel you forward. When you stop pedaling, the freewheel disengages, so the wheel continues in motion even though the gears and pedal are not turning.
Even though the freewheel and freehub have similar functions, they have different structures for getting it done. Unlike the ebike freewheel, the freehub is a gear cluster of non-moving parts. These non-moving parts are often called cassettes. These cassettes slide into the freehub body. It is held in place by ridges or splines and then locked into position by a cassette lockring.
The differences between freewheels and freehubs
One significant difference between the ebike freewheel and freehubs is the number of gears each has. Ebike freewheels have seven gears or less on their rear wheel. On the other hand, a freehub has seven or more gears. Another difference between the freewheel and the freehub is their coasting mechanism. The coasting mechanism of the freewheel is built into the gear cluster, while the coasting system of a freehub is a sub-assembly of the wheel’s hub. Ebike freewheels are more cost effective than freehub systems. Due to this, freewheels are more prevalent in entry level bikes than freehub systems.
How to know which one you need for your bike
The freewheel and freehub have varied advantages and disadvantages, especially in maintenance. Your choice of which gears to work with depends on different factors. These factors include "how often you ride" and your willingness to compromise on weight.
A freewheel system is better for cruising and relaxation, especially if you do not need the extra gears in the freehub system. It has fewer gears and is best suited for casual riders. Furthermore, freewheels are older than the freehub system. Hence, they are the best fit for classic and older bike generations. A primary motivation for people to choose the freewheel system is its affordability.
On the other hand, the freehub systems are lightweight and less bulky than the freewheel system. By implication, they are best suited to riders who want to save some weight.
In terms of maintenance, the ebike freewheel and the freehub systems have pros and cons. Several freehub systems have more moving parts. Consequently, there would be a need to maintain them more frequently.
Despite the higher number of moving parts in the freehub system, they are more reliable than the ebike freewheel system. Consequently, it is advisable to choose the freehub system if you cycle frequently and have a budget that can accommodate it.
Pros and cons of each type
The freewheel system is easy to maintain. It is made up of two bearings that you could easily change without engaging the services of an engineer. Additionally, ebike freewheel systems are reliable and cost effective. This makes it easier to replace them when they get damaged. Unfortunately, pedaling tightens ebike freewheels to the hub. This could pose a challenge when you want to remove them. Furthermore, they are heavier and more outdated than the freehub.
Freehub systems are more reliable than the ebike freewheel system. They break less frequently at the axle. Additionally, they competently solve the issue of bent axles. Freehub systems are lightweight and more modern. However, they are more expensive than the freewheel.
When to replace them
Your freewheel or freehub system needs replacement when you begin to hear crunching or grounding sounds while freewheeling. Often, these sounds are caused by the absence of lubrication in the freewheel. A factor that could lead to this is the entry of moisture into the ebike freewheel/freehub. In some scenarios, you can correct it by loosening and lubricating. However, in other cases, your ebike will require a total replacement of the freewheel or freehub.
Another sign of a need for replacement is the sensation of sand in the hub while cycling. As you ride repeatedly, there is a high tendency for sand to get into your ebike hub. Excessive accumulation of such sand could lead to total damage to your ebike freewheel/freehub. You could salvage the situation by getting the bike checked immediately after feeling sand in the bike. In some scenarios, an overhaul might return your freewheel/freehub to proper working condition. In other cases, you will need to replace the freewheel.
Your ebike freewheel needs a replacement when the freewheel locks up. In this case, don't try so hard to loosen up the freewheel. Applying too much pressure could damage other vital components in your ebike. When your freewheel can no longer latch onto the bicycle chain of your bike firmly, it is time to consider a replacement. The skidding and slipping of the chain while peddling are apparent signs that the freewheels are worn out and need a replacement. Sometimes, you can detect the wear out of your freewheel by physical examination. After every ride, check the condition of your freewheel's teeth. If it is slightly deformed or worn, ensure to replace it as soon as possible.
You could elongate the lifespan of your freewheel/freehub by conducting routine maintenance at intervals. It is, however, crucial that you refrain from performing excessive maintenance. Excessive maintenance could catalyze the destruction of your freewheel/freehub. The frequency of maintenance you should conduct on your freewheel/freehub depends on different factors. These factors include the frequency you ride and the number of degreasers and solvents you use.
How much they cost
The price of freewheel and freehubs are not fixed for all bikes. Factors like the bike, the quality, and the manufacturer of the freewheel or freehub could affect the price. On average, prices of freewheel and freehubs could vary from $25 to prices above $300. When making your purchase, it is essential to note that freewheels and freehubs are not interchangeable. Consequently, you need to pay attention to which of the motors your ebike uses and make the appropriate purchase.
Even though the freewheel and the freehub look alike and perform similar functions, there are several noticeable differences between them. While some of these differences are physical, others are functional differences. The two different systems perform well when used within their limits. However, if you are a heavy rider and can cope with the financial implications of purchasing a freehub, it is crucial to add it to your purchase ca