Bike Chain vs Belt vs Shaft Drive - Know the Difference

If you are looking down at the rear wheel of your motorcycle, you are going to find one of these three things. A chain and sprockets connection. Or a belt and pulleys driver. Or a drive shaft. Each of these systems has its pros and cons. Deciding which one is the best for you can be a headache. Here we are going to see, the pros and cons of these three systems. And hopefully, by the end decide which one is the best for you.

Chain Drive

This system of driving the rear wheel of a bicycle was first used in the late 1800s. Nowadays this is the most recognized and widely used rear-wheel driving system. With the Indian market booming with budget-driven motorcycles, these chain and sprocket systems seem to have stumbled upon gold. Most of these budget-driven motorcycles use a chain drive. This system is popular even among the entry-level racing bikes. There is always a comparison between the same category. You can always find a KTM RC 390 vs Duke 390 article online. So, let us see it’s pros and cons:

Pros of Chain Drive:

  • It is cheaper than any of its competitors
  • Best for gear changing purposes
  • Highly efficient. The power loss in this system is under 5%
  • Readily available. As a chain is easy to fold, they can easily be packed and shipped
Additional Read: What is AHO (Automatic Headlight On)

Cons of Chain Drive:

  • The chain is exposed to the elements. This makes them very much prone to damage.
  • Chains expand and require constant fitting for them to be safe.
  • Requires Regular maintenance for every 600 to 700 Km.
  • You have to change the system entirely for every 15,000 to 20,000 Km.
  • Lubricating a chain and sprocket system is very messy.
  • Even though very rare these chains can break. This most certainly will cause accidents.

Belt Drive

The belt drives are not as popular as the chain drivers. This setup comprises a driving pulley towards the gearbox output shaft and a driven pulley at the wheel.These shafts are connected with a belt that has teeth on the inside surface. These are not as widely used. Let us see why:

Pros of Belt Drive:

  • Very low maintenance. A well-maintained belt shaft can last as far as 1,00,000 Km.
  • A lot safer than chain drivers.
  • They don't make much noise

Cons of Belt Drive:

  • They do not bend much so not very easily packable.
  • It can be used only on bigger bikes.
  • If damaged they are a nightmare to replace as one has to remove the swing arm to replace them.
  • Power loss is up to 15%.
  • A lot more expensive from a chain driver.
Additional Read: Bajaj Avenger Bikes Price List

Shaft Drive

Shaft drivers as the name suggest replacing the chain or belt with a shaft system. It is a lot similar to a car shaft system. In this system, the transmission delivers power to the rear wheel through a series of structures that include the gearset, the clutch, and the drive system. This can be found mostly on high-end bikes. But, these are not as widely used as the other two on the list. Let’s see why:

Pros of Shaft Drive:

  • Barely requires any maintenance. A well-maintained shaft-driven system can last for the lifetime of the bike.
  • The internals is always shielded from the elements.

Cons of Shaft Drive:

  • The most expensive on the list.
  • Not very efficient with a power loss of up to 31%.
  • If anyhow damaged, it will cost a fortune to replace.
  • Very heavy.
  • Used only on heavier bikes

So, here are the pros and cons of the three systems. Now, no matter what we say about them, it all comes down to your preference. Ultimately it’s your money. If you are taking out a bike loan, it’s fair to assume that you would like to do your research before spending that money. We are not saying that one system is better than the other. It’s for you to decide.

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