Motorcycles today are modern, technological machines, able to deliver high performance and consistent results. You don’t need to be a genius to ride or even work on your bike. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t familiarize yourself with some key components to make an informed choice on what ride is best for you. You may think you want a crazy fast high performance sport bike, but you also have other hobbies and the maintenance may not be for you. Today, we’re going to focus on the different chain drives available for motorcycles to learn which is best for your situation.
The classic metal chain drive is probably what most people picture when they think of motorcycles. The same as bicycle chains, these are the most common and cheapest option out there. Their commonality makes them the cheapest and easiest to repair when needed, and easiest to find parts for too. Chains also offer the most power, with a very low, about 3%, loss in power coming from the engine to your wheels. This higher performance comes at a price though, as the chains themselves are cheap but they require regular maintenance and care. Maintenance includes lubrication, cleaning, alignments/adjustments and eventually replacement. This is not only time consuming but costs money. Also of concern is if a chain ever does break while riding, it’s possible for the rear wheel to lock up increasing the chance of an accident.
Motorcycles with belt drives function just the same as chain drives, however they use a super strong kevlar belt instead of a metal chain. This has some advantages, as the kevlar belt requires very little to no maintenance or regular care. The rear wheel also does not need to be aligned for proper tension as metal chains do. They are less efficient than metal chains, with about an 11% loss in performance, but offer better performance than shaft-drives. The belt itself is more durable and does not need to be replaced as early as a metal chain, they can get more than double the life of a metal chain with about 50 to 100 thousand miles. However, when they do need to be replaced it is more expensive than metal chains at about 300 to 400 dollars. Kevlar belts also make for the lightest, smoothest, and quietest of drive systems. Also, in the event of failure, if a belt brakes, the rear wheel spins freely preventing a dangerous lock up.
Motorcycles with shaft-driven systems use a rotating shaft to propel the motorcycle, much like cars use. Their main draw is that they are essentially maintenance free (a simple fluid change with every oil change is all that’s needed) and can last the entire lifetime of the bike with proper care. If they do get damaged though, it’s going to cost you, and is the most expensive system to work on. It is very quiet and clean, though heavier than the other options. This weight and the torque of the shaft make it harder and tougher on your suspension though.
Use this information to make the choice best for you, and whether you settle on a metal chain, belt, or shaft drive, either way you’re in for a fun ride