Bike Chain vs Belt vs Shaft Drive

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 07/07/2023

Motorcyclists commonly drive their rear wheels with sprockets coupled to a chain. Although it is one of the motorcycles' most popular final drive systems, it is not the only one. Two other final drive systems are belt drive and shaft drive, although they are not as widespread as a chain.

But before we talk more about chain, belt and shaft-driven bikes, we should mention one common thing among all of them. Driving any of these types of bikes will require you to have insurance for a 2-wheeler. And choosing the right bike insurance policy for you begins with comparing two-wheeler insurance with Tata AIG.

Read on to learn more about bike chain vs belt vs shaft drive systems in detail, their pros and cons for various applications, and the difference between belt drive and chain drive.

Belt Drive Bike System - Overview

  • Belt drive systems are still top-rated despite being less common than chain drive systems.

  • This setup consists of a driving pulley pointing at the gearbox output shaft and a driven pulley at the wheel.

  • A belt connects the two pulleys with teeth on the inside that match grooves on the outside of the pulleys.

  • The material used to make belts is usually synthetic and rubber-like but highly durable.

  • A modern drive belt has steel wires inserted inside, and Kevlar coating is applied outside - such belt systems are very durable.

Pros of Belt Drive Bikes

  • It is possible to expect a motorcycle belt drive to last over 100,000 kilometres if it is well-maintained.

  • Chain drives require general cleaning, tightening, and maintenance, while belt drives are relatively maintenance-free.

  • Their operation is clean because they do not require sticky lubricants or cleaning.

  • Additionally, belt drive systems are smoother, produce less noise than chain drives, and have fewer jerks.

  • Doesn't it seem too good to be true? When belt drive systems are so advantageous, why do they not be used more often? As with everything good, they also have their downsides.

Cons of Belt Drive Bikes

  • Compared to chain-sprocket systems, belt drive systems are more expensive to produce.

  • The power loss varies between 9 and 15 per cent, according to the system's setup, which is relatively high compared to chain drive systems.

  • In addition, belt drive systems do not need regular maintenance. Still, if one of the belts or other system components fails, replacing it is significantly more expensive than replacing a chain and sprocket setup.

Belt Drive Bikes in India

Following are some examples of belt-drive bikes in India.

  • Keeway K-light 250V

  • Keeway V302C

Shaft Drive Motorcycles System - Overview

  • The shaft drive is the most high-priced of the three.

  • As the name implies, the shaft drive system consists of a shaft connected to the gearbox output via a universal joint, which transmits rotary power at any angle.

  • A spiral bevel gear connects the shaft to the rear wheel hub at the other end.

  • A bevel gear turns a wheel by reversing the shaft's rotation direction by 90 degrees.

Pros of Shaft Drive Bikes

  • It is, however, the most durable of the three, very smooth, and requires little maintenance.

  • Motorcycle drive shafts can often last the lifetime of a motorcycle if designed and engineered correctly.

  • The entire drive system is lubricated with oil and sealed to protect it from external elements, requiring no maintenance.

  • Due to their strength and reliability, motorcycles designed for adventure, sports tours, or adventure rides use shaft drive systems.

  • These systems are well suited to motorcycle applications involving long distances or treacherous conditions, where minimising breakdown possibilities is paramount.

Cons of Shaft Drive Bikes

  • Despite their sturdiness, why don't more expensive bikes use them, since money is not a factor?

  • In addition to being much heavier than belts or chains, they are unsuitable for high-performance supersport bikes that must save weight.

  • Further, this type of transmission loses much power in the process. This system is the most inefficient of the trio and may lose up to 25% of the power when it reaches the rear wheel.

  • It is unsuitable for motorcycles geared towards performance, where every horse matters.

  • A shaft drive system is heavy, expensive, and needs more torque to operate efficiently, which makes it unsuitable for motorcycles with small capacities.

  • These drives are fit for motorcycles with extensive capabilities (generally 600cc and above) that produce a lot of torque.

Shaft Drive Motorcycles in India

Listed below are some shaft-drive motorcycles in India.

  • Triumph Rocket III

  • Triumph Tiger 1200

  • BMW R nineT

Chain Drive System - Overview

  • Now we come to the faithful old chain drive system. Most motorcycles use this type of drive system, which consists of a chain of links connecting sprockets.

  • A chain connects the driving sprocket to the gearbox output shaft and the driven sprocket to the rear wheel.

Pros of Chain Drive

  • The chain and sprocket are the most efficient way to transmit power, with a transmission loss of only 1 - 4 %, despite all those negatives.

  • If you compare belt drive vs chain drive, a chain is significantly less than belt drive losses and no contest to shaft drive losses.

  • It is also straightforward to operate and replace very cost-effective chain drives.

  • It is infrequent for chains to snap, but if they do (which happens in sporadic cases only when you abuse them for a prolonged period), they can cause severe injuries to the rider, or they can tangle themselves around the sprockets, locking the rear wheel and causing an accident.

  • In the modern world of motorcycling, chain drive systems rule the road for their superior transmission efficiency, relatively lightweight, simplicity of construction, and cost-effectiveness.

Cons of Chain Drive

  • There is exposure to the elements on the chain. As a result, they are very susceptible to damage.

  • Chains expand and require regular fitting to remain safe.

  • It requires regular maintenance every 600 to 700 kilometres.

  • Each time you travel 15,000 to 20,000 kilometres, you must replace the system entirely.

  • It is very messy to lubricate a chain and sprocket system.

  • It is still possible for these chains to break, even though this is very rare. This most certainly will cause accidents.


Hopefully, this detailed explanation of motorcycle drive systems has answered most of your questions. Depending on your need and preference, purchase a motorcycle with a chain or belt or shaft drive and insurance for a 2-wheeler. It would help if you compared two-wheeler insurance policies online with Tata AIG. Ride safely with Tata AIG's bike insurance policy!

Disclaimer / TnC

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