Final drive: Chain, Shaft, Belt?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by LPRoad, Dec 4, 2013.

  1. LPRoad

    LPRoad Curmudgeon

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    Another question which shows how little I truly know about motorcycles. I am buying a new bike next year. As I mentioned in my Carbs or FI thread, I will own the bike for quite some time. I have narrowed the field, and all three final drives are represented.

    Most of my riding will be on pavement and I do not plan to do any trail riding. My land, however, is about 4 miles from the nearest pavement and I plan to ride in the local Natl Forests to access fishing areas. So dirt/gravel roads will be a part of my reality.

    From what I have read, this amount of dirt road riding rules out the belt drive.

    My current bike (and the bikes of the past) have been chain drive, but I have not put enough miles on any of them to break one or need to replace one. I clean and lube regularly and have not had a problem.

    It sounds like the shaft drive requires less maintenance, although the splines should be greased every so often. How involved is shaft maintenance?

    Anything I am missing? Any words of wisdom? I apologize again for my noobness.
    #1
  2. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid!

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    IMHO, for pure reliability, go with a chain. Easy to replace, durable for 20K miles if well maintained, and parts will never be an issue. NOT as user friendly as a shaft or belt, but based on your other thread, this would be the best compromise.:deal

    Jim :brow

    PS I bet I surprised a few with that!:lol3
    #2
  3. b1pig

    b1pig Been here awhile

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    i had one bike that was shaft drive. the manual said to "leave it alone".

    as you should know, chains require cleaning, maintenance and replacement. usually something that is chain driven is going to be cheaper at purchase... and repairs are always going to be cheaper.
    #3
  4. Treadless

    Treadless seeking adventure

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    In your case my advice is pick the bike that really pushes your buttons and live with the drive that comes with it. All drives have some sort of short comings in someones view. It may be easier to live with an issue or potential issue if it is part of your dream bike rather than living with a bike that you've made concessions for for whatever reasons.

    If constantly lubing a chain does not bother you spline maintenance shouldn't be a concern.







    A pleasant surprise at that. :lol3
    #4
  5. bomber60015

    bomber60015 Anatomically Correct

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    Chain, no doubt.

    After owning a Tube Framed Buell, and watching many black snakes fall from the sky, I switched the Buell to a chain and never looked back.

    That said, if the bike that truely floats your boat come with a shaft drive, worry real hard for about 3 minutes, and buy it anyway.

    ;-}
    #5
  6. Dave in Wi

    Dave in Wi Long timer

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    OK, the thread can be closed now. :-)

    In all seriousness, drive chains are pretty damn good now, and can last a long time if they are good quality. Yes they do require lubing, cleaning & adjustment occasionally. More if you are using it on gravel roads.

    Shafts can be good but I'd stay away from a certain German brand seeing all the problems they have. Although that's just me, BMWs do ride and handle fantastically and I can totally see putting up with the possibility of high maintenance and repair costs for their benefits.

    Belts, yeah, for gravel road use probably not a good idea. For pure street use, probably the best of all worlds. Quiet, mostly maintenance free, infrequent adjustments, no lube mess, lighter that a shaft, no torque reaction.
    #6
  7. LittleRedToyota

    LittleRedToyota Yinzer

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    get a good O-, X-, or Z-ring chain and stop worrying about maintaining it.

    just spray it with WD-40 after washing it (with water just like the rest of the bike) to prevent rust.

    modern sealed chains are practically maintenance free (a lot of people still maintain them like old, non-sealed chains, but there is no need...in fact, it can actually be bad for them).
    #7
  8. rbrsddn

    rbrsddn 3banger

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    You still need to lube O or X ring chains, to keep the o rings from drying out, and to cushion the rollers as they go over the sprockets.
    #8
  9. LittleRedToyota

    LittleRedToyota Yinzer

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    you really don't. try it sometime. when you get a new chain, don't do anything to it other than hosing it down with WD-40 after washing the bike. you'll be surprised by the results.

    WD-40 seems to condition the o-rings just fine. or they don't need to be conditioned. in any case, they last a long time without lubing them.

    if anything, lube just attracts dirt and turns into gritty paste...which will wear everything faster.
    #9
  10. Maggot12

    Maggot12 U'mmmm yeaah!!

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    All being equal I'd get the shaft driven bike. Or even if I liked the shaft bike less than the others, the shaft alone would be enough to put it number one. Chains are a big pain in the arse for me... and that level of pain is determined upon the owner.

    Having said that get the bike you like the most. If you tell the masses what bikes you're looking at we may me able to provide you with other pros/cons than just the chain.

    good luck..
    #10
  11. LPRoad

    LPRoad Curmudgeon

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    Well, since you asked.

    Moto Guzzi V7
    Triumph Scrambler
    Honda CB1100
    Yamaha Bolt
    HD Sportster
    BMW G650GS
    Honda CB500X
    BMW R nine T

    The CB500X and the G650GS are really the most practical for my needs, but honestly I don't like the way newer bikes look. The Sportster and the Bolt would require some modification to be a bit more dirt worthy. The R nine T is pretty damned expensive (although if it is the ONE I would pay for it). The CB1100 is really bigger than I would prefer, and I wish it got better gas mileage. The V7 is my favorite aesthetically, but I am not a mechanic, and I am concerned about reliability and such. At this point it seems like the Triumph might be the best compromise. If Yamaha would bring the SR400 over, it would be in serious contention, but as someone mentioned in another thread recently; "Sensible doesn't really sell in America much"
    #11
  12. broncobowsher

    broncobowsher Long timer

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    I like that!

    Automobiles really have not had much of a problem since they changed from chain drive to shaft drive a century ago. A motorcycle chain is very affordable, easy to look after, inspect, and replace. It is also the easiest way to re-gear a vehicle's final drive.

    Going shaft drive deletes the hundreds of seals (100 links, 2 seals each link) and adds a flex seal. you also have a final drive fluid you should maintain from time to time as well. The shaft usually weighs more. But the shaft stays cleaner as you are not putting a lubed part in the open environment.

    So heavier, more expensive, less maintance or
    lighter, simpler, more flexible to changes?
    #12
  13. Louis Wambsganss

    Louis Wambsganss Been here awhile

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    Just a quick thought here: If you are considering the CB500X, and are not opposed to a slight increase in price (I'm assuming you aren't since other bikes on your list are relatively expensive), you should look at the NC700X. I test rode both and went with the NC. It feels like it's the same weight as the CB500X, handles about the same, but has a really handy trunk, gets better mileage, and the engine is more drivable in city traffic due to lower RPM torque curve.

    I also tried a CB1100, since I've had several old Honda CBs, but I thought it was a little too authentic. It still handled like an old CB, and felt heavier to steer. The brakes and engine are very nice, but not $10,000 nice (to me at least).

    FWIW, I've also owned all three types of drives. I probably like chains best at this point. As has been mentioned, modern sealed chain tech has come to a point where very little maintenance is involved. I use a spray chain wax. It's not greasy or messy, doesn't sling goo everywhere, and doesn't attract dirt. The old plain chains that needed heavy greases and engine oil drips are a thing of the past. Shafts are nice, but heavy, and very difficult to change ratios if you ever want to. Belts are light, clean, and maintenance free, but not as cheap or easy to find parts. With a chain, you can get sprockets and chains cheaply, quickly, and easily.
    #13
  14. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid!

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    Budget some for suspension and brake upgrades on the Scrambler. Both are just above KLR quality, but take well to mods.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Jim :brow
    #14
  15. GH41

    GH41 Been here awhile

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    Don't buy a belt drive if you are going anywhere near gravel! Not even a gravel driveway! GH
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  16. anotherguy

    anotherguy Long timer

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    My Tuono's current chain is at 33K and has life left in it. It's a DID ZVM-2 with JT steel sprockets. I replace the front sprocket @ 16K miles 'cause they wear faster. Lubed frequently with Dupont multi-purpose from Lowes.

    Belts on their own are lighter but the space required and added weight of the pulleys turns me off to belts. They live long and are virtually maintenance free but fragile in some circumstances.

    Shafts are for sidecars and Ford trucks.
    #16
  17. hugemoth

    hugemoth Long timer

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    Japanese made shaft drive for a street bike.
    Chain drive for a trail bike.

    I hate chains but for trail bikes they're the only real option. There is nothing like a Japanese made shaft drive for street use. Clean, smooth, very low maintenance, lasts forever.
    #17
  18. trc.rhubarb

    trc.rhubarb ZoomSplat!

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    I've done a crapton of miles on Harley belt drives. Done a lot of gravel roads at high speeds even in the Midwest.
    Never once had an issue. Of course now I will :)

    I'm with the others. Don't let the drive dictate the bike you buy.
    #18
  19. scootrboi

    scootrboi Long timer

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    I never heard that before. Valuable information for me. I will no longer day dream about belt drive motorcycles.:eek1
    #19
  20. Bar None

    Bar None Long timer

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    "The Sportster and the Bolt would require some modification to be a bit more dirt worthy. "
    What mods? I have ridden lots of gravel roads on all types of bikes without modification. Some can be ridden faster than others but all are/were fine at a sensible rate. Of course real single track dirt riding is a different animal.
    I've had shaft, chain, and belt drive bikes and all were fine. I guess I would prefer shaft but not by a lot.
    #20