Which is Better, Shaft vs Chain vs Belt Drive Motorcycles

chain vs belt driveAre you asking because you want to know if you’re bike is the best you can buy?  Are you doing research to see what is the best bike to buy for your needs?  Either way, we are here to help you find what you are looking for!  First, if you’ve already got a bike and you like the way it rides, keep riding!  If you’re trying to find out what bike to get, go out and take some test rides!

In the meantime, we are here to help you understand the difference between these 3 different drive types!

How to decide: Shaft vs Chain vs Belt Drive

  1. Efficiency
  2. Safety
  3. Comfort
  4. Maintenance


Efficiency is important for a few reasons.  First, inefficient things tend to wear out more quickly, but we’ll get to that more in our maintenance section.  Secondly, efficiency leads to better gas mileage.  If your goal is the get around without leaving a huge carbon footprint and to save a few bucks, the right drive can help!  Lastly, efficiency is important if you’re going for maximum power and speed.  For maximum efficiency, a belt drive is the right way to go.  Even if it’s only marginally more efficient than a chain drive it will take less energy to turn a properly fitted belt rated for the same power.  shaft drives come up last with their high weight and heavy gear oil.


When it comes to safety we are first concerned with your safety as the rider.  Next, we want to make your bike isn’t damaged due to broken components are a crash.  Lastly, we need to make sure you don’t get stuck out in the country or on the trail.  When it comes to safety a shaft drive is the best bet.  There is less chance of getting hurt on a belt or chain whizzing around and much less chance of breakage.  While chains can handle much more power when they break they can damage your bike or your leg.  A broken belt will leave you stuck but not injured.


As we said before, go for a test ride!  Chain drives are overwhelmingly used on the majority of bikes so you may have to look outside the bikes to find a belt or shaft driven bike to ride.  If you’ve been riding a chain-driven bike for some time we really recommend hopping on a shaft driven bike.  You still get the crisp power transfer while having a much quieter and smoother ride.  Belt drives are somewhere in between offering a quiet ride but with more efficiency than a shaft driven bike.


Each drive system requires a different type of maintenance.  Chain drives require the most maintenance requiring both lubrication and tension adjustment on a regular basis.  Belt drives will require changing the belt at the manufactured require intervals but shouldn’t require any other maintenance.   A shaft drive will run quietly and smoothly as long as you keep the gear oil changed at the recommended intervals.  We recommend using PJ1 Driveshaft Hypoid Gear Oil to keep your shaft driven motorcycle running quietly and without problems for miles to come!

Now that you know the benefits and drawbacks of each type of motorcycle drive you can decide which are most important to you!

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash