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What Drives You? Motorcycle Final Drives Hot

Shaft, Belt, and Chain Drives.

What Drives You? Motorcycle Final Drives
What Drives You? Motorcycle Final Drives

Chain, belt or shaft – which form of final drive is best? This is an ongoing debate in the motorcycling world. In reality, an intelligent answer can’t be formulated without considering a variety of factors.

Final Drive Defined

First, let’s discuss the nature of a motorcycle’s final drive. In a nutshell, the final drive is the means by which power is applied to the rear wheel. The production of energy in the form torque and horsepower is job number one for the engine in a motorcycle. Getting that energy to the rear wheel is the job of the bike’s final drive.

Considerations

There are several factors that contribute to the final drive equation. The major considerations are efficiency, durability, maintenance, and smoothness.

Efficiency: Interestingly, a motorcycle’s horsepower numbers come in two classifications: crankshaft and rear wheel. The crankshaft horsepower number will always be higher than the rear wheel horsepower number. The reason is simple – power is always lost in any form of final drive link.

Durability: Modern motorcycles produce an amazing amount of horsepower in relation to their weight. That horsepower (and torque) is most often applied to the rear wheel in an aggressive and abrupt fashion. That application of power puts tremendous stress on the components of the final drive. The drive’s ability to handle that power directly affects its relative durability. A final drive’s exposure to the elements is also a factor in durability.

Maintenance: As with any component on a motorcycle, a final drive system requires some level of maintenance. Motorcycle final drives vary greatly as to the level of maintenance required.

Smoothness: While it is the job of all final drives to deliver power to the rear wheel of a motorcycle, how smoothly that delivery arrives at the wheel is a major factor in ride comfort and motorcycle controllability.

Here is a look at how the final drive forms stack up within the four major considerations.

Chain Drive

  Consideration

Rank

(5 high / 1 low)

                                     Reasoning

Efficiency

            5     

Chains incorporate a drive format that is locked onto the teeth of the sprockets, there is no slippage loss. The newest chains also have a very low friction coefficient.

Durability

            4

With proper care and maintenance, a modern O-ring chain can last over 20,000 miles. The key here is how diligent the owner is in keeping up with the next category.

Maintenance

           3

Chains require regular care, plain and simple. They must be properly adjusted, cleaned, and lubricated on a regular basis. Most experts recommend attention to the chain every 300-500 miles.

Smoothness

           4

A well adjusted chain that is within wear specifications is a smooth drive method. However, there will always be drive “lash” with any chain.

 

Belt Drive

Consideration

Rank

(5 high / 1 low)

                                     Reasoning

Efficiency

           3         

Belt drives can be quite efficient if they are in perfect condition and if they are of the toothed variety. However, belts are often assigned a power loss factor of 10% across the board due to slippage.

Durability

           4

A properly adjusted belt in an application that does not overpower the belted rubber will last longer than a chain. It must be remembered though, that a belt can be overpowered. That is why they are never seen on high-powered sport-bikes.

Maintenance

           5

Belts require much less maintenance than chains. They are also typically more expensive to replace.

Smoothness

           4

Belts do not have the abrupt lash that a loose chain will.

 

 Shaft Drive

Consideration

Rank

(5 high / 1 low)

                                     Reasoning

Efficiency

           3     

Shaft drives are a direct link between the engine and the rear wheel. The problem is the weight of the drive and the power loss in the rear drive fluids is relatively substantial.

Durability

           5

In shaft drives, the components remain much more clean and sanitary than chains and belts. The only downside is that when something breaks, it is expensive.

Maintenance

           4

Shaft drives do not require frequent maintenance, but the periodic maintenance is more substantial, costly, and time consuming.

Smoothness

           5

Shaft drives are the smoothest of the three forms. The only issue with smoothness is occasional black porn driveline chatter.

 

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What Drives You? Motorcycle Final Drives
What Drives You? Motorcycle Final Drives
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