Shaft, Chain, or Belt drive? - Honda Shadow Forums : Shadow Motorcycle Forum

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Old 05-26-2010, 09:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Shaft, Chain, or Belt drive?

I was just curious about what everyone thinks about chain drive, shaft drive and belt drive?....which is best and worst and any reasoning in this thought process...thanks everyone
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Old 05-26-2010, 10:06 PM   #2 (permalink)
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A chain is a pain to maintain, but very strong. If you use oil on it you will have a messy back wheel. Chain wax is the way to go.

Belt is low maintenance and never needs lubrication. It also lasts a long time but costs a lot more to replace than a chain does.

Shaft drive is the easiest to maintain, its clean and just works. I heard some power is lost with a shaft though, and it's possible the shaft will try to straighten the bike up when you crank it in a corner, but I suppose a rider gets used to that fairly quickly.
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Old 05-26-2010, 10:12 PM   #3 (permalink)
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My experiences,

Don't like chains because they require more maintenance, are not as smooth as the other options, but are cheap and the most efficient power transfer system.

Belts are an improvement and are the smoothest. They still require some maintenance, but last longer than chains.

Shafts are mostly trouble-free. Newer shaft systems are much better than first generations, which had jacking problems. Shafts also do not transfer power as efficiently, but last the longest.
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Old 05-26-2010, 10:27 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I think chain's suck! constant maintenance problem. I have heard you can't ride in gravel with a belt drive. But a friend of mine whom did have a belt drive did follow me through a gravel covered road at a very slow pace and no problem.
I have never had a problem with shaft drive until this year when a bearing went out on my gl1800. But because of the trikesters tossing the final drives when they convert, I got mine free and it was easier to swap out than it is to change a chain out.
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Old 05-26-2010, 10:28 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I have mostly older shaft drive bikes. V65, Eliminator, Shadow

Also have a belt drive Raider and a chain drive ZRX I just got. First chain since about 1970 something.

I had the shaft drives first after about 5 years of no bikes. To be honest about the V65's they were never a great handling bike to begin with. To much power and too little frame. They can be a handful in the corners and you do get a lot of shaft jacking if you are not smooth with the throttle. Big time mid corner adjustments are, or can be quit interesting. (Read that as oh my God I'm gonna die down right frightening!) But, you do get used to it. Shaft drive Shadow is not near as bad, don't really notice it but not the horsepower either. Eliminator is in the middle, better handling, less power than V65

Got the Raider, I was a little afraid of how that big 210 mm tire would go around the corner, but it does corners like a race bike, compared to the Magna anyway.

ZRX is more power, chain drive and I am nowhere near finding the limits of that thing. I still go into corners with the Magna mindset and a lot slower than I could. Slowly working up to finding the edge, well maybe close enough to SEE the edge, but I am not a racer and we have pretty straight roads. Better tires and suspension also help I am sure.

What have I told you? Not much. They all have their place, good points and bad points. A lot of it probably depends on what you plan to do MAINLY with the bike. If you are buying a canyon racer, I doubt you want shaft. A big tourer, maybe not a chain. Most big V twins now have a belt, I think they have most of the bugs worked out of that. Might not want a belt on a VMax tho, personally I think the shaft is a bit out of place on that bike, a chain would get more power but it already has more than anyone can use.

You lose about 20 percent through the shaft, something less than 10 percent with a chain or belt I have been told. Put a couple shafties on the dyno last summer. HP at wheel was almost exactly 20 percent off the rated engine horsepower so I tend to think that is pretty close.
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Old 05-26-2010, 10:33 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I had a Moto Guzzi for quite a while and while the shaft drive was clean I did have to replace the universal joint. That cost as much as a chain and sprockets and was quite a job. It also would lift up at the back when you got on the power. You do get used to it and actually I would crack the throttle when I saw a bump. Never had a belt but use them at work and they are great. For my money a chain is the way to go. A good O ring chain lasts a long time, you can change the ratio if you want to and with the new waxes isn't much of a mess.
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Old 05-26-2010, 10:57 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Chains aren't that much work guys.... I have 2 chains and one shaft.

My impressions:


Chain: light. easy tire and engine changes. Almost infinate gear ratio combonations if you like. Almost no wheel-tire combo is off limits. Sometimes messy, noisy.

Shaft: No wheel allignment issues, quiet, less maintenance, tire and engine changes are a PITA, heavy, jacking on the throttle, less wheel options when modding your bike, and no adjustment of your final drive gear ratios.
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Old 05-26-2010, 11:09 PM   #8 (permalink)
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shaft drive is a good system for a heavy cruiser style bike like our shadows,but my beef is not being able to change the final drive ratio on a shaft drive- so you can make it go faster on the top end with less revs[for e.g.]..so far my 2005 1100 sabre has leaked out a little oil [final drive] since ive got it and then had the seals done when i got my new tire put on and now it leaks again i think the manifacturers can go farther with final drive technology to make it less hp reducing and drive ratios to better suit the riders needs..IMO i like not messing with chains [i must be getting old]
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Old 05-26-2010, 11:12 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Worked with chain drives in all my bikes.
Once you lube them, forget them.
I also get to play around with sprocket sizes.
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Old 05-26-2010, 11:38 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I don't have much to add here. It's all been stated already. So I'll just say that I hate the fact that I can't change out my final drive ratio on my shaft driven Shadow. I do however love how there is no mess, and practically no maintenance with it.
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