Why Do Some Bikes Wear Belts? Understanding Final Drives

As an aftermarket accessory, the Scottoiler customer base represents a varied cross section of the community. We often sell a lot of kits to new bikers, or someone buys their first bike second hand with a Scottoiler already installed. The learning curve when you have just started out riding can sometimes be quite a daunting one for new riders, and so we wanted to clear up one major consideration for new bikers; why do some bikes wear belts? Why do some have a chain, and what the heck is a shaft?? 


When you started riding, did you picture yourself on a huge cruiser bike, wearing a bandana and sunglasses while cruising along a desert path? Chances are, you’re imagining a belt-drive motorcycle. 

Simply put, a belt-drive is made up of two pulleys, with one pulling the other with a flexible belt material (often made out of a strong leather). There are pros to a belt-drive, in that it doesn’t require lubrication however, if your belt snaps, replacing it is guaranteed to be expensive.

The most famous brand of belt-drive is of course Harley Davidson, known for their imposing but beautiful designs, built with comfort and long drives in mind. They are known for their iconic belt-drive bikes, but did release their first chain drive bike, The Pan-America in 2018. It’s since gone on to become the most popular motorcycle in the United States. 


Shaft Drive is perhaps the most complicated system, and quite impressive feats of engineering. When operating, a physical shaft connection transfers the torque from the gearbox to the wheels, sounds simple in theory but practically there are huge obstacles to overcome in order for a shaft drive bike to work. 

Here is a great animation which shows how a shaft drive motorcycle works, as you can see from this it’s a complicated system with many moving parts but some enjoy that. It’s certainly the least popular of the three options, but some notable models are still very in demand, such as the BMW K1600



Last but not least, the most common Chain Drive. The cheapest of the three options (most of the time) and also the most efficient. Made up of a chain and sprocket, the chain acts in a similar way to the belt in a belt drive, transferring the power from the gearbox to the sprocket and therefore the wheel. 

The positive of chain drive motorbikes is that they are much cheaper to repair or replace, and given the proper care and maintenance they can last years. You can maintain your chain manually with traditional spray lube, this will work however traditional lubricants are thick and sticky, creating a super thick grinding paste that is difficult to remove. 

With automatic chain lubrication systems like Scottoilers, and with our own mineral based Scottoil, your chain can be well maintained and always well lubricated.