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Belt Drive - pro and cons

Discussion in 'Technical and Troubleshooting Torque' started by jphanna, Sep 22, 2011.

  1. guys i noticed a Kawasaki Vulcan Custom the other day with a Belt Drive. what are your thoughts on these. knowing that a cruiser is not going to be subject to the stresses of a 'track day', are they a good alternative to a chain?

  2. Easy (no) maintenance, but very expensive to replace & I've heard they can be easily shredded if a rock was to get between the belt & pulley.

    It's also hard to change gearing ratios...
  3. MVs right in theory but Hardley has been using them for years and they are the most reliable part of the bike. Most guys never replace them.

    What I don't' like about them is you can't mix and match your drive ratios. If you are happy with your bike as it is, then fine, but if you want to tweak it, chain is better.
  4. i have a harley which is belt driven and a Honda that is shaft drive... i find the shaft drive a much smoother ride....

    but YES i have had to replace a belt and it cost me 900 bucks just for the belt.. what MV said is exactly what happened.. going trough roadworks a rock the size of a 50C peice got stuck and sliced the belt in half... was not a happy camper.. not to mention the $400 bucks to tow it home.
  5. FWIW - I know everyone says that maintaining a chain is easy but its something that has to be done. You don't really have to worry about that with belt drive.

    I had shaft drive on my guzzi which was the best. As someone that uses my bike as a commuter and toy my preferences in order would be:
  6. belt drives are only good on tractors you loose horsepower they only use them on tractors to keep the back wheel clean
  7. nooo, belt drives look awesome... and being lazy i would love one. One of the reasons why I love the Buells hehe.
  8. Actually they are less power sapping than chains. It's shaft drive where you loose power.
  9. Shaft and belt drive are the way to go.

    They are both low/no maintenance. Shaft is the easiest to wash but note that it is subtly less forgiving then belt of chain. It's hard to notice but there is no 'give' in a shaft drive like there is in a chain.
  10. ive never seen a belt drive on a race bike
  11. Power consumption is not the only consideration with a race bike final drive. Sprockets are heavier than with a chain and harder to manufacture so gearing changes become more of an issue.

    Besides, there have been belt drive race bikes (and shafties in proddie classes). Long, long time ago though.
  12. Pat's right. Also, I believe they run simplex chains on race bikes rather than o-ring, so the friction difference is would be minimal.

    There wouldn't be much between a belt and a o-ring chain anyway. Just saying it's not true belts sap more power. The chain saps more power because of all moving parts and friction.
  13. I also suspect that the chain will also tend to sap more power as it deteriorates, whereas the belt will be fairly constant until it snaps.

    That leads to another belt v chain point. A chain will pretty much always give plenty of warning that it's on its last legs (as long as you take notice). A belt will not necessarily do the same, so it becomes important to change it out when the manufacturer says to, rather than it being relatively safe to nurse the last few thousand kms out of it.
  14. Though my Buell that I had, had no manufacturer described time frame. It was a inspect and replace. You just looked for cuts in the belt. Which is no different than inspecting a chain.

    I got a spare belt for the Buell and it was $350ish though it never broke.....I just didnt want to not have the bike and have to wait for parts.

    I wish the Japs would do belt, especially on their non sports bikes. Yes you lose the ability to change the ratios but the benefits outweigh it and you are very unlikely to snap a belt with a rock. Buell did a demo of them feeding rocks into the Ulysses belt to prove that it wouldn't break.
  15. Interesting. I've always assumed that belts have a defined service life. I've certainly come across a few in non-motorcycle applications that do.

    I used to know a bloke with a Suzuki LS650 Savage who'd give you an argument on that one, having snapped two very expensive belts in quick succession. The recurring problem seems to point to other issues but as the bike was purchased brand new and was always dealer serviced it's hard to see what. Mind you, the thing was a gutless dog anyway :D.

    Don't get me wrong, though, I like belt drives in principle and am certainly sold on belt primary conversions for the likes of Harleys and Brit twins.
  16. Yeah maybe I should have qualified that with by saying "as long as they did some research on belt tech". Thats the thing Harley has been doing them forever and have spent so much on belt tech that they are pretty good. The japs would have to spend a bit to get up to that, which is probably why they can't be bothered.

    I did a couple of thousand kms on dirt on my Buell belt with no issues. They can and do break though.
  17. The BMW F800 uses belt drive on the Sport Touring bike. 50,000km or so apparently, no maintenance and apparently ~$300 to replace.

    Would a carbon-reinforced belt like they use on the Beemer be actually that much weaker than a chain?
  18. It's not so much an issue of strength as one of tolerance of abuse. Steel, such as that used in chains, is a pretty forgiving material. It can be bent, suffer impact, be subject to abrasion etc. and will continue to hold together in its damaged/worn state for some considerable time. A belt, once its outer protective covering is breached or if one of its structural bands fails, will generally unravel quite rapidly.

    Like H-D, BMW have been doing belts for a while and so probably have the technology sussed. Kawasaki used belts a fair bit in the early 80s and seemed to know what they were doing. Suzuki did the one-off LS and it was a bit crap to be honest.
  19. Nor have I. I'm a little uncertain as to what to make of that, though. It could be that people want to stay with chain because it makes changing the final drive ratio easier, or it could be concerns about how well a belt will handle big power, or it could be that the kind of bikes that come with belt drive don't usually end up being raced. It could be as simple as 'I don't see any others, so ... maybe they know something that I don't.'
  20. I'm lucky to get 10K from a chain & sprocket combo (which costs around $300 anyway), so I think this is a good thing.

    Yes, before you say it, I know people can get 50K out of a chain & sprocket set, but how much maintenance does that entail? Chain lube, kero, time!, it all adds up.