The Difference Between Chain, Belt and Shaft Drive of Electric Bikes?

The Difference Between Chain, Belt and Shaft Drive of Electric Bikes?

In addition to chain drive and belt drive, shaft drive is also a drive system for electric bicycles. But which is the better choice?

For the uninitiated, this can be a tough choice!

In this article, we compare the unique properties of three different drive systems, and you can try to figure out which one is better for your e-bike based on their characteristics.

Chain drive

Chain drives are the most trusted and oldest drivetrains. It consists of a simple chain of links. They connect the sprockets. As a system, it exists in most bicycles and motorcycles. The sprocket is connected to the transmission output shaft and is called the driving sprocket. Also on the rear wheel is what is called a driven sprocket. Both are connected by a chain. The chain is also available in a variety of designs.


As mentioned above, chain drives are most commonly used on sport bikes, dirt bikes, cruisers and touring bikes. A chain drive is the most efficient way to transfer power from the engine to the rear wheels. During this transition, only 3% of power is lost. Chain drives are strong, which is why they are suitable for drag racing. They are also durable, which is why they are used almost exclusively on dirt-oriented motorcycles.


One of the biggest drawbacks of these chains is that they are expensive to maintain. Proper maintenance requires regular use and cleaning of the chain with lubricating oil. When you replace the chain, you also need to replace the sprocket. This increases the expense and labor involved. Chain drives are not as smooth or quiet as belts or shafts. Also, you need to align the rear wheel carefully so that the chain rolls straight on the rear sprocket.

Belt drive


Belt drives are not as common as chain drive systems. The drive includes a drive pulley towards the gearbox output shaft. The other part is the driven pulley at the wheel. The two pulleys are connected by a belt. It has teeth or grooves. The belt itself is made of a rubber-like material, making it durable. Modern belt drives are reinforced with internal drums and external Kevlar coating.


Belt drives work similarly to chains. This is the most common choice among cruisers. That's because they're quiet, smooth, and low-maintenance. Lubrication is also not required. However, the chain needs lube every few hundred miles. That way, the belt can last 15,000 to 20,000 miles, or maybe longer with an expensive Kevlar belt. Their power loss is about 11%, and it's not just a chain. Still, it's not bad.


Belt drives last longer than chains. But despite this advantage, belts are more prone to damage than chains. Pebbles stuck in the sprockets can wear down the belt and cause it to fail. This is something that never happens to a chain. It might be possible to temporarily rejoin the broken chain on the side of the road, but not with a belt. Replacing a belt is much more expensive than a chain. 

shaft-drive-electric-bike-from-honbike

Shaft Drive 

The chainless shaft drive system is the most expensive of all other drive systems while they are also the most robust, very smooth, and require almost no type of maintenance. The shaft drive consists of a shaft connected to the gearbox output through a universal joint, which is essentially a coupling that helps to transmit rotational power at any selected angle. At the other end, the shaft is connected to the rear wheel hub by spiral bevel gears. The bevel gear rotates the direction of rotation of the shaft by 90 degrees, causing the wheels to rotate. The entire drive system is lubricated in oil and sealed to protect it from any external elements, thereby reducing maintenance. 

With the latest advancements and technological developments, shaft drives are now also available as part of e-bikes. In these respects it differs from the other two types of chains as it is 2kg heavier than the other two. This weight is necessary because it provides better power at the start of the bike. Another thing worth mentioning is that the shaft-driven components are proprietary, which means it's impossible to switch to belt or chain drive if you need to.

Shaft-drive e-bike is not common in the market, while you can find the best one at Honbike. Shaft drives is a simple and suitable option whether you are a beginner or a professional. If you are using your e-bike for sport and adventure climbing, the shaft drive is very handy. It's also great for rough riding. As for other features, the shaft drive is very quiet and easy to operate. While the shaft drive may be more expensive, it is the best option for enjoying and having the best experience riding an e-bike. The technology has moved forward, bringing shaft-driven e-bikes into focus. While they may not be as common today, trends certainly suggest that shaft drives will dominate the rest, ensuring the convenience and simplicity of the e-bike riding experience.


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