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In this blog post, you’ll learn:

  • The differences between belt drive and chain drive
  • What “chain slack” is, why it’s important, and how to measure it

Prefer to get this information in podcast form? Listen to the 30 Minute Motorcycling Podcast episode about chain and belt drive:

Chain drive

Chain drive motorcycles and mopeds have a chain connected between the transmission and meshes with the rear wheel via a “sprocket” – a kind of “toothed wheel.”

The chain connects to the rear wheel at one end and the engine at the other. As the engine runs, power is transferred to the rear wheel, making the chain move.

Chain drive is lightweight, compact, and efficient, which is why it’s a particularly common form of drivetrain for cruisers, dirt bikes, and mopeds – but that’s assuming you clean it.

Cleaning and lubricating a motorcycle chain

Since the chain is exposed, it gets dirty quickly. Because of this, a chain-driven motorcycle requires considerable care and maintenance. 

In addition to regular cleaning, the chain must be adequately lubricated.

To clean and lube the chain, you use chain cleaner, and a special chain cleaning brush:

For more information about how to lubricate your chain, watch the video from RevZilla below:

What is “Chain Slack” & how to measure your Chain slack

Having a clean chain is not enough, though. It must also be tightened and have enough chain slack – which is the amount that the chain moves up and down without any resistance.

Essentially, your bike must have a sufficient chain slack – if the chain is too loose, it might come off. If the chain is too tight, it might snap.

Generally, you should have a chain slack between 20-35mm. Check your owner’s manual for more precise information.

If you need to adjust your chain slack, you usually need a tool called a “chain tension tool,” pictured below: 

For more information about how to check and adjust chain slack, watch this video from the Motorcyclist Magazine YouTube channel:

Belt drive

image of belt driven motorcycle

Image by Alois Grundner from Pixabay

Unlike chain-drive, a belt on a belt-driven motorcycle is covered up, usually by a cover. Because of this, a belt-driven bike is generally free from maintenance.

Of course, the key phrase in that sentence is “generally.”

The most important thing to consider is that the belt is tensioned correctly and that there are no rips or tears in the belt itself. 

If you do need to tension your belt, you’ll need a belt tension tool:

How to adjust belt tension:

For more information about how to adjust tension for a belt-drive motorcycle, watch this video from the Delboy’s Garage YouTube channel (even though it’s for a Harley Sportster, the process is pretty universal for most belt-driven bikes):