Listen to the podcast

Do you keep looking for an answer to the question “what is the drivetrain?” Look no further; this episode is the answer!

Tune in to discover:

  • What the term “drivetrain” refers to
  • The 3 parts that the drivetrain consists of – from primary to final drive



Hello, and welcome to another episode of 30-minute motorcycling – a podcast where you’ll learn about how your motorcycle, moped, or scooter works – in less than 30 minutes.

If you keep scratching your head every time the word “drivetrain” comes up – this episode is for you.


Because not only are you about to discover what the drivetrain is, you’re also going to know more about every component of it and what they do. 


But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s start with what the drivetrain actually is.


The drivetrain isn’t a standalone component like the fuel pump, cylinder head, or battery – it’s actually a collective term for all engine components that deliver power from the engine to the rear wheel.


I could end the podcast episode right here, but let’s delve a little bit deeper because, on a motorcycle, the drivetrain itself is divided into three groups:

  • The primary drive
  • The transmission
  • And The final drive


Each one of these groups deals with a different stage of the power transmission process – beginning with the primary drive and ending with the final drive.


The primary drive itself consists of components like the clutch assembly, the engine output sprocket, and any other component that delivers power from the engine to the transmission.


The clutch assembly houses the clutch, which is used to engage and disengage power from the rear wheel from the engine – something which is needed to change gears. 


The engine output sprocket is a small toothed wheel that engages with the drive chain or belt – which we’ll get to later.


Next, we have the transmission. This is a highly complex topic that’s worthy of its own episode, but to keep it short and sweet, the transmission itself consists of a series of separate gears at the rear – known as “the gearbox.”


Often, the terms “transmission” and “gearbox” are considered to be the same thing – but they aren’t. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to think of the gearbox as an assistant to the transmission. 


Once the power from the engine reaches the transmission, it matches the speed of the rear wheel to the currently selected gear – the higher the gear, the slower the engine will spin. 


The transmission is either manual or automatic – meaning that the gear changes are either handled manually by the rider through the clutch lever (usually located on the left part of the handlebars) or automatically through a torque converter.


An exception to this is the CVT transmission – a type of transmission common on scooters, which uses a belt attached to two pulleys instead of individual gears. If you’d like to know more about how a CVT transmission works, check out Episode 22 of this podcast. 


And finally, the final drive – (no pun intended) delivers the power from the transmission to the rear wheel. 


As the last phase in the power transmission process, the final drive consists of the drive chain or drive belt.  


Most motorcycles are chain-driven, but there are a few that use a large belt, or even a shaft drive. Some examples of motorcycles with belt drive include:

  • The BMW F650GS
  • The Harley Davidson Sportster
  • And the Suzuki Boulevard S40


Some examples of motorcycles with shaft drive include:

  • The BMW K100
  • The Honda GoldWing
  • And the Triumph Rocket III – the largest mass-produced motorcycle in the world


If you’d like to know more about the differences between belt and chain drive, check out episode 21 of this podcast, which I’ll put a link to in the show notes. 


And that’s it – that’s what the term “drivetrain” means and what it consists of.


If you have a topic that you’d like me to talk about on this podcast, please send me an email at


Until next time, keep your helmet on, and your eyes on the road. Bye!