What are the pros and cons of belt driven motorcycles compared to chain driven bikes?
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Belt vs Chain in Motorcycles
It's difficult to say which one is better. Depending on the application, one can be better or not in the particular role. High horsepower applications are not the place of belts and low maintenance is not the place for chains. Applications vary and one is not necessarily better than the other overall. The role of the final drive decides which final drive is best suited for the application.
Pro's for Chains
Con's for Chains
Pro's for Belts
Con's for Belts
Here are some reasons why some manufacturers use belts.
Source: My friend works at Harley Davidson India and I asked the exact same question to him some time ago.
For Issues with the chain drive I think Ducatikiller has explained in his answer.
This is more additional points to the above (good) answers.
With cost per mile it probably depends a lot on the OE parts prices. With the old Kawasaki belt system used in the 1980s they lasted maybe 50% longer, but failed with little or no warning and cost a LOT more to replace (plus the far greater labour to change them).
Belt life on Buells does not seem that long, while they are not ultimately that high power. Possibly down to the amount of suspension movement and its effect on belt tension.
Further in some countries automatic chain oilers are available which greatly reduce chain maintenance.
Chains are more efficient when new, but that efficiency reduces with wear. Hence soon a belt does become more efficient. This I have heard as the primary reason why belts are not used in GP racing, as the chain is likely to be binned long before its efficiency degrades.
For some uses the difficulty in changing pulley wheel sizes to alter gearing will be a major issue. Some of this could be overcome (more belt adjustment margin to allow a greater range of pulley wheel sizes), but that still leaves a significantly higher cost for alternative sizes of pulley wheels compared to sprockets, and the impossibility of doing the equivalent of taking a couple of links out of a chain (or indeed the impossibility of swapping out a belt in a hurry without removing the swinging arm).
Belts are quieter than chains (which might become more of an issue as noise laws get tighter).
Highlighting only benefits of belt driven vehicles. 1) They operate less smoothly. (noisless mostly) 2) They support high tourque ( cruiser need) 3) The need to lubrication is null and void. 4) Swing arm readjustment is history. 5) They are less heavier in comparison to other final drive systems.