This afternoon is my every-other-weekend maintenance session. It isn’t a big deal. Check the oil level. Check the tire pressure and a few other points. Clean and lubricate the chain. It only takes 15 or 20 minutes. Once in a while I have to adjust the chain too. Again, this is easy. Remove the cotter pin, loosen the axle nut, and turn the adjusting nuts on each side.
Drive chains were invented before motorcycles were around. Early motorcycles came with chain drive or belt drive. Both worked fine for their day. Later came shaft drive. I used to have a Virago with shaft drive. It was never my favorite ride but I really liked the almost no maintenance shaft drive system. I understand that shaft drive systems are heavy and expensive. They can introduce a torque effect that might put off sport bike riders.
What’s wrong with belt drive? We have Kevlar and aramid belts today that are lightweight, they last almost forever, and they need no maintenance. Most HD bikes have belt drives. BMW offers belt drive on some of their models. What about my Versys? It came with a chain drive. If Kawasaki had given me a choice, I would have selected a belt drive. I like simple, low maintenance solutions. I like clean too and belts never will throw off oil like a chain will.
This is something I have never really thought about. Kawasaki has sent me a couple of surveys and I don’t remember any questions about drive systems. The last survey asked how much more I would pay for electronic drive control and ABS. My reply was $0. I like technology and I am glad to see more of on motorcycles. Isn’t a Kevlar belt technology? That might even lower the cost of my purchase and it certainly would lower my cost of ownership.
So, what are the manufacturers thinking? I know next time I get a chance, I will suggest a drive system option to Kawasaki. How about others making the same suggestion to Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha? BMW has moved a little into the belt camp. Where are Aprilia, KTM, Triumph, and other European builders? Can we move the industry?
My ideal would be to have an option. Belt or chain? For now, when I ride 50 miles a day commuting, belt is the winner. Someday later if I move to a different style of riding, I would like to choose the best system still. I bet some engineer could even design a system that the dealer could install at purchase depending on the buyers selection. Who agrees?