ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Motorcycle Primary Drive

Updated on July 8, 2009

Primary Drive Basics

a motorcylce primary drive serves to transfer rotation, generated from the engine, to the clutch. One pulley, or sprocket, of the primary drive is connected to the crankshaft, while the other is connected to the clutch assembly. A belt or chain is used to transfer rotation from one pulley, or sprocket to the other.

Primary Drive - Chain Drive
Primary Drive - Chain Drive

Motorcycle Chain Drives

Motorcycle chain drives are the older of the two drive types, but are still standard issue on most off-the-shelf motorcycles. A tensioned chain is used, along with two sprockets, to transfer power from the engine to the clutch. The chain is enclosed in a housing comprised of an inner primary cover (the inboard half of the housing) and an outer primary cover. The two halves of the housings are sealed together, with a gasket, in order to protect the chain and create a reservoir for the lubricant. The clutch assembly is also housed in the the primary drive housing.

The enclosed chain drive drive provides quieter operation and is ideal for higher torque applications. Primary chain drives are comparatively narrower than belt drive drives. The tensioned chain, requires routine adjustment and constant lubrication. Chains are susceptible to mechanical failures (broken links, for instance) and should be inspected regularly. Spare links and hand tools can be carried by the rider and repairs may be possible should the chain fail. 

Primary Drive - Belt Drive
Primary Drive - Belt Drive

Primary Belt Drives

Motorcycle belt drives systems have grown in popularity. They are readily available and can be seen on today's custom choppers for both performance and aesthetic reasons.Because the belt requires no lubrication, primary belt drives can be configured in either open or enclosed configurations. Belt widths can vary from 1 1/2 to 3 inches. Belt drives used pulleys, instead of sprockets, to transfer the power.

Enclosed belt drives use have both inner oand outer covers, much like chain drives. In some cases, enclosed belt drives can be directly substituted for chain drives. Enclosed primary belt drives are narrower than open belt drives. Since all the moving parts are enclosed, the belt, pulleys, and clutch assembly are protected from debris and the rider, in turn, protected from them. Enclosed motorcycle belt drives are susceptible to heat build-up, and they should be inspected regularly for cracks and wear.

Open belt drives use an inner primary shield and an outer primary shield or support to keep the assembly from flexing. Belts for these drives can be as wide as three inches and are seen on many custom choppers, especially pro-street customs. Wider bets are better suited for high horsepower applications. If not mated appropriately, belts will "skip" or slip if too much power is applied. Open primary belt drives tend to be a bit noisier than enclosed belt drives, and there is an inherent risk associated with being exposed to moving parts. Care should be given to keep loose clothing, and body parts, away from the drive and guards are available to reduce this risk. Drive belts should be inspected for damage, cracking and wear before every ride, since the belts are exposed to road debris.

Primary Drives

The chart below gives a quick comparison between the two motorcycle primary drive types and some of the pros and cons of each. 

Primary Drive Comparison Chart

Belt and Chain Drive Comparison Chart
Belt and Chain Drive Comparison Chart


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)