Shaft-drive bikes vs chain-driven bikes

Shaft drive on a Honda VFR1200F
Shaft drive on a Honda VFR1200F

What are the advantages and disadvantages of shaft drive motorcycles and chain-driven bikes?

The major benefits of shaft-drive are lower maintenance and running costs, and cleanliness. The disadvantages of chain drive bikes are that they need their chains adjusting regularly and they can be expensive to replace when they wear out.

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They also need lubricating often, especially in bad weather, which can be messy and inconvenient. And chain lube adds to the running costs, while many aren’t that environmentally friendly either. 

Shaft-drive systems are fully enclosed and are unaffected by the weather and only need periodic oil changes.

The disadvantages of shaft-drive are that it is a lot heavier than a chain and absorbs more of the engine’s power before it reaches the rear wheel compared to a chain system.

A shaft-drive can also change the action of the rear suspension – when the throttle is opened and closed quickly the bike can rise and squat because the shaft is trying to “climb” the cog on the back wheel.