Are there advantages of using a belt drive over a chain drive?

Posted By: Southside H-D®
Post Date: 01/27/2023

Harley-Davidson® first began using drive belts in its motorcycle models in the 1980s.  In 1984, Harley-Davidson® introduced the FXR Super Glide II which featured a belt final drive, it was the first Harley-Davidson® model to use a belt drive. In the following years, more models were fitted with belt drive, such as the Softail models in 1985, and the Touring models in 1986. This move to belts was part of Harley-Davidson®'s effort to improve the performance and reliability of their motorcycles.

Harley-Davidson® uses belts in most of its models for a number of reasons.

  1. Quieter operation: Belts are quieter than chains, which is especially important for touring and cruiser models where rider comfort is a key factor.
  2. Low maintenance: Belts are low-maintenance and require less lubrication and adjustment than chains, which makes them more convenient for riders.
  3. Durability: Belts are designed to last longer than chains and are less likely to stretch or wear out quickly.
  4. Aesthetics: Belts are more visually appealing and can enhance the overall look of the motorcycle, especially when combined with a sleek, clean design.
  5. Efficiency: Belts can also be more efficient than chains, as they produce less frictional losses, which means they can transfer more power to the rear wheel.
  6. Cost: Belts can be more cost-effective over the long term, as they require less maintenance and replacement than chains.

It's worth noting that not all Harley-Davidson® models use a belt, some models still use chain drive for their final transmission, like the Pan America and some custom builds.

The Harley-Davidson® drive belt is typically made from a high-strength, low-stretch aramid cord, which is encased in a durable polymer compound. Aramid is a strong synthetic material that is lightweight and heat-resistant. It is known for its high strength-to-weight ratio and excellent durability, making it well-suited for use in drive belts. The polymer compound which surrounds the aramid cord provides additional strength and durability, as well as resistance to wear and tear. This combination of materials makes the belt strong, long-lasting and capable of withstanding the high torque and power output of Harley-Davidson®'s big V-Twin engines.

Under normal driving conditions, a typical belt lasts around 50,000 miles, but it is important to periodically inspect it for premature wear. The Southside H-D® Service Experts inspect your drive belt every 5,000 while performing factory recommended maintenance. 

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