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-   -   Shaft vs Chain drive (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/which-bike/shaft-vs-chain-drive-58262)

Roameo 18 Jul 2011 16:48

Shaft vs Chain drive
Hi all, starting my research on a bike for a RTW. Whats the view on the Yamaha Tenere shaft drive versus all the chain drives. They seem to be the only shaft drive. Considering the new Tiger XC as well and it is a chain. Pros cons?


Threewheelbonnie 18 Jul 2011 17:20

It's personal preference. A shaft is heavy and major work if it ever fails. A chain is light and simple but needs lube and adjustment once in a while. With 100 HP and roads designed for 40 MPH the weight only matters when you drop it.

The ratio of major work due to shaft failures to time spent with the lube or swapping worn our sprockets varies with the individual models. Some shafts never fail, others have a reputation for failing that may or may not be deserved (the failures get attention because they are so major). Some chain drive bikes with the right chain go tens of thousands of miles with no attention, others use chains sized for a 250 on a 650 and cause more work.

The 1200 Tenere is too new for anyone to know which applies. Given it's a Yamaha I'd suspect it's mechanically fine but the paint will fall off.

I'd pick chain drive, a good O-ring lasts forever (18000 miles out the last one, I adjust it twice a year), gives plenty of warning of impending failure and parts can be obtained mail order. That said, I own a K100 and am forced to undergo the final drive oil change every 10000 miles. One day I might have to grease the *****y splines too.

I'd ask why you'd pick a 1200 cc unproven bike that's honestly going to be a real weight, but if that's the one you like don't let the shaft worry you. You'll need to come back and tell us if the shafts go pop!


mark manley 18 Jul 2011 18:05

I think the type of final drive is only one thing amongst many to consider when choosing a bike for this type of trip and given to pros and cons that have already been mentioned by Threewheelbonnie it is important not to get too hung up on it. If the choice comes down to two bikes, one chain, one shaft I would go for the shaftdrive, even those with a dodgy reputation like my paralever R80GS can be sorted. More important is taking a bike that you will enjoy making the trip on, not a straight forward question to answer and the drive train is only a small part of it.

Roameo 18 Jul 2011 19:48

Chain vs Shaft
Thanks both for the reply Threewheelbonnie and Mark. Yes agree many decisions on a bike I expect to sit my but on for eternity. The 1200cc is a draw back for me as I do like 800/650 at most. Chain does seem simple less a chain oiler and adjustments. Just did not know the draw back of a shaft. Weight? how much more are we talking 5lbs 10lbs? The Tiger XC is new also and seems others are wondering about its future quirks as well. Guess that goes with anything new. No testing like real world testing! I did notice there is a 100lb wet weight difference in favor of the Triumph, but the tank is also 4l smaller.

motoreiter 18 Jul 2011 20:00

FYI, BMW r1200GS also has a shaft drive.

*Touring Ted* 18 Jul 2011 20:30

Over a long period of time, shaft drives make much more sense....

A good one will last you 80-100,000 miles if you keep the oil how it should be.

The only couple of disadvantages is that they actually sap about 10-15% of the engines power compared to a chain/sprocket.

That's why you only see them on large engined, torquey bikes. They also weigh quite a bit more and also cost much more to manufacture..

Chain and sprockets cost about £100 a set and will last on average, 10,000 miles. That's £800 worth of changes compared to a new bearing/gear on a shafty.

However. Just because they can be very reliable, research the bike it's on. I do recall the 1150GS and maybe the 1200 having problems with their rear shaft gears.

Roameo 19 Jul 2011 04:58

Shaft vs chain
Makes sense why they would be on the 1200 models then. That will probably make my decision for me as I am thinking 650/800. I Seem to like the 800cc market, feels right with enough juice but not to as much weight. As far as reliability, from what I read there is no perfect bike just ride what you like.

thanks all for the info

*Touring Ted* 19 Jul 2011 07:04

There's a decent review on the Triumph XC in issue 5 of ABR.

I would still say it's too early to say though, as I don't know anyone with more than a few thousand on their bikes. No problems so far though.

If you're doing a RTW, simple and reliable should be at the top of your list..

If I was doing a RTW, Solo; I think id be going for a 660 Tenere or even a DR650 if you want to go down the Carb route. Proven steeds with their weaknesses well known and easily cured. An Africa Twin (if you can find a nice one) is also a great RTW bike but it can be a handful for the shorter/slighter build.

The 800cc market is growing which is a good thing. I still wouldn't take a BMW 800 RTW as it does still have some reliability issues that still need addressing, whatever the Starbucks adventurers will tell you.

Lee @ Interpreter Live 19 Jul 2011 07:42

My personal preference is chain.

You also need to consider where you are travelling to as broken shaft driven bikes often require OEM spares. Not an issue in America or Europe but try getting components through customs in Russia or some African countires! I have met many riders with unwell shaft driven bikes who have spent frustrating days on end either waiting for spares to come through by DHL or spending $$$ trying to get them released from customs. With a chain you can almost always source something locally to keep you going - whatever the problem.

all the best,

pecha72 19 Jul 2011 10:28


Originally Posted by Lee @ Interpreter Live (Post 343011)
With a chain you can almost always source something locally to keep you going - whatever the problem.

That´s true, and I would add, that with a chain it´s really no problem to carry a full set with you as spares, if you like. So if you´ve got the tools, you are able to change all final drive parts in the bushes. Very seldom any technical problems with modern chains, though – unless bad maintenance by users is counted.

Someone here mentioned 10.000 miles on a chain set – properly maintained, you should be able to at least double that figure with a modern bike&chain. This will probably depend on the bike and the trip, too, but still I think 10.000 miles is a bit short these days.

Weight-saving, and losing less hp between output shaft and the back wheel also favour the chain (especially in smaller bikes).

But naturally the shaft has got its own upsides, too.

T.REX63 19 Jul 2011 12:04

I have put many miles on chain- and shaft driven bikes. I always regretted chain drive because of the maintenance aspect (its not just the chain. Sprockets are part of the equation). I've even tinkered with automated chain-oilers.

Chains/sprockets perform well if you take care of them regularly.

For me, it comes down to ease of maintenance. Or, in short, call me lazy...

Early 2010, I looked at the 1200 Tenere as well, because I've had enough of BMW's arrogance. But, as mentioned in an earlier post, there was not enough historical data available on the Tenere in respect to reliability and maintenance for me to pull the trigger.

colebatch 19 Jul 2011 12:39

Something not mentioned yet ...

Sprockets allow you to change gear ratios of the bike in about 15 minutes. In fact I will tour with 3 different front sprockets for exactly that purpose, a 14T, 15T and 16T ... and fit the sprocket for the road conditions I am expecting in the coming weeks.

With a shaft drive, you can pretty much forget about changing the ratio of anything. Its pretty much fixed.

I had a 1200 ADV for a couple of years and found the gearing too tall for technical riding, and too short for the highway. But there was nothing any reasonable man could do about it, because you cant change the final drive ratio.

Threewheelbonnie 19 Jul 2011 13:04

Shaft owners should include the cost and hassle of changing the oil in there too. Anyone know the Russian standard equivalent to EP80?

Automatic chain oilers probably have a thread all of their own. My F650 used to destroy a chain (it's meant for a 250) in 9000 miles despite the Scotoiler leaking all over it. The Bonneville one lasted 18000 miles running used engine oil out of a pair of medical syringes to lube it in wet conditions. My MZ is now on 50000 KM on the same bit of East German industrial chain that was fitted in 1992, but that's enclosed.

Another plus for shaft can be ease of getting the wheel out to sort punctures. Even then designers can still stuff it up putting the exhaust in the way or requiring the brake calliper to come off (unforgivable on a real world bike IMHO).

I must say I do like the look of the Tiger, but BMW taught me that you have to be daft to join the new bike testers club. Let blokes who can just have another Capachino until the recovery truck arrives find out if GIL can now make a waterproof coil IMHO. Add a year for this to a year to learn about the bike after you've bought it and I'm thinking XT600's/Transalps/the usual suspects make sense until at least 2013.


dave ett 19 Jul 2011 22:11


Originally Posted by *Touring Ted* (Post 342962)
Chain and sprockets cost about £100 a set and will last on average, 10,000 miles. That's £800 worth of changes compared to a new bearing/gear on a shafty.

Just changed the chain / sprockets on my F800GS at 24,000 miles. It cost £92, plus lube - probably £30.

So more like £400, but of course I've also saved the cost of fuel by not lugging that shaft round, and making it spin. So I suspect the differences aren't as big as the simple maths make them look.

I average 62mpg on the F8, whereas the 1200GS Seems to return mid 50's from what I've read. Taking the maths of 100,000 miles at either 55 or 62 mpg, you get a difference of over £1200 for the shaft drive. Eek! That's gonna offset the cost os a few chains and some lube!


Originally Posted by *Touring Ted* (Post 342962)
I still wouldn't take a BMW 800 RTW as it does still have some reliability issues that still need addressing, whatever the Starbucks adventurers will tell you.

Ah but there are also those of us who don't drink Starbucks who will tell you about our trouble free trips.

Besides, it seems from the talks at Ripley that you have the best adventures when things break down!

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