Posted by gomotp media

Every motorised vehicle requires a method of transferring the engine’s torque and power to the driving medium, be it wheels (or wheels of road vehicles), propellers (aircraft and ships), threads (on earth movers and tanks), and so forth.

For motorcycles, the final drives are narrowed down to three namely, the chain, driveshaft, or belt. The drive chain is the most common of the three, so let us take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages.

Background of the drive chain

The motorcycle drive chain or just chain as we usually call it, has been around since the first motorised bicycle – the Michaux-Perreaux velocipede – was born in 1868, which makes the drive chain 154 years old. The RK Takasago Chain company itself has been around since 1932 and began manufacturing bicycle chains in 1945. You can look for your favourite RK-M chain here.

Technically, it is known as the linked chain because several parts are linked together to form a single chain. The spaces between each link are the slots to accommodate the teeth on drive sprockets. The teeth on the front sprocket transfers the engine’s torque to the chain  and on to the rear sprocket which is attached to the rear wheel. The timing chain that drives the camshafts inside the engine works on the same principle, as well. Very simple, yes?

Advantages of the drive chain

1. Easy to alter the final drive ratio

    Need more acceleration? Or want higher top speed? How about smoothing out the engine’s response? Just alter the final drive ratio. As the sprockets and chain are not hidden within a housing like the drive shaft, a rider can easily change the sizes of the sprockets. The chain’s length is then adjusted correspondingly.

    And yeah, you can have your chain and sprockets in your preferred colours too!


    2. Easy maintenance

      The chain can be readily cleaned and lubricated. The rider can spot if the chain is dirty or needs adjustment.


      3. Lighter

        The chain final drive is lighter overall. There are lightweight chains for competition use, while specialised sprockets are also lighter to shed weight and hence inertia.

        4. Can absorb lots of power

          The drive chain absorbs lots of shock loads from sudden acceleration, sudden braking, and road irregularities, with only a minimal power loss. For example, the RK ZXW series has a tensile strength of between 42 kN (4283 kg) to 49.8 kN (5078 kg).

          In fact, those 1,500bhp Top Fuel dragster motorcycles use drive chains. Note that these beasts can accelerate so hard that they cover the first 18 metres (60 feet) in less than one second and hit more than 320 km/h in 400 metres. That kind of performance puts immense stress and shock on the drive chain. Therefore, the RK 530 PRO-DR drag racing chain has a tensile strength of 52.3 kN (5333 kg)!

          5. Cheapest of them all

            Of course, there are premium chain and sprockets intended for specific uses like racing, but a basic set of chain and sprockets cost much less than the other types of final drives.

            6. Can be used past due
              This is not recommended for safety reasons, but we do sometimes use our chains beyond their best condition. That is because an overly stretched chain can be shortened by removing several links; and the chain will keep working although the seals are busted. Also, worn sprockets can be replaced without replacing the chain if the latter is still in good condition.

              Disadvantages of the drive chain
              1. Needs regular maintenance

                The chain requires more frequent cleaning and lubrication compared to other forms of final drives. A dirty and unlubricated chain will wear out quicker, sap engine power and increase fuel consumption. However, the task is very easy thus can be performed by a single person at home in 20 minutes or less. 

                Additionally, adjustment is an easy process when the chain “stretches.”

                2. Dirtier operation

                  If too much or the wrong lubrication is used, it will spray all over the bike and even the rider. However, this can be easily overcome by using the right correct type and amount of lubricant such as the RK Chain Lube.

                  Need a new chain? You can look for your favourite RK-M chain here.