Shaft drive

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Motorcycle drive shafts[edit | edit source]

A 1913 FN (Fabrique Nationale), Belgium, 4cylinders and shaft drive
A 1923 BMW R32, with a shaft-drive, boxer twin engine

Drive shafts have been used on motorcycles almost as long as there have been motorcycles. As an alternative to chain and belt drives, drive shafts offer relatively maintenance-free operation and long life. A disadvantage of shaft drive on a motorcycle is that gearing or a Hobson's joint or similar is needed to turn the power 90° from the shaft to the rear wheel, losing some power in the process. On the other hand, it is easier to protect the shaft linkages and drive gears from dust, sand and mud.

The best known motorcycle manufacturer to use shaft drive for a long time—since 1923—is BMW. Among contemporary manufacturers, Moto Guzzi is also well-known for its shaft drive motorcycles. The British company, Triumph and all four Japanese brands, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha, have produced shaft drive motorcycles. All geared models of the Vespa scooter produced to date have been shaft-driven. The automatic models, however, use a belt.

Motorcycle engines positioned such that the crankshaft is longitudinal and parallel to the frame are often used for shaft driven motorcycles. This requires only one 90° turn in power transmission, rather than two. Bikes from Moto Guzzi and BMW, plus the Triumph Rocket III and Honda ST series all use this engine layout.

Motorcycles with shaft drive are subject to shaft effect where the chassis climbs when power is applied. This is counteracted with systems such as BMW's Paralever, Moto Guzzi's CARC and Kawasaki's Tetra Lever.

See Also[edit | edit source]