Shaft drive and non-chain bicycles

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who uses a bike with a shaft drive or with a rubber belt instead of a chain. I'm interested in how it's performed, day-to-day, over the months, even year-in/ year-out. I.e:

- how it's coped with winter months?
- has it been mechanically reliable?
- how easy has it been to get parts/ service/ repairs done, if required?

One day, when finances allow, I might get myself a shaft drive bike. Belt drives look interesting also. The reason is simply practicality and low maintenance. For an everyday bike, chains are a goddam nuisance and after 14 years of cycling I'm fed up with them. Messy, oily, dirty, high maintenance.

One reply I often get is to look at a fully covered chain case with hub gears, like a Dutch bike. This is a good point as I'm comparing it to a hybrid with derailleur gears. It will have to be an option if shaft drive bikes prove difficult to obtain, as the choice of commercially available models is very limited, and the one supplier in Bristol, Zero bikes, seems to have disappeared.

If I win the lottery I might even get a special frame built for a shaft drive, but I can dream.

The other reply I get is how shaft drive is less efficient than a chain, but for all practical purposes this is nonsense. Theoretically they are less efficient but look at a typical bike and the chains are so squeaky and dirty, if not completely rusted, that talk of efficiency is laughable. (I know you can clean a chain but it's clearly not the answer in many cases.)

So, SHAFT! Who uses one?

Some links:

This post was edited by philiploy at 8:12pm 12 April 2016.


  • By ma499 at 10:22am 23 June 2011

Trek do a belt drive on sale through Evans for several years now. I'm definitely going belt for my next all-weather commuting bike.

Yes the Trek belt drive did interest me. Let us know how you get on with it!

Having converted my bike to 3 spd Sturmey Archer gearing from derailleur for my run-around bike, I have to say that I would recommend hub gears for cycling in traffic. You can change gear while stopped. It's brilliant. Derailleurs are for Tour de France, touring and mountain bikes. Mind you I do have a problem with the bike slipping out of 1st gear.....

You still nead a chain, but it's no hassle and won't ever fall off or get stuck.


  • By ma499 at 10:46pm 26 June 2011

@Jon Fray: The (very few) belt and shaft drive bicycles are available either as fixed/single speed or with hub gears - so no need for Chains.

@philiploy: Won't be in a rush to get one, mainly due to multi-bike practical storage issues at present... but I believe Mike did review one for London Cyclist a few months back. Certainly I remember riding a review model round the LCC office... the main thing I remember is that the (coaster) brakes are a little "soft".

  • By gegi at 3:28pm 27 June 2011

"soft" is putting it mildly. After your first emergency break you'll be going very carefully indeed. So it's safe I suppose.

  • By ma499 at 4:19pm 27 June 2011

The 2011 model now has a more reassuring disk brake at the front - but a heftier price tag.

Well I was on Regent Street the other day when lo and behold I saw a guy on a Biomega Copenhagen, a shaft drive bike where the shaft is an integral part of the frame:

He'd had the bike three years, regularly commuting into Central London from Richmond - so not a short hop. No problems to report with the drive, but he fancied bigger 700 wheels as the manufacturer only fits smaller wheels on this bike (might be an issue with clearances though).

The bike looks nice, but is the 'designer' frame practical? (racks etc) Otherwise, a very nice bike.

Anyone else with a shaft or belt drive story to report? E.g.

This post was edited by philiploy at 3:48pm 8 July 2011.

Hey check this shaft-drive baby out:

To be found here:

This post was edited by philiploy at 4:30pm 21 July 2011.

This content was deleted by philiploy at 4:29pm 21 July 2011.

A chat with Ashok Sinha produced very positive feedback for his belt-drive commuter bike.

I own a ladies shaft drive zero, on which I commute every day.  Actually, it's a very customised zero.  It has bouncy forks, big handlebars, a cushioned leather seat and Schwalbe marathon plus tyres.  Also an electrification kit.  When I bought the bike it was almost unrideable, the bars were too low.  Luckily the bouncy forks had a long shaft and I made a long spacer so that the bars are now much higher.  The original Armadillo tyres also made it feel as if the tyres were wooden.  I can see people trying it and thinking that it was dreadful.  When the comfort issues were addressed, it was actually very similar to riding the ladies Raleigh Caprice that I owned at the time, except that it had a seven speed hub instead of the three speed hub.  The lack of intereference that is required to maintain the shaft drive is fantastic, as is the hub.  You can just flick through the gears at standstill, which is brilliant.  You really don't notice the shaft drive when riding. 

My only critcism now is that it is navy blue, which is depressingly pedestrian.  I would have preferred a better colour like pink, pale blue, white, orange or yellow.  I have never had to purchase any spare parts except for spokes, which I seem to ping regularly.  If I was going to take the bike to a bike shop for maintenance (instead of bleating to my husband) I would take it to a repairers like Fudges which seems to employ more intelligent employees, I would avoid our local or chain shops, the bike is too complex and rare.  The electrification kit is an Ezee kit with a back rack mounted battery.  The only parts that have given me trouble with that seem to be twist grips, which I have had to replace annually.  The motor and battery seem to be very strong.  Altogether I love the bike and rely on it completely.

typical bike and the chains are so squeaky and dirty, if not completely rusted, that talk of efficiency is laughable. Sameday dry cleaning shepherds bush

Post a reply

Sign in to post a reply.