Pros and cons between chain drive and gear drive

Posted by tan xiao yan on

Cyclists may often deal with the chain drive or gear drive. Use one of them to accelerate. But many of you guys maybe had no idea about the difference between chain drive and gear drive like me before. Spend two or three minutes reading this article, getting rid of the nickname "layman".


Chain drive is a method of transmitting mechanical power from one place to another. Chain drive is made up of driving and driven sprocket wheel installed on the parallel axes and ring chain rounded about sprocket wheel. It is usually used to convey power to the wheels of a vehicle, particularly bicycles and motorcycles. It is also applied to a wide variety of machines besides vehicles. One of the remarkable characteristics is no slip, hence cyclists can drive at a comparatively constant velocity ratio. Chain drive befits for small center distances.

Advantages of chain drive

Non-slip drive;

Permit high-velocity ratio up to 8:1;

Low maintenance;

Compared with gear drive, it can transmit motion and power at the long axis centers distance;

Still work well in the terrible situation, such as low speed, heavy load, and high temperature even dusty condition;

Accurate average drive ratio, greater transmission power and less force on the shaft and bearing in comparison of belt drive;

It has high transmission efficiency reaching to 0.95~0.97.

Disadvantages of chain drive

Pitch will become larger causing fall off with the hinge being scuffed;

The requirement of installing and maintaining is high. The sprocket materials require structural steel;

Driving and driven shafts should be under the perfect alignment;

It is in need of good lubrication;

Its initial cost is high;

Increase riding speed needs to increase the radius of chain wheel and back wheel while decrease flywheel radius. Gearshift bicycles at present come with this designation.


Gear drive is the most widely used on the mechanical drive. It transmits power over a short distance with a stable velocity ratio.

Advantages of gear drive

Constant instantaneous transmission ratio, high stability, and accurate transmission motion;

It has a wide range of transmitting power and speed;

It features compact structure;

Greater transmission ratio;

It has high transmission efficiency and long longevity;

It is convenient for small center distance;

It can transmit the power at any conditions whether the axes of the shafts are parallel, intersecting, or co-planar or not through using different types of gears;

The velocity ratio will keep stable throughout;

It is suitable for low, medium and high power transmission.

Disadvantages of gear drive

It is not fit for shafts of very large center distances;

It is always in need of some kind of lubrication;

It will produce more noise and vibrations at the very high speed;

It is expensive due to the high cost of production of precision gears.

In conclusion, in terms of weight, chain drive is lighter while gear drive is unwieldy. Chain drive is more popular in the bicycle world. Gear drive is more applicable to automobiles. Of course, there are also gear drive bikes. For example, the transmission shaft bicycle relies mainly on bevel gear and transmission shaft to drive. Compared with chain drive, shaft drive is more constant and more effective. But high cost is always the main reason why it cannot prevail in bicycles. Such bikes are usually public bicycles. Another reason is large volume and inconvenient. Gearbox works by clutching fork to change the place of gear. Supposed gearshift bikes employed gearbox like automobiles, it would not as convenient and humane as the chain drive. Imagine that your bike was installed car hand gear…