Indoor cycling bikes are a favourite of many fitness enthusiasts at the gym or home. But which one should you use: a chain drive or a belt-drive bike? Does the type of drive system affect workout results?
If you’re planning to buy a stationary bike, settling the chain vs belt-drive mechanism debate should make selection easy, too.
So, let’s compare to know more about this aspect and see how it affects your overall cycling experience.
What is a Bike Drive System?
First things first: what does a drive system do, and how does it work? The drive is the bike mechanism that connects the flywheel and pedals.
It’s the part that lets you pedal forward and get a good workout. There are two kinds of drive systems: the chain and the belt drives.
Both have the same purpose, but they give defined outputs to users.
Understanding their differences can help you find the indoor bike that fits your needs and preferences.
Chain vs Belt-Drive Bike
Chain-drive system bikes have metal links that rotate over the wheel sprockets as you step on the pedals.
Indoor exercise bikes with a front flywheel typically have this drive mechanism.
The rotating chains create a familiar sound that adds to the ride quality.
Experienced cyclists are likely to choose chain over belt drives as it performs similarly to outdoor or mountain bikes.
On the other hand, the belt-driven system bikes have toothed rubber belts made from polyurethane or carbon fibre.
The teeth of the belt fit around the flywheel and pedals, making them turn and work together.
This drive type is similar to systems found in motorcycles and cars.
And so, people who like a smoother and quieter ride quality would likely prefer a belt-driven bike.
Chain and Belt-Drive Bike: Points of Comparison
I listed product features and buying factors relevant to the two drive types for comparison. Here are some of them.
A chain-drive bike is perfect if you want to simulate road cycling indoors.
The feel and sound of chain-driven bikes are more natural, which enhance some users’ workout.
Others may find the smooth-riding effect of belt-driven bicycles strange.
In a way, it can make riders feel that they are not getting the same power-packed performance and results.
However, you can use a chain or belt-drive bike for a good workout, and the health effects and benefits you get will be the same for both.
Specifically, if your reason for cycling is to lose weight or boost cardio strength, you’ll achieve either goal no matter your bike’s drive system.
Do you live in a small house? Is your exercise bike in a common area? If yes, then a belt-driven bicycle is a better choice.
That’s because this type produces little to no sound. The belt smoothly rotates over the flywheel system as you pedal, creating virtually no noise.
With this bike, it will be easier for you to work out at any time, even when the rest of the household is asleep or resting.
Chain drives are not loud, but you will surely hear the clinking sound while pedalling.
Still, you’ll have no problem conversing or watching TV while working out with this bike.
And you can always check out options with a chain guard.
This feature should help tone down the rotating chain sound while giving you a natural cycling experience.
The chain of a stationary bike constantly moves while you work out. Over time, the pressure and friction can wear the metal out.
You can fix this, but chain tightening at regular intervals may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Lubricating the metal chain can be messy, too. At times, chain-drive systems may also snap and require replacement.
A belt-drive bike requires lower maintenance, which helps preserve belt quality.
The belt also glides smoothly on the flywheel, causing little to no damage due to friction.
But keep in mind that belts for stationary bikes can also break, especially when installed incorrectly.
Replacements are not expensive, but replacing a broken belt is harder than tightening a chain.
And so, you might need a technician to install a new one for you.
But whichever bike system you end up choosing, regular maintenance is a must for less effort or cost.
Affordable chain and belt-driven units are available for budget-conscious riders.
However, a belt-drive bike is more modern and has newer features, making it usually more expensive.
The precision needed in a belt-drive mechanism also adds up to cost.
Specifically, belt-drive manufacturers need to accurately measure the belt for each unit to make it work and last long.
Quieter bikes are also more in demand, which naturally increases the price.
Chain-driven bikes are budget-friendly primarily because the chain system is cheaper to make.
They do not require exact chain measurements as users will have to do the tightening at regular intervals.
Chain vs Belt-Drive Bike: The Verdict
Using a chain or belt-driven bike does not affect your workout results.
Both can boost the heart rate, get you into shape, and maintain your healthy weight.
However, your choice affects the cycling experience, noise production, maintenance needs and your budget.
So, if you’ve saved enough for a smoother, quieter and low-maintenance machine, then go for a belt-drive bicycle.
But if you prefer a more affordable and natural cycling experience, you’ll surely be happier with a chain-drive bike.
Better yet, test out a few bikes while you’re shopping around. It should help you gauge which one feels best.
My exercise bike reviews and buying guide might come in handy, too.