Belt vs Chain Drive Exercise Bikes: Which is Better

By Robbie Ferri

There are a couple of things to watch out for if you are going to choose between a belt-drive and a chain-drive exercise bike. These are two types of transmission systems that you would normally find for indoor bikes.

You need to know everything about them so that you can choose which one will be better suited for you. Other than choosing between a chain and a belt drive exercise bike, there are other factors you can consider before you choose an indoor bike for your exercise.

Such factors include the resistance mechanism, what the spin bike flywheel weighs, how it is placed, connection options like Bluetooth, and the cost of that bike.

Chain driven exercise bikes have been in existence long before the magnetic belt driven bikes. It was the popular kind of bike, but with the innovations of technology, today, belt drives are becoming very popular, especially among new designs.

Difference Between Chain and Belt Drive Bike

Whether chain or belt, they are both designed to do the same thing. They are there to connect the flywheel and the pedal. This is how the cycling movement is created.

Although a chain drive achieves the same thing as the belt drive, they are different systems, and it is important to know how they differ. We’ve summarized a detailed comparison of both options with the bullet points below.

  • A belt drive and a chain drive both need to be maintained but chain requires more maintenance.
  • While a chain drive can be fixed if broken without requiring new parts, a belt can’t be fixed and has to be replaced.
  • A chain drive driven mechanism is noisier than a belt driven mechanism.
  • Both of the different drives definitely perform very grandly. Arguably, none of them more superior than the other.
  • The chain drive can imitate an outdoor ride, but not so much with the belt drive.

Belt Driven Transmission

One of the outstanding features of a belt drive is that it is noiseless and smooth. They are made in a way that they have fanged belts, and they seamlessly connect the flywheel to the pedal system.

The Bowflex C7 Bike is one of the best belt drive bikes out there, and it can be used with any riding app like peloton. Aside from Bowflex, many other major spin bikes like Keiser M3i and Nordictrack S22i use a belt driven system.

Chain Driven Transmission

Chain drives are very popular among mountain cyclists and other outdoor cyclists. They’ve been around for a while and are commonly featured in spin bikes with a front flywheel.

As you probably already know, the chain is made of links connected to each other. These links enable the entire chain to rotate when the cycler turns the pedals. This rotation, in turn, powers the flywheel.

Chain-driven bikes make a discrete sound, and the quality of ride they offer cyclers is unique as well. Most times, chain drives bikes come with friction resistance which inferior to magnetic resistance.

They require maintenance but can be fixed when broken. Life Fitness IC8, one of the most expensive and high-end indoor bikes, is a chain driven bike.

Making a Choice Between Chain Dive and Belt Driven Indoor Bikes

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From how to choose a spin bike saddle to to spin bike pedals, there are a number of things to consider before making a choice when buying an indoor cycling bike. Only one of these considerations is the transmission, so don’t forget to check out other aspects of an indoor cycle before spending your money.


The chain drive requires more frequent maintenance because of the metal it’s made of, but it is also easy to maintain. You only need to keep it lubricated so that the metal doesn’t get rusty. And to stiffen them when they get loose.

When compared with what you have to spend going to an indoor cycling class, then the chain drive is your best shot for the long term. It is also easier to fix the chain than compare to fixing the belt transmission.

The belt drive may require a technician for reinstallation. If the belt is properly fixed, it can carry you for a couple of years before you’ll need to fix it. If not, it can require maintenance faster.

Bike Price:

You can find affordable bikes with either the belt drive or chain drive option. However, the belt drive is a newer variant. And it costs more.

Noise Level:

If you want a quiet bike riding experience, belt drive is your bike, but noise isn’t an issue for you, then you can choose either that or the chain bike. However, some chain drives come with a feature that helps minimize the sound.

Performance and Experience:

Most professional riders go for the chain bike because it makes them feel like actual outdoor biking. It all depends on how you feel using either bike. Commercial-grade bikes are available with both options that’ll give you the memorable cycling experience you desire.

In Conclusion

When deciding between chain driven indoor cycling bikes and belt driven indoor cycling bikes, the final decision falls in the hands of the rider. So, take your time to review the features and make your choice. You’ll be making a more informed decision if you test bikes with both options to see what works best for you.