Shaft driven vs. chain drive on a KZ-1000, are both ok?

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I have (or had?) a chance to get a 1970’s KZ-1000 with 4,000 miles on it. It was a bit beat up from sitting, but who cares? Right?

It was shaft driven. Are there any downfalls to shaft driven motorcycles?
I’ve never owned or driven one.

Also, I’ve read that others say, if you need to stop quickly on a KZ, pray you don’t have to.

Is that predominately at high speeds, or is that an all-the-time kind of thing with the KZ?
I would think it would have ok stopping power at low speeds, but I could be wrong?

It’s either a KZ, or an endouro 650, they are both about the same price.
Tough decision, eh?

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  1. I rode a shaft drive Yamaha (XS-750G, as I recall), and the feeling of being aboard that thing was…odd. You rose and fell as the gear attached to the shaft climbed and descended the ring gear at the back, with the engine rpm.

    So rule one, if you leaned it over far enough to scrape a pipe, DON’T CHOP the throttle.

    One other item: replacing rear tires, was no longer as simple. But no chain lube, either!

    The Yamaha was a 3 cylinder, sounded rather like an inline 6 Chevy, being flogged hard (10-12000 rpm).

  2. KZ 1000 shaft drive? That’s sort of my dream bike I suppose. I’ve never tried a shaft drive but I understand Eric’s comment about “jacking”; same problem with (for example) a ’69 Camaro, wind it up and it goes a little sideways at the back. I think it has to do with the centrifugal force created by the rotating drive shaft. It will tend to act like a gyroscope and pull the center of mass away from the rotation. If the shaft is rotating right, it will pull to the left.

    That said, I’ve been looking for a nice Ninja myself. Good luck!

    • I’ve had several shafties – and never had an issue. Mind, these bikes are usually not massively powerful, like an open class sport bike (or even a current middleweight). They typically have 60-100 hp or so, but good torque. And the way they’re ridden is not like the way one rides a sport bike. They’re for cruising, not quarter-mile Banzai runs. So long as you’re not looking to do WOT runs for maximum best-times against the clock, you’ll be fine.

      My ’83 Honda GL650 is a shaftie and I would never want chain drive with such a bike. Other than a new tire every once in a while (and back brake shoes every once in a Blue Moon) I never have to do anything to the back end of this machine. No sprockets to wear out and replace; no chain to adjust and oil. No mess. No hassles.

      It’s pretty sweet!

  3. Actually, there are numerous upsides! Assuming good working order, a shaft drive requires very little maintenance and when maintenance is required, it’s usually just a shot of grease in a zerk fitting (for the driveshaft) and a drain/fill of the gear lube. No chain to adjust and grease; no chain grease to clean up!

    The only downsides I know of are:

    IF the shaft drive breaks, it can be expensive to fix. This is rare, assuming no abuse and good maintenance – but it can be an issue with an older bike. Make sure the bike has no such issues before you buy it and you’ll likely be fine.

    In a high-performance environment, shaft drives have a “jacking” tendency that is not ideal. This is why sport bikes – most of them – are chain drive. And why so many touring and cruising bikes are shafties.


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