Belt drive vs. chain drive e-bikes: What are the differences?

Belt drive vs. chain drive e-bikes: What are the differences?

When it comes to electric bikes, there are two major types that are worth your consideration: chain drive and belt drive. Both types of e-bikes have their uses, and we’ll look at the different features that distinguish them.

However, when it comes to belt vs. chain drive, one typically stands out as a better option than the other. To give you the full picture, we will outline what belt drive and chain drive e-bikes are, the benefits and drawbacks of each, which one is ultimately better for you as a rider, and which type you should buy if you’re in the market for an e-bike.

Let's jump in!


What is a belt drive e-bike?

Folding style

A belt drive e-bike, as the name implies, uses a toothed belt to drive the rear wheel instead of a traditional bike chain.

The result of the belt drive system is increased durability, a cleaner design, and less maintenance. Their high-quality construction and materials are more expensive than chain-drive e-bikes, which means belt drive is found on higher-end e-bikes such as the NIU BQi-C3 Pro.

Belts are also lighter when compared to an average chain, which means less overall bike weight.


What is a chain drive e-bike?

Chain drive

A chain drive e-bike features a traditional chain connected to the rear wheel. Chain drive bikes are very common among standard bicycles due to their lower cost.

Chains are also ideal for changing gears and adding or releasing tension, which makes them the best fit for a derailleur system.

However, chains may fall off, rust, or encounter issues more easily than belts. Some bikes include a chain guard that protect the chain from the rider’s legs to reduce rubbing or potential issues when riding.


Belt drive vs. chain drive e-bikes

In general, chain drive bikes are much more common and thus, the chain is easier to replace, since they are so ubiquitous. Chains are also compatible with derailleur systems, which many bikes use to shift gears. They are lower cost, but this can sometimes mean they are more prone to issues. They usually require more user maintenance, such as lubrication, to avoid rust or breakage.

Although more rare, a belt drive system often indicates higher quality materials and construction, such as the Gates carbon drive system on NIU's flagship city e-bike. Belt drive systems are also simpler, cleaner, and require less maintenance over time, so you can avoid the mess of a greasy or broken chain. (Belt drives have been shown to last up to 33x longer than some chains!)

Belt drives are also totally silent, which means you can enjoy your surroundings with the confidence that you're not adding to local noise pollution. Plus they are lighter and slightly reduce the overall weight of your e-bike.

 Belt drive and chain drive comparison



Belt vs. chain drive: Which is better for you?

Which is better for you: belt or chain drive?

Every e-bike rider has different needs, so you want to base your decision on your riding habits.

Belts are mechnically simpler, cleaner, lighter, and longer-lasting. Chains are more common and lower cost.

Overall, a belt drive e-bike can potentially save you time and money by reducing the amount of effort required to maintain your bike. The quality construction of a belt drive is also available at a very affordable price on the NIU BQi-C3 Pro, so you can enjoy the security of industry-leading e-bike materials and performance without breaking the bank.



Electric bikes are great because they are fun to ride, they increase your potential riding distance, and they make riding more accessible to everyone. They can be an excellent choice for long distance commuters, people with mobility impairments, seniors who want to stay fit, and joy riders alike.

Whether you use the pedal-assist or throttle function on an e-bike, you can reach your destination faster (and without breaking a sweat) compared to a standard bike.

To see NIU's current lineup of e-bike options, visit our official shop and find one that meets your needs!

NIU BQi-C3 Pro e-bike in black color