40 years timing belt

The rear timing belt at Harley-Davidson celebrates its 40th anniversary.


Belt drive – this is the name of a simple and effective way of transmitting power between shafts. It is used to control the valve timing of motors, drive turntables and move industrial robots. The first motorcycle, which carried the names of its creators Harley and Davidson on its tank, transmitted the power of the 405 cm³ single cylinder via a leather belt to the rear wheel. This still worked very well with a manageable power and torque, but was done with the first V-Twin in 1909 at the latest. The leather flat belt and the optionally available V-belt could no longer manage the new power, so that from 1912 the first chain was used as secondary drive, which was to remain the non Plus Ultra for decades to come.


The presented Twin-Belt-System was later also used in the Low Rider and the Disc Glide. With the Evo engine in 1984 the secondary drive by means of timing belts came in all Harley series. Since 1993 every Harley with belts finally rolled off the assembly line. Compared to chain and cardan, the belt scores with a long service life, it is also quiet, clean and almost maintenance-free. If you want to see for yourself, simply book a test ride on a 2020 Harley and enjoy a technology that has been as unobtrusive as it has been efficient for 40 years now.


With the FXB “Sturgis”, Harley-Davidson built the first serial Harley with a timing belt secondary drive in 1980, where the B stands for belt. Harley founder grandson and chief designer Willie G. Davidson wanted to create a motorcycle that was all black, low and flat ducked, with drag style handlebars and a few subtle orange-red details. The special feature, however, was that the Shovelhead powertrain had two timing belts – one for the primary drive and one for the secondary drive – instead of the usual chains of the time.



Timo Kämmerer

Customer Care, Sales, Rentals, Parts

02852 - 6777-38
Send an email


Ingo Dockhorn

Sales, Financing, Rental

0049 2852 - 6777-54
Send an email


Stay up to date with the Thunderbike newsletter. In our free newsletter you will find news on our custom bikes & parts, information on Harley-Davidson models, all important dates & events, used vehicles, accessories, clothing, promotions and much more! The subscription can be terminated at any time by unsubscribing in our newsletter. We refuse to disclose your data to third parties. You will receive an e-mail confirmation after the subscription. So we make sure that no unauthorized person can register you in our newsletter.