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Essentials for the FT500

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Essentials for the FT500

You own a FT500 and you want the bike to perform to its full potential without spending
big bucks for engine hop-ups, etc. There are several easy tasks beyond the basics (i.e.,
changing the oil, putting air in the tires, adjusting the valves, lubing the cables, etc.)
which a FT500 will noticeably benefit from. You don’t need to spend a lot of money.
But in this author’s opinion, the following modifications and maintenance should be
considered “essential.” Modifications

1. Change the carburetor jets. If you do no other modification to your FT500,
increase the carburetor’s main and low-speed jet sizes by two sizes. Total cost is
about $10 and you’ll never regret it. Honda put a wonderfully sophisticated
carburetor on the FT500; and then they installed the leanest jets that the engine
would run on. That was why they put such a fancy carburetor on it: their
engineering exercise attempted unusually fine control over the air/fuel mixing.
And the engine’s performance suffers from the lean jetting. The carb’s overall
design is great: it has an accelerator pump, an anti-backfire circuit, and three
separate metering jets (pilot, low-speed, main). A new one would probably set
you back $600 to $800. Yes, the carb design was/is great, but the stock jetting
makes it run like a 350cc engine. If you increase the main and low-speed jets to
#145 and #58 respectively, the engine will thank you: every time you run it.

2. Change the air filter. After 23 years, it is time to change the air-filter: it was a
good run. The total cost will be about $10. Go to a powersports dealer (i.e. dirt
bikes) and buy a sheet of sea-green air-filter foam and some air-filter oil. Remove
the paper element from the original air-filter (I burned mine out with a little help
from charcoal lighter fluid). Use a scissor to cut the sheet to the right dimension
and install it inside the original air-filter canister. Before you put it in, spray the
air-filter oil on the side facing the inside of the air-filter can.

3. Increase the counter-shaft sprocket size to either 16 teeth or 17 teeth. The
FT500 comes standard with a 15 teeth CS sprocket. Now that the engine runs
right with the new carburetor jetting and new air filter, for $15 you no longer need
to ride around on an under-geared bike. You can buy the sprocket from most
motorcycle parts suppliers. I purchased my 17 teeth CS sprocket from and the DK part number is: 8-254-17 (sixteen teeth CS sprocket
part number: 8-254-16).

4. Replace the rear-shocks. Although the FT500 will never be a Grand Prix racer,
it has the light-weight and geometry to be a pretty snappy good handling bike. By
the early 1980’s Honda was designing some extremely good suspension systems.
But for some unknown reason the shocks they installed on the FT500 were subpar.
From the get-go they were little better than pogo sticks. For $125 (yes, and
that is a sizeable piece of change) you can get a set of Progressive Suspension
Essentials for the FT500 2 GRN Rev. 0, Jan 06
gas-charged shocks that really work. With new shocks the back end doesn’t
either wallow in curves or hobby-horse over bumps. You will definitely notice the
improvement. It is also a good opportunity to lower the bike’s saddle height half
an inch if that sounds attractive to you. The standard shocks are close to 13.0 inch
in length. You can order a pair of 12.5 inch ones. The DK part number is: 58-
344. The full size 13.0 inch part number is: 58-345. If you get the 12.5 inch
shocks, drop the fork tubes 0.75 inch in their clamps to re-level the bike a half
inch lower than standard. I’ve been riding the lowered version for five years now.

5. Change the fork oil. The FT500 has a pretty good front fork, although many
riders consider it under-damped for pavement work. Unless you spend an
inordinate amount of time running the FT500 on dirt roads where large front
suspension displacements are nominal, the FT500’s street handling can benefit
from thicker fork oil for increased damping. The ATF that comes standard in the
bike has a “weight” of about 7 to 7.5. If you change to either 10 weight or 15
weight fork oil you will find that the FT500’s front end loses none of its
compliancy going over bumps, but it will just feel more “planted.” It is a very
confidence inspiring change: especially for highway riding. Cost is $10. Keep
the air pressure in the fork at 10 psi unless you want a Cadillac-mushy ride. (Bel-
Ray is a popular brand available in many motorcycle stores. Also DK part
number: 30-1529 for 10W)

If you do the entire set of the above modifications, you will end up with a bike that you’ll
want to hug every time you get back home after a ride. Trust me. You will.


1. Overhaul the starter solenoid assembly. If you do nothing else on this list of
suggestions, disassemble the starter solenoid assembly and lubricate the lock
cam’s and fork claw’s shafts. After 15 years without lubrication, the lock-cam’s
shaft starts sticking. And when that happens, that little part will cause the rest of
the starter to self-destruct. If the lock-cam can’t release when the starter button is
released, the pinion gear can’t be rejected off the ring gear, and you have Big
Trouble Brewing.

2. Tighten the balancer chain. The chain that drives the engine balancer system is
inside the engine cases and needs to be adjusted every 8000 miles. You don’t
want a chain driving a pair of oscillating weights loosely whipping around inside
the engine cases.

Originally sourced from:

Where can I get those size jets for the carb? I found the #145, but am having trouble locating a #58. I found a Polaris one, are they interchangable? This is my first project I am really getting into myself, so sorry if I am asking dumb questions. Thanks for the info!


--- Quote from: WildeMonster on August 31, 2013, 12:47:19 pm --- Where can I get those size jets for the carb? I found the #145, but am having trouble locating a #58. I found a Polaris one, are they interchangable? This is my first project I am really getting into myself, so sorry if I am asking dumb questions. Thanks for the info!
--- End quote ---

I bought the 2 jets from Mark at Thumper Stuff  out of Washington state. While your at it you might want to pick up a 16 or 17 tooth countershaft sprocket. I went with the 16 tooth. I think the 17 tooth requires some very minor clearancing that I didn't want to mess with.

Another source of jets is SUDCO or Jets-R-Us. I think they might be on the expensive side though.

Don't worry about asking questions, that's what this forum is for.

Good Luck

I actually found a link to the thumper stuff page shortly after posting this. I will be giving them a call. Thanks again!

Im in the process of getting my bike ready for summer and I took the carb of to clean out the bowl. It was filthy! I'm looking to change the jets to the ones mentioned above. I have taken the bowl of and there is  128  and a 78 and also a hole that has a wee rubber stopper in it. Are these the jets that get changed. I have no workshop manual. I'm in the yahoo group but I can't get into it. Although I still read the posts everyday threw the emails.


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