Author Topic: Honda FT-500 Ascot FAQ  (Read 84551 times)


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Honda FT-500 Ascot FAQ
« on: August 15, 2013, 08:53:52 pm »
Honda FT-500 Ascot FAQ

Maintainer: Alan Fleming (
Version: v1.11
Date: 5/11/98

1) What engine did Honda put in the FT500?
Is it the same engine that was in the XL and XRs?

Ray Hixon:
The engine in the Ascot is a variant of the older (pre-RFVC) XL/XR engines.
The differences are: an oil sump is added for greater oil capacity; the kickstarter is deleted and an
electric starter is added. Also, the FT engine has a heavier flywheel than the dirtbikes. There is no
compression release mechanism on the FT. Note that all applicable parts from the XL/XR's bolt
on, so kickstart/compression release, etc., can easily be added. The only difference in the 1982
and 1983 Ascots (the only years of production) is the placement of the oil drain plug -- in one
year, it was in front; on the other year, it was on the side of the pan.

Paul Hoyt Nelson:
It's basically the same engine. The X motors had a different ignition system as they didn't have to
carry a high amperage alternator. This included a much smaller alternator, a much lighter
flywheel and a mechnically advanced ignition trigger. The '79 XR had a reed valve head that is
supposed to flow better in stock trim.

Ivan Thelin:
In answer to some subscriber's queries - Ascots were basically an XL500 motor wedged into a
new frame (based on the XL500 frame) with all new bodywork and suspension. Some
improvements were made to the motor for street duty: deeper sump for more oil capacity,
"automatic" cam chain tensioner, different squish area in the cylinder head, and 12 volt electrics
with CDI. Other changes included a "slipper" clutch, deleting the kickstarter and adapting a
somewhat fragile electric starter. This was generally not viewed as an improvement by "real"
Thumper enthusiasts. Neither was the pseudo "flat track" styling which was actually not that bad,
but as is typical Honda fashion, was just sort of bland. Had they styled the Ascot along the lines
of the CB400F SuperSport or maybe the GB500... the dependable and spirited Ascot might have
aquired the cult following of either. I say dependable with tongue-in-cheek, a bow towards those
who have experienced the early demise of the starter mechanism.

Mark Hatten:
The FT500 Ascot (only imported to the US in 1982 and 1983) has:
Dual exhaust port
Single intake, one 35mm CV carb
Single overhead cam, chain driven on the right side. Each cam lobe works a two-fingered rocker,
which in turn actuates directly on the valve stem via a threaded adjuster. The cam rides
unbushed in the aluminum head. The XR/XLs went to the RFVC head in 1983.
The frame is based on the '82 XL500 frame but the tubing diameter is different and various
brackets, etc., are different. Additionally, The FT has much shorter suspension and cast wheels.
The cases are different from the XR/XL engine (Ascot has a finned oil sump on the bottom, oil
breather is different on the top, oil routing from pump is different ). XL/XR electrics are different
(XR is 6 volt, mechanical advance; XL is 12 volt mechanical advance; Ascot is 12 volt, electronic
advance, with greater wattage output). Left engine sidecover is different due to electric starter
and stator mounting, right engine sidecover is different due to kickstarter shaft and compression
release trigger on XL/XR. The counterbalancer ratios are supposedly different, the gearbox has
the same ratios but is supposedly strengthened on the Ascot, and the clutch and its actuation are
slightly different. The Ascot runs a 530 chain, while the XR/XL runs a 520, as well as lower final

gearing. The cam chain tensioner is an automatic model on the Ascot and the '82 XL/XR, manual
on the earlier dirt bikes. Ascot has a tach drive off the right side of the head/valve cover that the
XR/XLs don't, and the XR/XLs have a compression release built into the valve cover that the
Ascot lacks. The dirt bike heads have a slightly different cam oiling setup than the Ascot.
The Ascot's came in red and black, along with a yellow Ascot (produced in 1983. You see very
few 1983 models around, since the supply of the 1982s vastly outweighed the demand (like
nearly all Jap bikes of that era), and not many were imported.

Brian Steidle:
FT 500 gearing is as follows:
1st= 2.462:1
2nd= 1.647:1
3rd= 1.250:1
4th= 1.000:1
5th= 0.840:1
stock gearing is 15/42

Gary F. Kah:
In addition to the changes listed above, there are also some minor changes that become
"gotchas" when trying to swap parts. One of these is that the exhaust studs are different lengths
since the collar on the exhaust pipe on the FT is thicker (thus requiring longer exhaust studs). If
you're running an XR head with an FT pipe, you either have to machine down the collar on the
pipe or switch to the FT exhaust studs. Similarly, the FT500 oil pans from '82 & '83 (different drain
location) have the same bolt hole _pattern_ BUT the two rear bolts are different _lengths_.

2) Are other parts on the bike from other bikes? (forks, swing arm, instruments, etc?)

Ray Hixon:
None that I'm aware of, but a lot of the dirtbike stuff (triple clamps, swingarm, etc.) bolts on.

Paul Hoyt Nelson:
I don't know. Anyone that races the stock forks and front rim after their first novice season is
asking to crash.

3) What are the most common modifcations for the street? Are there any fork, brake and/or
wheels that are bolt on options? Are there any companies in the US or elsewhere that sell
hop-ups, additions, etc?

Ray Hixon:
Here are some useful Ascot mods/chassis. These will make an insanely fun bike, though rearsets
are necessary due to lowering the bike with the shorter forks:

1) VF500F and CBR600 front ends are direct bolt-ins (tube diameter and spacing are identical;
slide the Ascot front end out and slide the new one in).

2) Put good shocks on (Marzocchi Symbols worked for me).

3) Tapered steering head bearings.

4) CBR600 Hurricane rear wheel is an easy swap.

Useful Ascot mods/engine:
1) if you can find a WB/Supertrapp pipe for an Ascot (the pipe is now out of production [its now
back in production -AF]), these are the best street pipes (the Jemco race pipe lost 4 hp in the
midrange compared to the WB/S).

Ascot parts suppliers:
1) Engine Dynamics Company,
Petaluma, CA

-591cc kit (largest overbore kit)
-head mods
-heavy-duty balancer chain tensioner plate
2) Powroll

-heavy-duty cylinder head studs
3) White Brothers

WBX-1 360 lift, 270 duration
WBX-2 400 lift, ? duration
-540cc kit (recommended for street)
- oil cooler kit
4) Megacycle - cams (the best is the killer 144-21)

5) Jemco
Houston, TX

-exhaust pipes
Paul Hoyt Nelson:
Street? People ride those things on the street? Seriously, White Brothers made a couple of cam
grinds and a free flowing aftermarket pipe that probably increased the motor 8 HP. Anything past
that requires some serious head work, a new carb. etc...


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Re: Honda FT-500 Ascot FAQ
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2013, 08:55:00 pm »
Michael Patrick:
The FT500 single cylinder could be made fast by companies like White Bros., but they had a bad
appetite for cam chain guides when they were modified. I rode a full blown White Brothers FT 500
that was super fun to ride. It was a little wheelie king also! "Lots" of giggles in that motor. The
problem with the tensioner/guide going out was would happen slowly while you were
riding. With an aftermarket exhaust you couldn't detect the rattling of the cam chain until you
slowed or came to a stop light. By this time the oil was contaminated, and you really needed to
shut it off. In defense of that FT friend drove it that way "several" times in order to
keep from getting stranded and it never hurt the engine. I ran a Honda shop when the FT500 first
came out and sold about 15 of them to my customers in the first 6 months...that’s not so good!
I'm sure that there is a cure for the tensioner that White Bros could suggest though. White Bros
can be reached at 714-692-3404

Mark Hatten:
For front forks, I run Race Tech emulators in Honda Hawk GT forks on my race bike and really
like them. However, for me it wasn't the night and day difference that some people seem to
experience. I think the stock fork modifications I describe below are the best "bang for the buck"
for a street machine. Still, the FT's forks are flimsy with a huge, heavy front wheel, so they're
never going to perform all that well.
I ran Progressive Springs in the Ascot forks, and run them in the Hawk forks as well, although
some people really don't like them for racing. I may try some Race Tech straight rate springs this
year. As for dive problems with the stock forks you can braze up the damping rods. The Ascot
suffers from a near total lack of damping, both compression and rebound. Also, sag should be set
in the 1.25" to 1.5" range. After doing the above, then you can try increasing the oil volume in the
forks, which will help lessen the dive. After that, you might try cutting a coil or two of the "soft" end
of the springs (close wound), and replacing that with a preload spacer of additional length. I'll
argue against the Hurricane front fork swap and argue for a Hawk GT front end, which is what I

have on my Ascot race bike. The entire Hawk front end bolts directly on the Ascot, even using the
same bearings. Slide the Ascot triples out, slide the Hawk in. The Hawk has stouter fork tubes
(41mm vs. 37mm), it's lighter, has better brakes (one larger disc vs. two smaller discs and
calipers -- more unsprung weight. Plus, Hurricanes are well known for discs that heat crack.), and
with the Hawk there is no anti-dive crap to remove. Hawk front ends seem pretty easy to find from
private parties (Hawk racers replace with F2/F3 mainly for the 3.5" wheel) for between $250 and
$400. Jim Davis on the THUMPER list usually has one or knows where to get one. The Hurricane
stuff seems harder to find from private parties, and most of the wrecking yards still want $500 and
up for just about any complete front end. You can order Ascot tapered steering head bearings for
$45.99 from Dennis Kirk. Shipping's free if total order is more than $50. Dennis Kirk - 1-800-3289280.
For rear suspension, I'd try a set of Progressive Suspension 1200 shocks. They're about
$150 mail order, complete with springs. Order a set 1/4 to 1/2 inch longer than stock for a bit
quicker steering and better ground clearance. They also make a 1700 model which have
adjustable damping that are about $250 or $300. Add a set of Progressive Suspension front
springs and you'll have a great street suspension for a minimal outlay of cash. You can spend
more on shocks (Works Performance, $250 to $400, up to White Power and Ohlins at $700-plus),
but you really won't see the benefits on the street. I use custom-built alloy-bodied Works
Performance shocks on my racebike (Honda FT500).

Douglas M. Lively:
I bumped mine up with the Arias 541cc piston. The problem I am running into is that the starter
cannot handle the added compression. It has a hard time trying to crank over the engine and runs
the battery down fast. (And it’s not my starter, it was completely gone through). The starter is
simply underpowered. The engine really needs a compression release.
Just a thought if you are looking at bumping compression with a new piston. Most of the people
running Ascots on this mailing list aren't street riding. They are either bump starting or using
rollers and have the starters tore off anyway. If you are looking for more power, I would start with
White Brothers exhaust kit (down pipe and Super Trapp exhaust). You mentioned in your FAQ on
FT's that the WB pipe is no longer in production.
I picked one up just this last summer. Apparently, White Brothers who makes the WB exhaust kit,
including the SuperTrapp exhaust, was waiting on SuperTrapp to begin making the exhaust
manifolds. They were down for quite a while when they moved from California to Ohio. According
to WB, the kit is a big seller and they have no plans on discontinuing. Second, I would pull the
head cover and check your rocker arms and cam. If the mating surfaces are pitted, and I bet they
are, change your cam to the White Brothers medium cam for the Ascot (medium allows you to
use stock valves, valve guides and valve springs). Replace the rocker arms with OEM. If they are
not pitted, then I would next upgrade the carb with the White Brothers 38mm carb kit. It includes
all the hardware. Then, after running awhile, see if you want to do the cam then. If you want to get
rid of the stock air-box, you will have to use some strap steel to make a bracket to hold the
battery cage. Run it from the back of the battery cage up to the supports on the top of the frame.
An L shape should do the trick.
You will also have to purchase a filter for the crankcase breather (K&N; makes one). Run about
12 inches of radiator hose and attach the filter (you will have to make a bracket) above the
crankcase to somewhere on top of the frame. Otherwise, if the filter is too low and close to the
case, spoo will leak out of the crankcase and clog the filter. Now, if you are keeping the stock
carb., an easier way to achieve air flow is to take a stock filter, soak it in water, and carefully tear
away all the filter material from the inside of the filter. The object is to leave the filter cage intact.
Then you can simply line the filter cage with dirt bike filter foam. (Any dirt bike shop should have
12" sheets of 1/4", or so, filter material.) If you have trouble keeping the foam inside the stock
filter cage, use plastic bolts to hold it to the cage. That way, if they come loose and get sucked
into the engine, they will simply get ate up without permanent harm to the valves/carb/etc. If you
do this, you won't have to mess with the crankcase vent or the battery cage. If later you decide to
upgrade the carb, then White Brothers has a 38mm round-slide kit for the FT that includes all the
hardware and filters, including the bracket for the battery cage. (Kind of pricey.) What they don't
include is a bracket for the crankcase vent. Also, in order to use my stock throttle assembly, I had
to have a custom throttle cable made. Otherwise, I would have lost my kill switch and starter

button off the stock throttle, if I used the single line throttle that came with the kit. Any decent
service shop that does dirt bike work should be able to make your cable.

Jim Sherlock:
With my wife's bike, we started by removing the front fork springs and rear shocks. These were
replaced with Progressive Suspension units. Concurrently, we replaced the head bearings with
tapered ones. We added Galfer stainless brake lines along with Galfer pads, after rebuilding the
master cylinders and calipers this mod actually gave the FT some phenomenal stopping power
for a bike of its age. We then took the bike to Vance and Hines and had the cam replaced along
with the installation of a Dyno Jet kit. We maintained the use of the stock air box, just added a
hole on the left side for increased breathability. We raised the handlebars approximately 1" from
stock with a new set and she just loves the seating position. I noticed that the FT fork sliders were
prone to nicking and subsequent seal damage. So I had the forks re-chromed (they were still
straight), installed some teflon fork seals, and then added some red fork boots to protect the
sliders. We had to modify the lower brace/fender mount just between the fork legs to
accommodate the larger diameter induced by adding the fork boots. All this entailed was using a
dotco grinder and a tube style sanding disc to open up the radius of the brace. Works great and
actually looks good too. The exhaust is made by Kerker. I think it’s a little loud when I ride it. My
next project is to undo the carbonized end tip and repack the pipe. We did a lot of other
restoration but not really any other modifications. The bike runs great.

Brian Steidle:
I got some useful power gain in my low-budget FT 500 road racer by:
1) cutting apart the stock headpipes, removing the inner tubes and enlarging the opening at the
header flange, then rewelding tubes so that they join in a V-shaped collector in front of the frame
Then a 1 7/8" chevy header 'U-bend' was cut and manipulated to route the exhaust to the stock
end location. A large free flowing muffler can is then required so as not to strangle the engine. 2)
pitch the stock airbox and use the biggest K&N that will fit on the bike. Mine has an angled
mounting bellows so that the filter body can clear the frame.
3) Rejet the carb and use thin washers to adjust needle height. My FT ran last with a #190 main
jet and was still lean. I recently switched to a 38mm Lectron and dynoed the still relatively stock
bike at about 34hp. Beware when buying a K&N for the Ascot as you must find one with the
correct dimensions and angled mounting flange or it will not fit between the Ascot frame rails.
Also take my jetting specs with a grain of salt because: (1) My exhaust header and muffler were
modified for much greater flow than the stock pipes. My set-up may or may not work at lower
street-type RPM. And it is quite loud! (2) I have no idea how my jetting would work at low to
medium RPM. Roadracing an Ascot with a motor close to stock means always keeping the
engine close to redline. A note for Ascot racers: A Mikuni intake manifold (VM200-36, I think) can
be modified to work on the Ascot engine by ovalling the mounting holes. The advantages to this
set-up are:
40mm throat area and easy mounting of a bigger carb; a short, straight intake tract (unlike the
angled stocker); the ability to use a big, fat K&N filter (the carb no longer points towards the left
frame rail); CHEAP!


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Re: Honda FT-500 Ascot FAQ
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2013, 08:56:01 pm »
Todd Thelin:
My brother used to race an Ascot and he took his forks apart and welded up all the holes in it for
oil to pass through then drilled one hole about 1/2 the size of the stock ones. he was very happy
with the set up, although it felt a tad stiff for me. He also played with the fork height quite a bit and
found about 1 1/2 inches from the top to be the best.

4) What about touring on the bike?

Ray Hixon:
Touring: yes! The Ascot is one of the most comfortable touring/street bikes that I've ever owned

(with clubman bars/clipons). Before I raced mine, I put many many street miles on it with no

Paul Hoyt Nelson:
I know it's been done. I wouldn't suggest it.

I've got a couple of tips for touring the FT500.
First, think light. I've carried full camping gear, tent (4 person dome type), sleeping bag, clothes
for 7 days and nights, hatchet, Boy Scout mess kit, extra jackets, etc. on a Honda accessory tail
rack. It has a tendency to lighten the front end. It was noticeable but caused no problems. In the
higher elevations without changing the jetting as you might expect the engine ran rich with
noticeable off throttle backfiring. It carried my 200 lbs well and returned 85 MPH top speed down
hill with a tail wind. (no body said they were fast) Fuel mileage ran 50 to 73 MPG !! I also had an
oil leak; the leak was between the head and the cam cover in the left front corner. The machine
shop that has the head now says overall the cam cover to head fit was out .020". A little milling is
fixing that.

Jim Sherlock:
My wife has done some pretty decent touring on her FT. She has ridden it to Sears Point in
Sonoma CA and Las Vegas. We live just north of Santa Barbara. We utilize Chase Harper
luggage on the FT. For any one whose interested the Chase Harper AeroPac saddlebags and
tank bag work great.
We also use a Chase Harper tail pack mounted on the Honda tail rack.
The only gripes she has had is the smallish fuel tank (reserve comes at about 150-160 miles) and
the seat. She wants a Corbin, but the bike has to be there for them to build one.

5) Any must-have accessories?

Mark Hatten:
I have an Earl's cooler that's plumbed with stainless lines and AN fittings. I'm not too hip on
rubber oil lines and hose clamps on a race bike, and some racing organizations won't allow them.
It feeds off the left side cover as you noted. There's a lot of talk about the Honda upper end oiling,
with opinions on both sides. I have a Megacycle cam, hardened rockers, and run Mobil One oil,
and don't seem to have any cam wear, so I don't worry about it. I have seen bikes with oil lines
plumbed into the valve cover (I don't think I'd run it into the little valve adjustment cover -- you
would want the oil directed at the oil well under the cam lobes.) but for me it's fixing an nonexistent
problem. Mike at Edco builds a lot of Honda motors and doesn't seem to think it's

It is possible to add an XR kickstarter to the Ascot engine. The left XR engine cover will bolt on,
but it's not quite that easy. The XR ignition system is a 6 volt system. The alternator uses two
wound "coils" rather than the stator that the Ascot uses, and they mount into the side cover
differently. So, you'll need the XR sidecover, the XR CDI box, and the manual-advance pulse
generator from the right end of the crank. I'm doing this on my motor right now. You might also
want to pick up and install the XR flywheel, as it is lighter. The XL system is 12 volt, but still
mounts into the side cover like the XR. You might be able to fire the Ascot CDI box with the XL
alternator -- I'm not sure. You could also probably have a machinist whip up some sort of an
adapter ring that would allow you to bolt the Ascot stator into the XR/XL sidecover, which would
allow you to run the standard Ascot CDI and pulse generator. The right side covers look identical
-- the Ascot has a plug pressed/welded? into the kickstarter shaft hole.

The cobra exhaust is only a silencer using stock header. $83. I called Brad at White Bros, and he
didn't recommend it. He's got a Supertrapp megaphone style exhaust with adj baffle....all black,
for $254 deal? He also has an oil cooler ($114) kit, and numerous engine mods.

The WB carb kit includes a Mikuni carb, cables, K&N filter, jets, crank breather, etc for, gulp,
$258. WB also has numerous cam "all around" kit costs $95, but am not sure that's the
most appropriate for canyon riding (lots of twisties where low end punch is needed).

6) What about racing the bike? What classes are available? Is it competitive?

Ray Hixon:
The Ascot is a solid motor until you get past the 60 hp barrier. At that point, the weaknesses start
showing up. We (Ray Hixon and tuner Joe Hutchinson) are still developing the Ascots, though
we're now concentrating more on GS500's. As of the 1995 season, the Ascot is legal and
competitive in WERA V4/5/6, Formula Clubman, D Superbike, and Twins at the club level. Ascots
are also legal and competitive in AHRMA 600cc Sound of Singles.

As for bump-starting, my experience with Ascots at various modification levels, and a guess
whether kickstarters would've been useful:

1) bone stock: miserable bump-starters; kickstart would've been nice.
2) 38mm roundslide/WB pipe: nice bump-start; kickstart would've been fine.
3) (2) + 591 kit + 144-20 cam: still okay bump-start; kickstart would work.
4) (2) + 540 kit + 144-21 cam + EDCo head: getting iffy; rollers are nice by this point; kickstart
might work.
5) full-on 591/44mm roundslide/144-21 cam/1986 Cope head/Jemco pipe: rollers or big hills...
6) (5)+1995 Cope downdraft head: rollers or a *really* big hill.
7) (6)+ Hutcheson 630cc kit: rollers only; it's not a nice bike, but boy was it fun when it did start
8 )...

My advice (take it for what it's worth) is that when you get a big-valve, big-port head with a large
carb and a lumpy cam, it's definitely worth spending the money on a good set of rollers. In case
anyone is interested, it looks like Joe Hutcheson (god of extreme Ascots) may be interested in
doing Ascot heads again. Trust me when I tell you: it's worth it.

Paul Hoyt Nelson:
WERA Formula Clubman, Unlimited Twins, Formula 2. CCS Sportsman, Open Twins and
Formula 2. It's not competitive period. It can not be made competitive above the novice level.
WERA Vintage 5 and 6 and AHRMA SoS might be a different story. That aside, for a novice
racer, this is a great bike to learn on. It's very cheap and very durable.

Mark Hatten:
I ran a 44mm round slide Mikuni (listed by Sudco as being for a 600 Rotax) on my 500cc Ascot all
year and was quite happy. It was alway easy to tune, I never had any slide sticking problems, and
it made good horsepower.
I have an Edco ported head with oversize intakes and a welded intake manifold, and a Jemco
pipe. I ran a 38 flatslide Mikuni in 1995 with a stock head and a Supertrapp pipe. I can't
remember if I've mentioned Jay Wright at Bare Bones Machine. Jay built the AHRMA SoS F1 and
F2 winners in 1995 (Rotax/TZs) and the F2 winner in 1996. He's really knowledgable in both
Rotax and Honda motors, and specializes in Thumpers.
You can call Bare Bones at (719) 687-0431 and mention I referred you.
Instead of a rearset kit, I welded steel plating to the back of the rear downtube and the bottom of
the exhaust mount/passenger peg tubing on the right side. Did the same on the left, but cut away
the lower portion of the passenger peg tubing. I used FZR footpegs since they are a bolt-on
design and both brake a shift levers pivot on the pegs. (although I use a dirtbike shift lever turned
180 degrees for a GP pattern shifter with no linkage slop). You can use the FZR brake lever and
play around with your master cylinder mounting, or you can leave the M/C where it's at and just
shorten the Ascot lever. I'm currently replacing my FZR pegs with solid mount machined pegs.
For a steering damper mount I use a fork leg bracket up front, and a small bracket welded to the
left side of the front downtube. You should be able to bolt something to the right side threaded

mounts (for the regulator/rectifier) as well. I run the FT clutch basket (the XR 500 clutch basket
reportedly isn't up to race duty due to the "hollowed out" fingers) The XR pressure plate has a
full-size machined face (no judder spring like the FT), but it, along with the XR basket, are shorter
than the Ascot pieces and have a different actuating arrangement. It looks like it would take an
complete XR sidecover to make it work, and it would be more fragile than the Ascot clutch. I
agree with the OEM Honda plates. I'm continually amazed at Honda's engineering prowess. It
seems like the aftermarket has a very tough time improving on their work, even on 15-year-old
motorcycles. I was under the impression that White Brothers springs were either Barnett or EBC
springs. The Barnett's that I had were significantly shorter than the stockers, and well below the
specs called for in the shop manual, while the EBC's are a bit longer. The "half-face" machined
area on the FT pressure plate (once the judder spring is removed) seems to be a weak area -you
can see how it chews up a full size friction plate. I thought adding a steel plate there would be
the ticket, based on advice from another racer and the fact that sticking an extra plate in a clutch
pack is pretty common with racing bikes. The stack seemed to accommodate the extra disc well,
and the clutch didn't seem to drag.
Maybe when things heated up, though, it caused some drag, which in turn created even more
heat. I was running Mobil 1 oil, but I ran that last year with no clutch problems save Mid-Ohio.

Mark Sturdevant:
1.) Raask rearsets suck. They are way too high and forward, the pivot stuff makes your foot sit
cockeyed, and they're fragile. I half dropped, half guided the bike on it's left side - never even hit
the bars - and the shifter broke in two. I'll weld it up but geeze, what happens if I actually crash on
it? 2.) I haven't mounted a steering damper yet cause none of the possibilities for mounting points
make much sense. Skrbin has his so it goes out thru half his steering range, back in the other
half. Paul Nelson had a foot of mounting stuff welded to the front of his frame. I'm thinking the
cleanest might be a modification to the headlight mounting frame, welded so that on end of the
damper will be just off center of the steering stem. The frame mount will be to a pair of holes on
the right side under the tank, look like coil mounts, with a bracket from there down to where the
damper can actually fit. Any other bright ideas?

Ivan Thelin ( I don't know from big motors but...On the advice of Tim Tingey
at Carmichael Honda and Mike Crowther at Edco, I ran OEM Honda clutch plates in my race
Ascot with White Brothers XR500 springs. After my first season racing on the same clutch that
came in the bike (well used), I removed the judder spring and plate and replaced it with a full size
plate (The judder parts making the Ascot tricky to bump start). After one more season without
ever slipping, the clutch disintegrated several of its plates all at once.
I replaced the basket with a (better) used basket from the Ascot parts bike and all new OEM
plates and new WB springs. That clutch has survived 2 more seasons sofar. This leads me to
believe that OEM clutch parts are the way to go. Additional factors that MAYBE affected the
clutch's lifespan slightly:

(1) only used semi-synthetic oil,
(2) transmission gears (dogs) were undercut by Paul Vogel, then dry-lube coated by Swain (for
smoother shifting),
(3) the cushdrive rubber was replaced after the first season,
(4) final drive was changed to 520 chain/sprockets,
(5)speed shift on upshifts, never on down shifts,
(6) used starting rollers very rarely, (7) only dynoed twice ( 8 ) only a 530+cc (54hp) motor.
Alan Fleming:
In Colorado's MRA, the Ascot is legal for GTU, Modern Vintage, Twins, Colorado Class and
Lightweight. It is really only competitive in Twins and Colorado class (GTU it competes against
600 inline fours, in Modern Vintage it runs against anything 10 years old or older (FZ600s,
Interceptors, Hurricanes, etc) and in Lightweight in runs against FZR400s and TZ-250s. Colorado
class is a singles only class and unless there is a big Rotax or Supermono on the track, the Ascot
(rider not withstanding) is quite competitive.

« Last Edit: August 15, 2013, 08:58:58 pm by J6G1Z »


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Re: Honda FT-500 Ascot FAQ
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2013, 08:56:30 pm »
7) What are the common problems/weaknesses with the FT?

Mark Hatten:
Ever heard a noise coming from the top end of the engine? I had a problem when I started racing
in 1995 with a 591 motor. Sounded like the cam chain slapping, always under heavy load such as
accelerating out of a corner. As the condition worsened, I finally discovered the sound -- it was
combustion past the head gasket on the left side of the motor.
Everyone I know who's raced a 591 motor has had this problem -- watch the big-bore Ascot guys
do the "contact cleaner shuffle" after every track session. Edco finally O-ringed my cylinder, but it
still leaked. I started running a 500cc motor to qualify for AHRMA SoS F2 and haven't had a
problem. Don't know if the 540 motors suffer this fate, but you might want to check the
head/cylinder junction on the left side for oil or soot.

Craig (
I went through starter problems last summer, A Mr. S. Johnson explained how the bushing in the
left engine case wears unevenly, which mine did, and yours may have too. After I took Mr. J's
advice and had a machine shop remove the old bushing and replace it with a new bushing (Your
friendly neighborhood Honda dealer will try to sell you the whole left side case cover) I tried to
start it up to no avail. I got my uncle who is an electronic technician to chase down the problem,
turns out that the starter solenoid relay craps out also. I went to the dealer (friendly,
neighborhood) and asked him 'how much?' he said $75 (after I came around to the other side of
the counter to show him where the part was located on the microfiche). I said farewell to my
dealer, and ventured down to the wreckers (more friendly, but not in my neighborhood) and pulled
it off a trashed ascot in the back (the saddest thing Ii have ever seen), and left $15 lighter, but a
whole lot happier. These are the two areas of starter weakness that I have experienced, but I'm
sure there are more.

Larry Allis:
Here's what I did with my starter, if it's of any use to someone else.
My starter gears were just discernibly wobbly, but they seemed still usable. When I removed the
solenoid (with difficulty due to rust), I found its bore choked with rust. The core slug could not
move freely or very far. While I waited for a "new" one, I reamed out the old solenoid and cleaned
it up thoroughly. Then it worked great. The starter was fine then. So if your starter jumps out of
gear, try cleaning up the solenoid before you order a bunch of stuff. When I got the used solenoid
from the junkyard, it didn't look a whole lot better than the old, but it worked nicely too, after
cleaning and lubing.

Al Swan:
Hi all, after seeing a few emails on Ascot starters I thought I'd add in my helpful hint: if the
bushing in the left sidecover is bad or if you have it apart, you may want to replace the bronze
bushing with a roller bearing, a 10mm X 12mm x (8mm???) (I don't have the part number handy).
I picked up one from Berry Bearing for about $6. The shaft is hardened so the rollers ride directly
on it (there's no inner race). I just pressed mine in with some round stock, put some oil on it and it
has been problem free since.
Also if you find a replacement speedo too pricey, epoxy a round magnet in the front brake disk (in
one of the lightening holes), and then you can use a $20 or less mtn. bicycle speedometer with
the magnetic pickup running off of the aforementioned magnet. Punch in the wheel dia. and off
you go.
The only problem I had was that long distance riding with no breaks seems to wear down the
battery fast. Over 300 miles usually. For shorter trips I haven't had a problem though, even when
the total mileage of the short trips exceeds 500 miles.

Steve & Nikki Bergeron:
I have the Wiring Diagram for the FT500 (which looks like a nightmare). If everything with the
starter was working well before, and now nothing, not even a click, then I'd check the 15amp fuse
located in the Starter Relay.

Scott "ryders2":
My FT's starter died in much the same way. It was the solenoid: power got to it, but the coil was
open and did not pull in the core. No noise, no click, no start. $55 at my local dealer. I tried to
repair it but it was only good for a few starts, then dead again. So I ponied up. By the way, make
sure the little linkages and solenoid on the starter motor itself are well-lubed and clean. The little
spring can rust and break too. Once a year maintenance will keep the starter happy. You don't
want the motor to engage and not disengage when the engine starts.

Alan Fleming:
In addition to the notoriously weak starter on the Ascot, the threads for the headbolts are
guaranteed to strip. The first time you remove the head of an Ascot, you might as well Heli-coil or
Time-sert all the bolts. Additionally, the double walled exhaust pipe tends to rust (from
combustion corrosion) and eventually the inner pipe will break apart from the outer pipe resulting
in a rattle. Finally, when the engine has some performance modifications made, something needs
to be done to increase oil flow to the top end. Most racers add an oil cooler and plumb the return
line from the oil cooler into the head.
White Brothers sells a kit but there are mixed opinions about how to handle the return line from
the oil cooler. Some recommend having the return line go back into the oil sump while others go
directly to the head.

8 ) What magazine articles have been done on the bike?

Ray Hixon:
Motorcyclist did an early hop-up article on the Ascot, using WB parts and an early Supertrapp

Steven L. Thompson:
As I'm sure everyone realizes, that *Motorcyclist* piece does not constitute the whole
contemporary FT500 editorial archive. In 1982, I wrote a road test on the bike for *Cycle Guide*
(for which I'd been Editorial Director since mid-'78, and was by late '82 listed as "Editor
Emeritus"), which appeared in the August '82 issue, pp 42-47. The story included our usual
comparative test data chart (which showed our test bike to do the quarter in 14.91 sec/83.7 mph,
top speed [measured] of 97 mph, and 60-0 mph in 146 feet), as well as a full specs page and our
"Ride Review" counterpoints by Joe Kress (then our Managing Editor), Ron Lawson (Associate
Editor) and Larry Works (Editor).

9) What is the going price for a good condition FT500?

Alan Fleming:
This is an anti-answer. The value of bikes if so heavily relativistic that the price in one area of the
country for a given bike has no bearing on the price for the same bike in another part of the
I've bought two FT500s, one for $500 and another for $200. Both were in terrible condition. These
same bikes might have been worth $50 in another part of the US, $1000 in another part and who
knows what overseas. Ultimately, you need to determine local value by checking the classified
section of your local newspaper, check with local shop and ask around.

10) What resources are available on the net?

Alan Fleming:
The THUMPER web page ( is an excellant resource
for meeting other Thumper owners. Likewise, the THUMPER mailing list ( is
home to many FT owners. Also, anyone interested in roadracing their Thumper should subscribe
to the roadracing mailing list ( Ascot racer Mark Hatten's has lots of

FT500 information on his "Swingin' Singles Racing" web page

Ray Hixon (
Paul Hoyt Nelson (
Michel Fredrickson (
Michael Patrick (
Marty (
Gary F. Kah (
Mark Hatten (
Ivan Thelin (
Todd Thelin (
Douglas M. Lively (
Craig (
Jim Sherlock (
Mark Sturdevant (
Larry Allis (
Al Swan (
Brian Steidle (
Steven L. Thompson (
Scott "ryders2" (
Steve & Nikki Bergeron (
Alan Fleming (
« Last Edit: August 15, 2013, 09:00:27 pm by J6G1Z »

Ram Jet

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Re: Honda FT-500 Ascot FAQ
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2013, 09:51:28 pm »
You're off to a great start J6.  Nice job and good info already!


Bill Albertson


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Re: Honda FT-500 Ascot FAQ
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2013, 09:55:32 pm »
I can't take any credit for that post. I just copied it from the other site. I think it is the best FAQ on the FT500 that I've seen & I refer back to it often.


Street Tracker 37

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Re: Honda FT-500 Ascot FAQ
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2013, 09:50:35 am »
I was going to start to copy info over also when time permits looking good john


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Re: Honda FT-500 Ascot FAQ
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2013, 10:07:22 am »
I was going to start to copy info over also when time permits looking good john

Please do. Just make sure that it is titled well for the search feature & that proper credit is given to the original author.

I'm having trouble getting the word out on the VT500 forum. I've posted twice to the message board but it appears that it is being censored. I'd like for all the Ascot owners to be welcomed here, as both versions of the Ascot are great bikes.