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Welcome – FT500 Cafe Racer

December 24, 2011

So the main point of this blog will be to document my progress on a project I just started. This past summer I bought a 1983 Honda FT500 Ascot. I took a bunch of pictures of it when I got it but somehow have managed to lose them. So that is going to kind of blow the before/after post when I finish this. However, I did snap a picture of an FT400 at the Honda museum in Motegi Japan earlier this year. From my limited knowledge the only difference with this bike is the engine bore. It is important to note that mine was nowhere near this nice.

Along with the bike I got a spare front wheel, gas tank, side covers, two starter motor shafts, carb, tail bodywork, bar controls, front fender, windshield, and a luggage rack. I paid $1400 for the bike which ran without trouble for the rest of the summer. By selling unused parts and smart shopping on ebay, I am hoping to complete this project without spending much more money. The ultimate goal is to stay under $2000.  Most people that see what I am trying to do with the bike will refer to it as a cafe racer. I think the term can be misleading, so I usually just call it my project bike. I am going to try to make the bike much lighter (330 lb target down from about 375 lb starting), improve the handling, improve power, and improve the looks of the bike. Weight and handling will be the two main goals. Right now, my to-do list is as follows:

  • Replace forks with a modern sport-bike set of inverted forks
  • Replace handle bars with clip-ons
  • Replace seat with a “cafe” style seat and tail (probably something I fabricate)
  • Remove driver and passenger foot pegs
  • Add rear sets to improve rider position
  • Remove unnecessary frame tubing behind the rear dampers
  • Remove any unused tabs from the frame
  • Remove center stand
  • Replace muffler with something lighter and more “open”
  • Replace airbox with an air filter
  • Replace carb with a larger diameter carb
  • Switch over to 520 chain
  • Remove electric starter, stator cover, and starter shaft
  • Convert to a kick start using xl250 and xl500 parts
  • Replace gauge cluster with something lighter
  • Replace square headlight with a round headlight (probably a CB style)
  • Replace wheels with something lighter
  • Make some aesthetic improvements to the tank.

Obviously, I will run into issues which I will have to solve along the way. I will try to keep snapping pictures and keep the blog up to date. I will also be relying a lot on friends, co-workers, and the helpful people on the FT500  Yahoo message board ( and



From → Uncategorized

  1. Jayk Reynolds permalink

    looking good so far! Your getting me motivated to put together a blog on my FT now. trying to get everything together to start the web portion this long weekend.
    My only hangup so far is the starter side cover for the FT engine. i have a complete XL500 that i bought for the kicker conversion, but the side covers are different due to electrical system components. Curious what you are going to do for yours? I really want to eliminate the FT starter side cover when i put on the kicker, but dont see how it will work..

  2. Right now I am only focused on getting the bike done, none of the engine work. I am still hoping to ditch the starter, but that will come later when I am sending things out for paint or waiting for parts to finish things up. I am aware that the FT stator does not fit in a XL side cover. But I have read that with a bit of machining and an adapter plate it can be made to work. I thought someone in the yahoo group briefly explained what they did.

    Anyways, when I get to that point, I will be sure to document things step by step. In the meantime you should start up a blog. If you sign up for wordpress, you will have the first post of your blog done in 20 minutes. It is simpler than posting topics in online forums. I did not change a single default setting.

  3. Chris permalink

    Looking good! I’m glad I found your blog. I’m starting a 1984 FT500 “cafe” project next week. Trying to stay under $2000 as well. Got the bike for free, just have to pay some DMV back fees, so I’m off to a good start. I’ll be following your project closely, good to pick up on lessons learned. Thanks for posting your progress, looking forward to more.

    • Glad to hear that my blog is helpful. I hate to be argumentative, but I am pretty sure that you are not starting an 1984 FT500 project. The bike was only made in 1982 and 1983. Not that it really matters since the bikes were virtually identical between the two years. Do you have the title for the bike? Is it running? If so, I would think that you could easily stay under the $2k mark.

      • Chris permalink

        Waiting on the title and papers, stashed somewhere in my dads garage. So only 82-83, I need to research the bike more. It’s been sitting since 1995, so once we hook up a new battery, throw some oil in, etc. we will see if it runs…that will determine how deep my wallet needs to be. Luckily I’m surrounded by friends who are mechanics, so that will keep the cost down. I’m a trigger puller by trade so this will be a huge learning experience.

  4. Ben permalink

    Great blog. I’m really looking forward to following your progress. I just bought a great running 83 FT yesterday for $650! The thing has got some serious pep. Cosmetically, it is pretty ugly, so am looking to do similar mods with a similar budget. Any suggestions on lowering the front end without a machine shop? I read that xl or xr forks are a direct fit, but I’m not sure if they are any shorter. Also looking forward to seeing how your kicker conversion goes.
    Good luck and cheers!

    • Glad to hear you enjoy it. I have been a bit busy at work lately so progress has been slow. Hopefully it will pick up soon though.

      As for lowering the front end you can do that by just sliding the forks further up into the triple clamps. The forks on the FT are not highly regarded though which is the reason people do swaps. I think F3 and possibly early F4 front forks will fit the FT triple clamps, but you’ll have to check the diameters to make sure. Of course then you will have to sort out the brakes. I think people put CBR wheels on them as well so you could match a front wheel to a front end and just transfer the brakes over.

      Good luck with your project. Feel free to ask any more questions and I always appreciate feedback.

  5. Ben permalink

    Thanks a lot,
    I think I am either going to raise the tubes and put clip ons above the triple tree, or swap for a CBR front end. Do you know if the FT wheel works with the CBR forks?
    That GSXR front end looks sick too, I don’t care if it is overkill. I wish I has welding gear an a machine shop.
    Thanks a lot.

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