Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Honda FT500 Ascot

Fri, April 8th, 2011

1982-83 Honda FT500 Ascot
In stock form, the XL500-based mill is strangled and probably performs no better than a new 2011 CBR250R does with half the displacement. An aftermarket pipe, cam and carb could really wake up the thumper's power, however.
The FT used reasonably adequate suspension components for the time and straightforward construction. Ground clearance is ample and steering is light, but despite a fork brace was not truly precise. Braking was good. The stock tires did not inspire confidence.
The overall look is somewhat bland, but Honda gets credit for creating a design that was appropriate for a single-cylinder engine without looking fakey or trying to be retro-stalgic. The supposed flat-track theme is only vaguely hinted at. A couple of the details such as the unnecessarily high headlight look odd, though not really unattractively so.
The electric starter's drive mechanism is fragile, and there's no back-up kickstarter. The cylinder head is susceptible to temperature-related issues; valves and cams are usually what kill high-mileage engines. Plastic pieces are a bit flimsy; chassis is solid as a rock otherwise.
The FT500 is big enough to make any trip, yet small enough to maneuver around any tight area. Riding position is superb at lower speeds; lower bars or a windshield are needed on long highway trips. The seat is only so-so. Despite a single balance shaft that smoothes out most of the thumping, the engine still transmits a high-frequency buzz to the rider's hands and feet.
The FT500 removes many of the hassles of living with other big thumpers, but ends up losing an equal measure of their magic.
If a BSA Gold Star is black espresso and the SR500 is cappuccino, the FT500 is a decaf soy latte. Tasty, perhaps, but not a lot of kick.