Author Topic: HONDA FT500 ASCOT: Reprinted from Cycle Magazine’s 1983 “Shorts”  (Read 2327 times)

J6G1Z

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1493

Sole thumper in the
middleweight war zone,
Honda’s Ascot single
proves that one-cylinder
doesn’t have to mean
one-dimensional.

Some things never change. Take, for example,
the admiration some people have for the
idea of a single cylinder
roadster. It's an admiration
which flourished in the '50s
and '60s, lay dormant in the
'70s, was rekindled by
Yamaha's SR500 and must
now be focused on Honda's
FT500. That's right -- the
FT is the only middleweight
thumper available,
Yamaha having dropped
the SR from its line.
Implicit in the admiration
for singles, of course,
is an appreciation for the
functional benefits of fewer
cylinders. A single's main
advantage is light weight.
As a rule, singles weigh
less than multicylinder machines,
and there's no overemphasizing
how important
lot weight is to good handling.
The drawback to a
big single is relatively
limited power. Horsepower
is an adjunct to rpm. Big
singles typically have long
strokes; the FT's is 80mm. At any given rpm
a longer stroke results in higher piston speed.
Since exceeding certain mechanical limits
will endanger reliability, there is in effect a
conservative redline on any big single. You're
safe at 7000 rpm with the FT,
but forget revving to 10,000
or ten-five the way you do
with a twin- or four-cylinder
machine, and forget about
high-rpm power.
Instead, prepare pat
phrases extolling the virtues
of mid-range torque. It
should come as no surprise,
then, that you may quite
accurately characterize the
FT as a lightweight, good
handling middleweight with
a rather flat powerband.
The counterbalanced
498cc engine is a descendant
of the '82 XL/XR500 series,
modified to take an electric
starter and graced with a
strengthened clutch and
transmission. While the XL
has jumped to 600cc and
both it and the XR wear dual
carbs on their RFVC heads,
the Ascot remains
fundamentally unchanged...

Vital Statistics
Make & model .................................Honda FT500 Ascot
Price ...................................................................... $2198
Engine
Type.................................. Four-stroke single, air-cooled
With one chain-drive overhead
camshaft; four valves per cylinder
Bore & Stroke................89.0 x 80.0mm (3.50 x 3.17 in.)
Displacement.................................... 498cc (30.4 cu. in.)
Transmission.......................Five-speed, constant mesh,
wet-clutch
Chassis
Type................Single-downtube frame using the engine
as a stressed member; box-section
steel swing arm
Suspension, front ................Leading-axle, air-adjustable
fork with 37mm tubes and 6.0 in.
(152mm) of travel
rear ............ (2)shock absorbers, adjustable
for spring preload and producing
3.3 in (84mm) of rear-wheel travel
Brake, front....................................Hydraulic, single-disc
with twin-piston caliper
rear ......................................Hydraulic, single-disc
with twin piston caliper
Fuel capacity (main/reserve).......................... 2.9/0.5 gal
(11.0/2.0 l)
Performance
Standing start ¼ mile ..................................15.01 sec @
83.33 mph
Engine rpm @ 60 mph, top gear............................. 4377
Average fuel consumption rate ........................ 60.2 mpg
(25.6 km/l)
Cruising range (main/reserve) ....................... 174/30 mi.
(280/48 km)
Load capacity (GVWR less wet wt.).................347.0 lbs.
(157.4 kg)

...this year. New graphics on the tank and
sidecovers constitute the obvious change. Not
so obvious is that Honda discovered the black
chrome on the '82 bike's exhaust pipe
collector faded and turned gray from excess
heat. This year the collector is of double-wall
construction, which wards off discoloration.
Having little change for the new year is
just fine, though, because the FT's design is
basically sound. The engine incorporates a
compact and effective counterbalancing
system. One balancer rides on a shaft in front
of the crank, and a second balancer spins on
the transmission main shaft. The two are
linked via a single-row chain. Some
secondary vibration makes its way through
the engine's solid mounts, but it's largely
absorbed by the rubber-mounted pegs and
soft-mount bar.
While the XL/XR series bikes carry
kickstarters, the FT, along with Honda's other
street-only motorcycles, uses only an electric
starter, a true blessing in traffic. The Ascot
retains the chain final drive of its
predecessors, but the addition of cast wheels
and disc brakes front and rear makes it more
pavement-worthy.
The brakes use Honda's twin-piston
calipers and give good, fade-free performance.
Since a brace ties the fork together just above
the tender (the brace also functions as the
upper fender mount), twitchiness at the fork
during hard braking is minimal.
The air-assisted fork is stiction free,
which helps it respond well to small bumps.
Recommended air pressure is six to 12 psi.
With the maximum amount of air injected,
the fork is set for all-around use, providing a
fairly comfortable ride around town, giving
firm resistance to bumps in high speed
cornering, and aiding ground clearance in all
conditions.
The rear shocks don't display the
advances in technology which set the FT
apart from its single-cylinder predecessors.
The shocks are adjustable for spring preload
but not damping. In stock form their damping
is limp at best, a characteristic of all but the
best nonadjustable dampers. You'll feel some
pogoing and wallowing in all types of riding.
The Ascot is a small bike, most suitable
for riders five-ten and shorter. It's also the
narrowest 500 on the market, which enhances
one of its major virtues in handling -- good
ground clearance at substantial lean angles.
This, along with the bike's light weight (383
pounds), makes the FT exceptionally nimble
for backroad jaunts. The Honda's light weight,
flattish bar and 29.0-degrees rake/4.7-inch
trail all add up to a bike which offers light,
responsive steering; a machine easy to throw
into turns.
On longer rides the Honda begins to show
its limitations. Above 5000 rpm, the tank and
pegs begin to buzz, and the passenger pegs,
mounted solidly to the frame, vibrate fiercely.
The stepped seat encroaches on tall riders'
space; by the time a six-footer has run
through the FT's 3.4-gallon tank (200 or so
miles), he'll be ready to step off the bike for
the day. Five-ten riders, on the other hand,
find the FT comfortable for a couple of hours
at a time, especially with the opportunity to
use the passenger pegs.
The FT500 Ascot is a unique blending of
basic mechanical simplicity and technical
updating. Its main advantage and
disadvantage are practically intrinsic to its
design. Specifically, its light weight and
limited power are absolutely predictable. But
the real measure of the FT is how Honda has
developed the package. In most ways it's a
winner. They've graced it with an effective
balancing system, electric starting, good
brakes and a seating position well suited to
the average-sized guy. Better suspension
would take the FT a lot nearer its potential.