Falling Flat: Honda FT500

Photo: Gary D Chapman

Scorned, derided and cold-shouldered at the time, but why? Steve Cooper samples Honda’s flat-track styled FT500 from the early 1980s.

Honda’s brave attempt at getting on the big thumper bandwagon was, arguably, always doomed to failure… in the UK at least. Both it and Yamaha’s SR500 were always destined to be marginalised here in Blighty.

Collectively we Brits had had a gutful of big singles a decade or so before, yet the pundits still reckoned there was a market for such machines. If these experts were the same people consulted by the importers prior to finalising the next year’s line-up then it was obvious they were hugely out of touch…

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Even if some remained in love with the concept of half-litre singles, few were willing to vote with their money… until Honda announced the FT500.

Yamaha’s modern take on the genre had failed to inspire many would-be riders simply because it looked rather staid.

Although it wasn’t made to look like anything ever made in the West Midlands, the bike’s style was conservative and minimalist almost to the point of being bland. Therefore Honda needed something novel and brave in order to steal a march on its rivals.

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Read the rest of this article in the October issue of Classic Motorcycle Mechanics – on sale now.

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