Think of Revival Cycles and you probably picture big budget, genre-smashing customs like the BMW Landspeeder. But Alan Stulberg and his crew are quite happy to work their magic on the humblest of machines. And they don’t get more humble than the early 80s Honda FT500 Ascot.
The ‘FT’ apparently stands for ‘flat track,’ but that was wishful thinking on Honda’s part: You can safely discount any notion of the Ascot tearing it up on the ovals. Rather, it’s a solid little commuter bike that you can pick up for less than $2,000 in the classifieds.
Making an FT500 Ascot look cool is a big challenge. But it has an electric starter, a big 500cc single cylinder thumper engine with lots of torque, a low curb weight, and a reputation for reliability. Most of all, it’s good choice for rookies because it’s nimble and super easy to fling around.
That made it ideal for Revival’s client, a new rider who wanted a full custom. The brief was to build a lightweight, fun to ride motorcycle with just the right amount of flash and lots of subtle one-off features.
Revival had an old Ascot lying around that another builder had hacked up by cutting the frame backbone and leaving it unfinished. But it had a good motor and a title, so the Texas workshop decided to turn it into something pretty. Which is no easy task: The Ascot wasn’t exactly beautiful to begin with.
The first job was to fix the stamped steel frame lines, which quickly escalated into building an almost entirely new frame from scratch instead of trying to fix what was there.
But there’s more than just a modified rear subframe section. The frame neck, lower backbone and down tube have all been modified too.
It’s reassuring to learn that the Revival guys don’t just guess at rake and trail: For proper handling, they use CAD to determine the best steering angle, trail and swingarm pivot points, based on kinematic models, to ensure a great performing motorcycle before a single tube is welded.
Using conventional Suzuki GSX-R forks keeps the classic looks, but adds the upgraded performance of modern suspension—plus serious braking power. Ian Barry of Falcon motorcycles (yes, he’s still around) flogged the Ascot over the hills of coastal California for ‘testing,’ and gave it two thumbs up.
The swingarm is from a Suzuki SV650, because its mounting width is ideal for the FT500 engine. Dual progressive shocks were added for a vintage look, with custom shock mounts fabricated.
The last step for the rolling chassis was fabricating adapters for the 18-inch Yamaha RD400 mag wheels. They’re now shod with Pirelli Scorpion tires.
For the electrics, only the best would do, and Revival love Motogadget gear. So an m-Unit control box was installed, along with a Motoscope mini speedo.
There’s also a pair of 4-cell Antigravity batteries for the cleanest possible electrical packaging—hooked up to a full wiring harness that was built from scratch. Revival also upgraded the ignition and charging systems with modern components.
With the rolling chassis sorted out, a Benelli Wards Riverside fuel tank was heavily modified to fit over the frame—providing smooth curves without the expense of a full custom tank. Right behind is a hand-formed alloy seat pan, wrapped in black leather, and all done in-house.
The lustrous blue paint is a Porsche Cayenne option. The delicate 911 hue ‘Geyser Grey’ was used for the frame, suspension and the panel atop the fuel tank, edged with with metallic gold pin striping.
By the lofty standards of the famous Austin, Texas workshop, this is a budget custom. But it’s perfect for their client, with a wet weight of just 289 pounds (131 kilos), modern suspension and brakes, and a neutral riding position.
According to Revival, the FT500 is “A blast to ride, and sounds as tough as nails.”
To that we’d add: It’s probably the best-looking FT500 in the world.