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I've got an SR500 I've played with for the past nearly 20 years. It has a tail section that is a bolt on and I'm thinking of selling. It also has a nice Manx like high pipe a freind and I built from mandrel bent tubing I got from JC Whitney. I also installed a Honda VF500F right side caliper and a different Honda master cylinder to it. Another mechanic friend and I built (mostly him, because they needed to get the parts out of the way when moving the shop) it up with a Wiseco 528 9:1 piston, mild cam, and a 38 or 36 Mikuni (never measured).
Currently it ran for 5 minutes or so about 6 years ago and was shut down to await wiring. It's now in transition again after I moved.
Take a look at my photos on Bike Pics, shortcut below in my sig. Like I say my seat may be for sale, but I also can tell how simple it was to build. The pipe not so simple, but with a good TIG welder as a friend it can be done as was the brake bracket.
It's always great to read and see about old Yamaha 500s. I love the pure stone axe simplicity of them. Although I have no idea how the self-canceling turn singals ever got there. I mean a single two valve kick start carbureted engine with no counterbalancers or gimicks... how cool is that!
As for starting, I never had any problem after a 500 riding friend (the welder/mechanic) gave me the specifics of doing the drill. I don't bother with the little window thingie. I just kick over until I hit TDC,(can stand on the lever at that point) pull the comp release lever and ease it slightly over TDC, then give a good hard kick. Mine usually fired within a kick or two depending on if it was warm. It was all by feel. It was also a whole lot easier to do on the centerstand, but I could do it standing over the bike too. On the side stand wasn't so easy due to the angle of lean. If it popped and stallled about 6-8 good kicks with the compression release opened would clean it out to start again fairly easily... but kind of a hassle and a bit embarrassing when stalled at a stop sign or signal in traffic..
Best thing you could do for yourself is to scrap those wheels; SO heavy and so much unladden weight. I rode an SR500 before with a set of 19 inch spoke wheels (dual disc front!) and makes those things so much better and agile. But, you can alleviate the issue by going for progressive springs in the front and a decent pair of rear shocks. Just a thought...
The SR500 is actually EASIER to start than the XT/TTs due to better ignition/stator setup. If you are having some issues, you may want to check valves. I have a TT with a 528 kit and big cam and it starts first or second kick without an issue (VM 34). The intake valve has a tendency to over tighten on them if they're run extremely hard.
Thanks for the suggestions. Spokes are possibly in the bikes future, but will hold off for now - cost is a little high (when I do something, it's done all the way - spokes for me would mean new polished alloy shouldered rims from MikesXS for $100 each, stainless spokes for $100 a set and then lacing/truing at $50 per wheel) + the cost of hubs. So I'd be into a good $500+ for the set of wheels, which while 1/2 of what I spent on my XS650 wheels, is still a ton of money for right now.
I'm revising my plans a bit. Saw a Harley Sportster the other day with the mag wheels on it, and they were flat aluminum colored. I'm probably going to just strip these wheels (soda blast or something) and the entire bike will be a combination of copper and brushed aluminum.
No polishing on this one. Lots of soda blasting and fine sandpaper.
My bike has the same wheels and I must admit, they looked pretty nice in raw form. I used Lepage poly stripper and the paint was brushing off as fast as I could brush it on. Just had to hose them off after and they were done.