Building a Budget Cat

Arctic Cat’s mid-sized machine is the 500 Core. This is a quad for a guy who wants to get a machine and start riding without spending an arm and a leg. Modifications can come later when the budget permits. The 500 Core sells for only $6399. Rox Speed FX wanted to see what the Arctic Cat 500 Core was capable of with some affordable improvements.

-With help from a Dyno Jet fuel tuner, a Speedwerx exhaust and stiffer clutch springs, this little Arctic Cat 500 could easily keep up with a Yamaha or Polaris 550

This build is along the lines of what a typical (or “core”) owner might try on any brand ATV by installing tires, wheels, skid plates, handlebars, clutching, an exhaust and a winch. With any combination of these core bolt-on parts, Rox is proving you can really make any ATV your own.

-The signature product of Rox is their handlebar risers. For this build, they helped eliminate the bulky instrument pod, and accepted a great set of Fly handlebars. The bars, risers and grips are sold as a package deal to save you money. Rox also carries handguards.

Rox went into this build to showcase their flagship product, the Rox Riser handlebar. In this case, it was also a way to ditch the bulky center pod and give the Ute an aggressive look and a more comfortable riding position. Here, the $104, 3 1⁄2-inch pivoting risers were used to mount Fly Brand 1 1⁄8-inch taper handlebars ($79). Those bars were capped off with a set of soft, $11 Spider grips. To relocate the cat’s stock instrument panel, Rox came up with a thin aluminum plate that bolts to the top handlebar mount. This $45 plate also has provisions to reinstall the stock 12-volt power socket and a small LED light bar. That 3-watt, four-bulb light bar is a product of Arctic Cat’s accessory catalog and sells for $130. This whole kit, minus the light bar, is a Rox signature package and sells for $195 at a $35 savings versus buying all the products individually. The ignition key and light switch were installed into the lid of the small storage box just behind the handlebars. The Fly fat bars come in a dozen different bends and four color choices: black, silver, gray and blue. Fly does carry standard 7⁄8-inch bars, and Rox also make risers for this size bar. The setup Rox chose was much more comfortable than the stock setup. The bend was a bit straighter, and the sweep wasn’t angled back as far. The Spider grips provided a ton of cushion to our hands as well.

-Arctic Cat provided the full-coverage aluminum skid plates for this project. You could pretty much slide over anything and not damage the frame or engine


More products from the Arctic Cat accessory catalog came in the form of full-coverage aluminum skid plates and A-arm guards. The complete package runs for $440. You can buy the center section ($200) and the A-arm guards separately. The front and rear A-arm guards sell for $120 per set. The plates install easily with minimal hardware and have plenty of water-drainage holes and access to oil-drain plugs.

Next, the Rox crew bolted on a factory-fitted, 3000-pound Warn winch for $449. Just knowing you have a winch to get you out of trouble when exploring on a 4×4 ATV makes all of our rides better. The Warn products work well and sometimes outlast the quad.

An Arctic Cat front brush guard finished off the list of catalog products on this build at $199. A cool thing about buying accessories like this straight from your dealer at the time you purchase your quad, you can include their add-ons into the vehicle’s financing if you go that route. For example, skid plates or more aggressive tires might only raise your payment by $5 per month.

Speaking of tires, the Rox crew installed a set of pretty aggressive mud tires on this machine. They chose ITP’s 26-inch Mayhem tires mounted on a set of ITP SS wheels. The tires are smooth-riding yet provide decent braking and excellent clean-out in slop. The heavier tire did make the front end slightly twitchy at higher speeds. On the good side, traction was superb for the wet, sloppy trails we tested on. Another good thing about ITP is that they sell tire and wheel kits mounted and ready to go at most of their dealers. Usually, it’s a substantial savings of $155 (front), $170 (rear) and $100 (7×12 wheel) over MSRP when ordered separately.


One of the cool things about Arctic Cat’s 500 Core is that it’s a mid-sized motor in a mid-sized chassis. AC doesn’t just stuff a 500-class motor in the exact same full-size chassis that their larger quads use, like many other manufactures do. So that fact makes the little machine feel powerful.

In fact, that power is coming from a pretty peppy, 445cc, SOHC, liquid-cooled engine. To add even a little more pep, Speedwerx supplied an exhaust system that added power and a more aggressive tone when you stab the throttle. The good thing is that this $369 slip-on system is not overly loud or annoying. It lets the engine rev much freer than stock and pulls very hard throughout the rpm range. It can break the ITP mud tires loose without issue if needed. To make the needed EFI adjustments, a Dyno Jet Power Commander fuel-control box was wired up ($379.95).

To get the 500 to run a little harder and stay in the meat of the powerband, Speedwerx supplied a set of their clutch springs ($50) for the wet-clutch system. These springs are rated at 42 pounds and raise the initial clutch engagement from a stock 1750 rpm all the way up to 3100. While that might seem like a lot, it doesn’t make the machine unmanageable. Even in real technical terrain or up hills, the engagement isn’t aggressive or able to pop the front end up. It only takes a few take-offs to remember that you have to stab the throttle between a quarter and half throttle before the machine will take off.

This little mid-sized machine is a blast to ride. We feel it could easily keep up with a Sportsman 500 or Outlander, and maybe even a Yamaha or Polaris 550. The components the Rox crew installed not only wake it up, but they make it much more comfortable to operate on longer rides. It’s these simple adjustments that can make any quad really your own. If you need a little help in this area, give Rox Speed FX a call at (218) 326-1794 or see www.roxspeed They can do the same magic on any brand quad.

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