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Pacific Coast Magazine Reviews

First Impression: Pacific Coast 800

Born To Be Mild


M.M.M. Road Test

Honda Pacific Coast

 

by Troy Johnson

 

I had half a mind (still do) to schedule a scooter for this issue's road test. Realizing that I have never ridden a scooter, I decided that it would be best to leave them to M.M.M.'s scooterist, Chris Orr. If the scootering bug has yet to bite you, be wary. The little sting I received has turned into a mild infection.

After dismissing the previous thought, I scanned my list of available motorcycles and paused at a Honda that is often referred to as the Super Scooter. Perfect. A few days later I merrily cruised out of Metropolitan Hitching Post's parking lot on one of their PC800s. In this case the PC designation stands for Pacific Coast not Politically Correct. Although, if there ever was a politically correct, large displacement motorcycle this is it.

The motorcycle used for this report is a few years old, but Honda has basically kept the Pacific Coast unchanged since its 1989 introduction. Models built in the last two years have lost the brake disc covers and received a new fender. Cleaning up the front end cosmetics in this way has left the PC800 looking a bit more motorcyclish and a little less scooterish, but mechanically all Pacific Coasts are virtually the same. This motorcycle is not concerned with spec sheets or cutting edge hardware. This motorcycle is focused on utility--gas and go. In this spirit, I am going to skip the descriptions of mechanical components except to reveal that the body panels are hiding an 800 cc liquid-cooled V-twin.

Honda marketed the new Pacific Coast toward white-collar professionals in 1989 as a respectable low-maintenance motorcycle for daily use. The full coverage body panels and the trunk would keep rider and briefcase clean and dry on the way to work, plus it would blend right into a parking lot full of Acuras. On the weekends, the PC would be a capable two-up tourer for the ride to the beach-house down the coast. The professionals responded by buying tens of thousands of Harley-Davidsons. Sure, the Pacific Coast was practical, but as a display of freedom, power and wealth it was about as useful as a case of performance anxiety.

While the moneyed class ignored the PC800, pragmatic riders took a careful look at it and walked away interested. They walked away because pragmatism is not so much a choice as it is a condition resulting from chronic under-capitalization, and the Pacific Coast was not cheap in 1989. It had been priced to appeal to the nouveau riche. After a couple seasons of poor sales Honda removed the PC from its American line-up. The many Pacific Coasts still sitting on showroom floors and in U.S. warehouses were sold off at very good prices. I can recall riders stating that they had paid under .00 for PCs with no miles on them.

When the existing inventory ran out after a couple of years Honda detected that demand remained for the Super Scooter, and the company brought it back. Time and inflation had made the price more attractive and this time, quietly, without a marketing campaign, the Pacific Coast built a niche for itself in the U.S. market and remains with us today as a utilitarian marvel surrounded by showrooms full of ego massagers.

The Pacific Coast is not an ornament nor a piece of kinetic sculpture, and it certainly does not come packaged with a lifestyle. This motorcycle is for the serious riders who ride motorcycles every day rain or shine, the riders who go to do their grocery shopping on a motorcycle (The PC's trunk will easily carry two canvas grocery bags from the co-op.), the riders for whom car ownership means buying a beater to get around with for a couple of months before the ice melts. The Pacific Coast is for the rider who at Thanksgiving dinner responds to the exclamation, "You rode a motorcycle here?!" with a detached grin and the phrase, "Well, the bus doesn't come out this far." If you have persevered this far into this report, you may very well be a candidate for PC ownership yourself.

The mission of the Pacific Coast is to transport a rider and a rider's essentials (ten years of tax records for the audit, lunch box and hard-hat for a day at the rock quarry...) from point A to point B with the least amount of fuss possible for a two-wheeler. The Pacific Coast makes life easier for the daily rider with its ease of maintenance and its utilitarian design. The scooter-like body panels, which completely enclose the mechanicals of the PC800, reduce the chore of washing a dirty motorcycle into simply turning the hose on it. Other maintenance chores made simple are oil changes and valve clearance adjustments. The spin-off oil filter and oil drain plug are accessible without removing one piece of plastic. The oil fill cap is under a small panel between the right side foot pegs. The hydraulic valves never need adjusting. The battery is maintenance free. There is a center stand. There is not much to do but ride.

Riding the Pacific Coast is as easy as maintaining it. The steering is unusually light and stable thanks to the underseat fuel tank and a frame that puts the V-twin engine and the center of gravity low to the ground. The excellent handling characteristics are well suited to city riding. The PC can turn on a dime and zig or zag through city streets like a bike half its size. The front brakes are excellent. They are so good that somebody ought to write a song about them. You get off of the bike shaking your head while wondering how the brakes on this lowly PC800 can be better than the stoppers on two-thirds of the bikes you have ridden. At the other end is the rear drum brake. The only positive thing to say about this contraption is that it is impossible to lock up the rear wheel with it.

While it won't win any drag races the bike can get out of its own way and reach speeds of 120 mph or so if you have a good bit of road to work with. The huge windscreen and lower front fairing provide full frontal wind protection for the rider, but you get hit with a blast of wind from behind as the air bubble collapses. If I had my very own PC I'd saw about half of the windshield off. The switch gear and instrumentation are conventional and posed no problems, but I found the lack of a clock to be a curious omission on this bike.

Now for the paragraph about the trunk. I'm surprised we do not see more bikes with them. From the number of Givi bolt-on trunks starting to appear around town I have to believe that people have a need for the secure storage they offer. I am not fond of bikes with hard lockable saddle bags hanging off the sides. I like motorcycles to be skinny and usually use a tank bag for onboard storage. I always worry about leaving things like cameras in a tank bag on a bike. The PC allowed me to quit worrying. The Pacific Coast's trunk is probably most handy when you are not riding the bike. Parking a motorcycle, throwing your jacket and helmet into the trunk then walking away is a joy.

After using a Pacific Coast for a day it is easy to understand why people are still buying them. It is a utilitarian wonder that takes your helmet and jacket out of your hands while doing business around town and has the power, comfort and cargo capacity to transport you across the country.

 

M.M.M.


* This review originally appeared in the August 1998 issue of Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly




By Motorcycle Online Staff
Photos by Billy Bartels





Honda's Pacific Coast 800 is the station wagon of motorcycles, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just not fashionable at this time. Our adrenaline-junkie, Mountain Dew head-rush culture has replaced sensible and practical with fast and aggressive as objects of desire. Just as bigger, more powerful sport utility vehicles have replaced the family wagon as the family and cargo hauler-of-choice, faster, more powerful mounts like Honda's ST1100 as well as new aggressive race-bred sport tourers like Ducati's ST2 and Honda's new VFR Interceptor have sent bikes like the Concours and the Venture into virtual retirement. Although fast and sporty doesn't always mean success in America (note the surprising demise of Kawasaki's GPZ 1100 and Yamaha's GTS 1000), all around practicality isn't what most Americans look for in motorcycles.










The Pacific Coast might be the world's most sensible motorcycle, falling on Honda's evolutionary chain between the Helix and the ST1100. Comfortable ergonomics. Excellent weather protection. Real-world, almost automobile-like power delivery. A huge, visible car-like rear tail-light. And, of course, the trunk.







The trunk rules. It can comfortably carry four plastic bags full of groceries, along with a small bag of dog food. It can fit two full-sized helmets and two medium-sized gym bags. It's watertight. We rode the PC 800 thru two pre-El Nino Southern California monsoons without any water leaking into the trunk. And unlike side bags, stuff doesn't want to fall out when you open it.







The PC 800 might be too sensible. When the PC debuted, it was considered a radical bike -- the world's first motorcycle completely hermetically sealed within an envelope of plastic. In fact, the PC 800 seems ashamed of its motorcycle lineage. What this bike really wants to be is a car, all the way down to the automobile-like instrument panel and the textured PVC that covers the handlebars. Shhhhh: Listen closely and you can hear it whisper "I wish I were an Accord. I wish I were an Accord."






It didn't sell well at first, but over the years it has developed a following. The aesthetics are perhaps the most controversial element in this otherwise friendly, though Milquetoast bike. Our own unscientific survey revealed that people who don't like motorcycles like the looks of this bike. My mom, for instance. Your mom probably, too. A yuppie wanna-be stockbroker friend, who's wife wouldn't invite us to a cotillion of aging, preppy, former sorority-girls if we showed up on bikes, absolutely loved the Pacific Coast. They both did.

"This is the nicest bike you've ever had," said Wifey. "But you still can't come to the cotillion."

Hard core bikers had a different take.

"It's looks like a port-o-pottie on wheels," sniffed one staffer.

"It looks like a scooter on steroids," said another. "And this cotillion sucks. Lets go over to the garbage dump and break things." Cool.






The PC 800 is comfortable and the weather and wind protection are very good. But it's a porky bike, weighing in at 640 pounds wet. Still, it handles well in slow corners with a good turning radius and at straightaway speeds the soft suspension soaks up the bumps; faster corners feel mushy. The rear suspension offers four-way spring preload, but the 41mm front fork is non-adjustable. We did find it to be relatively flickable, but because of its long wheelbase it preferred to stand up. Like a Weeble, it wobbled but it didn't fall down.






The brakes, two twin-piston front discs and a drum at the rear, are very average. Fade was non-existent, but then there isn't an overabundance of stopping power, so there's not much there to fade. The front rotors are designed in such a way so that most disc locks will not fit.

The engine is a 45-degree V-Twin, and except for displacement it's essentially the same engine as found on the Shadow ACE and the ACE 750. As with Gold Wings, the PC 800 comes with hydraulic valve adjusters for easy maintenance. The engine is not particularly strong, and it has a very narrow powerband -- from approximately 4500 to 6500 rpms. While the engine feels as though it wants to explore the upper limits of the rpm range, the rev limiter kicks in at just after 7000. With a lack of both high end and low range power, shifts are frequent, up and down. Top speed as indicated was close to 105 mph. We wanted to put it on the dyno, but we couldn't figure out how to get to the plugs without disassembling the bodywork.






The Pacific Coast 800 fills a market niche currently unoccupied in the U.S. -- the sensible urban commuter. It may be an option for an older entry level rider or the occasional weekend tourer unable or unwilling to fork over ,000 USD for an ST1100. Hard-core bikers, like everyone else on MO's staff, will still sniff and make jokes, and the PC 800 certainly ain't a sex magnet, you're just not going to look bad-assed and cool on a Pacific Coast. But when this reviewer was given the choice of riding cross town to the gym on a hot new sportbike or the PC 800, he always chose the Pacific Coast. It's comfortable, has good weather protection and it has a trunk. If you're looking for a real-world commuter and you expect to be hauling more than can fit in a tank bag, then give the PC 800 a thought.


Rider Review 1998 PC 800

Rider Review: 1998 Honda Pacific Coast PC800T

by James MacDonald
Associate Editor
Beginner Bikes

The Honda Pacific Coast, designated PC800T by the manufacturer, is a remarkable motorcycle. Built from 1989 through 1998, with a few years out of production during that time, the Pacific Coast is powered by an 800 cc, liquid cooled V-twin that is as dependable as the day is long. The bike has an integral windshield and full fairing, and in one of the motorcycle's most remarkable features, the entire rear of the bike opens like a clamshell to reveal a huge "trunk" that can hold two full-face helmets with ease. If you are on a trip, you can lug just about everything you can think of in the PC. I purchased an after-market passenger backrest (sissy bar) for my PC, and for extended trips the trunk and my T-Bag let me take everything I could possibly need. The PC 800 looks a bit like a miniature Goldwing, and was really designed for professional folks commuting. Before I go on I have to tell you that you need a good self-image to ride one of these things because you'll take a boatload of grief from the cruiser riders and the sportbike riders alike. It is neither fish nor fowl, neither sportbike nor cruiser, but it may be the most utilitarian motorcycle on the road.

The PC is very stable, and while it weighs well over six hundred pounds, it is remarkably nimble and fun to ride. It has good, but not great, brakes, and the seating position for the rider is pretty much what one would expect on a "standard" motorcycle - not the accentuated forward lean of a sportbike, and certainly not the Lazy Boy feel with the forward controls of some cruisers. The seating position for the rider is similar to that of the older BMW tourers.

Honda stopped making the PC because it wasn't selling well due to the fact that it was priced well above the normal range for a bike of its 800 cc displacement, and also because it was often looked on by some as a sort of glorified scooter. That certainly is not the case, but that's what the perception was. The bike gets about 45-50 mpg, so the range is around 200 miles with the tank capacity being just over 4 gallons. There is no reserve, and the fuel gauge is notoriously inaccurate, so one starts out one's career with the PC by doing some trip odometer fuel consumption calculations. Better that than a flameout on the side of the road.

The major down side to the PC is that because it is completely enclosed motorcycle, it is a bear to get at the inner workings of the bike. It is a major exercise in deconstruction simply to get at the battery, and things go downhill from there in terms of accessibility. The positive is that the bike is basically bulletproof, so there is relatively little maintenance to worry about. I would, however, suggest that if you are considering buying a PC, that you buy a shop manual to help you figure out on what you can and cannot pull to disrobe this beast.

The Pacific Coast gets comments and stares wherever it goes. I was at the AMA Crossroads Rally in Ohio last summer, and as the only PC there, my little scoot was a great conversation starter. It is a reliable, maneuverable, and generally forgiving bike that is a great size, and I personally love my "flying jellybean." The following are some websites with more extensive reviews and impressions of the PC.