Jun 21, 2010
Honda Pacific Coast 800 (PC800)
Although Honda has always had a solid reputation for being rock-solid reliable and even being responsible for innovative ideas when it comes to fuel-efficient engine designs, but they've never been known to produce eye-catching or particularly good-looking cars. In fact I'd say that most of the Honda auto lineup is quite plain, sedate and lacking any real aesthetically driven design cues.
But Honda motorcycles on the other hand have had a history of being a bit more adventurous, even ground-breaking at times. But one of the 'bikes Honda has produced that always caused a stir just from it's visuals was the Pacific Coast 800, or "PC 800" as it came to be known by it's loyal if not cult-like owners.
The Pacific Coast always garnered strange looks from those who didn't know what it was, from those thinking it was an oversized scooter to those suggesting it might have an all electric powerplant.
And in point of fact, the PC800 visuals were and are today strikingly different from every other motorcycle ever to come off a mass production line. From the front fender to the rear integrated storage system it looked like one massive fairing with only the hint of front forks creating a separation between front and rear wheel. The rear wheel is very Goldwing-ish in that 50% of the upper half is completely hidden by the massive rear fairing making up the enormously large split-area trunk. That's right, this is the only 2-wheeled Honda to ever house a rain-proof, water-sealed auto-like trunk.
But underneath the strange, space-aged exterior was a typical liquid-cooled Honda v-twin motor not unlike those used for the Shadow line of cruisers with a 5-speed transmission and shaft drive. In fact it had more in common with the Shadow 1100 in it's underpinnings that anything else.
Honda went over-the-top with accessories for the PC800 that seemingly had more in common with a Honda Civic than a motorcycle such as an inner trunk light, trunk floor mats, AM/FM radio, deck-lid mounted rear spoiler with brake light, scuff-guards and course the ultimate in touring 'bike add-ons, a backrest for the passenger.
My riding experience with the Pacific Coast was mixed. Because it's shaft-drive that meant the rear-end raised-up during hard accelerations rather than squatted down as chain-driven bikes do. In aggressive riding that makes for an uneasy feeling when your body starts gaining altitude while gaining speed.
Cornering and overall handling was fair; the PC800 really didn't take to well to being heeled-over hard in aggressive riding and the stock Bridgestone touring tires were easily overcome with either g-forces or too much throttle.
But hard-riding wasn't what the PC800 was meant for at all, in fact in it's initial marketing it was targeted at the "yuppie" crowd with the notion that you'd be wearing a tie while on your daily commute to work. That coupled with the cover-it-all fairing work gave the impression that the bike's mission was to separate the rider from the road - and itself - as much as possible, and easy-going riding styles were the preferred method of handling the PC800. Clearly this is not a sport-touring machine at all and shouldn't be ridden as one.
Although marketed as a svelte touring machine it always seemed strained at keeping up with highway speeds above 70mph, leaving me with the impression that it would have been a much better bike if it had been given a V4 motor like the VFR 750 or even ST1100, or at the very least an inline-4 such as on the Nighthawk.
To it's credit, cruising and low-speed maneuvers were a dream. The low center of gravity provided by the low-slung engine mounting meant that you could do lock-to-lock figure-8's in a parking lot with ease. The only other bike I've ridden with such a perfectly-low CG was the 6-cylinder Honda Valkyrie, a cruiser-style frame built around the Goldwing motor. And that was the PC800's claim to fame, was that for in-town city jaunts it was like a Honda Civic on 2-wheels; cushy, lot's of cargo space and very fuel efficient but not well suited to spirited driving.
There were a few other not-so-obvious niggles to ownership of the Pacific Coast. The extreme amount of bodywork made for plenty of fairing rattles and noises as both engine and road vibrations did their best to make the fairing mount points and seams either come loose or rub against each other in the most annoying fashion making long-distance riding an exercise in patience as you couldn't wait to get off the bike and stop the noise.
The full-length bodywork also meant that the entire engine was covered by it's own heat shield to protect not only the fairing plastics but the rider from the extreme heat build-up from the V-twin tucked deep inside it's bowels. Taking off two-layers of covers - the external fairing and then the inner heat-shield meant routine maintenance was a big hassle, even for the seasoned Honda-tech who generally loathed having to work on the over-sized scooter.
The Pacific Coast had a veritable long production-run with Honda from 1989 to 1998, surprising considering the market for the strange looking touring bike was quite small. From what I remember most of the PC800 customers came from California and other states had trickle orders as word of the "spacey-scooter" spread around.
This is the type of bike best suited to a collector or someone who doesn't plan on too many miles per year. It's certainly a comfortable ride and you definitely can't ignore it's unique body styling and futuristic visuals, but overall it's not as fun to ride as it might seem and lends itself to being a bit fussy both in handling and making plenty of vibration induced plastic-rubbing-against plastic noises.
Yet despite it's odd niggles, less than ideal high-speed handling and "fat scooter" appearing the PC800 still has a loyal following continuing to make it one of the most unique-looking rides on the road. If you enjoy getting a lot of "What's that?" attention and putting up with it's fussy maintenance needs then this just might be the perfect used bike for you.
RIDE SAFE: ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET AND USE THE HIGH-BEAM DURING DAYLIGHT.