Jun 21, 2010

Honda Pacific Coast 800 (PC800)

HONDA PACIFIC COAST (PC800) REVIEW

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.


CONCLUSION:  NEUTRAL

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.

11 comments:

  1. The PC800 has no "fussy maintenance needs" All items needed for pre ride checks such as water,or oil is behind two flaps, air filter or sparks plugs are behind two snap on panels. The cam chain pre tensioner, valve lifters and clutch are all hydraulic and the bike is shaft driven. Just fill up with gas and ride. Brigestone tyres are not the standard fitment as stated. Fit Dunlop k555 or Metzlers Marathons and the PC800 will scrape its foot pegs on twisty roads with ease. The front brakes are CBR600 twin disc and the Showa front forks have a anti dive system that works!. Indicators are self cancelling and three rear tail lights and two brake lights give added rear end safety at night.
    You cannot hear fairing squeek or much of anything over 40 mph due to normal wind roar but with a taller screen fitted and the almost silent vee twin engine the Honda fitted radio is a boon on long rides. The PC800 was too advanced for its time but is now seen as a fantastic mid sized tourer, fit a top box and it has more luggage capacity than a Goldwing. With its legendary robust, maintenance free, silky smooth motor you can commute, tour, or scratch as the mood takes you. Much miligned and under vaulued the Pacific Coast 800 is a real gem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The fussiness I mentioned was related to it's handling characteristics and the not-to-easily-controlled vibrations and squeaks that come from the massive amounts of body fairing work. Not maintenance issues as it was "nearly" maintenance free with exception to normal routines.

      I wouldn't say the PC800 was maligned as it was misunderstood. If it had been given the same nearly maintenance-free motor of the old Nighthawk 750 "S" of the mid 80's (which was also shaft drive) it would have made much more usable power and been better suited to long highway jaunts.

      If I ever came across another Honda-blood red PC800 in good shape I'd pick one up, just for posterity to ogle it. Whatever it was as a bike it's certainly a whole bunch of eye-candy.

      Delete
  2. I own 1989 PC800 in Dubai,UAE where in summer it reaches 55 C !! This Bike can coupe well in a very hot weather condition. This bike is still stylish & eye catching till today. It is a Heavy Duty Bike & it handles very well with excellent front brakes of Sport bike. She is a beautiful touring bike & excellent in using in city ride as it is comfortable. Easy to ride & full of fun

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have been riding a pc for 14 years. Your review nailed it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Perhaps you might look in on a review written by someone who rode a PC for nearly eight years...

    http://race-the-sunset.blogspot.com/2006/11/honda-pacific-coast.html

    Spent a weekend at Deal's Gap with this bike. Scraped pegs, never went down, had a blast during 18 runs on The Dragon, and a day on the Cherohala Skyway.

    ReplyDelete
  5. hi i was wondering if this bike was good fora ride from florida to new york

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Without a doubt. Absolutely!

      Delete
    2. Absolutely. Without any hesitations!

      Delete
  6. What changes if any did this bike have from 1989 to 1998? I know the paint and the front brake cover evolved.

    Ian

    ReplyDelete
  7. im looking in to getting a pc800 and its used with 61000 miles for 600 bu ks do u think its worth it ?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Any bike that sells for $600 dollars probably has major issues and would be considered a parts-only bike. But if it's actually running and doesn't have any major issues it would be the steal of the century.

    Get it checked out before purchasing - and good luck!

    ReplyDelete