Now that it’s 2023, that means 1998 was 25 years ago and the Honda PC800, in its last year of production, is thus fair game for this week’s sacred Church of MO. The more all these years pile up, the more some of us dig practical devices like scooters. So why not a big scooter like this one? Alas, the PC may have just been ahead of its time in 1998. While we were busy salivating over new Yamaha R1s and Ducati 998s, calling the Pacific Coast the world’s most practical motorcycle may have been the most backhanded of compliments. Then again, the PC did enjoy a solid, decade-long run beginning in 1989, and there are plenty of nicely preserved ones still on the road.
Born To Be Mild
Mar. 05, 1998
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 $12,000 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.
Model: 1998 Pacific Coast 800
Price: $8699 USD
Engine: liquid cooled 45 degree V-twin
Bore x stroke: 79.5mm x 80.6mm
Carburetion: Two 46mm diaphragm-type CV
Transmission: Five speed, shaft drive
Wheelbase: 61.2 inches (1554.5mm)
Seat height: 30.1 inches (764.5mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.2 gallons (15.9L)
Claimed dry weight: 584.2 lbs (218.0kg)
Measured wet weight: 640.0 lbs (238.8kg)