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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 58 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Honda PC800 Pacific Coast


My '95 On Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Couey

History, Design, and Mission

Riding a Honda Pacific Coast makes you a lightning rod for all kinds of questions and comments. Over the years, I’ve gotten used to the worst of them, realizing that any motorcyclist who utilizes the term “rolling porta-potty” has issues of their own.

The Pacific Coast, or PC800, was introduced by Honda in the 1989 model year. It was a revolutionary look back then, the bike completely sheathed in plastic body panels, and a spacious clamshell trunk in the place of traditional saddlebags. The appearance was pure Starfleet, sans phasers and warp drive. Had it arrived in ET's UFO, it could not have been more striking. The futuristic shape caught the eye of filmmakers, appearing in movies such as “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man,” “Back to the Future,” and “The Bourne Identity.”

Honda wanted a bike that would appeal to the suit-and-tie set; a bike one could ride to work without the risk of soiling the Armani. With that in mind, they purposely modeled the rear end after the very popular Honda Accord, the Yuppie flavor of the month for that era. But while the broad rear and long taillights looked good on the car, it was a decidedly odd look for a bike.

Honda produced the PC initially for two years, the ’89 in an ethereal Pacific Pearl White, and the ’90 in a magnificent Candy Glory Red. However, the marketing folks at Honda rolled consecutive gutter balls, choosing a soft, jazzy, avante-garde approach for their ads (a technique also used initially by Infiniti automobiles). The popular image of the motorcycle, all leather, do-rags, and sweaty biceps, completely clashed with this approach. Bikers snickered, and Yuppies remained confused. The price point was too high, and the flood of execu-commuters never materialized. With a ton of surplus machines on hand, Honda halted production.
1989 PC800

1990 PC800

The company tried again in 1994, while still selling the bike in Europe and Japan from '91 to '93 (identified by a silver-blue paint job). Inflation had made the price of the bike much more palatable. Success was moderate and overall, Honda produced some 11,000 units through the 1998 model year before the guillotine fell, this time for good.
The Euro/Japanese model

The PC800 is possibly the most misunderstood motorcycle in industry history. The bike was designed as a sport-tourer, yes; but its primary intended function was commuting. Hence, its capacious carrying capacity, low-maintenance, upright riding position, and the artful balance between a bike heavy enough for stability, yet nimble enough to maneuver through heavy traffic. As long as you understand this basic fact, then the bike becomes comprehensible.

--It was never intended to be a CBR in drag. If eyeball-squishing acceleration is what you want, look somewhere else.

--It was never intended to be Just Another Harley Clone. If that's what you're after, check the sheep pens across the road.

--And while it is a perfectly capable long distance tourer, it won't ever grow into a two-wheeled RV, like the Goldwing.

It's kinda like a country doctor: it does a lot of things well, it’s just not a specialist.

Design Strengths

These days, the volatile nature of gas prices has many commuters looking at motorcycles in an entirely new light; from the standpoint of practicality. Along with the exalted MPG, maintenance issues are usually high on the list. Commuters don't like to tinker. They want "gas 'n' go." One of the Pacific Coast’s strengths is that it’s about as close to that ideal of “fill and forget” as you’ll ever get with a motorcycle. Noteworthy are the hydraulic valves, which eliminate the need for valve adjustments. Digital ignition, hydraulic clutch, and automatic cam chain tensioners add to the easy care. The exterior skin also means that clean-up is an absolute breeze. 15 minutes, and this baby shines as it did on the showroom floor.

These enhancements, combined with the bike's tremendous reliability combine to make it one of the most economical rides on the road. Over the nearly 8 years that I owned my PC, the operating costs (including gas, oil, tires, batteries, maintenance, and the very occasional repair), consistently stayed below 7 cents per mile. By comparison, my 4-cylinder Toyota Camry averaged a hedonistic 13 cents per mile.

The design has some nice well-thought-out features. At the four corners are crash bars, covered in plastic and smoothly integrated into the skin. If the bike does lay over, these bars keep the main body from contacting the pavement. The rear views are the breakaway type with integrated turn signals. If they snap off, they can be reattached with patience and an Allen wrench. Another nice touch is the Torque-Reaction Anti-Dive Control, quite the nifty piece of handling tech. Self-canceling turn signals were available through the 1995 edition.  And while the big tail lights look odd, you can be sure that when you activate either turn signal or brake, whoever's behind you will know it; far better than the tiny-by-comparison red dots most bikes have.

The car-like instrument cluster is large, easily readable at any speed and logically laid out. It includes a speedo, tach, fuel gauge, water temp gauge, and warning lights for oil pressure, high beam, and sidestand. Strangely, on a bike where the engine noise is so hard to hear, there's no gear indicator, except for the nominal neutral light. It also lacks a clock, but as one rhapsodic PC owner soliloquized, "Riding is a timeless exercise in freeing the human spirit. Who the hell needs a clock for that?"

The seat is wide and comfortable, which is fine for long-distance, but a little awkward for the back-and-forth slide of the dedicated knee-dragger. Seat height is a comfortable 30.1 inches, which fits perfectly for a rider between 5'6" and 5'11". For the long-legged, the forward crash bars are perfectly placed and configured to mount a set of after-market highway pegs. The rider position is almost upright with just a slight forward lean, and the knees at a relaxed angle of 100 degrees; very comfortable, especially for those long days.

Uniqueness

On a machine known for its unapologetic individuality, it's most singular characteristic is the sound it makes, somewhat reminiscent of something owned by George Jetson, or a very large industrial fan. This was a key to the marketing of the bike. Honda figured that for the PC's targeted demographic (the urban professional), or the novice rider (and the suburban neighbor), noise is intimidating. Even annoying. This bike is beyond quiet. It's almost stealthy. PC owners have yarned about idling along close behind pedestrians completely ignorant of the bike's presence. Usually such a story ends with details of air horns and sudden bladder control problems. Underway, once you get past 60 mph, mostly what you hear is the wind. And its silky smoothness almost makes you forget that you're sitting astride a V-twin.

(By the way, if you're a member of the "Loud Pipes Save Lives" crowd, allow me to point out that accident statistics collected by the insurance industry and NHTSA show no correlation between the presence of loud pipes and lower "failure to yield" accident rates.)

Of course, there's the trunk. Even people who hate the bike love the trunk. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 liters, the space opens vertically, which means that you could lay a neatly folded suit coat in there and have it arrive at your destination perfectly unwrinkled. Because the seams are overlapped and parallel to the ground, the space is completely waterproof. And when you open it, your possessions won’t fall into the mud, as they are wont to do with side-opening bags. As a commuter, it is a great sense of freedom to be able to park the bike, stow your chaps, jacket, boots, and helmet in a locked space and walk away, rather than carting all that gear into work with you.

This cavernous space can carry up to five paper bags of groceries (2.5 bags per side), enough clothes for a three-week trip with no laundry days, and a host of other loads that would frustrate lesser machines. More than one PC owner has been accused of using their bike like a pickup truck. Many times I've been followed from checkout stand to parking lot by people who were frankly curious how I was going to pack all that stuff home. Should the Diet Coke spring a leak on the ride home, removing a couple of rubber drain plugs in the bottom of the trunk makes cleanup a snap. Adding the Givi top box, either the 46-, 52-, or 55-liter, actually gives the bike as much or more capacity than its big brother, the opulent Gold Wing. And the bike is so well-balanced that unless you insist on carrying barbells or bowling balls up there, you won't notice the extra mass.

Technical Discussion

The PC's beauty goes beyond skin-deep.

The engine, the slightly re-worked mill from the 750 Shadow, is an 800cc SOHC 45-degree V-twin with three valves and two spark plugs per cylinder, producing 46 hp at 6,700 rpm. The engine has a bore and stroke of 79.5 mm x 80.6 mm and a compression ratio of 9.0:1. It breathes through two 36 mm diaphragm-type Mikuni carbs. Punch the starter button and the plant is fired by a solid-state digital ignition. It is smooth, durable, and efficient, but hardly dramatic. It will go 120 mph with an almost eerie calm (um...or so I've heard), but you might want to take a good book along for the acceleration part of the ride. It has proven over time to be a virtually bulletproof power plant. In the long memory of the Pacific Coast community, the only PC engines known to have gone bad were both victims of owners forgetting that last important step to an oil change: replacing the oil. Even so, they both managed to get over 30 miles down the road before the pistons seized, apparently so enraptured as to completely miss the blazing bright red oil light.

Like all Honda motors, it is quality through-and-through. It's not unusual to find owners who have racked up in excess of 150,000 miles without any major repairs. The current record is 301,047 miles, a PC done in by an inattentive cell-phone gabbing multi-tasking mini-van driver.

And it’s perfectly happy sipping 87 octane at a rate of 40 to 50 miles per gallon, depending on speed and aggressiveness.

The engine is paired with a robust radiator cooling system that keeps things within limits even on the hottest days. The radiator fan, like a car's, works off a switch connected to the engine thermostat. It almost seems counter-intuitive that a clothed bike could keep an engine cool, but the sensuous skin hides a sophisticated and efficient cooling air path.

The 5-speed gearbox can be a bit clunky at times, but still does its thing with little fanfare. A virtually indestructible shaft drive completes the drive train ensemble.

The frame is connected to the ground by 41 mm forks up front, with 5.7 inches of travel. In the back is a double-sided swing arm and dual shocks with four-way preload and 5.1 inches of travel.

The brakes are adequate, dual 2-pot discs in front and a drum in the back.

The road is lit by a single halogen lamp. It comes with the standard 55/60-watt H4 bulb, but most riders run at least an 80/100-watt for extra illumination. I have actually run up to a 100/130 bulb after adding a relay to the headlamp circuit. Trust me, there is no such thing as excess in the search for deer along the roadside.

The standard shoes were Dunlop K-177's (which became K-555's), 120/80-17 front and 140/80-15 rear, although except for the '89 model, there's enough room in back to run a 90-series tire, if you so choose. The rubber is mounted on custom alloy wheels. However, many owners have shifted to Metzelers, preferring the much longer tread life and greater load capacity of the Teutonic tires. The appeal of the Dunlop is that brand's slightly softer compound, which makes it (by narrow comparison, IMHO) a better rain tire; albeit with a shorter tread life. This is important, since most PCers are dedicated all-weather riders. The drawback is that the Dunlop tread pattern meets in the middle of the tire.  So when you ride over longitudinally grooved pavement, or an open-grate bridge, the wheels have a nerve-wracking tendency to dance, as the tires try to follow the not-so-nuanced directions of the road surface. On the other hand, Metzeler's tread pattern overlaps the center, so grooves and grates are mostly ignored. However, when you lean hard into a twisty, the Metzeler's will moan at you. I never let the sound bother me, but others find it unnerving. There are PC's out there also wearing Michelin, Avon, Pirelli, and Cheng Shin. But there's no more passionate debate among owners than the one between respective fans of "Dancing Dunlops" and "Moaning Metzelers."

All the model years are almost identical, so parts are still very available. You can ID the vintage of most PC's by their paint job. '94 and '95 models were black over silver. '96 models were red over black. For '97 and '98, the bike lost its front wheel shroud in favor of short fender, while retaining the same red over black paint.
1994/1995 PC800
1996 PC800
1997 PC800
1998 PC800

Riding Personality

Easy rideablility is one of the best characteristics of the Pacific Coast. The bike has a very low center of gravity, (helped by the 4.2-gallon internally mounted under seat fuel tank) which makes it a very friendly machine to operate, even at parking lot speeds. At 584 pounds dry/620 pounds wet, it is a bit heavy, but nothing you feel once underway. For new riders, the PC is very friendly and forgiving, despite its apparent girth. For experienced veterans, the bike gives you reliability out the wazoo, which means far more time riding than fixing, perfectly filling the commuting bill.

The real joy of owning a PC comes when you take this Starship into the twisties. It's relatively high underclearance and low center of gravity allows the rider to...not "flick" really...perhaps "fling" would be the better term. Once you get into the rhythm, you can't help but smile. It is oh, so stable, which gives the rider an absolutely intoxicating feeling of confidence.

In the straightaways, the PC is pure pleasure. The seating is comfortably upright, which allows the rider great 360-degree visibility without undue neck strain. On hot days, the body panels keep the engine heat from roasting your legs, a nice touch I discovered on a hot July afternoon in Phoenix, Arizona. And since the engine is so smooth at all speeds, you can easily rack up a 700-mile day and not feel like the bike spent the time pummeling your pelvic saddle.

The full fairing and tall windshield provide a comfortable bubble for the rider. At high speeds, however, the bubble tends to collapse between the rider and the passenger, making the backseater feel buffeted, especially around the helmet. The occasional appearance of bugs coming at you from behind attests to the odd aerodynamics at work. The only place where the wind protection breaks down is on the hand grips.  Unless you have heated grips or heated gloves, 3 or 4 hours in sub-40 degree (f) winds is likely to become problematic.   To be fair, this is a common weakness of all faired bikes, something that should be an easy design fix but is rarely addressed.  I suggest the purchase of a pair of devices called "Hippo Hands." 

I remember one spring day when a yellowjacket got sucked into that low-pressure space between me and the windshield. For about a mile, it hovered there, staring me down until I broke the spell by batting it out of the way. Disconcerting? Yeah, I thought so.

This machine is equally at home eeling through rush-hour traffic, trekking along the Superslab with the trunk stuffed to the gills, or rippin’ through Killboy Corner at Deal’s Gap. The flexible nature of the PC’s design was also revolutionary. Back then, you had to choose between “go hard” motorcycles and “go far” motorcycles. The PC melded the two together quite nicely.

Photo by Darryl Cannon, Powerhead Productions.
"This one shoulda been in the highlights, Killboy!"

Zits and Boils

Of course, no bike is completely perfect. Pacific Coast owners yearn for the 1100cc powerplant from the big Shadow. The tranny feels like it's a gear short, and the stator has very little excess capacity, so loading up aftermarket electronics requires the accurate computation of wattage. Over 100,000 miles, the top end of the engine will sometimes develop oil seepage. In a rare "why did they do this?" Honda used goop instead of gasket to seal the marriage between those two engine pieces. This seepage has absolutely no effect on the engine performance whatsoever, but it does leave embarrassing Harley-like oil spots on the garage floor. It's an easy fix, in and of itself, but the amount of disassembly and reassembly required is both time-consuming and expensive.

(Let me step in here and offer a reality check. On what other motorcycle have you ever gotten a maintenance advisory about a problem at 100,000 miles? How many other motorcycles would you expect to even still be on the road at 100,000 miles? Don't think too long; the list is very short.)

The gas tank needs to be bigger. PC riders complain that 180 miles is too short a distance to have to pull over and fuel up. The bike is that comfortable. In addition, the float in the gas tank has to be adjusted, since the default factory setting has the gage reading "E" when you actually have about half a tank left. (Easy instructions on the Internet Pacific Coast Rider's Club website -- more on that just ahead.) A common complaint is an incipient odor of gasoline that tends to develop in most of these bikes. The culprit is either the vacuum petcock, easily replaceable. (Hint: order the one for the V65 Sabre.  It's the same part, but less expensive.), or the plastic "T" connecter between the carbs.  Replace it with a brass connector.  On the ’89 model sometimes the trunk rubs on the rear tire, a problem made more acute by running the larger tire size or overloading the trunk.  Also on some '89's the stator dies an early death at around 30,000 miles. Both issues were fixed for the 1990 model and beyond, although Big Red still won't 'fess up to the stator issue.

The skin consists of a series of interconnected panels assembled in a sort of Rubik-like sequence attached by pin-and-boss and Allen screws. Over the years, some older models have begun to experience a few problems with the mounting systems, the plastic becoming somewhat brittle with age. When you introduce a PC to your wrench, it is important to make sure he or she knows the ins-and-outs of the off-and-on. This, of course, adds unwanted labor dollars to any repair bill. Some PC owners remove the panels themselves before turning the bike over to the shop.

Probably the most exhaustive site for PC technical information would be the one belonging to Douglas Van Bossuyt.  If you can't find it here, it simply doesn't exist.

Making the Bike Your Own

Like any other bike, the stock version is the empty canvas upon which is brush-stroked the manifestations of a rider’s personality. The Pacific Coast is no different. The broad expanses of empty body panels practically scream for custom paint, or for the monetarily challenged, pin striping and stickers.

Some of the most common owner additions and modifications include, radio/CD/CB (speaker cutouts flank the instrument cluster), voltmeter, auxiliary lighting, suspension upgrades, stiffer clutch springs, trunk liners, Givi top box, custom seating, air horns, and GPS. (For a comprehensive list, see the IPCRC website.) One owner grafted a larger 5.5-gallon fuel tank onto the bike, which required some design ingenuity. Another owner, a welder by trade who opted for a more authoritative exhaust note, adapted the 2-into-2 exhaust system from the Shadow.

Unfortunately, no one yet makes a performance-enhancing jet kit for the PC. But there was one guy who added a nitrous injection system. According to legend, he removed it after the first test, which turned his born-to-be-mild PC into a bucking bronco, launching a wild eye-bulging, sinus-clearing, lung-emptying, butt-puckering wheelie from 70 miles per hour. Apparently, the immediate decision to uninstall was heavily influenced by his wife, who was occupying the pillion seat at the time.

Strength of Community

The Pacific Coast has attracted a sizeable international following, identified by the cheeky “Body by Tupperware” decals. (If you ask, they'll "burp" the trunk for you.)

The PC community is probably the least pretentious of the plethora of owner’s groups out there. They are a truly eclectic group of people, home base for whom is the IPCRC (Internet Pacific Coast Riders Club). The group numbers about 4,000 members from 18 different countries. A recent poll showed that the majority of them work in the engineering and IT fields, which is a strong statement in itself. Clearly, folks for whom precision is a way of life find this bike attractive.

The group sponsors many rides throughout the year, always easily identified. A parking lot full of brightly colored PC800s resembles not so much a covey of bikes as a spilled bag of Skittles. They don’t shave their heads, or wear orange togas, or dance around chanting “100 liters of bags on the bike…” but it is a very close-knit, yet warm and welcoming community.  In addition, there are other smaller organizations built around this bike in England and Japan as well.

Hannibal, MO
 
 Laurel Highlands, PA

Available to all owners is the legendary WOTL, or "Wisdom of the List," the accumulated hard-won knowledge acquired by IPCRC members. This includes some short-cuts and work-arounds regarding maintenance access to the bike's innards. For example, a wrench may tell you he has to remove the entire trunk to change the rear tire. Actually, just taking out the rear tail light bar gives just enough room. Other mechanics may state that up to five panels have to be removed to replace the battery. The IPCRC has devised a method that requires the removal of only one panel. It pays to ask the experts.

The IPCRC is also a great source for all the anecdotal information one needs to properly evaluate the potential purchase of this bike. There you can find the answer to the eternal question, "Why would I want a motorcycle for which the newest model is already 15 years old?"

The answer is simply this:

It runs. And runs. And runs. And runs. (Detecting a pattern here, are ya?)

A PC and Your Reputation

As a PC owner, or as they preferred to be called, "Rider," you will undoubtedly endure rude comments from the unwashed and uneducated, those who think the only machine worthy of the title "motorcycle" has to be loaded with chrome and sound like an earthquake. "Super Scooter" is one of the nicer terms, although on a charity ride, I heard my bike referred to as LaToya Jackson -- "All fat ass and fake leather." (His words, not mine.) But make no mistake, when in mixed motorcycle company, the curious will walk past the Harleys and the sporties, straight to the PC and ask serious questions. The Pacific Coast is, quite simply, admirably unique. The only other bike that approaches its smooth, swoopy look is the BMW K1200LT, a bike so visually similar that, when initially presented to the public, caused suspicious PC owners to mutter, "Hey, wait a minute..." (A few PC owners have carried out a snarky piece of subterfuge by putting BMW decals on their bikes. They've fooled a lot of people.)
No, Bavaria doesn't have a Pacific Coast.
Or any coast, for that matter.

Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to earn Rider's Respect with this bike. Not necessarily while parked at the local Dairy Queen, but where it really counts. On the road. In the twisties. And on the odometer. This is not a bike for investors or speculators, or those who have the need to look "cool." This is a bike for riders, people serious about the sport, both the fun and practical parts. If your riding is limited to Sunday afternoon excursions, racking up maybe 1,000 miles per year, or you own a bike simply to impress your buddies down at the local beer bistro, this may not be the machine for you. If, on the other hand, you enthusiastically ride whenever it's not actually snowing, and 2,000-mile-months are par for your course, the PC800 will fit you like a glove. It'll start every morning and run all day (and all night, if need be) without causing you a minute of worry or apprehension.

Joining the Cult...er...Family

A good-condition well-maintained Pacific Coast with low miles can be had for less than 4 large, which makes for a very reasonable investment. Purchasers be warned, however! Figures given in Kelly Blue Book and the NADA Guide are hopelessly out of date. Over the past three years, market values (what people have been actually willing to pay) have boomed. Final figures from Ebay auctions reflect the actual market values of PC800's anywhere from $800 to $2,000 higher than where the "price bibles" peg them. Since banks and credit unions rely on them to decide loan values, be prepared to contribute some of your personal jack to complete the purchase.

The good news, is that these values reflect the quality and longevity of these bikes. With proper care, the Pacific Coast will last you well into the 6 figure range of your odometer.

The Life of a Happy Maverick

The PC was, and is unlike any other bike on the road. It's looks, versatility, performance, and easy upkeep has simply had no contemporary match. There were bikes that were faster, larger, trail-rated, or more flickable; but none that did, and still do as many things as well as the Pacific Coast. The generous storage means that this bike is not only good for sporting pleasures, but running most of the shopping errands you need done.

Not to sound too karmic, but the PC800 is a bike that becomes more relationship than ownership.  Part of that has to do with the unique sense of oneness one gets from riding it.  Also, PC owners generally hang on to their bikes for much longer than average.  I owned mine for nearly 100,000 miles.  And I'm not unique.  This explains why almost all PC owners "name" their bikes.  These sobriquets range from the corny, such as Nata Harli (Not a Harley -- get it?) to the ethereal, such as Seishin no Yomichi, or "Spirit of the Night Streets."

This machine gets attention from a different crowd, those who are individualistic enough to eschew a Milwaukee product or any of their dozens of clones, and mature enough to know their own limitations as far as speed and power are concerned. For them, a bike is more “tool” than “toy.” They know what a jewel of a bike this is.

And quite frankly, they don't care what anyone else thinks.

The very definition of a rebel.

If you’re tempted to ask, “So What?” bear in mind that this is what Honda’s target demographic was when the bike was introduced 20 years ago. For these wise pragmatists, functionality rules; and the Pacific Coast is eminently functional.

This is what owning a PC is like:

A few years ago, I rode to a company picnic hosted by my wife’s employer. I rolled up to a parking area already full of chrome and iron. From a distance, I could see the sarcastic grins already forming. I parked the bike, enduring the semi-drunken hooha, which continued until I swung open the trunk lid to reveal both sides filled with ice, beer, and soda.

Reverent silence followed.

Functionality wins again.

34 comments:

Todd said...

I have a black 94 PC. I like the fact that you just add gas and oil, check tire pressure, and go. I have a 93 Moto Guzzi 1000S that I wrench on all the time. It looks great and is a one-off ride but you know, there's something to be said about just getting on a bike, hitting the ignition button and knowing it will behave the same old way every single time.

Not too many people seem to look down their noses at the PC anymore. Most come running over when you flip open the rear storage and stand there with their mouths open. I let them close it and their happy!

Thomas said...

I just bought an 89 for 1900US and I am having to put it in the shop. The guy let it sit for over a year and the carbs are stopped up. Another 500 on carbs and it should be good. So I will have a total of 2500 or so and I can not wait to ride it.

Studio 7 said...

Great article!
The engine is related to the one in the old VT500 in Europe.
I rode that bike as a motorcycle courier in London in the 80s. The bike was reliable, quick of the line, fuel efficient and comfortable. With the CX500 out of production this bike was unbeatable.
Fast forward to the here and now, I heard the PC800 first in a parking lot. A weird red something went by me, but the *sound* was pure VT500.
I found and accosted the bemused owner, asking him to start the bike up again. Yep, thats a V-Twin!
This bike is the best, most misunderstood and maligned bike ever.
Now, if only I had one :-(

Thanks again for a great article.

Aaron said...

A wonderful summary!

I'm a 1998 PC800 owner and I expect to turn 30,000 on the odometer during the afternoon commute today. Originally purchased from my father in 2007 (I'm the second owner) with 15,000 on the clock, it's been my daily driver ever since. Sure, I miss the occasional comfort of a vehicle at times, but it's been the best bike I've owned since. I know I can count on it for another 30k, no worries included.

Keith said...

Keith from Hawaii

Is anyone having trouble with their carbs clauging up due to the E-10 gas? This seems to be a problem here in Hawaii. Any EFI kits?

Dave said...

All true, with two exceptions: First, the 1989 PC was not "Frigidaire White". Honda called it "Pacific Pearl White" and it is just that - a pearlescent cream color, not a stark fridge white. The lower color of the '89 is "Ocean Gray Metallic". Second, the Torque Reactive Anti-Dive Control was not exactly "cutting edge". Honda developed it years earlier and it made its first appearance on a production model at least seven years prior to the PC (e.g. the '82 CX500 Turbo has it).

A gear indicator might be nice, but what I think is strange is that the PC doesn't have a clock!

Finally, to the two schlubs who changed their oil and forgot to add new oil, I guess I could see that happening. What's unbelievable to me is: How does one ride thirty miles without once looking down at the instrument cluster? How does one not notice the huge (1.5 inch wide) angry red "oil" light glaring at him?

Anonymous said...

I own a 94 PC800. I will never purchase another bike again. Simply the best bike I have ever owned.

frans said...

Wonderful article!
Right now (May 2009) I'm using my second PC800. The first one had to go, most cables had gone, and the rear fork was getting very light through lack of metal. All due to ten years summer and winter (with salt on the roads). But they were a nice 150,000 kilometers (or ± 93,250 miles; it used to be a Canadian). The engine went to another PC800.
So I needed a 'new' bike. I found a light blue 'Italian' 1990 with 21,300 kms (± 13,250 mls) in April 2006. That has been more than doubled by now. But I stopped using it on salted roads.

Anonymous said...

Great bike. Let the Harley owners jeer. I can ride 200 miles, stop for the day and jump back on in the morning without any "adjustments" and not leaving an oil slick. I wish Honda would produce a 2010 version. I'd be first in line to drop a deposit

Anonymous said...

I bought my first PC800 in 1995. I still own it and after over 85,000 miles I can say that it has been the most fun and reliable motorcycle that I have ever owned. Never a break down, never failed to start. Never failed to put a big smile on my face on every ride. A few months ago I was lucky to find a low milage '90 PC that I more or less bought for a spare. I plan on spending the rest of my life with at least one PC800 in my garage!

Anonymous said...

To all of you PC800 owners out there, do not let this gem go. I made the mistake of selling mine about 5 years ago to "upgrade" and have regretted it ever since. I am currently looking for a good condition used one and have not had the best luck. It is in my opinion the best commuter bike ever made. I miss mine dearly, don't make the same mistake.

Anonymous said...

I'm the proud 2nd owner of a 96 pc 800, would not trade for a new harley. it get alot of attention because people dont know if its a crotch rocket or a scooter.lol i just tell them it rides like a cadilack

Senor said...

I just bought a 1989 PC with 19,000 miles. I always loved the bike but reading this put me on the hunt for one. Found it within an hour of my house. If you see a guy in NJ flying around on a white 1989 PC, that would be me. Thanks for the great write-up

mcauley said...

Very good blog! Loved some of the comments, though the missus had difficulties understanding the subtle points made through wit.;o)
I have returned to biking after about 20 years spent looking through the windows of a car and sighing, when passing a bike.
The bike I have been riding is an 84 CB 750 Bol D'Or. A competent if unexiting bike according to many who claim to be in the know.
Am now looking at a PC 800 as everything I have read says that this is a very capable bike for commuting. I have 100 kms to work each way i all kinds of weather on the Danish motorway, so I do alot of riding, and this is hard on a bike where the riders weight is on the wrists and shoulders (I'm not a spring chicken anymore).
One thing I have had difficulties finding info on is the fuel economy. Is it good bad or just indifferent.
Anyway thanks for a lot of usefull info.
I am certain this is the machine for me.

catlinspost said...

I am the happy and proud owner of the very last "Pacific Coast" sold new here in New Zealand and hope never to need to buy another bike. I ride it all year, not every day, but certainly in the snow and rain. I just love how easy it is to clean and make it look in showroom condition again. A quick wash and dry off and a coat of wax once in a while.

Magoo said...

I am writing this at 3:00 a.m. I purchased a '98 PC800 on Ebay and I have to wait 3 more days and drive 6 hours to go get it. Until then I am enjoying blogs like this until I can experience the ride myself. I will use it mainly for commuting 85 miles each way to work in Michigan, and then hopefully do some touring on the weekends. Thanks for all the positive comments, which have allayed all my fears of buying without riding.

whitepomfret said...

Thanks for your wonderfully discerning article, Ralph. the year was 1997 and I was hunting for a mid-sized bike after selling my BMW R100G/S PD Classic (i know, I know, the last of it's kind - it was a pain to sell it but I moved back to Singapore from Perth, Australia and couldn't bring'er with me).

I came across the PC800, tried it in the tight industrial estate workshop-ridden alleys (the industry and insurance practice here discouraged 'try before you buy' - weird but true!. And yes, it was comfy but the look just didn't cut it for me. I just couldn't see the engine. I ended up with the last (current?) euro CB750. Had to rig up Givi panniers and top box for practicality.

Speeding up through 14 years: a GpZ900 Ninja, BMW K100, V-Max, and a Surly Long Haul Trucker later (I 'upgraded' to a touring bicycle for 7 years after my thirsty 10km/ltr V-Max died.) , I've come back to motorcycling.

I sought a buddy, a bike reviewer, advice on an advertised PC800. He recommended it vehemently to me saying THAT is the bike for YOU. He gave me heaps of tips and I went to check it out. It was too expensive for what it was, but when I rode it again after all these years, I realised what i was missing. My search started. It was either the PC800 or the Deauville. Either or.

Then I came across this 87,000+ mile piece in pristine knick two weeks back. 1997 model. It's 2011 now. Couldn't expect too much of it. wondered if it already ran round the clock. I started the engine and it purred. Because the compression is so low, the motor'll hold up so mileage for the age seemed reasonable.

Your article has been very insightful for me. Assuring is another word. 300,000 mile? After my K100 at 200,000 +, I believe you.

I'm now the growing fanatic of this absurdly wonderful pleasure of engineering which makes me ask myself why didn't I go for it 14 years back????!!!!

Why not? I'll share: Life's full of experiences for us to savour. There are very few things I have regretted. I've taken the long road many a time, and for this one, 4 bikes after makes this experience all the more sweeter.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ralph, I really appreciate them. Cheers!

tt
Singapore

Anonymous said...

Great review: it gets posted & reposted across the InnerWeb, so you should feel proud! 2 things tho', from the hardward description: #1, Mikuni isn't part of Honda's keiretsu, so I suspect that you really meant to write "Keihin" when you were describing what carburetors it comes with. Also, the PC800 has a good, old-fashioned double sided swingarm, it's just that the shaft drive runs inside the tube on one side. Other than those niggles, I liked your review very much!

manos said...

Just joined the coaster world gaining my 89er PC800 here in Greece. Realy very tough to find, I had to wait for two years. Previously owned an ST1100 for which I was very happy but unfortunately had to give it away due to serious engine problems. I find this one very cool and after having many different rides the last 30 years, I'll stick around to this one since I was amazed with the reviews, comments etc. Someone told me that the engine is the same with Honda Africa Twin 750 dont know is is true though. But it is a great bike. Cheers to all and wish to see you somewhere in Europe for a coaster world gathering ;-)

Khal said...

Thanks for the information. A 1997 PC800 just showed up on the local used car lot in Los Alamos (aka, the "lemon lot") that I stopped to look at this morning. Not knowing anything about the bike, I got on the web and found your site.

My interest goes to its reliability and function. My last bike was a 1979 CX-500 to which I added an Aero faring (this was back circa 1982). That bike was the definition of reliability. Being back on the continent from a career in Hawaii, I'm looking for another set of wheels.

wolfymarcella said...

Came across your blog through a FB post (of Honda PC800 of course!)VERY informative! I have been living in New Zealand for over 30 years now (originally from Germany)and after more than 20 odd years without a motorcycle, but looking for one for about 2 yeras I got back into the saddle again last year by buying a '98 PC800. My beloved called it snickeringly ""attack of midlife crisis" but enjoying the occasional ride with me.
Bikes I owned in the 80's included a Honda CB900F Bol d'Or and a CX500Turbo, which i both loved at the time , but i must say the Pacific Coast perfectly fits my style at this time of my life, and of course NZ is a beautiful counrty for lengthy bike trips, as there is so much to see. Also became a menber of a motorcycle club, called "Ulysses" whose motto is "...Grow old disgracefully!" and and age minimum of 50 to join as a full member! Lots of fun, rides and cameradery.

Anonymous said...

Great article! I bought my 94 PC new and have ridden it since with no problems. It just gos and gos. I will never own another bike.

Bill from Virginia said...

I recently purchased a '94 PC800 as a retirement present to myself. I am a newbie to the PC world and found your description/history of the PC one of the best on the internet. I bought my PC from a neighbor who treated it like his first born child. Even with 47k miles it looks and rides like a new bike...garage kept, covered and never ridden in the rain. Year round riders might think that's a bit wimpy but it sure kept the bike clean. I'm looking forward to putting another 47k on it.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know this bike existed until I saw one at the 2011 VJMC annual show, at Uttoxeter racecourse, in the UK.
Up until that time, I owned a 1977 Honda CB400/4 F1 model, which I'd bought to enjoy riding during my retirement years, as I'm now 66 years old.
I used to ride a 400/4 back in the late 70's/early 80's, which I simply adored, but sadly sold it, due to the needs of a growing family wanting 4 wheeled transport.
After buying my 'new CB400/4', my Grandson asked me which bike would be my 'Dream Bike', and when I told him I would have loved to own a Honda Pan European ST1100, he proceeded to find one, without my knowledge, on Ebay. Needless to say, I bought it, because it was in perfect condition, very low mileage, and a 'steal' at the price.
So there I was, thinking things couldn't get much better, when I'm suddenly looking at this 'so unusual', and gorgeous looking PC800, and I was instantly 'totally Smitten'.
We found one, again on Ebay, for a ridiculously low price, perfect condition 1998, 8700 miles, and there was never any doubt that after a 'test drive in a cul de sac', that we were meant for each other.
'Timmy' as it's known, now resides in my garage, along with 'Tommy', his big brother (the Pan European), whilst my CB400/4 lives in my workshop, alonside my son's 'Baby blade', a Honda CBR400RR.
When compared to a Pan European, I find the PC800 is a more comfortable, and less stressful ride.
Having said that, the ST1100 is one fabulous tourer, but I much prefer the PC800, and yes, it does cause a stir, from both bikers, and the general public,especially when you open the boot!!
Anyway, I'm totally happy with all 3 of my bikes - they're all favourites to me - the CB400/4 is purely for nostalgia, although is fun to ride - The ST1100 is an out and out tourer, and the PC800 is just the best bike I've ever ridden.
To close my comments, I'd just like to add, that I'm not an 'out and out biker', but I enjoy the bikes for what they give me - freedom.
This summer,I'm going to visit my brother, who lives 300 miles away, in Scotland. I was going to go on the Pan European, for it's touring capabilities, but that's been changed, as I'm now determined to go on the Pacific Coast.
Why? Because it's just the best!!
By the way - thanks for a fabulous article.
Mike - Chesterfield - England

Anonymous said...

I fell in love with the looks of the PC in the mid-90's, but was not a rider at all. I bought an old nighthawk in '09 to learn how to ride and started looking for my own PC as soon as I discovered I could ride,sort of. I found one painted a beautiful sky-blue and 2 days later was riding it the 400 miles home! After tracking down and replacing the bad rectifier, I have put 14,000 miles on it in the 1 1/2 years since. Rode it to Denver and back last August(2500 miles) and was not the least bit sore after 4 hard days of riding! I told wife and kids they will have to do something with it when I'm gone because I'm riding it till I'm done!

Fundy Rider said...

I happen to see one last year(an 89) and it caught my fancy. The 89 was not in the best of shape so I looked around and found a 98 with 6500 miles on it. (had to go 1500 km to get to it) Careful inspection showed it was original miles and had not been around the clock. Bought it, rode 4000 miles last summer, everyone with a smile. Where have you been all my life. I hope to have this bike as long as I am riding.

Anonymous said...

I have owned over 30 motorcycles in my life. ( I will be 54 this summer, 2012 ) I recently purchased an 09 Triumph Sprint St in Phantom Black. (what a bike!) Two weeks later, ( yesterday ) I bought a clean 1998 pc 800 with 26000 miles for $2700. I have always admired this bike, and find I really do enjoy riding the nerdy little thing as much as my torquey, wonderful Trumph triple. I have always enjoyed relatively problem free bikes that included 4 cx 500 s, and a 2000 vfr. I bought the pc 800 with the intent of flipping it for an $800 profit or so, but, I may keep it around.

John Scalzo said...

Excellent article! I've been saying the things in it to folks for years.
I still own and daily drive my 1990 Candy Red PaCo. Starts first time every time, purrs like a little kitten, and zooms me around just fine. I've only had it tuned twice, and I'm only on my second battery. I added the passenger backrest and the "wing" as my options when I bought it. I later added the extra-height windshield as it comes to exactly where I want it as opposed to the original. It's been all around the East Coast, from VT to Asheville NC. It was way ahead of its time and fits with what the newbie Harley owners want these days.

another Bill from Virginia said...

Bought a new PC800 in 94.First 4 years I put about 60,000 miles on it. Installed a Corbin seat and backrest after first long trip to St. Louis. Made a big difference. One front fork seal started leaking but was replaced by Honda dealer under their standard 3 year unlimited mileage warranty. Only problem I ever had. Even original battery lasted over 9 years Use to ride to Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Dr about 3 Sundays a month. Usually good for a 700 mile day every time. Rode every backround and twisted road I could find. PC800 handled everything I could dish out and seemed to enjoy the rides as much as I did. Even the 2400 mile 4 day trip to Tulsa, OK and back. Sometimes cruising on interstates at 85-90mph(to keep trucks from running over me). This bike seemed to settle down in it's own grove over about 75 mph and was smooth as silk at all speeds. A company called Saeng TA made a molding that slipped on the top of the windshield that threw the air about 2" higher. This took care of the wind buffeting for the passenger at highway speeds. Had some Goldwing trunk rails mounted on the top sides and back fo my trunk that were great for tying things downn for long trips. I was the guy that had extras for everyone when the weather changed and no one else in the group had room for extra gloves, rainsuits, etc. Loved the Metzlers but not everyone knows they take a LOT higher air pressure than the Dunlops. Never noticed rain or bridge grates with them. Was preparing for double knee replacement several years ago and figured I better sell it at that time. Decision I have regretted ever since. By the way, I called mine "Cool Runnings" from the movie about the Jamaican Bobsled team. Means "Peace Be The Journey". Don't ever sell a PC800! You'll never find another bike like it! Another Bill from Virginia

Randy Arton said...

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Anonymous said...

I have just bought my second PC800. I am picking it up at my dads up in Scotland next week. I live in Liverpool,England.
I let the first one go to complete a project I was working on CBR400RR based on the CB1100R concept bike. Anyhow, the bike is fantastic an is now on ebay. The PC has been purchased and delivered a 94 model, I have not even seen the bike other than photos my dad took.
I loved the first one which was imported from Hollywood Honda, California. It was a special edition with built in Kenwood radio etc.
The wife and I toured Scotland and Ireland on her last year, I rode her daily rain or shine even in light snow, never missed a beat, I never got cold or wet. The best bike I ever owned and I have had many from 1976 until now.
Cant wait to get the new PC home strip her, do the forks, shocks brakes etc. and have many more miles of pleasure.
Oh by the way I am an engineer as well, and as such appreciate a superb piece of engineering.
It does everything a motorcycle should.
You can commute, tour, cruise, scratch. It isn't the best at any of them, but can do them all very well.
R

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dev smith said...

i am old user of bike and since last five year i am using honda st1100. this bike has good performance with good mileage.

Anonymous said...

Your article has pushed me over the edge. I have been intrigued by the PC for years. I love streamlined motorcycles and own a BMW R1100rt and a 1948 Indian Chief. I had a BMW K1, but sold it before I killed myself. I always seemed to be going 100+ on every ride. I am going to look seriously for a Pacific Coast. The bikes I have enjoyed most were the quiet ones. Thanks for a great article that fills me with confidence about the PC.