Church Of MO – First Impression: Honda Pacific Coast 800

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Welcome again to yet another Sunday, and another edition of Church of MO. This week we bring you back to 1998 and our first riding impressions of the Honda Pacific Coast 800. Honda has been receiving a lot of flack lately about some of its more unconventional models — the CTX-700, NC700X, new Valkyrie, and of course, who can forget the DN-01. But when talking about quirky Hondas, few are as puzzling as the Pacific Coast 800. No matter its practicality, it was an outcast of a motorcycle back then, and despite a small cult following, it’s considered one of the few times Honda has missed the mark. What did we think of it in ’98? Read below to find out.

First Impression: Pacific Coast 800

Born To Be Mild

By MO Staff 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.

Honda Pacific Coast 800 rear view freewayJust 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.

Honda Pacific Coast 800 trunk head-onThe 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.

Honda Pacific Coast 800 gauge clusterA 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.

Honda Pacific Coast 800 vs. dogThe 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.

Honda Pacific Coast 800 front brakeWhile 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.

Specifications:

Manufacturer:  Honda
Model: 1998 Pacific Coast 800
Price:  $8699 USD
Engine: liquid cooled 45 degree V-twin
Bore x stroke: 79.5mm x 80.6mm
Displacement: 800cc
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)

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  • Kevin

    This bike was just ahead of it’s time. The rapidly expanding womens motorcycle market here in the US would probably be very happy with an updated version of this bike

  • drivit

    Honda NT700/Deauville newer, same story, sold millions in Europe. Dual clutch tranny’s selling well over there also. This is Indian country, not gonna change.

    • Piglet2010

      I have never seen a Honda Deauville in the US, other than my own (which is *not* for sale).

  • fastfreddie

    Didn’t the pacific coast come out in the early 90′s?It looks just so dreadfully bland.The reviews at the time said it was excellent,but way too expensive to sell significant number of bikes.

    @kevin:They have,it’s called the Deauville.Don’t you get them in the states?

    • Kevin

      Yes, and no, but it is identified as the NT700V. It was only available from 2010 through 2012 and thoroughly rejected in the US market. The seat height and relative lack of cargo capacity turned most female riders away.

      • Piglet2010

        The “Dullsville” has plenty of cargo capacity with the top box, but even with my 33-inch inseam backing the bike up on a slope or holding it up on a steeply cambered street can be a bit of a challenge. The currency exchange rates (built in Catalonia by Montesa-Honda) did not help sales by driving the price up.

  • BTRDAYZ

    MY FIRST BIKE!!!!!!!!!

    I went into a Honda dealer in NJ to get my lawn mower blades sharpened. While waiting for my Honda lawnmower to be serviced, I walked the sales floor to see what was new. Always wanted a bike but was never in my budget. Came across the PC. I liked it. I had read about it in the past, but thought it was pricey at $8699. But the week that I came in with the lawnmower, Honda had reduced the bike’s price by $2,000, making the now $6699 bike the best deal on the sales floor that day. I bought it! And I didn’t even know how to ride yet! The dealer ended up delivering the bike to my house and putting it in my garage. I only had my motorcycle permit at the time, and had scheduled the MSF riding course. But my excitement got the best of me, and I would sneak the bike out onto the roads of my housing development to practice clutching and shifting. By the time I took the MSF course, I passed with a perfect score.

    I enjoyed the PC. It was comfortable. I’d ride it from Burlington NJ, into NYC on nice days. The trunk was fun and useful. I’d even pull up in BUrger King drivethroughs and load my order in the trunk. My friends called the bike a big scooter, but I didn’t care. I liked it and that was all that mattered. I traded it for something faster and sportier… a ZRX1100, but I always regretted letting it go. I never dropped it.

    Funny Pacific Coast story… Came to a stop at an intersection, but didn’t put my left foot down as quickly as I should have. The PC was heavy. Over 600 pounds gassed up. The bike had come to a stop at a slight angle, and I quickly realized my leg did not have the strength to keep the bike from continuing it’s slow topple. I was about to drop my bike! So I continued to hold in the clutch, and I swung my right leg off the bike onto the left side next to my left leg that was buckling, and I grabbed the passenger grab rail with my right hand. Now with my left hand gripping the left handlebar, my right hand gripping the passenger grab rail, and BOTH feet on the same side of the bike, I was able to lift back to an upright position before it ended up falling over onto it’s side. Only then could I climb back onto the bike, and just in time, as the light turned green again. Too bad it wasn’t the days of Youtube and smartphones yet, because I know I must have looked hilarious to the car driver behind me. Would have loved to see a video clip of me at that moment! Hey, but I didn’t drop it!

  • kawatwo

    I always wanted one! But you can only own so many bikes in a lifetime without winning the lottery. Sigh.

    • Piglet2010

      I was tempted to buy a used Pacific Coast, but I found a new NT700V Deauville for $8K instead – the bikes share little or nothing mechanically, but are conceptually quite similar.

  • Send Margaritas

    It seems practical. And I really do appreciate Honda reliability.But it makes me *yawn*.It won’t replace my FJR.

  • SkinnyAllis

    Memories! I actually bought my 1996 PC based partly on this review.It was a steal. The dealer got it on a trade with less than 1,000 miles, but it had been sitting alongside all these made in Milwaukee heavy-weights for nearly two years; so long that the dealer threw in a five year warranty so he could have the floor space back.

    I rode the bike for nearly 10 years, back and forth to work each day and around the country, east of the Mississippi in almost every state. I put well over 125,000 miles on that thing before doing a low-side crash on an oiled up on-ramp. While not the most powerful, it was a dream on the expressway and paradise on two wheels in the curves. I could keep up with anyone on any bike, because it handled so well. It could lean well over and accelerate. 1996 was the last year Honda equipped the PC with self cancelling turn signals and a large aerodynamic front fender so it was amazingly stable in heavy cross winds. Without a doubt it was one strange looking bike, that bike was the best handling bike I have ever owned (and that includes a 2006 Yamaha FJR1300). I think it handled so well because of the expensive strange body work and all the heavy stuff was low in the frame: the v-twin engine; gas tank under the seat, as well as the battery.

    The totally unexpected part about its looks? It was a chick magnet! Every female relative loved it and I got used to getting asked about the bike and for a ride whenever I stopped. It got to be somewhat of a joke with my wife and friends.

    Another thing tells you about about the ride quality: My wife loved riding pillion on on this bike more than any other bike I’ve owned. The seat was comfy, but it rode so well that she felt secure enough to actually fall asleep back there, no matter how curvy or bumpy the road. This on a bike with no back rest– just holding on to me.

    FYI: The PC was made on and off from 1989 to 1998. Honda’s problem with this bike was that it was too expensive for the target market. I didn’t know anyone who actually paid the full list price, and I knew many, many PC riders. So it sat in showrooms when new, and sold well as a used bike with low miles.

  • David Blaska

    Flak, not flack.

    • Ted

      Now I’m confused David. Does that make your reply flack or flax?

      • David Blaska

        My reply could be regarded as flak.