Church Of MO – First Impression: Honda Pacific Coast 800

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

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.

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.


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)

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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4 of 11 comments
  • David Blaska David Blaska on Mar 05, 2014

    Flak, not flack.

  • NE-Dan NE-Dan on May 02, 2015

    At 57 years young it's my favorite choice for touring short or long distances.

    Not the ungainly behemoth I found in a Gold wing yet not the comprimsing ride position I found this aging body can't tolerate any longer from a sport tourer. The best balanced lightest 600+ lb bike I've ever felt.

    Fast enough
    and smoother over bumps than any of the 30 bikes I've previously owned. It won't win any races but then I don't do that any longer. Just the same it handles very well. Good enough to be very entertaining in the mountains without a scare.

    Dependable as a hammer.

    It's fun to frequent the boards. I find no issues of transmission problems or splines, internal engine, fuel injection surging or off idle abruptness in fact the lack of inherent mechanical problems are what drew me to the PC800 to begin with.

    Not completely without problems.

    At 20 to 30 yrs old I do find age related posts pertaining to electrics, regulators, fuel pumps, vacuum diaphragms weeping gaskets and other things that wear out with age. It's refreshing to read that most questions are tire choices windshield preferences, preferred oil and what or where to farkle next.

    High mileage bike are of little concern.

    Previous owners being a bit neurotic about the little maintenance required to keep it in good shape.. Most followed the maintenance schedule to a T and brought it to the dealer.

    I consider myself a motorcyclist and I'm attracted to people who love to ride for the sheer enjoyment of riding and travel, maybe not originally but today this bike attracts that type. A great knowledgeable helpful community that has come to appreciate this bikes many virtues.

    Only drawback is,

    On this bike I'll never be able to fantasize I'm doing the Dakar Rally, I'm part of a proud loud bike gang or I'm on my way to the race track for track day. I'm ok with that. It's why they make so many different style bikes and I plan to own one of each someday.