I had half a mind (still do) to schedule a scooter for this issue’s road test. Realizing that I have never ridden a scooter, I decided that it would be best to leave them to M.M.M.’s scooterist, Chris Orr. If the scootering bug has yet to bite you, be wary. The little sting I received has turned into a mild infection.
After dismissing the previous thought, I scanned my list of available motorcycles and paused at a Honda that is often referred to as the Super Scooter. Perfect. A few days later I merrily cruised out of Metropolitan Hitching Post’s parking lot on one of their PC800s. In this case the PC designation stands for Pacific Coast not Politically Correct. Although, if there ever was a politically correct, large displacement motorcycle this is it.
The motorcycle used for this report is a few years old, but Honda has basically kept the Pacific Coast unchanged since its 1989 introduction. Models built in the last two years have lost the brake disc covers and received a new fender. Cleaning up the front end cosmetics in this way has left the PC800 looking a bit more motorcyclish and a little less scooterish, but mechanically all Pacific Coasts are virtually the same. This motorcycle is not concerned with spec sheets or cutting edge hardware. This motorcycle is focused on utility–gas and go. In this spirit, I am going to skip the descriptions of mechanical components except to reveal that the body panels are hiding an 800 cc liquid-cooled V-twin.
Honda marketed the new Pacific Coast toward white-collar professionals in 1989 as a respectable low-maintenance motorcycle for daily use. The full coverage body panels and the trunk would keep rider and briefcase clean and dry on the way to work, plus it would blend right into a parking lot full of Acuras. On the weekends, the PC would be a capable two-up tourer for the ride to the beach-house down the coast. The professionals responded by buying tens of thousands of Harley-Davidsons. Sure, the Pacific Coast was practical, but as a display of freedom, power and wealth it was about as useful as a case of performance anxiety.
While the moneyed class ignored the PC800, pragmatic riders took a careful look at it and walked away interested. They walked away because pragmatism is not so much a choice as it is a condition resulting from chronic under-capitalization, and the Pacific Coast was not cheap in 1989. It had been priced to appeal to the nouveau riche. After a couple seasons of poor sales Honda removed the PC from its American line-up. The many Pacific Coasts still sitting on showroom floors and in U.S. warehouses were sold off at very good prices. I can recall riders stating that they had paid under $4000.00 for PCs with no miles on them.
When the existing inventory ran out after a couple of years Honda detected that demand remained for the Super Scooter, and the company brought it back. Time and inflation had made the price more attractive and this time, quietly, without a marketing campaign, the Pacific Coast built a niche for itself in the U.S. market and remains with us today as a utilitarian marvel surrounded by showrooms full of ego massagers.
The Pacific Coast is not an ornament nor a piece of kinetic sculpture, and it certainly does not come packaged with a lifestyle. This motorcycle is for the serious riders who ride motorcycles every day rain or shine, the riders who go to do their grocery shopping on a motorcycle (The PC’s trunk will easily carry two canvas grocery bags from the co-op.),
the riders for whom car ownership means buying a beater to get around with for a couple of months before the ice melts. The Pacific Coast is for the rider who at Thanksgiving dinner responds to the exclamation, “You rode a motorcycle here?!” with a detached grin and the phrase, “Well, the bus doesn’t come out this far.” If you have persevered this far into this report, you may very well be a candidate for PC ownership yourself.
The mission of the Pacific Coast is to transport a rider and a rider’s essentials (ten years of tax records for the audit, lunch box and hard-hat for a day at the rock quarry…) from point A to point B with the least amount of fuss possible for a two-wheeler. The Pacific Coast makes life easier for the daily rider with its ease of maintenance and its utilitarian design. The scooter-like body panels, which completely enclose the mechanicals of the PC800, reduce the chore of washing a dirty motorcycle into simply turning the hose on it. Other maintenance chores made simple are oil changes and valve clearance adjustments. The spin-off oil filter and oil drain plug are accessible without removing one piece of plastic. The oil fill cap is under a small panel between the right side foot pegs. The hydraulic valves never need adjusting. The battery is maintenance free. There is a center stand. There is not much to do but ride.
Riding the Pacific Coast is as easy as maintaining it. The steering is unusually light and stable thanks to the underseat fuel tank and a frame that puts the V-twin engine and the center of gravity low to the ground. The excellent handling characteristics are well suited to city riding. The PC can turn on a dime and zig or zag through city streets like a bike half its size. The front brakes are excellent. They are so good that somebody ought to write a song about them. You get off of the bike shaking your head while wondering how the brakes on this lowly PC800 can be better than the stoppers on two-thirds of the bikes you have ridden. At the other end is the rear drum brake. The only positive thing to say about this contraption is that it is impossible to lock up the rear wheel with it.
While it won’t win any drag races the bike can get out of its own way and reach speeds of 120 mph or so if you have a good bit of road to work with. The huge windscreen and lower front fairing provide full frontal wind protection for the rider, but you get hit with a blast of wind from behind as the air bubble collapses. If I had my very own PC I’d saw about half of the windshield off. The switch gear and instrumentation are conventional and posed no problems, but I found the lack of a clock to be a curious omission on this bike.
Now for the paragraph about the trunk. I’m surprised we do not see more bikes with them. From the number of Givi bolt-on trunks starting to appear around town I have to believe that people have a need for the secure storage they offer. I am not fond of bikes with hard lockable saddle bags hanging off the sides. I like motorcycles to be skinny and usually use a tank bag for onboard storage. I always worry about leaving things like cameras in a tank bag on a bike. The PC allowed me to quit worrying. The Pacific Coast’s trunk is probably most handy when you are not riding the bike. Parking a motorcycle, throwing your jacket and helmet into the trunk then walking away is a joy.
After using a Pacific Coast for a day it is easy to understand why people are still buying them. It is a utilitarian wonder that takes your helmet and jacket out of your hands while doing business around town and has the power, comfort and cargo capacity to transport you across the country.