Monday, April 16, 2012

Bike Review: Honda PC800

I will admit that I have had a 'geek-on' for this bike ever since I read about them and saw one at a rally. I am drawn to utility like other avid motorcyclists are drawn to chrome and loud pipes.

I gave up my Burgman 650 scooter to get this bike, and I did so because of the reliability and utility of this amazingly designed bike.

I won't bore you - the reader - with the history and cult fascination of this bike. There are plenty of web sources to learn about that. But it says something about a bike that hasn't been in production since 1998, that it still has such a strong following and its features still has perennial functionality.

I bought my 1997, with 25k miles on a brisk 9 degree day in January of 2010 from a nice gent in Tennessee. The plastic - and there is a lot of it - was in great shape, as is often not the case with these rare, and getting rarer, specimens. It started and ran fine and about the only thing it needed was a new rear taillight assembly since there was a big crack in the lens. I replaced that straight away when I brought it home.

I like this bike. About the only feature that disappoints is how a tall, 6'3" guy has to bend his knees into the riding position. A little shorter and this bike would be ideal. That said, I sit up nice and straight, which is preferable for me. No sports-bike lean forward to make my aging joints and back sore after a few miles.
Shifting is positive and Honda-clunky - which is fine. The 800cc V-Twin engine has a soft growl whose sound and heat is contained by the white engine shroud invisible under the sea of Tupperware. A nice feature, as my previous ST1300 roasted my legs with its engine heat emission.

I have had many motorcycles and scooters and I have to say, this bike is the most balanced I have ridden. I would feel very comfortable taking this bike through its or slow....and it would be ideal for the dreaded 'cone test' for new riders getting their M class on their drivers license.

Wind and weather protection is good - except for the feet. My PC has an after-market Rifle windscreen on it and it does as good as the stock one I suspect.

Storage is really where this bike shines. The whole rear end, from the split-seat back, opens up revealing the coveted - and unique - storage points, one cavernous tub on each side of the rear tire. Totally imbedded and integral in the design of the bike.

The beauty of these waterproof storage sections is that they are not clam-shell external pods. So when you open them, all your stuff doesn't fall out - the feature on the clam-shell storage pods I detest. Ergo, you can really cram a lot of stuff in them....and I mean more than the usual two helmets and gloves. The only drawback to these I can see as a long-distance tourer, is the PITA fact that you have to unload what is lashed onto your rear seat to gain access to the under storage. No matter though with a bit of planning.

Praise-worthy as the rear storage is in the rear, the storage up front leaves you puzzled as to where to put your sunglasses, folding maps, GPS unit, cell phone, sunscreen, etc. The left side glove box is small and doesn't hold that much and is not securable. The right fairing picket is a faux pocket and is the access point to the coolant overflow bottle.
As a commuter and errand runner, this lack of forward storage doesn't bother me much. But when I think through my long-distance tourer lens, some modifications would have to be made.

What I really like about the bike is that it is more-than-usual Honda bullet-proof. They engineered this bike to be virtually maintenance free....or as much so a bike can be. So, good gas mileage, proven and fool-proof mechanics and great utility make this a trouble and worry free bike.

Add to all of that the price point .....good ones with average mileage can range from $2500 to $4500....and you have a great bargain as well. Parts are still available to source - although the plastics are very expensive and a bit harder to locate at times.

A great bike overall and I will keep mine as long as I can I should think.


  1. Agree with your summary from a 90 PC rider.

  2. I just bought my 86 pc this week as a back up to my 2008 Goldwing. Reading your article prior to buying the bike really helped in choosing pc 800.I'm looking forward to putting a lot of miles on it.

  3. Hey there,
    Firstly, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I haven't sat on one yet, but if it fits, I'm getting it.
    I'm the tall and skinny body type (6'2, 175lbs) and having issues with bikes for cruising/touring.

    I noticed your height comment. Do you think despite your height, the bike still fits you well?

    Thanks again.

  4. Used to own one of these. Loved it! Got it for such a steal of a price, I dare not even mention. Would love to get one again for my daily commuting and errand needs.

    Sadly I was piloting mine when I had the most horrific crash of my nearly three decades long motorcycle career. A dreaded oncoming, left turning car, failing to yield the right of way. Ouch!

    I flew about over 100 feet through the air. First time I'd ever seen fork tubes snap clean in half. Ah yes. Praise be to God I survived and I'm now fully recovered, alive and well.

  5. I've owned my 1989 PC800 since January of 2012! I bought it with 54K miles and minor scrathes (normal wear and tear), none of which are noticeable from 4-5 feet away. In other words, I would consider it in "great ondition." This is my first bike and I am SPOILED! It amazes me to get the compliments and positive conversation frequently on a 24-year-old bike, but it DOES have a "smart" look. It starts right up with no issues at all as long as I keep it on a battery tender in between riding delays (> 2-weeks without starting it). If I do go beyond 2 weeks, all it takes is a few hours on the tender and I am back rolling again.

    The bike is very comfortable for a big guy like me (over 350 lbs.). The fact that the gas tank is located close to the ground (hiden by the "plastic") makes it very easy to balance. I bought this as a starter bike, but I can't see myself letting it go anytime soon. Oh, did I say that I got it from a great owner for $1,800 and the only thing I ever purchased for it was a battery tender and gasoline? It's been a blessing to a first time bike owner...

    1. I got my '89 a year ago last Dec. from a fellow down south in Springfield Or. for $1850. with 35K on it but soon discovered the poor thing had been rode hard and put away wet far too many times. I have been slowly, (too slowly) going through the entire bike replacing worn down and broken parts, and installing LEDs and a HID headlight system, but our local Honda shop says I still got a great deal, I hope to have "Patsy" ready with new pearl paint for the first warm day this spring and eager to show her off! Keith L.

  6. In the spring of 2013 I found a barn find honda PC 800. I have been though the whole bike, lucked up on a complete set of plastic. I am 51 and have been riding most of my life, my PC 800, is by far the best bike I have sat on. I found luggage rack and a Corbin seat, anyways looking for more options. Great ride, would recommend to anyone.

  7. I just sat on one today for the first time, my problem with bikes is that I am very short for an adult male, so I need something I can be comfortable on at low speeds and stopping. I ride an 06 HD Dyna Super Glide, which fits fine, but I want something light smooth and fun, not heavy,clunky, and ponderous, I think this might do just fine.

    Tony, NE MN

  8. I bought my '98 in September of 2012 with just under 20K miles on the odometer. I have owned a few bikes but most recently have been riding a Vespa GT 200. Love the scooter, but wanted something I could securely ride on the parkway at 65mph to get TO the twisties. The PC does that exceptionally well. At 5' 7", I can flat foot the PC easily in jump boots, and it fits pretty well, although I would pull the bars back about an inch if it was possible to do so. It runs like a clock, is exceptionally forgiving, and handles REALLY well for such a heavy bike. The only odd behavior I have noticed is an occasional balky upshift into third when accelerating briskly. One of the fun aspects of this ride is the way admirers come out of nowhere to gawk and salivate over it. Today, I was mounting up in the artsy town of Warwick, NY and a guy in his 30s (I'm 63, by the way) with an attractive date pulled over to ask me if it was for sale. He allowed as how he's been searching for one for a while. As a matter of fact, September is a good month to look; when I bought mine last year, the seller had been punked repeatedly by ebay bidders and craigslist suitors who promised but didn't deliver. I watched the price go from $4500 down to $2500, and eventually got it for $2300-- the best deal I've ever gotten on anything, considering the PC's capabilities. I like this bike A LOT, and look forward to keeping it until I give up riding.

    1. Update: Still very attached to this bike. Once I learned not to shut down only by using the key and not the employment of the side stand (which seems to cut out the circuit and prevent restart), I found the bike to be very trouble-free. Inside storage for my PC has been spotty, but I've got a very good cover for it. This winter, it's out in the yard. It started up easily about a week ago; very satisfying, since it hasn't been on a battery tender. I've owned it for 3.5 years, now, and its character has settled in. I ride with some friends who have dresser Harleys, and have learned how to make adjustments for them. The PC handles all normal driving situations with aplomb, so there are times when I have to slow down to keep from pulling away, even though I don't normally ride fast. We have some nice twisty roads around the Hudson Valley, and the Road Kings can't handle the curves as well, particularly on the declines, where they are prone to understeer and "running away" due to their weight and frame geometry. My bike feels like it's part of me, not too big, not too small. I did consider replacing it with an ST 1100, a bike that seems like a big brother to it, to get more torque, because the PC does need to be shifted relatively often to get the most out of the power available. But I never acted on this thought because I would miss the 800's uniqueness, particularly the big trunk. Three things I may add are a shorter windshield for summer use, as the cooling through the front vent isn't all that effective, highway pegs and a gel seat pad. The latter two would be to counteract the effects of the bike's compact dimensions. The stock PC tiered seat is very comfy for rides of 50 miles or less, but needs help for the 250 mile jaunt because you can't slide back and forth on it. My body type means I tend to want to slide forward when my arms tire, and then the family jewels get squished against the tank; conversely, I sometimes want to stretch out backward, and that means I have to sit up high on the back tier. From what I've read, a gel pad goes a long way towards increasing comfort. The highway pegs would allow for stretching out forward; I am about to turn 66, and leg cramps from not being able to adjust leg positions can be a problem. With these changes, I can see riding the PC into old age. Despite the complaints I have listed here, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to this bike.

  9. Six months ago I saw and just had to rescue a 94 PC800 from Malaga, Spain. Unregistered, Untaxed, Unserviced, Unloved, Bald tyres, next to no oil, next to no coolant, generally very tatty and sunburned.................But complete. Phoenix will be it's name, out of the ashes. I paid over the odds for it, who cares, it's a thing of beauty and I expect it will be replacing my 84 Interstate.

  10. What is the PC800 like 2 up? The bike has a very low maximum load limit of 167kg. Lots of comments from solo riders but none from pillion carrying riders.

    1. I haven't ridden mine two up, but I know others do. I would think it handles well in that configuration, but might feel a bit small, comfort wise, for the driver, who needs to use as much of the available room as possible. Given it was designed to be a commuter, long distance ergonomics weren't a priority, and I could imagine driver and passenger vying for space.

  11. I just picked up a 96 pc 800. I need to replace the tires. Any suggestions on what brand goes well?