In The Beginning - The War Horse

The first PC800 I ever saw at close quarters was a shiny new Magna Red
model standing invitingly in the window of Church Sretton Motorcycles. I
fell in love with it immediately and spent some time steaming up the outside
of the window gazing at it. I didn't even know the engine configuration, but
the bike just looked beautiful. I didn't bother to ask the price, for I knew
it would be beyond my budget. A couple of years later however, the mileage
on my 1990 Revere was mounting up and funds were in a healthier state, so I
decided to cast around for a replacement.

Having enjoyed three years of trouble-free shaft drive I decided that this
would be an essential feature of my next bike. I also liked the
slow-revving, torquey V-twin and five rather than six gears, which allowed
me to maintain reasonable progress without having to play tunes on the
gearbox. Low pillion footrests were an essential requirement, as Candida had
recently discovered that she felt safer on the back of a bigger bike and now
enjoyed accompanying me. Her short legs wouldn't even attempt the gymnastics
of mounting the pillion of typical modern sports bikes, which seem to be
designed more for National Hunt jockeys than your favourite pillion
companion.

On holiday in Bideford in 1999 we'd seen a black Pacific Coast advertised
only ten minutes walk from where we were staying. A visit to see it was
irresistible, and Candida's first words on seeing it were "That is
gorgeous!" and being spurred on by her rare enthusiasm for motorcycles as
distinct from motorcycling I accepted the offer of a test ride. The owner
even loaned me his helmet - are all PC owners that trusting, or do I have an
honest face, I wondered? I was almost persuaded to buy it. It had a radio,
an intercom, and a screen like a barn door. It also had a large scratch on
the screen, and had been stored outdoors, and the trunk would not
accommodate as much luggage as my cavernous 45-litre Givi pannier cases. My
capacious magnetic tank bag would also be useless. I declined, and still
have some regrets.

A subsequent short-lived ownership of a Kawasaki GT550 and thoughts of the
black beauty of Bideford had convinced me that my next bike would definitely
be a Pacific Coast, and I would somehow find a way around the problem of the
reduced luggage capacity. Not long after we looked at the PC800 in Bideford
an advert appeared in MCN for a '97 Pacific Coast in North Wales, just an
hour's ride from home. A tentative telephone enquiry revealed that the owner
was a local businessman who had bought the bike for occasional leisure use,
covered just 430 miles in two years of ownership and had never ridden it in
the rain. We wasted no time in going to Hawarden to see it. To say we were
bemused when we arrived would be an understatement. The enormous wrought
iron gates led into a courtyard complete with fountain and a couple of
rather expensive cars. Mr Jones greeted us warmly, having removed the horse
blanket which had covered the PC before wheeling it out of the stable block.
Apparently he had lost the nerve for motorcycling and now preferred either
his sports car or playing with his grandchildren and ponies in the paddock
behind his grand house.

A test ride left no doubts in Candida's mind about the comfort of the seat
for long journeys. Some ritual haggling over the price was followed a few
days later by a visit to the bank for the necessary cash. So, on 9th
September, nineteen ninety-nine I became the proud, if slightly nervous,
owner of a nearly-new PC800. I had never spent so much on a motorcycle
before and I was petrified of what it might cost to repair if I dropped its
substantial bulk through unfamiliarity and/or clumsiness.

Having paid and completed the paperwork I let Candida go on ahead in the
car, leaving me to follow home at my own pace. My first lesson about buying
an executive toy was learned three miles away from the vendor's home when I
stopped for my first fill-up, and discovered that the battery had exhausted
itself with the effort of starting the engine earlier, and would no longer
hold sufficient charge for another start. As I am no contender for the
World's Strongest Man contest and as there was no convenient hill to roll
down I had visions of having to wait for Green Flag, until another
motorcyclist came into the filling station and gladly gave me a push start.
The battery had died through lack of use. I dare not stall anywhere for the
rest of the journey home! I couldn't wait to get a replacement so that I
could continue to enjoy my flying armchair. In the first four months of
autumn and winter ownership I had covered over three times the mileage the
last owner had done in two years.

Oh, and why is it called the War Horse? That's another story!

Robert Morris