Evolution of the Species

Ever since the invention of the first motorcycle—credited to Gottlieb Daimler in 1885—there have been individuals, lured by innate curiosity, who were intent on tinkering with the metallurgical contraptions, toying with the various bits that make them go, unraveling their mysteries and seeking ways to improve their design. An unusual breed, these men, they possess an inexplicable desire to take things apart, figure out how they work, and find ways to make them perform better. But, alas, where would we, the gear heads, the admirers of the modified, the consumers of performance, be today if not for the tireless experiments and creative indulgences of the tinkerers?

Ken Zeller, owner of Evoluzione Cyclesports, is one such tinkerer. Zeller has spent many days and nights toiling away in the autonomy of his workshop, dissecting perfectly good machines to discover what he can improve upon. “I haven’t bought anything since I was 10 years old,” Zeller says with a smile, “that I didn’t look at how I could change it.” (Click image to enlarge)

Manufacturing custom high-performance aftermarket products, Evoluzione—as the Italian verbiage suggests—caters to the exotic Italian marques of Ducati, MV Agusta and Aprilia, with a special penchant for rarities such as Bimota and Benelli. However, a northern wind has been blowing over the Simi Valley workshop as of late, bringing a decidedly Germanic presence to the Evoluzione stable.

Recently, one of Zeller’s loyal customers bought a BMW K 1200 S and immediately began singing its praises. “He really loved it,” Zeller says. “I honestly didn’t pay much attention to it because, well,” Zeller hesitates, “it was a BMW.” The statement reflects a not all that uncommon perception some people have toward the brand—however erroneous—as being somewhat staid, producing tame sportbikes and touring machines for the graying set.

Over the ensuing weeks, Zeller noticed a marked increase in the number of K 1200s appearing on the streets and railing through the canyons near his Southern California head-quarters. There was a wave of converts among his motor-cycling acquaintances and, in just the short span of a month, five more of his regular customers purchased K bikes.

One exclusively for pavement, the other ready for dirt, two Evoluzione Cyclesports BMWs await their riders. (Click image to enlarge)

Naturally, Zeller became curious about the emerging trend and decided to examine one of the K bikes, just to see what all the fuss was about. Paying a visit to a local BMW dealership Zeller admits that, although embarking on the outing for research, he lacked a particularly open mind. A scrutinizing walk around a K 1200 S on the showroom floor, though admittedly revealing a beautifully engineered, aesthetically pleasing motorcycle, did not assuage Zeller’s initial feelings of it just not being for him. His attitude changed with a test ride. The machine’s performance, combined with the comfortable ergonomics, impressed him. “I had a lot of really cool, exotic bikes,” Zeller says, “but I realized I just wasn’t excited about riding them, because, the older I was getting, the more uncomfortable they were becoming.” So he bought the K bike on the spot.

Zeller immediately began racking up miles on the K 1200 S with a reinvigorated interest in what he had gotten into motorcycles for in the first place—riding. However, that tinkering DNA and curiosity about the BMW’s internal idiosyncrasies soon took hold. Zeller rolled the bike into the workshop, the tools came out, and the bike was taken apart to see what made it go. The K 1200’s aero-dynamic bodywork was sent out for a custom Evoluzione paint scheme. By the time it came back and was bolted into place, the motorcycle would have a decidedly new character.

To enhance engine performance, the most logical place to start was the exhaust. Several aftermarket pipes were dyno-tested before deciding on a ZTechnik Z4031 titanium exhaust system. Although Zeller found several exhaust pipes that produced slightly higher top-end horsepower, they did so at the sacrifice of mid-range, upsetting the smooth, linear powerband of the BMW’s extraordinary in-line four-cylinder motor. Zeller explains that, “people buy on horsepower [figures], but they actually ride based on torque.”
Building an engine solely to produce the highest possible peak power tends to result in a redline frame of mind that may work on a racetrack, but is somewhat futile in a street bike. The ZTechnik pipe created the best result throughout the powerband, boosting mid-range (at about 5,000 rpm) and adding a full seven to eight horsepower at the K bike’s redline of 10,500 rpm. The ZTechnik pipe, with its short muffler, looks truly aggressive and emits a crisp exhaust rasp. The full-length titanium system, held in place by an Evoluzione exhaust hanger, is signficantly lighter than the stock assembly.

The blue-and-orange Evoluzione Sportscycles BMW R 1200 S induces double-yellow fever. (Click image to enlarge)

The next obvious place to look for more performance was the airbox. Incoming air had to navigate noise-reducing snorkels that funneled it through an inefficient, circuitous route before it met the combustion process. The Evoluzione “race airflow system” reduces the pumping losses of the stock intake system, resulting in a five to six horsepower gain.

But, perhaps the most in-depth modification for the Evoluzione K bike was reshaping the head. Zeller and his team were impressed with the stock head design, thus they were initially unsure how to improve upon it. However, after some full-flow bench testing, they were able to increase flow by roughly 12 percent, picking up an astounding nine additional horsepower. (Evoluzione will have a Stage 2 head available soon, which is expected to bump power at least 10 horses over stock.)

The K 1200 S is an adept sprinter. Bottom: The R GS 1200 begs for long-distance adventures. (Click images to enlarge)

An Italian-made Dimsport Rapidbike on-board electronic control box was added, allowing fuel curve and spark advance adjustments to be made, complementing the new engine modifications; and then Zeller rolled the Evoluzione K 1200 S onto the dyno. The machine produced an astonishing 190 hp at the crankshaft (an increase of 23 hp over stock), and torque had been boosted from 93 ft lbs to 102, giving the bike more pulling power.

The bottom end of the engine was left stock, save an Evoluzione clutch slave cylinder. Milled from billet aluminum, it utilizes a larger, diameter piston that reduces lever effort approximately 20 percent, making for smoother, easier clutch action. An Evoluzione needle-bearing shift lever and linkage is partnered to a quickshifter that works with the DimSport Rapidbike for clutchless up-shifts under power. The linkage is reversible to accommodate a traditional race shift pattern for the track, if desired.

For the time being, the K 1200’s suspension has been left alone. The exclusive BMW Duolever front end and EVO Paralever rear end deliver a stable ride and, by utilizing the Electronic Suspension Adjustment, the suspension can be set for aggressive riding by simply choosing the two-up, with baggage setting for added stiffness and adjusted to the sport level for appropriate response.

The K 1200 S is a long motorcycle and, although it turns-in remarkably well, Zeller felt there was room for improvement. Fabricated from billet aluminum, an entirely new, adjustable torque arm was allows for changes in ride height to suit individual rider preference. The unit was adjusted to 15mm longer than stock, resulting in an increase of 8mm to rear ride height, which translates to a quicker, more precise turn-in. For lengthening or shortening, the arm uses shims to avoid the stress loads being absorbed by threads. (Click image to enlarge)

Embellishing the K’s already roomy cockpit, new brackets were created to lower the footpegs one full inch and pull them back slightly, resulting in an even more spread out, comfortable leg/knee bend for the rider. The lower pegs take away some of the available lean angle and aggressive riding can result in touching down. However, for most instances, there is plenty of clearance. Zeller is experimenting with a quick-change footpeg, that, without the need of tools, can be raised or lowered—as well as flipped over for a choice of peg surfaces—to suit various riding situations.
Front brake rotors are AP Braking units, which give an incremental edge on performance over the stock ones, plus a slightly more progressive feel at the lever. Zeller is quick to point out he replaced them partially because he had the rotors lying around and, true to tinkerer form, “just wanted to change something.”

As for bodywork, Zeller prefers the look of the K 1200 R front fender and clean tail-section. So, in addition to the front fender, a rear tail cowling of carbon fiber was added to give the bike a congruous design flow and the more apropos race appearance of a single-seater. An aluminum license plate bracket was fabricated to reduce the weight and clutter of the stock unit. Although losing weight was not necessarily Zeller’s objective, the Evoluzione K 1200 S is around 25 pounds lighter than stock.

One engineering element that Zeller knew he had to do something about was the instrument layout. The German engineers placed the speedometer directly in the middle of the dash with the tachometer playing second fiddle off to the left. Zeller reversed the two gauges, placing the emphasis on the rev counter by putting it squarely in the rider’s line of sight. (Click image to enlarge)

A set of Dunlop’s outstanding Qualifiers round out the package. They give the Evoluzione K bike predictable handling and substantial grip in the corners, without sacrificing the agreeable highway ride. The rims are stock BMW, powder coated in the Evoluzione orange to accent the new paint scheme of the bodywork. Zeller’s wife, Alana, used a color wheel to find a contrasting, yet complimentary, color to the factory BMW deep blue and came up with an electric orange that creates a dynamic pairing. The dashboard instrument backgrounds carry through with the Evoluzione blue/orange color scheme for a detail touch of continuity.

Building on an already exemplary package from BMW, the Evoluzione performance kit brings the K 1200 closer to the lofty realm of the Suzuki GSX-R1000 and Yamaha R1 sport machines. The increase in raw horsepower combined with the fast-revving engine results in an explosive, yet controlled, adrenaline rush. The power arrives in crisp, sharp snaps of the throttle that issues a delicious snarl and pop from the exhaust. The increased engine performance, combined with the quicker turn-in and the shedding of those extra pounds, results in an impressive sportbike that weds BMW’s legendary refinement with real bite to produce a kind of sophisticated bully for the street.

Shoei RF-1000 Diabolic 2 TC-5
Leathers: Kushitani
Gloves: Cortech Accelerator
Boots: Sidi Vertigo Corsa. (Click image to enlarge)

The general consensus is that K bikes is that are not only purchased by BMW loyalists, but also by a number of enthusiasts coming over to the brand for the first time. Zeller believes the machine has found its core audience with the maturing sportbiker; experienced riders looking for a more relaxed motorcycle without sacrificing performance. In this regard BMW has created, either by design or chance, a niche for itself in the sportbike category that was not completely being addressed by other manufacturers. “I sometimes wonder if BMW realizes just what it has here,” muses Zeller.

Just like their Japanese and Italian-mounted counterparts, the rapidly expanding community of K bike owners wants the freedom to play with aftermarket modifications. “It was actually customers that inspired the kits,” says Zeller. “We didn’t realize what a good market the K bikes were going to be for us.” A year ago Evoluzione was doing zero commerce in BMWs. Today they represent 40 percent of the business and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. Zeller has noticed an increase in customer interest for the new BMW with the release of the naked R model, which he attributes to the machine’s wholly unusual looks, all helping to further eradicate any lingering stigma about BMWs being for the mild at heart.

As testament to Zeller’s newly found respect and appreciation for BMW, he has just added an R 1200 GS to the Evoluzione stable. Given his inclination for tinkering, the machine has already been taken apart for scrutiny and naturally, Zeller has some ideas about what he would like to change.

www.evoluzione.net | 805.306.9705


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