2004 Harley-Davidson V-Rod Evoluzione | A Sportbike SpinHarley-Davidson rocked the motorcycling world when it unveiled the revolutionary V-Rod performance custom for 2002. It was the first production Harley-Davidson with liquid cooling and, at about 105 rear-wheel horsepower, its performance went well beyond that of the typical 65 horsepower air-cooled big twin.The V-Rod also generated a real kick in the midrange. Finally, its stunning stainless bodywork and disc wheels meant that it was unlike any styling scheme ever to come out of the Motor Company.
[Visit the Ultimate Motorcycling Retro Review Page]So performance-oriented is the Porsche-collaboration engine that it was just a matter of time before someone would be tempted to transform the V-Rod with a sportier treatment. Enter Ken Zeller, engineer and president of Evoluzione Cyclesports.Evoluzione devotes about 95 percent of its time to making Italian sportbikes, such as Ducatis, Aprilias, Moto Guzzis, and MV Agustas, go faster and handle better. That’s why seeing a Harley-Davidson in Evoluzione Cyclesports’ shop is like seeing Shaquille O’Neal in full Laker regalia stepping into the batter’s box at Dodger Stadium.Although the Harley-Davidson V-Rod generates an impressive amount of power, any stock bike can benefit from inhalation therapy. Zeller bored out the two stock throttle-body injectors to 58mm, and added a base plate with velocity stacks and foam filters. For additional airflow at exit, he bent a set of his own stainless exhaust pipes and attached them to a pair of carbon fiber cans from an exhaust system by Arrow of Italy. Zeller reports the new system adds about seven horsepower and seven ft/lbs of torque over stock.Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Evoluzione V-Rod is its Aero V-Rod suspension system from Legend Suspensions. The Aero system includes a pair of air shocks and an onboard air compressor mounted below the under-seat fuel tank. Zeller’s touch was to install an air-actuated piston in the top of each fork tube and interconnect them with the shocks.When the compressor switch is engaged—it’s near the gauge on the right side of the engine—a little thrum is heard and the bike begins to rise. In a matter of seconds, it is sitting several inches higher. Now, when Zeller parks the bike, he can throw the switch in the other direction to release pressure. The V-Rod will settle back down to an impossibly low—and impossibly cool—ride height.When the starter button is thumbed, the V-Rod immediately rumbles into an aggressive, lumpy idle. Warmed up and on the road, it responds immediately to throttle inputs, revving more quickly and more easily than stock Harley-Davidson V-Rods. Clutch action is uncharacteristically easy thanks to Evoluzione’s big-bore clutch slave cylinder.With the air suspension set at the recommended 60 psi, the ride is firm and well controlled. When the brakes are hit hard, there is no fork dive—none—yet the suspension works well enough. When the bike is stationary, attempts to pump the fork are futile—like trying to compress a full Sparkletts bottle. Fine-tuning the suspension for load and road conditions is easily accomplished using the compressor switch.As for the bike’s striking styling, that distinctive carbon fiber bodywork comes from a company in San Diego. Zeller reports, “It’s better than any carbon fiber I’ve come across.” Laying aluminized carbon fiber in the mold, backed by standard carbon fiber, created the flames. The fenders, side panels, tank, radiator, gauge, and headlight covers—along with all other products mentioned—are available directly from Evoluzione.The custom front wheel is actually the V-Rod’s stock cast disc, which Evoluzione has cut and polished into this five-spoke design. As for the rear disc, also polished, Zeller reports that it cannot be similarly cut because it lacks sufficient structural material. The elephant-hide look seat is a Corbin Young Gun.Does Zeller’s V-Rod handle like a sportbike? When worlds collide, its air suspension certainly allows it greater cornering clearance, but its current chassis and feet-forward seating position dictate that it will handle the curves like Shaq will handle a fastball.Yet greater throttle response, more power, air suspension, and the gorgeous bodywork make for a fast, tight ride, and earth-shaking styling aboard the 2004 Harley-Davidson V-Rod Evoluzione.Article by Bill Stermer, and Photography by Cordero Studios