I don’t do much night riding anymore, but I want to improve my conspicuity during the day. Auxiliary lights are a great way to dramatically increase a bike’s visual presence, day or night, whether they’re high-intensity driving lights at the front or enhanced brake/taillights out back. Obviously, additional light on the road ahead at night also adds safety by providing a rider with more information sooner—something I’d appreciate on my occasionally late return trips. I love streamlined design, so if I can squeeze more functionality out of existing structures, I do. I’d also like to preserve the sleek contours of my R 1250 RS by not adding bulky light pods. Cyclops Adventure Sports read my mind: they addressed all these concerns with their efficiently effective Evolution Safety Turn Signal Inserts.
Basically, the bulb and reflector in each stock turn signal is replaced with a form-fitting LED panel capable of vastly brighter illumination in two different colors. The fronts burn brilliant white until a turn signal is activated, at which time the appropriate side flashes bright amber. On WonderWheel-equipped bikes, the rears become red running lights to augment the stock taillight; on other bikes they remain off until activated by brake or turn signal operation. Cyclops sells an upgrade ($45) for non-WonderWheel-equipped R 1200 GS/A models that adds the running light function to their rear inserts. In any case, the rears burn even brighter red together during braking, and flash bright amber on one side when a turn signal is in use.
The Cyclops website refers to the front Evolutions as “driving lights,” and for simplicity’s sake, I will, too. However, Darryl VanNieuwenhuise at Cyclops wants it to be clear they are not driving lights in the traditional sense, so take the term with a grain of salt here. They do throw additional photons ahead at night, but their primary mission is round-the-clock conspicuity. Think of them as “running lights plus” or “driving lights lite.”
On bikes with CANbus electrical systems, additional functions, such as strobing of the driving lights upon horn activation or flashing of the rears during braking, can be programmed with the use of an accessory manager, like the Hex ezCAN. Cyclops sells this device as well ($199.95), and can include pre-configured Evolution insert wiring to use with it, significantly simplifying installation and increasing functionality for an additional $29.95 (rear ezCAN leads with front standard wiring harness) or $49.95 (front and rear ezCAN leads). If you’re unsure what setup will best suit your needs, contact Darryl ([email protected]) for friendly, expert consultation. The Evolutions don’t require an accessory manager, but I highly recommend considering one for the extra features allowed. See my review of the (gen-2) ezCAN for more details, or visit the Cyclops or ezCAN website.
Front or rear Evolution insert pairs are available for $150 each; all four corners cost $299.95. This total is far less than the price of most auxiliary driving light sets, and it includes turn signal and brake light enhancements you’d otherwise have to buy separately – all without the need to mount any additional hardware. Certainly, dedicated driving lights produce much more powerful illumination, but in terms of value, the Evolutions are unbeatable.
I considered Weiser Technik’s UltraBright 2-in-1 Turn Signal Upgrades, which are similar in function. However, at $449.00, a full set of front and rear UltraBrights costs 50% more than the Evolutions. Without testing the Weiser units, I can’t compare their design, performance, or ease of installation, but several BMW service department techs vouched for the Evolutions as more fool-proof in their experience. Decision made. I invested the price difference in an ezCAN, which benefits not only these lights, but also other accessories.
If your bike lacks the acutely triangular turn signals now ubiquitous on European motorcycles, you’ll need to replace yours with some that conform to this modern convention, as the Evolutions only fit “arrowhead” housings. Check eBay for inexpensive alternatives to the OEM parts and opt for clear lenses. Also, watch the Evolution installation videos on YouTube from BestRest Products for minor but essential mods when using generic parts (www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbiuKaRUvHw and www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTxcuUmerHg). These videos are excellent resources for installing the inserts in OEM housings, too.
The installation instructions accompanying the Evolution inserts are reasonably clear, but I still strongly recommend the above videos. Not only are many more details illustrated, but an assortment of helpful tips are embedded in the videos that don’t appear in the written directions. I was especially grateful for the “bloopers” at the end of the first video, showing just how easy it is to break one of the pieces involved. (Watch those bloopers to the end for a little treat.) The presenter is a methodical guy who covers lots of minutia. If you can’t spare the time (about 45 minutes, total) for all those words, just accelerate playback using the settings button in the bottom-right of the frame; everything is still understandable at 1.5x speed, and you can slow down/repeat sections as needed. No doubt equally important as you consider this product, the Evolutions are shown in action.
Each of the four weatherproof LED circuit boards has three male blade connectors on its backside – one power, one ground, and one signal. The standard Cyclops wiring harness features identical elements at each end: a small relay, a trigger wire, and a branched pair of signal leads outfitted with female blade connectors. One end of the harness services the front lights, the other services the rear. Using supplied Posi-Taps, each trigger wire is spliced into a wire in the OEM loom: a switched power line for the front (e.g., one that energizes a running light within the headlamp), and the brake light activation wire out back. Each of the signal leads is then threaded through a turn signal stalk and attached to an insert’s circuit board, along with the original hot and ground wires removed from the stock reflector assembly. The wiring harness midsection accesses electrons directly from the battery via ring terminals. The hot lead carries a 7.5A fuse, and power draw for each light is 7.5W (about half that of an incandescent bulb).
In principle, installation is quite straightforward. Any tricky business depends on your particular bike and level of manual dexterity. If your stalks won’t come free after removing their mounting bolts, try rotating them 90-degrees; some have a tab that must be aligned with a cutout on the mounting surface to allow separation. You might also determine it’s easier to leave your stalks in place, rather than mess with their fasteners, depending on the angle/amount of access available.
Some stalks are very narrow inside, making it difficult or impossible to thread the new wires – with their connectors attached—in alongside the originals. Cyclops includes extra female blade connectors and shrink-wrap in case you need to snip off the ends, slip the (now much slimmer) wires through, and attach fresh connectors. I pushed the new leads (intact) through with an eyeglass screwdriver after pulling the stock wires out far enough to get their bulky sheath out of the stalk.
The female blade connectors on the OEM wires must be spread open a tad with a tiny screwdriver blade, as the males on the LED circuit boards are stouter than those on the stock reflectors. Once attached, you’ll also have to carefully bend the wires so they clear both the housing’s interior curvature and the stalk’s intruding end. Otherwise, the insert won’t lie flush within the housing while you reattach the lens. H-shaped clips snap onto the stalks and into cutouts on the inserts, helping hold them in place during reassembly. Some stalks may need two clips for a snug fit, so eight are provided.
Turn signal lenses are fragile and require patience and a delicate touch during dis/reassembly to avoid breaking the slender tab at their inboard ends. Notice right and left OEM lenses are not identical and cannot be interchanged; each has a tiny tab on its lower edge that mates to a recess in the housing. It can all become quite fiddly when you go to slip the lens edge into the very narrow groove between the housing’s edge and the insert’s perimeter; don’t screw the lens in place until you can’t get a fingernail between it and the housing anywhere along their juncture. If you have muscle-bound, sausage-like fingers, you may want a more svelte assistant to provide the fine motor skills.
The harness can be separated via bullet connectors into front and rear halves to allow easier routing through your bike’s maze of interior passageways, as the relays might otherwise pose a problem in tight confines. The relays get affixed with 3M Dual-Lock, and four included zip-ties help keep things tidy (you’ll want more). While you could conceivably convert four turn signals and attach all the wiring on a naked bike in about 90 minutes, BMW’s typically “generous” bodywork fastening, origami-like layering of numerous interlocking panels, and dense packaging might multiply that timeframe by a frustrating amount; better allow all afternoon. Find exploded views of where you’ll be working (e.g., at an online OEM parts vendor) to see attachment points hidden under adjacent pieces.
Installation with an ezCAN eliminates the need to source current directly from the battery or use OEM wires as triggers (so no relays, either); only the signal lead for each insert is required. The ezCAN “listens” to the CANbus system and “knows” when turn signals or brakes are activated, and it channels power from the battery to accessories it manages. Hence, you don’t need the standard Cyclops wiring harness at one or both ends, depending on your preference. The special wiring is comprised of an ezCAN plug at one end and a branched pair of signal leads for the inserts at the other. If you opt for both front and rear ezCAN leads, all you have to route through the bike are a pair of light-gauge wires. Opting for only the rear ezCAN lead leaves a port free for another accessory.
The hybrid setup is pictured, consisting of the standard front harness and ezCAN rear wiring. It’s what Cyclops generally recommends for ezCAN users, and what most of their customers prefer. I ended up replacing the standard front harness with one I crafted using a spare ezCAN plug, the signal leads from the standard harness, and some of my own wire and inline connectors. The resulting arrangement lets me unplug the signal wires near my front stalks, facilitating bodywork R&R. I don’t miss the required ezCAN port and like having the extra functionality up front.
Cameras can’t accurately capture highly disparate light levels near one another. Either the exposure gets calibrated to the high-intensity light, leaving everything else blacked out, or some compromise setting reduces – and thereby misrepresents – the contrast. Either way, you won’t appreciate the brilliance of the Evolution inserts from my photographs. Each front panel features 57 white and 57 amber LEDs. Each rear is loaded with 114 red and 114 amber LEDs. That’s a lotta lights! They’re so bright, I dialed down the intensity of the rear running light mode to 20% (using my ezCAN) so they’re just slightly brighter than the stock taillight. With the turn signal and enhanced brake light modes remaining at 100%, their impact is abruptly dazzling. Likewise, the front inserts add significant area and lumens to the LED running lights in my headlamp assembly. The effect is noticeable – albeit just barely – in strong daylight, and striking in dim or dark conditions. LED turn signals grab much more attention than stock, anytime. Forward illumination at night benefits from a broader swath of light alongside low-beam coverage, as opposed to the more focused and/or further-reaching rays of bespoke, reflector-equipped light pods. Everything is a compromise, and the Evolutions deliver respectable performance in a tiny, unobtrusive package at a very reasonable price.