We try out the Swedish born electric motorbike.
WORDS Jon Gaffney IMAGES Jörgen Brennicke & Jon Gaffney
Cake is unique in the world of motorized, two-wheeled machines. Cake’s founder, Stefan Ytterborn, also founded the extremely successful helmet and bike protection company, POC (Piece of Cake) in 2005. Earlier this year Cake launched its first bike, the Kalk, not at a moto show but at Outdoor Retailer, the premier North American outdoor industry trade show. Most members of the Cake team don’t have backgrounds in the motorcycle industry but rather come from careers in product design and development for adventure industries. It’s a company that looks to head in a new direction and share exciting, disruptive ideas contrary to the status quo.
The Cake Kalk is beautiful in that uniquely Scandinavian way — carbon fiber, CNC’d aluminum, and Allen screws detail a bike that looks minimalist art and art in motion.
We recently visited Cake’s headquarters and proving grounds in Gotland, Sweden, where Swedes escape to soak up as much of the fleeting summer weather as possible. It’s a beautiful place, with idyllic country roads, seaside cottages, the UNSECO medieval walled city of Visby, covetable surf breaks, and many miles of riding trails. The white dust on the roads is white limestone, which Gotland is largely comprised of, known to Swedes as Kalk, the namesake of Cake’s first bike. It’s a fitting place to birth a motorcycle brand that’s intent on not being moto. Stefan Ytterborn keeps a summer cottage here, where he has built a nicely appointed barn workshop and a test track made from crushed local limestone. For two days, we used his home as a basecamp to test Cake’s three prototype bikes and learn more about the brand’s vision.
The Cake Kalk is beautiful in that uniquely Scandinavian way—carbon fiber, CNC’d aluminum, and Allen screws detail a bike that looks minimalist art and art in motion. And good performance complements good looks. The Kalk has an IPM electric motor that produces 15kW/20kW, with 42Nm of peak torque at 3,000 RPM. Compared to a traditional combustion-engine motorcycle, that’s torque on par with a 400cc dirt bike, but with most of the e-power available from a stop. The Kalk doesn’t need a clutch and shifter, as it has a single-speed driveline, so the rear brake is operated by left-hand lever. The configuration is one almost anyone could grasp, making the Kalk’s barrier to entry substantially lower than a traditional dirt bike; if you can ride a bicycle, you can ride this bike.
The Kalk’s throttle does require a healthy amount of respect though as immediate power feels somewhat foreign, but quickly becomes addictive. It’s a near-silent bike, with most noise coming from the spinning chain. We covered single-track trails and did laps on the test track, and in all environments the bike performed well, but the Kalk impressed most during enduro riding along the beach and into the woods. We could easily creep along trails without scaring away the natural inhabitants and had more than enough power to rip when the terrain opened up. We felt immersed in the experience and absolutely aware of the terrain around us.
An all-too-familiar choke point for electric vehicles at current is battery life. With mixed riding, the Cake Kalk has a range of roughly 50 miles before needing a charge. If you don’t run it down below 15 percent, you can get it back to 85-percent charged in an hour. In a city that range would cover you for days of running about, but the Kalk is not yet configured to be street legal, so the bike is currently stuck between being a great dirt bike that can’t go far and a great city run-about that can’t go on the road. But that’s today, and Cake has big plans for the future.
With the release of the Kalk, Cake is launching a vertical strategy poised to rapidly gain momentum. Cake has partnered with a solar company in Europe to develop and launch a dedicated, carbon-neutral solar charging station for the Kalk, and is exploring options to allow owners to lease batteries for easy upgrades as battery technology improves. Designing and launching a street-legal version of the Kalk will happen after Cake releases the first run of 50 bikes and heads into full production.
It’s too early to say where Cake goes from here, but its first product, the Kalk, can transport any adult back to their younger years and those moments of pure enjoyment ... of coaster-brake power slides and the scraped and scabbed appendages that came with them. Crack open a photo album at your parent’s house, and you’ll be reminded of the pure, heady joy had in those early days on two wheels. We rediscovered that feeling on the Kalk, and we’re grateful for it. Lots of companies say they’re different, but Cake is one of the few that actually is. It’ll be fun to watch where they go from here.
WHAT I PACKED
Taylor Stitch Dyneema Jeans: With 60% Dyneema denim and a little stretch, these jeans work not only for riding, but also traveling and even a nicer dinner out. (Not in stock.)
Evergoods CPL24: A valuable travel partner, this well-designed pack fits great and can easily be worked out of.
Goal Zero Venture 30: A bit big, but it packs a lot of charging power.
American Trench Mil-Spec Socks: Made to U.S.-military spec, these cotton-blend socks use a silver treatment for anti-microbial (aka anti-stink) performance.
Duckworth Vapor T-Shirts: The most comfortable tees we’ve found, and Merino Wool doesn’t stink even if worn a couple days.
GORUCK 57L Kit Bag: Brutally simple, the 57L Kit Bag is a cavernous piece of luggage with just the right number of strategic pockets to keep you organized while still accommodating your riding gear.
Triple Aught Design Power Wool Boxer Briefs: Sweat isn’t a problem, seeing how TAD used PolarTec’s PowerWool for these underwear, and exemplary product design means you’re rarely uncomfortable.
MKII Paradive Watch: An homage to a Special Forces watch from the Vietnam years, this glow-in-the-dark, 12-hour bezel lets you track a second time zone, which is helpful when you’re traveling and left your significant other back home.
Bellroy Travel Wallet: As soon as you proceed outside the US borders, your Passport becomes your lifeline. Bellroy’s Travel Wallet keeps it, your boarding passes, and essential cards safe and sound from the moment you step off until you dump your bags back at home.