Bike Review: Cake Kalk
Cake was started by Stefan Ytterborn, who is the man responsible for starting POC Sports back in 2005. Interestingly, POC stands for “Piece of Cake,” and the brand became a presence in the high-end clothing and helmet market for road cyclists. Stefan sold POC a few years ago and decided to run with the cake theme in an entirely different direction. His new startup is focused on making electric motorcycles in a new and unserved category, which is being referred to as L.E.O., or Light Electric Off-road Motorbikes.
The name “Kalk” comes from kalksten (or limestone), the bedrock of the island of Gotland off the shores of Sweden in the Baltic Sea. Ytterborn has a home there, and that’s where the Cake bike enjoyed some early R&D days on a test track built there.
They tested other bikes and prototyped for a few years, culminating in this new design with some impressive specs. When they announced the bike last year, they sold the first 50 limited-edition bikes in two weeks. We had a chance to ride one. The only difference is that the limited edition had some cladding in carbon fiber, while the production version will have those same pieces made of plastic. They’ve pre-sold 85 more as of this writing. You can go to their website and put down a deposit to order one.
The bike is so clean, it looks like a computer rendering. One of the guys at the office said it looked like a Lego version of a motorcycle. It’s definitely not meant to appeal to guys with years of moto experience. Cake’s objective was to create a new market segment, not fit into an existing one. They’re not going after consumers who already ride; they’re going after adventurous, outdoorsy people who love to explore.
“There was nothing this bike couldn’t climb!”
The Kalk starts off with an aluminum frame. It’s as simple and spartan as they could design it, made for simplicity and easy maintenance. Overall, the EBA staff was split on the bike’s angular design aesthetic. The bike really had the look of being an early rendering instead of a finished design, but who says anyone has to follow any conventions for design or look as long as it works.
Cake says they will offer a street bike version of this by the time you’re reading this. It’s the same frame, but with all the lights, signals, etc. to make it street-legal. It’ll have a bit less torque and a higher top speed (around 65 mph) with a smaller rear sprocket. We’ve been advised that their production road map includes three more bikes, but they couldn’t talk about them yet.
For the tall asking price of $13,000 you’d hope the Cake had some good parts on it, and when it comes to the suspension, it most certainly does. For decades the Öhlins suspension has been known as the cream of the crop in the motorcycle world. Up front is their inverted air/oil fork with fully adjustable high- and low-speed compression and low-speed rebound. They added an Öhlins TTX22 shock that was rebuilt with Cake internals and a custom coil-over spring for optimal damping. Both offer over 200mm of travel.
The aero-shaped 24-inch wheels are mounted with trials tread tires, and the Cake-designed rims are meant to provide maximum ease of use with the ability to easily change tires on the trail if needed with nothing more than
bicycle-style tire levers.
The motor is custom made for Cake. It puts out 42 N/m of torque at the shaft. A 12-tooth front sprocket drives a massive 80t rear sprocket, amplifying that torque. There’s no gear reduction system in between, keeping the drivetrain simpler, lighter and easier to maintain. The chain is a beefy RK 420MXU sealed
The controls are very simple. There’s an on/off switch on the lower front section of the bike that is a tad awkward to reach, a magnetic kill switch, a throttle, and the dashboard has five LED lights and two knobs. The first LED shows the system is on, while the next four show the battery level in 25-percent increments.
One knob controls the power delivery. In mode one, it’s very forgiving and power ramps up slowly. In mode two, it’s a little more aggressive on the acceleration and goes faster on the top end. Mode three is for expert riders, as wherever you are on the throttle, that’s where the motor is in real time. If you slam the throttle wide open, you may just wind up on your back. Let’s just say the front end comes up easily in this mode.
The second knob controls the regeneration/motor braking. In mode one, it’s like a freewheel—no braking, no regen. In mode two, it’s similar to a two-stroke bike when you let off the throttle. It will slow you down reasonably quickly. In mode three, it’s like a four-stroke bike when you let off the throttle and the compression braking takes over. It’s just shy of being abrupt, but it does make for a very controllable ride. As with any bicycle or motorcycle with regen, don’t expect any appreciable power to be put back into the battery, but it’s awesome for not having to brake so much on downhill runs, saving your brakes.
They’ve tested everything and overbuilt it and underclocked the controller to keep the bike from having a chance to overheat, also saving on battery life. They’ve torture-tested bikes by running three batteries in a row, with virtually no time in between, to see if they could overheat the system, and they claim it never did.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
As we said earlier, the Kalk is not aimed at people who are already motorcycle riders, but rather for new blood looking to discover something different and easier to ride and maintain. This is definitely a bike for riders with a big pocketbook who like a quiet bike. It’s great for beginners, as there’s no clutch or gears. You get on, turn it on and go.
When first getting on the bike and turning it on, you do have to remember that once it’s on and ready, it’s dead silent. It’s easy to forget, even when you get off the bike, that it’s live. If you accidentally twist the throttle when getting off or moving the bike, it can take off. It has a really tall seat height, and the saddle is pretty boxy and unpadded. The footpegs are large and grippy.
Once moving, the bike isn’t silent. You can hear the sound of the chain, but it’s not obnoxiously loud. It’s enough that people will hear you coming. Cake has experimented with a belt drive, but with the power this bike produces, it has the potential to snap a carbon belt. The bike reminded us of the very first Zero motorcycle but with over a decade’s worth of newer technology and better suspension setup.
We ran the bike for a couple of hours. Not totally nonstop, but most of the time it was going while we were shooting photos and testing it out. Our main test rider, an experienced moto rider, was having a blast seeing how many tall hills he could climb. There were rutty singletracks going up really steep grades, and he made everyone, often multiple times at full throttle. There was nothing this bike couldn’t climb!
Testing the different modes, we liked mode two for power. It was aggressive enough without being overly so. It also kept from draining the battery more. In the hours we spent on the bike switching off with multiple riders, we used about 25 percent of the battery. Very surprising considering how much we used it. We were told that the bike can do 55/55/55—that is 55 mph, for 55 miles or 55 minutes if run wide open. That made us have range anxiety at first, but after flogging it as much as we did, those numbers are conservative.
Using the regen was fantastic. We liked mode two most of the time, but mode three was fantastic when descending and at times when going over jumps to help keep the bike from looping. Overall balance on the bike was fantastic, and at 143 pounds, you can throw the bike around more than you can a gas-powered motocross bike.
You can buy an extra battery, but that will set you back a bit over 2 grand. We’d recommend that you ride the bike for a bit first to see if you’ll need it. The tires have knobs very close together, inline with no sharp angles, specifically to save the trails. The trade-off is that there isn’t a lot of traction on anything loose. We took it on a variety of terrain, and on loose-packed dirt and even hard- to medium-packed sand it’s pretty squirrely. In dry sand, you virtually can’t turn the bike at all. As with most bikes, people customize their bikes with aftermarket parts, so different tires might make for a much better ride if you often ride in softer terrain. On most hard-packed trails and fire roads, there was no issue.
When we first began seeing promo material for the Cake, the company continued to use the word “moto” in describing the bike’s intended use. While the connotation of that word might not have much significance for most people, for those of us who grew up racing motocross, it’s very significant. At first glance, in no way was the Cake Kalk anything close to resembling a capable “moto” bike. It just wasn’t, and we’re glad to see they’ve walked their description back to lean more towards the “light off-road” description.
We did put an experienced motocross rider on the bike, and he had a blast pushing the Kalk to its limits. In fact, he barely found those limits. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to have the Cake for a long-term test, so we can’t speak to its overall durability from repeated off-road abuse.
The fact that there’s no clutch or gears will appeal to new riders, as it lowers the learning curve. There’s plenty of power to get in over your head if you aren’t careful, but the fact that it’s almost silent will keep it from bothering others on the trail or nearby neighbors. It’s a bike for those who want something modern, quick and have the budget to pay more than a gas bike to go out and have fun in the dirt. They seem to have sold multiple bikes to many customers, because most of them don’t want to ride solo.
Price: $13,000 delivered
Motor: Custom built for Cake
Battery: 51.8V, 50 Ah lithium-ion
Charge time: 0-80% in 1.5 hours, 0–100% in 2.5 hours
Top Speed: 55 mph
Range: 30-55 miles
Drive: Chain, 13T front sprocket and 80T rear, 42 N/m peak torque at
Brakes: Motorcycle standard, four-
piston calipers, alloy levers and 220mm stainless steel rotors
Fork: Öhlins, inverted, air/oil with 204mm travel. Adjustable
compression and rebound
Rear shock: Öhlins TTX22 with Cake internals and custom spring, 205mm