2019 Cake Kalk OR Review - First Ride
Light, clean, quiet
The Cake Kalk OR is the first in the line of a quartet of stylish Swedish electric… motorcycles? Yeah, they’re motorcycles. No pedals over here. But after a quick couple of days getting acquainted with the Kalk OR – the company’s off-road model – in Moab, UT, I came away surprised not only by how much fun was had, but also with the riding experience itself. The Cake Kalk OR is a veritable amalgam of two-wheeled fun. It’s a bit mountain bike and a bit off-road moto and a total blast to ride.
Before getting straight into the Kalk OR, let’s take a look at who Cake is and where they come from.
Maybe you’ve heard of Cake or perhaps you’ve seen the unmistakably Swedish-designed white e-motos. The bikes exude the clean minimalist design we’ve come to think of when considering the Scandinavian country’s exports. Contemporary Swedish design also tends to have an element of responsibility to it. Responsibility to sustainability. It’s obvious that the electric power train of the Cake vehicles lends to this, but it doesn’t stop there. The company’s ethos revolves around three words: light, clean, and quiet. This mindset hints at Cake’s goal of moving society toward a zero-emission future.
Cake founder Stefan Ytterborn’s vision was to create a cleaner, quieter motorcycle. Ytterborn didn’t have a motorcycling background before Cake, quite the opposite actually. He found himself rather annoyed with some of the things we petrolheads hold dear – the noise and smell of motorcycles – and thought there had to be a better way. An avid outdoor recreationist, Ytterborn began looking for an inclusive solution rather than simply lobbying to ban motorized vehicles from riding areas, which may come as no surprise to those familiar with Stefan Ytterborn’s portfolio of startups. Ytterborn happens to be the founder and former CEO of POC (Piece of Cake) helmets – an industry leader in cycling and snow. When he founded Cake, he brought a handful of POC employees with him as he set out on this new venture. Both the staff in Sweden and the US are made up of passionate skilled enthusiasts from all walks: mountain biking, skiing, moto, etc.
The Cake Kalk OR
Following my visit to AIMExpo I was able to connect with the folks at Cake, which eventually led to being one of three editors invited to join the company in Moab, UT for a day of testing. It has been a dream/goal of mine to get hold of an electric motorcycle and to be able to hit some trails through the woods in near silence. Sure, Utah’s red rock formations are a fry cry from the dense forests of my daydreams, but I’m not complaining about having the chance to do so on Moab’s Slickrock Trail and the surrounding areas.
The day we arrived, we had the chance to preview the motorcycles in the afternoon, discussing specs and any questions we might have before the following day’s ride. Swinging a leg over the Kalk OR (OR meaning Off-Road) and having a quick spin immediately highlighted the machine’s nimble 150-pound weight and also the ergonomics. I’ve been doing a fair bit of cycling lately in an attempt to stave off calories from my non-stop travel schedule, and while the Kalk OR reminds me nothing of my road bike, the ergos are very close to that of my mountain bike. The steering head angle, the handlebar’s offset from the fork, and even the footpeg position is more akin to the feel of a mountain bike than a dirtbike. Not a complaint, just something that took some getting used to.
Interesting fact, the Cake Kalk OR is almost entirely made by Cake. Building an entirely new vehicle, Ytterborn and the team at Cake were unwilling to compromise their vision by using existing componentry that could potentially add weight (an issue when trying to stick with the company’s goal of a 150-pound vehicle) or sacrifice performance. Although the components are manufactured by companies all around the world with most taking place in Taiwan, design and development for those parts is handled in Sweden. A new vehicle, one that was to be built to the standards of Ytterborn’s team, required nearly everything to be made from scratch. The only existing components used are suspension and brakes. Even the 38mm Öhlins inverted fork and TTX 22 shock have been adapted from current mountain bike products to be specifically fit for the Kalk OR, mostly in consideration of the weight differential. Formula brakes – an Italian company that manufactures both bicycle and motorcycle braking systems as well as bicycle suspension and wheels – are used both front and rear.
Down to the Trail Saver tire, Cake tells us everything has been built for the Kalk OR specifically and that, naturally, comes with a price tag. The Kalk OR retails for $13,000. If you’re still reading after that showstopper, let’s take a step back to look at that price. Like we’ve heard with the H-D LiveWire, the Cake Kalk OR is meant to be a halo product. One to aspire to, and with a new company, particularly one developing vehicles with entirely one-off production, there is a lot of cost to recoup. On sale since 2017 in Europe, Cake tells us they are happy with sales thus far and are continuing to make less expensive products for the masses. Speaking of which, since the introduction of the Kalk OR, there is now the Kalk& – a street-legal version of the OR – and just recently announced at EICMA, the Ösa Lite and Ösa + – a utilitarian modular vehicle Cake views as a cross between a workbench and a scooter.
In case you were wondering how this whole operation is funded, let’s not forget that Stefan Ytterborn is an accomplished businessman. Cake closed its most recent round of fundraising to the tune of $14m. The recent round, led by Creandum, included global fund e.ventures, in addition to a strong backbone of existing investors and a limited number of very specific and peak competence specialists.
“This is a giant step for CAKE, hooking up with leaders in their trade, and aside from the capital injection nursing our way forward sharing in-depth competence and experience. The ability to accelerate is timely, just having launched the street certified Kalk& model for North America and Europe, as well as launching the next model Ösa, a more commuter oriented vessel, during fall,” says Stefan Ytterborn, Founder and CEO of Cake.
Undoubtedly, this will help Ytterborn and his crew continue to grow and diversify the company’s product line.
The Kalk OR runs on a 51.8-volt, 50-Ah, 2.6-kWh battery that powers its 11kW motor. 206 lb-ft of torque is the claim. Mathematically, that’s what you get with 42Nm at the output shaft when combined with the 12-tooth front and 80-tooth rear sprocket. As is typically the case, the throttle has been tuned carefully to allow riders to enjoy the benefits of the electric drivetrain while not immediately sending ham-fisted riders on their backsides. There are also three ride modes and three braking modes. Ride mode one, Explore, is the most docile power delivery and limits the top speed to 28 mph, which Cake tells us gives three to four hours of ride time. Ride mode two, Excite, is a substantially sporty increase in power delivery from mode one but is still delivered predictably and in a linear fashion. Ride mode three, Excel, gives you everything she’s got, captain, and will light up the rear quickly, disregarding the Trail Saver tires’ namesake. Top speed is somewhere around 55 mph. The throttle action is smooth and precise, allowing the rider to dial in the power they’re looking for easily, but beware: Until you get used to the throttle’s sensitivity, it’s easy to spin up the rear over bumpy or loose conditions.
Cake tells us the battery is good for about three hours of trail riding. As always, your mileage may vary, but mine didn’t much. In fact, during our time on the Slickrock Trail after about 90 minutes of riding I was still showing three out of four LEDS on the dash, telling me I had somewhere between 75% and 50% juice left. We’re told there’s a one-and-a-half-hour charge time on a 110V power supply from 0-80%, and two and half hours from 0-100%. Cake reps also claim more than 3,000 charge cycles before the Kalk OR’s battery shows any signs of deterioration.
The Kalk OR has three “brake” settings that allow two levels of battery regeneration. Mode one is freewheeling with no regenerative braking, two is described as two-stroke-like levels of regenerative braking whereas mode three is akin to a four-stroke’s engine braking and provides the most regen. Mode three was a bit much for me to get used to, but in order to hopefully elongate my battery life, mode two was a happy compromise.
Starting off in ride mode two, the more gradual delivery of power, relative to mode three, left me wondering if I was going to complete some of the steeper climbs encountered. After switching to mode three, on all but bumpy or loose rocky conditions, the quick power delivery was welcome, particularly when slowing just before a steep ascent when I needed to get back on the throttle quickly. While mode three did deliver that power quicker, I still found myself losing steam toward the middle of the climb and not much further into it than what mode two had provided. After discussing the issue with Cake employees and our own resident e-bike specialist, T. Siahaan, I surmised that all things considered (terrain, rider, etc.) the small, lightweight motor was simply being taxed beyond its limits. The load of a 175-pound rider on that steep of a hill seemed to be too much for the relatively small motor. The obvious fix during my time on the Kalk OR was simply to carry more momentum, something the MTB-savvy folks from Cake on our ride were already doing.
Not to discredit the rest of the machine, but the suspension and brakes were pretty fantastic. One should hope so, with those being the only components that Cake felt comfortable outsourcing. The 38mm Öhlins fork is air/oil sprung and provides just over eight inches of travel. Adjustable for high-speed compression, low-speed compression and low-speed rebound, the three stage air spring-equipped suspenders offer individual setup for ride heights and bottoming resistance. The modified Öhlins TTX 22 shock also offers eight inches of travel and is adjustable for both high and low-speed compression as well as rebound. The bike stayed in a good spot in the suspension and never bottomed while I was riding, although there weren’t many situations where it might have. The Formula brakes required little pressure from the rider and were easy to modulate, though having the rear brake on the left hand lever took some getting used to. Cake says they’ll offer a traditional right foot brake for those interested.
It didn’t take long to grow accustomed to the differences the Kalk OR carries with it versus a traditional motorcycle or dirtbike. Again, with mountain bike ergos, the only real hurdle for new riders may come from the almost 36-inch seat height, and since it’s not a bicycle, there isn’t a lower top tube to straddle. The long flat seat is similar to a dirtbike’s but a little wider, making it more comfortable initially, though when I found myself seated for a stretch of time I began to start noticing the hard edges of the seat/frame rail pushing into my inner thighs.
After I stopped thinking of the Kalk OR as a dirtbike and started tossing it around like a mountain bike, I really started having fun. The 152 pounds (claimed) of e-moto allow you to ride it like a bicycle, and when we were riding in deep sand for miles on end, the low weight made the Kalk OR easy to straighten out with my legs when things started getting sideways. It was also nice having a motor to take us out to the viewpoints those sandy roads led us to. I wouldn’t have enjoyed pedaling through it.
The style of the bike is polarizing. I’ve talked to more than a handful of people about the Kalk, and they either love the style or hate it. I think it looks great. Good from afar and even better up close when you can appreciate the attention to detail. Having the chance to ride one showcases the fun to be had that nothing else I’ve ridden is capable of. Sure, $13,000 isn’t chump change, really, it’s a tough price point to swallow for many motorcyclists, I’m sure. I won’t even bother mentioning the laundry list of great motorcycles that can be had at that price, but maybe that’s why they’ve been marketing to the outdoor crowd heavily. If someone’s spending 10 or 12 grand on a mountain bike, what’s another K for a motorized one?
On my MO salary, the MSRP is a deal-breaker, but that’s my problem, not yours. The Kalk OR is such a fun bike to ride that one just needs to look at the specs to decide if it’s worth it to them. You’ll have fun on it, no doubt. So what’s that worth to you?
2019 Cake Kalk OR
- Mountain bike fun but with a throttle
- Lightweight and maneuverable
- Functional artwork
- Cost will be difficult to get past
- A small motor can only take so much load
- We’ll always want more range
Cake Kalk OR Specifications
|11kW (15 hp) motor (claimed)
|42 Nm (31.0 lb-ft.) peak torque on shaft / 280 Nm (206.5 lb-ft.) on wheel (claimed)
|Explore: The ultimate mode during exploration. Limited speed to 45 kph (28 mph) and 3-4h+ battery range
Excite: Enduro or active trail riding. 1-2 h riding time
Excel: Track and race mode, maximal torque and speed, riding time up to 1h
|18650 lithium cells
|0-80% takes 1.5 h to charge in a standard outlet
0-100% takes 2.5 h to charge in a standard outlet
|Freewheel, 2-stroke & 4-stroke
|Frame: 6061 aluminum, extruded, forged and CNC jointed and welded
Body: carbon fiber reinforced PC
Swingarm: 6061 aluminum extruded tube profile with linkage
|38mm air/oil sprung Öhlins inverted fork with adjustable high-speed compression, low-speed compression and low-speed rebound and 204mm of travel
|Öhlins TTX22, 205 mm of travel
|Four pistons callipers, alloy levers and 220 mm/3.2 mm stainless steel rotors
|Wheels and tires
|24 inch/50 mm 6061 alloy, triple chamber rims.
24 inch specially developed tires for durability and minimum trail wear
|114.6 pounds (dry) plus 37.5 pound battery
Total: 152.1 pounds (claimed)
Ryan’s time in the motorcycle industry has revolved around sales and marketing prior to landing a gig at Motorcycle.com. An avid motorcyclist, interested in all shapes, sizes, and colors of motorized two-wheeled vehicles, Ryan brings a young, passionate enthusiasm to the digital pages of MO.
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