So this is a totally weird bike to pop up, even on e-Bikerumor. Not because it looks like a Stormtropper’s motorcycle. But more for that moto aspect. The Cake Kalk is not a bike; it’s not an e-bike; but it’s also not exactly a motorcycle. It IS an insanely fun, mostly quiet, clean-running battery-powered, entirely motor-propelled ripper that a lot of riders with experience on aggressive mountain bikes AND off-road motorbikes will thoroughly enjoy.
Cake Kalk production series lightweight e-motorbike
Let’s get a few very clear things out front here.
One, the Kalk isn’t cheap. At 13,000 dollars or euros (whichever you prefer to spend) this is more expensive than most (but not all) e-bikes on the market, and most (but not all) mountain bikes of any persuasion. That said, there are plenty of motorcycles that cost more, but there are still more conventional street legal e-motorcycles and e-dirtbikes that will get you riding under battery power for less.
Two, there’s no avoiding calling the Cake Kalk a motorcycle. It is certainly unique in many ways from how it was developed, how it is built & how light it is, to how quiet it is (I’ll get to that in a bit). But at the end of the day, you sit on the seat, put your feet up on the pegs, and twist a throttle back to go. And with that it is not street legal. So for the time being you’ll need to find legal Off Road Vehicle trails, and stick to them.
Cake Kalk lightweight e-motorcycle Tech Details
We fully detailed the Kalk when it debuted back in January, as a mountain bike-inspired electric motorbike. That basically means lighter & more maneuverable than a conventional motorcycle – the Kalk weighs 69kg (152lb), while almost every other e-motorcycle available weighs over 110kg. But it’s also heavier than almost all e-bikes, with most gravity eMTBs weighing around 25-30kg (55-66lb). The reason behind that is two-fold: One, it gets a 15kW motor (roughly on par with those heavier e-motorcycles) – 60x more powerful than the 250W motor in most pedal assist bikes. And two, every one of its components has been specifically engineered for life as a light and strong trail motorcycle.
We were curious what that meant from a riding experience. Or for that matter, what was the intended market for the Kalk? Who was going to buy these things? So, we went to Sweden to check the Kalk out firsthand.
Cake Kalk Real Tech Review
Because a lot of gravity mountain bikers also ride moto, this zero emission dirt bike borrows Enduro/DH mountain bike geometry, even some suspension tunes to make for a more lively, fun ride. Really, 205mm of rear travel, 204mm up front, and a 65° headtube angle. That sounds familiar, right?
Compared to standard motos with gas or electric engines, the Cake Kalk is also nearly half their weight. That goes a long way to making the Kalk way easier to throw around both on the dirt jumps and forest single track.
Besides the manageable weight (69kg still isn’t something you pick up and toss on your roof rack), the first thing I really noticed riding the Kalk on dirt roads and forest trails was how stable and confidence inspiring it is. Other long travel e-MTBs just feel overly-heavy and under-built. It kind of works on the pedal-assist models as that limits you getting up to speed until gravity takes over. But those adapted more to a throttle feel like death traps, compared to the Kalk. And to be honest I have no desire to ever through a leg over any of those contraptions again. I can’t justify 13 grand on a Kalk, but I surely would ride the hell out of it.
The reason the Kalk works so well is the use of a frame, a motor, suspension, wheels, tires, and cockpit all designed specifically for this weight class and riding style. Nothing is over or under-built, and that means lightweight, high performance – of course at a cost.
Its own lightweight, high-performance components take much inspiration from the light & strong product development we see in gravity mountain bike disciplines, but the parts aren’t off the shelf. In fact, Cake told us that there are really only two completely off-the-shelf components on the Kalk. One are the folding alloy foot pegs, the other the light four-piston brakes, both straight from the moto world and hard to improve on. The rear Öhlins air shock is an almost stock TTX22 DH air shock, just with a Cake tune that turns out to be lighter than on many DH bikes thanks to the Kalk’s suspension linkage design. Up front, the inverted, double crown Öhlins 3-stage air/oil fork is entirely custom-made, with all of the compression & rebound adjustability you would find on a modern DH or Enduro fork.
Cake Kalk Ride Review
So really, how does it ride? And should you buy one?
To give you a bit of background, I’ve been mountain biking technical trails since the early 1990s. In the past I’ve raced amateur DH, dual slalom, XC, and Enduro now that it’s a thing. I’m am a very technically competent mountain biker, who thoroughly enjoys getting rad on a bike, but I’m no longer really on par with modern gravity racers. I’ve also ridden off-road motorcycles & MX bikes since the late 80s, which for sure where I first experienced the original Enduro. But I haven’t been a regular moto rider for almost a decade now, having fully converted to pedal biking.
But it is that culmination of off-road riding experience that made my time riding the Kalk shine. In a sense, I am the perfect customer for the Cake Kalk – a 40-year-old guy who can have just as much fun on an enduro bike or a trail motorbike.
I rode the Kalk together with a handful of other riders of mixed backgrounds. Everyone was able to ride the thing – it’s three position power output riding modes & three position motor braking modes make it easy to manage for even inexperienced riders. But the road and touring motorcycle guys didn’t really appreciate the light weight and maneuverability. And the mountain bike only riders didn’t seem as comfortable managing the throttle, both through tight trails or off the jumps on the track.
Me, however; I was never super comfortable with a motocross bike on a big MX track. But it took only one loop around Cake’s home test track until I wanted to rail harder though every turn, perfect the tabletops, and struggle to clean the doubles. And the moment I set out into the woods, I wanted to just ride until the battery died.
Cake Kalk Review Sticking Points
My only real sticking points besides the pricetag, are that it isn’t as perfectly quiet as it has been hyped, and the range is somewhat limited.
Cake talks the Kalk up as a silent way to experience moto-style trail riding, and how it does not disturb wildlife or others out enjoying nature. The electric motor is indeed super quiet, but it still uses a chain drive. And that big steel chain makes a distinctive whine as you get the bike up to speed. It is nowhere near the sound of even a four-stroke motorcycle, but you can fully hear it from over 100m away. Cake has said a properly silent belt-drive setup is in development and will be backwards compatible with all of the Kalks that consumers get until then. I think that will be a true game changer.
As to the battery life, it does really depend on how you ride. Cake was under-promising, over-delivering with the test bike I rode. In full power Excel mode on the track we were able to run a mostly charged bike down in just under an hour of mostly continuous riding. But even on a mix of the low power Explore mode and slightly quicker Excite mode, I was able to get over an hour and a half of aggressive trail riding in before the warning light told me I was almost dead. And I still had a decent bit in reserve when I rolled back to the start 15 minutes later. This is definitely not a motorcycle for long distance touring across continents. But it charges to 80% in 90 minutes, or to 100% in two and a half hours. That will be plenty for most recreational trail riders I would guess.
Oh and did I mention that further to the clean running clean energy concept behind the Kalk, Cake has partnered with a solar system provider, and they’ll sell you a setup that will charge your Kalk from the sun in even a bit less time. So maybe this could work for your off-the-grid cabin after all.
Trail Access Issues to ride an e-Motorbike
I’ll only just touch on this, always contentions trail access issue. Please don’t just ride this thing on some regular old mountain bike trails! With that said careful research will reveal that many amazing trails are OHV friendly. You know mountain biking’s Mecca of Moab’s Slickrock Trail? Did you remember that it was laid out for motorcycles before the mountain bike was even a thing. Yeah, have at it.
We had open & honest discussions with Cakes’ founder Stefan Ytterborn (also the founder of cycling protection & clothing company POC) about access. They know it is an issue and want to be able to address it head on. They developed the Kalk as a way to get out an experience the fun of riding a dirtbike in nature without the noise, the smell , and the pollution unnecessarily damaging the environment. The know this isn’t a zero impact bike, but even when were looking to put tires on the Kalk, the specifically developed their own tire that better balanced grip and lightweight performance, without simply shredding the trail.
The Cake Track Concept
They want to foster an environment where Kalk owners around the world can share places to legally & responsibly ride. They even have worked with one of their sponsored riders fellow Swede Robin Wallner of the Ibis cycles Enduro World Series team to develop the Cake Track Concept – an idea to build a standardized light electric motorcycle track where riders can race and push the Kalk to its limits.
I burned through a lot of electrons jumping around their original home track on Gotland. And it was the most fun I have had twisting a throttle since I was a teenager.
Final Thoughts & Riding Impressions
Whether the Kalk is for you really depends on budget, riding experience, and access to appropriate trails. I personally think experience riding both dirtbikes and enduro bikes is the biggest prerequisite. Those seem like the types of riders who are going to have the most fun on the Kalk, and really push it to its limits where the most fun happens. Then you just need responsible access to legal OHV/ATV trails and a wallet that can justify the cost. And who knows, maybe Cake will help build a track near you to play on, even to compete.
Cake Kalk Production Series Availability & Pricing
The original 14,000€ Kalk Limited Edition sold out its run of 50 bikes when it opened up for sale at the start of 2018. It was actually back in early summer when I went to Sweden to ride some of the first of those Kalks off the assembly line. But we waited a bit to write up the Kalk until now, when you can actually pre-order the standard production run of the e-motos. These bikes are functionally the same as what I rode +/- an injection molded plastic fender here or there vs. carbon on the limited bikes.
But you save a grand for waiting. Pre-order now with a $1000€ down payment, the remaining $12,000€ will get billed when the production Kalks ship. And thankfully at that price delivery is included worldwide. Official shipping of the production Kalk is set for 01 Feb 2019, but Cake says some early bird buyers might get there’s starting after Christmas this year.
And word is that the Kalk is only the first of many different alternative electric-powered bikes to come, some with commuters specifically in mind. We’re curious where they go next!