You're Going to Want the Cake Kalk E-Dirt Bike


The founder of Sweden’s high-end snow and cycling protection brand POC is branching out and building a new generation of electric dirt bikes. Light, fun, silent, friendly, and clean, the Cake Kalk is nothing like the motorcycles of the past and may even be the machine that gets you riding.

What’s Cake?

The new electric motorcycle company’s headquarters is in downtown Stockholm, but its heart and soul can be found in the tiny fishing village of Hallshuk, on the north shore of Gotland, a bucolic island in the Baltic Sea.

Founder and CEO Stephan Ytterborn has a summer home there and visits with his sons Karl and Nils, who are co-founders in the new company, to explore trails, surf the small Baltic swells, and fish its waters. This is where I visited to test their new motorcycle.

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The Ytterborn’s summer home. (Ty Brookhart)

Their barn is filled with surfboards, fishing poles, protection equipment, and a motley assortment of electric motorcycle-bicycle hybrids that the family collected in the run-up to designing the Kalk. Trails snake from the property, up and over limestone cliffs and into the surrounding woodlands and pastures. Kalksten is Swedish for limestone, hence the bike’s name.

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Equipped with seriously high-quality Ohlins suspension, the Kalk really can land jumps like this without drama. (Cake)

What’s the Kalk?

Blurring the lines between a gravity bike and a motorcycle, the Kalk weighs 100 pounds less than the next-lightest electric motorcycle, the KTM EX-C. At just 150 pounds, it’s far lighter than any gas-powered bike.

Over the past decade, dozens of small companies have attempted to build something similar, but their components were an odd mix of heavy stuff pulled from the motorcycle world and too-fragile parts from bikes. Cake has avoided that dilemma by making its own purpose-built components in-house and partnering with legendary Swedish suspension maker Ohlins to create the Kalk’s unique forks and monoshock.

By designing its own components, Cake is able to maximize this electric motorcycle’s low-impact qualities. The 24-inch tires are made from a unique rubber compound/tread pattern combo that’s meant to create low rolling resistance as well as high traction to avoid tearing up trails. The company partnered with SunPower to design a dedicated solar charger that can recharge the Kalk’s 2.6 kWh battery pack in 90 minutes.

The 65-degree head angle and 205 millimeters of suspension travel also split the difference between mountain and dirt bikes. The Ohlins suspension is as good as it gets, with high- and low-speed adjustments for compression damping and a three-stage air-spring front fork that you can dial in for ride height and bottoming resistance.

Riding It

The Kalk’s visual elegance and simplicity is complemented by an equally straightforward riding experience. Predictable, intuitive, and enjoyable, this bike is unintimidating and loads of fun.

One of the chief advantages of electric power is that its components have no fixed arrangement like the cylinders, induction systems, exhausts, and gearboxes of internal combustion engines. That means designers of electric motorcycles are free to cluster heavy batteries and motors however they want. On the Kalk, that results in a low center of gravity and a slim width that combine to make its svelte 150-pound weight feel even lighter, making it easy to maneuver and control over almost any terrain. Despite its dirt-bike-tall 35-inch seat height, the Kalk remains remarkably friendly for smaller riders, thanks to that ultra-low weight and slim dimensions.

That ease-of-use is accentuated by the simple controls. Without the need for a gearshift lever or a clutch, the Kalk has hand controls only, with the rear brake on the left and the twist throttle and front brake on the right. All your feet do is stand on the foot pegs. If you want to switch to a bicycle-like lever setup, you can just swap those around.

The only noise comes from the whir of the electric motor—think cordless drill on steroids—and the tires interacting with the surface you’re riding over. Anyone with a motorcycle background will be shocked by how quiet this thing is.

Three preset riding modes—Discover, Explore, and Excite—allow the rider to dial in throttle response, while another setting lets you tweak how strong the artificial “engine braking” actuates. This allows you to achieve the freewheeling feel of a bicycle or the strong deceleration you achieve when you let off the throttle on a four-stroke dirt bike. This feature also provides regenerative battery charging.

I spent a couple days riding the Kalk through Gotland’s tight forest trails and on Cake’s motocross track. It felt like nothing else I’ve ever swung a leg over. Once up to speed on tight singletrack, it felt like descending on a mountain bike, no matter if the trail was going up, down, or staying flat. Flicking the rear around requires only a touch of throttle, and the tires lift off the ground over even the smallest bump. The slack head tube and short wheelbase combine stability with agile turning, and the large brake discs and hydraulic calipers make scrubbing all that speed a breeze.

The Kalk does without the brush guards that are standard on dirt bikes. This keeps it visually clean, but without that protection, your hands get slapped by passing branches. Depending on what types of trails you ride and how fast you want to tackle them, you’ll probably want to add hand protection. The Kalk also does without a side stand, but even the smallest rider in our group (110 pounds) had no problem picking up the bike after laying it down flat.

The Kalk really shines on Cake’s small motocross track. Thirty pound-feet of torque is a lot on a 150-pound bike, and it’s delivered immediately, at any speed, with a simple twist of the throttle. Being able to ride without shifting really helped me maintain speed, and the suspension soaked up the whoops and landings, even when I cased the tabletops. The bike’s top speed of 50 miles per hour is more than enough on a track like this or through tight trails.

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Cake wants you to use its bike to enjoy the outdoors more significantly, not to disrupt or damage it. (Cake)

Who’s It For?

Ytterborn says he wants Cake to be “more Patagonia than Kawasaki.” But given the $13,000 price tag, it’s hard to imagine someone without motorcycle experience picking one of these up on a whim. The Kalk’s strong performance, even in the mildest throttle setting, will also be a lot for a new rider to handle. It accelerates much faster than, say, a scooter, or 125cc learner motorcycle.

But if you already know how to ride a motorcycle, the quiet, clean, and ultralight Kalk will offer you a completely new riding experience. It makes even the tightest and most technical trails much more manageable. It gives you the opportunity to encounter wildlife while you’re out riding. On it, you can explore the woods without disrupting them.

If that sounds like fun, and if you want to burn fewer fossil fuels and don’t want everyone within a mile to hear you riding by, then the Kalk will change how you feel about motorcycles. Cake is hoping this describes more than a few of you.

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The Kalk is nearly silent, so you won’t disturb wildlife while out on the trail. Alternatively, you could just take selfies with farm animals. (Cake)

Likes

  • Elegant design.
  • Flawless engineering and quality.
  • Amazing suspension.
  • Strong performance.
  • Near-silent operation.
  • Extremely lightweight.
  • Incredibly easy to ride.
  • Low maintenance.

Dislikes

  • Only 50 miles of range on a trail.
  • Not street legal (yet).
  • Expensive.
  • No headlight.
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Without the need to breathe air, electric vehicles actually do better in water than internal combustion can. (Cake)

Should You Buy It?

Every time I test a new vehicle, I try to imagine owning one. I could strap this thing to the front of our military truck when my wife, son, and I set out on an overland adventure, charge it from our onboard solar panels, and use it to explore the areas outside our camps, ride it into town for supplies, and rely on it as emergency transportation, since that LMTV breaks down a lot. Honestly, I think it’d be ideal in that role.

But that’s admittedly a niche use case. Cake’s first motorcycle is a dirt bike for people who don’t like dirt bikes. Given the quality of the product, I think the company will be able to find a strong if small following for such a thing. But it’s what comes next for the new brand that’ll be its real challenge. Will Cake move closer to the motorsports world or find new ways to put electric motorcycles in different hands?

If the Ytterborns can figure that out, then I think they might really be on to something.

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