Stefan Ytterborn isn’t a man of modest ambition. A year ago when we interviewed him about inventing a new kind of combination motorcycle-bicycle with electric drive, he didn’t shy away from calling out Tesla as a model, or of being the game-changing force that would drive an entire industry to view its business in a new light. After all, Ytterborn did that once, when he started POC, a helmet company all about reducing the damage caused by concussions, which in turn pressured other bike helmet brand to embrace a technology they kept denying was necessary.
Now comes the first Cake electric motorcycle, and at least visually, it’s a showstopper. And specs-wise, it’s pretty compelling too. With an aluminum-carbon fiber chassis, a 55-inch wheelbase and 155-pound weight, the idea is that the new Cake Kalk is going to ride a lot more like a powered downhill mountain bike than a motorcycle, with the bulk of the battery/motor weight centered directly beneath the rider. (A gas-powered bike would weigh at least 250 pounds and typically be longer; the Zero FX e-moto weighs almost 300 pounds). Plus, because the electric motor has so much torque, there’s no need for a clutch, which will make learning to ride the Kalk less challenging, especially for an anticipated audience of non-throttle twisters.
Range is 50 miles, which isn’t mind blowing, but is generous enough to zip you to distant trailhead up a washed out fire road you might otherwise have to walk.
The big challenge, Ytterborn thinks, will be where you’ll be able to ride the Kalk. Ytterborn says he knows that the U.S. has a patchwork of legislation regulation motorized travel and that he doesn’t necessarily think he’s going to appeal to “typical petrolheads. That market exists, but this is something totally new. It’s the opposite of noisy, aggressive, loud and greasy.”
Instead, Ytterborn says he’s approaching ski resorts in North America with the idea of renting Kalks for uphill and resort exploration. He says it’s clear that no resort would considering working with gas-powered motos, but a totally silent eMoto that looks this cool and could just be used to transport someone to distant trails or, say, an on-mountain center? That is indeed potentially game changing.
And the model going forward, as Ytterborn looks toward 2022, is four models, all with street-legal bona-fides, “uch as lights, signals, gauges, etc.,” and with accessories, too, such as panniers. “I imagine being able to go out with a spare battery [Kalk already comes with the ability to hot-swap the one onboard] , some food, a tent, and get away for a weekend and have the most wonderful adventures.”
Meanwhile Kalk as shown is designed to split the difference between enduro and downhill mountain bike geometry, so it’s plush enough for jumping but comfortable for a novice to take down steep descents without too much pucker factor. “We’ve learned a lot from the bike, ,rather than MX world,” explains Ytterborn. Sizing is tackled with different stems and peg placement options, and with easily adjusted progression and damping of the Ohlins-suppled fork.
“Right now we look really exciting, and of course that’s on purpose,” Ytterborn says, admitting that to build buzz they needed a bit of flash, and they needed serious capability, too, so a lot of the beta testing was done by pro MX riders who would push the Kalk, to make sure it could stand up to jumping and other antics.
“But to be honest, our end point is a lot more exploration, of totally silent riding in the forest. Our future is much more Patagonia than Kawasaki.”