Cake Kalk& Electric Motorcycle Review: Back to the Bike Lane With This Weakling Leave a comment

I really wanted to like the Cake Kalk&. I mean, I had picked it out myself for a test ride last week in Los Angeles.

The all-electric motorcycle looks futuristic and cool, like something out of Blade Runner 2049 or a music video from the Weeknd. Its skeletal frame, slim, knobby tires, and elegant design—you could draw it with about two lines, like a Picasso sketch—indicated a nimbleness and purity I love in off-road motorbikes. 

The Kalk& was “engineered for the outback and your daily commute” with “face-melting amounts of all-electric torque” promised the company website and Digital Trends, respectively. I love electric motorcycles!  I thought to myself as I first parked it in my downtown LA driveway. I’ll be riding it to Hollywood and Venice and everywhere in between for the week I have it! This thing will be a home run I won’t want to give back.

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Source: Hannah Elliott

Unfortunately, early indicators proved misleading. Underpowered for highway riding and hilly ascents, the Kalk& is closer to an electric bicycle at best—and with a starting price of $14,000, it is a steeply overpriced one at that.

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Considering a move to the bike lane …

Source: Hannah Elliott

On principle, electric motorcycles make a lot of sense. The best can cover hundreds of miles on one charge. They recharge quickly—the Kalk& gets to 80% in two hours and 100% in three hours—and allow users to swap out batteries for fresh power even faster. They require little maintenance since they lack gears, a fuel tank, and many of the components that get thirsty for oil. They don’t run hot, like the burning pipes of Triumphs and Moto Guzzis that burn the legs of the uninitiated. Their lack of rumbling, belching engines means they’re quiet and fume-free, which makes for a closer, purer connection to the riding environment, whether on the highway or outback. (Isn’t that the point of riding anyway?) They allow thrillingly instant torque with the slightest turn of the wrist; with electric motorcycles, throttle-on means instant GO.

And they’ve gotten light enough. One of the challenges of using electric technology in cars and motorcycles has been to mitigate the considerable weight of the batteries, but in recent years manufacturers such as Zero Motorcycles have been able to get the balance between riding range and battery load closer to right.

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Swedish design at its best, even if the bike is overpriced. 

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

Cake, on the other hand, went too far in the other direction. At 174 pounds, including the 37-pound battery, and with a seat width the size of a Moleskin notebook, the Kalk& is so thin it felt as if I were jumping onto a paperclip when I first swung my leg over last week. I love light bikes—my upper-body strength is not my finest suit—but this felt way too flimsy to take on my planned route along Highway 101 to a secret off-road location where I’d test its dirt-bike mettle. 

I should point out here that the name “Kalk&” is produced just like that. “Kalk is pronounced phonetically, and the & is read as ‘and,’” spokesman Bobby Lea told me when I asked. He said in an email that the genesis of the name came from the first bike Cake produced, which was called the Kalk, a word “from an ancient language that was spoken on the island of Gotland in Sweden, where [company founder] Stefan Ytterborn has his country home.” And here I thought it might be Swedish for “paperclip.”

What’s more, I thought, as I slipped on my gloves and tightened the strap on my helmet, Ducati’s excellent Desert Sled starts at less than $12,000 and feels far better built, solid, and luxurious than this. Paying an additional $2,000 for an unknown product that felt chintzier on all counts didn’t sit well. 

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Light as a feather isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes power and stability are more important, especially if you’re going off-road. 

Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

Anyway. I took back roads through Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles to my hilly L.A. destination. I shifted through the three drive modes to urge the 13.5-horsepower motor to keep up with traffic, which on 35 mph roads was doable—but I couldn’t pass anyone. Cake says top speed is 56 mph; I had the throttle open and got to 80 km/h, or about 50 mph.

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