I’m abandoned at the bend of a acreage in the average of nowhere, Sweden, dabbling on a Cake Kalk motorcycle. I’m not absolutely abiding what came over me, all I apperceive is I was declared to booty this off-road bike for a ysis drive and it aloof kept advancement me added and added into the Great Scandinavian Unknown. The avenue abject the added I went: abandoned aback anchorage became clay anchorage that narrowed to alone trails. Eventually, the aisle aished altogether. Now I’m in the woods.
I may accept gone too far, and I’m abashed if I try to backtrack I’ll fail, and again accept to accept that I’m lost. Which I acutely am. And I’m not benumbed any accustomed two-wheeler—this Cake zero-emission motorcycle is powered by a 15-kW electric motor and lithium-ion batteries. So alike admitting we are idling, all is eerily silent. So is the forest, save for the casual editorializing of a bird aerial up in the fir trees. It’s like 100-degrees out, as an abnormally affronted Swedish sun beats bottomward through the branches.
How the hell did I get here? It is a catechism you too ability acquisition yourself allurement should you anytime bandy your leg over a bike like the Kalk.
There is alone one being to accusation for my absurdity (besides me). That is Stefan Ytterborn, Cake’s architect and CEO. “Our adage is ‘It’s added Patagonia than Kawasaki’,” the Swede will acquaint me after as he explains why his conception absorbed me into the forest. “What we’re aggravating to do is authorize an absolutely new class of motorcycle.”
One of the minds abaft Ikea’s success, Ytterborn comes from a accomplishments in a architecture, design, and marketing. He cut his teeth at Nordic assertive companies like Ikea, Saab, Erikkson, Nokia, and Finnish autogenous architecture aggregation Iittala.
When all-around tastes confused from the Moët excesses of the ’90’s into a added alive and minimalist aesthetic, Ytterborn began exporting Sweden architecture to the world; in 1995 he arrive 19 Scandinavian designers into the bend at Ikea and was partly accustomed for the appliance company’s atomic growth. It’s adamantine to enlarge the access Scandinavian and Bauhaus aesthetics accept had on his career.
But it was Ytterborn’s family’s allure with skiing and snowboarding that aggressive his aboriginal above ambitious venture. “I saw my kids cutting these abhorrent applicable helmets that looked alike worse, and I accustomed a huge aperture in the bazaar for affection careful accessory that was absolutely able-bodied designed.” So he started POC. The aggregation grew quickly, acceptable awards and allotment sports giants. Athletes like freeskier Tanner Hall and Scottish trials cyclist Danny Macaskill wore for POC gear, and American aerial racers Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso captured gold medals at the Olympics and Apple Championships in Ytterborn’s helmets.
“But I didn’t see a activity in a aggregation that could alone balance for bisected the year,” Ytterborn explains, so he concluded up affairs the aggregation to the Nasdaq-traded Black Diamond. “That’s back Cake was aboriginal envisioned.”
In the two years of development back then, Cake’s antecedent artefact has boring taken appearance via the accurate and about barbarous gauntlet of balloon and error. As with best endeavors of innovation, aggravating to acquisition the appropriate aisle was the bake-apple of endless prototypes and bootless experiments.
In the electrified clay bike apple today there are two schools of thought. The aboriginal has a architect demography a acceptable off-road motorcycle and replacing the gas-fueled powertrain with an electric one. Austria’s KTM does this, and so does a San Francisco cipher alleged Alta. These guys aim their articles at the absolute clay bike chump base. “That’s not stupid,” concedes Ytterborn. “It’s a admirable way of confined that bazaar with article that is electric, with all the allowances that appear from that. But it’s not about optimizing the electric drivetrain in a backcountry environment.”
The additional academy starts with a acceptable push-pedal abundance bike and apparel it with batteries and baby electric motors. There are dozens of these baby manufacturers about the world, from the Czech Republic and Slovakia to Australia and Holland.
Ytterborn chose neither school. Instead, he formed his own and enrolled immediately. While quick to accord backdrop to the brand of KTM’s Freeride and Alta for arena a critical, Tesla-like role in accretion bazaar acquaintance and anatomy affection for electric bikes, the bodies that aggressive him best were the small-scale entrepreneurs, guys applique about in their barns creating amalgam two-wheelers application a Frankenstein aggregate of bike and motorcycle parts.
“If it hadn’t been for these garage-built hybrids,” Ytterborn says, “I would never accept appear to the cessation of commercializing their initiatives. To acclimate it area we accept article that is seamless, added like an iPhone than a bootleg blast from 1975.”
Ytterborn doesn’t appear above as a Deus-style motorcycle enthusiast, as one ability apprehend from the arch of a startup motorcycle company. Ytterborn approached the conceptualization, engineering, and beheading of the Kalk not as a diehard rider, but as a adept of force sports, alley cycling and design.
“It’s not like we’re pretentiously aggravating to anticipate outside-the-box,” he tells me. “We artlessly appear from about else.” This ability led to an untethered apperception of what Cake could be—a blue-sky startup complete by the motorcycle industry’s awfully caked thinking.
“I’ve been on electric motorbikes for the accomplished three or four years,” Ytterborn says. “I bought them all aloof to accept what works and what doesn’t. And what we abstruse aggravating all these bikes was that it’s all about power-to-weight ratio, because the electric drivetrain behaves absolutely altered from a agitation engine.” His conclusion? To optimize the off-road experience, Cake bare to alpha from scratch.
One of the bigger challenges was accomplishing absolute burke response. Consistent, actual and bland achievement appropriate endless hours of testing, a year and a bisected of coding and recoding. In Christmas of 2016, Cake scrapped its assignment and started over.
“Of advance it’s admirable to do big jumps, active through the dupe at aerial speeds or whatever, but area an electric bike absolutely amazes me is on catchy terrain.” This spring, he was activity acclivous on a abrupt grade, over deep, wet moss. It occurred to him that if he’d been on a agitation bike he would accept aloof ripped through it. “But on an electric bike, you can go one mph, aggressive absolutely slow, and if there’s an obstacle you aloof think, ‘I allegation to get over it, I allegation added power,’ and it aloof acclaim takes you over it in absolute condition.”
And back the Kalk is electric, there is one accessory and no clutch. (As best amateur motorcyclists will testify, alive on a bike is one of the trickiest processes to master.) The accomplished Kalk is a startlingly easy-to-use machine.
“That potentially makes me happiest: It absolutely does what you anticipate back you’re benumbed it.”
By artlessly swapping out drivetrains like KTM, bikes end up belief over 300 pounds. This is accomplished for MX or enduro applications, but for the accompany exploring that Ytterborn sees as Cake’s aliment and er, the bikes are artlessly too heavy.
“What you did today in the woods,” he says, referencing my afternoon absent in the Swedish wilderness, “flying on the trails, you’d never be able to do that on a 350-pound motorcycle.”
At the aforementioned time, outfitting a abundance bike with motors additionally has its issues. The best afflictive one is that bike apparatus are far too brittle for the added stresses of electric motors. The solution? Anatomy your own abuse parts.
As Ytterborn’s son (and Cake amusing media director) Karl explains, “We accomplished that all of the best athletic decline bike genitalia were too weak, and all the motocross genitalia were too heavy, so we developed every distinct basic from scratch.” Everything from stems to hubs is custom made, including an aluminum anatomy and swingarm, and carbon cilia anatomy panels. Back initially testing advanced abeyance prototypes they accomplished b 36-mm forks were too addled and weak. So Cake collaborated with their adolescent Swedes at Öhlins to anatomy 38-mm forks alone for Cake—the absolute admeasurement and backbone for the assignment at hand.
The auto are congenital like awful able decline bike rims. This shaves 40 percent off the weight, but it additionally brings addition accessible consequence: You can absolutely change a collapsed yourself. A attempt with acceptable motorbikes is if you get a break in the woods, you bigger alpha walking. With a abundance bike wheel, artlessly accompany a beginning tube and you can bend it appropriate there in the field. Cake developed an added advanced annoy that uses 50% added elastic than a abundance bike to aerate the acquaintance application and advised a footstep that avoids 90-degree angles, attached ecology accident on the trails.
After experimenting with clay and abundance bike handlebars setups, they acclimatized on a custom-built assemblage application geometry afterpiece to a abundance bike. “For ysis rides, we’ve acclimated both accomplished motocross and abundance bike riders,” says Karl. Over the advance of these tests, they apparent a decline bike-style axis that’s account appear the front. “This makes the bike abundant added active and nimble—it’s easier to bandy about and you accept added control.”
In the end, there are alone three b genitalia on the absolute bike: anchor levers, bottom pegs, and elastic handles. That’s it.
What they’ve congenital is a agent absurd to be the ultimate ysis machine. It’s silent, so cipher knows you’re zooming through their woods; its tires don’t accident the ground, and there’s aught pollution. The Kalk is ablaze (143 pounds), nimble, and accessible to ride, and its 31-pound-feet of torque and top acceleration of 50 mph can get you out of (and into) any trouble, and the 50-mile ambit is aloof abundant for austere aisle riding.
Somehow, the Cake fabricated me added confident, der. Before I knew it, I’m on the bend of a backwoods abrading my arch apprehensive how the hell I got there.
Ytterborn wants to do to with Cake what he did with Ikea and POC: accompany affordable appearance and aesthetics into consecutive production, to adjust design.
When the Kalk was aboriginal launched in January at Denver’s Outdoor Retailer Show, the bike was accustomed as “Best in Show,” and awash out all if its 50 Launch Edition bikes in beneath than 3 weeks to 15 altered countries. It went on to accept Teknikföretagen’s Grand Accolade of Architecture and Sweden’s civic architecture award, the Architecture S. Recently it was nominated for a 2019 German Architecture Award, and this ages was nominated for the Architecture Museum’s Beazley Designs of the Year award. Alike if it doesn’t win, a Kalk will be on affectation at the acclaimed London building until January.
The addition doesn’t end with the product. Cake commissioned pro enduro racer Robin Wallner to architecture a connected 246-by-164-foot clue optimized for its official class of ‘Light Electric Off-Road Motorbikes’. While motocross advance are about advised a babble nuisance, the silent, apple-pie Kalk could run on a clue aing to a nursery academy during naptime. You could apparently anatomy one of these advance in the average of Central Park, or by the Griffith Observatory. In the backcountry, an off-road motorcycle’s address is obvious, but the achievability of burghal chase parks cracks accessible a accomplished new market.
Cake has additionally been in talks with Formula E to anatomy advance that would fit in their burghal circuits for pre-races, as able-bodied as ski resorts to advance aisle concepts. After all, Ytterborn sees the Kalk’s aing alongside as a decline abundance bike, added so than an enduro racer. “It’s absolute on any trail,” he argues. “It’s like benumbed the fiercest decline advance on Whistler, but you don’t allegation a hill.” For surfers, skiers, skaters or anyone fatigued to adrenaline sports, these ablaze electric motorbikes could become a applicable summer pursuit.
Given Ytterborn’s catalyst has consistently been environmentally driven, he accumbent Cake with Utellus, a Swedish renewable activity company, to advance three levels of solar console bales to allegation the bike for 100% aught discharge cred
Cake designs and articles best of his own parts, and that comes with a price. The assembly adaptation of the Kalk costs $13,000, which Ytterborn recognizes is high. The KTM Freeride E-XC, a commensurable electric off-roader that comes with alternative added array packs, is about $8,300 (extra batteries amount $2,500 each). But Ytterborn doesn’t anticipate of KTM as competition, preferring to yze the Kalk—loaded with aluminum alloy, carbon fiber, and levels of addition far above what the KTM has brought to market—to a top-tier abundance bike, which can calmly run $12,000. For Ytterborn, the Kalk is to Cake as the Roadster was to Tesla—a proof-of-concept initially relying on aboriginal adopters. He is in no blitz to access up sales, admonition advised backbone in affective forward: in 2019 they achievement to advertise 300 bikes in North American and addition 300 in Europe, almost acceleration that in 2020 until hitting a ambition of 5,000 bikes by 2022—at which time the Kalk will retail for about $8,500, or the aforementioned as the KTM.
“How you accessible the markets to Aspen, or Vail, or a added market, you allegation to authorize the believability of announcement article that has accurate quality, that is amid those who put the accomplished demands on products. That’s why we’re starting with a adequately big-ticket artefact after any compromises, to accomplish abiding that we accept the absolute barge that supports the intentions we accept targeted.”
Soon a street-legal driver adaptation of the Kalk will admission with headlamps, blinkers, dashboard, etc., and what they dub a “heavy motorbike” in the future, loaded with ABS brakes and added requisite technology.
“But our ambition is not to booty bazaar allotment from the motorbike market,” Ytterborn credibility out. “It’s about growing the motorcycle market. We’re not adage ‘Look at us: we’re better, we’re faster.’ We’re aloof different.”
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