Electric motorcycle sales are charging up nicely in the UK, with the latest UK figures showing impressive year-on-year growth of 170 per cent over 2020.
Total electric motorcycle sales are relatively low, with 4,467 sold in the past year to September, compared with 92,574 bike sales overall. But the growth is encouraging, especially when London is clamping down on emissions, COP26 is in the public eye, and the Government aims to stamp out new diesel and petrol car sales by 2030.
Now, with excellent timing, an intriguing new player in the electric motorcycle market, from the land of Abba, IKEA and Spotify will open a new London showroom next year, boasting a range of appetising, fun, high-quality, relatively high-performance new bikes. At a price.
Designed and built by ‘Cake’, of Sweden, founded by visionary entrepreneur Stefan Ytterborn, the bikes occupy a curious niche; clearly motorcycles, they nevertheless make a recognisable nod towards the world of e-bikes - or powered bicycles - too.
This is borne out by their lightweight, clean, minimalist design that makes them approachable, easy to ride and unintimidating.
Given Stefan’s background, this is not overly surprising, as I discovered at the grand opening of their new showroom in Stockholm. Now in his 50s, Stefan told me, he previously raced on skis and went on to develop a love of outdoors - often downhill - sports including cycling.
It was only when he started dabbling in e-bikes, followed by electric motorcycles, that the entrepreneur - who previously founded a firm specialising in protective wear including crash helmets for sportsmen and women (POC, or ‘piece of cake’) - believed he had spotted a big gap in the market.
“To me, using an e-bike was like bike skiing in the woods - but without snow; all without any pollution and without bothering other people with noise,” he says.
As his interest intensified however, and as he began looking more closely at electric motorcycles, they fell short of what he felt they should be. The more Stefan looked, the more electric motorbikes appeared to comprise little more than electric propulsion units fitted to heavy frames and drivetrains derived from, and better suited to, internal combustion engine-drive machines.
“It didn’t seem the best way to go about it. We decided to start from scratch and build motorcycles that were shaped by their electric motors and batteries from the very start,” says Stefan. “I was not - then - a motorcyclist at all, I came at it from a completely different angle.”
The result was Cake motorcycles, which now offers a stylish range of machines for on and off-road riding - or for both. They range from the Kalk - an enduro-inspired street bike with tall riding stance on 19-inch wheels, lots of attitude and suspension clearance - to the rugged Ösa, a more functional workhorse that would look equally at home delivering flowers in Chelsea - or laden with plumbers’ tools. Each spawns its own derivatives, ranging from out-and-out sports machines for off-road fun or racing, in the case of the Kalk, to a ‘moped’ speed-limited version and a faster 56mph variant of the Ösa.
The latest addition to the range is the step-thru Makka, equivalent to a city scooter, with maximum speeds ranging from 15.5mph (putting it in e-bike territory) to 28 mph (closer to moped territory), depending on the model, its frame reminiscent of a modern, beefed-up Corgi paratrooper bike.
Unashamedly premium products, the street version of the Kalk (the ‘Kalk&’), described as ‘high performance weekday commuter and weekend ripper’, costs from 14,000 Euros (about £11,850). It has a range of 50 miles in the city, and a top speed of 56 mph. It weighs around 174 pounds (around 79 kgs, the same as an adult male) including the battery, and comes with superbly crafted, supple, Öhlins suspension.
On the road it is fun, nimble and responsive, its suspension nicely soaking up ridges, lumps and bumps. There are three ride modes, giving varying degrees of response to the twist-grip throttle, and three braking modes, with varying degrees of engine braking, in addition to a well-sorted front, hand-operated disc brake, and rear, foot-operated disc brake.
Off-road versions are stripped down, more performance orientated, and have spawned their own off-road race series. Niggles? There’s no standard luggage capacity (you’d need a rucksack; anything else would ruin the stripped-back lines, although they do offer luggage nets and dry bags), and the great-looking mudguards are a little too stylish; they don’t offer sufficient protection from wet roads.
The Ösa (all names have various, obscure, Swedish links) costing from 8,500 Euros, is of a similar high quality and equally stylish in its own way. It sits lower to the ground on 15-inch wheels, feels more functional with bicycle-style brake levers front and rear, sturdier and more workmanlike, with ample luggage potential. The Makka is more utilitarian but no less attractive for it, depending on your point of view, and is aimed at catching a new slice of the commuter market, costing from 3,500 Euros.
All models can be ordered online now, but London riders would do well to wait until Cake’s new showroom opens in the capital next year, along with other outlets planned for Europe and the US. Cake is searching for a London launchpad now, seeking somewhere where test rides are feasible; it is, after all, crucial to show how easy these machines are to manage. Important, too, to see how they stack up in London’s cut-throat traffic conditions, compared to quieter Stockholm.
Will dyed-in-the-wool bikers like the experience? Some will, some won’t, but the curious niche that Cake has excavated means that many cyclists will want to try them, too, not least because of their size; they are, after all, smaller than a ‘traditional’ motorcycle. I found both bikes fun, easy to ride and responsive in Stockholm traffic. They handled well, were virtually silent - and very easy to manhandle when parking, or manoeuvring. Throttle response was instantaneous, the brakes effective. Well-controlled (adjustable) suspension is a strong asset, particularly on the Kalk. Most riders won’t need anything more, in London.
Virtually all components are bespoke, including the battery, and built, evidently to a high quality, in Taiwan. They are assembled in Sweden.
So they’re fun on the road, and - like other electric motorcycles on the market - could provide a great, ‘green’, fuss-free means of travel. Charging time is about three hours and the batteries can be unbolted and taken inside. A secure, but quick-release battery system would probably be easier, however, and buyers will need to fit the Kalk with an additional handlebar mirror; it’s supplied with only one.
For many, the off-road promise of the Kalk (which has spawned the 13,500 Euros ‘race’ model and 10,500 Euros INK off-road model) is the icing on the cake. Video of Cake’s race series (https://ridecake.com/en/cake-worlds-news/) shows how they perform off-road, and it looks a lot of fun. Sure, you might want to change the tyres on your weekday commuter when venturing off-road - which will get expensive - but the bikes are, says Stefan, unashamedly premium.
Would-be owners will need disposable income - and an inclination to try something new. Will those lowish top speeds be a problem outside The Smoke, on the open road? They might.
Up to now, electric motorcycle offerings have been limited, even if the market is expanding fast with offerings from the likes of Harley-Davidson, BMW, even SEAT. Now however, you can have your Cake and ride it.
Much of the development work has taken place in Sweden but armed anti-poaching patrols are also putting versions of the Kalk to the ultimate test, pounding the savannah on the ‘stealth’ machines, in search of the bad guys.
Run by the Southern African Wildlife College, the solar-powered Cake bikes have off-road tyres, and small racks for medical supplies. Enduring tough riding conditions daily, the teams regularly file reports back to Cake HQ, on their findings.
Through a charity programme, Cake is encouraging consumers to donate bikes towards the project. More here: https://ridecake.com/en/anti-poaching/
CONFUSED ABOUT WHAT LICENCE YOU NEED TO RIDE?
Ösa+ - 10kw (13.5hp) or equivalent to 125cc - Valid CBT or an A1 licence
Kalk& and Kalk INK& - 10kw (13.5hp) or equivalent to 125cc - Valid CBT or an A1 licence
Kalk OR / Kalk INK - 11kw (15hp) or equivalent to 125cc - Valid CBT or an A1 lLicence
Ösa Flex / Makka Flex - 4kw (5.4hp) or equivalent to 50cc - Driver license or an AM licence
Makka Range / Ösa Range - 1.8kw (2.4hp) or equivalent to 50cc but regulated to 25km/h - AM licence, Driver licence, CBT/A1 licence