Stefan Ytterborn has a vision of inspiring people to move closer to a zero-emission society, and he doesn’t care if you don’t like it.
The first question posed in my interview with CAKE founder and CEO Stefan Ytterborn didn’t come from me. “What is your greatest passion in life apart from riding motorcycles?”
Ytterborn is a tall, sizable Swede with white-blond hair and blue eyes, which are currently locked on mine. “Um, well, I love the outdoors,” I replied after a beat. “Hiking, backpacking, camping, you name it.”
This answer seemed to please him, and he shifted his weight back, unpinning me with his gaze. “So what would you like to know about CAKE?”
The answer, of course, is “everything.” I’m a supporter of innovation and, living in the traffic-choked Los Angeles area, zero emissions vehicles. We’re still in the very beginning stages of feasible electric personal transportation, but having ridden plenty of Zero electric bikes and experiencing firsthand the rush of 116 lb-ft of torque, available instantly and silently, I’m hungry for more and eager to devour whatever appears on the horizon.
Ytterborn, as it turns out, isn’t a motorcyclist, which explains why his approach to an e-bike is a bit different from what we’ve seen from other manufacturers like Zero, Alta, Energica and Brammo.
“I hated motorcycles. I would be out in the woods, hiking, and the noise and the smell just put me off. So I thought, there has to be a better way.”
He enlisted the help of some talented engineers, designers and test riders, and the final result is what you see here: the Kalk e-bike, which made its North American debut at a book release party held at Aether Apparel in LA.
Anyone remotely familiar with Scandinavian design aesthetics will take one look at the Kalk and nod approvingly. It’s all minimalist angles and cool, icy colors. Everything you need and nothing you don’t, but that doesn’t mean it has to be ugly.
When I asked him if he thought such a Scandinavian look would be well-received by Americans, his response was blunt. “I don’t really care. I made this according to my own philosophy and vision, and the most important thing is that all the parts and components work well together.”
Speaking of which, the Kalk uses key components designed in-house, like the hubs, wheels, handlebar, brake discs and steering stem. The 24-inch wheel diameter, 3.25-inch-wide tires were designed specifically to minimize trail wear, and are more similar to mountain bike (MTB) tires than motorcycle tires, making them easy to change.
Suspension is by Ohlins, and was created just for the Kalk.
With a 135-lb weight and power roughly equivalent to a 250cc 4-stroke dirt bike, Ytterborn describes the performance as “snappy.” Indeed. He also points out that the frame geometry and riding dynamics are very similar to a downhill MTB.
Power comes from a 15kW European-made motor with a 51.8V, 50Ah battery that’s good for a few hours of hooning around before needing a recharge.
While the Kalk is surely a hoot to ride, it’s undeniable that its appeal will be limited, especially given its $13,000 price point. But it was clear that selling container loads of Kalks and replacing everyone’s motorcycle/dirt bike is not Ytterborn’s vision.
He simply wants to contribute to a cleaner, quieter world, a world in which we humans make a smaller footprint in every way. To this end, CAKE even sells solar panel power solutions for your home that are designed to do anything from charge your Kalk to power your entire house.
He knows that Kalk is an aspirational product, almost as much art as a useful machine. I get the feeling his intention was simply to create a beautiful piece of performance machinery that is also not a detriment to our environment.
I’ve been promised a ride on a Kalk in the coming weeks, and look forward to sharing my riding impressions with you. In the meantime….
To learn more about CAKE, visit ridecake.com.
For more information on the book “The Current: New Wheels for the Post-Petrol Age,” visit us.gestalten.com.
For Aether Apparel locations and online catalog, visit aetherapparel.com.