If a Sur Ron is a set of construction overalls, a Cake is an Armani suit: fashionable, ultramodern, and five times more expensive than a strip mall suit that pretty much does the exact same thing. But does it?
Cake’s first high-powered electric dirt bike offering, the Kalk OR, has the reputation of being a fashion statement first and a serious off-roader second. The mere thought of scratching an e-bike that costs nearly $13,000 keeps most Kalk ORs on the pavement, so what happens when you pit one against Sur Rons, Talarias, and Electric Motions in one of the toughest off-road e-bike races ever conceived?
Our friend Dustin Langston decided to find out by running his Cake Kalk OR in the 2022 Red Bull Tennessee Knockout Hard Enduro. With Öhlins suspension and an 11kW motor producing 280Nm of torque, can the Cake hold its own when the going gets tough? Let’s find out as Dustin walks us through the weekend in his own words in our latest edition of Dirt Kings.
By Dustin Langston
I showed up at the 2022 FIM Red Bull Hard Enduro Tennessee Knockout on the only Cake Kalk OR. I own and race multiple bikes in various disciplines, and right now, the Cake is my favorite. It took time to understand it but once I did, I haven’t looked back. In fact, my Sherco SEF-R 300 Six Days will be for sale soon! This bike has made me a better rider. It forces you to be smoother, choose better lines, and practice proper riding habits. All of this combined with the ease of use and loads of torque have made for lots of smiles and hours of two-wheeled fun, and as I learned at TKO, it can also take a massive beating. Here’s how it all went down.
I saw a video for the Tennessee Knockout on Electric Cycle Rider’s YouTube channel 3 days before the event was to take place. They were to host the first all-electric e-Moto class ever at TKO, and I happened to have both a Cake Kalk and a Sur Ron sitting in my garage. Glancing over to my wife, I casually described the Knockout and how cool it would be to race my Cake with such an exciting challenge. Unexpectedly, she glanced over and said, “Let’s go!” Within 2 days, grandma took the kids and I hastily prepped my mostly stock Cake Kalk before we hit the road from Missouri looking to the mountains of Appalachia.
| The highly fashionable Cake Kalk OR.
Left the Sur Ron, Took the Cake
Why ride a Cake Kalk in a Hard Enduro World Championship race? Good question. Let’s start with what exactly this bike is. According to the website, the Cake Calk OR is a Swedish “150-pound, battery-powered two-wheeler engineered for agile off-road riding.” An aesthetically appealing bike, it sits much taller than the Sur Ron, a more comfortable height for my 6’3” frame. The bike itself is well-built with Ohlins suspension, Formula brakes, Ashwoods/Dana motor and overall solid construction. The bike is also slightly top-heavy comparatively speaking, something that would become all too apparent when dragging it across the towering rock beds of the Tennessee mountains.
The forks and shock had recently been serviced by Trail Labs, a suspension service company based in Springfield, Missouri. Their team helped me with proper settings and ensured the bike would perform at its peak potential in the race. I cannot recommend them enough for MTB, Sur Ron, and Cake suspension. As for the rest of the bike, I swapped the 24″ MTB wheels for Excell 18/21 moto wheels with a Dunlop K950 rear trials tire and a K990 front. That’s it for modifications – everything else about the Kalk was stock heading into TKO, for better or worse.
We’re Really Doing This
On arrival, the Tennessee Trials Center offered well-kept and comfortable grounds. There was plenty of parking and space, even in the overflow section where we set up camp. Everything was within comfortable walking and/or riding distance. Making our way to the starting line to see what I had gotten myself into, there was a brief flood of concern. Can my bike do this? Can I actually do this?
At the start of the race, we lined up in groups of 5-6 bikes at a time. As soon as I was lined up, all of my previous concerns went away and I was in race mode. The air horn went off and we all began the race, starting with several log jumps before the fast and flowing grass track. This is my favorite kind of riding: I was in second through the grass track following a 20kW Sur Ron build. As soon as we entered the dry creek bed rock garden, the Sur Ron went down I and took the lead for my group. The hard enduro had just begun.
Now, I’ve ridden in rocks before. Missouri is known for its rocks. My usual riding area in Chadwick National Forest is full of them. This was different though, and I had never seen anything like it. My poor skid plate hadn’t either! This is what held me back the most. Although I wasn’t the slowest through this section, I wasn’t as fast as the Electric Motion trials bikes here. Thankfully, before long the rock garden ended (for the moment) and we were on to a more suitable tight single track which the Cake excelled in. By now my heart rate was through the roof and I mostly focused on breathing techniques, knowing this was, after all, an enduro: an endurance event.
| We’re a long way from Sweden. Photo by Roots Rocks and Mud
Good News and Bad News
Thankfully, I only lost one place in the rocks and quickly caught up to a couple more bikes in the single track. First was a new Sur Ron Storm Bee, which was unfortunately having a hard time on a steep hill climb. Next, I caught an Electric Motion E-Pure Race which struggled to keep speed in the very Endor-like single track. At this point, I was feeling pretty good and keeping a solid pace – that is, until I struck a large rock sticking out of a dirt berm, sending my chain off the sprocket. I immediately placed the chain on the top of the rear sprocket and rolled back down the hill, which to my delight worked! Upon taking off again, I noticed a terrible grinding sound but knew I had to keep going until either something broke or I finished the race.
Midway through the race, the Kalk’s motor started heating up. When this happens, the bike cuts back the power. This is either a fail-safe feature or a byproduct of the excess heat. Either way, it left me pushing the bike up a hill or two, but overall I was pleased with the bike’s performance, especially since there were overheated gas bikes scattered throughout the course all weekend. About that time, the chain hopped again. I stopped to check and it was on the outside of the chain guard which was bent in from the rock I had previously hit. I picked up another rock and hammered it back out. Thankfully, this solved the grinding noise, and I was off again.
In the next surprising turn of events, I approached a river crossing. Surely this wasn’t meant for electric bikes, I thought, but the race marshal signaled me over. There was only one way to go and it was through the depths of this river crossing. There was no turning back. I plunged my all-electric Cake Kalk into near waist-deep water, fearing that it would die while simultaneously feeling relief from cold water on my over-exhausted body. The bike not only made it through the water, but it also helped cool down the motor. With the cool-down, there was hope! Little did I know what lay ahead.
The Final Miles
The fast and flowing dirt was the Cake’s favorite kind of ride. It grips well, runs smoothly, and pulls like a dream. With a fully charged and healthy battery, it’s a fantastic ride. Unfortunately, the TKO terrain immediately brought back the amber dash light and decreased power of an overheated bike. To make matters worse, the sliding and spinning rear trials tire was taking a beating from climbing dirt hills without any grip. I couldn’t help but speak to my bike as if she were alive in a bit of delirium—begging the Cake to come to life and give me the power I desperately needed. Then another rock garden approached. This time It was even more difficult not having the extra power to help lift the front wheel over large obstacles. I was feeling mentally and physically exhausted, but I kept going all while praying I finished the race. I didn’t come this far to DNF.
The last rock bed of Tennessee boulders brought on a mental game of overcoming total physical exhaustion. The rear tire would free-spin as I lifted with what little strength I had left. I looked across the track and saw my wife signaling that the end was near. She shouted, “Don’t give up!” I needed this. Nearing the final stretch, the bike barely held enough juice to wind through the last section of the course. I carefully nursed the battery through each obstacle and barely rolled over the final jumps with an extra push. All four dash lights were blinking signaling that the battery was done. I had turned the mapping down to low power mode and cruised to the finish.
I made it. And all I could think was… well, I wasn’t thinking anything. I collapsed, throwing my helmet down to pour water directly on my head as the Earth spun around me. And the Cake? She would need several hours of charging, but what she lost in battery power, she gained in new-found respect from me. Having been surrounded by heavily modified e-bikes, I brought this mostly stock Swedish electric dirt bike on a journey that it was not designed for—a hard enduro—and we made it to the finish line of my very first Red Bull TKO with limbs and hardware intact.
| The aftermath: Torn seat and mud everywhere.
My Cake Kalk OR had indeed survived a proper hard enduro, but not unscathed. Because the OR’s large 80-tooth rear sprocket hangs so low, the chain had impacted multiple obstacles like rocks and downed trees. This ultimately damaged not only the rear sprocket and chain but, worse yet, the front motor countershaft stripped shortly after the race. On a traditional ICE bike this isn’t a huge hassle, but with the Kalk’s parts all being proprietary and Cake not having several parts in stock in the States, it’s turned into a waiting game. I reached out to Cake for support and was pleasantly surprised by the direct contact with a real person (Patrick) who seemed eager to help and was as excited as I was that the bike had made it through a hard enduro.
Seeing the other manufacturers at the event offering full support to the Electric Motion and Sur Ron riders made me hopeful Cake would eventually offer the same. As of now, I’m still waiting to see how racing a unique bike like this will work in the long run since when you race, things inevitably break, and downtime can make or break a race season when chasing points.
| Cake on the ground, like a kid’s birthday party.
10/10 Would Do Again
Cake makes a great bike. On the surface, the customer experience is good. Their hands are tied by decisions made in Sweden so if you’re looking for quick access to parts, you may not find that with them. My last interaction was me checking in on the countershaft/motor replacement as the bike is a large paperweight without a functioning motor. They are waiting to finalize budgets and left me with “you’re on your own” until they hear back later this year from Sweden.
My Cake journey has only just begun and I’m looking forward to seeing how the company evolves. Back to the TKO though. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Already making plans for next year!
Editor’s note: Dustin was too humble to mention it, but he actually finished 9th in the ECR eMoto class which put him 70th overall of the 326 gas and electric bikes that ran Race 1. Both Dustin and the Cake were too exhausted to do Race 2, and due to time constraints he would’ve needed to have a second battery fully charged and ready to go, something very few riders had on hand. Full race results can be found here.
All images provided by Dustin Langston unless otherwise noted. Cover photo by Roots Rocks and Mud. Cake did not respond to our request to use their press photos.
Author: Dustin Langston
When he isn’t riding local Ozarks trails or going full send at a track day, Dustin Langston is busy putting people into new homes in southwestern Missouri with the team at Langston Group.