Cake wants to blend the best attributes of motorcycles and bicycles into a new kind of electric overlanding machine
You probably haven’t heard of Cake. That’s on purpose. You can’t buy one yet. They won’t be for sale until the end of the year. You can’t even see one yet, except for the brief oblique glimpse above. But here’s the vision: An electric-powered motocross bike that’s part nimble mountain bike, far lighter than any motocross machine on the market now, and part long-travel-suspension moto. A near 50-mile range is good enough to get you up to a remote trailhead or crag, and back down to the pavement’s edge without the terrain damage, noise, or pollution of using a 4X4 or traditional moto. The idea is not an e-bike, but zero emissions exploration machine.
If Cake is successful it will be because its progenitor is Stefan Ytterborn. He’s the founder and ex-CEO of POC, the Swedish apparel and helmet brand that eventually debunked the myth that there was nothing that could be done about concussions.
POC, which has been around since 2004, worked to pioneer MIPS helmet tech. MIPS wasn’t invented by POC, but the company pushed it into the limelight. (MIPS is essentially a helmet within a helmet, where the inner layer slides against the outer when you hit your bean, dissipating concussive forces). Fast-forward to now and thanks to POC you’ll see MIPS in all the major brands — eventually cyclists and skiers hunted down its superior protection and that meant even the big guns at Bell-Giro had to get on board.
POC went on to spearhead a lot of other cool technology, from downhill mountain bike and skiing body armor that stayed pliant, for easy movement, but hardened at the instant of impact, to incorporating back protectors into everyday hydration packs.
Black Diamond bought POC in 2012 and Investcorp then bought it from BD in 2015. Meanwhile, folks in the outdoor space kept their eyes on Ytterborn, now quietly emerging at Cake, the maybe, could-be Tesla of off-road bike/motorcycles. Here’s the sum of what he’s told us about his still gestating offspring.
First, give us a bit of how you think, how POC happened and why Cake.
I have a background in design management. I worked with companies like Saab, and Ikea, and eventually I really worried about myself contributing additional garbage to world. Back in the early 2000s, I had young sons at the time, training them in ski racing, and I realized that helmets and protection were not really what they ought to be, and I realized that there was an opportunity to change that and really advance safety. Now we have a chance to really change another space.
But you’re not really “of” the moto realm, correct?
That’s right, I’m not a “motorcycle guy.” I’m kind of the opposite. I don’t want something loud or aggressive. But when I first tried a motorcycle with an electric drivetrain about eight years ago I loved that you could silently ride in nature. We were testing a prototype on an island in the Baltic in Sweden recently and an eagle got to me, perfectly silent, and flew over me, with me, for 40 seconds. That’s the vision we have, of developing a new activity, surfing through the woods, that’s not mountain biking because you can go farther and faster and carry a backpack use it to get to a trail, and not motorcycling, with all the noise and pollution. If anything it’s going to appeal to a new customer and somebody more like a backpacker or cyclists or adventurers.
What’s going to distinguish Cake from brands like Alta Motors?
There are actually a number of brands coming and they’re winning races, so the landscape that exists today won’t be the same ten years from now. What we believe is that by being very light, at about 140 pounds [other e-bikes are closer to 200 pounds and traditional motos are closer to 300] and also merging some of the nimbleness of bicycles we can make something different. But we’re doing a lot in-house, using CNC’d aluminum and a carbon fiber chassis, prototyping our own components as well, like rims, even spec’ing our own tire design, that’s close to a 24-inch tire that’s relatively small, about four inches wide, and with a trials-bike sort of pattern that’s grippy, but optimized for low-speed traction, because we want you to ride deliberately and use the control that electric torque enables.
What else are you engineering yourselves?
We looked at downhill bike components but they’re not strong enough to support the weight of the bike and the rider, so we’ve had to pull in experts both from the bike world and from off-road motocross for suspension and brakes, and to get the right geometry. We’re looking at pretty short, 140 centimeter (55 inch) wheelbase and a little lower ride height that a traditional moto, so it’s more nimble and targeted at people who already enjoy gravity sports, with none of the complexity of a clutch. We think of this as the “long” board rather than short board, so everyone has the chance to catch the wave.
What about range, output, speed?
Right now we’re looking at three outputs: Slow mode, discovery mode, and racetrack mode with preferred power curves for each based on torque delivery. So a top speed is around 90kph, and a range of up to about 45 miles as long as you’re not going flat out in racetrack mode.
The Cake name is sort of like POC. Nobody really knows what it means.
When I started POC the graphic was sort of a tribute to the symbol crash test dummies wear, but it was also sort of a cake, with two pieces taken out of it. We never communicated that, so now Cake’s symbol is a circle with one slice of cake taken out of it. So it’s a little clearer. But it doesn’t matter, it’s just fun.