I really love the concept Cake has gone with for its follow-up to the Kalk electric motorcycle. This little utilitarian scooter—called the Ösa—is an equally weird looking back-to-basics ride for city folk to tool around on, and with that in mind the concept works quite well. It doesn’t look like a traditional scooter, but that’s mostly because it doesn’t have to.
The Ösa is different from any other electric scooter in two ways. The first is that it has a removable battery, allowing city dwellers to haul the battery inside at night for a charge. You don’t need a garage, and you don’t need to rely on a public charging network. (You can also use the battery as a portable generator once you reach your destination.) The second difference is that it has a central “beam” on which many accessories can be mounted. You can add a second seat, a variety of baskets to haul stuff, or a side rack to haul long things like lumber or a surf board.
This is all stuff I’ve covered before, but over the weekend I got a chance to ride one for a bit, and it was neat as all heck. Cake was hosting a public ride event last Saturday to show off the new bike, and I happened to be in the area that day, and I’m in the market for an electric commuter scooter. Bonus!
When you first mount the thing it feels slightly low to the ground, and while my knees were definitely bent it wasn’t an uncomfortable seating position. The seat itself is wide and supportive. My short ride on the Cake was not nearly enough to fatigue or feel any pressure points, but it seemed plenty comfortable for the ten to fifteen miles this thing might be ridden at a time.
To fire the bike up, you push a button on the battery to supply power, then push a second button on the display screen to wake it up. This should be a single button press, honestly, but it’s a minor gripe. There is no key or fob or starter. And there is no sound to alert you that the bike is on, you just drop it off of its center stand and rip the throttle open. The bike feels immediately substantial with a hewn-from-granite quality, but the too-reflective monochrome readout screen is a letdown.
Once fired up, you can select from three different brake regen modes and three different power modes. I’m a rather large man and the bike had no problem pushing me forward in any of the three modes, and power mode 3 had rather brisk acceleration. Because this was a public demo, I was riding the Lite version, which is limited to 30 miles per hour and doesn’t require a motorcycle endorsement.
Ergonomically the bike was fine, but from a riding perspective the handlebars had a forward cant that made the steering feel overly responsive and wobbly. I am inclined to think that this could be fixed by changing the rake of the bars, but I didn’t have the ability to test that theory. Of course Cake uses a standardized diameter handlebar, so if it doesn’t fix the issue, it’s just an aftermarket set of bars away.
The Lite model has twin handlebar brakes, like a bicycle, with each hand braking a different wheel. The Plus model moves to a more traditional motorcycle setup with a right pedal rear brake and a right handle front brake. Obviously there is no gear shift or clutch, so your left half is free to continue doing nothing on the Plus.
Once up to speed, the bike is as quiet and comfortable as you might expect for a little electric scoot. Above the wind noise you can hear the faint whine of the electric motor, the whir of the cogged Gates Carbon drive belt, and a bit of tire noise, but it’s much quieter than your average 125 four-stroke. Borderline relaxing, really.
The spoked wheels of this bike are said to be “motorcycle grade” which helps instill some confidence, and the wide tread is much nicer and more stable than anything you’d find on a bicycle, but the smaller diameter wheels don’t handle road debris and potholes as well as a 19-incher. With the weight rather low down, the bike handles pretty well, but I wouldn’t call it a canyon carver. It’s at least on par with a Ruckus or Zuma, but without the gasoline guilt.
For a bike of this quality and expense, I found the battery’s velcro strap to be a little underwhelming. On the one hand, you definitely want an easy to remove retaining device for the hot swap battery, but on the other hand it looks and feels extremely low-rent in this otherwise nice scoot.
The Ösa Lite starts at $6500 before accessories. This seems like a lot, but it undercuts other stylish European offerings like the Vespa Elettrica, as well as many electric-assist mountain bikes. The Ösa+ requires a motorcycle license to ride on American streets, as it is not limited and can hit a Vmax of 63 miles per hour. While essentially identical, the plus model will cost an additional $2000. Either bike can be had with a long-range battery for a $1000 premium, giving the Ösa Lite a range of 68 miles and the Ösa+ 63 miles.
While there are a few lows in riding the new Cake, the highs are pretty high. I was impressed with the quality and the acceleration. I could easily live with something like this on a daily basis. For someone like my wife, who does not have her motorcycle endorsement, the Lite might be perfect. Because I do have an M on my license, I would probably jump up to something like a Zero FXS (which also has hot-swap batteries) for electric commuting for the price of the Ösa+.
As electric scooters go, it was pretty fun. I can’t really imagine taking one up to 63 mph, though.