CAKE Electric Dirt Bike Fleet Built to Silently Hunt Poachers in Africa
CAKE is an inherently interesting company. Electric dirt bikes are a super cool idea, but their practicality has always perplexed me until now. In January, Swedish e-moto company CAKE joined forces with Southern African Wildlife College and Goal Zero to cook up some electric dirt bikes specifically to help the organization silently patrol for poachers in Africa. These new Kalk AP bikes are now silently ripping through the bush.
Silence may be the key to hunting poachers in Africa
After the many meetings and devo calls, CAKE has finally delivered on the electric dirt bikes. Up until now, these rangers have driven traditional gas-powered dirt bikes, which are easily heard far before they arrive. This gives porches the advantage of ditching the evidence and splitting.
Having a silent motorcycle to navigate the bush in stealth mode is a huge asset to these bushrangers working to keep the savannahs safe. Not to mention, these bikes are also quite light, making them easy to maneuver in hairy situations.
How far can a CAKE electric dirt bike go on one charge?
This is the main sticking point with all EVs. The range is the number one issue, especially for off-road EVs like the CAKE. However, these bikes now have a deployable solar charger from Goal Zero that assures the rangers a ticket back home if they run out of juice chasing the bad guys. This range extender, paired with the silent nature of electric dirt bikes, makes for one hell of an anti-poaching machine.
“The petrol bikes we’ve used previously have all been loud, heavy, and expensive to keep running in these areas,” said anti-poaching team leader Mfana Xaba. “The Cake bikes are quiet, which makes it easier for us to approach poachers undetected. We hope this collaboration will result in more effective anti-poaching in our region, and we are really excited to start using the bikes in the wild.”
Let’s take a closer look at the Kalk AP electric dirt bike
According to New Atlas, CAKE basically swiped all the best bits from the Kalk OR, gave a super-light frame, sealed the drivetrain, upgraded the suspension, and gave it serious off-road tires. The CAKE Kalk AP also got a carrier rack on the back for medical supplies and a high-power headlight to safely navigate the bush at night.
CAKE also modified the software to add more power to the torque side of things. This update also gave the Kalk AP three new drives modes: Explore for up to 28 mph and an endurance of 3-4 hours between charges; Excite for up to 43.5 mph and 1-2 hours of per-charge range; and Excel for maximum torque and speed from the 11-kW motor for up to an hour before needing to top up the 2.6-kWh removable batteries.
Will these bikes really help fight poachers in Africa?
“It’s great to see that the first batch of Kalk APs has made it to Africa, ready to change the game when it comes to fighting poaching in the most threatened wildlife areas,” said Cake’s founder and CEO Stefan Ytterborn. “With fast, quiet, and solar-powered driven bikes, we increase our chances of countering poaching and can truly make an impact in the region. This is only the beginning; we will continue to ship bikes to the SAWC to strengthen their anti-poaching work.”
CAKE is also offering customers the chance to join the fight against poachers in Africa. CAKE is offering customers a “Charity Bundle” that, for 25k, buys a Kalk AP for the buyer and donates a second unit to the Rangers working in the bush to combat poachers.
How to Revolutionize the Electric Dirt Bike
A Swedish company called Cake is building a radical electric motorbike. Its significance is much larger.
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more
I’m stranded at the edge of a field in the middle of nowhere, Sweden, idling on a Cake Kalk motorcycle. I’m not entirely sure what came over me, all I know is I was supposed to take this off-road bike for a test drive and it just kept urging me further and further into the Great Scandinavian Unknown. The route degraded the further I went: empty back roads became dirt roads that narrowed to neglected trails. Eventually, the trail disappeared altogether. Now I’m in the woods.
I may have gone too far, and I’m afraid if I try to backtrack I’ll fail, and then have to concede that I’m lost. Which I clearly am. And I’m not riding any ordinary two-wheeler—this Cake zero-emission motorcycle is powered by a 15-kW electric motor and lithium-ion batteries. So even though we are idling, all is eerily silent. So is the forest, save for the occasional editorializing of a bird high up in the fir trees. It’s like 100-degrees out, as an abnormally angry Swedish sun beats down through the branches.
How the hell did I get here? It is a question you too might find yourself asking should you ever throw your leg over a bike like the Kalk.
There is only one person to blame for my folly (besides me). That is Stefan Ytterborn, Cake’s founder and CEO. “Our motto is ‘It’s more Patagonia than Kawasaki’,” the Swede will tell me later as he explains why his creation lured me into the forest. “What we’re trying to do is establish an entirely new category of motorcycle.”
One of the minds behind Ikea’s success, Ytterborn comes from a background in contemporary architecture, design, and marketing. He cut his teeth at Nordic powerhouse companies like Ikea, Saab, Erikkson, Nokia, and Finnish interior design company Iittala.
When global tastes shifted from the Moët excesses of the ’90’s into a more sensible and minimalist aesthetic, Ytterborn began exporting Sweden design to the world; in 1995 he invited 19 Scandinavian designers into the fold at Ikea and was partly credited for the furniture company’s explosive growth. It’s hard to overstate the influence Scandinavian and Bauhaus aesthetics have had on his career.
But it was Ytterborn’s family’s fascination with skiing and snowboarding that inspired his first major entrepreneurial venture. “I saw my kids wearing these terrible fitting helmets that looked even worse, and I recognized a huge hole in the market for quality protective gear that was actually well designed.” So he started POC. The company grew quickly, winning awards and sponsoring sports giants. Athletes like freeskier Tanner Hall and Scottish trials cyclist Danny Macaskill wore for POC gear, and American alpine racers Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso captured gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships in Ytterborn’s helmets.
“But I didn’t see a viability in a company that could only invoice for half the year,” Ytterborn explains, so he ended up selling the company to the Nasdaq-traded Black Diamond. “That’s when Cake was first envisioned.”
In the two years of development since then, Cake’s initial product has slowly taken shape via the rigorous and often brutal gauntlet of trial and error. As with most endeavors of innovation, trying to find the right path was the fruit of countless prototypes and failed experiments.
Building an Electric Business Model from Scratch
In the electrified dirt bike world today there are two schools of thought. The first has a manufacturer taking a traditional off-road motorcycle and replacing the gas-fueled powertrain with an electric one. Austria’s KTM does this, and so does a San Francisco upstart called Alta. These guys aim their products at the existing dirt bike customer base. “That’s not stupid,” concedes Ytterborn. “It’s a wonderful way of serving that market with something that is electric, with all the benefits that come from that. But it’s not about optimizing the electric drivetrain in a backcountry environment.”
The second school starts with a traditional push-pedal mountain bike and outfits it with batteries and small electric motors. There are dozens of these small manufacturers around the world, from the Czech Republic and Slovakia to Australia and Holland.
Ytterborn chose neither school. Instead, he formed his own and enrolled immediately. While quick to give props to the likes of KTM’s Freeride and Alta for playing a critical, Tesla-like role in increasing market awareness and build quality for electric bikes, the people that inspired him most were the small-scale entrepreneurs, guys tooling around in their barns creating hybrid two-wheelers using a Frankenstein combination of bicycle and motorcycle parts.
If it hadn’t been for these garage-built hybrids,” Ytterborn says, “I would never have come to the conclusion of commercializing their initiatives. To adapt it where we have something that is seamless, more like an iPhone than a homemade telephone from 1975.”
Ytterborn doesn’t come across as a Deus-style motorcycle enthusiast, as one might expect from the head of a startup motorcycle company. Ytterborn approached the conceptualization, engineering, and execution of the Kalk not as a diehard rider, but as a veteran of gravity sports, road cycling and design.
It’s not like we’re pretentiously trying to think outside-the-box,” he tells me. “We simply come from somewhere else.” This independence led to an untethered imagining of what Cake could be—a blue-sky startup unrestricted by the motorcycle industry’s notoriously calcified thinking.
“I’ve been on electric motorbikes for the past three or four years, Ytterborn says. I bought them all just to understand what works and what doesn’t. And what we learned trying all these bikes was that it’s all about power-to-weight ratio, because the electric drivetrain behaves totally different from a combustion engine.” His conclusion? To optimize the off-road experience, Cake needed to start from scratch.
One of the biggest challenges was achieving precise throttle response. Consistent, immediate and smooth output required countless hours of testing, a year and a half of coding and recoding. In Christmas of 2016, Cake scrapped its work and started over.
Of course it’s wonderful to do big jumps, running through the woods at high speeds or whatever, but where an electric bike really amazes me is on tricky terrain. This spring, he was going uphill on a steep grade, over deep, wet moss. It occurred to him that if he’d been on a combustion bike he would have just ripped through it. But on an electric bike, you can go one mph, climbing really slow, and if there’s an obstacle you just think, ‘I need to get over it, I need more power,’ and it just gently takes you over it in perfect condition.”
And since the Kalk is electric, there is one gear and no clutch. (As most novice motorcyclists will testify, shifting on a bike is one of the trickiest processes to master.) The finished Kalk is a startlingly easy-to-use machine.
That potentially makes me happiest: It actually does what you think when you’re riding it.
What the Cake Is Made Of
By simply swapping out drivetrains like KTM, bikes end up weighing over 300 pounds. This is fine for MX or enduro applications, but for the back-trail exploring that Ytterborn sees as Cake’s bread and butter, the bikes are simply too heavy.
What you did today in the woods,” he says, referencing my afternoon lost in the Swedish wilderness, “flying on the trails, you’d never be able to do that on a 350-pound motorcycle.”
At the same time, outfitting a mountain bike with motors also has its issues. The most vexing one is that bicycle components are far too fragile for the increased stresses of electric motors. The solution? Build your own damn parts.
As Ytterborn’s son (and Cake social media director) Karl explains, “We realized that all of the most sturdy downhill bicycle parts were too weak, and all the motocross parts were too heavy, so we developed every single component from scratch.” Everything from stems to hubs is custom made, including an aluminum frame and swingarm, and carbon fiber body panels. When initially testing front suspension prototypes they realized stock 36-mm forks were too swampy and weak. So Cake collaborated with their fellow Swedes at Öhlins to build 38-mm forks exclusively for Cake—the precise size and strength for the duty at hand.
The wheels are built like highly reinforced downhill bicycle rims. This shaves 40 percent off the weight, but it also brings another helpful consequence: You can actually change a flat yourself. A struggle with traditional motorbikes is if you get a puncture in the woods, you better start walking. With a mountain bike wheel, simply bring a fresh tube and you can wrench it right there in the field. Cake developed an extra wide tire that uses 50% more rubber than a mountain bike to maximize the contact patch and designed a tread that avoids 90-degree angles, limiting environmental damage on the trails.
After experimenting with dirt and mountain bike handlebars setups, they settled on a custom-built unit using geometry closer to a mountain bike. “For test rides, we’ve used both experienced motocross and mountain bike riders,” says Karl. Over the course of these tests, they discovered a downhill bike-style stem that’s offset towards the front. “This makes the bike much more agile and nimble—it’s easier to throw around and you have more control.”
In the end, there are only three stock parts on the entire bike: brake levers, foot pegs, and rubber handles. That’s it.
What they’ve built is a vehicle imagined to be the ultimate exploration machine. It’s silent, so nobody knows you’re zooming through their woods; its tires don’t damage the ground, and there’s zero pollution. The Kalk is light (143 pounds), nimble, and easy to ride, and its 31-pound-feet of torque and top speed of 50 mph can get you out of (and into) any trouble, and the 50-mile range is just enough for serious trail riding.
Somehow, the Cake made me more confident, bolder. Before I knew it, I’m on the edge of a forest scratching my head wondering how the hell I got there.
A Designer’s Bike
Ytterborn wants to do to with Cake what he did with Ikea and POC: bring affordable style and aesthetics into serial production, to democratize design.
When the Kalk was first launched in January at Denver’s Outdoor Retailer Show, the bike was recognized as “Best in Show,” and sold out all if its 50 Launch Edition bikes in less than 3 weeks to 15 different countries. It went on to receive Teknikföretagen’s Grand Award of Design and Sweden’s national design award, the Design S. Recently it was nominated for a 2019 German Design Award, and this month was nominated for the Design Museum’s Beazley Designs of the Year award. Even if it doesn’t win, a Kalk will be on display at the celebrated London museum until January.
The innovation doesn’t end with the product. Cake commissioned pro enduro racer Robin Wallner to design a standardized 246-by-164-foot track optimized for its official category of ‘Light Electric Off-Road Motorbikes’. While motocross tracks are generally considered a noise nuisance, the silent, clean Kalk could run on a track next to a nursery school during naptime. You could theoretically build one of these tracks in the middle of Central Park, or by the Griffith Observatory. In the backcountry, an off-road motorcycle’s appeal is obvious, but the possibility of urban race parks cracks open a whole new market.
Cake has also been in talks with Formula E to build tracks that would fit in their city circuits for pre-races, as well as ski resorts to develop trail concepts. After all, Ytterborn sees the Kalk’s closest parallel as a downhill mountain bike, more so than an enduro racer. “It’s perfect on any trail,” he argues. “It’s like riding the fiercest downhill course on Whistler, but you don’t need a hill.” For surfers, skiers, skaters or anyone drawn to adrenaline sports, these light electric motorbikes could become a viable summer pursuit.
Given Ytterborn’s impetus has always been environmentally driven, he aligned Cake with Utellus, a Swedish renewable energy company, to develop three levels of solar panel packages to charge the bike for 100% zero emission cred
What It Costs
Cake designs and manufactures most of his own parts, and that comes with a price. The production version of the Kalk costs 13,000, which Ytterborn recognizes is high. The KTM Freeride E-XC, a comparable electric off-roader that comes with optional extra battery packs, is around 8,300 (extra batteries cost 2,500 each). But Ytterborn doesn’t think of KTM as competition, preferring to compare the Kalk—loaded with aluminum alloy, carbon fiber, and levels of elaboration far beyond what the KTM has brought to market—to a top-tier mountain bike, which can easily run 12,000. For Ytterborn, the Kalk is to Cake as the Roadster was to Tesla—a proof-of-concept initially relying on early adopters. He is in no rush to ramp up sales, preaching deliberate patience in moving forward: in 2019 they hope to sell 300 bikes in North American and another 300 in Europe, roughly doubling that in 2020 until hitting a target of 5,000 bikes by 2022—at which time the Kalk will retail for around 8,500, or the same as the KTM.
“How you open the markets to Aspen, or Vail, or a wider market, you need to establish the credibility of promoting something that has true quality, that is among those who put the highest demands on products. That’s why we’re starting with a fairly expensive product without any compromises, to make sure that we have the perfect vessel that supports the intentions we have targeted.”
Soon a street-legal commuter version of the Kalk will debut with headlamps, blinkers, dashboard, etc., and what they dub a heavy motorbike in the future, loaded with ABS brakes and other requisite technology.
“But our intention is not to take market share from the motorbike market,” Ytterborn points out. “It’s about growing the motorcycle market. We’re not saying ‘Look at us: we’re better, we’re faster.’ We’re just different.”
Mudding in a Three-Piece Suit: Hard Enduro on a Cake Kalk OR
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?
History in the Making: Red Bull Tennessee Knockout Electric Hard Enduro 2022
The ECR eMoto Class will mark the first time an electric dirt bike class has ever been featured in an international competition. Team GritShift is ready to compete for the podium – and you can join.
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.
Dirt Kings: Rusty’s Race-Winning Segway X160 Full Moto Build
Rusty’s fully built Segway X160 has won races at E-Jam and beyond against much larger and more expensive machines. Come along for the ride as we interview Rusty about how his build came together.
| Cake on the ground, like a kid’s birthday party.
/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 p hoto 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.
The 10 Best Electric Dirt Bikes to Ride in 2023
Over the last decade, the electric vehicle segment has experienced enormous technological leaps and bounds, giving way to increasingly powerful and compact motors and battery packs. It’s only been within the last year or two, however, that this technology has finally become potent and advanced enough to genuinely lend itself to use in off-road motorcycles. So, while this segment may not have even really existed half a decade ago, there’s recently been a major influx of new, ever-more-capable models hitting the market on a regular basis — the latest and greatest of which we’ll be counting down in this curated guide to the best electric dirt bikes.
While the sheer number of available options on the market currently gives riders a diverse selection of proton-powered machines from which to choose, it’s also made it increasingly difficult to hone in on the bike that best suits you and your intended riding use — especially to the uninitiated. In an effort to streamline the experience of shopping in this emerging segment, we’ve broken it down, delving into the benefits of electric dirt bikes and what to consider when shopping, before diving into our picks for the best battery-powered dirt bikes currently on the market.
The Upsides Advantages Of Electric Dirt Bikes
There are numerous areas in which modern electric dirt bikes are objectively superior to their gas-powered counterparts — seven of the most crucial of which we’ll be unpacking below.
Unparalleled Power: At times boasting more than ten times as much torque as standard 450cc dirt bikes, electric models offer what are truly remarkable, otherwordly amounts of torque. And, as an electric motor without a powerband, the gobs of stump-pulling torque produced by EV dirt bikes are unleashed instantaneously — rather than over a gas-fed engine’s rev range.
Minimal Noise: And, as much as we enjoy the roaring four-stroke or the ringing of a two-stroke engine, the lack of an internal combustion engine does admittedly allow the rider to better appreciate their surroundings when riding out in nature — not to mention the fact electric dirtbikes don’t annoy neighbors or attract unwanted attention from park rangers and/or law enforcement. With that said, electric dirtbike motors are far from silent, producing a whirling sound that increases in pitch as RPMs go up — not unlike a gas engine, albeit markedly quieter.
Reduced Maintenance: With far fewer moving parts, no need to change out fluids, spark plugs, or filters, and no cams or timing chains to adjust, motorcycles that are kicked along by EV powertrains require far less maintenance than regular gas-fed dirt bikes. This makes ownership a much more convenient experience, especially compared to two-stroke models that need top-end rebuilds after every couple dozen hours of riding.
TwistGo Throttle: Without the need for a clutch and gearbox, electric powertrains are markedly more approachable than their manually-shifted counterparts, lowering the intimidation factor and making riding more accessible to novices. Rather than having to work a clutch and shift lever, electric dirt bikes boast an automatic, “twist-and-go” style throttle — which can often have its sensitivity adjusted.
Smart Tech Future-Proofing: Because electric powertrains are regulated by modern, computerized controllers, the motor’s performance characteristics can be adjusted, with elements such as throttle response, traction control, and “engine braking” able to be dialed in on the fly. As rolling Smart devices, electric dirt bikes also often come with capabilities such as geofencing and tracking, remote locking and unlocking, and firmware updates that can be received over the air, largely future-proofing any one particular model.
Environmentally Friendly: While it probably goes without saying, since zero-emission vehicles don’t produce any combustion, electric dirt bikes are almost always tremendously more environmentally friendly and sustainable compared to gas bikes. With the right equipment on hand, some of these bikes can also be solar-charged.
Freedom Of Design: Traditionally, the layout of dirt bikes has been dictated by the positioning of vital components such as the engine and gas tank. Electric dirt bikes, on the other hand, aren’t limited by this layout and can have their motor and battery pack(s) strategically located in a myriad of different places, giving designers and engineers markedly more freedom, along with the ability to experiment with outside-the-box ideas and setups.
Factors To Consider When Buying An Electric Dirtbike
Whether it’s an enduro, supersport, or an electric dirt bike, purchasing your first motorcycle can be a daunting task, especially if you didn’t grow up riding. Knowing this firsthand, we’ve generated this handy primer on the eight most important areas to review before buying your first — or next — electric dirt bike.
Battery: Batteries obviously play a crucial role in the overall quality and performance of an electric dirt bike. Areas such as capacity, voltage, and the number of cells will collectively determine specs such as range, recharge times, and the number of lifecycles. It’s also worth exploring if a battery is swappable, as well as what types of outlets or chargers it’s compatible with.
Motor: As the heart of any electric dirt bike, its motor is extremely important. When shopping for a battery-powered motocross machine, you’ll want to explore factors such as the type of motor, how much it weighs, how it’s cooled, and where it’s mounted on the bike (typically the swing-arm or frame).
Power: The immense power produced by electric dirt bikes is undoubtedly one of the segment’s biggest benefits over traditional petrol-powered models. As such, it’s well worth exploring an e-MXers horsepower and torque figures — the former of which is often measured in kilowatts.
Running Gear: While a dirt bike’s power and acceleration are primarily owed to its powertrain (and gearing, to some extent), its other riding characteristics mainly boil down to the running gear — or components — with which they’re equipped. This includes elements such as an e-dirt bike’s suspension setup, chassis, swing-arm, and braking hardware — all of which play a pivotal role in a bike’s handling and stopping power.
Size Weight: Just like with traditional dirt bikes — that are typically offered in everything from 49cc up through 450cc sizes — electric models come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, with a slew of different seat heights and riding positions. These battery-powered bikes can also weigh in at anywhere between around 100lbs all the way up to two-wheelers pushing 400lbs. When reviewing this particular area, you’ll want to consider your height, skill level, intended riding applications, and whether or not the bike’s ergonomics (and/or seat height) can be adjusted.
Smart Tech: GPS tracking, remote unlocking, and on-the-fly parameter adjustments are all frequently featured on late model electric dirt bikes, allowing for more personalization. What’s more, similar to smartphones, today’s electric dirt bikes also often come loaded with sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, wheel speed monitors, and GPS sensors — all of which feed data several hundred times every second into an advanced processor.
App Connectivity: A growing number of dirt bikes are now being offered with connectivity to dedicated smartphone apps that allow users to adjust settings and parameters of the bike, such as power output, throttle response, traction control, or ABS levels. Many of these apps can also be used to download over-the-air updates.
Experience Level: No matter what type of motorcycle you’re purchasing, your search should always be limited by your level of skill and riding experience. Starting on a machine that’s too large and too powerful isn’t just inconducive to learning, it’s downright dangerous — plus it limits the amount of fun the rider has, as they’re forced to FOCUS on keeping the bike in check rather than perfecting their technique and advancing as a rider. The good news, however, is that quite a few of today’s electric dirt bikes can have their power level and throttle response adjusted (i.e. lowered) in order to be compatible with novice pilots.
SUR-RON Light Bee X
Tipping the scales at just a tad over 100lbs (plus the weight of its 60V, 176-cell Lithium-ion battery), SUR-RON’s Light Bee X is a lightweight, entry-level electric dirtbike that boasts a 47mph top speed and a range of up to 60 miles on a single charge — depending on what riding mode is being used. Constructed around an anodized 6061 T4 and T6 aluminum frame that’s created under 6,000 tons of pressure, the Light Bee X also features a rear mono-shock with a DNM TR link system and an inverted front fork that affords 8” of travel.
Top Speed: 50 MPH Output: 12 HP, 42 Nm of torque Charge Time: 1.8 Hours
Though Segway built its name on producing standup electric scooters, the company has since applied its EV knowhow to producing a wide range of battery-powered vehicles, from go-karts to scooters to electric dirt bikes. The brand’s X260 offers solid performance with a 47mph top speed, a roughly 120-lb curb weight, and a whopping 185ft-lbs of torque. Other highlights include connectivity to a smartphone app, swappable batteries, and an LED headlight, all as standard. In addition to being sold in a slew of different color options, this model is also offered in a more affordable and less powerful 3,500 X160-spec.
Top Speed: 85 MPH Output: 46 HP, 106 Nm of torque Charge Time: 9.7 Hours
Based in New Taipei City, Taiwan, Graft is an American-run EV Powersports company producing electric side-by-sides, four-wheelers, and dirtbikes, such as the EO.12. Weighing only 110lbs, the EO.12 — which was unveiled in prototype form in late 2021 — boasts a frame that’s been machined from aluminum billet before being paired with a custom mono-shock-equipped swing-arm, and a long-travel, three-way-adjustable FOX Racing fork. Benefitting from the use of swappable batteries and numerous 3D-printed TiAl6V4 titanium components, the EO.12’s 20-kW powertrain cranks out an otherworldly 324.5ft-lbs of instantaneous torque. The bike also rides on an off-road-focused 21” front, 18” rear wheel set with carbon fiber rims.
Top Speed: 50 MPH Output: 42 HP Charge Time: 2 Hours
KTM FREERIDE E-XC
The first modern, mass-produced electric dirtbike from a reputable, mainstream manufacturer, KTM’s FREERIDE E-XC combines the Ready To Race brand’s signature blend of high-end components and an advanced chassis with a cutting-edge, fully-electric powertrain that generates 24.5hp and 31ft-lbs of torque — making it roughly comparable to your average gas-powered 250cc dirt bike or dual-sport. As one would expect from KTM, the FREERIDE E-XC comes loaded with top-shelf componentry such as WP XPLOR suspension fore and aft, along with FORMULA braking hardware. This model’s Lithium-ion KTM PowerPack battery also affords a range of around 25 miles per charge.
Top Speed: 56 MPH Output: 13.4 HP, 42 Nm of torque Charge Time: 2.5 Hours
Stark VARG Alpha
Touted as “the world’s fastest motocross bike,” the Stark VARG Alpha is a ridiculously high-performance off-roader with a state-of-the-art fully-electric powertrain that’s good for 80hp and an unheard-of 691.8ft-lbs of torque. Weighing in at under 250lbs, the VARG also gets KYB suspension offering more than a foot of travel front and back, innovative skid plate design, forged and CNC-machined wheels, the world’s lightest foot-pegs, Brembo brakes, 100 different ride modes, and the ability to custom-tune a slew of parameters including power curve, engine braking, and traction control. The VARG’s IP69K-rated 6kWh battery also affords up to six hours of ride time. Based in Spain, Stark also offers a 60-HP standard version of the VARG for 1,000 less.
Top Speed: 45 MPH Output: 16 HP, 27 Nm of torque Charge Time: 2.5 Hours
Trevor DTRe Stella
While admittedly not what typically springs to mind when discussing electric dirt bikes, Trevor’s DTRe Stella is a closed-course only, battery-powered two-wheeler built specifically for use on dirt tracks. This electric, turnkey flat track racer is built around a minimalistic trellis frame that’s designed by Sarolea Performance and capped off with a single-piece tank and tracker-style tail section unit. Individually built by hand in Belgium, this bike features 19” Haan spoked wheels shod in Dunlop flat track tires, an 11-kW air-cooled brushless DC3 motor, and a 2.7-kWh C-battery pack that offers a more than 60-mile range and can be fully recharged in under an hour. Alongside the off-road-only model, Trevor is also producing a street-legal variant of the DTRe Stella for around 15,300.
CAKE Kalk OR race
Representing the Swedish marque’s top-of-the-line, race-spec electric dirt bike model, the CAKE Kalk OR race is a high-performance motocrosser with sleek Scandanavian design language and a top-shelf array of components that includes Öhlins suspension front and back, custom brakes, and bespoke wheels. Weighing only 165lbs, the Kalk OR race produces more than 200ft-lbs of torque, giving it a remarkable power-to-weight ratio. The CAKE also has multiple ride modes with different power settings, allowing new riders to work their way up to more powerful maps as their skill level progresses. On top of a street-legal Kalk model, CAKE also makes an INK-spec of the Kalk race that comes with lower-end suspension and a more affordable 11,500 MSRP.
E-Racer RUGGED Mark2
Based on the Zero FXS, the E-Racer RUGGED Mark2 is an air-drop-capable, reconnaissance-style electric dirt bike that takes heavy inspiration from military vehicles. In addition to sporting its own structural aluminum square-stock chassis and subframe with integrated lift-hooks, the Mk2 RUGGED sports custom kevlar and carbon fiber bodywork coated in ultra-hardwearing Line-X ballistic armor and finished with a dozen Eagle Eye LED perimeter lights. Other unique details include a 3D-printed nylon and Alcantara MX-style saddle resting on a hinged seat-pan, a triple Poliessoidal LED Highsider headlight, custom handguards, a skid-plate, illuminated ‘RUGGED’ badges, and ballistic tape-wrapped Showa suspension backed by an AirTender kit.
Tactica T-Race Cross
Made by boutique Italian firm Tactica, the T-Race Cross is an ultra-high-performance, spare-no-expense competition-grade electric dirt bike that’s been engineered specifically to win races. Brimming with top-of-the-line components including Brembo brakes and Öhlins suspension front and aft, the T-Race Cross also boasts a manual five-speed gearbox, two power modes, sleek blacked-out bodywork, and a single-shell split chrome-molybdenum chassis. And, while its range may seem extremely limited, its battery size was chosen to provide enough energy for 2 hot laps and nothing more.
FLUX Performance Primo
Made by Slovenian startup FLUX Performance, the Primo is a ridiculously state-of-the-art electric dirtbike with some absolutely incredible performance figures. Powering the Primo is a frame-mounted electric motor with Formula 1-inspired straight cut gears that cranks out 85hp and an astounding 553.2ft-lbs of torque at the rear wheel. Running off of a 6.7kWh, 400V swappable battery that’s set in a fully waterproof, aerospace-grade housing, the Primo is also equipped with a host of Smart sensors, remote locking, GPS tracking, and the ability to adjust half-a-dozen different riding parameters on the fly. Also produced in street-legal dual-sport and supermoto variants, the Primo’s perimeter-style aluminum cradle frame has been paired with a custom-designed cast swing-arm, an Öhlins’ twin-tube-tech-equipped TTX mono-shock, and a top-shelf 48mm inverted KYB fork.
Alta Redshift MXR
Despite producing what at the time was unquestionably the most advanced, cutting-edge, and capable electric dirt bike in existence, Alta Motors sadly shuttered its doors in late 2018, putting an immediate end to all operations, including production. With that said, if you’re shopping for an electric dirtbike, Alta’s Redshift models — including the MXR — are still well worth considering. And, while it may require some legwork and patience, Alta’s dirt bikes can still occasionally be found at select dealerships, as well as on eBay, Craigslist, and auction sites like Bring a Trailer.
GRID Cycles E-Scrambler
Created by Purpose Built Moto’s new EV division GRID Cycles, this honorable mention offers the performance of a modern electric dirt bike along with the appearance of a retro-inspired scrambler motorcycle with a replica Yamaha XT500 tank, a scrambler-style seat, and a classically-styled circular headlight shell housing a 5.75” Flashpoint LED beam. The E-Scrambler is based on KTM’s FREERIDE E-XC, and as such its power and range figures go almost entirely unchanged. The E-Scrambler also sports a black livery contrasted via an orange frame and red and orange accents — a nod to 1970s race liveries.
The Best Electric Motorcycles Currently Available
interested in a road-going eBike? Then be sure to cruise over to our guide to the best electric motorcycles for a handpicked list of all-electric two-wheelers from supermotos to superbikes.