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Common Tread

Cake Ösa+ electric motorcycle review: Tool, not toy

Jul 20, 2022

Let's face it — your motorcycle is just a toy.

Regardless of your taste in two-wheeled transportation — whether it's a Honda CBR600RR, a Harley-Davidson Softtail, or a Triumph Speed Twin — your motorcycle is designed to entertain, not to work. Even if you are among the minority that believes that your toy ought to at least get you to work, one needs to commit unnatural acts if one wants to carry more than a set of sunglasses and a sandwich.

Imagine, though, if your work required transportation of something more than that sandwich — a toolset, a workbench, mulch and paving blocks, bulk foods, a dozen two-by-fours, or a chopsaw.

A chopsaw? Snap out of it, man — nobody is thinking about riding around with an industrial chopsaw.

And that is exactly where you would be wrong.

Cake Osa+ loaded with tools and gear
Need to take a small carpentry job on the road? The Cake Osa+ is the closest thing on two wheels to a truck. The base price is $10,500 and it can be configured in a variety of ways to handle different kinds of cargo. Cake photo.

CAKE 0 Emission AB, a company based in Stockholm, Sweden, is looking at two-wheeled transportation with completely fresh eyes. Cake is an electric vehicle designer and manufacturer whose machines simply do not fit into any pre-existing motorcycle category or definition.

Moto pundits will bandy about the term "micro-mobility devices" and that is headed in the right direction, but seems insufficient on a fundamental level. A Cake Ösa+ is not exactly a motorcycle. With a top speed of 56 mph it isn't really highway-capable in the United States. It might be an e-scooter, maybe. The controls on a Cake have more in common with electric bicycles than with most motorcycles. The dash is a small, bar-mounted mini-tablet that any e-biker would recognize instantly. Heck, the power modes on our test unit mapped pretty cleanly to the DOT-recognized power modes for e-bikes: Mode 1 limited to 25 mph, Mode 2 is 44, etc. Even the studliest Cargo e-bike though, quivers in fear at the sight of our Cake Ösa+ test bike.

The Ösa+, according to Cake’s Brand Manager for North America, Zach Clayton, was built using a "Function First" approach to design. Cake's Swedish founder, Stefan Ytterborn, has a personal friend and collaborator who is a carpenter. The friend wondered why no one made a cycle for carpenters. And so Cake, the company, made a bike for especially for Osa, and named it in his honor.

Though it's small and weighs only about 180 pounds, the Cake Ösa+ is as strong a structure as you are ever likely to see rolling on two wheels. The main frame is a single, straight, forged aluminum beam structure that runs from the steering head straight to the rear of the bike. The genius of the design is that a specially designed quick-release clamp system will allow you to firmly mount an entire catalog of road gear and accessories onto that beam at any location along its length. Things that can be clamped onto an Ösa start with the seat for the rider and an optional pillion saddle, then progress though front and rear baskets ranging from small to genuinely massive, flat panel carriers, lumber carriers, a workbench, a small DC-to-AC inverter, a trailer hitch and factory cargo trailer, and even a heat-pump-equipped warm or cold box, which can be used to deliver refrigerated or hot foods.

Yeah, you can have a fridge on your motorcycle.

Cake Osa+ on a city street
Given its speed and range, the Cake Ösa+ works well as a city bike, easily capable of hauling the tools of your trade to work or carrying home the groceries at the end of the day. Cake photo.

The Ösa, in short, was designed to work, to carry lots of heavy stuff, do it easily, quietly, environmentally responsibly and be cheap to operate. And while it might somehow be fun, that is clearly coincidental.

labeled handlebar
Ikea bike? It's the running joke. You don't really have to assemble it yourself, though the labeled parts, like this handlebar, might give that impression. Photo by Greg Shamieh.

The design of the Ösa+, the Ikea bike

Building a lightweight electric motorbike that can safely haul more than 200 pounds of stuff and do it with reasonably agile and surefooted handling is quite an accomplishment. The Ösa+ contains dozens of key components that are machined in-house, with lightness and strength clearly in mind. It's kind of a running gag amongst Cake owners that they’ve purchased "Ikea bikes" because of the gray, white and brushed-aluminum design palette that they share with many of the Scandinavian flat pack furniture giant's products. A few American enthusiasts have gone as far as "rebranding" their Cake Kalk race bikes with Ikea stickers. The Ösa's components manage to keep the joke rolling because all of the major components are "labelled" as if someone would need to be able to identify the parts when they were unpacking and assembling the bike. The hubs say "hub," the rims say "rim," and so on. All the bike needs to finish the Ikea gag is a place to store the Allen wrench one needs to assemble the bike.

Joking aside, all of those components are utter machinist's jewelry. They are all machined billet aluminum components, with attractive surface finishes — they are light, functional and durable. If you are the sort of person who can be transfixed by a beautiful upper triple clamp and fork caps, you will be rendered still and mute by the Ösa's. The Ösa is also equipped with an inverted fork, which is somewhat unusual on a bike having 14-inch tires. Those tires are wide, dual-sport skins that carry a severe mud and snow rating, which is the sort of thing that gives one potentially regrettable ideas.

A few design details do give one cause for a contemplative pause. The Ösa's aluminum floorboards are, like every other bespoke part on the bike, beautifully machined, recalling the alloy boards on pre-war BMWs. They are, however, inexplicably narrow, leaving my statistically bog-normal size-10 boots materially hanging off the edge.

The other design choice that begs questions and you need to know before riding the Cake Ösa+ has to do with the charging arrangements. Cake makes use of an external charger, similar to most electric bicycles. The transformer/controller unit is roughly a foot by 10 inches, has accommodations for being wall-mounted and weighs several pounds. There is no built-in provision on the Ösa to carry the charger with you and the bike does not support any type of public electric vehicle charging. If you are the type of person who might push the limits of the battery's range and want to top up at stops or during the work day, you need to lug the external transformer with you or you are just out of luck. The clear implication is that the Ösa's designers considered that during the course of a day's work, you would be able to happily exist within the bike's low-speed, urban operating radius and recharge when you returned to base.

charging the Cake Osa+ with the external charger
With its external charger, the Cake Ösa+ is clearly designed to be charged at home, not on the road. There are no fast-charging capabilities and you'll have to carry this box along if you want to be able to top up while you're away from your home base. Photo by Greg Shamieh.

Design speculations notwithstanding, what's riding it like?

Can you ride a Cake Ösa+ or just work on it?

One power-cycles the Ösa+ by first activating the battery's "On" switch. Five blue LEDs will sequence on to indicate a full state of charge. That battery, coincidentally, has both 12-volt and USB power sockets on its case, essentially turning the bike's motive power battery into a very large power bank. Larger or dual batteries are also available options, for those who need more range or banked power. The rider then powers up the dash controller, first by power cycling it, then by entering an access code. A mechanical key isn’t part of the process.

Once initiated, the rider is presented with a simple display that communicates speed, state of charge, and provides control for power and braking modes. The two braking modes provide for no regenerative braking in Mode 1, and some regen and hence, some slowing down when off the throttle, in Mode 2. Pilots accustomed to internal combustion will favor the "engine braking" simulation option.

Cake Osa+ display
The display looks similar to what you would expect to see on electric bicycles. Photo by Greg Shamieh.

Once the modes have been selected and the display shows ready, it's literally twist and go.

The Ösa has that instantaneous twist that makes electric propulsion so giggle-producing. There's a slight whine and then you're somewhere else. In Mode 2, progress up to about 35 miles per hour is downright snappy and then the bike levels off at a software threshold of 44 mph. Drive is nearly silent as the Gates-supplied drive belt and sprockets make no noise whatsoever. Ride quality is solid and compliant — with the bike's enduro-style wide handlebar, direction changes are quick — and the Ösa is light on its contact patches.

Braking is powerful, although a tad short on feel. Fortunately, the Ösa does not use the bicycle convention for hand brake controls. The front is controlled by the right lever, following motorcycle practice. The rear brake, following scooter rather than motorcycle convention, is controlled by the left side hand lever. With no clutch or gearbox, there are no foot controls. Braking at the front wheel is strong and progressive. Braking the rear wheel is hell-strong, but abrupt. On my first ride, I applied what I considered normal force from years of motorcycling, and locked the back solid, leaving a lurid Ösa darkie. When one considers the bike's significant carrying capacity, a powerful brake is not a surprise. The lack of modulation leaves room for improvement.

Let me be the first to admit that my motorcycle biases made it very challenging to test the intended use case for a machine like the Ösa. I'm the kind of rider who just managed to get nicked for speeding on a 47-year-old motorcycle with historic tags. I'm the sort of guy who will ride 600 miles in a day just because I want to sleep in my own bed. Anyone whose habits run toward harder, faster, longer — and who lives in a rural area where the nearest Big Box store is 10 miles of highway away — will be challenged to embrace what the Ösa is for.

wheel hub on the Cake Osa+
Many aluminum parts are made in-house by Cake. And whimsically labeled. Photo by Greg Shamieh.
Putting the Ösa to its intended use, one of my first test rides was that classic run to the hardware store, which is 10 miles of 65 mph U.S. highway with a backroad option where the limit is 50 mph. I mounted up the large rear carrier and the smaller front cargo platform and headed up the backroad route.

To keep other traffic at bay, Mode 3 — full power — is almost required. And while the Ösa feels planted and controlled at 50, battery consumption was not. With a load of some mulch and lightweight garden fencing parts aboard on the way home, there was almost no discernable impact on the bike's handling, which I can tell you is no small feat. I got back to the shop using Mode 2 and showing a single bar on the battery display after a highway run of only 19 miles, which is right in line with Cake's published spec.

The highway, clearly, is not what the Ösa is for.

The little village where I live is small and compact. In an average day, one might go to our butcher, the coffee joint, the Post Office, and our little market. Nothing in this town is further than a mile and a half apart. For use in town, the Ösa was perfect: no starting ritual, no warmup, no noise, and in short-hop duty, it seemed to consume no battery at all. I soon mastered the skill of placing the Ösa on its main stand from the saddle, a technique familiar to scooter riders everywhere, and mandated here because use of Cake's large cargo carrier in the rear pretty much rules out being able to throw a leg over it. With the accessory 'fridge, it'd be right out.

When I lived in the city of Baltimore, the grocery store that was "very far away" was less than two miles of stoplight-to-stoplight running. Every place I went and every business I frequented was inside of a five-mile radius, and speeds on surface streets never exceeded 35 mph. In that kind of city use, or in my little village, the Ösa is perfectly fun, functional transportation. It is easy to ride, quiet, and able to carry literally anything and everything one could possibly imagine. In this use, the battery was able to go more than 50 miles, which might be more than 10 days' full use.

Speed, in short, is not what the Ösa is for. The more slowly one goes, the more efficient the machine becomes. As a guy who has always lived for "more," learning to embrace "less" took some very conscious and concerted effort. I worked hard to seek the slow — to become one with what was around me — and the better I got at it, the better the Ösa seemed to become.

power outlets on the Cake Osa+
A 12-volt and USB outlet allow you to power other devices or tools, as long as your Cake has juice. Photo by Greg Shamieh.

There was also a surprise inside. My village is surrounded by working farms connected by unpaved roads. Off the pavement, the Ösa+ was surprisingly good. The combination of wide, semi-knobby tires, good front-to-rear balance, low mass, and instant torque meant the Ösa could go places off-road where bigger bikes might have been a handful. I found myself out on the gravel and even following the dual-tracks that meander along our many streams and creeks. I was getting in and out of places I'd never seen before, aided by low weight, good traction, and stealth from the machine's utter lack of sound. The expedition-grade bash plate — another piece of Cake machinist's jewelry — that covers the entire underside of the machine makes a lot more sense sliding along a stone-littered, muddy forest path.

When one encounters that mud, however, we are reminded that those tires are not true knobbies. File those end swaps under regret — giggly, but still regrettable.

Cake Osa+ by a stream, carrying camping gear
The Cake is not only capable of handling unpaved roads to get you to your fishing spot, but it's also capable of carrying all your gear. Photo by Greg Shamieh.

On one of these little exploratory expeditions, I came upon a secluded spot that felt like the most perfect camping spot ever — in the bend of a stream, with a hill behind and no roads and no dwellings anywhere in sight. A few days later, I was back there with a two-man tent, bedroll, camp stove, camping chair and a small soft cooler. There was room for more gear in the Ösa's carriers, but I had everything I needed.

What the Ösa+ is good at

Understanding how the Ösa+ was designed to be used was like peeling an onion. As I relied on it for every possible task, from moving firewood and mulch to stealth camping, I discovered what it was genuinely good at. For city dwellers or urban commercial users, where surface-street speeds are low, stops are frequent, and overall distance travelled is relatively short, the Ösa+ might be the most useful and economical vehicle imaginable, with its zero emissions performance just frosting on the Cake. Applications like food and package delivery, especially when equipped with the factory cargo trailer, would be perfectly suited for the Ösa. Commercial operators can expect really low maintenance expenditures. Tires and really, really infrequent brake pads are going to be it, all in. The ability of the bike's accessory inverter to support operation of tools, and the base power unit's 12-volt and USB power outlets open up all sorts of possibilities for using the bike to power all sorts of things in addition to that fridge.

Cake Osa+ pulling a trailer in the city
If the other accessories aren't capable of all you need to haul for the job of the day, there's always the optional trailer. Cake photo.

If you're a rural inhabitant, and have the good fortune to live near a trail system, you'll find you have a surefooted mule of a lightweight bike that will carry everything you could possibly need for fishing, hunting, and camping. Its off-road capabilities are enhanced by the bike's completely stealth operation. Folks who would be calling 911 on your two-stroke trail bike will never even know you are there on an Ösa. Over time, I can see a lot of these riding on the backs of campers. (The fine print says that off-road use may affect your warranty, however, so consider that in advance.)

I will freely cop to being a committed nerd. A motorcycle nerd, but a nerd nonetheless.

Nerds have a few shared fetish items, and a Leatherman multitool is on that short list. A good one will give you a way to deal with screws, wiring, most bolts (crudely), bottles and cans, and saw down very small trees. It isn't best of breed for any of those things, but it gives one a way to improvise when options are limited. A more positive read is that multitool packs a lot of capability into a very small package.

Cake's Ösa+, whatever you want to call it, also packs a lot of capability onto a very small, silent, lightweight, and efficient package. What kind of nail it might be your hammer for is limited only by your imagination.

2022 Cake Ösa+
Price (MSRP) $10,500 base price
Motor Interior permanent magnet motor
final drive
Single speed, belt
Frame Aluminum beam
Front suspension Inverted fork; 4.7 inches of travel
Rear suspension Monoshock adjustable for preload
Front brake Single 220 mm disc with four-piston caliper
Rear brake Single 220 mm disc with four-piston caliper
Wheelbase 52.75 inches
Seat height 31.5 inches
Claimed range 52 miles city (WMTC-II); 22 miles highway
Claimed battery capacity 2.6 kWh
Claimed charge rate Level 1: Two hours 0-80 percent, three hours 0-100 percent
Claimed weight 196 pounds
Available Now
Warranty 24 months or 18,000 miles
More info