[CORRECTION: Due to a communications mishap, the bike I received is an ösa +, not an ösa + :work. An earlier version of this piece referred to it as a :work. The name has since been changed to reflect the actual model received.]
Earlier in 2022, I had the chance to become acquainted with the CAKE ösa + in beautiful Del Mar, California. The weather was lovely, of course—and importantly, so were the roads. It was a far cry from what I was used to back home in and around Chicago, Illinois. So, of course, I welcomed the change.
That said, I also couldn’t help but wonder what a CAKE ösa + would be like back home. At the time, I thought it seemed like a pretty great way to get around and do daily errands. With a claimed top speed of 56 miles per hour (which was pretty accurate on that ride), the idea seemed like a pretty promising proposition.
Several months later, CAKE was able to send an ösa + my way for a long-term review. More specifically, they said they were sending an ösa + :work . What’s the difference? Mainly configuration—but also range, which we’ll get to. In the end, I received an ösa +, not a :work—although that wasn't immediately clear.
The ösa + comes with an interesting headlight that’s meant to double as a worklight. There’s a curly black electrical cord that’s wired into the bike, and the headlight is neatly held in place using one of CAKE’s nicely machined, proprietary clamps up front. (For the record, they’re the same clamps that CAKE uses to hold most of its accessories on this line in place.)
On first glance, I thought it was a cool idea—but upon further reflection, I began to feel like it was half of a good idea. While you can theoretically remove and position the light to illuminate whatever you’re working on while parked, there’s no clamp at the bottom of the light stalk when you remove it from the bike.
That means you either need somewhere you can stick the light so it won’t move from the spot you want to illuminate—or else you have to have someone else stand around and hold it for you. Also, I started to wonder about headlight aim—which is a thing, and which will probably change every time you slip the light out for use as a worklight.
The CAKE ösa + can come preconfigured with any number of handy accessories that CAKE sells to make your working life easier, from various racks, baskets, and Dometic boxes to a full-on trailer that you can tow behind your CAKE. The sky’s the limit—as long as your wallet is, too.
The ösa + :work, meanwhile, has a stronger front rack and a special ride mode that's suited to hauling the heavier loads that the :work is intended for.
In the ösa + range of bikes, CAKE offers more than one battery size. If you order a standard ösa +, the claimed range is 84 kilometers, or 52 miles of mixed use. Meanwhile, the ösa + :work is supposed to come with a slightly larger battery, which offers a claimed range of 125 kilometers, or 78 miles.
It’s important to point out a couple of things here. In the world of electric vehicles, range is always a best-estimate scenario, and is not meant to be a set of hard and fast numbers. Now intuitively, I think many people expect manufacturers to be optimistic about numbers, much like fuel mileage on combustion vehicles. I mean, why should range estimates be any different?
There’s one key way in which EVs differ from combustion ones here—and it’s this: While combustion vehicles get poorer fuel mileage in stop-and-go city driving, that’s where EVs shine. As a general rule, you’ll see higher range numbers on EVs in these kinds of scenarios than you will if you take them on high-speed blasts.
Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should
What happened next was an unfortunate combination of things. Since I’d been told that a CAKE ösa + :work was coming, I had ösa + :work-sized expectations of greater range. (I mean, wouldn’t you?) I was also excited to have higher-speed capability on this bike. A 56-mile top speed meant I could easily take pretty much everything in my area except the highway—which I was fine with.
As luck would have it, I needed to go pick up some parts for the VF500F Interceptor—and they were located about 13 miles away, depending on how I went. Some of the roads would push the top speed of the ösa +, but there was lower speed stuff in there, too—it was a mixed route. I figured that even accounting for the nebulous nature of EV range figures, the extended range offered by the ösa + :work should mean that my planned ride would work out just fine.
If I’d read the text on the battery before I took the fully-charged bike out for its first ride, maybe I would have made a different choice—but I didn’t. You see, the battery included in the bike that CAKE had sent was the standard ösa + battery—not the extended-range one found in the ösa + :work. By now, you’re probably sick of hearing about supply chain issues, but they’re unfortunately a thing—and so, in the interest of getting bikes out the door, CAKE sent this bike with the smaller battery.
It—like most CAKE ösa + parts—is labeled, so you can see which battery is installed if you actually read the thing. I was so excited to get out and ride, and I also thought that I understood what I was getting. So, I just set off on my first trip and was not as cautious as I should have been.
While it’s true that the CAKE ösa + can reach that vaunted 56 mph top speed—the real question is, do you want to do that speed on that bike? Even more than that, does the bike want to do that speed for more than a couple of minutes? Your experience may differ from mine, but in my experience, the answer to both those questions is “no.”
CAKE’s documentation notes that, as a belt-driven machine, it’s normal for the ösa + to have rubber shed off the belt during operation, particularly during the first few rides. You’ll notice little chunks and bits coating other nearby surfaces of the bike if you push it—but apparently, that’s normal. The belt doesn’t sound particularly happy while you’re doing it, but it seems to be holding up OK so far.
The ösa + also has a fairly stiff seat, with no padding to speak of. While it does allow for preload adjustment on the rear shock, that’s the only suspension adjustability. The setup as it came from the factory was pretty uncomfortable over things like road repairs and things that weren’t perfectly smooth. That impression only increased at speed, as you’d probably expect. Can you go 56 mph? Yes. Do you, as a rider of this particular bike, want to go that fast? Only for a moment, at most.
To make a long story short, the spate of spirited riding I took this bike on for its first ride ended in a dead battery, a call to a local towing company, and a roll-of-shame home on the back of a flatbed tow truck. We’d gone a grand total of 25 miles, according to Google Maps.
At first, I was flabbergasted. You see, at that time, I still believed that I had the larger battery with the larger range. It was only later that I found out that I actually had the regular battery. Taking into account the amount of spirited, high-speed riding that I was doing on that journey, that range was more explainable—if still disappointing. (At least the tow truck came in under half an hour, so yay for that?)
Since I’d learned the hard way (I thought) that this bike was clearly not up for a certain type of riding, I figured I would recharge it, then simply stick to low-speed errands in my immediate vicinity. However, when I went to plug the battery in, the charger started making an extremely alarming howling sound. It was so strange, in fact, that I didn’t even think the charger was the source of the sound at first. Eventually, though, I figured it out—and unplugged it as soon as I realized.
To CAKE’s credit, they were happy to replace the charger as soon as I reported the strange noise. They also explained what had happened with the battery after I told them about my first ride, so that's when I found out that I didn’t have the larger battery I mistakenly thought that I had. CAKE also offered to send me the larger battery along with the charger so I could get back on the bike as quickly as possible.
Since my CAKE unboxing piece was also published by that point, CAKE also offered to send me a side stand for the ösa +, as long as I could install it myself—which wasn’t a problem. I parked the bike for the time being and looked forward to getting back out once I could charge up again (and maybe install and use a side stand).
After a first experience like that, I was disappointed. Sometimes, though, what you need after a disappointment is some kind of break from the thing, person, or situation that’s disappointed you. A few days away, along with a reset in the form of that ösa + parts box on its way—might be just the thing to get a good (re)start on the right foot.