In October 2022, Sinje Gottwald set out from Spain to make an 8,000-mile journey across Africa (north to south). Unaided by technical or medical support, Gottwald ended her journey in Cape Town, South Africa, on Feb. 15, 2023. Gottwald’s finish marks the first person to ride an electric motorcycle across the continent. She completed the 124-day quest using a Kalk AP, made by Swedish bike maker CAKE, which also sponsored the trip. Our first question: How the heck did she charge it along the way?
One part of the answer: She’s a pro. Gottwald has already made a name for herself by circumnavigating the world on a motorbike. But she expressed pride in making perhaps the longest journey yet on an electric motorcycle.
“After all the challenges and obstacles along the way, I feel so relieved and happy to be here, proud to have made it and a bit melancholic this adventure is now ending,” she wrote on Instagram. “Not many people thought that this mission would be possible and I am extremely grateful to the few that believed in me from the very beginning.”
Gottwald grabbed attention among motorcyclists when she accomplished a solo circumnavigation of the world in 2017. She’s also traveled overland from Europe to Asia to Australia. And she’s driven long stretches from South to North America and from Morocco to Mali.
As CAKE’s B2B account manager, Gottwald had pitched the idea to company’s CEO and founder Stefan Ytterborn. In a news release following Gottwald’s successful completion of the journey, Ytterborn expressed congratulations — and relief.
“Besides being amazed by her courage and spirit, I was thrilled about the ability for us to [sponsor] her, while truly getting a chance for extreme field testing,” he said. “We agreed that Sinje would change positions for a few months from being a B2B sales manager to becoming our most precious field tester. Now [that] she is through, it’s extremely rewarding that she and the bike arrived in perfect shape.”
Electric-Powered Journey Across Africa: The Logistics
For her latest adventure, she came prepared. Gottwald brought two batteries, two chargers, and spare parts including a controller, display, throttle, chain, and fuses. She added tools, a camera, and personal belongings — including a laptop in case her bike required a software update.
She still experienced many difficulties along the way. That started when the deep Moroccan sand caused a fuse to burn out. As she continued down the western part of the continent to Guinea, Gottwald faced the challenge of muddy, waterlogged jungle tracks nearly impossible to negotiate in a car, let alone a motorcycle.
And in the true spirit of riding unsupported, it was also Gottwald’s responsibility to handle the logistical hurdles of applying for visas and crossing borders with the right paperwork.
“My dream was to see the world with my own eyes. No matter how much I learn about places, seeing and experiencing them myself will always give me a better understanding,” Gottwald said. “This I feel is particularly the case for Africa. With this adventure I not only wanted to open up my own and people’s views and ideas about this continent, but also give an example of what is possible. We are capable of a lot more than we think.”
8,000 Miles on the CAKE Kalk AP
Gottwald’s latest adventure using the Kalk AP represents a significant breakthrough proving that an electric bike can go the distance, CAKE wrote.
It goes without saying that electric vehicles have earned wide acceptance as effective means of personal transportation. But for adventures like this, there’s little precedent. Even CAKE acknowledged that Gottwald’s trip took the bike “far beyond” its intended use.
But perhaps it’s not too surprising the bike performed so well, given that CAKE designed it in a collaboration with the Southern African Wildlife College. The bike’s name (“AP) actually stands for “Anti-Poaching,” as it was built to help African rangers traversing the bush to protect wildlife. The 176-pound bike has a 51.8V battery, a top speed of 56 mph, and a range of up to 3 hours, according to CAKE.
Somehow, in all those miles, Gottwald’s Kalk AP never got a flat tire. It required a little less than 140 charges over the course, however, and finding places to charge was the hardest part, Gottwald said. It required thorough planning to avoid getting stranded. But she also said the bike exceeded her expectations.
“Maintenance was almost zero, adjusting and lubing the chain was basically it,” she said. “It drew so much attention, wherever I stopped people would come and ask about it, many said it was the first time for them to see an electric motorcycle. They couldn’t believe I came from so far away.”