Kalex: company portrait and driving report
Moto2 top manufacturer Kalex
Amazing: Before their World Championship involvement in the Moto2 class, the young company Kalex only designed a single bike. But among insiders it is already one of the top manufacturers. PS visited the racing forge and then beat the Moto2 racer on the Hockenheim track.
is it naivety? Arrogance? Or even megalomania? Which oats did Alex Baumgärtel and Klaus Hirsekorn prick when they decided to enter the world championship as greenhorns? After all, there are well-known names like Suter, Moriwaki, Tech 3 and Harris. Of course, other attributes justify the two 43-year-olds’ World Cup adventure. They became terminally infected with the racing virus early on and now live their passion for motorcycles, technology and perfection. In addition, there is a good deal of madness. Otherwise it can hardly be explained how the cracks gave up their well-paid jobs as development engineers or production managers at a well-known manufacturer of special parts for automobile racing three years ago and got on with their newly founded company Kalex (a fusion of both first names) threw into independence.
The first project: the AV-1. This is an independent burner with the V2 heart of an Aprilia Mille (see PS 2 and 12/2008). This was followed by the decision to participate in the Moto2 World Championship. From the blank sheet of paper to the ready-to-use bike, the inventors only needed five months. The Spanish team boss Sito Pons recognized the potential of man and machine and ordered two of the racers from the racing company based in Bobingen near Augsburg (kalex-engineering.de). A look at the World Cup results lists shows that he had a keen eye for this: the Kalex-Moto2 under Spanish rider Sergio Gadea finished in the top ten several times in the highly competitive class. The seventh place of the Australian IDM driver Damian Cudlin also caused a sensation during his race at the Sachsenring. Up to the time of going to press, however, the highlight was the race in Mugello, Italy, where the team shone with a second place. In the meantime, other teams and riders are knocking on the door and ordering bikes for next year. "In order to guarantee the previous quality, we equip a maximum of six pilots", Baumgärtel assesses the production limit.
A specialist welds milled individual parts made of aluminum to form a main frame. The mesh weighs a total of just under nine kilograms. Around 100 working and machine hours go into such a part until it is finished. That, of course, has its price: Kalex calls for 22,500 euros.
A walk through the exquisite factory halls shows that the saying about quality is not just an empty phrase. In a separate welding room, a specialist carefully sizzles together the latest version of the frame by hand. Another operates a machine that mills the mounting points of the motor, rocker arm and fork to a hundredth of a millimeter. Overall, the production of a frame takes around 100 hours. Madness! But it is also incredibly expensive: Kalex calls for 22,500 euros for such a precision part. The swingarm, which is also hand-welded, looks like a bargain: It costs around 10,000 euros. While the author is getting dizzy at these prices, a third skilled worker thinks more than a dozen aluminum sheet metal parts and welds them to a 20-liter tank. Meanwhile, his colleague carries out the final inspection of a fork bridge with a special measuring tool. When asked about the price of a racing machine, Baumgärtel replied: "The high manufacturing costs are of course expensive, but with a fully assembled, race-ready bike, we are only around five percent above the competition at 115,000 euros."
How does such a young company cover the costs of developing a new bike?? "Sure, that’s pretty expensive. Manufacturing the molds for the many carbon parts alone cost 70,000 euros", explains millet grain. Baumgärtel adds: "In addition, there are costs for components such as the motor, spring elements, braking system, wheels and data recording as well as expenses for raw materials and machines. Not to mention the logistics such as transport vehicles, office and workshop equipment and, and and. This cannot be achieved without sponsors." That is why the two young entrepreneurs brought their ex-boss Günther Holzer on board as a partner in 2008. Holzer poses with his company "Performance GmbH" the premises, the production material and all special machines including the associated specialist staff.
Accuracy, absolute stability in all positions and the crystal-clear feedback inspire. The oversized tires cost the lightweight racer some handling.
The bike is ready to be tested in Hockenheim. Wow, a deafening sound roars from the mini muffler of the racing exhaust. Millet grain grins: "The audience stands on it, with the standing noise we are at 112 decibels. After all, it should sound like something at a World Cup." Right, but unfortunately most race track operators throw such screamers off the slopes in a high arc outside of a World Cup event. So just mount a more moderate rear silencer and off you go.
The pilot is enthroned quite high on the sporty, slim seat, which is spartanly padded with foam rubber. Hands and feet find their way to the handlebars or the rests by themselves, the sitting position fits perfectly. The first corner. The Moto2 driver needs a little strength to bend. The same applies to alternating curves. A consequence of the wheel and tire dimensions required by the regulations: At the front there is a 125 mm skin on a 3.75-inch rim, and at the rear a fat 195 mm silt on a six-inch wheel. That robs even a 139 kilogram racer like the Kalex Moto2 a bit of handiness. In addition, the setup for the Sachsenring with its eternally long corners is coordinated. Kalex apparently sacrificed some handling for more stability. Alex Baumgärtel explains: "We can set all the geometry-relevant elements on the bike, such as steering head and swing arm angles, as well as caster and wheelbase, separately. This enables suitable setups for a wide variety of route layouts." Today, however, there is no more time for coordination work; only a few more laps before the track closes. So again the incredible steering precision, enjoying the breathtaking stability and excellent feedback in all driving maneuvers. Driving characteristics that create confidence and give the body buckets of happiness hormones.
On the drive side, the test bike is powered by the production engine of a CBR 600 RR. According to the regulations of the World Federation for Motorcycle Sports, FIM, the Honda standard engine based on the CBR 600 unit may not be used outside of racing weekends. According to rumors in the pit lane, the engine has an output of 130 to 135 hp. In order to be able to work with similar performance during test drives, Kalex will soon be installing a tuned CBR propellant. Just one of many plans in the near future. Here are a few more: Perfect aerodynamics and lower the weight – if possible up to the permitted value of 135 kilograms. In addition, the World Championship pilots are of the opinion that the competition has more traction when accelerating out of tight corners. The men have to deal with that too. Without a doubt, Kalex can only achieve its stated goal with constant further development: "We want to become world champions", Baumgärtel calmly lets the cat out of the bag. No trace of naivety, cockiness or megalomania.
Perfection continues under the carbon fiber cladding from Composite World: perfectly built Moto2 racer with a mighty bridge frame.
Basic drive of a Honda CBR 600 RR: four-cylinder in-line engine, 4 valves / cylinder, power: k. A., torque: k. A., 599 cm3, bore / stroke: 67.0 / 42.5 mm, compression: n / a A., ignition / injection system, 40 mm throttle valves, mechanically operated multi-disc oil bath anti-hopping clutch, six-speed gearbox
Light alloy bridge frame, steering head angle: 67 degrees (variable in 0.5 steps), caster: 95 – 110 mm, wheelbase: approx. 1390 mm (variable), Ø fork inner tube: 43 mm, spring travel from / to: 130/120 mm
Wheels and brakes:
Forged light alloy cast wheels, 3.75 x 17"/6.0 x 17", Front tires: 125/75 R 17, rear: 195/75 R 17, 290 mm double disc brakes with radially attached four-piston fixed calipers at the front, 218 mm single disc brakes with two-piston fixed calipers at the rear
Weight ready to drive without petrol: 139 kg *, tank capacity: 20 liters Super plus
Base price: 115,000 euros (plus VAT)
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