Having tested a range of the most popular motorbike brands on handling, comfort, reliability, value for money, mileage, and overall satisfaction, customer satisfaction research and ratings business Canstar Blue concluded that Yamaha is the ultimate brand. BMW, Harley-Davison, and Honda also finished with strong overall satisfaction ratings. However, there’s a new brand that looks to be catching on with motorcyclists, following its dominance at a professional competitive level: Kalex. So we’re going to explore what makes Kalex Engineering so revered in the world of motorbikes and if it can challenge the likes of Yamaha, BMW, and Harley-Davidson when it comes to its suitability, and also consider what it offers to hobby motorcyclists.
What makes Kalex great?
Kalex Engineering only came into being 11 years ago, headed up by Klaus Hirsekorn and Alex Baumgartel, with the brand’s name, Kalex, being a portmanteau of the two engineers’ first names. The Bavarian-based engineering company specialises in high-performance parts for motorcycles.
Kalex rose to fame in Moto2 circles in 2010 by providing their chassis to Pons Racing. Riders and manufacturers cite the Kalex chassis as being much more forgiving than other brands at the time, such as Suter, as well as being easier to ride and set up. This eventually led to four Kalex chassis riders placing in the top four of the 2013 World Championship, with Kalex claiming the Manufacturers’ Championship.
When Kalex joined Moto2 in 2010, many questions were raised concerning their choice of using aluminium as the frame material instead of the tried-and-trusted steel. In an interview with Speed Week, Baumgartel stated that he sees steel as reacting very sensitively, more so than aluminium, making the increased cost of using aluminium worthwhile to the Kalex engineer. The gamble has certainly paid off, with Kalex Engineering boasting six World Champion riders from 170 tonnes of cut aluminium and five Manufacturers’ World Champions. With 10,688 World Championship points in total, Kalex Engineering has been the Moto2 world champion’s constructor for seven of the last eight years, with Stefan Bradl, Pol Espargaro, Tito Rabat, Johann Zarco (twice), Franco Morbidelli, and Francesco Bagnaia riding to the championship astride a Kalex. In this 2019 season, Alex Marquez is expected to join these ranks because, as of 3rd October, the Kalex rider is at 1/10 with Betway to win the World Championship, clocking wins in France, Italy, Cataluña, Germany, and the Czech Republic.
Is Kalex for the casual rider?
It’s very difficult for any brand, regardless of their success on the professional circuit, to break into the casual motorcyclist market. The simple fact is that a lot of motorbike enthusiasts love the prestige of certain long-standing icons, with Honda and Harley-Davidson regularly tussling for the top sales spot. But of course, having a varied market offers more options for casual riders and makes everything more competitive – which is always good for the consumer.
Other brands have been able to stake a major claim in the market, though, with people preferring a different way to ride and different models. For example, BMW has gained traction thanks to its GS series, with the new R 1250 GS model being one of the very best. While it’s a competitive field that’s filled with legendary brands and manufacturers, there’s a reason why more people are keeping tabs on Kalex. Their success is simply unavoidable, but is Kalex suitable for the casual motorcyclist?
Kalex motorcycle parts are specifically designed to give high performance, with the incredible grade of their products being best suited to professional racing. This means that, unless you’re a budding racer or perhaps are a very skilled casual rider and have access to a race track, you may never be able to fully utilise the potential of a Kalex bike.
This could be seen as a waste unless you’re an avid collector, as Kalex parts and bikes fetch a hefty price. Motorcycle News reported a test bike sale in 2011, early in Kalex’s career, which cost over £70,000. Through the Kalex website, you can get a Kawasaki ZX10RR swingarm for €15,749 and a Kawasaki ZX10RR ASSY triple clamp for €1869. The prices are obviously in the premium range and exceed the desired costs of many hobby motorcyclists.
Kalex Engineering has achieved tremendous feats in professional motorbike racing, but it’s in World Championship competition that the brand will likely remain for the foreseeable future.