Moving Homes With The Spectra Mini Plus

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If you want the TL;DR, see end of review

Let’s get this out of the way first: The Spectra Mini Plus is not a very safe board to ride in the city. The weight sensing mechanism, while seemingly innovative, is actually extremely finicky and didn’t register me (125lb) half the time, no matter how many times I referred to Walnutt’s feet placement manual. The first time I took the Mini Plus out and managed to get it to register me, I couldn’t brake and the board ended up running into the street. After that happened, I tried the remote app available in the App Store. One firmware update later, I was back on the board going up the sidewalk. I thought everything would be smooth sailing from then on, then the board lost connection. Suffice to say, that was the only time I seriously tried to ride the Spectra Mini Plus.

But it certainly wasn’t the only time I used the board.

This past November, for the first time ever in my life and after many trials and tribulations, I purchased a home of my very own. Around the same time, I also received the Spectra Mini Plus for testing. So what a perfect opportunity I thought, to really put the Spectra to the test… as a furniture mover!

Indeed, it was the perfect opportunity. I was moving from one apartment building to another, which required finesse in maneuvering of big furniture around tight corners. Even with the help of friends it was still hard. Then one of us got a bright idea. Why not use the skateboards as a means of moving furniture?

So ensued the testing of a bunch of skateboards as a means of furniture transportation. Many boards were tested. Arc Aileron 2.2, Exway X1, Teamgee H6, etc. However, one board stood out: The Spectra Mini Plus.

The Spectra Mini Plus is a dream for maneuvering large furniture around tight corners. The wheelbase is relatively short, and the inclusion of a sort of tiny kicktail really sealed the deal as it allowed tilting big furniture and boxes onto the back wheels for maneuvering.

Too lazy to push those big boxes? Simply turn the board on and slightly tilt the thing you’re moving forward or backwards to move forwards or backwards respectively. The board beeps upon beginning and finishing actions so people will definitely know you’re coming and watch out.

Is your box or furniture too ungainly to push? Good thing the Spectra has an app that also acts as a makeshift remote control. Now you don’t even have to even lay a hand on your object, simply keep on using your phone like usual and direct the movement of your object remotely. Very snazzy!

With the help of the Spectra Mini Plus, I was able to move large furniture and boxes around very easily. It worked so well in fact that I’m still using it as a furniture mover to this day.


It’s a really great furniture mover if you don’t wanna rent dolly with your U-Haul truck.

Evolve Stoke Review: First Look & Ride Test – Evolve’s Last Mile Solution

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A few months ago, I reviewed the Evolve Bamboo GTR. If you haven’t read that review, check it out here. The GTR marked Evolve’s move to fix all the performance issues of the GT series that’s plagued the company for as long as the GT series existed. I concluded that the GTR series did seem to fix commonly discussed issues with the implementation of new battery and wireless technology, and that if you were considering an Evolve board, the GTR series would be the one to get.

The issue with the GTR series, however, is the fact that they’re heavy. The lithium ion cells that Evolve now uses are heavier than the lithium polymer prismatic pouches that Evolve used to use assuming equivalent capacities, forged trucks are heavier than the old cast trucks, and both the new carbon and bamboo deck constructions, while definitely more solid and confidence inspiring, are also heavier. The boards are also very long. They’re not easy to stash in tight spaces, and they’re ungainly to carry around.

This is all well and good for a long range cruiser carver, but what happens when you want a board just for running errands? For that quick jaunt down to your favorite watering hole? For your super short commute that you really don’t wanna lug around a whole longboard for?

A derivative, not alternative

This review will be a branch off my previous GTR review, so if you haven’t read that, again, I highly suggest you read it here. That previous review goes over what I think about Evolve’s next generation hardware and electronics. This piece will be solely about my experiences so far with the Stoke with a focus on the form factor and hardware differences with regards to its bigger sister.

So let’s go over the differences

Of course, the most obvious difference is the new, shorter deck. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to call the Stoke a shortboard at 33.5 inches (850.9mm if you’re not in Americaland), but it is a shorter board. The 4ply bamboo, 2ply fiberglass deck layup is nice, if only slightly lacking in concave, but I didn’t really have a huge problem with that. The deck is a fair bit stiffer than the Bamboo GTR deck, so don’t expect the same sort of cushy ride that you would get there. However, that’s not to say the ride isn’t comfortable. It is. Quite. I did not have a single issue riding this board on rough streets.

The Stoke has a kicktail. This is good news for some who enjoy having one, but there’s EVA foam on the tail, which honestly sort of made the tail more slippery than it probably should have been. However, it made resting part of my foot on the kicktail while riding quite comfortable. Sort of a give and take then I suppose, so my own personal jury is still out on whether I’ll be using the tail a whole lot, but I look forward to trying out some sick manuals and shit.

Oh, one other note about the kicktail. As many keen eyed observers have noticed, the motor mounts on the Stoke are rear facing, so there were concerns about the actual usability of the kicktail and long term durability of the board. I think the concerns are well founded and valid, and in my testing, the rear facing mounts do hinder the full use of the kicktail.

However, the hinderance ended up to be minor, I found. You can still use the kicktail to tic tac in everyday riding, and a friend was able to do a kickflip on it (sad I didn’t think to get this on video). The mounts are also thicc, and come with crossbars that are even more thiccc (three c’s so you know it’s serious), so I’m not worried about long term durability.

The Stoke comes stock with 85mm Orangatang wheels with your choice of durometer. Honestly, I really like these wheels. Otang’s Happy Thane never fails to impress and gives a nice, grippy ride. The catch with the Stoke, however, is you can’t go larger than 85mm on your wheels. Anything larger may induce wheel bite, which is when your deck touches your wheel during a turn or carve. Of course, this means you’re limited in your wheel choice.

To be honest I didn’t really have a problem with this. As anybody who knows me will attest to, I ride all my trucks super loose. As the saying goes, loose trucks save lives. But all terrain lovers may be slightly miffed about the inability to swap larger wheels onto the board.

Evolve fitted the Stoke with their travel battery. This is a 10S2P pack made up of Sony VTC4 cells. These cells have a rather high discharge, rated at 20A at low temperatures, allowing for a higher current draw from the pack. However, they have a lower capacity, at 2100mAh. This means it’s it’s not really “half the range of the standard battery” as I’ve heard many people say, it’s really a bit less than that. In my testing, I get a fair 8-10 miles of real world hard hilly riding in Pro mode. And as in the GTR series, the battery meter ticks down nicely and accurately with full power ’till the very end.

So what’s it like all put together?

Honestly it’s a pretty good ride. My daily commuter and errand runner is the Exway X1 Pro which I reviewed here. I use that board as my every day driver in large part because of its portability and maneuverability. When I started testing the Stoke, I replaced the Exway with it as my daily driver.

…And I’m glad to say that I didn’t have to change any part of my routine! The Stoke simply fit right in and remained just as portable and maneuverable as the Exway. To be honest, I’m surprised that this is the case. The Stoke is quite a bit larger and heavier, so naturally one would think it would be more cumbersome. Not so. I really enjoyed it as my daily, and look forward to keep on trying it in new use cases. I’m traveling East soon, and since the board uses Evolve’s flight battery, I wanna try and bring it with me. Will the Stoke fly? We’ll find out!

Overall, it’s a good package. For those who are looking for it, the Stoke provides simplicity and portability. I’m “stoked” to be able to try it out and take it around town (you know I had to do it).

Exway X1 Pro Riot Review – Hello Torque

You know how sometimes you really like something and you use it a lot, like every day a lot? That’s me and my X1 Pro. I use it every single day for commuting to work, for running errands, for going to eat, for groceries, everything. I love this board. But you know, I always thought there was a little bit something missing. “you know what?” I would think, “This board needs belt drives.”

My wish was answered when the Riot kit for the X1 Pro came out. It’s a very impressive piece of kit. It comes in a nice box with the drivetrain already assembled for forward mount and all the tools and screws you could possibly need packaged very securely. There’s also an instructions manual with clear steps explaining how everything fits together. The kit also comes with new 2nd generation Exway wheels that have improved urethane and profile.

And also these cute stickers

Let’s talk Riot specs

Since my last review, the Riot specs have changed. Here are the new specs:

  • Dual 5255 motors with 4235 stators (for reference 5065 motors have 4035 stators)
  • 200KV 160KV winding
  • 1:2.57 gear ratio
  • 35MPH 26MPH top speed
  • 255-5m-10 255-5m-12 belts
  • Rear mountable for better pothole and curb clearance

When I reviewed Riot last, it was still a prototype and Exway was still trying to figure out a good balance. If they had gone to market with the original motor KV, the Exway would have been the fastest production board on the market. However, Exway decided to lessen the motor KV for more torque, which I appreciate as well. It’s a fine balance act between the two, and I don’t envy manufacturers having to make these decisions and sticking with them forever.


As soon as I received the kit, I immediately installed it on my X1 Pro. I was excited to have belt drives and full urethane on one of my favorite boards.

The installation was simple and straightforward. Slightly peel back the griptape above the back trucks to expose the four baseplate screws, and unscrew them.

The drivetrain simply comes off. Now simply pop Riot on and use the new slightly longer screws provided with the kit to screw them back in. Don’t forget the rubber riser!

But wait, the remote is telling us something

Don’t forget to change your board settings to Riot mode in the Exway app. I love Exway’s attention to detail.

Oh also, Exway’s 2nd generation wheels come in clear and they’re great. They don’t really yellow at all.

Now that it’s installed,

It’s time to ride!

The first thing I immediately noticed was the increase in torque. Off the line, the X1 Pro Riot is significantly more torquey. Braking is also significantly more torquey as well. Before on hubs, the brakes will stop you. But now, they will seriously stop you. I’m able to come to a full stop on steep SF hills without free mode on. That’s an accomplishment on any board.

The ride quality and handling is also significantly improved as well. I feel like a lot of people don’t realize how much of a difference hubs vs full urethane is. A lot of times I see people online talking about belt versus hubs, and in my opinion one of the main things they miss is handling. Most people might not care, but assuming the same exact bushings setup, truck setup, and urethane durometer, the hub setup will loose out on handling. The reason for this is because with a full urethane wheel, depending on the size, you have at least three or four times the amount of urethane to compress when riding. But on a hub motor, you have that one outer layer of urethane, then you hit the solid hub motor can. This means that you will have less grip (less urethane to deform), lower rebound, (again, less urethane to deform), less road imperfection absorption, etcetera.

Ahem. Please excuse my rant.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some caveats

The standard configuration that Riot comes in has the motors mounted under the board, otherwise commonly known as forward mounting. There are a couple advantages to this configuration, most notably it’s still generally “stealth” looking if you don’t look closely, and you can still kick your board up by the tail into your hand. However, on the Exway, it sort of hinders access to the charge port. This is not to say it’s not completely unreachable, just slightly more difficult to reach.

In front mount, the charging port is partially hidden behind the motor.

There is another configuration supported by Riot, called rear mounting. Basically this means you flip your motor mounts around so that they’re sticking out the back. This is easily done by taking the drive cover, wheel, belt, and wheel pulley off each side, unscrewing the big clamp screw on the side each mount, and turning the mount around until the key sits properly in the keyway in the rear mount position. I must say I’m a fan of Exway’s mount design, especially since it’s for Seismic trucks. I love Seismic trucks.

Anyways, in this rear mounted configuration, port access is no longer a problem. However, now another slight inconvenience arises. You can now no longer easily kick your board up by the tail. To be honest, for me this is a big inconvenience. I use this board for lots of situations where I need to quickly pick it up, and bending down often to pick the board up off the ground gets tiring real quick. I know I’m lazy, but, well, there it is.

Another caveat of the Riot kit is that it’s quite loud. Personally I’m ok with this and like it a bit, but for some people it might be a deal breaker. There is also the issue of belt induced kickpush resistance, however I would say if you tension the belts properly on your kit, you shouldn’t have any big issues. As a general rule, the correct tension should be 3mm of give when you press down on the belt with one finger lightly. There is also a very slight reduction in range in my testing, but i’m talking about near statistically insignificant reductions, so I’m saying this as a warning rather than a true caveat.

All in all,

I think the Riot kit is worth it if you live in a hilly area or if you are a chunkier individual in need of more torque. I also think it’s worth it if you want great ride quality. So what about me? For me, I think I’ll swap back to hubs because bending down every time I want to pick the board up is getting to me. I know I did wish for a proper belt drive for the X1 Pro, but alas, I’m just too lazy.

Click here to check out the Exway X1 Pro Riot (Asia), (USA).

Shredlights SL200 – A Surprise To Be Sure, But A Welcome One

First, A Forward

I don’t typically review accessories as I don’t usually accessorise a whole lot when I skate. The most I usually do are helmets, pads, and gloves. I think accessories are fairly personal things and people may or may not like something based on their own personal perferences. Pads and gloves are obvious items here. But what about lights? Lights are fairly universal with specs that can be objectively discussed. This is why when Shredlights asked if I would like to take a look at the new SL200, I agreed to write my thoughts down. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Shredlights sent me a big box

Yeah. I thought they would just send me a pack but instead they sent me a big box of like a bazillion lights. There were Action Packs, Combo Packs, Night Ops Packs, and a buttload of mounting brackets for basically any kind of board. There was also a stack of stickers included which I certainly appreciated. Did you know each sticker on your board adds 5MPH to your top end?

Let’s talk about the mounting system.

The original Shredlights were possibly the most popular eskate specific lights in the world. The mounting system that screwed in using the existing hardware mounting screws on your board was innovative and convenient at the time. However, reports of light housing rubber tearing due to fatigue and lights falling off mid-ride started appearing. The double hook system itself wasn’t very easy to take on and off either, and was disliked by not a few people, myself amongst them.

So what’s changed there then?

Well, the mounting system has been completely redesigned. Folks, I would be very surprised if your lights fell off. It’s very rock solid. Instead of stretch-the-rubber push-pull-help-how-do-I-get-this-off-oops-I-tore-the-casing, it’s now a slide on and spring-loaded click-in. The new mounting plates are more robust as well. Thicker steel is now used, and the mounting plates now have a matte finish instead of the glossy black paint they used previously that liked to chip off. The variety of mounting configurations also impressed me. There are flat mounts, vertical mounts, and diagonal mounts. They’ve really thought of everything this time.

In addition to board mounts, Shredlights have also gotten into mounting on other objects and surfaces. In the Night Ops pack, they include a bunch of different mounting plates and clips that can stick onto various surfaces. The most notable thing is Shredlights have decided to use GoPro style pivots. This means you can buy any accessory that’s got a GoPro pivot system on it and it’ll fit right away. I think this is a great decision and really increases the usability of the product.

One last thing worth mentioning is the clip mount. This is possibly my single favorite improvement of the SL200, and is really what makes the product for me. The clip clips onto most anything, but I most often clip it onto the strap of my sling bag at night. The clip allows for near 360 degrees of freedom for you to angle the light, and is a great solution when riding with others as for me it is often annoying to have lights mounted on the helmet because when you look at somebody you might blind them.

Speaking of the lights…

All the best mounts in the world would be moot if the lights didn’t perform right?

Well, I’m glad to say they perform, and perform well. In my personal testing, my single backpack strap clipped SL200 effortlessly lit up the road around 20 feet in front of me with a constant-on beam to a satisfying degree. That’s a win in my book. On the highest constant brightness setting, one light lasts a few long rides before needing to be recharged. That’s another win in my book. So much better than the V1 Shredlights already.

Now, I don’t really like putting lights on my board, so I only have cursory first hand experience with board mounted lights. However, my good friend and esteemed videographer Justin Yee is an avid user of the V1 Shredlights, so I gave him a set of front and back SL200s to test on his eskating adventures. Here’s what he said (paraphrased):

“They’re way brighter than the original. It’s got really sick light patterns, and the new mounting mechanism is great. The new charge port covers stay great and don’t tear off. They light up a lot more of the road compared to the old ones, now you can actually see bumps and cracks and have time to react. The rear lights are also very noticeable. I have no complaints. Steep price but for the convenience and function I’d say worth if you like having lights on your board”

To sum up,

What we have here are bright, quality, durable lights purpose made for eskates and eskaters. At $100 for two front lights, two rear lights, and mounting brackets, it might seem a little steep. However I think what you’re really buying into here is an ecosystem, and personally I think it’s a really flexible ecosystem and a great choice of lights. I was certainly surprised by the quality and performance, and I think you will be too.

Click here to check out Shredlight!
Use promo-code: ESKATEHQ to get 10% off

[Updated] Evolve Bamboo GTR First Look & In Depth Review – Evolve, Evolved

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If you want the TL;DR, see end of review

The Email

It was a day like any other day on March 30, 2019 when I got an email from Jeff Anning.

“Hi Sophia,” it started. “My name is Jeff Anning, I’m the founder of Evolve Skateboards based in Australia and we have been manufacturing and distributing Electric Skateboards since 2009.  I’m emailing you to see if you would be interested in doing a review for us.  We have some cool things ahead and now at a stage where we are looking for potential reviewers who may be interested in working with us.  We do have our USA partner whom can assist with logistics etc and is more than happy assist with anything that may be required. If you have any questions please let me know, cheers for your time :)”

Of course, I leapt at the chance. Evolve Skateboards. I mean come on! They’re one of the few companies in the eskate world that cater specifically and directly to high end consumers. Their boards are fun to ride despite their well documented problems, and they’re secretive. Who wouldn’t want to get a first look at what they’re up to?

My Evolve Carbon GT circa June 2017

My first experience with Evolve was with their third generation board, the Carbon GT. At first, I thought it was the best thing ever. Then I started to experience the issues. Remote disconnects, battery sag up hills, almost no power to do anything meaningful once it drained past half battery. The problems were exacerbated here in San Francisco as it’s a very wirelessly dense and hilly city. After a while, I became unhappy with the performance and moved on to bigger and better things.

However, I always wondered what Evolve would do to fix these problems. Make no mistake, these weren’t isolated incidents I was having, the problems were very real. There’s no way they wouldn’t be working to fix this stuff.

Well, what have Evolve been up to all this time? Let’s find out.

Digging In

When I first opened up the box and caught my first glimpse of the Bamboo GTR, my immediate first impression was that it simply looked fantastic. An all new super flex deck, new thicc enclosure, new white (!) wheels, new matte finished trucks. The combination just looks great. I love classic looks, and this is most surely a classic look. The wide wheelbase coupled with the natural wood deck striped with griptape on either side is just super. You’d be hard pressed to find a better looking board.

The Hardware

I’m told by Evolve that the new GTR series shares no components with the 3rd generation GT series. Even if things look similar, every component has been at least re-engineered. A new manufacturing method for the trucks (forging and CNCing instead of casting), a new deck manufacturer with a different construction method, a new motor construction with a focus on reliability, and new wheels with new formula poured by AEND, the same factory that pours wheels for other leading wheel brands like ABEC.

New wheels. Let’s talk about the wheels for a second. First off, they’re really great. I mean really. I’ve tried all the ABEC wheels, all Evolve’s old wheels, and a whole bunch of other wheels. The rebound on the urethane is great, and it really grips the road and takes potholes well. I run Boas on my main DIY board, and honestly I like these 97s ever so slightly better. It’s high praise, I know, and the durability and long term coloration of these wheels are still to be determined, but so far so very good.

Speaking of so far so good, the deck is also a lot improved from the previous bamboo deck. There’s a lot more flex, a lot more distinctive concave, and personally I think the design is a lot better. It’s also a bit longer than the previous one at 38 inches, and features multiple sets of mounting holes so you can adjust your ride position. Of course, the enclosure that goes on the deck is equally flexy and solidly built, with improved waterproofing by way of rubber gaskets and improved sealing, and in my opinion the battery pack that goes inside is also much improved. But let’s talk about that later.

All this coupled with the new more precision made trucks makes for a fantastically comfortable ride. I had absolutely no problems rolling over any potholes that I otherwise would have to watch out and brace for, even though I’m on 97mm wheels. It’s so cliche and cheesy saying this, but I can tell they really focused on the ride first and foremost. So good!

Of course, no Evolve product is complete without the ability to swap to all terrain hardware. I did not get to test this feature in my review as they didn’t send me any AT hardware, but if it worked like it did in the previous generation, I’d expect it to work quite well. There are new tire colors, sizes, and rims, something for everybody. I’m also told that the new Evolve website will have a board builder feature where you can customize your perfect board and have that arrive at your doorstep instead of a stock configuration. I think this is really great and an unprecedented option in eskate.

But skate hardware is not everything when it comes to eskates right?

Right. The electronics are of the utmost importance and tell the other side of the ride story. Performance, control, and reliability of electronics all play a huge part in how an eskate handles and feels to ride. Previously, on the 3rd generation GTs, some of my most major complaints were somewhat jerky early braking curves at high speeds, weirdly jerky throttle application, remote disconnections, and inconsistent power.

Let’s start with the braking curve. I’m happy to report that compared to the previous generation, it’s much improved. The same Evolve motor control algorithm is present, and the customary motor whine is still there, so if you were hoping for that to go away, you will be disappointed. However, braking from high speeds no longer jerks on initial application but instead comes on smoothly and predictably. This was a painpoint for me as bombing hills at high speed is something I do regularly and it really used to be very nervewracking on the Carbon GT. Now I no longer worry when I’m on the GTR. As for throttle during acceleration, while it does feel smoother than the previous generation, it’s not so much of a difference that I’d say it’s gamechanging.

But braking and acceleration curves mean nothing if the dang thing isn’t reliable. So let’s talk about that.

The Remote

The R2 remote was somewhat controversial when it first launched. The design was wholly unique, and many people’s opinions were split. I personally even preferred the original remote and eschewed the R2 because of that.

However, I’ve come to realize that all I really had to do was stick with it. Now, on my second go at using the R2 remote daily, I’m finding that it really is a fairly good remote in terms of ergonomics and controls. I have smaller hands so it’s ever so slightly on the chunky side, but it’s not so bulky that I have a hard time using it. It’s now heftier due to a larger battery than the original R2 and even comes in several colors if you’re into that sort of thing. A battery saving features has now been built in as well where the screen automatically turning on/off depending on if you raise to look at it or not.

Now all that is well and good, but the major headlining feature for the GTR R2 remote, is the Bluetooth connection. There may be some confusion around this subject so let me explain. Evolve did not actually change the radio technology they use to transfer data. Bluetooth is a protocol, transmitted via the same radio frequency they used to use, 2.4GHz. Done correctly, 2.4GHz remotes are some of the most reliable remotes available.

Now, it’s no secret that old Evolve remotes have had connection issues. It’s also no secret that their remotes have had pairing issues. I’ve had many an instance where I’ve simply turned on my old Carbon GT as I regularly did and had it simply refuse to connect. I’ve also had many an instance where the remote would simply disconnect on me while riding. I know firsthand that these things happened with the old R2. And although I no longer have an old R2 remote, I also know exactly where I can reproduce disconnections on bad remotes in general. Now that I’ve been given this opportunity to put the GTR through its paces, I must also test the remote as thoroughly as I can.

Please note before you read the below that my board and remote was both running prototype firmware. There were some bugs in general that did not affect riding.

I really tried to get this remote to disconnect. San Francisco is a very wirelessly dense city with tons of interference, and I made sure to run through the thick of it. In my test, I rode through all the challenging areas of SF: The streets of Chinatown, the heart of the Financial District, directly under high voltage bus lines, up Twin Peaks and around the high powered radio towers. I ran errands on the board, commuted to work on the board, did 20+ mile nonstop rides across hilly and mountainous terrain on the board. Not a single drop while riding where the old R2 once had issues for me.

There is one caveat though. If I stand at a certain street corner near my house for a period of time, I can maybe make the remote disconnect. I can’t reproduce this reliably (in fact the two times it happened I was not attempting to reproduce it at all) and it’s only happened twice and only on this specific street corner, but I believe it bears mentioning. There were a few other firmware related issues with my review unit, chief amongst which was a bug where the remote wouldn’t re-establish connection with the board after the board times out and turns off then is turned back on again, so I’m more willing to chalk this issue up to a firmware bug. Evolve tells me these issues have already been fixed on the release firmware, but only time will tell if they really have been fixed. All I can say is that in my times testing it, I have not had a single issue where I most surely would have already on the old hardware.

The Battery

If the remotes were the foremost controversial thing about the 3rd generation GT boards, the battery packs that ran them were the secondmost.

Reports of battery sag and being kicked down to Eco mode going uphill have been abound for the last few years, and it’s been a major sticking point for the GT series boards. It’s also no secret that CEO of Evolve Jeff Anning has had very public strong opinions about Evolve’s then battery technology of choice: lithium polymer prismatic packs. In any case, this was something Evolve dearly needed to fix. And fix it they did.

Let’s get some facts out of the way. The new Evolve Powerflex packs are 10s4p Samsung 35e batteries. This means the cells are arranged in packs of four, wired in series. 35e cells are 3500mAh cells that can do 8A discharge. It’s somewhat surprising that Evolve has chosen to go this route, as the 35e drops voltage faster than another popular cell for eskate, the 30q. Here’s a comparison between the 35e and 30q:

And here’s a comparison between the 35e and VTC6, yet another popular cell for eskate:

As you can see, voltage drops quite drastically in both single cell performance comparisons, which means packs built out of 35e cells will experience more battery sag than packs built out of the other two cell types.

But does it matter?

When Evolve told me about their new battery technologies, they stressed that their first main focus was battery safety. Their second main focus was power at all battery levels. This means that regardless of the state of charge, you should experience similar torque. Taking off at 100% in GTR mode should feel the same as taking off at 10% in GTR.

I’ve tested this to the best of my ability and, well, they’re not lying. Torque is similar at all battery levels. Climbing hills at 10% felt the same as 100%, albeit slower, and I remained in GTR the entire way. The battery indicator did not fluctuate wildly either. This is honestly a fantastic improvement. With this, one of my major complaints about Evolve boards was solved completely.

Heading to the top of Twin Peaks, San Francisco is a route I ride regularly, and it’s no easy route. It’s a fairly steep climb all the way to the top if you start at Market St near the Castro or the Panhandle near Golden Gate Park, and it’s the route I take if I want to test performance of a board under high constant load. I took the Bamboo GTR up that route, and recorded the whole thing. Here’s the video. Note that the video starts when I was already halfway up:

I’d say that’s pretty impressive. The whole route up I only dropped 20% battery according to the remote, and maintained power the entire time.

Range is quite good too. On range tests over very hilly terrain (basically all of San Francisco), I was consistently hitting over the 20 mile mark riding briskly. As you can see in the ride tracked on the left even an 145lb person can do a 21 mile run and still get home with 7% battery all in GTR. This includes literally riding up a mountain. This is extremely good and quite impressive for a board in San Francisco. I have no doubt on flatter ground it’s entirely possible to hit the 30 mile range advertised even in GTR mode. Really good shit.

The Internals

One of the major improvements Evolve claims they’ve made to their battery system is that they’ve found a way to allow the entire pack to flex an insane amount.

I’m not talking about just a little bend, I’m talking about you can bend the entire pack into an almost tube shape. They also told me they’ve redesigned every single internal electrical component. So of course I opened it up, and here’s what I found.

The electronics enclosure is split into two parts: the ESC housing and the battery pack and BMS housing. You can remove one or the other quite easily simply by removing the screws from the top. Each enclosure has been dustproofed and waterproofed, though Evolve won’t say what the rating is.

Each enclosure has a plastic cover that’s screwed down, and there are o-rings and gaskets around every point of ingress. It’s very clean.

Opening up the battery enclosure, we find the underside of the flexible battery PCB. The entire assembly is pressfit into the enclosure tightly to prevent movement, so it takes quite some effort to pull out.

But pull it out I did, and here’s what it looks like.

You can clearly see how flexible this pack is. I’m actually very impressed with the design of this pack. The traces on the PCB can actually carry around 200A, even though the full pack is rated at 32A continuous and 52A burst. Evolve says that average continuous riding will hit 20A discharge and that in their side by side comparisons with the same pack made of 30q cells, the 35e performed better. I don’t claim to know what metrics they’re looking at for performance, but this is what I’ve been told.

Going over to the ESC enclosure, we remove its cover to find the newly redesigned ESC.

You can see the ceramic antenna for the remote embedded on the right side of the ESC, and two wires going to the USB breakout board. These power the two rear facing USB ports for accessories.

I think time will tell how well this enclosure system holds up. Evolve tells me they got to where they are now from breaking countless iterations, fixing, and breaking again so they’re very sure of the hardware, and honestly I believe them. Everything I see here is quite high quality and obviously built to last.

So after all that, I have a few observations.

The GTR is a brand new product inside and out. It may look similar to the 3rd generation GT boards, but honestly, it’s really not. As far as I can tell, almost everything is improved in a forward thinking way. Even the motors have been redesigned with stronger components, are now vented, and now feature a single hot swap connector for some mysterious purpose.

I think a lot of people will look at this board and go “well it looks similar to the old one, why upgrade? I can just send my current GT to a battery upgrade service and be done with it,” and of course, you can do that. But I think unless you’re also planning on swapping the ESC out for something like a FOCbox Unity, the new GTR would probably still be a better bet due to the numerous upgrades.

I really love the new 97s. I think they’re a great wheel with great rebound, and I love the white color scheme even though it gets dirty fairly quickly here in SF. They’re so good that I’m willing to jump in and get four sets. HMU Jeff Anning 😉

I think it’s a good move for Evolve to move to 18650s, even if they’re not admitting they were wrong in the past. It’s an even better move for the consumer as now they don’t have to deal with the headaches related to voltage sag and can just ride. We’ll call it a win-win yeah?

The new Bamboo GTR deck is just great. You gotta take it for a ride.

But Sof, would you recommend it?

I’ve been riding the new Bamboo GTR for the better part of two weeks. It’s less time than I would have liked, and certainly less time than I typically ride other boards before I give my opinion.

In addition, the release schedule of this review had to be very unexpectedly and very annoyingly bumped forward quite a bit because of certain circumstances regarding a certain YouTuber, but I think what it boils down to is this.

Riding an electric skateboard, as with any other leisure sport, is an activity that should be enjoyed. That’s the bottom line. If your only focus is speed and that’s what you enjoy, this is not the board for you. If you hate belt drives, this is not the board for you. But at the end of the day, there’s only one question that needs to be asked. Do you smile when you ride the GTR? I know I do.

Update On Remote Connection

Earlier in this piece, I mentioned that I was getting dropouts on the remote at certain places during my testing. Evolve chalked it up to issues the prototype unit had and assured me that the issues wouldn’t persist in the production unit. Of course, I didn’t simply believe them, so Evolve was kind enough to arrange for me to get on a production board and ride to my problem spots around San Francisco to test if things have really gotten better.

I’m happy to report that I had no issues whatsoever. Down Polk, down Market, up the entirety of California, around Chinatown, no disconnects occurred. Of course, this is not a comprehensive testing and consumer results remain to be seen, but in areas where I previously had issues with the prototype, I now had no issues with the production unit. I’m fairly satisfied for now.