Backfire have occupied what might be broadly defined as the upper-budget/lower mid-tier of the electric skateboard market for a while now. Most people don't remember the initial Backfire electric skateboard. It might surprise you to learn that it was a single belt drive. That's right, a belt drive! The dual hub motor boards we've become accustom to seeing from Backfire didn't hit the scene until the Backfire 2, the first models of which featured a relatively basic black, red and white design. This was the board that kick-started what I call the "Galaxy lineage," although the galaxy griptape wasn't introduced until a little later with the Backfire 2 Galaxy Edition.
The Backfire 2 Galaxy Edition grabbed a lot of people's attention, why? Well, it was pretty damn hard to miss! Extremely ostentatious griptape tends to have that affect, which is really what Backfire needed to get their foot in the market. It worked. The strategy had peaked people's curiosity and Backfire 2 Galaxy Edition's started popping up all over social media as people's budget board of choice if they were willing to spend just a little more than the sub-$500 class of budget boards.
The improvements made to Backfire's next model, the G2S, was enough to finally make me want to take the plunge and get one of my own.
Improvements over the original Backfire 2 Galaxy Edition were ample and welcome, such as Caliber II trucks (for the front), the celebrated Hobbywing ESC and remote combination, a Samsung 25R battery pack and two different wheel sizes included in the box, which all culminated in a near-irresistible upper-end budget package.
You might remember that I didn't exactly end up being fan of the Backfire G2S (click here to read my review). Sadly I ended up finding the board particularly underwhelming. It had all the right ingredients and it certainly looked good, but between sluggish acceleration, vibrating motors (urethane sleeves) and ride-crippling battery sag, I just couldn't give it a solid recommendation.
Following in the tradition of incremental improvements to the Galaxy lineage, the G2T seems to improve in most of the major areas where the G2S fell short. I was excited to get my hands on one to see for myself just how much Backfire had stepped up.
A TL;DR is available at the end of this review.
Wheels, wheel span and vibration - The standard wheel size is now 83mm, bumped up from the 80mm that was standard on the previous models. The difference is subtle, but it was enough to make me refrain from putting on the included 96mm wheels straight on the board. I spent about two weeks exclusively on the 83mm wheels before I changed up to the 96mm wheels. For more torque, quicker acceleration and better hill performance, the 83mm wheels work well and are just comfortable enough for daily commuting.
There was also a colour change from white to grey. White only looks good when they're minty fresh. Grey is a good choice for masking how quickly wheels scuff up. After a while though it's hard to tell the difference between dirty white and dirty grey. They both end up looking like a dark, dirty grey in the end.
The 96mm wheels increase the comfort, stability and top speed of the board, but they also reduce torque, acceleration and add weight. Range is about the same (see the 'Performance' section for more information). I personally ended up settling on the 96mm wheels as my pick of the two, mainly because the extra urethane helps when you're already dealing with the mild discomfort that comes from a hub motor/stiff deck combination.
One of the things that irked me about the G2S was that it felt precariously narrow. This was partly attributable to the deck, but also the trucks/wheel span (left to right). The wheel span of the G2S was 260mm. The G2T has an increased wheel span of 275mm by virtue of the new wheels having an off-set core and an ingeniously placed extra-wide speedring/washer between the inside bearing and the truck. The rear truck has also been redesigned to match the increased wheel span up the front. Words almost can't express how much this subtle change has improved the ride feel of the G2T over the G2S. A wider footprint on the road injects a lot of confidence into the ride and is an all-round far more enjoyable experience. I also favor off-set wheels (generally speaking). Always have. They just have more "bite."
Now to the biggest improvement Backfire has made in the wheel department. The hub motor sleeves have now been reinforced with a metal ring that reduces the infamous vibrations that plagued the previous models. I was quite vocal about this issue regarding the G2S. The metal ring has indeed not only reduced, but eliminated the vibration issue for the G2T. It's now literally a case of, 'What vibration issue?'
Hats off to Backfire for taking note of customer feedback and taking the necessary steps to eliminate this issue. Well done!
Battery cells and sag - The G2S ran on a 10s2p pack of Samsung 25R's (5.0Ah). This is a pretty solid pack on paper. But man, in real life, for whatever reason it was a major let down. At least it was for me. The range I was achieving was okay I guess (considering my weight and aggressive riding style), but the lack of torque (on both wheel sizes) and immediate and increasing battery sag made the ride so frustratingly benign that I just didn't want to ride the thing.
The G2T runs a 10s2p pack of Samsung 30Q's (6.0Ah). 30Q's are pretty much the 18650 cell of choice in the diy esk8 scene (along with maybe a couple of others). The difference between the two packs is night and day. The increase in range is only slight (your experience may differ depending on your weight and riding style), but it's the infinitely better sag management that makes the ride so much more enjoyable; it takes that little range gain and makes it feel like a much bigger range gain due to the fact that you can milk peak performance out of the board for much, much longer.
I don't get any major sag on my G2T until probably the last km. This is an outstanding improvement over the G2S!
ESC and remote improvements (including turbo mode) - The Backfire G2T continues to run the Hobbywing ESC, but with some further customization. The battery, ESC and motors as an overall ecosystem delivers a much ballsier package this time around. Power to the ground, torque, acceleration and overall throttle and braking response is much, much better than the G2S.
The new G2T remote is more reminiscent of the original Backfire 2 remote than it is anything we've come to expect from other recent boards running the Hobbywing ESC. It's a larger and boxier remote than the standard Hobbywing "Boosted clone" remote used by the G2S and, of course, a ton of other boards.
The inclusion of a finger-grip is nice (I often do away with the wrist strap when a finger-grip is available) and the remote retains the simple thumb wheel control interface with plenty of travel room. Also included is a nice, rubberized matte finish and useful OLED screen with basic ride info.
It's also useful to note that the Backfire G2T remote is charged via USB-C. Nice work, Backfire!
Now let's talk about turbo mode. So most boards running the Hobbywing ESC now run with the three speed version. The G2S did not and in my opinion added to the board's downsides. The G2T's turbo mode is the third speed mode of the Hobbywing ESC finally made available to Backfire users, but only for 30 seconds at a time (with an additional 30 seconds cool down). Although it is possible to pair a regular three speed Hobbywing remote to the G2T and have the third speed mode permanently available to you, it's worth remembering that Backfire designed and implemented turbo mode intentionally to stop people riding continuously in the third speed mode. Maybe they have a good reason for that?
I prefer to look at it this way: Turbo mode is a range saver. If the third speed mode was available to me all of the time, I'd use it all of the time. This would reduce my range. By relegating the third speed mode to a temporary turbo mode that I only use when necessary (which actually isn't all that often) I actually get to save a bit of range.
Frankly, it's just nice to know the turbo option is there when I want/need it. That option in-and-of itself is a big improvement over the G2S.
Faster charging - The 1.5A charger that came with the G2S was infuriatingly insufficient for a 5.0Ah battery in terms of the time it took to charge the board. The G2T comes with a 2.5A charger to compliment the now 6.0Ah battery. Much, much better!
PERFORMANCE: CLAIMED VS. REALITY
Reality (for this section please note that I weigh about 200 lbs (91 kg) and ride flat-out as often as possible in SPORT mode):
During my range tests I ensured I traveled basically the same route on both sets of wheels, which included only very mild inclines and limited my use of turbo to only three times per test. The top speed readings were also taken early during each range test with turbo mode on.
I always try to paint a picture of minimum range expectations by riding pretty hard during range tests. You can get an idea of maximum range for light-weight humans in dawdle mode by looking at the claimed range spec. There is no need for me to test that.
So, with my weight and aggressive riding style the results are pretty impressive. There's only about a mile that separates the 83mm range test from the 96mm range test. That mile difference can be put down to a lot of minor differentiating factors between the two tests like weather (e.g. fluctuating cold), amount of time at full throttle, amount of time regenerative braking, how much carving I did on one ride might have been more than the other, and of course, the wheel size itself.
I also made a bit of a gaffe during the 96mm range test. For roughly 1-2 km (so let's say a mile) I had unknowingly shifted the board down from SPORT into ECO mode. It was towards the end of the ride so I thought it was battery sag kicking in until I had a closer look at the OLED screen. When I realized my error I put it back into SPORT mode and I was off and running again. This would have extended the range ever so slightly. At the end of the day it's probably easier to say the range difference between the two wheel sizes is much-of-a-muchness. Ride aggressively and you're probably going to get around 12.4 miles (20 km). Ride conservatively and I have little doubt that you'll probably get around the claimed spec of 14.9 miles (24 km). So the Backfire G2T gets a solid tick in the range department, and near zero sag until the last km!
You can check out a video of one of my range tests by clicking here.
The G2T is also plenty fast enough in terms of top speed. My speed runs confirm the claimed specs and then some once you bolt the 96mm wheels on. It's acceleration where most budget/mid-tier hub motor boards tend suffer when compared to their more premium counterparts, the G2T is no exception.
The G2T also isn't what I'd call a hill crusher. The steepest inclines I've got in my area are a maximum of 15.7%. It tackles them, but it slows dramatically in doing so. I'd say 20% is still doable with a lighter rider, but not too much more. 25% would be really pushing it.
I feel like Backfire lifted the weight spec for the G2T straight from the G2S. But think about it, the G2T has slightly bigger wheels (83mm instead of 80mm) has the super wide washers on the front truck (wouldn't weigh much, but every little bit counts), has different battery cells (might add to the weight, I'm not sure) and has a re-designed, larger rear truck. The G2S weighed 14.7 lbs (6.7 kg) with the 80mm wheels and 15.6 lbs (7.1 kg) with the 96mm wheels in the real world according to my scales. It stands to reason that the G2T would be a little bit heavier than that. My results with the G2T reveal a weight of 16 lbs (7.3 kg) with the 83mm wheels and 16.9 lbs (7.7 kg) with the 96mm wheels.
AESTHETICS AND RIDE FEEL
Aesthetically the Backfire G2T looks great! You're unlikely to find any part of the G2T replicated on any boards in the sub-$500 class, who all share the same bunch of parts from the same handful of original equipment manufacturers (OEM's). The Backfire G2T has a certain proprietary uniqueness about it.
The deck is 37-inches of hard rock maple. It comes with a gentle U concave and a semi-decent camber (bow/arch) in the centre of the board. All-in-all the deck is still the weakest part of the Galaxy lineage. Backfire have solved every other major gripe I had about the G2S with the G2T, except the deck... Some people love the deck, but it was never quite my cup of tea. For me it's too narrow, too stiff and has doesn't really have enough concave. Stiff is fine if that's what you're going for, i.e. a stable ride for a speed-bomber, but the Backfire Galaxy lineage invokes Boosted for its inspiration and the Backfire Galaxy decks are a long, long way away from the comfort and ride feel of a Loaded Vanguard or even a Boosted Gen3 Plus/Stealth deck. Some similar aesthetics are there, but the comfort levels are worlds apart.
The deck and narrower wheel span of the G2S was a double-whammy of discomfort for me. I didn't like it. But with the wheel span of the G2T increased it makes my problems with the deck seem less significant. I ride the G2T a lot and the deck doesn't bother me nearly as much as it did on the G2S, and it's the same deck! That just goes to show how much having a larger/wider footprint on the road can increase your ride confidence.
Like the G2S, the G2T comes in either black or the more ostentatious galaxy griptape. I've had both now and I probably have to say that I prefer the black. The gold Backfire logo on the black griptape is very nicely embossed, whereas the white logo on the galaxy griptape is just printed. Either way you get quality griptape that compliments a premium looking board when you take into account the quality enclosures and polished finish on the underside of the deck.
The throttle and braking response is exactly what we've come to love and expect from any board running a Hobbywing ESC. It's sublime and will not disappoint. But don't expect Boosted-level acceleration just because the board looks vaguely like a Boosted. The performance of the G2T is commensurate with its price, that is it performs better than the sub-$500 category of budget boards, but at the same time is also cheaper than a Boosted Stealth by $1000. Comparable in top speed they may be, but by the time the G2T comes up to its top speed the Stealth would already be a half a mile down the road.
Never-the-less the Backfire G2T is a highly competent board in its price range. Best in class I'd say.
PROS AND CONS
The Backfire G2T is a fantastic all-round product that delivers abundantly for its price point. It's relatively light in overall weight, packs decent specs and looks premium for the price. It's a cruisy board to ride that carves reasonably well (although it would benefit from swapping out the bushings to something more suited to your weight and riding style) and packs a little extra power when you feel you need it. This brings me back to turbo mode: A minor con would be when turbo mode disengages at-speed, well, let's just say it's abrupt! Lately when I hit the turbo button I'll actually count to 30 just so I'm prepared for the jolt back to normal SPORT mode.
Torque and acceleration is still a little down on what you get from a more premium board, but hey, you get what you pay for, and the G2T is certainly better in this area than the G2S was, so it's certainly a step in the right direction. I seriously don't think it will be much longer before the only thing separating "budget" from "premium" will be price. Performance wise the budget boards are starting to catch up, fast!
Now, of course there's the deck. Backfire wouldn't even need to change the look of it that much in order to implement some no-brainer improvements. A few layers of bamboo, a tad wider and a bit more concave and boom! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
You certainly can't argue with the quality and performance you're getting for the price here. 26 mph (42 kph) and 12 miles (20 km) range for $599 USD (correct at time of writing). After having a look around at the current competition in the upper-budget/lower mid-tier arena, I'm not really seeing too much of a reason to look elsewhere at the moment.
SOME OTHER ODDS AND SODS
Removing and replacing the rear urethane sleeves now has a couple of extra steps in the process. The hub caps are removed via only three bolts, but then you face another three bolts once you remove the hub cap to remove the retaining ring inside. Once removed it's best to place the retaining ring in the new sleeve first and then press the sleeve onto the motor. Make sure the pre-cut slots are properly aligned with the teeth on the hub motor. Then bolt the retaining ring in place, replace the hub cap and you're done.
This is a far superior design to hub motor sleeves we saw on the G2S.
Something you might find yourself looking for is a menu system via the remote so you can change your wheel size settings and units (miles vs. km). There kind of isn't one (yet). In order to change these setting you have to re-pair the remote and ESC. You do this by holding down both the power button on the board and power button on the remote at the same time. You'll then be able to select miles or km and in the next page select your wheel size. The trip meter resets by itself every time you turn the board off and on. The odometer keeps track of total mileage, even after re-pairing.
The remote appears to have in-built functionality for a more advanced menu system (and possibly an app) to be released at a later stage. Fingers crossed!
VERDICT / TL;DR
I had five major gripes with the Backfire G2S, the deck, motor vibration, awkward ride feel, battery sag and average overall performance. The G2T has solved all but one of these, the deck. Although, the fixing of the awkward ride feel with a wider wheel span has inadvertently made the deck less of major gripe and more of a minor, "Well, I wish it was a bit better," throwaway thought.
The Backfire G2T performs staggeringly well for the price. A high top speed, quality battery cells (Samsung 30Q cells in a 6.0Ah pack), minimal battery sag, smooth power delivery and two wheel sizes in the box. There are few better options out there in the upper-budget/lower mid-tier right now.
Turbo mode is a sort of gimmicky way to implement what is normally a pretty standard third speed mode, but on the positive side it probably extends your range a bit by only using the third speed mode when you absolutely need it.
I can't help but applaud Backfire for really taking consumer feedback to heart and building a much better product as a result.
I ride my Backfire G2T a lot and have no plans to off-load it any time soon. I'm seriously enjoying this board!
When I reviewed the G2S I said the king of the upper-budget/lower mid-tier class remains open. Well, the G2T seems to have finally taken the crown Backfire have been after for so long. For a mere few shekels more than the many sub-$500 budget options, you can get a damn near premium level product with the Backfire G2T. Why wouldn't you?
Well done, Backfire. Well done!
Backfire's official website: backfireboards.com (non-affiliate link)