As I was unboxing the GTR last night my wife poked her head in and asked, 'So, what's different about this Evolve compared to the last three you've had?'
It's a fair question. The GTR's basic aesthetic is the same as the previous generation. I thought to myself, 'What's the quickest way to explain this?'
'Okay, so this model retains a few things that Evolve didn't need to change, like super-wide dual kingpin trucks, a drop-through deck, and tons of wheel customisation options; afforded (in part) due to the rear mounted dual belt drive system, which rocks (basically) the same 150kV 1500W motors x2. But everything else has been changed and even the parts I mentioned have been improved.'
Shocked, she actually stuck around waiting to hear more. So, I rattled off all of the improvements, like the new bamboo and fiberglass deck, the forged and CNC finished trucks, 7075 aluminium motor plates, ceramic built-in bearings, the new Samsung 35E 10s4p 18650 battery pack, the all new ESC and Bluetooth remote, the new wheels from US-based AEND Industries (the same company that pour ABEC11) and the fact than an optional, air travel friendly battery can be fitted.
'It's an evolution, not a revolution,' I said. Yes, totally pun intended.
The point is, I guess it's easy to see how the GTR can be mistakenly seen as a Gen3.5 from Evolve (rather than a Gen4) at first glance because of the similar aesthetics and similar performance to the previous generation. But think about it. The aesthetic and the performance of the board's were not the issues that required Evolve's attention. The board's have always looked mint, so why change that (too much)? The super-wide dual kingpin trucks and drop-through decks create a low-rider vibe that necessitates a rear-mounted motor configuration. So, as soon as you have those two main ingredients in the mix you're always going to end up with a similar looking end-product. As for performance, well, the claimed specs on the older Carbon GT and Bamboo GTX were a 42 kph top speed (97mm/32T set up) and a 50 km range (same as the new GTR's). Top speed wasn't an issue for those boards, but (real world) range was. Then there was the infamous matter of "battery sag."
Yes, there are boards that go faster, but 42 kph is plenty. Hyper-performance boards are really another market altogether anyway. Evolve is about versatility and carving the endless wave. From where I'm sitting, Evolve didn't need to radically re-design its looks. It was always on a winner there. Evolve didn't really need to up their specs either. What Evolve needed to do was live up to its specs and build a far more robust, durable and reliable board. It wasn't the end result that needed changing, but rather how they got there. Let me say that again. "It wasn't the end result that needed changing, but rather how they got there."
It's when you realise that how Evolve "got there" was by improving everything from the ground up, that you begin to appreciate how much they have listened to their customers and taken on-board several years worth of pretty forthright feedback from the community and put it right into the GTR Series. The GTR Series is a true Gen4 for Evolve and it's a truly beautiful board too.
I've only had the board a day, but I've enjoyed every second with it.
I chose the Bamboo GTR for reasons I'll go into in my full review in a few weeks. I guess the main thing people want to know about with the bamboo version is the flex. We've all seen the videos of people jumping up and down in the middle of Bamboo GTR's as if they're trampolines. It sort of gives the false impression that the bamboo is so bouncy that it's going to bounce you right off the first chance it gets. Well, no one rides a longboard by jumping up and down in the middle of it - so it's a false test that doesn't really prove very much. The way the deck handles and performs under normal riding conditions, however, is what matters, and it's perfect. It absorbs imperfections, keeping your ride as smooth as silk, and there is no aggressive rebound that I've noticed when riding the board normally. Simply put, the deck does what it's supposed to do. The GTX was actually flexier under normal ride conditions, but this was due to the recess cut-out in the underside of the deck. The GTR feels more natural; overall a much higher quality and softer (without being flexier) ride.
Moving on down to the trucks. These were the first things I noticed when taking the GTR out of the box. There's no mistaking that these trucks are forged! These are absolute beasts! The quality difference between these and the previous generation is night and day. They are heavy though, and along with the battery contribute to the overall weight increase of the GTR (more on this in a second).
To some notes on the electronics. Connection was basically instant. It pairs within a fraction of a second first time and every time (so far). When riding, there have been absolutely no connection issues to-date. With the previous generation board's sometimes you could sense a bad connection. With the GTR no such mental alarm bells have gone off - the board has given no reason for my mental alarm system to even be on stand-by. So far, connection has been stable, smooth and reliable.
The remote comes with the 20 km speed limit setting 'on' and the dead-man trigger 'on.' They can be toggled to 'off' in the remote menu system before you start riding. Whether you're 'pro' or 'anti' dead-man trigger is entirely up to you. I turned both 'off.'
The battery percentage display on the remote is now as solid as a rock. No more yo-yoing. Love it!
As for performance, like I said, I've only had it a day. It's basically just been my two-way work commute so far, so top speed and range tests will follow in the coming weeks. Follow me on Instagram for updates on those. But for now I can tell you that the torque and acceleration performance (in PRO and GTR modes) is bloody marvelous. Not too dissimilar to what you're used to if you've ridden a GT/GTX. Perhaps they're a tad smoother and more gradual now, but there is still a "bite" if you're over-eager on the trigger. I feel this may be due in part to a bit of dead space in the early part of the trigger. It's easy to get impatient and pull that throttle in faster to get moving. I think this could mean a few people will still end up on their arse. But all-in-all, throttle performance is smooth, gradual and forgiving, particularly once you're up and running.
Braking is super soft. As usual, I find myself asking for more brakes lately. I don't even feel the GTR can come to a complete stop on a mild decline. The positive is that no one is in any real danger of being flung off due to sharp brakes.
The carve? Boy, oh boy. What can I say about the carve? Purists can say what they like about dual kingpin trucks being "gimmicky." As far as I'm concerned if the regular longboarding scene wants to reject them, we'll take 'em! They take e-skating to the next level, no doubt. Perhaps not in speed (stability), but in the pure fun and enjoyment factor - there's nothing better. God, I missed these things!
The wheels are beautiful. I think I like these better than ABEC11 Flywheels. Big statement, I know, but these (feel) softer and grippier, whilst also appearing to be more robust and less brittle at the same time - they're actually a bit harder than the common 75A Flywheel, so it really all comes down to the formula and I think Evolve is on a winner here. Gorgeous wheels. They'll never be minty white again though...
So far I have absolutely no complaints. If anything could be vaguely labelled an "inconvenience" it would be the weight. There are two places where I have to carry my board for about 150m during my commute. There is no simple way to pick up, hold and carry this thing. First, the rear mounted motors mean you can't kick-it-up. Second, it's too long to mall-grab. Three, there are no handles on the GTR. All of this combined makes it a verified pain in the arse. It's just heavy, awkward and it sucks. It's saving grace, however, will be the 6-inch AT kit I have coming. With those wheels installed I'll have no need to walk my board across the crappy underpasses I have to contend with. I'll just keep on riding! So, looking forward to that. With the AT kit installed this board can definitely become my daily driver. If I had to stick with street wheels and keep carrying the thing up and down those gnarly underpasses, I don't know if I could keep that up at the GTR's weight without handles. I'd rather stick to my Boosted or the Exway X1 Pro. So, bring on the AT's!
Okay, there might be one other thing - The charging port cover. This thing is just useless. There is nothing I can do to get that thing to hold in place. It's just pops off at the slightest movement. The recess for the plug is super shallow and the fact that it wont stay in place really hinders any additional splash resistance the new boards have elsewhere. It's all rendered a bit redundant by the fact that this damn plug wont stay closed!
A high point goes towards Evolve's customer service. On day one of owning the GTR I got a call from Evolve HQ. The staff member proceeded to tell me that some customers have reported a bit of a rattle in their Bamboo GTR's. Apparently some battery packs aren't sitting as snug in the enclosure as they'd like and have a mild rattle as a result. They said they're sending out some foam inserts for all affected parties. Honestly, there was a very mild, very faint noise that I guess one could vaguely identify as a "rattle." I really didn't think anything of it, but it's good that Evolve are on top of it and are putting a solution out there straight away. If they had never have called me though, it wouldn't have bothered me. It's nothing really. You want a rattle? Try riding a Boosted Stealth! Yet, no phone call from Boosted...
All-in-all, this is the board that we always wanted to see from Evolve. I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch, but so far what I'm seeing is a super high quality board with great specs for the everyday rider and a virtually unrivaled level of versatility.
It feels beautiful on the road and although it's early days, it seems like they've really nailed it this time.
I know a lot of people are scratching their heads over Evolve's choice to use the Samsung 35E cell over something like the Samsung 30Q. I'm of the mind that looking at cell specs and data on a computer screen can only tell you so much. It certainly doesn't tell you what Evolve has put into their ESC and BMS programming. On the street is where it counts. The reality is if this board can get close to its claimed range specs and do so with minimal sag, then I'll be more than satisfied. I'm not going to throw my toys out of the pram because they didn't use 30Q's when they're still using a good, Samsung cell that gets me peak range performance and (hopefully) minimal sag. People need to chill. Give the boards a chance to speak for themselves. The cell type, total pack specs, BMS, ESC and motors are an ecosystem and Evolve chose the 35E for a reason (they tested the 30Q) and it has nothing to do with cost (as they cost about the same per cell). It's only fair to give them the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise that it was a flawed (real world) choice. They've done the testing and made the best choice for their ecosystem. Only time in the field will prove whether it was the right choice, or not. Just my opinion.
So, I'm looking forward to seeing just how close I can get to those claimed range specs. Should be a fun few weeks ahead!
I ride and write about electric skateboards for one reason and one reason only - the love of it!