What happens when you take the most manoeuvrable deck in the Evolve Skateboards range, brighten up its looks and crank up the power? Simple: the Evolve Bamboo GTX. This all-terrain electric skateboard takes an already appealing formula and further refines it. We strapped on our helmets, updated the health insurance and put it through its paces.
Since the first generation Evolve Electric Pintail launched in 2012, company founder Jeff Anning and his Australian team have been slowly refining their designs. From the bulky Pintail, with its motor mounted ahead of the wheels, the design has evolved to what you see today. Although the Bamboo GTX doesn't have its battery fully integrated into the deck like the Carbon GT we rode in 2015, it's neatly packaged nonetheless.
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With gold trim on the motors and trucks, a new hexagonal pattern for the grip tape and more prominent Evolve motif in the middle of the board, it's a seriously good looking bit of kit. The extra bling also helps justify the bigger price associated with turning Bamboo GT into Bamboo GTX.
Although the board has changed, the controller remains the same. You toggle through the four riding modes using two small black buttons above the screen, and the throttle is the small plastic trigger on the back. It's got quite a short travel, so we'd recommend taking a conservative approach early on. With a bit of practice, though, the lightning-quick throttle changes from potential trap for the unwary to a gateway into high-speed electric fun.
The controller is also home to a backlit LCD screen, which feeds the rider information about speed, battery charge, riding mode and total distance travelled. It's well laid out, and getting the information you need on the move is never a problem, although your range figure fluctuates wildly depending on how aggressive you're being with the throttle.
Performance has always been an Evolve strong suit, and the GTX does nothing to change that reputation. The 3 kW (combined) motors deliver a top speed of 45 km/h (28 mph) on street wheels, while maximum range is pegged at a whopping 50 km (31 mi). Swapping to all-terrain tires drops top speed back to 36 km/h (22.4 mph) and range back to 30 km (18.6 mi), which should still be more than enough for the average commuter.
Our time with the Bamboo GTX started on the new Evolve GT 97 mm street wheels, which are designed for service on the road. They run with a new stone-ground finish, and have been tailored to deliver a smooth ride over expansion joints and less-than-perfect tarmac. If you can guarantee you'll be spending all your time on bitumen, or if hammering along at breakneck speed is the goal – and we'd recommend at least trying to hit top speed – these are the wheels to run with.
Evolve has tried to capture the feeling of slashing down the lip of a big wave or carving on a snowboard with the softer deck on the Bamboo GTX, and that feeling shines through. I'm a very average surfer, but running along at half speed and just carving on the GTX provides a delightful (dry!) snapshot of that life for amateurs. The riding experience has always been at the core of what Anning wanted to do with his Evolve boards, and the latest addition to the range doesn't change that.
But when the going gets tough, you're going to want the chunky off-road tires. Making the switch isn't too tricky – swapping the smaller on-road wheels and motor drive gears for bigger, off-road ready units takes between five and fifteen minutes. Evolve provides an easy-to-understand video explainer on its website, and the process doesn't involve any greasy, messy or fiddly processes. For someone without a hint of mechanical talent, the simplicity of the whole swap was a huge relief.
The switch from road wheels to chunky tires turns the Bamboo GTX from a capable cruiser into an impressive all-terrain board. The bigger wheels make bigger obstacles like curbs or speed bumps easier to tackle, but they're also good for ironing out minor imperfections that cause problems with regular wheels fitted. Expansion joints, small stones and fallen twigs are simply brushed aside without fear of being thrown over the front, which is more than can be said for the average longboard.
We had a great time hammering along the paved beach path running through our home suburb, and used the board to make the 5 km (3.1 mi) trek between home and the nearest train station carpark – where the board slotted easily into the boot of my Subaru BRZ. Try putting a bike into the back of a two-door coupe.
Not only is the GTX great fun on flat paths, it allows you to fly up hills without breaking a sweat. Trust us, there are few feelings more satisfying than riding effortlessly past cyclists as they pedal furiously uphill, sweating profusely into padded lycra pants. The board will actually scale hills up to 25 degrees – provided your balance is up to scratch – and is able to tackle most off-road trails without too much trouble.
We also tested the Bamboo GTX on some gravel paths and stony backroads, and it shrugged off all the challenges with consummate ease. Being able to travel off road isn't necessary for lots of people, but it's a nice addition to the board's skill-set nonetheless.
When he wrote about the Carbon GT, our very own Nick Lavars compared the board to a Tesla Model S with Ludicrous Mode. The likeness still rings true today. If you're lucky enough to have driven one of the all-electric supercars from California, the overriding memory is likely one of silken, silent acceleration. Although the fact you're balancing on a bendy bit of bamboo adds to the fear factor here, the GTX offers a small taste of that sensation ... at a fraction the price.
In keeping with the Tesla comparison, Evolve is also constantly refining its software through updates. The Bamboo GTX will launch with a refined version of the software on current boards, which automatically switches the riding mode to Eco when the battery drops below five percent. It also addresses some minor glitches with the screen, and will automatically slip into a special Safe Mode if there are connection errors between board and remote.
It's tough to find things to complain about with the Evolve Bamboo GTX. It's great fun to ride, perhaps more fun than the Bamboo GT or Carbon GT, and the new look for the motor/deck is a nice touch.
The Evolve Bamboo GTX is priced at US$1779.
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