I’ve ridden my share of hub motor boards since I started off in esk8. They get the job done, but it’s kind of like taking a date to the prom in your mom’s Toyota Tercel. You’ll definitely get there, but you’ll arrive with none of style or luxury points you’d earn in something like a mid-to-upper tier Lexus. I’ve since moved on to mainly belt-drive and direct drive-equipped boards featuring full urethane wheels that offer a good deal more performance and comfort.
But I’d always wondered what it would be like to ride a really great hub-based board.
I have now ridden a really great hub-based board.
I really didn’t know what to expect from the Exway X1 Pro, apart from knowing that from a design standpoint, it definitely had the appearance of a premium offering. Upon removing it from the box, I wasn’t disappointed in the least. This is a pretty stunning board, and anyone who disagrees will not be coming to my birthday party and enjoying the bounce house and ice-cream sprinkles bar. (I’m talking to you, Maner.) Although it comes with associated limitations that we will discuss later, that sleek underbelly and clean mounting setup really delivers on the aesthetics front.
The board comes with an extra set of urethane, which I love seeing as it basically says, “You’re going to ride the crap out of this board and it will last long enough to need new wheels.” If you don’t buy that argument, well then…free wheels. I used the provided regular charger to bring the board to full charge the first time out and it was pretty quick, but I have since used the optional fast charger and it is indeed faster, roughly about twice as fast. I try to alternate both to extend the battery, but find myself using the fast charger more times than not.
The Exway X1 Pro has four speed modes available, and allows you to cap the speed modes as you see fit through the app. So if a new rider wants to try the board, you can set it so it won’t advance past speed setting one or two. It’s a nice feature, but nothing an esk8 superstar like me (yeah, right) would ever use.
The app itself is pretty helpful and packed with options, though it has some rough edges in the user experience department. I do, however, love the standby feature that let’s the board sleep like a laptop until the remote wakes it up to go play. The remote is on the small side but has a nice rubberized finish, and the LCD readout gives you a fairly accurate battery level reading for both the board and the remote.
The performance is about to begin.
I started off with the board in 4th gear and with the Turbo setting engaged in the app. I feathered in half throttle, and was quickly surprised by the kick this board offers. At 6’3″ and 225 lbs, this is not always the case for me. Things got even more interesting when I shifted my weight and put the whip to it. This a a quick board, and actually tries to come out from under you if you’re not careful. Luckily, I’m so careful that I wear three helmets nested russian doll style.
But even when it’s trying to throw you off, it does it in the most refined and civilized way possible. This is the current epitome of hub motor control sophistication. Hobbywing-based ESCs have always been smoother than their unrefined LiYing brethren, but Exway has coaxed even more feathery goodness out of their control scheme. This is what excellent esk8 control should feel like, where you don’t have to compensate at all for an ESC’s shortcomings.
It’s the smoothest and most responsive hub board I’ve ever ridden by a good margin, and quickly gives you all the confidence you need to push the board to it’s limit. Even though it appears Exway softened the brakes a tad in the latest version of the firmware, they remain strong, confidence-inspiring, and easy to modulate.
Now if all that refinement and control sounds boring, I can assure you it’s not. It’s quite an impressive balancing act Exway has pulled off. You can generate a nice rush out of this board every time you open it up in 4th gear with turbo, and it has no trouble with any incline that doesn’t have a Sherpa clinging to it. I reached a top speed of 39 kph without issue, and got little blips into 40 if I tucked into an unnatural position and used the power of positive thinking.
They also made improvements in the firmware in other ways over the last few iterations. For instance, on my earlier rides, the remote starting giving off battery warnings at 40% and the board started to sag for me at 35%. Not ideal for a board with limited built-in range. But with the latest version of the firmware, the warnings start at 30% and sag only really starts being noticeable at around 20%.
But it needs to be said that not all sag is created equal, because while the performance edge was rounded off somewhat, it still continued pulling and climbing at an acceptable rate. With some other boards I’ve ridden, sag is like someone secretly attached me to a long bungee cord that slowly but inexorably pulls me backward. The Exway, on the other hand, is just more sleepy but rideable all the way down the the last 6% or so where fun goes to die.
I never take boards down to zero just to eke out a few few more dribbly yards, because that’s like laboriously scraping every little possible bit out of the peanut butter jar. I ride them to the point where they start to cry and then nurse them home if I’m close or pick them up. I’m only interested in usable battery life and having a good time, not scratching out every last inch of grim distance.
When did I become Lewis Hamilton?
While the acceleration of the Exway X1 Pro is indeed impressive, it’s the handling that I think sets it apart. This board tracks true and rarely puts a foot wrong no matter what you’re doing. This is a level of precision that makes me understand why people lust after really well-built trucks. It’s one confidence-inspiring ride, and on every outing, I’ve been impressed with how planted and responsive this board feels. Even when riding on a wet stretch of tarmac, I had no concerns about getting out of shape. I don’t ride in falling rain, but I’m not afraid of a wet road and neither is the Exway X1 Pro.
A lot of this handling prowess is no doubt attributed to the Seismic trucks. In addition to being damn nice to look at, they’re incredibly sweet to ride and appear to be made to last. While the bushings are a bit soft for my weight, it wasn’t to a dramatic degree and I feel like they will suit the vast majority of riders.
Exway has also found a hub sleeve formula that it superior to that offered by most hub-based boards. These things are softer than Kevin Spacey at an all-girls school. The level of grip is great, they don’t appear to suffer premature tears or cut easily, and although it’s not a crucial benefit, they also look great and come in different colours.
The deck, on the other hand, is stiffer than, well, Kevin Spacey at an all-boys school. But even though it has little give, I didn’t find it uncomfortable. That might have to do with the cushioning material Exway has placed beneath the grip tape. There’s also just enough concave to give your feet some placement indicators without being overly aggressive. The deck allows the board to respond to input quickly, and you get a strong sense of control under your feet at all times.
Yes, the gas tank is on the small side.
There’s no getting around the fact that this board has limited range. At my weight, the best range I got was 12 km. But keep in mind that I just cannot stop pegging the throttle on this board. It’s just too damn much fun. I could baby it and get maybe 13-14 km, but that’s like asking me to eat ice cream with a spoon at a table instead of with a spatula while crying on the toilet.
That’s the tradeoff for being a slim little supermodel. Anyone who thinks there’s a magic way to get a light, thin board and lots of range is sending a wire transfer to a Nigerian prince right now instead of reading this review. You don’t get it both ways in life and that’s true in the case of the Exway. But let’s talk about what you do get: a slender design that’s perfect to carry around in an esk8 backpack, easy to pick up or carry, and makes people stop you and ask questions like:
“Is that electric?”
“How much is that thing?”
“Can I try it?”
“Why are you riding a skateboard naked?
“Do you understand your rights as I have read them to you?”
Riot in the streets.
The Exway X1 Pro is not only a great board, it’s a great platform for future upgradeability. Case in point: the upcoming Riot motor option. In an Esk8 first, you will soon be able to basically “hot swap” out the hub motors for a belt-drive option and simply select the new drivetrain option in the app and off you go. A multi-pin power connector is built right into the board’s deck, so it’s truly plug and play. You have to admit that’s a pretty impressive option.
Although all the details are not yet fully in place, this potentially brings a whole new level of customization to the board. In addition to the wheels Exway will be providing with Riot, you should be able to choose from a number of different full-urethane wheels to pair with the Riot belt drives, creating a totally different riding dynamic with the same platform.
Although the Exway in its hub form is more comfortable than you’d think, there’s no question that riding this board with a full set of ‘thane will bring another level of ride feedback and comfort to the party.
Author’s note: I’ve been told I will be receiving a Riot unit in the next few weeks. I will update the review once I’ve sufficiently tested it.
Let’s address the bleeding elephant in the room.
There were some serious issues with this board’s firmware when it first came out. Although I never encountered the troubles others reported, it was apparently triggered when you took the board past its fully-drained state. (I’m not a fan of doing this as mentioned elsewhere.) In that mode, the board would try to go into reverse or stop hard altogether, throwing the rider more often than not. To Exway’s credit, instead of an Evolve-type “ignore the problem and it will go away” strategy, they took it seriously and got to work fixing things. In just over a week, they released new firmware that solved the issues others were having and improved the battery warning and sag performance to an impressive degree.
Well done, Exway.
Time for the frowny face emoticon.
1) The grip tape situation is not fantastic. The grip tape sits on top of a cushy foam underliner, and the two don’t seem to like each other much. On one of the first group rides I took the board on, the front of the grip tape came loose and flapped backwards in the wind like a fat guy trying to hold onto his toupee in a windstorm. It’s not the most impressive display of dominance a board can make.
Luckily, a little double-sided tape fixed things up, but it would be great for Exway to find a stronger bonding solution.
2) The wheels are a bit small for really bad roads like I have in my area. Even though the sleeves are really nice from a materials standpoint, there’s just not enough rubber where it meets the road. After riding 110mm urethane for the last few months, it’s hard to see 85mm as a viable ride anywhere option. Of course, the Riot option mitigates this to a large degree.
Is it worth the money?
For a rider who wants the most refined and responsive hub board experience going, it’s worth it. (Some might argue that the Raptor deserves to be considered, but the reliability question marks and funky business practices from Enertion make that a tough sell.)
Nowhere else will you get this combination of power, ease of use, and a slimline design. Now, for someone who just wants to get from point A to point B, it probably isn’t worth it. Get a nice Toyota-level budget board. It’s not about needing an Exway, it’s about wanting an Exway-level experience and being prepared to pony up for the privilege.
As for me, I’m not sure I could have the Exway X1 Pro as my only board. The Riot option would get me close, but not all the way there. But I noticed something pretty interesting during the review period: when I needed to get somewhere close by quickly, I instinctively reached for the Exway without thinking.
Every. Damn. Time.
Not one of the other three fully-charged boards sitting there waiting. It was always the Exway X1 Pro. For that reason, I’m calling this board the perfect short-range 2nd board for a larger rider, a superb ride for a medium or smaller-sized rider who doesn’t have far to travel, or a statement board for people who want the best product available in the category.
After all, does anyone really want to settle for a Toyota?