Hoyt St. EL1 Review – Beauty in the Details

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Before I begin, I must disclose that I’ve had a long history with the EL1.

Hoyt St. first sent an EL1 to me all the way back in May of 2019. At first, they didn’t want me to write a review on it because they wanted to slowly ramp up production and had kinks to work out. Instead, Hoyt simply wanted me to test it really hard and see what I could do with it, then report back my opinions. I was happy to do this, and the conversation back and forth has been constant since then.

Today’s date is June 5th, 2020. It’s been a whole year plus some since I first stepped on the EL1. Hoyt has finally given me the OK to write my review. And I have some thoughts.

It’s All In The Details

The Hoyt EL1 is an unconventional package indeed. From the moment you open the box, the attention to detail is apparent. For example, each EL1 comes with a carrying bag. This isn’t your run of the mill carrying bag mind you. Not only did Hoyt custom design this bag specifically for the EL1, they also had the forethought to make the bag a part of the packaging as a replacement for your typical environmentally unfriendly styrofoam.

Inside the carrying/shipping bag, the remote control and charger is tucked away in their own specially designed pouches. Everything has a place, even the simple, well written, color printed instruction manual. Who even prints instruction manuals in color these days? Hoyt does apparently.

The details don’t stop at packaging. Everything about the board screams attention to detail. From the risk of death warning labels, to the slightly dimpled power indicator lights on the nose, to the tastefully engraved “Handcrafted In Oregon” and “Bamboo Revolution” badges on the underside of the enclosure sandwich which meets the topside to create one single flowing shape.

If it sounds a bit like I’m fangirling already, that’s because I am. I really like the design and shape of the board. I think it’s beautiful. I mean just look at those self tensioning motors mounts!

But all the detail in the world won’t make a difference if the end product is no good right?

Good Skating

What’s my definition of “good skating”? Well, for starters, the board must be comfortable. I don’t just mean the deck, although that does play a big part in it. I mean the wholistic experience. From the geometry in the concave of the deck to the ridefeel of the narrower contact patch and hardness of the wheel, the EL1 as a complete package is simply primed for good skating.

The non-flex, dropdown deck has just the right curves for you to brace against under hard acceleration and braking. The Caliber trucks lend themself to fairly precise carving and nuanced control. The Zoobomb wheels, while not the best urethane I’ve ever ridden, do a fine job of gripping the road and sliding out when you need them to. It’s clear that Hoyt put a major emphasis on designing something that skated well.

But the skate setup isn’t the only thing good here. In electric skateboarding we care about the electronics right? Why else would we be here?

Designed Dependability

Well I’m here to report that the electronics are great as well.

The EL1 (and indeed Hoyt’s entire future lineup) is built on VESC tech. The VESC, or Vedder Electronic Speed Controller, is a super capable, super powerful, open source speed controller design made specifically for applications such as electric skateboards, drones, scooters, robotics, and the like.

Why is this important? Well this means that the hardware in the Hoyt is endlessly configurable and extensible. Want telemetry logging? Stick a Bluetooth module in there. Want more powerful acceleration or braking or a different throttle curve? Just tune it.

Another advantage of the VESC is that it has been vetted in countless test cases by countless people in countless environments. Run within its hardware limits, it’s rock solid and dependable, and Hoyt has certainly harnessed its power well.

The particular VESC revision that Hoyt is running in their boards is the 4.12 hardware revision. This doesn’t really mean much to the end user, but for those who care, it means a couple things. First, it does really well at 10S (42V) but not so well at 12S (50.4V). Second, it doesn’t do well running in FOC (Field Oriented Control) mode, a motor control method that, while more refined in feeling, is more demanding for the controller than the alternative: BLDC (BrushLess Direct Current) control. Hoyt knows this, and so optimized their setup to play to the 4.12 hardware’s strengths. The result is great dependability.

Besides the controllers, the motors are also high quality and built to last. Hoyt sources their motors custom from KDE, a US based motor design and manufacturing firm specializing in military grade motors. These motors are built to withstand way higher than normal operating temperatures while performing at a high level, and I think it’s a testament to its engineering that I’ve never heard of anybody having issues with the motors specifically.

As an aside, this board is so reliable that it’s the one I lend out to experienced riders who ask me to borrow a board simply because I know they won’t break it even if they ride it hard. It’s also simply a great ride but you know. I digress.

Modularity

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the EL1 is the modularity aspect of its battery pack design.

When Hoyt first launched the EL1, they had gone where no other manufacturer had really gone before, and the EL1 battery packs are, in my opinion, the cleanest solution I’ve seen to the problem of battery modularity. With the main goal being the flyability of the board, Hoyt had specially designed 10S1P battery packs featuring individual BMS and battery level indicators. These battery packs slotted neatly into the belly of the board and connected to the main power rail using blade connectors. In my opinion, this is an incredibly clean, wire-free, and foolproof method for managing modular battery packs.

In an interesting turn of events however, Hoyt has recently decided to abandon the blade connector design for a more traditional XT60 connector for their battery packs. Hoyt tells me that they made this decision due to a small number of users reporting that the blade connectors were wearing out under intense stress and vibration. Although I’m sad to see the blade connectors go, I understand the reliability standpoint. The new XT60 design is more flexible while still retaining modularity. What’s more, it opens up the possibility of easily building your own battery packs.

The EL1 also allows the usual wheel and drivetrain gearing changes that usually comes with a belt driven board, and since you have direct access to the VESC’s settings with the EL1, I would even say that these choices combined with some settings adjustments are even more effective here. Hoyt is even going to offer 5″ pneumatic tire options as well as non-modular battery packs for increased range.

Performance

I will say that while it’s not the fastest board on the market topping out at 24mph-ish real world, Hoyt’s investment in engineering has certainly shone through in the end product.

Torque is great. I weigh around 125lb and live in San Francisco, one of the hilliest cities in the world. From my time spent with this board, I can report that this board has more than enough torque to get me up any hill. I’ve gladly let my friends try the EL1, and they all say the same thing. Plenty of power and good braking. Plus, I actually think it is “fast enough.”

And here we get to the only thing that reeeeaaally gets me about the EL1.

The range.

There’s no two ways about it: I think it’s lacking for a $2,000+ board. Realistically riding, I can get maybe 8-10 miles in the city, 12 if I really stretch it. If you’re on flatter ground with less stop and go traffic, that figure will improve, but honestly not by that much. Hoyt’s own range calculator suggests as much about the lacking range, so you should really understand your riding conditions before buying this board.

“But Sof,” you say, “what about flyability?” And that’s a fair question. After all, I did say that Hoyt had designed these packs with flight in mind. To that question I would reply that while the EL1 is indeed flyable, I wouldn’t buy it for a travel board.

There are other great options for travel boards (Unlimited x Loaded kit on a shortboard, Exway Wave) that are lighter and less cumbersome if that is really your main focus. I think the EL1 should be considered more a prosumer board that just happens to be flyable more than anything else, and in that sense, I think maintaining flyability was probably a misstep. You end up with range that doesn’t satisfy the prosumer and a pricepoint that doesn’t really jive with the more casual consumer.

While Hoyt is, as mentioned above, offering a single Samsung 40T 10S3P pack, I haven’t tested it for range. Theoretically, the 40T pack will provide just over 60% more capacity than the original three 10S1P modular 25R packs the board ships with, so extrapolating linearly I may get up to 13-16 of realistic, hard riding miles on a charge with the 40T pack. But I’m a believer of not buying products based on promised future upgrades, even when I have full faith the manufacturer will deliver on their promise, so I’ll make my conclusions when Hoyt starts shipping the 40T packs.

What About The Remote?

Yes, let’s talk about the remote.

The Hoyt Puck is arguably one of the more interesting, if not the most interesting, remotes in eskate. Inspired by slide pucks common in the world of downhill longboarding, the round, curved design is certainly unique and maybe even polarizing to some. When it was first introduced, many wondered just how well this remote would work in practice.

Honestly, I’ve grown to really like it. Despite its strange appearance, it’s comfortable to hold in the hand. I think it’s the first eskate remote to really take into consideration left handedness, with all buttons just as accessible when in left handed mode as in right handed mode. Hoyt offers weight options for the thumbwheel so you can adjust it to your preference as well.

Beyond ergonomics, in typical Hoyt fashion, the remote has proven to be absolutely rock solid in terms of performance and reliability. Ask anybody in the DIY community what remote they would recommend if you wanted a consistently reliable remote, and I’ll bet maybe 90% of them would say the Hoyt Puck. The Puck’s reliability is so well known, in fact, that other premium eskate manufacturers are offering the Hoyt Puck for their boards. Case in point: Lacroix’s customized Hoyt Pucks.

The only minor annoyance I have with the Puck is that there’s no board battery indicator on the remote itself. However, I’m ok with that actually when the Puck is paired with the EL1, as the EL1 features a sleek battery gauge right on the nose of the deck.

Hoyt says you should try the Puck before you knock it, and I really agree. It’s an ergonomic remote with a proven history of reliability. Plus it’s CNC’d out of Bamboo with an aluminum thumbwheel, comes in a variety of stains, and customizable with engravings. What other manufacturer would do this for individual remotes?

In Good Company

I want to take a moment to talk about Hoyt the company. Being a small operation, they can be uniquely personal about the products and services they offer. For example, in addition to the remote customizations, Hoyt offers a range of customization options for the EL1 itself from artwork directly applied on the deck to different wood stains to unique veneers to bespoke whole-deck laser map engravings. You can even get glass frit gripping on your deck: a high class upgrade to the usual boring grip tape offerings.

And that’s not all. A couple months ago, I got the message from Hoyt asking me to send in my EL1 for the blade connector to XT60 conversion. What surprised me was how painless the entire process was. There were no costs involved and the turnaround was fast. I’m told by various customers that they’ve had similar experiences with Hoyt and the services they provide.

I would also like to commend Hoyt for doing this blanket recall. I have many friends in the business of building and selling hardware, and they all tell me that one of their greatest fears is issuing a recall. In addition to the complexity of communicating with the customer and processing the hardware that comes in, Hoyt is taking on a huge financial loss for what seemed to me like a relatively minor issue. However, I think this just further speaks to the character of the company and the people who run it. In the end, they didn’t really have to do this. But they did, and I think that’s pretty awesome.

Hoyt even offers a free tune up service for customers for the first year after purchase. I mean come on! The deference that Hoyt shows to the customer is what really sets them apart in this industry, and I hope as they continue to grow as they maintain their level of service.

Wrapping Up

So what do I think about the EL1?

I think if you appreciate rideability, details, durability, and good engineering, you will like this board. I think if you are prioritizing miles per dollar, you should look elsewhere. I think the EL1 is, in the end, a tantalizing niche offering.

But most of all, I think the EL1 is a stepping stone platform for Hoyt’s future. With the EL1, Hoyt’s basically done a year long engineering verification on their platform, figuring out all the kinks and feeling out their style. I’ve been privy to their roadmap after the EL1, and Hoyt’s definitely gearing up to make a huge splash.

And when they do, I’ll be there to cheer for them.

Backfire releases Backfire G3 Plus

Update: We’ve reviewed the G3 Plus, read our Full Review of Backfire G3 Plus here!

On 16th August 2019, Backfire releases a new line of electric skateboard, Backfire G3 Plus.

Priced at $999, Backfire G3 Plus ventures into the premium segment, a move that not many Chinese brands had attempted. From the teaser video and the details announced, G3 Plus actually wears that price tag well.

Just a quick glance at it and I think we will all agree that G3 Plus is a gorgeous looking board. The familiar black and gold color scheme, the new red plates and the build-in LED ambient light all comes together to give a really stylish look.

New Carbon Fiber Deck

Backfire G3 Plus move away from the maple galaxy deck that we were familiar with to a longer 39 inch(99cm) carbon fiber deck that promises lots of flex. This is also perhaps where the weight reduction came from, despite using in a bigger battery pack as compare to the G2T, Backfire G3 Plus is actually a little bit lighter at 16lb (7.3kg).

Bigger Battery with 12s configuration

Backfire G3 Plus is going with a very large pack of Samsung 21700 40T battery in 12s2p configuration. (346WH). From my experience with Meepo’s ER battery, Samsung 40T is pretty great, and this big pack on the G3 Plus promises good thing. However, not much production board had gone with the 12s setting as higher voltage might cause a higher components failure rate (if those component are not up to par), and it remains to see if a new Hobbywing ESC can handle this configuration.

New 12S Hobbywing ESC

The previous version of Hobbywing ESC could not handle 12S, and hence G3 Plus will debut with a new version of Hobbywing ESC that can do 12s.

On one hand, higher voltage is more efficient; on the other hand, as just mentioned: weak components(if there is any) + higher voltage = high failure rate. I don’t know any production board has done 12S and I am interested to see if Backfire G3 Plus is going to wear this configuration well.

Unfortunately, we will be seeing the return of the Turbo mode. For those who don’t know, G2T has a turbo mode that allows a temporary increase in power and top speed. It lasted for 30second and has a 30-second cooldown. As I said in our Backfire G2T review, I wasn’t a fan of the Turbo mode due to the inevitable jolt when the effect wears off – and my opinion hasn’t changed since then. I hope turbo mode will be implemented better on the G3 Plus, no big deal though, can always just don’t use it.

Stronger Hub Motor

I don’t know how much impact the upgrade from G2T’s 2X 350W hubs to G3 Plus’s 2 x 600W is going to have in term of riding experience, but bigger is better right? The wheels size option is now 85mm & 96mm as opposed to 83mm and 96mm. I expect lots of people switching the front wheels to Caguama now that it is 85mm by default, not that the 2mm different have stopped anyone anyways.

The back truck is now also Caliber II

Instead of just having a front Caliber II truck, Backfire G3 Plus brought Caliber II trucks to the back truck too.

Further, Faster, Lighter.

  • Range = 20-25miles (32-40km)
  • Top speed= 28.5mph (46kmh)
  • Weight = 16lb (7.3kg)

TL;DR

Backfire G3 Plus promises:
1) A lot of range without a lot of weight.
2) A lot of power without compromising the smoothness.
3) A refined look and an even more refined riding experience.

We are going to review it, and I would like to find out if:
1) Is this Carbon Fiber deck any fun to ride?
2) Is this 12S Hobbywing ESC going to hold up?
3) Is there an improvement in the Turbo mode?

Stay tuned!

It is now available for pre-order with a pre-order price of $899 ($100 off).
Click our affiliate discount link here and use ESKATEHQ during check out to receive $10 off.

Please be aware that pre-orders in the Eskate world are more often than not ends in delay. Shit happens, even for a seasoned brand like Backfire.

Only pre-order a product if you can afford the wait.

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.

Installation

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).

Lacroix releases Lacroix Nazare, Lonestar and Jaws

On 19th June, after weeks and weeks of teasing, Lacroix finally releases the details on the new Lacroix board, no, boards. Lacroix unrevealed three new products, Lacroix Jaws($2499), Lacroix Nazare ($3299) and Nazare Lonestar ($3999).

The original Lacroix Prototipo has been touted as the best premium production electric skateboard. Now that the Prototipo is no longer available, Lacroix Jaws took over the torch while the new pair of Nazare boards raises the bar even higher (the price too.)

You can visit the product page to appreciate the vision and inspiration on which these two beasts were created. However, as I am not as poetic, I’m just gonna walk you through the number.

Thank god, it’s not the one we seen on Reddit.

And of course, with insane price, come insane numbers.

The Nazares

The Nazare is housing a 1089wh,12s6p pack of Sanyo 20700B cells in it’s 35lbs (15.5Kg) body. The Nazare Lonestar weighs even heavier at 45lbs (20.5Kg) for it houses an even bigger 2178wh, 12S12P battery pack (also Sanyo 20700B cells).

Lacroix Nazare has a marketed range of 37miles (60km). On the other hand, Lonestar has so much range, 50 miles(80km), that the Flipsky VX1 remote would run out of battery before the board would, and that’s why Lacroix is going to send you two VX1 remote with the Lonestar. Pretty crazy when they put it this way.

Other than the battery, weight, and range, the other features seem to be similar between Nazare and N.Lonestar.

Here’s the run down:

  • New Deck that is still very wide and very flexible.
  • New trucks with RipTide powered bushing.
  • Dual 6389 – 190kv motor.
  • Enertion Focbox Unity
  • Max speed that is too high for them to disclose.
  • 8 inch Kenda tires
  • 2 x 2000 lumen LED removable front lights.

Range, Weight and Price are all literally off the chart.

The Jaws

The Jaws is the entry level Lacroix, if $2499 can be called as entry level.

It uses a smaller 726wh battery in 12S4P configuration, same Sanyo cell, and hence the range is all lower but still respectable 24miles (38km). Jaws is of course, lighter at 26lbs (11.5kg).

Another downgrade from the Nazare is the use of MBS Matrix 2 Pro truck instead of Lacroix Hypertrucks which can be upgraded by shelling out an extra $549 – which at that point ($3048), you might as well as buy the Nazare?

Oh, and Jaws don’t come with frontlights.

Jaws share the look of Nazare.

There is currently no real photo picture of the deck with grip tape on, you will have to email Lacroix team and ask why they don’t have that picture yet if you want to have a sneak peek of it. =D [email protected]

What do you think about the new Lacroix? Do they get your vote as the best premium electric skateboard? Are they worth your kidneys? Let us know!
Leave a comment below to get a chance to win a brand new Lacroix Nazare Lonestar I’m just kidding.

Check out the new Lacroix! Lacroix Nazare, Lacroix Nazare Lonestar.

The Mellow Drive Review: Gliding into a New Era for Eskating

When we talk about eskates, we hear about a lot of companies coming out of California, and China. We do not often think about Germany, a country where eskating is illegal, but with a rich history of technical innovation and precision engineering. One company has taken on the mission to apply the German mindset to eskating, and have created a product that is truly as refined and precise as one would expect.

The Mellow is an eskate notorious in the community for its high price. At $2,299.95, the Mellow Drive is one of the most expensive bolt-on kits that money can buy, but is it worth the high price tag? I spent some time commuting-on, racing, and generally abusing the heck out of my Mellow Drive to find the answer to that question.

First, let’s get the tech specs out of the way.

The Board

The Mellow Drive is an Eskate bolt-on kit that replaces the rear trucks of any skateboard with two 1000 Watt hub-driven motors, turning it into a fully-functional eskate. It boasts a top speed of 25 mph, in “pro mode”, with a range of 6 miles, or a top speed of 15 mph with a range of 9 miles in “eco” mode.

The kit features acceleration and regenerative braking controlled by a remote that is a bit different from your standard eskate controller.

Unlike controller “wheels” that you roll forwards or backwards with your thumb, the Mellow features a proprietary “sliding” action that takes some getting used to. In order to accelerate, you slide the top portion of the remote away from you, and to slow down, you slide it back towards you. The method of control does take some getting used to, and I have sometimes found myself crossing some wires in my brain and accelerating when I meant to start braking.

Needless to say, having the board perform the opposite action than that which the rider intends can get quite dangerous, so Mellow have instituted a top speed limitation of 15 mph as a safety measure on new drives until a user has logged 18 miles on the board as well as several other cool safety features:

“The Mellow Remote does not have a classic dead man’s switch but a set of other features in order to have increased safety even without the switch.
  1. Push Start. The mellow board will not start from a standing stop but the rider has to push to start in order to engage the motorsThis is critical to avoid the board shooting of by accident and either hurting other or getting damaged itself by shooting into rolling traffic.
  1. The “Run Away Blocker” monitors the acceleration within the first 5s of skating. This functionality monitors the wheel speed increase and decides whether there is a rider on the board or the board is running of alone. If there is no rider on the board the wheels rev up at a ways higher rate (read – the board shoots of). If this is detected then the board will beep twice and apply 10% breaking power. Enough to stop the board after 1-2m but not enough to knock of a rider. After 5s of riding the system is switched of so there is no interference while i.e. jumping off curbs and revving wheels due to that.
  2. Emergency braking. In case of a loss of BT-Connection between the remote controller and the drive (i.e. because the remote has not been charged in a while) the drive will run a emergency braking sequence by gradually applying the brakes. It starts with 10% and slowly goes up to 100% braking to bring the rider to a full stop. You can test this by switching off the remote while riding. After about 3s the drive will start braking automatically.”

Unorthodox design aside, the Mellow remote SCREAMS quality. With a matte finished front that features bright LED’s that indicate your board battery level and riding mode, it is easy to quickly take in relevant information about your board in an instant, in even the brightest conditions. The back of the remote features grippy rubber, which is particularly useful for retaining the fine control needed to execute precision remote-sliding maneuvers at high speeds or on bumpy terrain.

The one thing that every eskate remote should have that the Mellow remote lacks in its simplicity, is a deadman’s switch. I always tell myself, “you are an experienced eskater, you won’t have THIS board go running off on you.” which is generally followed by said board zooming off from under my foot at max speed into traffic, while I watch, dismayed. The Mellow was no exception in this regard, and is powerful enough to easily jump right out from under your foot if you apply pressure to the remote accidentally (as I did while skating with some stuff in my hands.)

I have noticed a slight sticking on my remote that does not allow it to return to perfect “neutral” in the center position, but this may be due to the fact that I have fallen onto the remote before, and scuffed up the plastic. This is a very minor issue that is not dangerous and rarely impacts my ride, but it is worth mentioning.

While we are on the topic of quality, MELLOW. HECKING. SLAYS. IT. Everything from the box it comes in:

(look at this beautiful box and board! It is even designed with steps in mind to guide you through the unboxing process.)

To the online learning support:

And the literature included:

In all of these regards, Mellow goes entirely above-and-beyond anything else that I have seen in the eskate scene. If there is one thing that I hope other eskate companies take away from Mellow, it is this extremely high standard for quality parts, online support, and usability.

One aspect of Mellow as a company that I LOVE, is their commitment to skater education. Even if you don’t own a Mellow, I would urge all skaters to check out their “Mellow School” videos that teach valuable skills that any eskater should know, particularly:

Emergency Stopping

Eboard Stances

Safety Tips

These videos are created by real skaters and highlight a lot of the lessons that many eskaters have had to learn the hard way (they even slide a board under-power in the emergency stopping video in a pretty gnarly slow-mo shot).

This attention to detail is also reflected in the drive itself. The battery feels solid, well-designed and easy to snap into and out of the drive. It and the mount are encased in rubber and dampening foam which help solve the issue that most bolt-on kits have, incessant amounts of rattling. Another cool feature on the Mellow battery is a small port that allows you to use the battery as a power-bank for your devices. I haven’t utilized this particular feature yet, but it seems like a great way to charge a remote or cellphone in a pinch!

(Pardon my dirt, had to test the water-proofing…)

All cables on the Mellow are recessed into the a specially-designed channel in the trucks that gives the drive a very clean look and ensures your cables wont get caught or rub on anything.

The Mellow is actually pretty indistinguishable from a regular skateboard if you overlook the small black box that is mounted on the bottom. Add this to the fact that the drive itself is IP65 waterproof, which means it is splash, water jet and dust resistant, and you have yourself a very robust commuter! I tested the waterproofing claims in-depth (literally deep puddles) and in the rain and found them to perform as-advertised.

Operation is easy. Simply snap the battery into the drive, click its big button, turn on your remote, and you are good to go. You can even easily snap in another battery in seconds once your first one runs out.

(my typical commute involved bringing my two batteries with me and snapping another one in after 5ish miles of aggressive riding had drained the first one)

The board is so user-friendly, it’s crazy. The closest analogy that I can think of is; its like if Apple designed an eskate, it’s so simple to use that a monkey could ride it. To test this theory, I lent the board to my roommate without any explanation and she found she was able to ride it in minutes without any prior skateboarding experience, besides one hiccough that also got me, the rolling start.

Unlike other eskates, the Mellow will not work from a complete stop. It has been designed to only allow a user to accelerate after the board has already begun rolling. I will admit, I thought that I had a defective unit for about an hour until I did my research and discovered that the Mellow requires you to push a couple of times before you can engage the drive.

This serves two purposes:

  1. It eliminates jerky starts where a user must apply a lot of power with their remote in order to overcome the moment of inertia for their mass. These starts rarely look graceful on other boards and, let’s be honest, you should all be pushing into your accelerations anyway. I understand that we, as eskaters, are not the biggest fans of physical work, but we can all afford to push once or twice at the start of our journey.
  2. It saves a lot of power, thus extending range. As I mentioned above, a lot of engine torque must be applied to overcome the moment of inertia for an eskater and their board. All it takes to save a large amount of that energy, is to give the board small push and start rolling before you apply throttle.

Since I have started testing the Mellow, I have incorporated rolling starts into my eskate routine with ALL of my boards, and I have found that my quality of life, and my range have increased as a result. Enough about the specs and the tech, let’s talk about…

THE RIDE

When they named the Mellow, they did a good job. The first thing you notice when you apply the remote and begin sliding forwards is just how damn SMOOTH it is. Acceleration and braking don’t come on suddenly or surge, and feel almost uncanny in the way that they carry you forwards, almost like a gust of wind or wave that carries you along. It also helps that the board is very, very quiet. After riding the Mellow for a couple of months and jumping on my Boosted, I was surprised by the loud whine of the belts and turning of the motors. The Mellow, by contrast, is almost silent…almost too silent in fact. I often find myself startling people as I pass them, a problem that I never had on my Boosted.

When the board is new, it is limited to a measly 15 mph which isn’t very exciting. Once the full, 25 mph top speed is unlocked, the Mellow really starts to spread its wings. I have a lot of boards in my stable currently, but when I have to get somewhere in a hurry, I always grab the Mellow. For my typical, pothole ridden, bumpy, city-riding commute, 25 mph is plenty of speed, any more than that begins to feel unsafe. The torque is great as well, you can tell that the Mellow team put a lot of work into building the torque curve to utilize the power of the two 1000 Watt motors without making the ride jerky and dangerous.

One area that I notice the Mellow Drive to be lacking in is the braking department. Though the Mellow boasts having 2 brakes per wheel that help double-up on braking power, I have noticed that the ECU is a little TOO protective of over-braking, which often results in decreased braking ability at lower speeds. This problem doesn’t seem inherently dangerous, as the board provides great braking power at higher speeds, but at lower speeds, I always find myself rolling a few more feet than I expected when coming to a full stop.

I can totally understand that Mellow does not want you to be able to apply the brakes hard enough to throw yourself from the board, but at current levels, it just doesn’t provide enough braking when slowing to a stop. As a former DH racer, this is not a problem, I can slow myself down just fine with a footbrake, but eskate-exclusive riders, might find this a little annoying.

I should mention at this point, that I ran the Mellow in as stock of a setup as I could, including their strangely-named “Cruiser” deck which is actually shaped like a shorter top-mount DH deck more than anything else. Let me tell you, this is close to the ideal eskate deck as I have ever seen. It is short enough to store easily and be maneuverable. It has cutouts for big wheels, a very light and strong construction, and a little bit of a tail for jumping off of curbs and pivoting on those tighter turns.

The “Mellow” brand double-barrel bushings that come with the trucks were also surprisingly springy and close-enough to an ideal rebound that I didn’t have to swap them out with some Venom barrels (something that I do with almost every eskate that I ride). The setup feels turny and responsive right out of the box with great rebound that makes for really good carving. This is yet another testament to Mellow’s commitment to a great skating experience, over just creating another high-powered eskate and bolting it to a deck.

The two 1000 Watt hub-driven motors provide ample power (very similar to the feeling of my Boosted V2) and the 80 mm wheels are a good size for eating up bumps and cracks in the sidewalk on your ride (especially needed with the reduced urethane for the hub-driven motors in the rear). I was even lucky enough to pick up some sizable debris from a construction site on my way to work!

(A couple seconds with handy-dandy pliers and I was good to go again)

The W concave on the deck is also a god-send, and something you rarely see in a sea of flat and bouncy Loaded Vanguard copycats. I like to feel the road under me when I ride, and want to be locked in on my heels and toes with a comfortable concave, not be bouncing around on what essentially amounts to flat trampoline covered in grip-tape.  Hell, if the concave on the Mellow deck was a little more aggressive, I might even consider racing this thing as a regular skateboard.

Speaking of regular skateboarding, Mellow offers a unique riding mode called “Endless” that does something that I have never seen another electric do, it mimics real skateboarding.

The way it does this is by allowing the rider to manually push the board up to a given speed, and then simply continuing that momentum with the hub driven motors. It sounds great in practice and is advertised as a way to get a “real skating” feeling while extending battery life. I come from a skate background, so I was very excited to try out this feature, but quickly came to the realization pushing off and continuing the be pushed forwards at a constant speed feels very far from “natural.” Sadly, you still have to have your remote with you to slow down and stop, but this mode is great for extending your battery life, and I found myself making use of it several times to limp home with <5% battery life.

What I would LOVE see is a mode that uses the hub motors to subtly add a little more “glide” to each push, extending the power that a rider is able to put down, and allowing for a little bit of a motor-assisted skate session without requiring use of a remote. 

In Conclusion:

The Mellow Drive is the best bolt-on kit that we have tested. If you have deep pockets, and are not into soldering wires and programming your own ECU’s, but still want an eboard that can mount on any household deck, this is unquestionably the right choice for you.

Additionally, Mellow is making great advances in the fields of eskate tech, ease-of-use, and putting the rider experience first. Their products truly reflect a love of skating and a consideration for skaters that goes beyond what we see from the rest of the industry. In a world where Chinese manufacturers are constantly copying each other’s designs and pumping out boards with bigger and bigger motors bolted onto shitty, flat decks with trucks that fall apart during real use, it is important to recognize that Mellow is focusing on innovating eskating as an experience.

We can buy products from the Meepo and Wowgo’s of the world for a hundred years, and I can almost guarantee that the eskate landscape will look very similar in that time (albeit, extremely cheap if they keep up their current trends) but it takes companies like Mellow to actually bring new features, technology, and ideas into reality that will truly innovate the eskate industry. (after 2 months of abuse, this is what a Mellow looks like. It handled light rain, dirty roads, and Boston traffic and came out looking none the worse for wear)

I hope you liked this month’s long-term review. If you have any questions about the Mellow or have an idea for a product that you would like us to review or compare next, feel free to email me at [email protected]

Until next time, stay rolling, stay upright, stay stoked!