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 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:
- 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 motors. This is critical to avoid the board shooting of by accident and either hurting other or getting damaged itself by shooting into rolling traffic.
- 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.
- 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:
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:
- 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.
- 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…
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.
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!