This post will review what we've been up to since our June 1st blog post. Since then we have:
Shipped Beta Boards
Received Valuable Feedback
Continued Refining the ZBoard's Firmware
Completed Additional Internal Testing
Added New Firmware Modes
The items above have pushed back the production schedule set out in the June 1st post and in this post we lay out the second round of Beta Testing, along with the new production timeline.
In early June we shipped Beta Boards to customers all over California. The main goal of this process was to hear feedback on the board's tuning. To get a wide breadth of opinions, we sent boards to testers that were a mix of experienced ZBoarders and total newbies.
Some riders have shared their feedback on our IGG wall, while other have communicated their thoughts privately. I've included some of their thoughts below and split them into positive and negative groups:
The Positive Feedback:
The added torque and speed are a lot of fun:
"I was surprised by the torque... I was really surprised about how much more powerful it is than my current ZBoard SF Edition."
"Loving the board as the speed and power is incredible!"
"Once I got going I was impressed how fast the damn thing is, I really love the speed!"
"IT IS FAST. Probably faster than I would ever want to go on a skateboard. But equally fun."
"At the higher speeds, it felt really great. The acceleration is very smooth and I was enjoying myself tremendously."
The ZBoard 2 looks and feels great:
"Beautiful. Light weight and streamline. Lights and on/off are great."
"The board is gorgeous. You guys really nailed the aesthetics. The thinner battery is awesome. I can’t believe how light it is!"
"This thing is slick and will be worth the wait to get it right"
People like the added maneuverability:
"Turning radius has greatly improved"
Elements Needing Improvement:
Acceleration from a stop is too abrupt and sensitive (which can lead to jerkiness):
"The only time I'm feeling jerking on acceleration is when I'm starting from a stopped position or going very slow... It seems that there is a burst of acceleration from a stopped or very slow speed.
"When you press the footpad on the Z1 it's a gradual climb to get you up to speed. The Z2 is more of a jolt and now you're ripping down the street full speed."
Acceleration from coast is too abrupt as well:
"I don't mind the top speed - its that instant torque that surprises you."
"for me - the instant torque wasn't so much a problem when you are starting from a standstill - it was more when you are already coasting fast and then reapply the accelerator - thats when it was like WOOOOH BUDDY!!!"
Some people thought that braking was not strong enough:
"Stopping time/distance seems greatly increased with the beta board"
Others thought braking was too strong:
"Braking is a bit harsh"
Stock bushing tightness was too loose:
"Trucks seems loose, she gets a bit squirrelly at higher speeds."
"I ran into a problem where if I lost balance the board would go into an intense wobble"
We took time to digest and deconstruct each piece of feedback. While there were many takeaways, we determined that one of the most important things that we learned is that different types of riders have different preferences. Because of this, we decided to implement multiple tuning modes, as explained later in this post.
Since shipping out the Beta Boards we've made dozens of code changes and tested hundreds of parameter sets. For the Beta riders that have sent their boards back in, we've already returned these boards with these changes included.
We're approaching tuning with a few new strategies recently:
1) Deep analysis of controller readouts
Using a potentiometer when testing on the bench, we're able to give the controller very precise and very consistent inputs. This can be a bit difficult to do when riding with the heavy vibration. We've been closely analyzing these readouts and identifying inconsistencies, which lead to jerkiness.
2) Reading while riding
Though it may look funny, we've actually been reading the input and outputs of the controller while riding. This wouldn't be a lot of fun at 20 mph but is actually very useful under 5 mph, so it gives us great data to help smooth out initial throttle engagement.
3) Methodically comparing and contrasting parameter sets
We've developed a testing framework where we have two boards with different tunes that we can compare and contrast. We tell these tunes apart by colors - the latest tune is always on the orange wheel board, which is shown in the video below, while we keep the base tune on the blue wheel board.
We've been testing each set of tuning parameters first on the bench, then on the flat smooth floor of our warehouse, and then eventually on steep hills on hot, 95*+ degree days. This video features footage from testing along with an explanation of a new feature - how to change tuning modes.
New Feature: Multiple Tuning Modes
The production ZBoard will ship with three modes: Beginner, Medium, and Expert. The exact details of each are still being worked out, but for we have set them to:
Beginner: Reduced acceleration and braking, no hills, 11 mph top speed
Medium: Medium acceleration and braking, medium hills, 18 mph top speed
Expert: Fast acceleration and braking, steep hills, 20 mph top speed
To swap between the options, check out the video above from 1:25.
Step 1: With the board turned "OFF" and situated at a 30 degree or steeper angle, press and hold the power button for 7 seconds. The LED ring will eventually begin blinking red/blue/red
Step 2: Press the front footpad to switch modes.
Step 3: Press the front footpad again to cycle through the three tuning modes.
Step 4: Lay the board down on its wheels to finalize the tune.
These modes make the Z2 both accessible for beginners to learn on while also being fun for experts to rip on.
The expert mode is currently near complete as it is very similar to what was sent in the Beta round of ZBoards. The Medium and Beginner modes are close to completion and are our focus in the coming week.
Note: In the video above we only show two of these three modes. Also, we have not yet finalized the blinking patterns for each mode.
Setting to speed limit to 10mph has been working well.
Expanding to Beta Round 2
The feedback we've been receiving from beta riders has led to massive strides on the ZBoard's tuning. The more feedback we can get, the better. Also, we know that Summer is here and some of you who are experienced ZBoarders want to be riding now, during this peak season.
With this in mind we are expanding our Beta Testing to Beta Round 2 for anyone who fills the following requirements:
1) Lives in the United States.
Unfortunately the large shipping costs and duties for international shipping restrict us from easily being able to ship the board back and forth across borders.
2) Agrees to ride their board a lot!
One of the keys of this is beta riders actually riding. If you're going to be on vacation all Summer then the expanded Beta Round 2 probably isn't for you.
3) Agrees to ship their board back once Beta Round 2 is over.
Once we've heard feedback and final tweaks are complete, we'll need to bring your board back into the shop to flash the production firmware. Once flashed, we'll be sending the board back to you as a production unit.
4) Pays for the additional round trip shipping costs. You will be given store credit for this amount.
Unfortunately, shipping is expensive, so this is necessary in order to offer this expansion of beta testing.
Of the three necessary legs of shipping, so far you've paid us for one leg. If you're willing to pay for these round trip shipping costs and you join Beta Round 2, you'll receive a gift card* that you'll be able to spend in the future on upgrades, apparel, or a second board in the future.
This round trip shipping will depend on where you are in the US. If you are in California, the additional cost will be ~$80. If you are in Maine, it will be close to $140.
*We will give you a gift card equal to the amount of the shipping that you pay.
We recognize that this isn't an ideal scenario, but we've created this option for those of you that fit the four requirements above, are really looking to ride your board soon, and want to be a major part of the feedback process.
We expect the Beta Round 2 to consist of four weeks of testing before we'll request that you send your board back. If you opt to be a part of Beta Round 2, then sign up here (Note, the Beta Round 2 is now closed). In the week after you sign up we will reach out to you via email to give you further instructions on how to pay the additional shipping to receive your Beta Round 2 board, along with further details on the testing program.
Beta Round 2 / Production Schedule:
July 18: Beta Round 2 boards begin to ship to riders who fit the conditions above.
Aug 5: Beta Round 2 is complete, Beta Round 2 Riders send their boards back in for final tuning flash. If you are located far from California and you are enjoying your board with the Beta Round 2 tuning, then you can keep it for longer.
Aug 8: Production boards begin shipping to domestic customers.
8/13 Note - These timeline are now out of date. See our August blog post for more accurate information.
Until we know how many people sign up for Beta Round 2 we can't exactly project how quickly we'll be able to ramp up production in August. That said, we expect to have all domestic orders shipped by the end of August.
Note: If you'd like to receive only the production board, and not be part of Beta Round 2, then there is nothing that you need to do.
Kaleb has emailed each domestic Indiegogo customer regarding your order. If you are a domestic Indiegogo customer and have not yet received your email, please send us an email to info at zboardshop dot com.
Note - if you ordered through our website then you will not receive this email, as is simply instructs IGG customers how to complete their order through the site.
At this time we are still finalizing our International shipping plans as we've been head down focused on finalizing the tuning. Once we've finalized them we'll begin reaching out over email.
From the Founders:
Getting to share the Z2 with the small batch of Beta Round 1 riders truly felt amazing. We've put years of work into these boards and now we're excited to share them with a larger audience. We can't wait to receive more feedback to help us make the Z2 the best board it can be.
We know the delays have been a major drag and we're incredibly grateful for your continued patience and support.