The very new and vastly improved V3 Spikelight is almost here so I thought I’d better do a quick write-up on the old V2. This will just be a review of the stats and show how the second of my headlights motivated certain aspects of the third.
Here she is in all her glory: The V2 Spikelight!
Perhaps not the prettiest girl in school, but plenty of fun. This one has been in constant use for about 18 months now. Swimming, paddling, running, cycling – it certainly hasn’t been sitting on the shelf. No makeup or digital retouching here, this is what real headlights look like. Don’t look too close at the headband (it started out white).
The V2 had 3 beams: Red, Flood and Spot.
The red was an ultra-low, last for weeks, night-vision saving sort of light, powered by a single 5mm red LED. It also doubled as a battery indicator.
The flood had a bit more beef to it. 2 Cree XP-Gs giving a broad beam with 4 selectable power levels. The dimmest was about 50 lumens and would last for days. Then came a 100 lumen level which would last a bit more than 1 day. This was a very generous walking light and the one that most of us used. Finally the 300 and 500 lumen levels which only lasted about 6 and 3 hours respectively. You used these when you only had a short race or if you wanted to sprint through the bush and confidently jump over watercourses.
I liked the flood in the V2. It felt comfortable. I got use out of all the modes, though I would have liked one really low mode. Maybe 5-10 lumens just for up-close work. The V3 flood is pretty similar, but it’s now a bit wider (smoother, with less of a distinct hotspot) and it’s got a warmer tint for better colour rendition. The warmer tint makes for a happier, more daylight-like glow, as opposed to the sharp, (almost blue) white that makes you feel like you’re in a hospital under the bright but harsh fluorescent lights.
Of course nobody really cares about the flood, because plenty of headlights can do flood. The crowd-pleaser was and still is the Spot beam. Only one mode and it only lasted 4 hours, but it could throw a beam 200m across a paddock or down a road. This is what the Spikelight was all about and the V2 kept up the tradition.
All the beams had partial regulation. They’d stay about the same brightness until the battery was starting to go flat. Then they’d drop down to a lower power level to save energy. When the battery was almost dead, the microchip would not let you turn on the brightest levels at all. This was a safety feature we put in to make sure you always got home with some light. Even on an almost flat battery, this super-low mode could go all night.
Two windows and a button on top. One window for the red LED, the floodlights and you could even see the V2′s microchip brain if you looked close enough. The second window was totally dedicated to the spot beam. Maybe leaving the guts of the light visible was a bit crude, but nobody seemed to mind. All I think of when I see the circuit through the window, is the 20+ manual solder joints that went into every lighthead. In the V3 I got it down to 2 and this makes me very happy!.
Ok, I stuffed up here. After 18 months of complaints from about half of my customers, I’m willing to concede that maybe I did something wrong here.
The V1 was really simple. You started in the off position and every click brought you to a new mode (2 floods and 1 spot) then it went off again and you were back at the start. It worked, but I thought we could do better. When I’m racing, I want to go straight from flood to spot and then back to flood without needing to cycle through all the modes I don’t want. So we made a ‘Competition Setting’ with only 2 modes (spot and flood) and all you did was a single click to get between them. It worked great!
Of course then you need a way to turn it off, so for that you hold the button for 2 seconds. To turn it back on you hold it for one second. But maybe you want a different flood level? In that case you’d need to double click, then cycle to the right flood mode and double click again to get back to the competition setting. Then we have various strobes, SOS beacons and battery indicators accessible by other patterns of long and short clicks. Easy right? I drew flow charts and diagrams to explain it all and gave many tutorials late at night but about half of my customers never really got it. Some even opted to go back to the V1 because it was simpler.
It wasn’t a total failure. If you got the hang of it, it was great. You could go straight to the mode you wanted at any time without any messing about. Sadly, the people who didn’t get it, spent their time in the wrong mode with no idea how to get back to what they wanted.
So I’ve learnt my lesson! The V3 will come with many different User Interfaces to choose from so everyone can be happy. If you change your mind after a few months, then that’s ok too because it’ll also be re-programmable. This will be a little nerdy for some, but if you’ve got a computer with a USB port, you’ll be able to plug into the headlight and download any modes you want. More on that later…
Identical to the V1 after the free upgrade. 2 rechargeable Lithium Ion cells in parallel. At 3.7V and 4400mAh capacity, this was an excellent energy source. The only downside was that you had to buy them from me. This is the way with all high-end headlamps and bike lamps. If you want a second battery then you have to go back to the manufacturer and pay whatever they ask, but it doesn’t need to be like that. So the V3 will use a slightly more standard battery. It’s called the ’18650′. It’s still a high energy-density rechargeable lithium based cell, but it can be bought from thousands of online retailers all over the world. The prices start at about $2 each and go all the way up to $25. Naturally you get what you pay for. More details on these cells later. The bottom line is that the V2 had a special battery that had to be bought from me, but for the V3 you can buy spare batteries from anywhere you like.
Wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t perfect either. If you’re used to little 60g headlights then this feels like a brick on your forwhead. I grew up with the Petzl Zoom so this feels light and stable. The lighthead was over 110g so it did bounce a little when running and the bracket holding the lighthead was just a bent bit of stainless steel. The only comfort feature was a bit of foam. So the V3 lighthead has gone on a diet and is now only 58g and the bracket is a forehead-shaped piece of plastic that doesn’t look quite so industrial.
Went quicker than expected. The first ones rolled out in June 2010 and they were all gone by early 2011. I had plans to advertise on the website but never got a chance. Some still made it to Europe, North America, New Zealand, Brisbane and even Sydney, but most were sold here in Western Australia.
The main reason I didn’t continue with this model, was the 5+ hours that went into every unit. At one point I had to call in two friends (and a wife but she worked for free) to help me catch up with orders. It was a good torch, but far too much work to be a commercial success. I started to see why all the headlights in the camping stores were so simple and underpowered. It was pretty tempting to sacrifice performance for a product that was easier and cheaper to make but that would put me in the same market as all the others. So after a year of prototyping, I think I’ve now got a product that can both outperform the V2 and be assembled quick enough to make it onto the shelf.
If you’ve got a V2 or just have an opinion then I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to make a comment below. Feedback is what really develops these headlights.
Stay tuned for the V3!