Hands-on: Hammerhead’s new Karoo GPS Bike Computer


It’s been a few years since startup Hammerhead announced their H1 navigational bike accessory.  It was sorta like a fish finder for navigation while on a bike. Rather than be a full bike computer head unit, it mostly offered you a light bar system telling you which way to turn on a route.

But that all changes as of today. The company has announced their entrance into the full-blown GPS bike computer market with the Hammerhead Karoo.  This new head unit will offer complete turn by turn mapping navigation, Strava integration, coaching, and dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart sensor compatibility.  All of which is based on Android with a 10hr battery life, 3G cellular connectivity, and is IP67 waterproof.

I got a chance to poke at the unit (sans-riding) while at Sea Otter two weeks ago – giving you a bit of a glimpse of an early beta unit.  The company has stressed to me though that a lot has shifted since I saw it just that short time ago.  Of course, that’s somewhat normal at this stage in the product development life cycle.

Video Overview:

If you’re looking for the quick and dirty overview of the Karoo, dive into my hands-on video below, which covers all the basics of using the system from setting up sensors to configuring data pages and routing.  Though, the video does lack a proper intro, as there was a disconnect between my brain and the recording button on my camera.  No worries, I promise you’ll still enjoy it!

With that, let’s dive into the tech details within the textual landscape of this post…YouTube be damned!

The Tech:

When you first pick up the Karoo (pronounced ka as in ‘Cut’ and then ‘roo’, like Kangaroo), it’ll sorta feel like a plump Edge 820.  Kinda in the ballpark of the Polar V650. Nothing wrong with that per se, as it’s still shorter than an Edge 1000 would be.  Its current weight is 168g, though that may decrease between now and production.  It’s sized at 98x72x28mm. As for the name? Karoo is named after the desert in South Africa where the founders grew up riding bikes.

On the bottom, they’ve gone with a quarter-turn mount that’s compatible with any Garmin Edge series mount out there.  That’s great news for consumers as it means you’ve got tons of 3rd party mount options, especially now that bikes have started to integrate that into handlebar setups.


However, if you don’t have a quarter-turn mount already, then you’re in luck as they’re bundling it with a Barfly out-front mount – which is a nice little partnership.

The unit sports a Gorilla Glass cover glass, which they claim reduces glare.  And no doubt, it definitely did for me toying with it and its 3.5” 640x480px display.  On the left side, you’ve got two buttons for better glove-like control, followed by two on the right side as well. The micro-USB port sits on the bottom for charging.


You’ll start off at the dashboard, which allows you to enter different functions – such as configuring sensors, navigating somewhere, or general riding.  Note that some of the Android button layouts appear within my photos (triangle/circle/square), since this development unit hasn’t had those hidden/disabled yet.


As noted earlier, the unit is capable of pairing to both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors (power, speed, cadence, shifting, muscle oxygen, trainer control, and heart rate).


When it comes to setting up data pages, those can be done here as well.  You can slide through and pick most of the majors I’ve seen on other units, though I didn’t take a complete inventory of every data field since it’s still early beta.

DSC_1332 DSC_1333

You can setup multiple bike/activity profiles (which in this case was utilized for multiple demo users), allowing you to save those data field configurations in the same way you would on a Garmin Edge device.


Here’s how one of those more complex data pages I setup looks:


Of course, the real meat of the Hammerhead solution is their navigation platform.  After all, it’s the basis behind the H1 device they’ve been selling to date.  The end-state goal here is like most other bike computers in that you can route wherever you’d like, be it from saved files (i.e. GPX/FIT) or platforms (Strava/MapMyRide/TrailForks)…but also just by tapping where you want to go on the screen.


It’s amazingly easy (as seen in detail in my video above), and really just so much more efficient than manually trying to do it via long addresses on a Garmin Edge unit.  It’s basically just like you’d do on your smartphone within any number of maps apps.  You can pinch and zoom your way around the screen and then add a location to add to your route.  You can super-quickly create a looped route that might have taken forever on other platforms.

DSC_1319 DSC_1321

The maps will be cached on the production unit, though for the development unit we had to rely on cellular connectivity.  But even in that case, it wasn’t too bad once we found signal.  Again the next version of beta units will have caching enabled.  The maps can also be downloaded using WiFi within the unit.

You’ll notice within that data is the elevation profile as well, which is automatically generated on the fly – pretty cool.  In the below case you’ll see the elevation profile for the two pins I dropped on the map (hence why address isn’t shown). That simple.


You can save these routes or pull up existing ones pretty easily from the home screen.

I think the biggest takeaway I had from toying with the Karoo is just how darn quick and snappy everything is.  It all just feels instant, there’s virtually no lag (except when my fat fingers miss a button and I have to do it again).  Heck, it even feels faster than my iPhone 6.  Though, my iPhone 6 seems to be in need of being taken behind the shed and being put out of its misery.  But you get my point.

The company has a number of features planned for post-release, including areas such as structured workouts and a full ‘live’ coaching system to provide real-time feedback during a ride.  But we’ll need till ‘late 2017’ to see how those all shape up.

Here’s a quick gallery of three pages of tech specs I was provided (click to expand):

TechSpecs1 TechSpecs2 TechSpecs3

Oh – and one final tidbit for fun? They just acquired the Garmin Connect IQ App Dynamic Watch (aka dwMap) and brought on its founder – Marcus Needham to the team.  That’s a pretty massive win, especially days after it just won Garmin’s Connect IQ developer award for best wearable app.

Pricing & Availability:


Next is the tricky part – at present the company hasn’t actually released pricing information yet.  Though they have decided on an August 2017 shipping timeframe.  Starting with evaluating that – I’d say that as of two weeks ago, I’d consider August optimistic.  Not unachievable though, given the company is already in the marketplace with bike tech products and understands the navigation side well.  So they’re essentially repackaging/leveraging their existing product for that piece.  My bet though is that we’ll see it ship closer to late September or so around Interbike.  Just my gut feeling looking at many products and where companies stand.

Then we’ve got pricing.  We don’t know where they are – but they’ll be battling what are basically two extremes.  On one hand you have something like the Wahoo ELEMNT (non-BOLT), which is an incredibly capable unit with mapping and such and many other features the Karoo won’t have.  That sits at $329  The ELEMNT lacks the pretty display, more detailed maps and full routing of the Karoo.  It also lacks the 3G cellular connectivity.  But it makes up for it in many other areas like better sensor support, integrated trainer control already, Strava Live Segments and numerous other smaller features that Wahoo has had to work through over a much longer timeframe.

At the other extreme you have something like the Edge 1000, which sits at $499.  It’d be easy to assume (as Acer did) that one’s product with a prettier display is worth that higher price, but one would be mistaken.  The simple reality is that the Edge 1000 can command the price it gets not so much because of the mapping, but because of all the other things it does.  It’s a beast in terms of functionality, even if most consumers never use all of it.  Everyone’s 1% setting never used is another person’s most important thing.

So my thinking is this would sell well in the same price range as the ELEMNT ($329…maybe $349 at most).  I feel we’re going to continue to see more and more competition in the bike computer market over the course of the year, and it’s going to be really important for new entrants to understand they have to undercut leaders on price where they lack features and brand reputation/history (like Wahoo themselves did with the BOLT at $249 – which has sold exceptionally well in the last two months since announcement…compared to the original ELEMNT, which had a tougher go at $329 in a larger size).

Still, as I always note – it’s great to have competition no matter the price.  It makes incumbents work harder, all of which benefits the consumer.  Plus, since we don’t know the price yet, we could find the Karoo being priced very competitively (i.e. $299 would be a solid blow to others).  We’ll just have to see.

In the meantime, you can hit up their e-mail list to get details and purchasing abilities once they’re ready to announce pricing and take orders.  All of which, of course, should be before August.

With that – thanks for reading!  I’m looking forward to getting hands-on another beta device down the road, in between now and release.  So stay tuned for that!

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  1. Mike Robinson

    If is definitely good to have more competition in this space.

    It will be interesting to see how the Karoo performs with battery life and screen legibility.

    It was screen legibility that swung me in favour of the Wahoo ELEMNT over Garmins as I found the high contrast Wahoo B&W screen simply more legible than a Garmin colour screen, particularly in bright sunlight.

    • Thomas

      Very fair point. I’m currently using a phone with OruxMaps. Living in Italy, screen brightness is potentially an issue, but the phone I’m using has an auto-adjust setting for screen brightness, and I’ve never had an issue reading the maps or most other data (I have difficulties with the elevation profile, because the color choice is not good). Reason being that the maps themselves (OpenAndroMaps) use a very legible color scheme – something I find Garmin units can improve on.

  2. Thomas

    Had a quick look at their website after reading your entry. Might be worth noting that you can get an experience of the product by playing around with their free Android/iPhone app.

    Very excited to see something like this appear. For me, the ability to make emergency phone calls (maybe even to use an inbuilt browser to quickly check out some route description) would turn it from great to amazing, because that would allow me to just leave the phone at home (in which case, I wouldn’t bother about the weight anymore).

    • Hey Thomas

      Yes, our app will give you a sense of our routing experience, we believe it to be pretty unique in a standalone unit.

      We have a browser in the Karoo, allowing you to do whatever you need to do online. We built Karoo to give the best standalone experience on the bike. We want you to be able to ignore your phone and ride!

      We are currently working with our testing team on making an emergency tracker / call function. We certainly can do this technically, we just want to make sure that it is solid before advertising it. We will announce a lot of exciting features in the months ahead.

    • Thomas

      Thanks. I tried to leave a comment also on your Facebook page, but somehow that one got lost. Browser is great, call function is great. The app looks beautiful, but while I like its visual appearance, that’s also one criticism I wanted to voice: Beautiful maps (most often achieved by using a rather monochromatic color scheme) are often not very useful for on-the-fly navigation, and I find that problematic also about your map. It’s visually stunning, but I find myself lost.

      I’d advise to have a look at the Elevate scheme of OpenAndroMaps (via OruxMaps or LocusMaps). That’s a wonderful map that out on the road still allows me to distinguish between roads of different traffic intensity, to identify small roads with asphalt surface, understand different types of gravel surface (important for MTB users: it is just a foot path or a gravel road?), and to avoid express ways (those are not permitted for cyclists, but they are not highways, and in your map appear as just a wide white road). OpenAndroMaps also has a different approach to plotting bike lanes, which I find more useful than most OpenStreetMap applications (including Strava’s map). I’d highly recommend to check them out (since they are very detailed while at the same time not feeling cluttered), and to consider a feature which allows users to apply a customized theme to the map data itself.

      What’s more, since we’re talking about desirable features: OruxMaps has recently introduced a feature which changes the color on the track based on the slope. Hence, on the map I immediately see how steep it is, and where the next peak of elevation is. Love it.

    • Hey Thomas – some great ideas here.
      We really appreciate the input!

      We have spent 3 years working on maps and nav and are going to put up some more detail here later today on what this will look like on Karoo.

    • Joe

      Hopefully does not suck as badly as your first product. That was a terrible waste of money. I’ll stick to Garmin.

  3. Jim Flesch

    Any idea when the 1000 will be refreshed or replaced?

    • Fred

      It will be replaced!

    • Once said replacement is announced. ;)

      Likely on a Tuesday, but sometimes a Wednesday or Thursday. Never a Friday or Monday…unless it coincides with the start of a trade event. Always 7AM US EST, unless it’s timed to a industry presentation or event that opens in Europe or Asia.

    • Jeff Forrest

      I’m also very interested in a 1000 replacement.

      I wonder how much has changed in the 3 years since it was originally released, in terms of both hardware and software. Be cool to see a state of the nation post on how fitness technology has improved over the past few years. We tend to see when a new iPhone is released that the soc is twice as fast or whatever, but I’ve never seen that or any teardowns for fitness equipment. Be really cool to know what socs are being used in these devices. The review states this is really quick, and I know the edge 820 was called out as being glacially slow in some cases (route finding mostly). I’d love to know if it’s primarily code optimisation or the hardware that makes the most difference.

  4. Fred Quality Check

    I like the used Garmin mount indeed!

  5. Keith Wakeham

    Love if you could comment on the screen some more. As pointed out, it looks impressive compared to other colour screens.

    – Is it transflective or just very bright?
    – Is there any trickery on the images / video or is the screen this good?

    • Hey Keith,

      The screen is has a few technologies in it. It is a high resolution transflective screen that we sourced from Military products. We then put that under a matte Gorilla Glass, reducing glare and making it as responsive as your smartphone. It is very power efficient. It can be very bright, but also works well with backlight off.

      Our software is tuned to ignore sweat and water on the screen. We also have buttons on the unit to allow for easy operation in rough weather and conditions.

    • No trickery in my images (I simply adjust lighting in the photos to make all photos match white balance/etc…), and nothing at all adjusted in the video. Just right out of the camera.

  6. Rpjwhite

    Given the last hammerhead navigator I backed never showed up. I will see how his goes…

  7. usr

    I’m all for fully bikeable Android devices, but to everyone who makes them, please please please include a better power delivery story than just the customary microUSB port. I don’t care much wether the device claims 10 hours of runtime, 12 hours or even 24 hours, I want a fully weatherproof charging/external power supply story for when the internal battery isn’t enough, whenever that may be.

    The power source side is easily handled by a variety of existing offerings for MTB headlights and/or tinkering. I guess that a branded option could be a nice sideline revenue stream, even if it’s just adapter cables. The connector on the device is something that cannot be reasonably retrofitted, it has to be factory installed. Having the universal microUSB is good, but having both would be so much better.

    • Peter

      Can I +2 that? Not just a theoretical situation, just next weekend I’ll ride my first 600km brevet, I’ll take as much as 40 hours.

      And while we’re on USB ports: USB-C (on my phone) is so much nicer than micro-USB (on my Garmin)! Feels much sturdier and not having to rotate the plug twice (on average) before you get it to fit is just bliss.

    • This actually came up just yesterday in a different thread.

      Main reason companies are hesitant on USB-C right now is lack of proven waterproof USB-C ports (whereas micro/mini-USB has many mostly proven waterproof solutions). Sure we see USB-C on waterproof phones, but most phones aren’t exposed to watery conditions every day like sports devices. Also, most people quickly dry off phones, so corrosion isn’t an issue.

      All sports companies want to avoid what happened with Polar M400 and their USB port fiasco. Sometimes the safer route is the smarter one.

  8. Looks like a great unit and a bit more competition for Garmin which is no bad thing.

    If they can implement remote control by making it compatible with Garmin’s wireless remote unit to change screens then I will certainly be buying one.

    • Hey Marc!

      We built Karoo to be a product that works with as many of your existing accessories as possible. This is one reason that we put in both Bluetooth and ANT+. We are investigating this specific integration!

  9. LittleSaul

    Google Cache says:

    499 USD limited release price:

  10. Brian Harris

    Hmm… call me curious.

  11. Forrest

    Is that a GT Grade?

  12. Dr_LHA

    How well does that touch screen work in the rain?

    • Our Karoo software is built to try to ignore sweat and rain, while still sensing your finger touch.

      Touch screens do have limitations however. Hard rain, mud and wearing gloves all make the performance of a touchscreen less than we would like. This is why we built Karoo to work very well with only button input.

      You can do everything you need to do on Karoo using buttons – making Karoo a great experience in all environments.

  13. PPP

    Looking good
    I’ll be Interested at least until I hear the real price.

  14. Dmitry

    android… cycle pc… good. place camera inside for interval photos or small videos

  15. Shaun

    Love seeing a product like this from fellow South Africans – despite it being 15 yrs since I was last there :-)

  16. Peachy

    I’m delighted to see somebody has finally released an Android bike computer, it seemed inevitable.

    For me it’s only about battery life, this clearly isn’t going to do 24 hours, will it do the quoted 15.

    Why can’t they release a physically bigger device with monster battery life?

  17. JIm_H

    It seems like this is basically a small android smartphone, minus the phone bits (calling/texting). On one hand, I like the idea of the 3G connectivity. On the otherhand, I already have all of that stuff in my jersey pocket. The Karoo has the same downsides as my a phone. Touchscreens suck for day to day use on your bike. Sweaty, sometimes grimy, dirty or wet hands, gloves in cold weather, rain, etc… I’ve been down that road before. No thanks.

    Also, it looks pretty bulky. Presumably that is for a (heavy) battery to power that good looking screen. Personally, i would prefer to use a black and white screen display (better contrast and better visibility in all lighting conditions), and get batter battery life out of a smaller battery/form factor.

  18. Mike


    Interesting product and certainly one for the other brands to watch out for. Does this device feature TBT navigation which is of particular importance to me and also can it create routes on the fly- same was as the Garmin 1000 and Mio Cyclo can?

    Lastly, will it feature Strava live segments and FULL Strava support, by this I mean being recognized by them as a supported device and data from the device pushed to their servers and accurately uploaded?

  19. Arthur Jackson

    I am very interested in the Karoo. The routing software looks great but, one question; being Android-based, will it run Viewranger? I have a significant investment in UK and European maps from them and would like to have the option of continuing to use Viewranger, particularly for mountain biking in the UK. Currently I use an Edge 800 for road and Monterra for off-road. (The Monterra is a real beast).

  20. Wolf

    Why do they bother with 3G, when they could just connect to the internet through a phone. Using mobile hotspot or other methods

    • V

      Because why would you bother killing your phone’s battery?

    • Also, not all phone plans have hotspotting capabilities, and said capabilities often burns even more phone batteries.

      For example, my phone plan* doesn’t have the ability to have a hotspot, as ATT wised up years ago to what a bad deal that was for them.

      *My phone plan is basically the most awesome phone plan on earth, as I pay about $35/month for unlimited *international* data (+ unlimited US domestic data, for what little that means to me). But about 3-4 years ago ATT realized this and blocked the hotspotting capabilities. Sad panda, but still pretty solid. Of course, this plan is roughly a decade old and they long since stopped offering it.

    • Gian Camillo

      True, but apps like Garmin Connect do not use hotspotting.

    • Ray hit it on the head here with some of the issues that relying on phone connection presents.

      We also really want Karoo to be a great standalone device and to not require you to carry your phone to use it. We want to give you an escape from your phone when you want it.

  21. Lloyd Davies

    Any thoughts as to when there might be an Garmin Edge 1000 hardware upgrade?

  22. Michael Coyne

    Can it make phone calls or play audio/music via bluetooth, and would that make it illegal for USAT triathlons? I understand their rules about no phones/audio devices, but it makes me always torn between optimal race-legal devices and optimal regular-life/training devices.

    • giorgitd

      I’m interested in how they will enable the 3G connection. There was a Timex device with 3G that looked cool, but never made an impact. Lots of reasons for that, potentially, but how will I pay for *another* cell service? What happens when I roam / use it out of country? I *think* that these were big issues fr imex, but maybe less so now – many cellular resellers are not expensive and I can’t imagine that this device to use much data. Still, without a phone connection, it’s another monthly? service to pay for.

    • giorgitd

      *for Timex

    • Michael Coyne

      Most carriers these days (at least in the US) also offer pay-as-you-go data plan options. Obviously if you use data on it a lot they aren’t worth it, but it’s good for extra devices like these if you just want emergebcy internet/calling abilities.

      But yeah the more the line blurs between bike computer and smartphone, the more I wonder if/when race rules agencies will start making changes. Recreationally, tons of people already use their phones as bike computers and more and more use them instead every day. They aren’t always as good as a dedicated bike computer, but they’re closing that gap all the time and saving money by doubling your device isn’t just something a recreational user would want to do – these days to get a bike computer that’s as good as your smartphone is at it (depending on features you care about), you’d be a good chunk of the way to getting a power meter instead. That’s a big deal. And that’s only going to continue to be more the case with time I think. That or bike computers are going to become your second phone more and more (like what’s happening here). Either way I think there’s gonna have to be some rule changes in the next decade – for a lot of people it just doesn’t make sense to get a certain device that can do less JUST because it doing less makes it tri-legal.

      Maybe they could develop an app that locks certain features of your phone unless you unlock them and then doing so makes you automatically give up the race? Kinda like how the recent rule change allows you to bring your phone, but only for emergency calls and as soon as you make one you forfeit your race, or how you can swim with the safer swimmer emergency inflatable vest thing but if you inflate it you are effectively quitting the race.

      Actually that’s a great analogy because I’m sure people would say an app where you quit when you unlock it would be fraught with complaints about that happening accidentally, but then hey that emergency safety vest has had complaints and incidents where it inflated accidentally, but it still has a place in the race rules…

  23. Frank

    How many data fields can be displayed on the map / navigation screen? (Edge 1000 still just 2, even after about a million complaints….).

    • Hey Frank

      One of the reasons we went for a larger, high res screen is so that we can show you the data you need as well as having a great mapping experience. We could easily show more than 2 data fields with your map. We are testing different versions of the data field display right now. How many data fields do you think most people would need in addition to their map?

    • part_robot

      I’d like 4. 2 top. 2 bottom.

    • Thomas

      I’d like 8: Elapsed activity time, distance, average speed, current height, current heart rate, current power, current cadence, and clock time. There’s really no need to put a small limit. If I want to see less map, that should be fine, no? One way to handle this is to show fields only when the unit is recording, or to add an option to show/not-show the data fields upon touch.

    • Frank

      Let the user decide! Between 0 and 6 should be fine I guess. Few people are in need of street names, you it would be great if there’s an option turning that off to make some room.

  24. Eli

    For the cell conection, any chance you’ll have an app that could act as a proxy for your device? Thinking a cellconnection in the US is not cheap but this device being a bike computer could share a network connection from a cell phone. (thinking it can claim to not be a tablet and claim to be a dedicated bike computer so could work around the wording of the rules that limit that)

  25. thanks for great stufff!

  26. Igor Ramadas

    I really really hope these “newcomers” (Hammerhead, Acer Xplova, Lezyne etc…) serve as a wake up call to Garmin. I own an Edge 520 and had the 510 and 500 prior to that, and to be honest I can’t see much evolution from the 500 to the 520. Look how smartphones evolved. Get a mid range from 6 years ago and compare it to a 2017 mid range. It’s night and day. Same with smartwatches – 3 years ago they were miserable, today they are much better on every single aspect.

    The Wahoo Elemnt/Bolt seems so much better. Updates with real new features almost every month. Much better to configure / prepare them using an app. And their basemap is pretty usable – on the 520 it’s laughable and I don’t have the time to keep downloading / updating the basemaps before every long ride. Unfortunately Wahoo doesn’t have fitness trackers like the vivoactive or Vivosmart… yet! If they get one, I’ll be leaving the Garmin ecosystem in a flash!

    Some weeks ago I had the opportunity to upgrade my Edge 520 to the 820 paying a 120 EUR premium, before going on a 1000km tour from Munich to Copenhagen. I decided to invest that money on a cheap Chinese rugged phone instead (AGM A2 Rio, cost me 99 EUR to be precise). Now it’s unbelievable that a cheap Android phone can plan routes, navigate, stream music via bluetooth, take pictures, make calls and reach the destination with around 30% battery left on the tank (avg. 8h per day). It did everything wonderfully, even under heavy rain (although of course I couldn’t interact with the screen while wet). It even supports ANT+!!! 99 EUR! The Edge 520 costs around 250 EUR. The 820 north of 350 EUR. If you don’t trust Chinese phones, a Samsung XCover 3 costs around 140 EUR and should work just as well.

    Garmin has lots of people locked to their ecosystem and they can basically charge a massive premium for that. I do hope people start realising there are other options out there so Garmin can step their game up.

    • Keith Wakeham

      A lot of the price difference has to do with distribution methods and expected mark ups along with development costs and custom parts (Screens. Transflective custom versus cheap Chinese TN trans missive). The net result is more powerful hardware at a lower price that’s missing just a handful of elements to make it a true cycle computer. Close, but so far as the market has spoken, not there. Closing in though.

    • Richard

      Are you sure the AGM A2 Rio has ANT+ ? Its not listed in the specs anywhere.

    • The key thing that many misunderstand when they try to make the phone to Garmin/Wahoo/whatever comparison is the lack of unified functions.

      Yes, you can find almost every feature from a Garmin device within some app in either the Android or iOS realms. But you can’t find it in a single app. So folks end up playing this game having trying to piece together everything, which ends up being a kludge.

      As Keith notes, the market has spoken (overwhelmingly), and people just want a single device that contains all that functionality.

    • Thomas

      Agreed on that, but if Hammerhead succeeds, they effectively demonstrate that in order to create this device, you can build a proprietary Garmin, but you can also develop a comprehensive app. By offering it on their device, they circumvent the problem of a very complex landscape of phone specifications in Android. For the general user, they could even think about offering a stripped-down version of the app for free to compete with existing solutions and get users attached to them and eventually to convert.

      Also, while I agree, there definitely is also a huge group of people who are already using their phones now. What Garmin/Wahoo erc. misunderstand is those also want a united solution, but where the union comprises the phone. That group, likely mostly recreational riders, might be a group that cares about many, but also does not care about many other Garmin features. Hence, you’ll obviously need to offer more than the essentials in order to make sure that enough people find their unique feature of interest. But you don’t need to copy everything to become a serious contender.

      How overwhelmingly the market has spoken, I’d want to object. The interest in this product suggests otherwise. You might know better about sales figures of Garmin units. We certainly don’t seem to see many people with phones on their bikes. But we do know that millions are using corresponding apps on their phone, while we also see that the majority of cyclists still uses very simple bike computers that you can buy for like 25 EUR. In that group, there might be lots of people who just want a simple computer, but there will also be a big number of people who would like to upgrade, just not to a closed environment like Garmin, and who have been waiting for someone to finally deliver a rugged phone with advanced essentials of a bike computer.

      What I’m getting at: People said the same about car navigation ten years ago. Customers will always prefer the more advanced features and the sophisticated benefits of a dedicated device. Nope. “They” didn’t. “Professional” drivers might have stayed, and navigation companies are still profitable and growing. But at the same time, a big part of the “recreational” market turned away. To conclude then, I don’t think the Hammerhead is an Edge killer, or that this signals the end of the dedicated cycling computer by any means. But Garmin ignored a big chunk of the market – and someone will take that, eventually, and it might well be Hammerhead.

      That said, we don’t know what the successor to the Edge 1000 that we are all expecting will look like. Maybe Garmin has its appropriate response already ready to launch. But somehow, I doubt.

    • The challenge exists for Hammerhead the same as it does for Garmin in your case though: How to make money if not selling a device.

      Simply put, there isn’t enough money for all but the smallest software development shops to sell a $5, $10, or even $30 phone app to cyclists as a replacement for a $250-$500 device. Take at apps that people use even less, such as Zwift or TrainerRoad. Those makes up a portion of ones riding time (indoors only), yet still command a price of around $120 or so a year.

      Finally, I think some folks may be misunderstanding what Hammerhead is doing here: They aren’t giving you an Android device that you can run anything on. They’re doing exactly what Polar did with the V650: They’re re-using the underlying Android stack with slightly more capable hardware and better mapping…however it’s otherwise locked down. But the differences here being that at the end of the day, the Karoo will have less features than the (largely disliked) V650.

      Which isn’t a slight on the Karoo, but I fear that folks will be disappointed if they think it’s a Garmin or Wahoo killer. Maybe it might be in 2018 or beyond, but it won’t be the case in 2017 looking at the feature specs and where they stand.

      Finally – what’s more interesting to me is the theory that a ‘less capable’ bike computer with a phone app tied to it may be the solution for many. I’d have agreed in theory…but unfortunately the market has also spoken there. Despite numerous attempts by many major companies in the segment – Cateye, Magellan, and even Wahoo – nobody really buys those products in any quantities that make it worthwhile to produce.

      Perhaps those companies haven’t figure it out quite yet, but, part of the challenge in any market is making a product people buy enough of to make a business sustainable. It’s unfortunately easy to develop niche products that you and I might love, but less so once at scale. :-/

    • Thomas

      You make some good points here. Notably, as I stated before, I agree that this is not about developing a Garmin/Wahoo killer.

      There’s one more thing I ignored in my own analysis: When praising existing independent apps like OruxMaps, IPBike, or Bike Computer, which are essentially one-man hobby projects that have been able to offer much of the same functionality I could get from a Garmin Edge (or take VeloHero, which is competing with Garmin Connect), we may not ignore that those apps have been developed slowly over time and in alignment with the feature evolution of the market. That’s an approach that new commercial projects cannot afford – they have to offer contemporary feature complexity from the beginning. And it’s obviously here where development becomes costly.

    • usr

      How can you say “the market has spoken” when end users have never had the chance to empty their wallet for a somewhat open device that checks all the minimum requirement boxes of a transflective screen, proper waterproofing and a garmin mount nub (or equivalent)? The market has never been asked.

      The Garmin Software package is only compelling because (until recently?) every other piece of hardware that did not fail at least one of those three undeniable minimum requirements came with software even worse.

    • That comment was in reference to the claim that users would choose to put phones on their handlebars over dedicated devices (Garmin/Wahoo/etc…).

      Asking about this device isn’t the question – but your comment does show my concern: There’s no plans at present to allow other Android apps to run on this device, so in that sense it’s no more open than Polar V650 (also Android based). Again – not a knock on it, just setting expectations.

    • usr

      Dealing with Google to get a niche market device with an unusual use case and exotic specs approved for the Google Mobile Services (Maps and Play store!) might be quite a challenge though. I’m not even sure if it would still be possible without SIM and twin cameras, given the changes in requirements Google has made over the years. So it’s not necessarily an indication of lock-in desires or not-invented-here syndrome if manufacturers don’t support third party apps as comfortably as regular phones do, the custom “skin” might be completely involuntary.

      But the willingness to put up with a dedicated handlebar device that feels crippled relative to the one in the jersey pocket is crumbling with yonder generations. Personally, I grew up alongside bike head units, with continuous, incremental upgrades from the mechanical odometer/speedometer I had as a child to the Edge 1000 I use today. At the time that I started using Strava and navigation on the smartphone I already had a massive electronic sensor suite on the bar (just lacking GSM and logging), so moving maps and GPS from the smartphone into the handlebar device (by purchasing a Garmin) felt like a definitive upgrade. But when I ride with the “millennial/digital native” generation, many just run Strava from the jersey, with no live display at all. Fancy carbon frames and premium brand clothing indicate that they are perfectly willing to spend, but not on a head unit that would feel like a downgrade. They can’t be interested in simpler speedometers as much as we were when the technology was new and did not compete with jersey pocket GPS, so by the time they dive deep enough into the hobby to spend more their mental baseline when evaluating an offering is not the simple coin cell unit on the handle bar that would be replaced with something more valuable but an expensive multimedia wonder in their pocket. Any less universal devices will be a tough sell. But a better, more bike friendly box to run their accustomed apps on, I think it would be their natural purchase progression.

    • Philip Robar

      >Yes, you can find almost every feature from a Garmin device within some app in
      > either the Android or iOS realms. But you can’t find it in a single app. So folks
      > end up playing this game having trying to piece together everything, which ends
      > up being a kludge.

      > Simply put, there isn’t enough money for all but the smallest software development
      > shops to sell a $5, $10, or even $30 phone app to cyclists as a replacement for a
      > $250-$500 device.

      Do you have any evidence to back this claim up with? I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a market for a reasonably priced app that does everything a dedicated device does, but on a smartphone. As others have pointed out fully featured smartphones are so inexpensive these days that they are effectively disposable and there are some pretty sophisticated freemium cycling apps out there already. Personally I like the multiple app approach since that means that I I get to choose what I think is the best solution to any given need that I have. With the app approach if I wreck my $30 to $100 smartphone I just buy another one and re-sync with Google. If If I trashed an expensive dedicated device (that I can’t afford in the first place) I’d have to think long and hard about replacing it.

    • My evidence is pretty simple: It’s been that way and it simply hasn’t caught on. I don’t see any tidal wave of people using smartphones on bike handlebars all that much. We do so folks using things like Strava in their back pocket to record rides (or similar apps), but that’s about it (again, in any large numbers that move the market).

      Smartphone prices haven’t really decreased as much as folks want to believe. There have long been super cheap smartphones out there. In fact, these super-cheap ones have actually had ANT+ on them more often than not.

    • Jeff Forrest

      Have to agree, smartphones may have largely replaced some dedicated devices (satnavs and point and shoot cameras) but they work really well without any major constraints in those areas, whereas they have constraints as an always on device mounted on a handlebar (as well as the lack of killer app there’s the battery life, over large physical size, mounting, waterproofing, screen working in the wet etc). An awful lot of people (including me) start using their phone as a GPS tracking device and soon find a dedicated device is much better. Cycling forums are full of people making the transition from phone to dedicated device. Can’t see that changing in the near future.

    • As the developer of IpBike there is no way I could consider giving up my day job at present.

      IpBike had a years full time development while I was between jobs. It was prompted by the Sony Xperia Active coming out with all the features of my home made bike computer in a phone that you could happily mount on the bars. There was no good software though so as I was between jobs I set to writing my own.

      I had to get back to a proper paying job though after the year and IpBike has since just been a part time effort. I add the features I want so it’s all about sensors like the wind speed stuff I added last year and next up the Garmin’s Radar and Lights. The UI is getting more and more dated but is still very functional for me. Modernising it is at least 3 months work full time so not an option while I have to work full time.

      Cash wise I get about 1/4 of what comes in for IpBike. Google have 30%, tax is 20% Open Cycling Map is now no longer free and is taking about half of what comes to me. The rest will not covering the ANT+ alliance membership fee which I have let laps. I may re-join for a year to get the Running Dynamics info though.

      Things may change going forward but the fact there is nothing equivalent to the xperia Active is not helping people go phone only. There are some rugged phones but none I know off with a pressure sensor and ANT at a sensible price like the Active. BTLE is still a mess under Android so ANT is essential from my point of view.

      The most likely way IpBike will get a proper update is if the company I work for disappears or is very successful and I can cash in my options.

    • Nick F

      I’d love confirmation on ant+ as well. I’ve used my current phone with an ant+ dongle to utilize Xert, but would most likely pick one of these up just to use in that capacity (and maybe as a bike computer depending on mount capability).

  27. chup

    1. Are Xert metrics / data fields available on this great thing.?
    2. Wet screen still work great?
    3. Alternative charging mechanism. Why don’t we make a Garmin mount with electric contacts. Think Fenix 3 and its charging cable. Then make a Garmin mount with integrated li-po battery for longer rides. No more cable on the move and no waterproof problem.

    • Hey Chup

      1. We are super interested in bringing training analysis like Xert to Karoo. We will have more information on what this will look like in the months ahead!

      2. Our Karoo software is built to try to ignore sweat and rain, while still sensing your finger touch.

      Touch screens do have limitations however. Hard rain, mud and wearing gloves all make the performance of a touchscreen less than we would like. This is why we built Karoo to work very well with only button input. You can do everything you need to do on Karoo using buttons – making Karoo a great experience in all environments.

      3. We believe in making Karoo operate with as much of your existing gear as possible. We wanted to stay with the Garmin mount for our first model for this reason. We would love to play our part in pushing the industry towards more consolidated power supply in the years ahead!

    • Tim Mifsud

      That is a brilliant idea! You should patent the idea of a Garmin style mount with built in battery that charges through contact tabs on the mount! Make it possible to be connected to a Dynamo hub and you would have a winner!

  28. Drew W

    Does the Hammerhead support collecting and/or displaying Di2 data coming from a D-Fly? I like having that data on my Edge 510 & it’s one of several things that would keep me in the Garmin family.

  29. Steven

    +900 on all the charging comments. Need a robust, good way for this to work in the Rain.

    Also will it work with the ANT+ Radar profile? That’s the thing tethering me to my love/hate with Garmin.

  30. xander


    I don’t own a smartphone and I’m not active on social media (such as starva), making a device like the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT pretty much useless to me (it requires a smartphone app to ‘initialise’ the thing).
    Is this also the same for the Karoo?

    And is it possible to deactivate the Strava segments on the Karoo?
    (I don’t mind having such extra functionalities on a device, as long as I can tell them to shut up when I don’t need them :)

  31. qqstars

    Seems like original Android with the internally defined application executed. So that should be some way to root the device then use the own application like Google Map, etc…

  32. Sir Roger

    The functionality looks very interesting but the body design ?? Well looks like Wahoo has some competition for the fugliest cycling computer..

  33. SurlyWill

    This was bound to happen on the head unit side … a phone does so much more and had far more tools for customization. It will need Strava Live to make it big time … of course Strava could simply customize their existing app for it.

    Here is what I would really like to see … more advanced recognition of segments based tracking direction rather than simply position.

  34. David

    This excites me. I have a Garmin 820 and find it so deficient for the financial outlay. The device is just too unresponsive and slow. Not to mention my first unit had to be replaced under warranty…..

  35. Larry

    This is the kind of device where being part of Google’s Project Fi would be nice. Just request an additional sim card and only pay for the data you use. No additional monthly cost for the device.

    Just curious about how often and for how many years this device will see security patches? No one wants to be part of a botnet running a DDoS attack against AWS from their cycling computer.

    Will the base eventually migrate to later AOSP releases (i.e. Android O will release around the same timeframe as your device, but Android 6 will then be 2 major versions in the rear view mirror).

    Will the battery be replaceable?

    I’m guessing since you’re building your own app store that the device probably doesn’t support Google Play Services.

  36. oTTo

    Where are the ads? I bet they will come later. :) #android #joke
    Looks promising tho… Battery life especially.

  37. Thanks everyone for all your questions and comments! Our team is listening and will be revealing more via our mailing list in the upcoming weeks. In the meantime, here are responses to some of your more frequent questions:

    NAVIGATION & EXPLORATION – Karoo not only does turn-by-turn navigation, it also allows you to build routes on-the-fly using the simple and intuitive pin-based system Ray demonstrated at around the 3:34 mark in his video. We’re already deploying this software with our H1 app and pre-production Karoo units, and are working on a substantial update as I write this. We’ve put a tremendous amount of effort into the base maps, route-building experience, syncing and sharing tools, and routing engine on Karoo. Thanks to our partnership with award-winning Dynamic.Watch, we’ll also be including web tools that allow users to build or capture routes on a variety of 3rd-party websites and have them automatically sync with their Karoo.

    STRAVA – While anyone can upload to Strava using their API, we have taken measures to ensure that Karoo data is optimally formatted (super-accurate location data is particularly helpful here), and that Karoo users can easily adjust privacy settings, add a title and description, and choose a ride-type before uploading. The Strava live-segments capability we built for Hammerhead One is being ported over and will unlock some features unique to Karoo. Our web-app can display your Strava activities and turn them and those of your friends into navigable routes that sync automatically with your Karoo. All of these feature can of course be turned off.

    UPDATES – We are pushing regular updates to Karoo’s apps and operating system that unlock new features and ensure the system is secure.

    3RD-PARTY APPS – We’ll be announcing support for 3rd-party apps that have been adapted to work with the Karoo platform. In the case of Viewranger, their maps are proprietary, in some cases based on non-free data (for example OS in the UK), and only run on their mobile app (not adapted for Karoo’s Android OS).

    CONNECTIVITY – Karoo is fully functional offline. It can also connect to the internet over WiFi or by tethering to Android and iOS phones. However, by inserting a SIM card to connect directly to the internet via cellular, riders can unlock unique real-time features during the ride without draining their phones.

    PRIVATE ANT – There is nothing technological that would prevent us from fully supporting Shimano Di2, Radar, or any other Private ANT device profile. We are open to working with any company that would like its products to be compatible with Karoo.

    POWER – Karoo’s micro-USB port is both fully corrosion-resistant and IP67 sealed to protect the internals. An external battery could be used to keep the battery topped off, but the connection would not be sealed. The internal battery is replaceable (we’ll ask that you send your unit in for servicing) and battery life in testing is meeting our expectations even before we fully optimize. We’re also working on settings that would allow riders to optimize for maximum battery life.

    • Thomas

      On power: The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (at least that one) offers a magnetic charging port on the side. I’m not a technical expert, but I imagine this not to cause a shortcut when happening in rain. Hence, wouldn’t that be an option?

    • Arthur Jackson

      Thanks for your replies, Randy.

      Regarding my earlier comment (#38) and your reply about 3rd-party apps, I would not buy the Karoo unless it could run ViewRanger. I will have to continue my search for a device to replace my Garmin Monterra, which runs Android natively. The Monterra satisfies all my needs except that it is so heavy and bulky, the key attributes being: Android OS, transflective display, battery life of at least 12 hours with the screen permanently enabled, weatherproof.

  38. Fanie Nel


    On pronunciation. Karoo – Kah – roo – huh in Afrikaans (the native language).

    Fanie Nel – Living close to the Karoo

  39. Pips

    I would be surprised if this came in under $1,000. This is far beyond anything anyone has on the market, and is more akin to a cell phone than a cycling computer. Sadly, it wont sell at that price point. If they were selling it for around $350, they would be losing money hand over fist.

    • Sir Roger

      Pips I think you have your calculations a bit off… It costs about $200 to manufacture even the most expensive Iphones.. thats with front and back cameras and lots of tricky metal engineering. This Hammerhead is still just a plastic box with a screen and a processor.. It’s the software that makes it interesting, and that is being engineered on an already established base.

      I would imagine this unit will be priced under 400..That way it would be a real contender.. I still think the box needs to be a bit sexier.. That square head unit is ugly.. Hey Ray any chance of a side by side pic with a couple of Garmins..

  40. milesthedog

    But can it store music and play streaming services?!

  41. part_robot

    You had me at “fully functional offline”. I got stuck in the middle of nowhere recently with no reception and had to create a cross country route to get back. Doing this with my Garmin 810 was rage-inducing and the Bolt neither supports that functionality nor do they have it on their roadmap when I spoke to them.

  42. Martin

    Are we getting to a point where these computers are little more than Android phones with Ant+, and without the phone radio? Do we really need the additional (expensive) device when all the software should theoretically run off a phone?

  43. Derek

    Looks like a viable alternative to Garmin. I am unfortunately hooked into the Garmin ecosystem with Edge 820, variant headlights, and radar. Any plans to be able to pair/sync these products with the Karoo? Secondly, wondering how much “data” this would eat up on cell phone plans. I have a 10GB plan in Canada, but how much would a coupe hour ride with GPS, navigation, maps, cellular triangulation and all the bells and whistles they have, eat up in data charges?


    • Sir Roger

      The amount of Data used by GPS devices,, ie phones navigating with GPS is negligible. The GPS uses none as it is a separate radio.. The triangulation uses none. The only data is map refreshes which is a tiny amount on any one ride unless you are covering superhuman distances.

  44. It occurred to me when I saw the elevation gain graph in the video: Are there any auto routing devices that can be configured to take elevation into account when routing? Like for instance when you want to avoid highways. To let you plan a route with minimal elevation (or indeed as much as possible). I just don’t think I have seen it anywere.

  45. Nick Cross

    When would you be announcing UK prices / availability?

    Will it be compatible with RideWithGPS?

  46. Adrian

    Can you comment of the data sources used for creating the maps? Will open streetmap data be used?

    Thanks, Adrian