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5 Sports Tech Tidbits: Hammerhead Karoo, Garmin Vivofit 4, Shimano Power, New Bike Build, CES 2018

Happy New Year!

As you’ve likely noticed, it’s been a wee bit quiet around here the last few weeks.  I wish I could say it was because I was relaxing on a beach, but alas, I’m exhausted from it all.  Thankfully – I’m able to get back to a normal posting schedule this week with new products posts or reviews planned each day! Then we’ve got CES next week, and the Tour Down Under the following week. Boom!

However, first, a huge thanks to everyone who helped over the past couple weeks, I greatly appreciate it!  And don’t worry, I’ll get into the details of that down the road – it’s exciting (albeit, exhausting).  For now though, let’s talk some tech!

1) So…Hammerhead Karoo:

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As I said on Twitter: “Well then, that escalated quickly.”

What started off as a relatively off-hand comment thread on the existing Hammerhead Karoo announcement post (from last May) quickly spiraled into the company having to issue a formal apology to backers of the project for lying to them.  You can read that entire thing here (or the Facebook posts here).

While that was all going down, a DCR reader decided they didn’t want to be part of the deception and shipped me their unit (fully boxed) since my unit is still on backorder.  So, I did the most natural thing I could think of: I unboxed it.  You’ll be able to find that video goodness on my YouTubes as soon as I go to Starbucks and upload it.  The WiFi where I’m staying this week is less than awesome.

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In any case, I have gotten in a few rides since then.  I think three in total, though one was lost when I accidentally pressed to delete it (they’re working to add a confirmation dialog).

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As I’ve said numerous times before – Hammerhead has a lot of really interesting ideas in queue for the unit specific to navigation, some of which are implemented.  Those are things that nobody else is doing, or at least not doing well.  A totally random example, but check out the above screen, it allows me to edit the Strava activity title before uploading, as well as things like privacy settings. Love it.

The challenge Hammerhead has though with Karoo is all the other things.  It’s could be death by a thousand cuts of little features you assume/expect to be there, that aren’t.  Wahoo dealt with the same challenges with their units before finally having things gel around the time of the Wahoo BOLT.  Hammerhead will get there, but it’s likely to be a bit of a rougher ride along the way.  Still, I’m lookin forward to them starting to ship as well as to see how quickly they can not only play catch-up on ‘baseline’ features, but also to push the envelope on newer areas.

I’ll plan to release an in-depth review whenever they start shipping units to normal consumers (non-beta peoples).  In the meantime, you can follow along in the comments here on my previous post.

2) First Rides on My New Bike:

Woot, finally! Back about a week or so ago I got in my first outdoor ride on the new bike build.  I’ll wrap up a full post on just the bike and build process in the coming days (the parts are mostly outlined here), but here’s a look at it.

Gotta say, the one thing I’m most in love with is the shifting.  I’ve got the eTAP so perfectly dialed in.  Obviously, one can do that just as well with mechanical shifting and a good mechanic.  But, it’s just so much easier with electronic shifting.  Silly simple.

Anyway, more details shortly!

3) Vivofit 4 Announced

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As you were still a bit groggy on Boxing Day (that’s the official name for the holiday on December 26th whereby everyone basically just gets further drunk or tends to the existing hangover) you may not have noticed that Garmin announced a Vivofit 4 that day.  I’m not entirely sure why they selected that day, though historically when companies choose (seemingly) horrible days to announce a product, it’s often because their hand is forced externally. Perhaps a magazine contains an ad for said product that’s going out slightly early, or something else is going to break.  Either way, I have no idea what happened here.

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In any case, it’s announced ($79, versus $99 for the Vivofit 3).

I do have one, though, it just arrived and I haven’t had a ton of time to play with it yet.  The basic new features compared to the existing unit are:

– Added countdown timer
– Added Weather display
– Added Find My Phone
– Added Stopwatch
– Slightly bigger screen (88x88px vs 64x64px)
– 1.6mm thicker (11m total), 2.3mm wider (23mm)
– Update: And apparently, no ANT+ HR sensor connectivity anymore. :(

So basically, it got some of the more simplistic Vivosport and Vivosmart features.

I’m not sure this is a needle mover per se, but it probably doesn’t really need to be.  The general trend for activity trackers is shifting towards that $110-$150 sweet spot (where Vivosmart 3 lives), and so at the lower end price-wise Garmin simply needs ‘keep up with the Joneses’, which is basically just keeping up with Fitbit.  And in many ways, Garmin’s low-priced activity tracker is actually better than the equal unit from Fitbit (the Alta, non-HR). Update: With the lack of ANT+ HR sensor support, it seems like Garmin is cutting the most unique value prop they had. Not really sure that’s a wise move.

Perhaps at some point in the next few weeks I’ll dive into the unit in more depth.

4) Shimano Power Meter Arrived

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A week or so ago, a day after the new Stages LR unit arrived for testing, so did the Shimano R9100 power meter.  I’ve yet to install it, but it’ll be going onto my new Canyon bike above, and both it and the Stages LR unit will be travelling with me to Australia for the winter (err…their summer).  So lots of nice warm testing time ahead!

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Note, I didn’t receive an official box for the Shimano unit – thus, no fancy unboxing this time.  I did receive one for the Stages, so, expect that video to hit in the next week or so (I think that’s when I’m allowed to post it…the day keeps sliding around).

In any case, I’m likely to stick the Stages LR on first, merely because it arrived first and there seems to be a bit more interest there.  But we’ll see how the day goes, hoping to install it a bit later on.

5) Preparing for CES!

Finally, with CES 2018 just a week, I’m hard at work on a number of things for that timeframe.  I don’t want to say ‘exactly that week’, since you’ll see more of a shotgun approach this year to it.  We’re seeing companies jump the gun a bit, as well as slightly delay to the week or so after.  This is mostly because companies are realizing that announcing at CES itself is a double-edged sword.

For big companies that are household names, they can announce whenever the heck they want and still get media attention.  So competing with tens of thousands of other companies the week of CES means less media attention/time.  A story about your tech the week of CES will last about 90 seconds on the front page of The Verge, Engadget, or similar.  They’re posting 300-500 pieces per day.  It’s crazy.

And while the same is certainly true of smaller companies, at least with CES they have the opportunity to get in front of media that they wouldn’t otherwise realistically have.

Further, this year with CES I suspect (read: I know) you’ll see a sharp decline in well-known fitness vendors being present, or, a sharp decline in what they’ll announce.  Some of this is due to what I just outlined above, and some of it is just companies not being around anymore.  For example, the Recon’s, Mio’s, and so on of the world no longer exist or are not in the product business anymore.  Companies like Polar aren’t exhibiting at all (but are present at the show more privately).  And many more like Wahoo continue to shift to private suites instead where they can show to selected retailers/distributors/media/etc at a fraction the cost of a booth.  Remember, most of the companies I post about have a base CES booth fee of $40,000-$100,000 (full price list here), and that ignores staffing, shipping, setup, etc…

Oh, and finally, all of this prep also included a number of company visits to the DCR Cave for meetings.  There were the Avio power meter folks, along with a few others I’ll refrain from mentioning for now (to prevent giving away hints about upcoming products).  I’m excited about all of them.

As for CES, I arrive Saturday and will leave next Friday – definitely looking forward to it! With that, again, Happy New Year and looking forward to getting back in the groove again!

Thanks for reading!

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70 Comments

  1. Scott E

    Happy New Years to you and the family!

    I’ll give credit for Hammerhead making the public apology and coming clean. Back when the Mio/Magellan 505 head unit looked promising communication was sparse, and vague commitments to fix defects were constantly broken. That platform too looked promising, but eventual hit the recycle bin. Hope the Karoo has enough funding to stay alive until it becomes a viable alternative.

  2. ReHMn

    Happy New Year to you Ray, to the Girl and both Peanuts as well!

    Keep on posting those excellent reviews!
    BTW, got my Edge 520. You never mentioned anywhere that it can connect to Tanita scales. This is very cool, because usually new devices counted from 920XT on, are not scale compatible, even if they use ANT+ protocol…

    • Dave Lusty

      Weird, I’m sure I’ve seen Ray call that out explicitly somewhere on the Edge range keeping compatibility. No idea where though, and I may be imagining it, I’m still a little high on mince pies :D

      That new Dura Ace is finally starting to grow on me, initially I hated it and loved my old version but now I’m starting to wonder whether my bike is even rideable without that shiny black loveliness!

      Happy new year everyone :)

  3. JdeFalconr

    I am waiting with baited breath for the nigh-inevitable Forerunner 245/645 announces and release dates. I passed on a Vivoactive 3 at xmas in hopes of a Forerunner with similar features plus music storage. My FR210 is a bit long in the tooth. Fingers are crossed!

  4. Doron

    Happy new year

  5. Dan G

    Ray,

    I think people would appreciate an in-depth review now, because no-one knows if Karoo are building the ultimate bike computer, or a load of donkey balls. The only thing we do know is that Karoo are happy to lie.

    (Personally I think they’re done, I don’t see that they have the ability to complete the product to the expectations they raised, let alone do that before their cash runs out. If I’d ‘pre-ordered’, I’d be getting a refund now before all the money is gone.)

    • Yeah, my main reason at this point is that they’ve only shipped to a beta group, and not to actual paying customers. Once they ship a unit to paying customers, then I think it’s fair game.

      That said, happy to answer any questions on where things are today.

  6. Ray Wright

    I am super surprised that you did not opt for disc brakes on that beautiful Canyon.

  7. Tosin Akinmusuru

    Welcome back. Kinda got worried that you hadn’t put up a new post. Happy New Year!

  8. Jimmy

    Happy new year, want to know when you will release your Samsung gear sport review?

    Thank’s

  9. Stuart

    Happy New Year.

    So where will you be traveling in Australia? Not to teach you how to suck eggs, but if you’re going to be in Victoria, I would strongly recommend you do a bit of research at link to theclimbingcyclist.com for good places to ride. ;)

    Sadly, I don’t know of an equivalent resource for the rest of the country.

  10. Thomas B

    Garmin at CES? Any predictions?

  11. fisao

    Hi Ray, Happy new year to your little family!

    Quick question: Will you be officially reviewing the Omata One that you received a few months back?

    Also: Good luck surviving The Crazyness that is CES.

  12. Jonas S.

    Shimano DA 9100 crank on an eTap bike? Does that work that great?

  13. Shimano PM arrived; yessss. Waiting on your review before pulling the trigger.

  14. Jimbo

    Wow, two MONTHS in Perth. That’s really long. Whole family going?

  15. John

    Disappointed to see crankset-based power meters (now including Stages and Shimano) continue to lack subcompact options. :-/ Hoping for better options once viable “road 1x” hits the market.

    • Duncan Tindall

      You mean smaller than 50 outer? I guess that if they were to go smaller on the bolts then the 53 rings (or larger) would get pretty flexy. I managed to pringle the orginal sram chainring that came with my first quarq. I’m guessing as a result of a chain throw as opposed to raw power, but I can delude myself….

      And the venn diagram of people wanting an expensive powermeter AND a single front ring are pretty small at present.

  16. James

    When are you headed back Down Under Ray? Hopefully we’ll have plenty of sunshine for you!

  17. Pawel

    Hey Ray, do you have any news on the Descent MK1?

    • My understanding was they were still planning on shipping in very limited quantities last week, but I don’t know if that ended up happening or not.

      I can ask on Monday when I see them at CES.

    • Pawel

      Thanks, I’ve preordered in one shop in NZ that was part of Beta Test and they have the same answer “waiting, was supposed to be shipped last week”. Hope it’s worth the wait ;)

  18. Pavel

    Happy new year, Ray!
    I have a question about your new bike: I see that it doesn’t have any fenders and I know from experience that it’s pretty muddy in winter/spring time. Do you use something clip-on or just wash a bike after ride with high-pressure washer?

  19. Leo

    Happy New year, looking forward to yet another year of your interesting posts! Any news on Polar’s upcoming successor of the V800?

  20. Peter

    Happy new year and thanks for your quality reviews year after year!
    Can’t wait to see the video of the Karoo. Been waiting for this device for a long time. Not much info about how the navigation works etc.
    after the delays and the not so correct info we as backers got, I hope you are positive about how the navigation works

  21. Robert Black

    Just been issued a tracking number from shft, for a shft one. Rightly or wrongly I took the offer to get something rather than nothing for my money. Kind of obsolete as I’ve since got the stryd, but I’ll let it guide me on a run or two and see what comes of it

  22. Kelly

    Hi Ray
    Glad to hear you’re coming back to TDU again. The landscape for women’s sport in Australia has changed dramatically in the last 12 months, so I’m optimistic we’ll see some positive changes in the women’s tour (both support and media coverage).
    Also, I work in a sleep research unit, some of my colleagues here are interested in the sleep metrics from activity tracker wearables (and comparison to medical standard sleep testing). I guess your schedule here will be pretty packed, but if you have time, it could be really interesting to chat.

    I assume you know your way around Adelaide pretty well now after previous visits, but if you’re up for a group run give us a shout!

  23. John Gaughran

    New bike looks great. Talking about Polar anything going re a replacement forV650

  24. Steven

    What about the TICKR Fit? Is it better/worse/same than Scosche? The 30 hour battery life is looking appealing for the jump to something on my arm that hopefully doesn’t slide away.

  25. Steph

    Is it me or the unboxing of the Karoo thing isn’t online yet?

  26. “A totally random example, but check out the above screen, it allows me to edit the Strava activity title before uploading, as well as things like privacy settings. Love it.”

    I know you have a different opinion on using smartphones as bike computers, and never do app reviews, but to me that sounds like basic functionality that my totally normal, free, and terribly marketed phone app (OruxMaps) allows me to do for years. That and many other things that are core elements of the Karoo software promise (routing).

    I’m curious about the GPS accuracy of the Karoo in challenging (read: mountainous) terrain. That’s one of their biggest feature claims.

    • Yeah, other apps have had it as well. But alas, no bike computers to date.

    • Gian Camillo

      I had a look at some Karoo videos and I found the Karoo share a fundamental flaw with Garmin devices, an user interface not thought for being usable while on a bike, wearking gloves.

      I still see user interface elements designed for a phone, very tiny, still impossible to miss if you’re sitting with your phone in your hand, but sometimes you need to click on the device mounted on shaking handlebars, with gloves on.

      For example, when you have to select between three options, why not just divide the screen in three rectangles (with big letter) to increase the possibility of selecting the right one?

      Even the keyobard, buttons so tiny… a T9 keyboard with 9 big buttons would work better for a cycling computer.

  27. Pat

    Hi Ray – Happy New year.
    Not sure where to place this question, so here goes.

    As we are well into the home trainer season here in France, I was looking for some good structured workouts.
    I cannot find any from Training Peaks, Daily Plan etc, that do not cost money.
    Is there any basic structured work outs that exist that are , well free ?
    I would like to upload them to my Garmin Edge 1000, or the soon to arrive Wahoo Bolt.
    I have also just got a Tacx Flow from Decathlon, so it is F-EC compatible (so far impressions are a bit Meh, on the Flow, and thats why I want to plant a some workouts on it to put it through it’s paces).
    I am using it like my old Santori dumb trainer on the GCN You Tube sessions so defeating the purpose really.
    Hope you can push me towards something – willing to pay; but want to see some examples before I fork out the reddies.
    Thanks
    Pat

  28. Lars

    So…
    You still didn’t found a Starbucks? ;-)

  29. Alex

    Hi – any idea if the Vivofit 4 works with an external ANT+ heart rate monitor? Really want to replace my vivofit 1 whose display digits are slowly disappearing!

    • Your question has the most impeccable timing. I had just pulled out the Vivofit 4 about 5 minute ago and was trying to figure out how to pair it to ANT+ HR sensor as well. Mystified, you can’t anymore. Really perplexed, that’s always been the key selling point of it. :-/

    • Alex

      Thanks for confirming this. However, :-( now, as this was going to be a perfect replacement. Might have to go for the 3, or one of the Vivosport etc, but not what i’m after, as the year long battery life is such a great feature. Sure you’ll raise this at CES!

  30. Andy

    Ray, are you willing to nail your colours to the mast and say wether you think Hammerhead have a viable product worth the pre-order price? Would you as an individual keep faith that the device will ship in the next 2-3 months and software update will eventually supply all the features Hammerhead have promised.

    I can only, personally, justify buying one cycling computer in the next 2-3 year cycle. I though the Karoo was a gamble worth taking, but am rapidly losing faith.

    • Rob

      The thing that’s bothering me most about the Karoo at the moment is that NOBODY seems willing to show any evidence of the navigational aspects of the device in use yet – just a stream of excuses or a complete silence.

      I’m amazed that at this very late stage (and with reportedly 100 units in the hands of the ‘beta tester crew’ it’s still impossible to find ANY video evidence of this working at all – which in itself is very worrying.

      This is an absolute make or break for me, so I’m really keen to see it in action so I know whether I should finally cancel or not…

    • Breaking this down a bit…

      RE: State of the product in 2-3 months

      While I suspect the company will make some gains in the next 15-30 days, I also suspect most of the attention after they start mass shipping will be on bug fixes. They’re going to be in the same exact situation as Garmin/Wahoo/etc after a new product launch where when you add thousands of new people to something, you find all sorts of crazy bugs you simply couldn’t find before (either due to compat/enviro/etc… type stuff, or just poor QA). Thus, in general, I don’t expect any new few features in the first 2-3 months short of things well into the pipeline.

      I posted the unboxing video today, but it actually has an entire section of the exact state of the product as of yesterday afternoon. I ended up re-shooting that whole thing yesterday (the UI portion) as I couldn’t stand the lighting on my first attempt. It’s here: link to youtube.com

      RE: Navigation

      I made a really valiant effort yesterday to shoot an entire video on this. I started around 10AM and went till almost 1PM trying to get it to work. I shot a video of creating routes, downloading maps, downloading routes, loading routes…and then, it failed. And I couldn’t get beyond that point, because as I’d eventually discover my map downloads were actually failing at 94-96%, and saying they succeeded even though they didn’t. Thus resulting in a corrupt map base.

      Given it’s 6PM and dark now, and I leave for the airport in the morning for CES (sans-bike, pre-dawn), it’s unlikely I’ll be able to finish putting together a good mapping video unless I steal someone’s bike temporarily in Vegas (not planned given how busy my schedule is). Thus, it may have to wait till next weekend when I get to Australia for the Tour Down Under (where I’ll have my bike).

      Sorry! :(

  31. ReHMn

    Hi Ray,

    While you will be on CES, please ask at Garmin stand, who’s “brilliant” idea was to cancel usernames?

    They did not delete old ones, like yours or mine, just the new users are getting this strange coded usernames e.g. dc5dd8f3-7b53-446f-9413-5768cbfbfad9…
    Just wanted to know who was that idiot implemented this, rather then concentrating on real Garmin Connect problem mitigation…Thx

  32. Ed Lee

    Would the Dura Ace power meter fit a Trek Madone with the bottom bracket integrated brakeset? Am contemplating adding a power meter, but most of the options add a meter to the left crank arm and caution about clearance. A Garmin cadence sensor seems fine right now, but it is not as elongated as most of these power meters. If the Dura Ace meter is inside the crank arm, then this would not be an issue.

  33. Chris

    Do you know when the Vivofit 4 will be available in the UK?

    http://www.clevertraining.co.uk it’s showing it yet even for pre-order.

    amazon.co.uk was showing it as available from today but it’s now changed to temporarily unavailable.