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Hammerhead Karoo 2 In-Depth Review

HammerheadKaroo2-Review

In most ways, the Hammerhead Karoo 2 is probably the most eagerly anticipated bike computer release of 2020. And not just because I feel like we’ve been waiting and talking about this moment for nearly the entire year, but because I think that they, alongside Wahoo, represent the most viable competitors to a higher-end Garmin Edge device. But for many people, myself included, it’s simply that high-resolution brilliant display that draws us in – like mosquitos to a hot summer evening bright light fly zapper.

The question is – how close does Hammerhead get with the Karoo 2 to being a true Garmin alternative? And what’s changed from the original Karoo 1? And perhaps most importantly – when the heck do these start shipping?

Well, they’re shipping already. For those that pre-ordered this past summer, those orders are sliding out in batches, one of the biggest being just yesterday, and will continue over the next few weeks. More on the nuanced details for everyone else without pre-orders, a bit later in the post.

Second – what’s new? Well, a beeper. It makes noise now. So when you get that navigational turn alert, you’ll actually hear it chirp – versus before it was as noisy as a mime. It’s also got significantly upgraded internals that will eventually be tapped for more advanced features. Plus, it can now integrate with your phone for smartphone notifications. But beyond that – they’ve taken an Apple-like approach of all new features having already been dropped onto the existing Karoo 1. As long as the hardware is capable, Hammerhead is going to keep updates coming.

With that out of the way, note that Hammerhead sent over a media loaner that I’ve been using for the last month or so. Well, two units actually. More on that later. Once I’m done with it I’ll pack it back up and go out and pick up my own through normal retail channels. Just the way I roll. If you found this review useful you can become a DCR Supporter to help support the site, details on that at the bottom! With that, let’s get into it.

Quick Specs & Newness:

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The main changes to the Karoo 2 are largely hardware driven. The most obvious being size. It’s no longer the XL Bacon Cheeseburger that was the original Karoo 1, instead, the size here is much more akin to a Wahoo ROAM or slightly smaller than a Garmin Edge 1030 in size. It’s a touch bigger than the Garmin Edge 530/830, but not so much that it feels big. This new hardware retains one of the signature elements of the original Karoo – a cellular SIM card slot. But beyond those visually visible things, almost all the other changes are inside under the covers from a processing standpoint. They’ve upgraded memory, processor, and Bluetooth chipsets – making it faster and more capable for future updates.

They’ve also upgraded the version of Android it runs, from Android 6.0 to Android 8.0. As part of all these changes, the unit can now pair to your phone for smartphone notifications. It still can’t offload rides or sync details via Bluetooth (yet – that’s coming in 2021 to both iOS and Android), instead relying on WiFi as before (or, cellular if you have a SIM card inside it). Still, I used it without issue to receive notifications throughout the ride from my phone, and those notifications felt far more robustly phone-like than constrained one or two line text tidbits as seen on a Garmin or Wahoo device.

Like just about any bike computer GPS it’s got all the basics you’d expect:

– Records your ride using GPS – up to 12hrs battery life
– Full color touchscreen display, glove and rain friendly (mostly)
– Connects to ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors (full list later in review)
– Pulls routes from Strava, RideWithGPS, Komoot, and others
– Pushes completed rides to TrainingPeaks, Strava, and others
– Gives turn by turn directions with full color/detailed maps for anywhere in the world
– Can re-route on the fly if you go off-course
– Can do structured workouts from TrainingPeaks, including smart trainer control

But what’s important is what’s changed. So here’s the differences hardware-wise compared to Karoo 1:

– Added a beeper (you can still pair Bluetooth headphones/speakers)
– Reduced size dimensions (in mm, now 60.8w x 19.3h x 100.6L vs 73w x 28h x 99L)
– Reduced unit weight from 186g to 132g
– Reduced mount weight from 55g to 33g
– Storage in the Karoo 2 is 32GB instead of 16GB
– Screen is covered in DragonTrail glass, which is sorta like Gorilla Glass – treated to reduce glare
– USB-C port waterproof spec IP67
– Added 4G coverage (2G/3G/4G, with your own SIM)
– Added dual Bluetooth Smart chipsets
– Added quad-core processor

And here’s what’s unique on the Karoo 2 software-wise that isn’t on Karoo 1:

– Smartphone notifications which are customizable by category
– Setup tool via website to pre-configure Karoo so that when it arrives in mail, you just connect to WiFi and it’s ready to go
– Various changes to sensor management
– Various changes to in-ride screens to handle different size

Ok, with that – let’s get this thing unboxed.

Unboxing:

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While the Karoo 2 unboxing is kinda like one of those crazy paper pop-up cards, it’s what happens after you turn on the unit for the first time that’s on-point. They’ve completely nailed that first 15-second experience with a dramatic cycling scene video that plays on loop, welcoming you to the Karoo 2. It sounds trivial, but it basically says ‘Welcome to the future of what a cycling screen should look like’. And of course, obviously…with a drone shot. Because drone shots make all cycling videos better.

But before we get there, we need to extract the unit and parts from the box.

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The matte black box accented with a glossy Hammerhead logo slides open from the side, revealing a tiered set of components.

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In the top section you’ll find the Karoo 2 itself, as well as a little mini-instruction pamphlet to tell you how to power it on, notable because the buttons have no labels.

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Below deck is the new Karoo 2 out-front mount, as well as a Garmin to Karoo quarter-turn mount adapter, letting you use your Karoo 2 with the gazillion 3rd party Garmin quarter-turn mounts found the world around, notably also found built-into some bikes/handlebars these days. As of current, they’re only planning on including that adapter for pre-order customers.

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On the backside of this crazy unboxing situation is another box that includes a braided nylon USB-C cable, and a lanyard.

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Once you compose yourself from all unboxing all the levels, here’s what’s left:

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And, a close-up gallery of all those same components:

Next, for a quick size comparison, here’s a lineup of like-minded units in the mid to upper end of the cycling GPS landscape.

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Left to right: Edge 1030 Plus, Hammerhead Karoo 2, Wahoo ROAM, Edge 530/830, Stages Dash L50

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And here it is compared to the Karoo 1:

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And then, here’s a look at the weights of them. While the Karoo 2 has lost a lot of weight – and bulk, compared to the original Karoo 1, it’s still a heavyweight of a unit in comparison to other products on the market. After all, the bigger screened Edge 1030/1030 Plus is still barely lighter than it. Realistically speaking you won’t notice, but I did find it interesting while weighing them all in.

Ok, with that let’s get it started and setup.

Initial Setup:

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The Karoo 2 is designed to be more like a phone than a bike computer, in terms of the initial setup experience. Once you’ve gotten past that aforementioned drone cycling video on loop, you’ll be asked to connect to WiFi. That’s because there is no Karoo companion app, at least in the traditional sense. On Android there is an app, but it merely handles smartphone notifications – not syncing of data or configuration. Instead, all of that is done via WiFi (or, a SIM card if you so choose).

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You’ll simply enter in your WiFi details like normal:

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Before it goes any further, it grabs the latest software update from Hammerhead:

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And after it’s done doing that (it usually takes 2-3 minutes), it finally asks you for your username and password. This is because it’s pulling in all your settings from their cloud platform. Or at least most of them. This includes your data pages/fields, Strava/TrainingPeaks/Komoot details, as well as general profile information like gender and age.

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However, there are some settings it doesn’t pull in – such as sensors.

In terms of how this compares to Garmin or Wahoo, it’s similar, but different. For example, Garmin’s latest Edge 130 Plus and 1030 Plus units now do pull in all your past data pages/fields from older Garmin Edge devices, as well as pull in your sensors.

Wahoo doesn’t pull in data pages or sensors from other Wahoo units, but does make it easier to configure those data pages on your phone. All three companies use backend platforms to handle your Strava/TrainingPeaks/Komoot integrations, so that’s the same here too – that’s all pre-done for you.

Both Garmin and Wahoo select to download the update after the initial setup, rather than before it like Hammerhead. Whereas, both Wahoo and Karoo will grab your exact regions map after initial setup too. Garmin has the maps pre-loaded for the region you bought it in, and extra maps can be downloaded later (depending on which unit you get). Again, this area is mostly a wash.

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After a few quick informational pages on setting up Strava and sensors, you’re basically ready to roll. However, do ensure you wait for everything to sync – especially your map region. By default the unit will automatically have started grabbing your correct map details, even without GPS. Meaning, even in the DCR Cave (which is under a 6 story building without GPS), it automatically started pulling in the Netherlands maps because that information is in my user profile. All in, just give your unit about 5-10 minutes for it to finish doing what it needs to do before bolting out the door.

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Once that’s done, you’ll find your existing profiles already configured, or, ready to start using them.

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Note that if you haven’t linked any 3rd party accounts, you can do that via the Hammerhead portal online, which is also where you can manage rides, and look at finished ride details.

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I would argue that I’d really like to see Hammerhead set a goal of increasing these partnership accounts by 3x by the end of 2021. Compared to their competitors, this is a rather small number of partnerships to send your data files to. For example, missing are platforms like Relive, SportTracks, MapMyFitness, Today’s Plan, Final Surge, TrainerRoad, Xert, and countless other smaller ones. Or heck, I’d also love to see Dropbox added – it’s one of my favorite Wahoo ELEMNT series features.

Ok, with everything all setup, let’s roll into day to day aspects.

The Basics:

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The Karoo 2 powers on by holding the lower left button. It’s definitely not the fastest unit to startup for the first time, roughly akin to starting any modern smartphone (because…under the covers, that’s what it is). On the upper portion of the screen you’ll see your profiles, which you can create/customize as you see fit. Meanwhile, along the bottom of the dashboard are the core areas of the Karoo 2:

– Rides: Your past activities
– Routes: Your routes from platforms like Strava or Komoot, plus ones you’ve created
– Workouts: Structured workouts from TrainingPeaks
– Profiles: This is where you tweak data pages and fields
– Sensors: Pairing of sensors (including trainers and Varia radar)
– Settings: Twisty knobs for all the things

In addition, you can swipe down from the top to get quick access to a few things, like WiFi, cellular, auto-pause, sensors, audio alerts, and battery states. Some of these require long-holds, such as Sensors, in order to access further details (versus just toggling on/off).

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First up along the bottom is ‘Rides’. This is where you can see all your past rides. While you can change the title of the rides manually, I rarely remember to. Thus, everything for me is simply listed by the time.

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Above is a great example of where the UI could mature a bit more. For example, they could mirror how it shows the mini-map in the Routes section (which I’ll show in a second). Sure, other companies just show a line item, but other companies don’t have Hammerhead’s display. Hammerhead: Use it!

Once you tap on a ride you can see some top-line stats, but again, it’s super slim here. Unlike every other company, you can’t see a quick preview of where the ride was map-wise, and even structured workout rides don’t show a quick chart of the workout. Again, so much potential here.

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Going back to the dashboard there’s the routes page, this is where you select a new route to ride, and a great example of how the completed rides screen should look IMHO.

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Now I’m going to dive into routes in the Navigation section in far more detail, so we’ll move onto the next chunk, which is workouts. This is where you select workouts from TrainingPeaks that are synced from your account there.

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Also, I’m going to defer this to the structured workouts section lower down – where I go into far more detail.

Looking at profiles next, you can create new profiles for whatever reasons you want here. For example, I have a main profile and a trainer profile. But you could have one for race vs training, or mountain bike vs road bike. They simply allow the configuration of data pages, they aren’t tied to specific sensors.

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Within the data page views, you can have numerous data pages, each with up to a dozen data fields. Data fields can be traditional fields with just simple numbers, or they can be graph/chart like fields. I like that in this setup page it shows fake data (err…simulated data), as it gives you a better idea of what the data will look like later. It’s a nice touch.

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Also in the list of things I like, is Hammerhead’s documentation in the profile/data page area. Seriously, it’s mind-bogglingly extensive. With every data field listed (no biggie), but also seemingly every combination of data field layouts. Super well done.

However, one caveat is that you can’t quite customize everything as it might seem. For example, there’s no structured workout data field/page customization. It’s take it or leave it. So if you do structured workouts for example, you can’t customize it to show your heart rate on that data page. Just the stock power/cadence/target. It’s not terribly ideal. Thankfully, that’s an easy thing for them to address, also, it’s something I discuss in a later section.

Next we’ve got sensors, but I’m not gonna take the wind out of my own sail at this point, since there’s an entire dedicated section on that too. I know, I know…but hey – we gotta have sections otherwise this wall of text is even less approachable. So let’s talk settings!

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There’s a slew of settings in here, rather than take screenshots of them all, let me just summarize:

Hammerhead Account: This is where you connect your user profile to the device, it’s ultimately what stores everything here
Strava Live Segments: You’ll manually enable/disable segments here. I dislike this part a lot.
Rider Profile: You can change your age/gender/weight here, as well as whether or not you’re a ‘lifetime athlete’.
Connected Services: It’ll show you which platforms are connected (e.g. Strava), as well as whether rides auto-upload or not
Bikes: You can specify a bike and odometer here. These are then selectable post-ride.
Training Zones: You can specify both heart rate and power zones, as well as auto-calculate them based on FTP and resting/Max HR.
Turn by Turn Directions: This controls your TBT overlay options
Key Button Icons: It’ll toggle on-screen labels for the buttons
Offline Maps: It’s here you can configure which maps are downloaded to the device
WiFi: Connect WiFi networks
Sensors: Pair ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors
Phone Pairing: It’s here you’ll pair up your iOS or Android device for smartphone notifications (e.g. texts)
Bluetooth Audio: You can pair up a Bluetooth headset or such for turn by turn directions
Cellular Data: If you insert a SIM card, you can control those settings here
Airplane Mode: Self-explanatory
Date & Time: Choose to override automatic network time with manual time
Auto-Pause: If you stop on a ride, it’ll automatically pause
Battery Save: This will decrease usage to optimize battery, it’s auto-offered below 20% battery
Elevation Calibration: This lets you manually override the elevation at your current point
Nacho Cheese Status: This indicates whether there is a nacho cheese dispenser nearby or not
Display: This controls the brightness level, as well as sleep settings (default is 5 minutes of inactivity and it goes to sleep)
Live Tracking: If you’ve got a SIM card or WiFi hotspot, you can enable live tracking here
Audio Alerts: This is where you control all the beeps
Are we done yet: Dear god why did I decide to write all these out
Measurements: This lets you select between Imperial and Metric, as well as power & cadence averaging
Storage: This shows how much space you have left
Factory Data Reset: It resets the whole thing
System Update: It gets new things from the magic of the cloud
About: Shows the current firmware levels
Learn more: Seriously, there’s nothing left to learn after reading this review. Just ignore this button.

One minor notable in the settings, is that your toggling the lifetime athlete option, which is used for calculating calories, is based on FirstBeat algorithms. Like many companies in the space, Hammerhead leverages Firstbeat for some of their physio bits, in this case just calories.

Update – Dec 29th, 2020: Hammerhead has contacted me to note this is an error in their UI, and they do not license or use FirstBeat algorithms in their products. This UI element should be removed in the next update.

Now, let’s talk about phone pairing and audio alerts. A major new feature of the Karoo 2 is the ability to pair your smartphone to the Karoo 2 to get smartphone notifications, such as texts or phone call alerts. To enable this you’ll swipe 19 times through the settings to find the Phone Pairing menu, and then toggle it:

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Next, on your smartphone (iOS in my case) go and find the Karoo 2 at the bottom, and pair to it – just like you’d pair to a car stereo. You’ll get prompted for a pin code, which shows up on your Karo 2:

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Once that’s done, you can enable which things will notify you on your Karoo 2, mid-ride. So for example you can toggle phone calls and messages only, but not other apps or voice mails:

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This is the only phone integration at this time. There’s no syncing of data or such via your phone, only via WiFi or SIM card in the device.

Also new are the audio alerts, as the Karoo 2 now has a beeper. In the settings you can toggle which beeps are beeped for which beeping things:

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However, despite these settings – to be honest, all the beeps kinda blur together. Especially when you’ve got Varia radar enabled while doing turn by turn navigation. It’s just a never-ending beeping good time. And while there are nuanced differences, I think they need slightly less nuance. Just my two cents.

Now, about that mount, it’s easy enough to install.

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To insert the Karoo, you slide it straight in (I show it in my video), and then to dismount the Karoo, you rotate it slightly and pull it out. This is slightly advantageous for tighter fit situations (such as aerobars, though…this mount won’t work on aerobars).

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They also included in the pre-order units a small adapter that makes it compatible with Garmin mounts:

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Also, since we’re on the back of the unit, here’s where you install a SIM card:

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You don’t have to install a SIM card, and I only had it installed for a single ride. But it does then allow LiveTracking, as well as any other function you want that you’d normally do via WiFi (like syncing rides).

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Ok – for the love of all things, let’s finally start riding. That was the intent of this section before I got all distracted with settings and configuration. Simply tap your ride profile of choice (such as road bike or such, whatever you named them), and you’ll be brought here:

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At this point the ride hasn’t started yet. Like most units, you’ll manually start it once you’re ready. The paired sensors will show along the top, such as power, shifting, or cadence. You’ll also see your battery stats and the time of day on that upper line. Meanwhile, you can swipe through your data pages left and right using the touchscreen, or, you can use the upper left and right buttons to change data pages.

Here’s a gallery of data pages during one of my recent outdoor rides, showing some of what things look like.

Notable in there is Garmin Varia Radar support. That’ll show along the left side of the screen (currently not configurable though to the right side of the screen for people driving/riding on the wrong side of the road).

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I dive into how the Varia Radar integration works on Karoo units here.

In terms of usability during the ride, all in all it works pretty well. I find that the touchscreen swipes generally work good when it’s dry, but not quite as good when it gets wet. For example, on a recent trainer ride with standing sweat on the screen, some of the touches weren’t as responsive (like changing intensity of the trainer). I’d say it’s about 80% success rate with water or gloves, check out the video where I show some examples.

Still, the vast majority of core ride actions can be done via the buttons if you want to. Visibility is good in gloomier Netherlands almost-winter weather, though in brighter weather earlier this past fall I found the screen really required you bump up the brightness to get it as visible as I wanted it. Not a big deal, but that’ll burn more battery.

If you’ve got Live Tracking enabled (requires either SIM or WiFi hotspot), you can send the tracking link out to friends or family to track your ride. I tried to use it this morning, but it wouldn’t show on my computer. Later in the afternoon I tried and could access the tracking page from a different computer (all of one foot away from the first computer that it still doesn’t work on). So it looks like I’ll have to try again.

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After your ride is complete you’ll get a small summary screen. Like with the earlier historical rides page – this could use some UI love. I would love to see a ride elevation profile, or a mini map, or time in zone…or…anything really.

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One feature that is kinda nifty though is that you can type the title of your Strava ride here, and it’ll convey that title to Strava. In my case, I upload all rides to Strava as private, and then manually update the title and add a photo. But I used to be in the camp of upload and call it done – so I can appreciate that.

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As far as battery usage goes, it’s honestly a bit hard for me to judge this one. Almost all of my rides had screen recording software on them, save a few recent rides. That screen recording software doubles the battery burn. Seriously, I measured it (it writes it to the .FIT file). So, looking at the data that I have, with the screen brightness for today’s 75 minute ride at about 20% (it was an overcast day), the battery burn was 12.46%/hour, thus, ~8hrs. That’s paired to a power meter, heart rate sensor, and Varia radar (though, very low traffic since I was out in the middle of nowhere). It was navigating a course at the time, but the vast majority of the ride it was on regular data field pages, not the map page. Thus, 8 hours is seemingly short of the claimed 12 hours.

Also, I have been having some issues with charging. I’m working with Hammerhead to figure those out, but essentially some chargers that should absolutely charge super fast, are barely charging at 1% every hour (such as a MacBook charger, and a heavy duty drone charger, both with USB-C PD). I’ll circle back once I finish testing the 4 different units I now have against all the charging cables/sources. Some do charge just fine, but not the ones I’d have expected.

Now, before we dive deeper into navigation – I need somewhere to mention that the Hammerhead Karoo 2 is built atop Android, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same Android experience as your Samsung phone. Rather, it’s a fully closed up device, so that means you won’t have the Google Play store on there to easily load Strava or Netflix.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t. With even just a minor amount of technical know-how you can sideload 3rd party apps. I’ve loaded a few, for example, Zwift’s Companion app:

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And here’s the TrainerRoad app loaded, and paired to my Tacx NEO 2T trainer and the HR from a Garmin FR745 (broadcasting):

 

 

 

And, if you want to see a short video of that, here’s me opening the TrainerRoad app, looking at the sensors available, the paired ones, and then selecting a workout and starting it. In this case it’s controlling the NEO 2T. You’ll see the wattage is a bit wobbly at first, but then I shift into the smaller ring and it stabilizes like any other trainer (no relation to the Karoo 2).

Hammerhead’s ultimate goal here has been to get/convince 3rd party companies to write apps for their platform (via an SDK they have), helping to bridge some of the feature gaps, or, by giving a more compelling experience. That’s been the goal since Hammerhead first announced the original Karoo 1 years ago. And at present, no companies have bit – largely because till now, I don’t think most companies have seen Hammerhead as viably competitive.

But that sentiment is changing (rightfully so), and it sounds like there’s some very near-term announcements that will be made in this space, for some meaningful 3rd party integrations/apps. I’m excited about them, though I remain someone skeptical on how many companies/apps Hammerhead will be able to convince to write versions for the Karoo.

While it gives those companies massive display flexibility compared to Garmin Connect IQ, Hammerhead obviously has not even 1% the user base of Garmin Edge users (probably not even 1/10th of 1%). Certainly, that’s going to change in 2021, but it’s going to require a leap of faith on behalf of those companies to see the potential beyond just user base numbers. Like most situations, I expect smaller apps/platforms will be the first – and then if the user base grows quickly, others might find ways or the desire to integrate.

Mapping & Navigation:

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There’s no question that if you’re buying a Karoo 2, it’s likely because you often like to navigate with your bike computer. Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t buy the Karoo 2 if you’re not into navigation, but simply that it’s where the Karoo series is and always has been the strongest.

To start with routing, you’ve got two core options You can connect it up to routing providers like Strava, Komoot, or RideWithGPS – or you can create routes ad hoc using the online web builder. Also, you can create routes on the device as well, but only if you have an active internet connection (SIM card or WiFi). Here’s the routes dashboard on Hammerhead’s site:

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To create a new route you’ve got two options: Manually just click your way through the map, or import a route. For routes, you can actually even just put in the URL of the website (which works for Strava, RideWithGPS, Komoot, TrainingPeaks, BikeMap, Google Maps, and any website URL that ends with .GPX). How cool is that? Or, you can simply upload the original file. Seriously, it’s super flexible.

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You can also use their route builder online, but honestly, my attempts haven’t been great here. Take for example the below route between those two points. It ignores the massive cycle-highway that basically exists alongside the southern edge of the rowing basin, forcing me off onto minor cycling paths no matter what I try.

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Now I get it – the bicycle networks of the Netherlands are legendary, and many companies have challenges – but this is a very straightforward case that every other GPS unit I’ve tried can map this properly on the most direct (and most bike friendly) path.

Still, some routes render just fine. For example, this one in the opposite direction worked pretty easily. Then again, it’s a lollipop loop with only one way in and one way out.

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You can also add waypoints as well, such as this windmill:

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Once you click to Save, seconds later it’s on the device. It’s super quick. Similarly, up above in the screenshot of the dashboard you’ll have noticed the Strava logo on routes, which means it came from Strava. As long as you favorite a Strava route, it’ll automatically show up here.

Once we’ve selected a route it’ll show you a preview of that route, as well as the elevation. Though, I’m not entirely clear where the elevation is coming from on this route. It’s literally the pancake of the Netherlands with a single overpass (once). Afterwards, it showed a mere 103ft of elevation gain (twice up the bridge).

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Once you’ve pulled open the route it’ll show the route on the map with directional arrows, as well as your current location. You can see a few examples of that during a recent ride below:

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If on the map page, as you approach a turn, you’ll get a banner that displays the distance until the turn, as well as the directional information, like these:

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Whereas if you’re not on the map page, you’ll just a pop-up with the same turn information (see below).

While this generally works the vast majority of the time, I find the routing just isn’t quite as good/accurate as Garmin’s. Namely in cases where the Karoo thinks I’m turning, but in reality aren’t. These are so-called phantom turns, where usually it’s just a bike path changing names, but often times the path might slightly dip a few meters (literally, just a couple meters) to the left or right around a driveway. But these can often trip-up the Karoo into thinking there are big turns:

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This results in two issues, namely if you aren’t on the map page at all times. That’s because there is no mini-map on the other data pages, it doesn’t show any pop-up of mapping context for what’s about to happen. It just shows the turn textually (like below).

And that’s a problem when there’s either a legit phantom error, or, in this particular case – my routing having a single data point a few dozen meters down one street. I turned, thinking I needed to turn, but in reality, it was just a misplaced dot of mine.

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If I was in the map view, I would have seen that, or if a mini-map popped up, it’d have been apparent. Unfortunately, neither were true. And what followed originally started as my fault, but quickly escalated.

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Somehow as part of trying to undo my failed keeping straight plan, the ride stopped recording. Hammerhead believes I paused while trying to change back to the map page to figure out why it was upset at me…all while trying not to get hit by gigantic green farm equipment. This explains the ‘Ride not recording’ banner up top (3rd photo above). But that covers the paused icon below it barely visible. I’m not sure why it just doesn’t say ‘Ride Paused’, since that’s more clear than ‘Ride not recording’ – which basically sounds like something has gone horribly wrong technically.

But how did I end the ride you ask? Well, that’s a funny story. See, normally you start a ride by pressing the lower right button (see 1st screenshot below). So first I figured I’d get myself back across the street and then resume the ride. So as I crossed the street (1st image left), seeing it was paused I instinctively tapped the right button to resume. Except one problem: During that few seconds crossing the street, it then showed the ‘Slide to end ride’ (center image). Now what? Well, I knew that sliding that screen would be bad, so I figured the same lower right button would also resume.

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I was wrong. It ended it. Donezo. And there’s no confirmation or anything. It’s just over.

There’s two reasons for that:

A) Because ‘Start’ isn’t the same as ‘Resume’. Once you start, those buttons switch, so that the bottom right start button becomes the lap button, and the pause/resume button switch to the other side (bottom left). And once you stop, Lap becomes ‘End ride now”.
B) “Slide to end ride” also now means “Or just press the side button” after a few seconds.

That’s because Hammerhead recently made it so a slide wasn’t required, in case the touchscreen isn’t responding well with gloves/rain/snow/whatever. But without a safety check on that, you can get in trouble quickly. I’d eventually use FitFileTools.com to merge the two parts of the ride together.

And look – let’s say I take complete responsibility for not fully understanding that the pause/resume button becomes the ‘Death to Ride’ button after some period of time. My bad. Or that my Strava route had an errant point. Also my bad.

However, I think it shows that as forward as Hammerhead’s UI is, the above center screenshot is a literal dumpster fire of user interface. No really, it looks like it’s on fire. Some of that is exaggerated by Varia Radar data, but a lot of it is just too much. Why is the gigantic ‘Ride not recording’ bar atop covering up a paused icon? Those two are duplicate. The very verbiage of Ride Not Recording implies the recording went wrong, not that it’s simply paused. And if the ride isn’t recording, then why are you still telling me turn by turn instructions? And then under that entire mess is sitting the Slide to End Ride – hidden by the instructions. And finally, why on earth are the start/resume/pause buttons switched once you start a ride? I can’t think of a single other device I’ve ever reviewed that switches those. I guess that’s why they aren’t actually labeled on the exterior buttons themselves.

Ok, my rant temporarily over (and I’m writing this 6 days later) – these incidents are rare. I haven’t managed to shoot myself in the foot on any other rides, though incorrect navigation instructions do happen multiple times every ride. All of them tend to be minor, but all of them require you to be on the map page at all times. That’s because unlike Wahoo/Sigma/Garmin, Hammerhead doesn’t pop-over a mini-map upcoming turn page when you’re on another data page. It just shows the turn/street text information. You can see screenshots of the pop-over in this section, but it’s the same on all Garmin devices.

Ok…moving along to something they do really well – their Strava Live Segments page. It’ll sync your Segments automatically to your account once favorited on Strava. While previously that wasn’t syncing (and enabling) my favorites, it does appear to be doing it today, so I’m happy now.

Out on the road, you’ll see a message about an upcoming Strava Segment appear:

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Once in the segment you’ll get an overlay along the bottom that shows the time in the segment, the time completed (left side), time remaining (right side), and then various icons indicating different goals – such as the KOM/QOM, your nearest competitor, your PR, etc…

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These icons become clearer once you get a bit more into the segment. Also, there’s an elevation profile there as that line, but I don’t really have any elevation here.

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At the end, it’ll list any achievements you unlock – in this case the carrot, which is basically the best effort recorded by my nearest competitor.

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Except, I wish it would tell me who the heck that was, since I’ve got no idea. So instead, I have to go onto Strava later on and play detective and figure it out. Turns out…it was Lama. Sorry Lama.

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(Side note: I can guarantee you that once Lama is able to travel again, you know he’s going to come back and just rampage around my regular loop to ensure I can’t keep using his name this side of a record.)

Also note that you can indeed have overlapping Strava Segments, it’ll properly show both, and you can then swipe left/right between the different segments. Like I said – I really like much of the implementation here, and with a few tiny tweaks it’d be incredible.

Structured Training & Sensors:

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The Karoo 2 supports syncing structured workouts from TrainingPeaks, enabling you to complete structured workouts both inside and outside on the Karoo 2. Moreover, it also supports ANT+ FE-C trainers, so it can automate these workouts for you on your smart trainer (all of them support ANT+ FE-C these days).

And that gets into the sensors side of things. The Karoo 2 supports ANT+ & Bluetooth sensors, including almost every sensor type you’re likely to have on your bike. Also, internally the Karoo 2 has a barometric altimeter, as well as GPS of course.

We’ll start off with the structured training aspect. As of this time, the only platform that Hammerhead supports is TrainingPeaks, which means that you’ll need an account there in order to use structured training on the Karoo 2. While there have been some rumors and screenshots floating around of TrainerRoad integration, that hasn’t happened yet – and when asked, there isn’t a timeframe for that at this point. There also isn’t a method of just side-loading a workout manually, if you happen to have the structured workout file.

In any case, once you’ve linked your TrainingPeaks account to the Hammerhead dashboard, it’ll start syncing structured workouts per your calendar. Meaning, it won’t sync your TrainingPeaks library of workouts, just those that are on your upcoming calendar in the days ahead. So in my case as I primarily use TrainerRoad for my structured workouts, I went ahead and manually dragged the one structured workout I have in my TrainingPeaks library onto Monday:

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Then, you’ll see it showing up on the Karoo 2 automatically. If it doesn’t appear at first, just hit the sync button at the bottom to re-sync via WiFi:

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You can then tap the workout to get a highly distorted view of it. This is because they try and scale vertically, versus just leaving it like the preview, and instead putting some other random info/text below it (for example, they could put the estimated TSS, power zone compilation, number of tacos required, etc…).

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In any case, you can select to open your profile now and get ready to start. However, you’ll likely want to disable your GPS first. Unfortunately the Karoo series don’t have any way to turn off the GPS automatically if you’re indoors on a trainer (or, via a certain ride profile). In my case, I created a trainer ride profile, but I still need to manually swipe down, long hold ‘Sensors’, and then manually disable ‘GPS’. And then – far more importantly, remember to enable it next time for my next outdoor ride.

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With that, we’re ready to begin. You can see here the workout screen ready to roll:

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It’ll now automatically control the trainer in ERG mode, keeping it at the mid-point of the wattage target ranges I had created.

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Note that there’s *no need* for this workout to be executed only indoors. You can in fact do workouts outside on the road as well. In fact, you can even add a structured workout to ride at any time. So for example, let’s say you’ve got a 15-minute ride to get to where you want to start your structured workout (perhaps past stoplights and such). You can start recording your ride, and then later open up the workouts page and add the workout.

Both indoors and outdoors, the Karoo 2 will automatically create lap markers for each new section of the structured workout (such as a new interval). That way these are visible on all training platforms later on, including TrainingPeaks.  Indoors on a trainer, you can also tap the +/- on the workout page to increase or decrease the target power in 5% increments. However, the only place you can see the entirety of the workout is at the end. I wish there was a bit more context beyond just that interval.

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Both indoors and outdoors you can pause the workout (without pausing the ride), and then once paused you can skip or reset a given interval (such as if you hit a stoplight and need to reset).

Once you’re done with your workout, you’ll get a summary of it like normal. Meanwhile, up on TrainingPeaks, you’ll get the planned workout with the completed workout merged together:

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Ultimately, all of this works pretty well – and largely in line with how their competitors do structured workouts. The main area that Hammerhead could improve here a bit though is customization of workout data fields. There isn’t any way to add workout data fields (like ‘time remaining in an interval’) to other data pages. All of the structured workout pieces are only available on a single non-customizable workout page. So if you don’t like that layout you’re outta luck. Still, in the grand scheme of things – that’s fairly minor.

Next, let’s talk sensors. The Karoo 2 supports pairing to numerous sensor types, and supports the saving and naming of multiple sensors per type. Meaning, you can save 3 power meters and name them for each of your bikes if you want to. Or 15 power meters if you’re me. Whatever floats your boat.

Here’s the complete listing of ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensor types:

– ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Sensors
– ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart Cycling Cadence Sensors
– ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart Cycling Speed Sensors
– ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart Cycling Power Meters
– ANT+ FE-C Smart Trainers
– ANT+ Cycling Radar (Garmin Varia radar units)
– ANT+ Gear Shifting (SRAM eTAP, Campagnolo EPS)
– Shimano Di2 Shifting

This is the vast majority of types of sensors people would likely have. About the only mainstream type it doesn’t yet support are ANT+ lights (which would include Cycliq, Garmin, Bontrager, See.Sense, and others). It also doesn’t support some of the more niche sensor types like tire pressure sensors (Quarq), or Muscle Oxygen (Moxy). I don’t see this as critical path, but rather things that Hammerhead needs to balance with everything else.

To add a sensor you’ll tap sensors from the bottom of the dashboard, which takes you into the sensors page. It’s here that you can filter by ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart sensors, as well as see any sensors listed with icons showing ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart:

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To pair a new sensor you’ll hit the ‘+’ in the lower right corner, which then lets you search by ANT+/BLE/Di2 (technically speaking Di2 uses private-ANT and not ANT+, which is why they’ve categorized it differently).

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You can tap on a sensor to give it a friendly name if you want, or, just leave the default ID. Your call.

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I’ve been dual-recording the vast majority of my rides (indoors and outside) to validate that the sensor data collected by the Karoo 2 matches that of other units, and so far I haven’t seen any discrepancies there. Note that I cover GPS data in this next section however. First though:

Complete User Interface Tour:

What’s that, you want a 30-minute long video to go with your 8,931 word in-depth review? Yes, another video aside from the other 15-minute video? Ask not and you shall receive anyway.

In the above video I go through the following things:

1) Complete unboxing
2) Size and weight comparison to popular/competitor units
3) Complete user interface tour indoors
4) Detailed ride-along user interface explainer as I ride across the countryside (including navigation/Strava Segments/Data pages and more)

You can use the YouTube chapters feature if you drag along the bottom to find the section you want. Give the video a like on YouTube if you found it useful.

Also, this is a great time to point out how incredibly easy it is to make the outdoor sections of that video given that I can load screen recording software on the Karoo series (since it’s just Android). I would love to see such a capability on other units, as it makes not just my job easier, but makes it far easier for people to share ride type videos online to increase popularity of a product. Just sayin’…

GPS Accuracy:

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There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS accuracy.  A watch could fall apart and give you dire electrical shocks while doing so, but if it shows you on the wrong side of the road?  Oh hell no, bring on the fury of the internet!

GPS accuracy can be looked at in a number of different ways, but I prefer to look at it using a number of devices in real-world scenarios across a vast number of activities.  I use 2-6 other devices at once, trying to get a clear picture of how a given set of devices handles conditions on a certain day.  Conditions include everything from tree/building cover to weather.

Over the years I’ve continued to tweak my GPS testing methodology.  For example, I try to not place two units next to each other on my wrists, as that can impact signal. In the case of GPS bike computers, I put multiple units on my handlebars, though quite well separated (such as one on an out-front mount, another on the stem, and others to the side of the handlebars).

Next, as noted, I use just my daily training routes.  Using a single route over and over again isn’t really indicative of real-world conditions, it’s just indicative of one route.  The workouts you see here are just my normal daily rides/workout. At least as much as is possible in this COVID-19 world without being able to travel far, I’ve varied my workouts and terrain (cities/buildings, trees, quiet roads, bridges, etc…). But, given I live in a pretty flat place (Amsterdam), it means there’s very little high-altitude mountain type testing right now. Maybe later this summer. Sorry!

(Now, I’ll give you a spoiler since you made it thus far: By and large it’s pretty rare to see GPS screw-ups on road-cycling routes. And frankly, that continues here. This section is super boring because nothing ‘exciting’ happened.)

First, we’ve got a ride from last week where I meander all around the countryside, including numerous tunnels/bridges – even under airport taxiways, to see how GPS handles, but also how it recovers from no-GPS situations like tunnels/bridges. In this case the Karoo 2 is compared against the Wahoo RIVAL GPS watch, Garmin FR745 GPS watch, and Bryton Rider 750 bike GPS. Here’s that data set.

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At a high level, no obvious error. So let’s zoom in to the very start to see how initial GPS accuracy looks as we get rolling:

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Basically identical. Here, zooming further into a forested section – again, everyone near identical. A tiny bit of variance from the Bryton going under the bridge, but hardly anything in that context.

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Seriously, this set is so boring, they’re all perfect:

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So you know what we’re gonna do? Throw airplanes at it. Seriously, I’m going to go under airport taxiways, under airplanes (for real), and every bridge I can find. Along with some of the tallest buildings in Amsterdam (at the airport…go figure). Still boring:

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In fact, it took a simple street crossing to finally get some disagreement. The FR745 was ranked first, followed by the Karoo, and then the Bryton and Wahoo units split the difference out in the grass.

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Fine – let’s throw more airplanes at it. Even a runway! It still properly handles loss of GPS and picking up GPS at the tunnel exit (which is what I’m looking for here). Again the Karoo 2 and FR745 take the cake for best entry/exit.

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Ok, enough airport games. The rest of this ride is boringly perfect (still).

Let’s go to today’s ride. This one I doubled down on Karoo 2’s, with two of them. Karoo Squared. Plus a FR745 and a Wahoo RIVAL. Here’s that data set:

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This one I started off across the street from the hospital, and let all the units have a 30-60 seconds breather after pressing start (they all had like 10 minutes while I was shooting video to get GPS and lock firmly). About 30 seconds after I start pedaling I go under/through the Hospital. It’s basically like an overpass. Zero issues from the Karoo or Garmin units.

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The rest of that street I did both directions, and actually has some new high-rise buildings on all sides of it. Pretty stable across the board.

Later on, as I do some interchange stuff, including bridges, you see the tracks are near identical, except for one brief tiny disagreement from the FR745.

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Later in the ride…more boringness:

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Still boring:

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Ok, that’s a waste of time. The entire rest of the set is perfect. We need to find some bad GPS tracks here somewhere. Anywhere!

So, let’s go back to Nov 6th. Over a month ago, and like 4 firmware versions ago. But gosh darn it I’m gonna find some imperfection to complain about. Here’s that data set:

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Look – in the trees, it’s off by one meter! Actually, so are the other two units, the wrong direction. But at least we now know the Karoo 2 isn’t perfect.

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Actually, in all seriousness, it did struggle a little bit (four firmware versions ago) at the local cycle track loop that I did on repeat. Not hugely, but you can see it cut the inside edge of all the corners on most turns, compared to the FR745 and Wahoo RIVAL.

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That said, given this was a month ago and four firmware versions ago (beta still I think), I haven’t seen that since (I also haven’t been back to that spot since). Point being, that’s the only error I can find in my GPS tracks.

Ultimately, I’m just not seeing anything even remotely problematic of discussion in the GPS accuracy of the final production firmware for the Karoo 2. Which honestly isn’t a huge surprise. I rarely see issues road-cycling with bike GPS computers. I’ve got some trail work I need to do over the coming weeks, so I’ll see if anything changes there.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Product Comparison:

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I’ve added the Karoo 2 into the product comparison calculator so you can see how it compares to other units on the market. To keep things simple for below, I’ve compared it against the Wahoo ROAM, Garmin Edge 530, and Edge 830 (all of which have routable maps onboard). Of course, there are plenty more units in the product comparison calculator, so you can make your own charts here as well. In the meantime, here’s how things line-up below:

Function/FeatureHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated December 30th, 2020 @ 3:15 am New Window
Price$399$379$299$399
Product Announcement DateAugustu 2020May 1st, 2019Apr 24th, 2019Apr 24th, 2019
Actual Availability/Shipping DateNov 2020May 8th, 2019Early May 2019Early May 2019
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYesYesYes
Data TransferWiFi/USBBluetooth Smart, WiFi, USBUSB, Bluetooth Smart, WiFiUSB, Bluetooth Smart, WiFi
WaterproofingIP67IPX7IPX7IPX7
Battery Life (GPS)12 hours claimed17 hours20 Hours (40 in battery Saver Mode)20 Hours (40 in battery Saver Mode)
Recording Interval1-second1-second1-Second or Smart1-Second or Smart
Quick Satellite ReceptionYesYesYEsYEs
AlertsVisual/AudioAUDIO/VISUAL + LED'sAudio/VisualAudio/Visual
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceIn futureNoYesYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)N/AN/ANoNo
MusicHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Can control phone musicNoNoNoNo
Has music storage and playbackNoNoNoNo
Streaming ServicesNoNoNo
PaymentsHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Contactless-NFC PaymentsNo
ConnectivityHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Bluetooth Smart to Phone UploadingPlanned 2021YesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYesYesYes
Group trackingNoYesYesYes
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoYesYes
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)Yes (with SIM card added)NoNoNo
CyclingHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Designed for cyclingYesYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableYesYesYEsYEs
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsYesYesYesYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFYesYesYesYes
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYesYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceYesYesYesYes
Crash detectionNoNoYesYes
RunningHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Designed for runningNoN/AN/AN/A
VO2Max Estimation(No for cycling too)N/A(CYCLING YES THOUGH)(CYCLING YES THOUGH)
Recovery Advisor(No for cycling too)N/A(CYCLING YES THOUGH)(CYCLING YES THOUGH)
TriathlonHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Designed for triathlonNoN/ASortaSorta
WorkoutsHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Create/Follow custom workoutsYes via TrainingPeaksYesYesYes
On-unit interval FeatureNoNoYesYes
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoNoYesYes
FunctionsHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Auto Start/StopAuto-pause/restart (but not Auto-Start)YesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoNoYesYes
Virtual Racer FeatureNoNoYesYes
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)NoNoYesYes
Day to day watch abilityNoShows time/dateN/AN/A
Weather Display (live data)NoNoYesYes
NavigateHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesYesYesYes
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYesYesYesYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)YesYesYesYes
Back to startNoYesYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNo (But can create one-way routes on device)No (But can create one-way routes from phone app)NoYes
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNo (only via WiFi from site)YesYesYes
SensorsHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeMagneticMagneticGPSGPS
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyN/AN/ANoNo
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYesYEsYEs
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYEsYEs
ANT+ Footpod CapableNoNoNoNo
ANT+ Power Meter CapableYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNoYesYes
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNoNoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoNoYesYes
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationYesYesYesYes
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)YesYesYesYes
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoYesYes
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoYesYes
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)NoYesWith appsWith apps
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)YesYesYesYes
Shimano Di2 ShiftingYesYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableYesYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableYesYesYesYes
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoYEsNoNo
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableYesYesYesYes
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYesYesYes
Temp Recording (external sensor)NoNoNoNo
SoftwareHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
PC ApplicationNoN/AGarmin ExpressGarmin Express
Web ApplicationYesN/AGarmin ConnectGarmin Connect
Phone AppNoiOS/AndroidiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows Phone
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNoNo
PurchaseHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
AmazonLinkLink
Backcountry.comLinkLinkLink
Competitive CyclistLinkLinkLink
REILinkLink
WiggleLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerHammerhead Karoo 2Wahoo ELEMNT ROAMGarmin Edge 530Garmin Edge 830
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

And again, remember you can mix and match and make your own product comparison charts over in the product comparison calculator.

Summary:

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In some ways, one could re–review the original Karoo 1 on this date and end up with a near identical review. After all, it’s near identical software. Except – it lacks that all important audible beeper, as well as phone integration. But my point here is more subtle – Hammerhead has made tremendous strides in getting the Karoo 2 to where it’s at, via investing time in the underlying Karoo software platform for everyone. So while the company hasn’t shipped a Karoo 1 in over a year now (seriously – that long without shipping any units) – they spent that time working on features and bugs for existing and upcoming users alike. That’s a great strategy that’s paying dividends now.

Their next challenge though is shipping out hardware. After fulfilling existing backorders over the next few weeks, they’ve selected to start stockpiling units from January to March, rather than shipping units as available off the manufacturing line. I personally think that’s a bit of a mistake, as it basically gives reason for people to wait to see what arrives next spring – after all, competitors don’t pause because you stockpile. And it’s not like Hammerhead is offering a discount on the Karoo 2 to get people to commit now. Still, eventually Hammerhead will get to a point where they’ve got actual units in stock all the time, and I’d assume expand out distribution and such then too like any other bike thing.

But as part of that, they’ll also need to have a clear roadmap on *new* innovative features. Much of Hammerhead’s work to date over the last few years has largely been playing catchup on core and secondary features. They’re at the point where they still need to continue that in some manner, but also need to start basically rolling out ‘Take my money’ type features. Innovate and new features at time of announcement, like ClimbPro on Garmin Edge units, or BestBikeSplit integration on Wahoo’s units. I’m optimistic they’ve got a team in place to do that, combined with a substantial investment round last summer.

All to say, I really like the direction that Hammerhead is going, and their trajectory is in the right spot. There’s nothing like it display-wise on the market today, and even if the navigation prompts aren’t quite 100% perfect, the overall navigation and display experience is unlike anything else out there. And I think that they’re quickly becoming the most viable competitor to Garmin’s Edge series aside from Wahoo. And ultimately, competition is good for everyone.

With that – thanks for reading!

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160 Comments

  1. Steve

    All bike computers should have nacho cheese alerts

  2. Robin Quagebeur

    Do you think the upgrade program from Karoo 1 is worth the deal?

    • Not really. But not for the reasons you might think. Rather, mostly cause I’d expect it’s pretty easy to sell a Karoo 1 for more than $120, thus, you can put that cash in your pocket.

      On the flip side, the easy button of taking their deal means you don’t have to deal with the logistics of it. So if you’ve got a friend that wants to give you $150 for it – obviously, take that. But if you have to list/sell/ship/etc it for $150, it’s probably not worth the extra $30 (on a $400 purchase).

  3. Great stuff as always Ray. I’m going to do my usual and point out a typo though. “But I used to be in the camp of upload and call it done – so I can apricate that.” — should be “appreciate”.

  4. Brian

    Zwift companion app is so amateur hour. I want to run Zwift on it. LOL.

  5. Mark Wheeler

    Its probably worth a mention that any new pre-orders have gone up 17% as of now. I’ve been trying for three months to pre-order at the £306 price, but they’ve only been accepting email notification requests. Now you can buy a gift card at £359. Sounds like the Elon Musk rule of economics for self driving cars, “buy now or expect the price to go up further.”

    • Hmm, is that just the UK price? The USD price has stayed the same at $399.

    • TJ

      My pre-order from the UK was £301.88 (plus an indeterminate %age of tax). The price has now jumped to £359 (plus even more %age tax). I cancelled my pre-order as I couldn’t get an answer to what would be the final cost, in fact I heard nothing from the moment they took my money. No promised ‘behind the scenes’, no updates, no browser configuration, nothing.

    • Oleg

      It’s also came up in EUR.

    • lucian

      Am I wrong? I seem to remember to have signed up for an email notification so that I can order in time for the holidays. I supposed they meant the winter holidays. Now I got the notification that I can pay up and preorder for end of March. Bollocks 🙁

    • M@rtin

      I think the £359 price now includes tax, so there’s nothing more to pay when it gets to the UK. Back when I bought the first Karoo they did a similar additional charge to cover taxes, so this is nothing unexpected.

    • Flâneur

      Hammerhead’s Pre-Order FAQs now say:

      “Note: To reflect the price of the Karoo 2 in a format more commonly used outside the United States, we are now including all taxes and VAT in the listed price”

      My UK pre-order email says “When your Karoo 2 is close to shipping, we will notify you to return to checkout to apply this deposit toward your complete purchase ($399 plus tax and duties)”. And £359 is £300ish (~=$399) plus 20% VAT. So a £306 Karoo 2 was never an option.

  6. I vote to be able to add our own cycling drone shots to the screen intro. Wait, I don’t get a vote?

  7. JD

    “There’s nothing like it display-wise on the market today.”
    How does the resolution compare to your average smartphone screen?
    Does the anti-glare coating makes a big difference?

    • David W

      Nothing like it display wise on the market? What about the Dash. Way brighter and more readable. Also has a lot of cool widgets like the power and hr wheels, color coded elevation, heart rate, and power graphs. Route creation doesn’t exist on device but following a downloaded route works fine. I practically never need on the fly routing.

    • Nah, the Stages Dash isn’t in the same league when it comes to the display. Brighter…maybe? I’d have to do some side by side tests (or, dig out the specs).

      But the Karoo has much of those same charts, just looking slightly differently/style. I do agree that Stages has a far better elevation chart. And I think in general Karoo has kinda missed the boat on elevation plotting potential here…but…sounds like some things are in the queue there.

      Now, as far as readability for someone with less than optimal eyes, I would actually agree that Stages gives you more flexibility there. Certainly you can reduce data fields on the Karoo 2 and increase the size, but that readability doesn’t necessarily extend to everything. If you watch my UI video you can see a good example of that with the waypoints (it’s towards the end). This is an impossibly small screen to read/interact with while riding.

    • Also, minor addendum – my eyesight is generally excellent, better than 20/20 – so if I’m complaining about something being tough to read… 😉

    • David W

      My eyesight 15 years ago was better than 20/20. However, my reading vision has deteriorated has deteriorated to the point that I need large and bright fields to be able to read them. Even with bifocal sunglasses. That is why the Dash is what I use now- Wahoo and Gamin (both of which I have) are too dim and small for me to read most of the time..

    • JD

      Circling back to my question —
      Hammerhead’s website says “Karoo 2 has the largest color spectrum and twice the pixel density (292PPI) of its closest rival” but how does that compare to the average smartphone screen?
      If you run Komoot or RWGPS on your phone mounted next to a Karoo 2 and compare the same map area, is there noticeable difference other than screen size?

    • Ian

      You can search for the PPI on different phones pretty easily. A few numbers from the top end: iPhone 11 is 326. 12 is 460. Samsung S20s & Note are in the 500+ range. But I think the screen resolution is only noticeable to a point and refresh rate + power use become more important than PPI. I can’t do a comparison yet personally, but I’d say 292 is in the ballpark of the ‘average’ smartphone screen. Different apps will scale graphics differently so even if the PPI is close they may look different. More importantly the phone screen will be larger & show more of whatever is being displayed at the same scale.

  8. Jop

    What is their limit for the number of starred strava segments they support for strava live segments? (I can give you a script that uses the strava api to star and then unstar a large number of segments in order to test.)

    • Ian

      Not sure if you’ve seen this already, but per Strava: “You can sync up to 100 starred segments and view 100 nearby segments”
      link to support.strava.com

      That said, I read somewhere on a karoo forum that strava enforces a restriction on their API which limits the number of segments that can be pulled at a time. It sounded like hammerhead was looking into expanding… might need to be multiple ‘pulls’ from strava to manage it (maybe based on location?) so we’ll see. Sounds like you might be able to expand on how feasible that would be for hammerhead based on the API.

    • Jop

      Thanks for that link, I had not seen it. (I had seen something about a much lower limit before the karoo 2 was released). Sad to see they have the same 100 limit as Garmin. Wahoo units have no limit on segments, so it must be possible to use the api in that way.

      As a frequent user of the public strava api (the one used for live segments is not public) you frequently need to make multiple requests and obey rate limits to get the data you want. It’s a basic thing you need to do to use the api, so it shouldn’t be too hard for Karoo to do when using the non-public api as well hopefully.

      I’d be happy to read any links on the karoo forum that have more details or info on this matter.

      Thanks again for the info!

    • Ian

      This is the thread. I don’t want to read too much into the support rep’s reply, but it sounds like they don’t want to risk annoying Strava with a big data pulls, but there may be room for improvement if they are more selective. I don’t really need more than 100 live segments per ride, so if it could figure out which of my starred are nearby that may be a work around. Let the others be stale. Understand that wahoo supports more, but I don’t think they are pulling more than just my best time and the KOM time. Karoo seems to also pull best efforts from some followers and maybe more data on segment progress so each call could be double the data. I’m not sure how the units show ahead/behind… it could be real progress which would be a lot more from the API or making some assumptions based on speed and doing a calculation.

      link to support.hammerhead.io

      “As of now, it has been limited and couple of reason being Strava are very conservative with how much load we are allowed to place on their API because they support a lot of other head units doing the same thing. We also want to ensure everyone can use the Live Segment experience on Karoo, we have to enforce a cap at some value to distribute that API load across our growing user base.”

    • Jop

      Thanks for the link.

      Wahoo compares progress point-to-point, not based on average speed. So they are pulling more than just two times per segment.

      From that comment it sounds like strava is giving hammerhead a total maximum daily number of api requests that they need to split between their users (“distribute that API load across our growing user base”). This is how users of the public api work as well, a per-day limit per app regardless of the number of users of the app (with the option to try to contact strava to ask for a daily limit increase, which I hear can be challenging). For public apps, ie developers that don’t have any special relationship and aren’t paying strava this seems reasonable. For a company which does have a special relationship with strava (they have access to this private live segment api at the least), and for which they are very likely paying strava (Ray has reported previously how everybody but Garmin has to pay strava for live segments), this seems like a silly way to run things on Strava’s part. Strava should scale the limit with the number of users.

    • Ian

      Gotcha. So that point to point data would be pulled for the wolf and carrot (lol) in addition to your best and the Kom/QOM. But i think you’re right, it sounds like the limit is requests not data size.

      I agree that it seems like poor scalability on strava’s end. With live segments being a premium feature for which I already pay strava to use, there shouldn’t be a limit. Feels like double dipping to also charge hammerhead/wahoo/polar/etc to pull data that the user already paid to access. If they want to enforce a limit on frequent redundant requests or crappy use of the api then fine, but not legitimate traffic for a premium user.

  9. Amarynth

    Does it support ANT+ Cycling Dynamics? I would find that a useful addition to you comparison table for all the units.

    • No ANT+ Cycling Dynamics support at this time. But I do agree, it’d make a good addition to the table. There’s a host of changes I want to make in those charts, so I might roll them in there. Some of the data fields are getting a bit stale as time moves on.

    • chukko

      Not sure how much userbase there is for Varia Radar vs Varia Vision HUD, but it would be valuable to include that in the table too – this may be one of the ways to motivate Karoo to add suport.
      For me personally – this is one of the few showstoppers when deciding between Garmin and Karoo (the other one would be climbpro and maybe cycling dynamics).

    • Yeah, I think that one might be a bit niche to be honest. With no other company supporting it aside from Garmin to my knowledge these days, and even Garmin seemingly not caring about it – I fear it’d be one of those line items that somewhat unnecessarily skews every chart towards Garmin for something almost nobody uses. 🙁

  10. chup

    Tried side loading Xert Player on Karoo 2 yet?

  11. Robert

    Maybe I’m not too knowledgeable about cycling, being more into running, but if the big advantage of this unit is that it has a screen as nice as your iPhone, why not just use your iPhone as your cycling computer ? You are probably taking it with you anyway ?

    • Nik

      That is a legitimate question. In principle you could use an iPhone/Android as a cycling computer, but in practice this would be annoying for a number of minor issues:
      * Lock screen – you don’t want to have to unlock your phone repeatedly during a ride. But if you disable the lock screen, you have to do that before every ride and remember to enabled it after every ride. Bike computers don’t have a lock screen, and if you leave it unlocked, it’s not a security risk because you’re not keeping anything important in a bike computer (like access to your bank accounts and email)
      * Phone screens can’t be left on for hours without running down the battery. I’m not sure about Karoo, but Wahoo has reflective displays that can stay on without the backlight, and use very little battery
      * User interface – phone apps assume that you’re sitting still and can totally focus on tiny UI elements on the screen to operate the app. Bike computers are designed to be operated while riding, where you have to pay attention to the road/trail so you don’t crash
      d you can buy a new one. iPhone claims to be water resistant, but you can’t rely on it.
      * Strava app sucks at recording data from sensors. They had it for years, then they said it keeps crashing and they don’t feel like fixing it, so they removed that function entirely. Then they added it back years later, but I think it’s limited to what it can do.
      * The Strava app is more limited in general. I don’t think it has workouts.
      * Battery – it’s good to have a bike computer that gets recharged in the garage and is fully charged for your next ride. With your phone, it’s easy to end up in a situation where you forgot to charge it, and now you’re starting a 6-hour ride with 15% battery

    • Marcin

      Nik & Robert,
      if You want to start cycling with a “device” the best and most cost effective way is to use Wahoo Fitness app. I’ve used it on an iPhone but it’s also made for Android. App is free and it works. Design is clear and functional. Without spending any $ You have speed, distance, workout time, route and maps if You connect it with Strava you will have calculated power (post ride).
      – If You want to step it up – go for Bluetooth cadence sensor
      – then go for a heart rate monitor
      – then go for a power meter
      – shave legs at some point 😉

      my only issue with the Wahoo Fitness app as a “cheap” bike computer is that I can’t connect two Magene sensors at once (those are speed/cadence combos) and that the speed readings while using GPS have a massive lag… and I would like to see apple watch integration for HR readings.
      But If You want to start somewhere it’s no-brainer.

    • Nik and Marcin did a great job of outlining things. It’s funny, I almost started down that path in the intro of the video, but ended up cutting it. It’s sorta like politics.

      Still, the one argument that I think a lot of people overlook aside from all the hardware things noted correctly above – is just the cohesiveness of a phone as a bike computer.

      Generally speaking, most phone cycling apps are focused on one thing. Meaning, recording a ride, or Strava, or perhaps navigation, or perhaps structured training. There are very few though that do it all. So you end up with this hodge-podge of apps trying to get one cohesive unit. Is it impossible? Of course not, but that’s part of what you’re paying for.

      The ability for example (with the Karoo or others), to load up a navigational course, and then decide to add a structured workout to it, and still also pair sensors…plus of course the better mounting/battery life/etc… things.

    • Wojtek

      I also use Wahoo Fitness app with iPhone and noticed that it overestimates the elevation gain quite significantly. But if you then connect to Strava, you will finally get the correct number there.

    • Joe

      I definitely agree on the battery point. That’s the biggest reason as far as I’m concerned to have a dedicated bike computer.

      For me though, I had been a preorderer for the Karoo 2 that I cancelled. It came down to the fact that I found a phone app that is ‘good enough’ combined with the fact I want to make some other bike-related purchases instead. It took a long time to find a good app on Android (so many of them suck), but I finally found a free app called Jepster that I really like (and for what it’s worth, zero affiliation with the developer). With that I miss Strava Live Segments and I miss turn-by-turn directions, but again, it’s saving me money I can put to other uses for now.

      But it’s intended as a bike computer app, which means that it avoids some of the pitfalls of small interface elements that you describe.

    • JD

      “There are very few though that do it all”
      Do you plan to elaborate on that list at some point in the future?
      The last time you attempted to something similar was Feb 2012. 🙂
      Regardless of the cons there are plenty of folks interested in an app that can do everything.
      How about a review focused on the best all-in-one cycling app for iOS and best app for Android?
      Minimum requirements would be full sensor connectivity (ANT+ and/or BLE), GPS routing, and trainer control with workouts and what else? That will narrow down the candidates considerably.

    • Has it been 8 years? 😉

      Yeah, I vaguely keep tabs on it. I think to some degree most roads lead to CycleMeter, RideWithGPS, or for more structured training Train2Peak or Final Surge. But I haven’t flushed out all the nuances with those.

      And that’s ultimately where it gets sticky – the devil is definitely way deep in the details there on those apps. And many times the various documentation bits they have it woefully out of date.

      It’s in my ToDoist list, but to be honest…so are some post ideas for products that have already been replaced by newer versions. 🙂

    • chukko

      I would also add one little detail (which might be implicit in Nik’s points) – when you are on the trip and your navigation dies, you continue without it – no big deal (and if you get lost, you still can use the phone as a backup for orientation). But being on the trip with phone dead is a much more serious scenario in several aspects (security, emergency, group coordination etc etc).

  12. Shai Simchi

    So the summary says nothing about this device as a bike computer… Good? Bad? The best?
    Some of us go straight to the summary and this time around the summary told me nothing…

  13. Klaas

    Great review!

    Can you confirm that you can sideload TrainerRoad and that it also works as intended?

    Thnx,

    • Yes, I just sideloaded it and confirmed it works controlling a Tacx NEO 2T. I added a small section, and video, into the review towards the end of the The Basics section (but it’s faster to go to the next section and scroll up once): link to dcrainmaker.com

    • JD

      Is the sideloaded TR in your example any different than how an approved app would work in the future?
      Why would a company like TR need the Karoo SDK if their Android app can run fine as is?
      Couldn’t Hammerhead simply add approved apps to their own “store” so they install just like it works on an Android phone?

  14. Sean K.

    Informative review Ray. Did you happen to test with a Favero power meter? I’m curious because I’ve seen issues reported elsewhere of issues with the Favero Assioma Uno when paired over bluetooth (*). Since the software is unlikely very different between the Karoo 2 and the Karoo, I wonder if it will have the same issue. The reason I ask is because I’m looking to get my first bike computer and want to also get the Assioma Uno for use with my bike and my Peloton.

    Thanks,
    Sean

    * link to support.hammerhead.io

    • Hi Sean – thanks for being a DCR Supporter!

      I don’t think I’ve tried the Favero this round, and definitely not an Uno (since, I don’t have an Uno).

      That said, two questions:

      A) Why pairing on Bluetooth? I don’t mean that in a rude way – but just curious. My rule of thumb is *ALWAYS* pair power meters via ANT+. The reasoning is simple: The Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Device Profile is a dumpster fire. Not full-rage dumpster fire, but more minor dumpster fire. Like, trash can fire. As such, in turn, the implementation of that across the industry is also trash can fire, especially in pedals. It’s hard to blame any one company, because they’re all trying to play whack a mole fixing it for everyone else doing it wrong. There hasn’t been ANT+ power meter pairing issues in roughly a decade (and even then, it was just SRM).

      B) What’s your toggle in the Favero App on ‘Zwift Compatibility’? I can’t remember for Uno, but I know for Duo if you’re going to BT pair it, you want that toggled to yes.

      Cheers!

    • usr

      Well, in a desparate attempt to win yet another “for science!” badge you could temporarily downgrade a pair of Assiomas to left only in the app.

      But the more meaningful answer should be a quick verification that the Karoo2 doesn’t somehow refuse ANT+ when there’s also a BLE signal.

    • Sean K.

      Hi Ray thanks for the reply!

      For A) That makes a lot of sense for always connecting power meters via ANT+. I’m new to using these sort of sensors (although I do use Stryd with my Fenix 6 Pro Solar) and so I am interested in how well the bike computer company supports features in general. Sometimes if one feature (BT pairing) is stuck in an issue tracker backlog there could be more issues. For B) I’ve not gotten the Favero yet. That’s next on my list!

      Thanks,

      Sean

  15. Joze P

    Is WIFI dual band or just 2.4 Ghz?

  16. Juri

    Nacho cheese? Won’t buy..Karoo needs to add a Nacho Salsa sensor! ;P

  17. Pavel Vishnyakov

    Thanks for the review Ray!
    One question – is it possible to separately configure uploads and downloads for platforms Karoo supports (e.g. only download routes from platform but not upload workouts to it)?
    And the USB port placement is unfortunate – can’t be used to charge the unit while riding

    • I’m not seeing any obvious way to do that, though, maybe you could do it as part of the permissions you grant from each platform (for example revoking a subset of permissions)?

      That said – on the unit itself you can choose which platforms you push the workout to each time. So for example I can select to not push to TP or Strava, which is pretty cool.

  18. Kemal

    Hey, is it possible to test the GPS (once more?) with a camera (Cycliq or GoPro) mounted right at the bottom of the mount and recording? What I’ve seen is recording cameras give out harmonic interference (due to high CPU cycles and bad RF isolation I’m assuming) and they mess up GPS signals, so in the Wahoo head units (tested with all three) the track becomes inaccurate and/or it lags, so it would show your position as of 3-4 seconds ago. I was wondering if that’s the case with this unit as well. Cheers!

    • I can try and remember on my next ride.

      That said – I’m curious which action cam you have? I haven’t seen that issue on action cams since the GoPro Hero 5ish or so days.

      And it’s partly because these days GoPro cameras don’t leave WiFi on. It’s only turned on after your phone tells it to turn on with Bluetooth Smart. Instead, Bluetooth Smart stays on for 8 hours from the last time you touch the camera/power off (it actually stays on for 8hrs after you power it off, unless you yank the battery). So it uses that to jumpstart WiFi.

    • Kemal

      Happens to me all the time with the newest Cycliq (FLY12CE) to the point that I consider stopping recording if I’m navigating an unknown/new route. Had similar issues with GoPro Hero8 but less IIRC. I’ve even gone to lengths to cover the back side of my Wahoo Roam with sticky alu tape to prevent that, but since I can’t ground it it’s next to useless (or maybe even making things worse).

      It was happening on my first commute cam few years ago (a “Mobius Actioncam” + Elemnt Bolt at the time) which I had resolved by covering the inside of the camera with sticky copper tape and grounding it using the side of its USB mini connector. That cam had (still has, I use it as an under-saddle sometime) brilliant quality btw.

  19. Luis Raul De Freitas

    man you know I love your reviews but this one is hard to read af… one short paragraph then a picture over and over and over and over again – it is hard to have some sense of continuity while you read with that format. perhaps some people love it that way but for me just doesn’t work.

    the unit is promising but I don’t feel like spending that type of cash over a proven wahoo/garmin unit. $250-299 then I will def give it a try.

  20. Marcin

    Regarding the structured workouts. It seams that Karoo only imports workouts based on the calendar – so I understand it’s only upcoming workouts. So if I’m doing a sight seeing ride and I decide to do a 15 high impact interval run (that I haven’t planned for today) but I’ve done it already last week – it’s a no go ???

    • Correct. It’s kinda annoying. I noted it in the review, and also brought it up to Hammerhead. They said they understand the concern, but at the moment their focus is on onboard more partners, rather than making a repository/storage in the device for workouts.

  21. Tom

    Can you change the data field in the top left corner to something like current speed instead of the ride duration?

  22. Francis Bacon

    Great review however I must say you should really focus more on battery life (many people care) and less on GPS accuracy (few people care).

    • I included a chunk on battery life – including exact % burn rates that I’m seeing.

      Interestingly, I rarely actually hear concerns about battery life in cycling GPS units – namely because it’s rarely an issue anymore. Most units get 10-20 hours without much of a problem. The Karoo 2 is definitely on the lower end of that as I noted.

    • JD

      Your estimate is 8 hours versus the claimed 12 hours but their number could be with limited sensors and all battery saving features enabled.
      Since it’s Android based you could sideload a battery analyzer app and benchmark it if you really want to get technical. 🙂

    • I don’t even have to sideload anything – the DCR Analyzer does it for me. 🙂

      Wahoo, Garmin, Hammerhead, and Stages files all write the battery level to the .FIT file each time it changes. So, we enumerate that in the DCR Analyzer. See attached pic from yesterday.

      Interestingly, Hammerhead didn’t write the initial value for the first 30 minutes, but did after that. Not sure why. Typically speaking though, I don’t tend to focus on battery values for under 30-45 minutes, because things are still warming up and stabilizing. The longer the ride, the better the data.

      Anyone using the DCR Analyzer can load their files to see battery burn rates. It’s fun!
      link to dcrainmaker.com

    • JD

      Nice!
      So if you wanted to you could charge up a pile of similar featured models from Wahoo, Garmin, Hammerhead, etc., ride the same route, then show the battery burn for each.
      I say “you” because you’re the only one who has the pile of devices and mounts required. 🙂

    • Andrew

      Have you compared the battery life with/without the sim card?

    • I haven’t compared battery life yet with/without SIM (just without).

      The weather looks pretty craptastic for the next couple days, but Sunday might actually be viable. My rough thinking is:

      Hammerhead #1 – The Norm: Routing/Power meter/HR/Varia – 25% brightness
      Hammerhead #2 – No Sensors: Just routing – 25% brightness
      Hammerhead #3 – No Routing: Just sensors – 25% brightness
      Hammerhead #4 – Clean: No routing/sensors/just GPS – 25% brightness

      As for other units, virtually every ride I’ve ever posted on every other review actually includes the battery stats already in the GPS Accuracy section (if you click on the ‘More Data’ post). Notably on watch reviews you’ll generally see Edge/Wahoo stats in there too. My point is that while I’ll see if I can fit another 1-2 units onto my handlebars beyond those four, that I’ve pretty well established the battery burn rates for those other units.

      Here’s a good random example of an Edge 530/830/1030Plus together on the same ride: link to analyze.dcrainmaker.com

      They ranged from 4.67%/hour (Edge 1030 Plus) to 6.07% (Edge 530) to 7.59% (Edge 830). I would caution however that I wouldn’t overthink that random data point too much, because there’s a pretty darn (near 100%) chance that the backlight settings were different for all of them, and probably set to higher/always-on levels than not.

  23. Gil

    Is there a need for cycling computers when everyone is riding indoors? The integration between cycling computers and indoor cycling platforms is virtually nonexistent.

    I agree with the comment about zwift’s companion app is terrible. No support for marking laps or customizing the data fields on the companion or desktop app.

    I have a pending pre order for the Karoo 2 and thinking about canceling it. Ordering it in the spring / summer when riding safely outdoors is realistic.

    • Pat

      If, for example, you care about the Firstbeat Metrics that the various Garmin devices offer, then you have to record on one of them along with doing your usual Zwift effort. Pushing the Zwift file alone to Connect won’t trigger the metrics to update, they have to come from a Garmin device.

      If there was a subscription option to get the latest metrics online, then you could park the device and just use Zwift/TR/any of the other indoor apps. But that would hurt the hardware side of garmin as they tend to last for years without need of replacement (beyond a battery at the correct time). My 810 went from release back in 2013 to the Fall of 2019 when the touch screen utterly failed. My 5x is still going strong and looks like new after 3.5 years of daily wear, no need to replace it with the latest hotness.

    • Gil

      I currently use a Garmin Edge 1000 and the only FirstBeat Metric available is the VO2MAX calculation. The Edge is turned off 98% of the time because it doesn’t receive the course information,etc from Zwift. It does report the grade, etc from the smart trainer and allows me to start/stop laps for workouts.

      I would prefer that Zwift and cycling computer hardware companies would allow Zwift to send virtual GPS data allowing the headunits track on the course and show the course when uploading to Strava / Garmin Connect / etc….

    • jww

      “Is there a need for cycling computers when everyone is riding indoors?”

      I use an Edge to run resistance-controlled workouts on the indoor trainer. It’s not a Zwift substitute, but it’s a Trainerroad substitute. Once they started charging $20/month on superfluous noncore features it just became too much.

    • Camillo

      The 1000 also gives you recovery time, main reason I use it indoor.

    • GLT

      +1 for head unit driven indoor workouts. Target power in my case this off-season.

      Personal preference, but I like to keep my indoor & outdoor configurations as similar as possible. Indoor riding for me is just practice for outdoor riding.

  24. Andrew HUSSEY

    I have a pre-order and not entirely sure why I placed it. Probably as I just want to have a closer look at it which means, as funds are tight, it might go back within the 45 days.

    I ride with a Fenix 6X and will use that to record my rides as it includes metrics that I don’t get from any other device, and probably won’t from the Karoo. I use Garmin Connect as my fitness tracking hub (steps, sleep, body metrics activities all in one place) and TrainerRoad as my indoor training option with their planning. For route following I use a Samsung S10 on a Quadlock mount and ipbike software. For me, the Samsung only has a few drawbacks and they’re not showstoppers. Battery life, screen touch and perhaps the risk of an expensive phone taking a hit in a crash.

    Thanks for the review though.

  25. jww

    You should trademark “take my money features”. That’s brilliant.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I have sports tech fatigue on the “promise of more advanced features in the future”, post launch. Wahoo, Polar, Hammerhead, probably more — it’s becoming par for the course.

    Even for suppliers who actually have met these promises, it causes me to lose interest at launch, thereby creating opportunity for a competing product to subsequently move in.

    Admittedly easier said than done!

  26. Stu Berman

    Hi Ray,

    I’ve been eagerly anticipating your full review as I am one of the earliest owners of the original Karoo (I’ll call it K1) and bought into Hammerhead’s vision because of the promised incredible mapping abilities. Two of my three biggest complaints with K1, size/weight and lack of a beeper have been solved with K2. My biggest complaint has been the short battery life. I can’t seem to get more than two hours of life out of my K1 no matter how many of the battery saving measures I activate on the unit. The support team at Hammerhead has no answers that increase battery life.

    Your K2 review and your reply to Francis Bacon (comment #50) do allude to industry lagging battery life. In your comparison chart you note, “12 hours claimed,” battery life. The word “claimed” indicates to me that you may not believe that number. I think that Hammerhead claims 10 hour battery life for the K1, though I don’t recall the exact number at this moment. The issue is that I’m getting only about 20% of claimed battery life on the K1, even with battery saving measures enabled.

    What do you think is the real world battery life of the K2? That answer will play a critical role in my decision on whether or not to buy a K2.

    • Correct. The database always lists ‘claimed’ time versus not. In this particular situation, given my testing results, I decided to add the ‘claimed’ descriptor, since it was substantially less than claimed. I usually only do that when I see substantial differences.

      In my most recent test yesterday with multiple units, the unit that was ‘clean’ with no extra screen recording or such, averaged 12.46%/hour, thus, ~8hrs of battery life. This was on low-brightness (~20ish%) for the entire ride, and on a regular data field for the majority of the ride. It was paired to an ANT+ power meter, ANT+ HR strap, and ANT+ Varia radar. It was also navigating. And, the temperature was basically 0* to 2*C.

      Most of my tests have been with screen recording enabled, which burns battery like nobody’s business, so I didn’t want to use those otherwise in my battery testing results. In those cases, with screen recording it averages about double that.

      I’ll do some non-navigation-enabled battery tests side. I’ve got a small flotilla of units, and if the weather doesn’t suck, I’ll put a bunch on the handlebars to see which things impact it the most. Though, typically speaking cold weather is one of those things that does indeed largely impact battery.

      Finally, these days it’s very difficult to do accurate battery life testing in a ‘garden’ type setting, where you just leave it there overnight or whatever. Units and GPS subsystems now know to go into a sleep/lower power state when not moving, and they can also lower power to other systems when an accelerometer detects lack of movement. Plus, lack of movement means no navigation prompts, etc… ANT+ sensors is however easy to test overnight with an ANT+ simulator.

    • Stu Berman

      Ray,
      I and I’m sure many others will thank you if you can validate this battery issue and bring it to Hammerhead’s attention. The Karoo is simply not a viable solution for serious riders until it has a realistic minimum battery life of 5 or 6 hours.

    • Megan Bilodeau

      Plus one on only getting two-ish hours from a K1, one hour if it’s cold, with many attempts to rectify via support and resets. Now I duct tape a lipstick sized battery to my stem and have it charge all ride. Since I primarily use the device for navigating backroads and ‘gravel’ exploration, this is a really big problem, and also why, as a K1 pre-order person, I did not pre-order the 2.

    • Stu Berman

      Megan, As much as I would like to because of the K2’s feature set and usability I have been holding off on upgrading to the K2 as well. I really need to have an acceptable battery life prior to buying the K2.

  27. Klaasjan Mors

    Thank you Ray, for this extensive review. i love reading it. Now i’m more convinced to wait for the K2 and send my K1 back.

  28. Alex Rock

    Killer review, as always! The Strava Live segments look especially awesome.

    Really wanting this for Mountain Biking – does the Karoo map system include a lot of mtb trails? Does sideloading the Trailforks app work pretty well / have you been able to test that at all? I’ve heard mixed reviews.

    Cheers!

  29. dr_lha

    I wish that Hammerhead would acknowledge that for some of us, the SIM card / WiFI requirement for syncing is a reason not to buy this product. I just don’t see any reason why I would want a bike computer that needs a SIM card to sync rides when I’m in the parking lot, when others (like ELEMNT) can just sync using your phone. It’s not like I ride anywhere and not have my cell phone on me.

    SIM cards come with expenses and monthly fees, and the cellular modem and antenna in the Hammerhead to support it must come at a cost, both regulatory and hardware wise, that they’d be able to make a cheaper product that didn’t support cellular.

    Someone explain the reason why they persist with SIMs, that doesn’t include the phrase “well SIM cards are cheap in my country”, because syncing via phone costs me $0.

    • GLT

      Perhaps Ray or someone from Hammerhead will offer their insights. Early in his review DC did mention that Bluetooth sync is targeted for 2021 so at least that specific functionality gap may go away.

      A company attempting to challenge an incumbent like Garmin has a few different ways of going about it. It is possible the Karoo team views the ‘droid base and built-in cellular as pivotal in their plans to differentiate themselves from the competition. Otherwise the major appeal is the display & UI aesthetics.

      Tethering to a phone app for in-ride networking is certainly a viable alternate choice. Going that route does somewhat permanently commit resources to refreshing the app on the phone vendor’s schedule. Some of that is unavoidable if you provide any kind of companion app at all. Many successful companies are able to do so, but perhaps the Hammerhead decision makers aren’t enthusiastic about that for the moment.

      There are enough dead spots in my phone carrier’s coverage that a data-only plan on another carrier for a cycling computer would be useful to me. I would like to think cellular dead spots are getting smaller & more rare though.

    • Dr Richard Cook

      I wonder if you can just hotspot the Karoo to the phone to create a “permanent” wifi connection?

  30. Brennan

    The K2 has a physically smaller screen than the K1, but higher resolution… In your opinion, does the increased resolution compensate (or better) for the physically smaller screen size of the K2? i.e. Is the K2 easier, harder, or the same to read versus the K1?

  31. Chris Goslar

    Super review, Ray. For workouts, is their any hint as regards to integration with Today’s Plan?

  32. tsachi

    Any mountain bike specific features here? Not looking for Garmin style flow reading, but trailforks maps, or other off-road talk recognition?

  33. CP

    Against my better judgement, I put in a pre-order with the rationale that it would be easier to get out of an order than get in line at the last minute. I finally jumped ship when they sent the email about delays.

    The Karoo, and it sounds like the Karoo 2, is a hard one to place. They’re not doing anything terribly inventive with their platform, but they’re also not doing anything especially substantive. It’s miles behind Garmin on features, with only a good screen as your reward for making the compromise (and I will say that the screen, while “better quality” was never easier to see than the Garmin’s when out riding, especially before they optimized their layouts and made their maps higher contrast). I do think the mapping is excellent, but I have a hard time making that endorsement too strongly since it’s never worked reliably for me.
    In truth, the things the Karoo does well are nice-to-haves while it lags behind everywhere that matters. And Garmin could just as easy throw a screen of this quality into their devices – I’d wager it makes up less than $5 of the Karoo/Karoo 2’s cost, and Garmin would get it even cheaper. The reason they don’t do it is because it causes all the problems that Hammerhead has with the Karoo: you get into an arms race using a huge amount of battery power to run it. The end result is a device that has a high-capacity battery and powerful processor with nothing to show for it in terms of battery life and features. Just a big and heavy device wasting all its power on its screen and OS. It’s not a compromise any cyclist would make.

    That’s the problem they have to solve – not just slamming a cheap smartphone screen into a bike computer. But honestly, I don’t have faith in this company, and frankly I just don’t like them after their behavior during the Karoo launch. They lied to their own customers then and have pathologically lied ever since, even about things that really don’t matter. Hell, that line above about “we’re not selling more until spring for very smart reasons” is such an obvious obfuscation of the fact that they were waiting for the money from the first batch to come in before they could produce a second batch.

  34. Richard Cook

    I wonder if you can just hotspot the Karoo to the phone to create a “permanent” wifi connection?

    • M@rtin

      Yes, you’ve always been able to do this from the original Karoo. Having a wifi hotspot running on your phone might be a big battery drain though. Personally I use a free sim from Three(UK) that gives 200MB a month, which is fine for uploads/routing.

  35. Stefan

    Hi,
    Are there any options to double for hiking.
    Is there a hiking profile or something like that?
    Thanx for the review.

    • Megan Bilodeau

      The Karoo maps are pretty incredible for hiking too. As a mt biker, I’ve gotten myself into trouble by following hiking trails I can see on the Karoo, so I started using it to discover hiking routes too. It’s really great!

  36. Tribal

    Not sure I see anything pivotal with the K2 to lift me off my Wahoo Elemnt… don’t get me wrong, the nav screen, rerouting tech is nice, but that’s not *that big a deal* to get one now… Considering they still have/need to grow before they’re evenly competitive – and incorporate some must-have innovation (whatever that might be!), I’m guessing it’s still a waiting game…

  37. Tom Pulsanschlag

    I have now some weeks the Karro2, and my experience is good.
    Also i use a SRM PC8, Element Bolt and my wife a Garmin Edge 1030….

    So i know what the difference between Software and Features….

    Normaly i used the SRM PC8 for the Training Races and Marathons.. and there you know the Profile and Streets, so i missed nothing like Navigation or map.

    But with our Covid Situation we do a lot Routed Cycling tours but with the SRM PC 8 NO WAY….
    The Element bolt is small, light und easy to use…. but the Display is also small !
    So i do a Pro Order for the Karoo2…. don’t talk the Price…. 🙂

    The first impression from the Karoo2 Display is WOW… also the Zoom IN OUT Option in the Map is realy great.
    At this side. The maps here in Bavaria are very detailed.. als very small single Trails in the woods, and the new street that opens 2 week ago is also in the map !

    The Hammerhead Support answers normaly in one day… and the have a nice to find FAQ

    Strava Segments Function is nice AND you can see all marked Segments from you in the map when you ride.

    Battery Lifetime for me is at the moment OK
    I ride at the moment 1-3h and i lose 7-10% per hour at 0 Degrees with Powermeter, Speedsensor, Heartrate and Phone connected… and with 10-35% Display brightness… i wait for the summer time too see the difference.

    At the Moment i can touch the Display with my gloves, but this varies with the gloves.
    But you can use the Buttons for switching the Display and ZOOM IN and OUT.. !

    The Upload to Strava and TP is very fast, also to download the routes from komoot is very cool….

    And now the small Problems in my eys:
    When you Upload your ride to Strava, the AVG W and NP is always smaller then in the overview…
    z.B. you ride 210W AVG then says Strava 185W AVG ….
    With this “Problem” i’m in contact with STRAVA and HAMMERHEAD….
    Then my SRM PC8 have the same AVG Power like the Karoo2… so what ?
    Both have 1sec Record Time an include 0W for calculation AVG Power…
    At TP both looks right like the file from the SRM PC 8 and Karoo2.

    And the Starting Time is a little bit to high at the Karro2, but it have the GPS right away.
    The SRM PC8 starts faster gut you have to wait 3-5 Minutes for a good GPS Signal….

    Also a ClimbPro Feature from the Garmin will be nice to see at the Garmin….
    But the Karoo2 shows at routing the upcoming Elevation with zoom Option… this is more than nothing.

    Also nice will be a Small / medium / Large Font for the Datafields at the Map Overview.

    Ok, that’s my Experience for the first Time with Hammerhead Karoo2

  38. Piotr

    Thanks Ray! I was waiting for that review.
    I am looking for a cycling computer mainly for navigation in 2021. What would be better:
    Garmin edge 1030 plus or Karoo 2?
    After reading your review I have mixed feelings. What would you choose?

    • I think ultimately they’re pretty different beasts (though, at current pricing, an Edge 1030 -non-Plus) is only $60 more on Amazon.

      Still, I think the Karoo 2 would largely struggle to compete against an Edge 1030, just as just about every other bike computer would struggle to compete against it feature or functionality wise. The main advantage the Karoo series has over the Edge 1030 (or any Garmin device) is simply the beauty of the routing/mapping/navigation screens, as well as speed. Though practically speaking the routing/navigation accuracy in my experience tends to be better on Garmin’s platform.

      As noted, there are other nuances between them that are worthy to consider Karoo, but against an Edge 1030 that’s a pretty tough battle for anyone but Garmin themselves.

    • Tribal

      +1 on pass… not just cause of the 2nd string tech, but because it price point would suggest its competitive or better than the 1st string (Garmin, Wahoo, etc)…

    • Tsachi

      Thanks Ray.
      I was holding off on the Edge 1030 deals, waiting to see what Hammerhead does. With about half my rides off-road, it looks like there’s a real downside to Karoo in terms of map support. It seems that at this point the reaon for Karoo 2 instead of original Edge 1030 are potential updates (HH seem to be adding features over time), side-load apps that add functionality, and the world wide maps (although not as good for off-road). I was really hoping this would be an easier choice, but at $450 the 1030 is hard to compete with

    • Mark Wheeler

      Is this not like comparing Windows (Garmin) and Mac (Hammerhead)? I would argue, this is no longer a feature comparison but a generational one. I’ve had a 1030, then switched to a Roam, then switched back to a 1030+ hoping Garmin would have ironed out their software bugs and generally improved the OS. Unfortunately, my hope was unfounded – the Edge 1030+ was released with software 2.20 that wouldn’t even work out of the box and needed a Beta installing just to synch with an iPhone. And whilst I enjoyed the Roam more with its iPhone App, over the spring and summer, Wahoo dropped the ball on their own updates killing Strava integration for weeks on end and well as activity synching.
      The reason I’m switching to Hammerhead is not because its got a better screen, its because its got a more modern platform underlying it. It seems to me to be a generational leap. And whilst the Garmin may have more ticks on its list, I want something that is better for the 90% of the reason I use it. My only concern so far, having not yet received my Karoo 2 is whether Live Track is good enough. It’s a feature I value as a critical safety capability – but that is easily fixed. Meanwhile, Garmin requiring multiple bluetooth sessions with the iPhone that have rarely worked reliably for multiple generations of product would seem to be a much more complex engineering challenge to resolve. And, judging by what both Wahoo and Garmin are doing elsewhere in their product portfolio, its seems they are tied aggressively to their ageing software, trying to sweat out and stretch a code base across head units and watches, when it might have been better to retire it and start afresh.

    • Dwayne

      Live track is critical to me, too, so that my wife can track my rides in case something goes wrong. Works “ok” with Wahoo, sometimes the tracking stops updating, but at least it’s just a link she can view in a browser. If I understand Hammerhead’s implementation, the person viewing the live track needs to register for a hammerhead account to even see it… That’s just dumb. I don’t want to have to ask my wife to have yet another account for something, or friends I might send a link to to track bigger rides.

  39. David Carson

    I’ve just put down my $$$ for a Karoo 2. I was tossing up between sticking with Garmin – the only brand of cycling computer I’ve used – and testing out the new kid on the block. I went with the Karoo 2 as a) it looks like a really good unit, the graphics look very clear for my failing eyes, and b) I’m a bit over the Garmin ecosystem and clunky menu structure. I have to admit it was a close call between the Garmin 530 and the Karoo 2, but I’d really like to see the Hammerhead platform succeed and drive some real change in the head unit market.

  40. Sean K.

    Finally got notified to complete my pre-order for the Karoo2 and decided to purchase it. Looking forward to it and thanks for the detailed review which helped me to make an informed decision.

    Sean

  41. Bruce JOHNSON

    Great write up. I just received the pay up and we will ship email! I believe I read in your summary that it will link with electronic drivetrains? So my AXS & DI2 info will be available on screen? I don’t suppose my hood buttons on the DI2 will toggle screens like my Garmin though? Thank you!

    • Ian

      I think I’m in the late December pre order group so I’m watching for an email soon as well. Your gear info should show on the karoo and the Di2 hood buttons are used to navigate screens, zoom the map, etc. That was one of the features I needed to confirm before ordering.

      link to support.hammerhead.io

  42. Jonathan Rial

    Hi Ray,
    Thanks for your in depth review. I’ve had my Karoo 2 for over a month now and it seems to be working fine. Some little annoyances as you have detailed. The most significant issue for me was on my last ride, I got the red ‘Ride not recording’ banner. Not had this before and I hadn’t touched it and I was moving. I stopped and it auto paused and went away, as soon as I started again, it came back. I pressed on the banner itself and it went away and appeared to continue recording. My Strava output shows that it wasn’t recording during this time, so just a straight line. Annoying! If you or hammerhead figure this one out, can you update us please.
    Thanks

  43. Gil

    Is there any integration between Zwift or Zwift like services and hammerhead?

    • Gil

      I mean activity synchronization between Zwift and Zwift like services and Hammerhead.

    • No, unfortunately nothing of that nature at this point.

      I don’t know if that’s on Zwift or Hammerhead as a blocker. My guess would be Hammerhead would need to request it from Zwift, but given that Hammerhead doesn’t really have a platform that’s designed to track training at large (beyond just looking at quick ride data), I’m not sure there’s a huge incentive to do so.

    • Gil

      True. I had the same thought later. It would be nice to use the Hammerhead Dashboard as a consolidation point for activities. I guess Strava will be my activity consolidation point.

    • Gil

      True. I had the same thought later. It would be nice to use the Hammerhead Dashboard as a consolidation point for activities. I guess Strava will be my activity consolidation point.

  44. Haydn Durrant

    Im growing increasingly frustrated with Hammerhead and their customer services team.

    I made the final payment for my Karoo2 over 2 weeks ago and in spite of several emails to the support team still do not know when I am going to receive my unit.

    The standard response seems to be “soon”. This is the response I received today “Your final order for Karoo 2 is intact. We are aiming to ship your unit as soon as possible and you will be getting a separate email including the tracking details as soon as it has been shipped. We are almost there!!”.

    I know they are a small company and can tell they are struggling with the logisitics around this product launch but come on guys! The units were originally due to be shipped in October!?!

    This is rapidly taking the shine off of the whole purchase experience.

  45. Nick

    If you were buying a bike computer today, and primary use case is navigation, would you buy this over a Garmin 830?

    • Mark G

      IMO, nav with the great screen is it’s big selling point over other products. This is exactly why I went with the K2 over another 1030. Triathlete . com also reviewed the karoo 2 and said essentially the same:
      “If navigation and “geography”—things like elevation, routes, and turn-by-turn directions are important to you, there isn’t a better computer out there.”

      Though not nearly as good a review as DC’s, it came to the same conclusion as Ray did – the display and nav are it’s strong points.

    • Nick

      Thanks, Mark!

      I agree with all you say. I think my main hesitation is (1) the battery life; and (2) the comments of others that suggest Hammerhead is very much experiencing growing pains – the comments remind me of a lot of comments re kickstarter projects. There also seems to be a lot of promises about features that WILL be added, and I tend to be in the camp of not buying products based on promises but rather on the product as it ships today. Product features do have a way of being cut and de-scoped. And looking at the Karoo 2 side by side on Ray’s chart today compared with Wahoo Roam and Garmin 830, it just doesn’t tick as many boxes for the same price.

      That said, it does look like a terrific screen and although the UI is a “dumpster fire” in places, it looks better than most others. It’s really hard to resist the allure of that screen. 🙂

      For me, I’m looking for something that helps me navigate the large city I live in but don’t know very well by bicycle, and can stretch for use on bike packing excursions to small towns outside of my city when the weather’s nice. I don’t generally ride more than 8 hours, so the battery should be fine in the first case, but in the second case it would be nice to have something that can take you a full day (16-20 hours). I tend to carry a small battery pack to recharge my phone in my bag already, so perhaps using it to charge the Karoo 2 on a long bike packing trip isn’t a big deal. But it would be so much better if I could keep that battery for my phone and get 16-20 hours from the Karoo 2.

      I have to say, I’m getting sour on tech companies and batteries generally. Garmin’s work on solar with the Instinct watch lineup this year is a direction I’d love to see all tech hardware companies move towards. All this movement to reduce the size of bezels…. but imagine if the bezels on the Wahoo Roam, for example, were solar charging strips… it could probably have unlimited battery life. That’s a win for the user and the planet.

    • CKDogg

      You summed up my exact issue w/ the K2 and what is making my decision hard: you are buying what it CAN be, not what it currently is. Unlike you, I do have faith in the company. They are a young company finding their way. And I think they have shown that they are committed to making major improvements. But it will take a couple of years to make up the difference, and the battery life isn’t great. What happens after a few years when the software finally catches up, 6 hours or less?

      I have a pre-order. But I’m pretty sure I will cancel it and get the 830. The K3 should be amazing though 🙂

  46. Sean K.

    It looks like I should be getting mine in January. Karoo 2 software supports structured workouts imported from my Training Peaks account. I’m planning on also getting a Kickr Core smart trainer for the ANT+, FE-C type with ERG mode to execute my workout. I’ve primarily been using TrainingPeaks for running plans and I’m not keen to simulate manually that on our Peloton. The only thing I need to work out is whether my Shimano HG50, 9-speed, 11-34t cassette on my Specialized bike will work with the Kickr. So I will need to research that some more.

  47. Mark G

    Thanks for the review – very nice. I pre-ordered a Karoo 2 on Oct 16th and was just notified with the following status:

    “Your order falls into Batch G [you can see all Batch shipment updates here], meaning that our website will open for you to complete your pre-order the week of January 18th, and you should expect to receive tracking for your Karoo 2 the week of January 25th.”

    First, this seems like a very good update – unlike what others have experienced that received very vague updates. Good job Hammerhead! Secondly, I’m moving forward with my purchase because its strengths around nav and display. As a ride leader, I will use this to follow routes made with RideWithGPS and that’s about it. I have a Fenix6 that I use for all my hiking, running, cycling etc activities which connects my Assiomo, HR and speed/cad sensors. I don’t use the watch for nav cause it basically sucks due to screen size. However, I do have a Garmin light, so I am hoping Hammerhead adds support for ANT+ lights. it is really nice to be able to control the light with the headunit like I did with my 1030 (which was recently stolen). I have been using my smartphone with RWGPS for nav, but the battery life is simply unacceptable. I really do not want my phone involved with my activities so I can use it for phone stuff like calling the wife and taking pictures – a dead battery is not good if I have a mechanical and need a ride.

  48. Dwayne

    Honestly, I’m a bit pissed off I even bothered pre-ordering. I put mine in on August 25th, just a little too late to make the first batch, but still within the first day or two that pre-orders were even possible.

    I assumed there would be delays, and that’s not really a big deal to me, it’s winter time, riding outside is a crapshoot right now anyways. Then I saw the email about the 75% off jersey offer, and thought, well, at least that’s a nice way to reward all the people who pre-ordered so early. But no. The whole pre-order option is completely open again, so there is absolutely no advantage to me, despite having put down a deposit four months ago. If I order now, I still get the Garmin adapter, and can also get the jersey offer. What the hell was the point of putting in a pre-order in August then? I haven’t completed my order, because honestly, this is already leaving a bad taste in my mouth, what a crappy way to treat people who put money down early.

    On top of that, when I put in my pre-order, the price was 399 USD, the pre-order deposit was 99 USD, and I was charged 85.04 EUR, which led me to assume that the price would be 399 USD in the end for me here in Germany. But no, the price is now 399 EUR, which converts to 485 USD. Yes, there’s about 50 EUR VAT that needs to be covered, but if they can’t figure that out during the time of pre-order, then they shouldn’t bother doing sales outside of the US. Is the thing worth 485 USD? I think I’d rather have my pre-order money back, and wait until some of the long-term reviews start coming in. If TrainerRoad integration doesn’t make it, I don’t want it anyway.

  49. Jeffrey F.

    Regarding the woeful interface to pause/stop/resume, perhaps suggest to them that any button press that results in a confirm/cancel response should see the confirm/cancel buttons places totally elsewhere on the screen. This avoids problems with double tapping.

    And while we’re at it, avoid contextual words like “confirm/cancel” and make them actually describe the ultimate action being directed: “End recording”, “Continue recording”, etc….

  50. Jeffrey F.

    Wait, so the only way to get at your data is via uplink to their web site (in the way Polar does it)?? That’s HORRIBLE. That means if they have internet issues, or business issues (go bankrupt), you have an expensive brick. That’s just *HORRIBLE*.

    It’s one of the many reasons that I’ll never buy a Polar product again. They’ve had multi-day server issues that holds the unit and my ride data hostage. With my Garmin and Bryton units, at least I can grab my data via direct USB connections.

    • You can still access it. If you turn on USB MTP mode on the unit, then it’ll surface as a USB drive. The .FIT files are located in: k2\Internal shared storage\FitFiles

      Now, Hammerhead could make this slightly easier pretty easily by offering a more easily accessible toggle to turn on MTP mode (and have it stay on). But if ya need it, it’s there with a few extra taps.

    • Jeffrey F.

      Oh, very good, thanks. “USB” isn’t included in the “Data Transfer” section of the comparison chart. “It was on dcrainmaker, so it must be true.” 😂

    • Yeah, so at a basic level it’s not by default, so you have to toggle developer options, then toggle on USB to enable it. Technically silly easy (literally just tapping a small of times). So didn’t think about it there.

      Will add it in. Thanks!

    • David W

      I just got my Karoo 2 so I’m sort of clueless. Where are the “Developer Options”? I don’t see it in settings.

      Thanks

    • Ian

      Go to settings, then About, and tap on Build Number a bunch of times quickly.

  51. Mark Wheeler

    OK, so I’ve done it. Pressed the Order Button. Does anyone know roughly what kind of data usage this thing really has using a SIM? I really value Live Track capabilities.
    Lets say you do 100 miles per week and then get home to do the data upload where its hooked up to Wifi. What is it actually sending/receiving? What kind of data plan have others bought to use this feature? THANKS!

    • Gil

      I decided to follow through with my pre-order. I’m in the last group aka late January. Hammerhead has been making steady improvements with each software release. I hope Hammerhead will add more integration with online services, improve battery life, add Phone data tethering using Bluetooth, and correct some of the UI oddities.

      link to hammerhead.io

  52. Mike

    The main reason I’m switching from Garmin 1080 is the syncing with phone and computer. Garmin has just been to inconsistent. Did you find any issues syncing this with Strava and other sites? I had just been waiting for something to sync better and offer Varia Radar capability. I don’t train or do anything else so hoping this is a good move.

    • I didn’t see any sync issues, but then again, there’s no Bluetooth to Karoo 2 sync at all. The only sync is via WiFi, today anyway (sometime in 2021 they’ll add Bluetooth Sync).

      Like you, I’ve long since hated the Garmin Edge sync process (specifically the Edge, compared to other Garmin devices). But my WiFi sync pretty much works without fail, and is how I tend to sync most of my test fleet of Edge devices for recording power meter/trainer comparisons, etc… these days.

      So in essence, if you compare those two aspects (WiFi sync vs WiFi sync), it’s a wash. Where the Karoo 2 is far better on WiFi sync though is the ability to do maps and such via WiFi, versus Garmin’s USB connection only there.

  53. Stéphane

    Coming from both Wahoo Roam and Garmin Edge 1030, it’s really a new kind of bike computer. Recieving mine a few days ago, I did already several rides with.
    Screen is amazing, UI, design, … As granfondo and ultra rider, I’ll see if it can hold 200 to 400k (14-15h) as my Roam and 1030 did (powerbank need?)
    But to be clear, this computer is like your first smartphone .. a non return to old technologies 😅
    I paid 380€ … just a few more than a Roam

  54. Scott Patton

    I have done a ton of research, looks like the only Normalized Power you can display is for the full ride? not for the current lap. Can you confirm that?

  55. William A Danielson

    Hey Ray, any recommendation on best site(s) to download apk’s for the Karoo2 ?

  56. William A Danielson

    Also.. i do have the Zwift apk downloaded to my computer, and figured out how to access the Karoo2 directory via USB; however, there’s no system folder access nor a folder by default that would be used for sideloaded apps. Where did you load your Zwift companion to on your Karoo?? Thanks!!

    • William A Danielson

      No need to reply, figured it out.

    • Erwin Engelsma

      Hello William or DCR, can you send me some instructions on how to sideload the zwift companion app to the KAROO 2

      And can you tell me if it is then possible to use the wristheartrate broadcast function of the garmin Fenix 5x to send thru the companion app to Zwift ?

    • You can actually follow my Peloton instructions if you want, they’re virtually identical: link to dcrainmaker.com

      The only difference is instead of tapping the about box 10 times, you’ll tap the build number 10 times.

      And of course, instead of downloading the main Zwift app, just download the companion app (it’s more simplified and you can follow the TrainerRoad section but swap it out for the Zwift Companion app).

      On the Fenix 5X, it broadcasts via ANT+, not Bluetooth Smart. I don’t believe Zwift Android allows ANT+ connections, only BLE: link to support.zwift.com

  57. Lukman Nurhakim Noordin

    An important question:

    Are those rubber buttons on its side? much like garmin’s? Then it will crack in 2 yrs in the sun. 🤔

  58. Sean K.

    So I was told that I was in Batch E by Hammerhead. I pre-ordered in August and completed payment in December. Batch E was supposed to ship by end of last week. But I then got an email that I’m now in Batch H. It’s a bit disheartening that for their second bike computer they haven’t figured out how to manage orders properly. At this point I’m going to cancel my order. I note they changed their email from allowing me to cancel ahead of time or return it in 45 days to just return it in 45 days. Since I’m leaning toward getting a Tacx I may rethink my choice and go for an Edge of some sort.

    Sean

    • Fwiw for people, you can see batch tracking here: link to support.hammerhead.io

      Essentially it says all batches will ship within 11 days – January 29th – unless there’s batches not on that sheet, but that seems unlikel.

    • David W

      I was Batch F. Got my tracking number last Thursday. Unit is here today. Can’t complain. I do know that shipments to some other regions were delayed.

    • David W

      Hi Ray,

      FYI. My Karoo 2 came with 2, rubber, USB-C protector plugs. See the attached photo. Seems lame to me. I’ll probably lose them within an hour.

    • Kevin C

      Yeah, I was wondering about that too. Seems like a poor solution. Pretty much every other head unit in the world has some sort of integrated charging port cover. 🙁

    • Sean K.

      Good news. I got in touch with Support and they corrected my order and it is now shipping. Looking forward to using it with my new bike, Giant Contend AR 1 (2021) which I picked up today!

      Sean

  59. Kevin C

    Thorough review as always, but a couple of questions… you comment that for navigation the Karoo2 is best in class but spend most of the navigation section of the view ranting about what it does wrong. What is good about Karoo2’s navigation? Also what approach does it take to re-routing when if you get off route – re-join farther on or route back to divergence point? Can you select preferred method?

    • I’m not sure where I said it’s “best in class”? I said “the overall navigation and display experience is unlike anything else out there” – which, it is. There’s nothing like it. It doesn’t mean though that it’s the best in class from a navigation perspective.

      I’d suggest re-reading the Navigation section again, noting where I discuss importing or routes for example, or overlays of Strava Live Segments on routes, or speed of re-routing. I also discussed exactly what happens when you go off-course.

    • Kevin C

      Ah, well yeah, I suppose “unlike anything else out there” could be a bad thing too, but it IS a tiny bit misleading n’est pas? And actually, I read the review, a couple of times and again just now, and all I really see is complaining about phantom turns (which all units experience and none handle well IME) and lack of clarity about buttons etc. Honestly, I also don’t see how Strava segments quality as “navigation” either. Strava segments don’t get me from Point A to Point B in a strange town or put me back on route if I make a wrong turn. Maybe more time discussing features like in most past reviews and bit less trying to be clever/obtuse?

    • “Maybe more time discussing features like in most past reviews and bit less trying to be clever/obtuse?”

      I thought I was pretty clear. Sorry.

  60. Erwin Engelsma

    Thanks, but might the Karoo not function as a bridge for ANT+ ? I do see my Fenix 5X HR broadcasted to the Karoo, and might the companion app then send it to Zwift?