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SRAM Acquires Hammerhead (maker of Karoo Bike Computers)

SRAM-Hammerhead-Acquisition

It’s been announced today that Hammerhead (maker of the Karoo 2) has been acquired by SRAM for an undisclosed amount. The sale was officially completed back on December 30th, 2021, though it is only being announced today. Both companies say that effectively nothing will change, at least for the short term anyway. Down the road, Hammerhead simply says that they’ll “work with SRAM to identify future opportunities”. Hammerhead will be operated as a standalone brand in SRAM’s portfolio, roughly akin to what we see with Zipp, Quarq, etc…

Still, this is gonna have big ramifications for the bike computer industry – both consumers and other competitors. For their competitors, the news will undoubtedly give them heartache, likely more so Wahoo and Stages than Garmin. Inversely, consumers should be celebrating this. Hammerhead’s been doing some incredible stuff over the last year especially, and unquestionably this will help further that goal. There’s only so much you can do with limited resources to compete with the resources of a company like Garmin’s size, and this will certainly help those efforts.

Now, before we get to some of that analysis, here’s a slew of things I’ve confirmed with Hammerhead & SRAM:

  • No changes for consumers for things like support, etc… all of that stays with Hammerhead
  • No changes for dealers/distributors, that will remain with Hammerhead (though honestly, I don’t believe that longer-term – the core point of a consolidated brand is ease of distributor access, and that’s something that SRAM does really well today across their brands)
  • I asked whether Hammerhead would leverage SRAM’s software divisions, and they said not – specifically “Hammerhead staffing and development teams will not change. The acquisition structure means Hammerhead will be able to focus 100% on innovation and product to best serve customers.”
  • They confirmed all employees are being retained (nobody is losing their jobs)
  • They confirmed their current company locations will not change
  • They confirmed all existing production facilities/partnerships will remain the same (this is surprising to me, so we’ll have to see about this down the road – though SRAM doesn’t make Android phones, so they probably don’t have better partners today in that area)
  • They confirmed all existing investors were fully bought out as part of this. You’ll remember that Lance Armstrong’s investment group was one of those investors (of many)
  • Finally, they confirmed that Chris Froome will continue to be involved with the company “as a friend of the brand and as a member of Israel – Premier Tech team.”

In other words, virtually nothing changes today. In fact, SRAM even went so far as to use the name of their primary competitor, Shimano, in their press release:

“Together, SRAM and Hammerhead will continue to develop an innovative cycling technology platform ensuring riders can seamlessly integrate with a wide variety of existing hardware and software products and services including both Shimano and SRAM electronic shifting.”

In other words, they wanted to reassure people that the Karoo will continue to work with Shimano Di2 shifting, even if it can’t record the actual data (yet?).

Most of this seems to be well summed further in the release, with them saying:

“Hammerhead is an amazing brand with award-winning products, and we do not plan on changing anything about how they innovate,” SRAM’s VP of Growth, Clint Weber”

Now like most corporate acquisitions, the press release tends to be fairly bland. Usually, you’ll only pick up one or two useful tidbits in there, with the remainder being circular corporate speak. And honestly, that was pretty much the same here. It included phrases like “Moving forward, Hammerhead will connect the cycling experience” – what does that mean? Connect with what?

However, there was this line item that caught my eye:

“SRAM saw tremendous potential in Hammerhead after the award-winning cycling GPS computer (the Karoo 2) hit the market in late 2020 and landed on the handlebars of many of the world’s top athletes. In just the last year, Hammerhead achieved 7x revenue growth and their community of riders have clocked over a million hours of gravel, concrete, and trails covered.”

This is interesting because they basically didn’t start shipping units till December 2020, though, most of those were from pre-orders in summer 2020. For regular sales, it was all from Q1 2021 that you could actually buy one. And between January and Summer 2020 – you couldn’t buy any units at all (they had sold all their previous Karoo’s). So for them to basically 7X their pre-order period is strong, since pre-orders periods tend to be huge spikes.

Inversely, a ‘million’ (singular) hours actually isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things. So I’m not sure what to make of that. Still, I like random quirky stats, and this was one of them.

Going Forward:

SRAM-Hammerhead-Sensors

In any case, the interesting bits are what comes next. Obviously, this gives Hammerhead huge amounts of money to work with, but also deeper engineering talent, as well as more athlete sponsorship opportunities. All those individual and team athletes that SRAM has? You can bet by next year they’ll largely be on Hammerhead bike computers (most stuff for this season will already have been finalized months ago).

And while Hammerhead talks about their development team staying, SRAM has a deep bench of both software and hardware engineers that’ll undoubtedly get leveraged. Even if it’s for trivial stuff, like ensuring better compliance with ANT+ & Bluetooth Standards, areas in which SRAM is heavily involved.

But the real question is how this will accelerate Hammerhead’s software and hardware plans. The company has already become the clear leader in software update frequency, releasing updates roughly every 2 weeks, usually with at least a few new features. Many are small features, but over the course of a year, it adds up. For example, I’ve now filmed my ‘Wahoo vs Garmin vs Hammerhead’ Climbing Bakeoff video four times, because somehow, inexplicably, the next day after I film it, Hammerhead comes out with new climbing features. Given I re-filmed it last week, I presume in a few minutes I’ll get a notification about new climbing functionality that voids my video again.

From a competition standpoint, they’ll continue to take mostly minor bites out of Garmin’s sales. Instead, I think they’re largely drawing sales away from Wahoo, who largely hasn’t released much in the way of new software features for their ELEMNT series bike computers. But Wahoo’s strength is consumers’ brand recognition and community aspects, something which is far harder to compete against than pure technical wizardry.

Finally, my personal hope here is to see Hammerhead develop a Karoo 2 Mini, or whatever you want to call it. Something akin to an Edge 530 series device in size, but with the same features and display as the Karoo 2. Plus of course, better smartphone connectivity. I mean, just saying if this is a wish list – those are my two.

In the meantime, I’m excited about this – and think this is great news for consumers. More choice is always good, and in this case, this empowers Hammerhead to give us all more choices (and more features).

With that – thanks for reading!

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55 Comments

  1. youpmelone

    They’ll release the twisted-neck Froom edition Hammerhead mount..

  2. Greg

    Hey Ray,

    Small typo. The press release said a million HOURS of riding, not a million miles. Hours would hopefully be way more miles. 😀

    • Doh, good catch. Though, I’d say the same there.

      Doing some simple math:

      5,000 users: 200 hours/year/person…or ~4 hours per person week per person
      10,000 users: 100 hours a year/person…or ~2 hours per week per person
      20,000 uses: 50 hours a year/person…or ~1 hours per week per person

      Yes, it’s a good number, but if we look at unit volumes in the thousands, it’s not a ton. 🙂

  3. Ian

    One small nitpick, one million *hours* is probably a lot more than one million miles. 😉

  4. D0N0TR0N3000

    A lot to like about my K2, and this gives me more confidence things are moving in the right direction. Biggest current complaint, also vocalized by GP Lama recently, lack of sensor support. Would love to see support for my Tyrewiz (so I don’t have to wear my Garmin Fenix) and also more detailed analytics for SRAM eTap. Fingers crossed.

    • Joe

      “also more detailed analytics for SRAM eTap”

      Not that I have an electronic drivetrain right now to know exactly where it’s lacking, but I’d have to imagine that having a reference quality eTap / AXS implementation would be top priority for SRAM.

    • Corri

      I have an SRAM Force eTap AXS build on my road bike. AXS Web has the best electronic shifting analytics in the game. It even works works with Di2; anyone with electronic shifting should have the page bookmarked. It’s only a website right now but it’s less than a year old. If they could make that work as an app on the Karoo 2 and on Android phones (since the K2 is just a lightweight Android phone), it’d be amazing.

      As far as showing your current gear, gear ratio, and battery level as a data page, that already works pretty seamlessly on all the Garmin, Wahoo & Hammerhead bike computers.

  5. JesseJJ

    I find it slightly annoying that the bike industry rarely includes the details of the acquisition. I realize it is because they are typically private companies but in a world of $70b Activision acquisitions I have trouble “scoring” acquisitions like this and others, such as Tacx by Garmin for instance. Was it $5m was it $50m was it $500m?

    • To be fair, most acquisitions aren’t published by most companies unless it has to show up on the books in an obvious way. 🙂 It’s a little harder to hide a $70B acquisition than a handful of millions of dollars.

  6. Curtis Repen

    Re: 7x Revenue – pre-orders would likely not be recognized as revenue until the product shipped and was invoiced, so the pre-order spike is part of the 7x, not the baseline. Still, any time revenue growth is described as Nx, it’s impressive. I’m pretty well embedded in the Garmin ecosystem (FR935, Edge820, sensors, Garmin Connect) but both my watch and head unit are starting to itch for replacement, so this might be the time for me to look at breaking free.

  7. Laurence R Danziger

    Ray

    Let’s hope hammerhead let’s you see the actual cog and ring your in
    No one wants to see. 2/6
    They want 52/ 24 . Seriously

    • Lawrence Alger

      Not me, I don’t care what the gearing is, just need to know where I am in the cassette…

    • John

      On the bike I *do* want a small graphic of the the gearing (i.e. 2/6) and also gear inches or ratio. Off the bike, it would be great to have that as well as 34/16T or whatever. Which means I want to be able to enter my actual gearing, and not just what the manufacturer sells (looking at you, Shimano!)

    • Patrick L

      Careful with absolute terms like “nobody”. I know what 2/6 feels like but I have no idea how to interpret 52/24, after ~7 years of riding 😀

    • R RRR

      Not that this wasn’t a part of the Shimano FliteDeck in 2005.

    • Allegedly_Anthony

      52/24 means you’re badly cross-chained…

    • Corri

      Yup, 52/24 is definitely the wrong gear to be in. That’s the best part of having that data screen on the Garmin. I don’t have to look down or wait until I can hear the rub to know I’m cross chaining or about to start doing it. I can do a compensated fd shift ahead of time and never worry about it.

      Gear ratio is also cool, I have them side by side because if I tried dividing by 17 in my head while riding a bike, I’d crash.

  8. John Stevenson

    I wonder if SRAM see “enormous future product opportunities” with Hammerhead like they did for PowerTap. I mean, look at the enormous range of PowerTap gear you can now buy…

    • David Gray

      I thought PowerTap was bought out to merge into their Quarq brand, similar to Pioneer with Shimano.

    • John Stevenson

      The quote’s from something Jim Meyer of Quarq said at the time. It was widely taken to mean there’d be Quarq-PowerTap pedals and hubs down the line, but SRAM killed off those products in February 2021.

      Maybe they’re still working on them, but they’re a hard sell for a company whose main business is selling components sets to bike makers.

      Pioneer only made power meter cranks, built into Shimano cranks, so nobody expected anything terribly exciting from that acquisition.

    • Matthew Weigel

      Man, I am still salty about PowerTap. I still have one of their hubs and it’s still great, but I wish I could buy more. It’s also the best power meter for aero field testing, still.

  9. Jeremy Jefferson

    It says over “a million hours”. Probably about 15 miles on average for an hour when you factor in mountain, road, etc together. That would equate to over 15 million miles.

  10. Lawrence Alger

    Not so sure about mostly eating into Wahoo sales, I switched from a Garmin to the K2 (and don’t regret it) and whilst I accept that’s a sample size of 1, so is pretty meaningless – I haven’t seen many other K2s out in the wild, all the clubmates I have had discussions I with around switching to a K2 thus far have been Gamin users (although, it is also true to say that most of my club are Garmin users).
    At the end of the day it is a great product, it’s competitively priced and now it has the back up and support of a giant like SRAM I can see more and more people taking the leap as I did.

    • dr_lha

      I’m on the board of my local road cycling club, we have hundreds of members. I’ve never seen a HH in the wild at any of our rides. Bike computers are probably split 80/20 Garmin/Wahoo. I wonder how many of these things they’ve sold?

    • jww

      Second the 80/20 Garmin/Wahoo mix in group rides. Though as %t of new purchases, seems closer to 90/10 in the 530/830 vs. Roam era.

      Still have seen just one Karoo ever. Based on looks it’s a winner.

      I sure hope Garmin has AMOLED Edges in next gen. If you ‘black out’ most of the screen those pixels are ‘off’ and not drawing battery. Noticed this when comparing Epix to Fenix 7 — certain data screens like Golf are black background on Epix, but white background on Fenix.

  11. GH

    I’ve tried Garmin, K2, Wahoo. Returned the K2 – can’t imagine many people are paying $400 for that thing. Wahoo and Garmin are both great and getting better. I’ve gone with Wahoo, mostly due to personal preference.

    • James E Rice

      Some of us were early adopters w the K1 and as a result were offered the K2 for $290 so a great deal. The K1 the hardware sucked but the K2 is much better plus the bi-weekly updates / improvements to the software have been great

    • Patrick L

      I was frustrated with many aspects of the K2 since purchase, but the software updates are pretty monumental in how much they can change the experience. The latest update adding an iOS-style control panel has fixed basically all of my usability gripes (aside from the stupid symmetrical side buttons).

    • Eric J

      I was one of those early backers of the K1…put down my $, waited forever for them to finally deliver. Dealt with all the starter problems the initial units had. They make a nice product now and the K2 was a marked improvement over the K1 but I was very disappointed that when the K2 came out and I wanted to upgrade (pay the $ 290 they advertised for K1 owners), they basically told me sorry but no can do. We’re doing well now and don’t give a damn about you. As a startup company you NEVER drop your early supporters when you become successful but they did. Bad company ethics!

  12. One thing lacking in HH’s development is a variety of mount and charge options for the Karoo 2 leaving that to aftermarket developers with undependable results. With limited battery life it would be nice to see mount and charging options that allow for safe and reliable charging on the fly.

    • Mike Baldwin

      Spot on – It can be done, but bodged together using a 90 degree USB-C connector you have to find out in the wild (so it can make the tight squeeze between your bars and the mount), and a “Good luck with that Buddy!” attitude from HH. Would be so nice if there was a clean, thoughtout solution like what Garmin has done with their secondary battery option. This issue is compounded by a general and constant feeling of nervousness that I have with the Karoo’s battery life – I was a K1 owner and now K2, and with both, based on a combination of their software updates occassionaly missing the mark, and “Oh no, I had the brightness above 20%, or had the map somewhat more zoomed in that I should have” both devices have randomly drained the battery on me (2nd hour of a 4 hr ride?). My Garmins alway had the same battery life no matter what and no way I can drain the battery before you would have to call my Mom & Dad to come pick me up (>8 hrs) – Even if I tried to be stupid 🙂

    • Mike Baldwin

      Although I should add, that overall I really like my K2 – It’s a great device, we just need to go to couples therapy about the battery life issue 😉

    • Yes, I can avoid prolonged rides in the dark, so less demand to power lights, but on 200km+ bikepacking days i need to recharge the K2 while riding. I don’t trust it under 40% as it can suddenly dip to zero ending the recording. Probably my only reason for keeping a dynamo hub for charging.

  13. Edward

    I love my K2. Had terrible experiences with the Garmin 1030 (and Garmin support).
    My wish is a Karoo with bigger screen than the K2.

    • James

      Odd. My experience definitely doesn’t line up with yours. My 1030 has been stellar and I have always had great experiences with Garmin’s customer service.

      I’ve had the 510 (10+ years old and still gets used on occasion) and Vivoactive 3 Music (now upgraded to a FR 745 based on Ray’s reviews) so I dealt with their support team enough to have an objective opinion.

      Literally 0 issues with my 1030 – which doesn’t mean that I can’t find things I would improve, just that it has performed better than I expected without the bugginess I was used to on the 510.

      Before I went with the 1030 I looked at both Hammerhead and Wahoo but stuck with Garmin partly because of my experience with their customer service.

  14. Joe

    Good for Hammerhead. I like my K2, but I really hope that SRAM is able to get more resources for Hammerhead quickly. The things that the K2 does, it typically does really well (excluding ANT+ light control which is very rudimentary). But some of the basic functionality that’s missing is a headscratcher. It feels like they’re just too small of a team right now to fully execute on their vision.

    Like I said, I like the device, but if Garmin released a new Edge with USB-C charging, I don’t know that I’d show that much loyalty to Hammerhead right now. (For that matter, how about a USB-C Varia radar?)

  15. Britrict

    I’d be curious if this puts SRAM in position to develop an indoor bike?

  16. Korey

    I personally don’t see Wahoo worrying much. A lot of people I ride with have been moving from Garmin to Wahoo. If Hammerhead had a cheaper product I might have considered it, but at $400, I’m good with the Bolt V2 I paid like $280 for.

    • Jeremy

      Maybe, bu et the Roam still sells for…350$? And Wahho has been on a roll of quite shitty fw updates lately.
      Maybe it’s the end f year celebrations that are causing this but….fact is…latests fw were more of Garmin-like quality than wahoo’s.

      And moreover, it’s been some time that wahoo didn’t bring a real novelty on their computers. And I’m pretty sure that even the most fanatics wahooligans drool over something like K2’s Climber or Garmin’s ClimbPro.

    • jww

      At my bike shop Roam is still $380.

      Wahoo STILL hasn’t copied Garmin Climbpro? It’s been three years!

    • Bill

      Same experience during the last year with persistent Wahoo firmware problems – it’s the reason I finally broke up with Garmin and never looked back. If this deal with SRAM ends up lending added resources and support, would definitely consider Hammerhead in the future if they deliver a stable, simple platform.

  17. Mike

    Really good news… if only it has incident detection I would move from Garmin

    • Jeff

      Your incident detection works? My 1030’s never been consistent on that. Every time I would brake hard it would trigger and sometimes wouldn’t take the cancel fast enough. I finally disabled it. On top of that, every time it’d trigger, it also rebooted the ANT and Bluetooth radios and killed the connection to my phone completely. (and there is a still an unrelated bug where the ANT radio periodically reboots during rides. Mostly noticeable because the beeps and notifications that the Varia disconnected). I generally ride with a K2 and 1030 these days just in case one of them has an issue. For the last year, it’s only been the Garmin…

    • Jeff M in Dallas, TX

      My 1030 incident detection has worked as expected the dozen (or so) times it’s been activated. No complaints.

  18. Andy

    Sounds promising. Liked the concept of the device, but after testing (wrong data recording plus frequent crashes and resets during rides) l was glad to send it back. Support was descent and not willing to think about the issue nor replace the device. So things can only improve. Meanwhile I stay with what works.

  19. Tony

    I am a recent Karoo 2 convert (as in a month ago). I spent the last several years with a Garmin 820. So I am still getting use to this new Hammerhead world. I would like to see if them build a more robust website like Garmin’s connect. I do like how I could go on to the connect site and break down all my data and compare years and months. And yes, I subscribe to Strava, but i found Garmin’s connect made it easy to look my data, minus that one time they were hacked and the site was down for several days.

  20. Chris Goslar

    I like my K2 but it’s not too great for outdoor training with lack of integration with Today’s Plan. Let’s hope this speeds this up. It’s been on the cards for over 2 years now.

  21. Don

    I’ll bet this is why they haven’t released an update in over a month – unusual for them.

    My wishlist for a new Karoo?

    1. Double battery life
    2. Garmin Connect sync
    3. An attached usb-c rubber cover

  22. GrandTourtoise

    Might now be a bad time to buy a K2 then? Are there likely to be price drops/new models in the near future? My Garmin was stolen along with my bike last week and I was eyeing up a K2 as a replacement…

    • Paavo numri

      They sent out emails offering a large trade in value for old computers if you bought a K2, that was last month and got extended until early January. I looked and they would give me $130 trade in value for my original Element (non bolt). I was somewhat tempted because I got a new V2 Element Bolt earlier in the year as my OG Element has reduced battery life and is just collecting dust.

      That seemed like a crazy amount of credit for an old Element and now it makes you wonder if they were wanting to clear out inventory for some reason.

    • GrandTourtoise

      Yea, I almost bit on that deal. Fortunately I didn’t or that would have been taken along with my bike. I’m half tempted to buy an old garmin to tie me over for a while to see what’s around the corner. I’m not after a Wahoo Bolt equivalent, but if they have a K2 comes out in the next 6 months I’d be a bit gutted having just bought a new one. I guess they could do a trade in offer like they did for the K1 > K2.

  23. Corri

    Dear SRAM,

    I have eTap AXS on my road bike now and the only thing I miss about Shimano Di2 was being able to change the screens on my Garmin 1030 Plus from the hoods. Bring that to Hammerhead + eTap AXS and I’ll get a Karoo 2 immediately.

    Same goes for a Zipp QuickView integrated mount for Service Course and SL Speed stems that fits a Hammerhead Karoo 2.
    link to sram.com

  24. porkfries

    I had a feeling SRAM would be picking up HammerHead when I saw Lance and George Hincapie riding with the unit and talking about the Karoo 2 on their podcast \ youtube channel.
    Lance bought a nice chunk \ stake in SRAM back in 2008 so it would make financial sense for him to get SRAM to pick up HH.after investing in them.