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Best Bike Computer for Climbing: Garmin vs Hammerhead vs Wahoo

Long gone are the days of bike computers showing you just a single elevation profile for your entire route, or even just the near-term elevation profile. These days, the bike computers will automatically break down and even categorize the climbs on your planned route, along with rea-time status, until the suffering is complete. And in this case, I’ve done a lot of suffering for this one.

This is a post and video I’ve been working on since last summer, and each time I went out to shoot this video, a certain company (cough…Hammerhead) would literally release a substantial update to their climbing app feature the following day or week. Without fail, every…single…time. Be it last August or last December, it kept happening.

So obviously, the only solution to that was to re-test and re-shoot it again with the new features, which of course require going out and riding another epic climb. Thus, the video above. Covering five epic climbs from the Dolomites to Switzerland, and both off-road and on-road climbs in Tenerife and the Canary Islands. Plus numerous other climbs along the way. In some cases, these were gigantic single climbs up a volcano, and in others it was a series of climbs, both of which test the features in different ways.

You’ll notice I didn’t list a specific version/model for the three main companies. That’s because from a technical standpoint, the features are equal among their latest units for climbing purposes. Thus, specifically, these units:

Garmin: Edge 530, Edge 830, Edge 1030, Edge 1030 Plus
Hammerhead: Karoo 1, Karoo 2
Wahoo: ELEMNT, ELEMNT BOLT V1/V2, ELEMNT ROAM

For example, there’s no differences between an Edge 530 and Edge 1030 Plus when it comes to climbing features (aside from just screen size). Same goes for Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM vs BOLT. Note that the Edge 130 Plus does have ClimbPro, but just not the coloring since it’s a black and white screen.

Pre-Ride:

The first component to understand is that all of these require some amount of pre-ride planning to enable. Meaning, that they all require you have a course loaded in order to function. Unlike something like Strava Live Segments, which largely automatically trigger, the climb functions on Garmin & Hammerhead need a route loaded. As for Wahoo? Well, there’s actually almost no climb functions there, but instead, you can use Strava Live Segments in a pinch, but you’ll want to do some planning there to ensure those specific segments match your climbs.

So, let’s start with a route I’ve created with Strava, and then synced to the devices. At this point, there’s no differences in terms of the source (e.g. Strava vs Komoot vs others, and in fact, I use routes from different platforms in this piece). That’s all a wash. With that synced over to the devices, the units give me an overview of what’s the day’s route entails.

DSC_9326

In the case of Garmin, pre-ride, they’ll show your planned map route, some general stats around distance and elevation, as well as each individual climb detail. So I can look at all the auto-categorized climbs, and even tap into a single given climb to see the pain there.

DSC_9327 DSC_9328

Next, on the Hammerhead unit, they don’t show any climb data pre-ride in the course selection screen. You will get to see the climbs once you load the road (just like on Garmin), but they don’t appear on the pre-ride screens. Nor does Hammerhead show any course profile information, though, they do show the estimated total ascent, which I’ve found is almost always vastly incorrect and overestimated (an accuracy thread we’ll see more of in this post).

DSC_9329

Similarly, Wahoo doesn’t show anything pre-ride when choosing a route, except for the course length remaining (in this case, I didn’t have a handy photo of this next to the course, so it includes the distance from me to the start of the course).

DSC_9330

In terms of changing climb-related settings, Wahoo has none. However, Hammerhead does allow you to tweak the climb categorization in the menus. I left it for defaults.

DSC_9319

And the same goes for Garmin, which also allows you to tweak which size of climbs to show, whether or not a climb notification appears, and which data fields are shown at the bottom.

DSC_9334

With that, I’ll select the climbs and get rolling.

Upcoming Climbs:

Ok, with our ride underway, let’s now look at what it shows on the devices as you start your ride in terms of upcoming climb data. All of these are configurable on each device – so you can disable this if you don’t want it of course. In this case, we might be far away from a climb on flat ground, such as the above photo, which places us 11KM from the first climb (though, notice how Hammerhead and Garmin differ in the start of that climb).

First up, on the Garmin, you have the ClimbPro page. This page will by default show the upcoming climb list, unless you’re in a climb, in which case it’ll show the current climb details (more on that in the next section).

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On a Hammerhead device, you’ll get a similar page (this was introduced last December). This page will show you the distance until the start of each climb, the average gradient, and then the length of the climb. If you tap a climb, it’ll expand out to show you that specific climb.

clip_image001

In the case of Wahoo, they don’t show any upcoming climb categorized. Instead, they do show the upcoming elevation profile (as does Garmin/Hammerhead on other pages). You can adjust the scale of this, but it’s just showing you the overall profile, not any data metrics about the climb or climbs coming up.

clip_image001[6]

When I compare Garmin & Hammerhead in terms of this upcoming climbs page, both of them are pretty similar. As with most things on the Karoo, the Hammerhead page is UI-wise prettier, both in the list perspective as well as the individual climb perspective. But functionally speaking, it’s basically a wash between the two.

The main thing you’d notice side by side is that Garmin and Hammerhead categorize climbs slightly differently, in terms of start/end points as well as double-climb scenarios. For example, while major climbs are typically super clear in where they start/stop, it’s the smaller climbs with more shallow starts that differ. If we look at climbs that have multiple pieces to them (e.g. you go up a long time, then maybe flatten out or descend for 30-60 seconds before going up a long time again), Garmin tends to group that as a single climb. Whereas Hammerhead will often split that out.

The precise split varies, but I’d say in most cases Garmin aligns better with how you’d describe a climb to your buddies at a café, “Man, that climb lasted 15KM with 8% gradient”, whereas Hammerhead tends to be the always-right school-teacher about it, “Well actually, that climb was 8KM, then a 200m break, then 6.8KM more”. Thus why on some routes Garmin would say I had 4-5 major climbs, and Hammerhead would be like “Yo, you’ve got 18 climbs!”. Like ice cream preferences, to each their own.

Both companies publish how they categorize climbs, here for Garmin, and here for Hammerhead. The key difference is Garmin requires 500m in length minimum, while Hammerhead is 400m in length. Both require a minimum grade of 3%.

During Each Climb:

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Now comes the good part, what you see during each climb. In the case of both Hammerhead and Garmin, it will first notify you as you approach the climb, then the individual climb pages will automatically get enabled when you cross the threshold of the start of the climb. Of course, that threshold might differ between the companies, as noted earlier.

In the case of Garmin’s ClimbPro, you’ll see a page for that specific climb. At the top it’ll say which climb # it is (e.g. Climb 1 of 4), as well as the distance until the next climb. Below that, you’ve got the distance remaining on this climb, as well as the ascent remaining on this climb. These fields update as you ride, eventually whittling your way down to zero.

clip_image001[12]

You’ll also see the climb profile, with color-coded chunks, and your position on the climb, as well as the average gradient remaining for the climb. However, keep in mind that it’ll actually zoom in on a chunk of the climb, rather than show the entire thing. I actually don’t like this particular aspect of it, and wished it just stayed put on the entire climb. At the very bottom of the page are two customizable data fields. In my case, they are current grade and elevation.

clip_image001[32]

Garmin’s color-coding is based on official UCI categorization of climbs, which in turn is based how much elevation you gain in a given time period. The darker the color, the more painful it is.

  • Cat 4 > 8000
    – Green
  • Cat 3 > 16000
    – Yellow/Gold
  • Cat 2 > 32000
    – Orange
  • Cat 1 > 48000
    – Red
  • HC (Hors Category) > 64000 – Dark Red

Next, we’ve got Hammerhead and their individual climb page. This page easily takes the cake on the prettiest climb page, with theoretically the most detail. It’s offered in both a half screen height and full-height option:

clip_image001[30]

Their color-coding is as follows:

  • 0-4.4%: Dark green
  • 4.6-7.5%: Light green
  • 7.6-12.5%: Yellow
  • 12.6-15.5%: Pink/peach
  • 15.6%-19.5%: Orange
  • 19.6%-23.5%: Red
  • 23.5%+: Purple

For the upper portion you’ve got the entire climb displayed in 500m long colored increments, along with your position on it (and your completed portion shaded). I immediately like this better than the Garmin approach which zooms in. It’s also got color-coding on the pain-factor throughout the main climb details. Below that is a list of numbers that scroll by. These are 100m long chunks with the expected gradient in each of those chunks. So basically, you can see the next 500m with of gradient within the scrolling ticker.

clip_image001[28]

The problem though? This data isn’t accurate. Especially at the extremes (e.g. higher grades), hairpin turns, or in mountainous terrain. This is because whatever data source they’re using simply isn’t granular enough for this. So countless times it’ll say I’ve got a 14% chunk coming up, and it’ll just be more of the same 4-6% I’ve been riding (like the above photo). When I asked Hammerhead about this previously, they acknowledged the issue, saying:

“We have been wrestling some of these elevation data errors and looking at ways to better handle unrealistic spikes or swings in the data. Your intuition is correct in that it is often based on the underlying dataset that we are using for a particular region. We have got our hands on most of the readily available ones and are running some experimentation on how to handle bad data. We fit offline elevation data for an entire downloaded country onto Karoo 2 so that even re-routes can have Climber functionality. This offline functionality also means that we can’t rely on any backup or massaging of the data from different sources on a web server. We have a few methods we are looking at to improve this.”

Ultimately, this becomes a case of form over function. Yes, it visually looks super cool. But practically speaking, it’s often inaccurate (in fact, almost always inaccurate). And it’s ultimately why Garmin probably isn’t showing such granular detail. In Garmin’s case, they’re slicing it up into far larger chunks for color-coding, which means they can smooth out some of the underlying data inconsistencies. Below is a good example of bad data – this road never had anywhere even remotely close to a 25% grade section (nor one then followed apparently by –9.3% downhill section). However, if you look closely at the yellow Garmin section below, you can see what appears as a spike in the climb, but in Garmin’s case they aren’t granular enough displaying data related to that, to draw your attention to it.

clip_image001[24]

Anyways, below that streaming gradient ticker section, is the distance to the top, and the elevation to the top (plus climb # and current grade). One interesting note though, is that Hammerhead does not properly count mid-climb descents here. So for example you see that little bump where I go down for a few hundred meters on the above? In that case, Hammerhead doesn’t accurately show my total ascent as having to ‘reclimb’ that portion twice. Instead, their math is simply your goal elevation (top), minus the current elevation. So any brief downs within it aren’t calculated correctly, and will undercount how much climbing you actually have to do still. If your climb has no brief descents, then it’s a non-issue.

Still, if we step back and look at the overall gist of what the ticker and climb charts are showing you, I think Hammerhead is largely on the right path here. I suspect if they shifted away from 100m sections, and instead went more towards 200m or larger sections, it’d be enough to get around some of the short-distance accuracy issues they have. And similarly, fixing the ascent to top should be easy since they know the descents just as much as they know the ascents.

As for Wahoo, again, they have no direct climbing feature. But they do actually have one workaround: Strava Live Segments. If you star/favorite a Strava Live Segment for that climb (which is usually easy enough to find/tag), it’ll trigger as you approach the climb and then show your exact distance till the end of the climb. Plus the upcoming elevation profile. It won’t show ascent or other climbing-related metrics, but it at least shows how much suffering you have left, along with how poorly you’re doing relative to all your friends.

WahooClimbStrava

Though, on one particular long climb last year, I just adopted Wahoo’s BOLT for my own Haribo-Pro. One gummy per 1KM remaining. Albeit, this does impact display visibility, but, when you’re climbing for hours on end without climbing metrics, you mostly get into the groove anyways.

clip_image001[16]

Finally, some will ask about actual gradient responsiveness. Meaning, how fast does each bike computer respond to gradient shifts and display that on the unit itself. And the answer is “it depends”. In general, it seemed like the Hammerhead and Wahoo units reported shifts in gradient more quickly as the road changed pitch. But not all the time. In the video I show a bit almost back to back where on one road chunk the Garmin lagged, but then moments later it was the Wahoo lagging. Keep in mind, when I say ‘lagging’, we’re talking a couple of seconds. You can see examples of the differences.

clip_image001[18] clip_image001[22]

The reason for that is that these companies are largely looking at forward movement to determine grade, not the current angle of your bike. So they look at how much elevation you’ve gained in the last X seconds, and then figure out the gradient based on the distance you travelled. It’s a fine line between being too quick to respond to shifts in pressure (which would lead to inaccurate data), and being too slow (which leads to frustration). For virtually every scenario I encountered, there were no meaningful real-world differences between them on this topic.

In the sense that, yes, sometimes one unit was behind another a few seconds, but unless this was crossing a shallow 100m long bridge, it just didn’t make a big difference to me that it was 2-3 seconds behind showing 6% vs 8%. For any meaningful climbs, it evened out within a few seconds and showed me seemingly correct values across all devices.

Going Forward:

clip_image001[10]

Of course, as we approach the springtime, we historically see gains on cycling head units. It’ll be interesting to see if there are shifts here, from all the players. I think it’s obviously critical that Wahoo somehow get in this realm, especially as Hammerhead continues to improve theirs with each iteration every few months. Meanwhile, Garmin could look to add a bit more detail like Hammerhead, while Hammerhead inversely could aim to try and get their underlying gradient data either more accurate or perhaps less granular to, in turn, increase upcoming gradient accuracy.

And then beyond that, all the companies could introduce added climbing features that haven’t been thought of yet. There’s countless ways this could be expanded, and we only need to look at other feature areas to see that. For example, Garmin recently introduced enhanced waypoints support (called ‘Up Ahead’) on their Fenix 7/Epix series, or, nobody has made a way for this to be sans pre-loaded route – a long-requested feature by many.

Or, the companies could do a better job of surfacing these climbs in their post-ride analytics apps, showing the times and efforts after the fact, similar to Strava Segments, but without all the jumble of numerous segments. Just a clean list of the climbs and one’s performances on those climbs.

Still, both the Hammerhead and Garmin climbing features remain my favorite features on each unit. Perhaps less for technical reasons, and more for nostalgia reasons. In my case, when I’m using these features to their fullest extent, it’s because I’m off on some bike adventure somewhere – often on an epic climb with amazing scenery. And as the snow melts, it’s almost time for that to begin again. So if and when these companies make changes, I’ll be ready to put them to the test again.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

If you're shopping for the Garmin Edge 830, Hammerhead Karoo 2 or Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2/2021 or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with this unit (and some that I showed in the review). Given the unit pairs with ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can use just about anything though.

The Edge remote allows you to control functions (like data pages/screens, and laps) wirelessly right from your handlebars/drops. Super handy for mountain biking where taking your hands off the bars might be a bad idea.

This magnetless Garmin Cadence Sensor attached to your crank arm and transmits cadence over both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart to apps, watches, or bike computers.

This is a set of Garmin magnetless speed and cadence sensors. Both transmits over ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, but the speed sensor also can record rides without a bike computer - perfect for using on a commuter bike.

Garmin RTL515 Varia Radar

The Garmin Varia radar alerts you to cars coming up behind you, well before you see them. It's awesome for quieter roads (country roads/mountains), especially on longer rides. It's less useful for city riding.

The Garmin Varia radar alerts you to cars coming up behind you, well before you see them. It's awesome for quieter roads (country roads/mountains), especially on longer rides. It's less useful for city riding. The RVR315 skips the light.

This magnetless Garmin speed sensor transmits your speed on ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, but more notably, it also has memory so it can save rides even when not paired to a bike computer/watch, then quietly offloads them to your phone later on. Perfect for a commuter bike.

The HRM-DUAL strap transmits not only concurrently on ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, but actually has two Bluetooth channels, making it perfect for pairing to Zwift at the same time you also have it paired to another device/app via Bluetooth.

The HRM-PRO is Garmin's top-end chest strap. It transmits dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but also transmits Running Dynamics metrics, stores HR data during a swim, and can be used without a watch for other sports. Also, it can transmit XC Skiing Dynamics as well.

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

If you're shopping for the Garmin Edge 830, Hammerhead Karoo 2 or Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2/2021 or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with this unit (and some that I showed in the review). Given the unit pairs with ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can use just about anything though.

The Edge remote allows you to control functions (like data pages/screens, and laps) wirelessly right from your handlebars/drops. Super handy for mountain biking where taking your hands off the bars might be a bad idea.

This magnetless Garmin Cadence Sensor attached to your crank arm and transmits cadence over both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart to apps, watches, or bike computers.

This is a set of Garmin magnetless speed and cadence sensors. Both transmits over ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, but the speed sensor also can record rides without a bike computer - perfect for using on a commuter bike.

Garmin RTL515 Varia Radar

The Garmin Varia radar alerts you to cars coming up behind you, well before you see them. It's awesome for quieter roads (country roads/mountains), especially on longer rides. It's less useful for city riding.

The Garmin Varia radar alerts you to cars coming up behind you, well before you see them. It's awesome for quieter roads (country roads/mountains), especially on longer rides. It's less useful for city riding. The RVR315 skips the light.

This magnetless Garmin speed sensor transmits your speed on ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, but more notably, it also has memory so it can save rides even when not paired to a bike computer/watch, then quietly offloads them to your phone later on. Perfect for a commuter bike.

The HRM-DUAL strap transmits not only concurrently on ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, but actually has two Bluetooth channels, making it perfect for pairing to Zwift at the same time you also have it paired to another device/app via Bluetooth.

The HRM-PRO is Garmin's top-end chest strap. It transmits dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but also transmits Running Dynamics metrics, stores HR data during a swim, and can be used without a watch for other sports. Also, it can transmit XC Skiing Dynamics as well.

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

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63 Comments

  1. Greg Saunders

    Thank Ray for the interesting read.

    I’ve been wanting to upgrade for a bit, but buying, for example, a Garmin 530 that was released 3 years ago just makes me nervous. I’m well aware that I can think my way into never buying something this way, but it just seems that processing power, and more significantly battery life, are things that could be way better with a 540.

    Is this a reasonable perspective, or am I overthinking it?

    Thanks again for the continuous stream of great articles.

    • Garmin is probably due for a refresh across all their bike computers, but whether or not that happens? That’s the question. Lots of things have gotten dorked-up timeline was over the last two years.

    • I had a problem with the batterylife on the 520 but with my 530 it hasn’t been a problem at all, I have done 200km rides WITH navigation and had 20% left after that, and you can buy a special batterypack for it.

  2. LesMc

    Hi Ray,

    Nice write-up. I own a 530 and have enjoyed the ClimbPro feature. however, there is one baffling feature that you did not mention, nor have I been able to figure out the “rules” by which it works. The feature is the small horizontal slider just below the climb’s profile and just above the field panes. It is dynamic and readjusts during a climb. There are also two little sliding “goalposts” that move left to right during a climb, and some color shading of the horizontal bar that changes with progress.

    This feature seems to be correlated to the climb’s overall length an indication of relative position on the climb. The baffling part is that the scale of what it shows varies based on the length of the climb and even on which point you are on the climb.

    There also seems to be a distance threshold under which the scale is the full length of the climb, but I have not been able to determine the threshold. As I mentioned, the scale also varies mid climb. So, when starting a long climb, like 9 miles, the scale shows a certain initial portion of the climb that also seems to have a max length show threshold. Mid-climb, the scale will be different, and as you get within the last mile or so, the scale has changed quite a bit again along with the goalposts and shading.

    I’ve spent many hours of climbing over this past Summer to try to understand what this is telling me and have no more of a clue now than when I started. I have searched for documentation of the details of this feature and found none. Perhaps you could get some detailed info on this feature either by your own personal insight, or maybe contacts within Garmin. At this point, it is uselessly taking up space, and serves as little more than a feature to distract me from the pain (maybe there’s some redeeming quality in that alone, eh?).

    Thanks in advance.

    • Good point!

      I mentioned that I disliked it in the post, though, like you, that’s largely because it just doesn’t ever make much sense to me (it’s officially called ‘Zoom’).

      But, I’ll shoot some people a note, it’s a good one to get clarity on how the heck it’s supposed to work, cause I can’t find any documentation anywhere on the specifics of it.

    • PeterF

      Could you also ask what “grade remain.” means? I assume the average grade til the end of the climb, but I’m not sure (and I think I’ve seen numbers there that didn’t make sense, looking at the graph / colours of the remaining climb).

  3. Rik Helsen

    I had to disable the climbing feature because it would overrule the navigation prompts on my edge 1030 and i wouldn’t know where to go at an intersection.

    So when climbing in the rain when operating the screen was difficult, it actually required me to stop in the rain on an intersection, wipe dry device, unlock, switch back to map view, lock sreen, resume riding.

    It would be much more userfriendly if navigation prompts still appeared over the climbing interface

    • Yeah, I’ve never had that issue, and a check of the Garmin forums shows it shouldn’t be an issue here.

      Check out this thread, to see if somehow something got accidentally disabled: link to forums.garmin.com

    • Martin Feeney

      I have had the same issue (climbing overlaying the navigation) on my 530. I have had the overlay occur in two locations: one was a route I am very familiar with and knew to turn left. The second was a new route. Fortunately, I remembered from the map that I had to turn at the intersection.

      This could be an issue in locations where one was unfamiliar with the route.

    • Paul B

      Me three. It’s really quite annoying to be coming up to a complicated set of turns and then have Climbpro/strava live screen appear in place of your map, especially in winter if you have thick gloves on that don’t reliably activate the touchscreen.

  4. Jim Kanaly

    Wahoo seems to be a ways behind in features, and obviously display/interface. While I like my ROAM, I am waiting for a significant upgrade to come from Wahoo. Any rumors out there about that happening?

  5. Brian

    Are the ClimbPro features on a 945 for Fenix so far below these dedicated head-units that it’s not worth comparing? I’m one of those that uses a 945 as my “head unit” and wonder how much of an upgrade I’d be getting with a 530 or better.

    • It’s actually virtually identical in every way.

      The main difference is that on the wearable front you can’t expand out the details of an upcoming climb/list of climbs. At least not from the main data pages. Instead, you have to basically go open a course up again and look at it there. It’s kinda clumsy.

      Whereas on the bike computer you can simply expand out those climb details on the upcoming climb page.

      None of this impacts the climb page itself (when you’re on a climb), which is essentially identical.

    • …and actually, one way ClimbPro on the wearables is slightly better is that it allows you to do downhill descents (in non-cycling modes), which the Edge units having only cycling modes don’t allow.

      Attached is a picture on a Fenix 7, but it’s identical on a Fenix 6/FR945/Epix/etc… (even the FR745 if the route is pre-planned – since it doesn’t have basemaps to do it on impromptu routes).

    • Brian

      Good to know. I use the 945 as my Garmin data-collector (and wrap it on the bars) but I have a 5-year-old Lezyne Super-GPS as my proper head-unit so it sounds like I’m still pretty functional for the most part. Just sacrificing some screen space.

    • Gerald

      Exactly sale for me- except I have a polar watch with the lezyne (that I use for navigation or metrics during training)

  6. Ralf Mimoun

    It’d be glad if Garmin manages to show Strava Live Segments while navigating. Nobody uses Garmin segments.

  7. Martin

    Very nice feature article. Thank you for all the in-depth work.
    I use an Edge 530 and ClimbPro is certainly a very important feature with lots of helpful info and helps with pacing and effort on any climb. But, room for improvement. I have more confidence that Hammerhead will solve the gradient issue than Garmin will solve the partial climb view. So, maybe I’ll get a Hammerhead. As a workaround on the Garmin, I also checked on using Strava Segments to show the profile for the whole climb, but here also only a partial view. In general with Garmin, I want more flexibility in visualizing my route profile. There is no dedicated screen or metric for that.

    For a fourth competitor … are there any smart phone apps that do a good job showing climb/route elevation profile?

    • Chris Winterhack

      I tried to go the smartphone route before buying the Karoo 2. If I kept the phone on to see speed/cadence for the whole ride my phone (iPhone XS at the time) was always dead by mile 40. If you add in a climb feature or turn by turn it would kill the battery even quicker.

    • Tom

      Hi, I created an Android app (Jepster) which do jave a climbing function. Just check link to jepster.nl or give it try. Regarding the battery. On my S10 I can ride up to 5 hours with a route and a map/climb page shown (screen always on with ~80% brightness). This covers for me 98% of my rides. For longer rides I have extern battery to charge during coffe breaks or the ride it self.

    • Thomas

      Love your app Tom!
      I have bought a bike computer yet, and as my PM only supports ANT+ your app works wonderfully on my s10 with ANT support.

      Didn’t realise you had a climbing feature will check it out!

  8. Karl-Eric Devaux

    Very interesting blog – about one feature that sorely lacks on my Wahoo Bolt …

    When biking with mates, all on Garmin but different settings (feet vs. meters) they announced a different number of climb for the (same) ride. I never fail to take the mickey about the superiority of Wahoo! They retaliate while climbing when I ask how much longer is climb x of y …

    While I hope my bolt never breaks, when it does it will be a feature that I’ll be looking for ; hopefully on a Wahoo product

    • Very interesting. Though, technically speaking it’s plausible your friends have changed the only setting you can change in ClimbPro: Whether to show moderate climbs or not.

  9. janbecher

    Great review, I have owned the Karoo for a week and love the climb display, especially that you can see every climbs on the map as a blue line instead of yellow and that you can use the Climb view only up to half of the display. The upper half has then still space for the map view or any 4 data fields and you can also switch between them back and forth.
    I have waited over a year for Wahoo adding a climb feature, but will now switch to the Karoo, just have a bit of concern about battery life, but it’s worth it to me.

    • Yup, the split/half display feature is awesome! Especially when you can do a three-tab Strava/Navigation/Climb and easily toggle across them, while still seeing your other data.

  10. gideon

    excellent write-up…thanks

  11. Meredith

    In regards to the accuracy of elevation data, the elevation profile on the Garmin is derived from the elevation data in the route file you are using. With Garmins the accuracy (or lack of) of the elevation plot is purely down to the accuracy of the elevation data in whatever route planner you used or if you created a route from a previous ride the accuracy of the elevation data recorded during that ride.

    • usr

      Sounds convincing, in that it matches my observations, not in terms of being a good feature. So it’s just a different presentation of what we’d see anyways in the old elevation graph, but now adorned with more bells and whistles.What I was expecting, from the ad copy I saw from Garmin, would be a feature that is basically segments, but minus the competetive part. Encoded in the map file or pulled over BT uplink, not inferred from some gpx/tcx/fit loaded onto the device. That way you could even get the feature without a course, and it would be a real extension because without a course the old elevation graph only displays the past. Not “parts of your course that go uphill” but “famous (or not quite that famous) climbs you run into”. Name, amount of climbing and refined grades auto-curated from the mighty Connect database.

    • My understanding though is that it’s DEM data, not the route provider data, that enumerates ClimbPro. Which, is how it definitely works on wearables (I outlined this in a bit more detail and the interesting positive benefits it has in situations like routes near the ocean, where it basically snaps the GPS track back to reality if weather is shifting).

      Versus inversely, we know that if you’re doing ClimbPro on a previous ride, it does indeed leverage the previous track.

    • JE

      On the edge it’s definitely based on the data included in the route. I have had different number of climbs found for the identical route that was either from Garmin or komoot. The quality of elevation data generally seems to be worse with komoot which is why I something copy the route in Garmin in order to get their elevation data.

    • usr

      Sounds like a call for riding with known-bad route elevation data, to see what the climbpro graph ends up looking like!

    • Yeah, I sent over a note on Friday with some questions on precisely how that (DEM vs course file elevation) works in different scenarios. I suspect I’ll hear back on Monday.

  12. Nathan

    I really like just the elevation page on the Garmin over the climb pro feature. Still has the color grades, and I find it distracting to number how many climbs left and the alerting of this ‘event’. Better to be in tune with terrain with just some digital information to see what is ahead.

  13. Matt Haber

    Great article! I was just on a week long series of rides where I had a Karoo 2 (mine) and a Garmin 1030 (someone else’s). My experience is exactly as you stated. The Karoo, while theoretically more helpful for upcoming climbs, was usually WAY off. I learned to disregard to the upcoming 22% grade, which was usually more in the range of 8-11%. The Garmin usually did a good job of reporting current grade.

    What I would like to see (hello, Karoo dev team), once Hammerhead gets the accuracy sorted, is a report of upcoming climbs that shows maximum grade. A climb with an average of 8% but a max of 16% is WAY different than a climb with an average of 8% but a max of 10%.

    Also, the Karoo was 100% solid on the mapping. The Garmin got completely confused several times, and the most frequent text at the top was “make a U-turn.” Not helpful.

  14. usr

    I was just about to comment on that old 1030+ “grade lag” discussion where you hinted at this article coming soon a few weeks ago. I’m currently on Tenerife, not the worst place to dive into cycling altimetry, and I’m surprised how *fast* the 1030+ (on 6.10) reacts to changes in grade. Up Masca I even saw it peak at 20% in that one “hill on the left side” straight that is a little steeper than the rest of the climb, which my trusty old tip-over-o-meter (can I remain seated without the front rising?) suggests is an exaggeration, nothing beyond 17, 18 on that climb outside of hairpin inners. Really expected worse given the amount of critique Garmin received for the 1030+ grade field.

    And about climbpro, I would have expected grades to be based on actual recordings sourced from Garmin Connect uploads, but apparently it’s based on landscape geometry DEM just like everybody else, just with some clever fixes for the worst outliers (tunnels/bridges). Had some considerable errors in the climbpro profiles that accurately match the error patterns to be expected from landscape DEM. Seriously underwhelmed.

    • Paul S.

      That’s always amazed me as well. Both Garmin and Strava have massive numbers of tracks that they can use to check their DEM’s. Why don’t they do that? I often see nonexistent cliffs in my Strava routes when I ride them, which always screws up ClimbPro in some way.

    • Yeah, my understanding is that it will use their own DEM (which…frankly, almost everyone is using the same underlying data source anyway).

      However, my other understanding is that they will use a known-ride if you’re riding that. Meaning, if you re-ride a previous ride, it’ll use that elevation.

      As far as instant gradient goes, it’s never really bothered me. As noted, it can sometimes be a bit slower than others in some cases, but also equally just not be slower than others. Sifting through something like 500 video files for this video, I could have found countless examples where it was one way versus the other. It seems like most critiques I see are for incredibly short durations (like sprinting up a highway overpass of 100m in length), rather than anything else.

  15. Tony G

    Another excellent post, and so very helpful Thanks Ray.

    I’d love to see the same sort of thing comparing the navigation functions of the three units side-by-side. Any plans for that?

    • I actually shot that footage during one of my rides, but ultimately, I’m just going to trash it, it’s too segmented and confusing to make a clear narrative out of it. But, the general pattern would be that Hammerhead and Garmin are the best in terms of navigation and clarity, and then within that, there are subtle nuances to each implementation that sometimes make one better than the other, somewhat depending on your preferences. But that too depends on which silly settings you use. Garmin has added some ‘cleaning-up’ type settings for the display options in the last 6-8 months that have helped reduce clutter.

      The attached photo is a really good example that I could probably write an entire post on. It was towards the end of the day – and as you see, I’d been riding for 6hrs and 20 minutes. I was descending through small towns into a bigger town/city with evening rush-hour traffic, on somewhat bumpy roads. So i didn’t have a ton of time to study each turn prompt. It’s fun to just glance/blink at this photo for a split-second, and see if you can figure out what each thing is telling you to do.

      To my eyes, for just this particular intersection/situation:

      1) Hammerhead: This is actually hard to understand because the yellow box overlays the traffic circle. So i can’t just glance/peripheral vision it, I’ve now gotta read the text.
      2) Wahoo: This is reasonably clear, though, it kinda almost hides the fact that there’s a traffic circle. Obviously, I’ll figure that out as I approach it, but at a very fast glance, it’s not super obvious.
      3) This is reasonably good, I can see it’s a circle, and see the clear white arrow showing my direction through it. It’s a bit late though for some reason (note it says 120m versus 75m or less on the other two).

      But for this particular intersection, the Garmin is easiest for the split-second glance almost entirely because of the large white arrow. Yet, no more than a minute later, I was trying to navigate a clumsy underpass section, and Wahoo was more clear (Hammerhead was less clear for a variety of reasons). And further complicating things, is other places Hammerhead is more clear.

      Part of what took this darn thing so long was I kept adding more things to, to compare, and then Hammerhead kept adding more features each time I’d go out and film (which, is good).

      Next time I do this, I’ll actually likely start with writing the post first, and then going out and shooting the video narrative on a climb. It helps me put all my thoughts together, and keeps me from spending 6-8 months dragging my feet on getting this edited together.

    • Tony G

      Thanks Ray. I use my 530 just as you describe — glance and go. I can see that’s not easy with the Wahoo unit. There’s another difference between those two that you’ve covered in the past. I can’t find it now but its not Wahoo’s TBT directions which you described in June 2016. Maybe it had to do with street names and the Garmin having a real map onboard and the consequences of that.

    • Gerben

      For the Hammerhead, you know that you will be getting half-screen popups for strava, climber and navigation. I thus made may main screen the top half map, bottom half four datafields. That way, the map is always clearly visible, and alerts only cover the datafields which are less crucial.
      Set up that way, I really like the popup/tab style of the Hammerhead. Als nice to sideswipe between the tabs, or main data screens independently.

    • Good idea, that’s a clever way of doing it!

      Though, I’d also argue that if a turn appears, it should automatically half-height the map in a full page, since the navigation prompt will always cover the same half anyways… But, hopefully Hammrehead considers that for a future update. They’re pretty good about UI tweaks like that.

    • Jon Thompson

      This brings up an interesting subject in my mind. How do each of the head units handle missed turns and re-routes? Last summer I added 10ish miles to a gravel race because I missed my elemnt’s audio notification, then it “re-routed” me to the next turn and then a b-road to get back to the course.

      Of course, when my varia disconnects for two seconds, I get a permanent dialog that I have to acknowledge, but a missed turn? Nah, we’ll just show you a new route.

  16. Scott

    I don’t use the Garmin Climb Pro feature because I like to see power, heartrate and time metrics while climbing. If the Garmin could accommodate this, I’d use it. Am I missing something?

    • SummitAK

      Scott,

      I think the Climbpro data screen defaults to Climbpro plus two datafield sat the bottom. So it would only give you two of the three you want.

      If Garmin allowed setting this to only one datafield I could see using a CIQ field such as the MapDashboardMS datafield that Gplama recently reviewed for use at the bottom of the navigation map screen. I don’t see a way to limit the Climbpro screen to one datafield.

    • Paul S.

      Or use autoscroll. The ClimbPro window will scroll out of the way just like any other, and you can put whatever you want on the other page(s).

  17. Adam Lantos

    I really hope Wahoo is doing something, at bare minimum use gradient colors. Ever since the Bolt2 came out the only feature they added was custom alerts, despite the update cadence of 1-2 updates per month. Do they really have so much bugs to fix, or are they iterating on some new features only visible to a select few? 😉

  18. Raz Alon

    Ray, maybe you can ask Wahoo whether they plan to meet this huge functional deficiency. Especially with the Roam, which is targeting the endurance gravel / adventure cyclist, not having the basic metrics of distance and elevation to top of climb, and the rest of the features present at Garmin is enough to move back to Garmin or go to Karoo.

  19. Andrew

    I’ve never been able to figure out what the 2 different elevation profiles are on my ELEMNT Bolt V1? The elevation profile changes at the point when the down button has selected the 2nd to and last screens.

  20. Bartek

    Did hammerhead fix the annoying issue of not accumulating altitude gain when moving too slow? I had to return my karoo 1 unit because of that. It was making it practically useless on MTB climbs. The current elevation was shown correctly and slowly growing, but the gain speed would freeze at 0 and never take into accumulate the meters climbed while it remained at that value. Garmin also requires a minimum moving speed to show the climb speed but even if it says 0m/h it still accumulates the actual gains. This was easy to observe when pushing or carrying a bike.

  21. Marcio Machado

    Hammerhead has the best proposal, but only the proposal, in practice its climbing system is a big lie. Another fact that Hammerhead presents is the defects, there are units with defects in the power reading, but Hammerhead is silent, it’s for you to prove it as it was in my case it was a lot of work, they know about the problem, but they don’t want to make a recall, after very proven the problem, I was guaranteed to exchange the unit, I hope that SRAM changes the company’s culture, as there is no ethics and integrity in this company.

  22. Michael

    Hi Ray
    thank you for your great review: as always very helpful !
    last year in the Italian mountains my Garmin 530 (several times!) was way of: ClimbPro told me that I was at the top ( and finished) when actually I stil had to cycle mor than 500m! ( also during the climb I could feel that the information on the screen was far from accurate)
    do you or someone else have the same experience?
    Thanks Michael

  23. JonMess

    The 1030+ has a terrible gradient lag of 10-15 seconds when just riding. There are 100s of complaints on the Garmin support forum about this issue. It appears to be a design defect in the barometer they use in the 1030+. The 1000 didn’t have this problem. For anyone interested in monitoring what the current slope is when climbing the 1030+ sucks.

    • Garry247

      I agree, gradient on the 1030 plus is pointless, might as well turn it off. It has never worked and never will. Garmin has kept tight-lipped until after the 12m+ release of the device and now they are saying “devices showing a delay in Grade by up to 10-15 seconds are operating within our expectations.”

      maybe meeting your expectations but not mine.

  24. ChrisTexan

    I’m honestly a bit bummed that you don’t really ever include the Stages Dash computer(s) in these types of comparisons. Obviously they are small compared to the competition, but their solution is a solid one, and they’ve recently even added significantly to the units. They also have route planning/mapping and elevation profiles on their head units, may not compare (I have no idea) to these 3, but that’d be why I’d have enjoyed seeing them in this comparison. Omission by DCR is almost a death-sentence, honestly, LOL, IMO anyhow. Even a bad review, at least gives the market (and their company/development teams) feedback to improve on what I think is a pretty solid offering (solid like a brick, my only drawback, LOL, the heavy-duty mounting system and build quality being fairly tank-like, perfect for my breakage-prone self!) Otherwise love these style comparisons!

    • ChrisTexan

      LOL, replying to myself, shortly after this posting (within hours) , I saw the “pre-announcement” email from Stages about a pending release (M200 or something like that, it was visible in the picture in the email)… so maybe a reason for no inclusion of the “about to be superceded” tech? I shoulda known… LOL

  25. Tyler

    I live and bike in a place in Garmin’s backyard, and home to some of the best gravel biking.
    We have no epic climbs, but decent hilly gravel biking.

    What we do have plenty of is wind, with the wind frequently changing both direction and intensity during the course of rides.
    We joke that the wind is our mountains, for training.

    Are there any apps/data fields for Garmin head units, that will gamify/quantify extra effort related to current hyper-local wind conditions and/or on an input route?
    It would have similar motivational/performance assessment implications to the ClimbPro, if such a thing existed.

    • Paul S.

      How could anyone possibly do that? As you say yourself, the winds in Kansas are changing. The head unit has no idea what the winds are. They at most have access to airport winds, which may or may not be accurate where you are. The course itself might have varying amounts of wind block around them (vegetation, buildings).

      The Velocomp PowerPod series (I have the AeroPod flavor acquired during their Kickstarter campaign) can measure real time air speed, and they have a ConnectIQ app (that I’ve never used) that can show real time air speed (or maybe wind speed) among other things. The PowerPod itself calculates power (reasonably accurately) from air speed, ground speed (from a speed sensor) and incline using parameters that you have to provide (primarily bike+rider weight). I have an AeroPod primarily so I can see how bad the winds were after I get back from a ride. A typical direct force power meter will certainly measure the extra power you put in to overcome the wind. But to predict it seems impossible since you don’t have nearly enough real time information. The difference between wind and mountains are that mountains don’t change and climbs end, and upcoming incline and distance to go on the climb are the primary value of ClimbPro. The head unit comes with a digital elevation map, so it has all the information it needs about a climb.

      There’s a ConnectIQ data field, Rain & Wind, that I use that gets local weather information and shows the wind velocity relative to you. It updates a few times an hour. But again, that’s not an accurate local measurement.

  26. Heart Focused

    Do both Garmin and Hammerhead allow you to customize the display for the climbs? For health reasons, I want to always have my HR visible on the device (especially on the climbs)? Can I see the climb detail while also seeing HR (or perhaps other metrics)? Thanks.