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Hammerhead Updated CLIMBER Functionality No Longer Requires Route

There’s nothing more consistent than the biweekly drop of new features coming from Hammerhead to their Karoo series bike computers. And this update brings a huge one: The ability to automatically get climb information as you ride, without needing to load any course or route. This includes distance and ascent remaining to the top of the climb, as well as gradient shown in 100m increments. Up till now, for both Hammerhead CLIMBER and Garmin’s ClimbPro features, you’ve had to have an active course/navigation in order to see the upcoming climbs.

But, now it’ll automatically identify and display climbs as you approach them, in much the same manner that Strava Live Segments work. This means that for your more regular rides (or, when you’re along for the ride on someone else’s ride), you’ll get all the same climb information as before – including the remaining distance/ascent, and gradient information. So, everything from my post and video last week remains the same – except now you don’t need to pre-plan the route.

Note: This is compatible with both the Karoo and Karoo 2.

Testing it Out:

The new CLIMBER function is enabled by default, once you update the firmware on your Hammerhead Karoo 2. However, you can also turn it off – either entirely, or set it back to the older mode where it only triggers on loaded courses. You’ll notice the CLIMBER settings page has a new menu toggle at the top. The left-most position is off, the middle-position is routes only, and the right position is the new ‘Everything’ mode. You still retain whether or not to show medium+large climbs, or just large climbs.

DSC_9481

Now, while I spent 6-8 months testing epic climb after epic climb around Europe for that last climb comparison post, for this one my choices were a wee bit limited. That’s because my locale (Amsterdam) isn’t exactly known for hills (or elevation at all). In fact, only a single hill anywhere within a few hours of riding would trigger the minimum requirements for either Hammerhead’s CLIMBER or Garmin’s ClimbPro– and even then, it’s right on the fringe of acceptability. Riders in other parts of the world likely wouldn’t even acknowledge this as a real climb, but in these parts it even gets a full cycling-focused plaque and monument at the top celebrating it. For real.

Still, I set out to see if it’d trigger. And in this case, I can take this mountain ‘pass’ from two different directions too. For this ride I had zero course/route loaded. So this would be no different than any regular ride you might do from memory. I started off on the road heading towards the base of the climb. And sure enough, about 100-150m out from the start of the climb I got notified that the climb was approaching:

vlcsnap-2022-03-24-08h33m11s888

In fact, it’ll show recognized climbs in blue on the map as well. You’ll notice above it’ll also say “Starting Climb 2” – this is the total ride counter of climbs. Normally with a route loaded, CLIMBER would say “Climb 1 of 8” or such. But in this case, it just acts as a simple counter instead. Again, this up-ahead functionality is identical to how Strava would work in terms of a countdown.

As I crossed the threshold of the climb, I immediately got all the usual CLIMBER information, showing the color-coded gradient, distance remaining to top of climb (0.4km), ascent remaining to top of climb (24m), current grade (1% just at the start), and the current climb number (2)

vlcsnap-2022-03-24-08h35m19s387

And as I continued the climb, you can see that data changing as normal – just like it would with a pre-planned route. The only difference is that you don’t get a list of upcoming climbs of course. On the panel above/below, like before – the upper portion is your overall climb, the middle portion shows the gradient for the next 100m in chunks (and moves along like a ticker symbol – check out the video for that).

vlcsnap-2022-03-24-08h36m17s255

Now as with my previous experiences on CLIMBER, the gradient data accuracy remains iffy at best – due to a combination of their underlying data source, along with using much shorter 100m chunks exposes that inaccuracy more than larger smoothed sections. And, in the case of this specific climb, it also ended the climb perhaps 100-150m short (in distance). As you can see in the video, I was still climbing as I reached the top.

However, once you reach the top of a climb, they’ve repurposed what was the up-ahead list of climbs, to be a completed list of climbs. You can see here the two climbs I did of this hill:

vlcsnap-2022-03-24-08h37m29s693

Further, because the Dutch heavily celebrate any hill they can, here’s the monument at the top of this 32m high climb (according to the sign).:

vlcsnap-2022-03-24-08h37m55s408

Now, I also tried approaching this hill from the other direction. Unfortunately, the road from that direction was partially closed due to resurfacing. Of course, feeling confident, I ignored that and tried to gravel-bike through it. That ended poorly when somehow, inexplicably, discarded electrical wires popped-up and tried to accessorize the bike’s Di2 drivetrain.

vlcsnap-2022-03-24-08h39m01s585

As a result, the CLIMBER didn’t seem to trigger on this section. It does show up on regular CLIMBER with a pre-approved route, but perhaps something here didn’t quite meet the threshold (be it in my unexpected pit-stop, or some other element). You can watch that in the video.

Still, I’ll give the CLIMBER a pass on that. First, the climb itself barely would meet the threshold normally, so even the slightest deviation probably disqualified it. Further, I’m not going to hold a rogue construction site failure over Hammerhead’s…umm…head. I will however still say they need to sort out gradient accuracy though.

Going Forward:

DSC_9479

This is super cool. Like, really cool. Especially for those that frequently ride hilly routes without bothering to load a course. For example, back when I lived in Washington DC, I’d often (every weekend) train out on Skyline Drive, which is the ridgeline along the Appalachian Mountains. I’d do upwards of 100-120 mile long rides each Saturday, and that route is simply just never-ending ups and downs. However, the exact turn-around point would vary each week depending on my training schedule, so creating courses for potentially infinite and unknown turn-around points is a hassle. This would work fantastic for that, since it just triggers as I hit each climb.

Of course, the fact that Hammerhead rolled out another new feature shouldn’t really surprise us. With their bi-weekly firmware update cycle, it’s a constant spree of new updates. And I can only assume (or at least hope), that with the recent SRAM acquisition, that continues or even accelerates. While many of their updates have been more feature catch-up type additions, this one is truly new – with nobody in the marketplace having this. As they work their way down the “competitor catch-up” checklist, that list grows smaller and smaller, and they’ll likely start being able to work more frequently from the “new things nobody else has” to-do list. And that’s both exciting for someone like me to watch, and it’s good for all consumers, no matter the brand of bike computer on our handlebar.

With that, thanks for reading!

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48 Comments

  1. John

    What are the chances Garmin gets smart and adds this feature to their Edge line?

  2. Paul S.

    I’m curious as to what it does when you start a climb but then arrive at an intersection and turn off the climb early. What with one climb in the area I guess Ray can’t test for that. Until they install a mind reader, there’s no way for the Karoo to know exactly where you intend to go, which is why the course was required in the past.

    • My understanding is it simply ends the climb screen.

    • Paul S.

      That’d make sense, but that means that a lot of the information they’re showing is irrelevant (distance to top, gradient after the intersection). Still, I suppose the gradient during the portion of the climb you’re actually doing would be useful (if it was accurate, that is). I’d guess Garmin does something like this soon, but I’m not sure if I’ll actually like it.

    • yes karoo can’t know where we will go for sure

      1. how often do you turn off half way up a hill? Sometimes, no doubt, but more often than not you go to the top
      2. garmin might be able to predict you will turn somewhere if you always turn there (personal popularity data), maybe karoo can do this too but if you’ve done that route a lot then surely you know the hill and the turn?
      3. garmin might be able to predict you will turn somewhere if everyone always turns there (popularity data)

      K2 got a good hill prediction for me last week in the scenario where the road (number) I was on turned right and went flat. yet it somehow worked out i was going straight on (onto a differently numbered lane) up the hill.

      firmware: 1.279.1168.12

    • tfk, the5krunner

      CLIMBER Without a Route looks at the upcoming segments of road and calculates climbs up to the next major intersection*S*. If the current ROAD NAME remains consistent and/or you are able to continue essentially “straight” on the road, it will analyze that potential route. If you deviate from that predicted route (eg, turn off of the road when CLIMBER predicted straight), CLIMBER will analyze the new road to the next major intersection.

    • After a few seconds it notices you’re off the predicted climb and ends the CLIMBER overlay. It handles it nicely.

    • usr

      I wouldn’t even call absence of a mind reader a missing feature: the “what if I’d stay on this road” is just as much an interesting tidbit of data as most of the other stuff we have on our screens. Bonus points of course if they do mark major intersections/bailout opportunities in the profile, so that you’d know for example how far and high to Lautaret while it (hopefully!) displays Galibier.

  3. DONOTRON3000

    Very nice feature indeed. Have been impressed overall with my K2. Look forward to the day I don’t have to wear my chunky Garmin Fenix to get TyreWiz numbers..

  4. Kevin L

    Curious which version firmware you are running? I’m on 1.279.1168 and it says it’s the latest version, and this is confirmed by Hammerhead’s firmware update page.

    • DONOTRON3000

      Hammerhead hasn’t even listed this update on their software release page. Give them a few hours.. Ray def got some inside peeps

  5. Chris Winterhack

    This is great. I have a few big climbing events on the calendar this year (Triple Bypass in Colorado and the Horribly Hilly Hundreds in Wisconsin). Plugging in the routes and turning on navigation just to get the Climbr feature is such a big battery suck which has already lead to the Karoo dying early on one of these type of rides.

    I’m hoping riding w/o navigation with Climbr still enabled means better battery life.

    • Brian Harris

      I have this same question – need to go out and try this weekend I guess. I REALLY like climber, but don’t like the 5 hour battery life I see when using it – that just isn’t enough for slow me. I too hope this may help? I’m curious to see how that plays out.

    • pavlinux

      It’s Android baby, It’s Android (c)

    • Christexan

      No inside info on this one (I don’t even have the devices in question) however, I would assume this new ability is going to definitely require more battery than not having it enabled. It must do most of the same things as the normal routing features (process a local map loaded in the system while comparing topographical changes to GPS location)… that activity (plus constant screen updates) is likely what is killing the battery, actually “following/navigating” a route, after having to do all the above for EITHER method, is trivial additional overhead at that point (I’d almost argue the non-route would be more CPU intensive as it has to predict the route, rather than knowing “I’m going from here, to here, here is the elevation profile in that segment”, now it has to figure out “you are most likely going from A to F, skipping options C,D,E (side roads for instance) as they dont’ appear as likely to be used (based on whatever algorithm” so here is the elevation profile”…
      In other words, battery is gonna probably suck equally as much without a route loaded, as with, maybe even worse…

  6. Volker

    Very interesting. What happens if the path with the climb splits after 200 meters into 2 paths with different climbs? Is the current climb only shown up to the split and then a new climb is shown (I hope the question is understandable)?

  7. JD

    For grins, the next time you head out on a weekend when parking use is minimal, what happens if you ride up something like this?

  8. Alan Katz

    Ray: could I ask what train you used to take to get to skyline drive for your rides? I’ll be back in DC over the summer and looking to do some rides in the mountains, but won’t have a car. Thanks! Alan

    • JD

      Not a lot of train options in US in terms of schedules and bicycles:
      link to amtrak.com
      Only viable option from DC would be spending a long weekend in Charlottesville or Roanoke VA.
      Trains arrive at night and leave in the morning. See schedule for Crescent or Northeast Regional lines.
      25 miles west of Charlottesville at Rockfish Gap is Skyline Drive (headed north) or Blue Ridge Parkway (headed south). Just getting there and back would be 50+ miles if staying in C’ville.
      The Parkway passes through Roanoke which offer lots of rural climbing loops besides Parkway sections.
      A year or so from now the train may stop in Bedford VA, home of TP/Hunter Allen/PCG. Similar routes to Roanoke. link to visitroanokeva.com
      Those train rides from DC would be 3-5 hours on their own. For day tripping out of DC you can likely hook up with the local cycling group and find challenging countryside routes a lot closer to the city.

    • Indeed, unfortunately in my case I used a car then. I’d drive to the entry gates of Shenendoah National Park, and go from there.

  9. Brian D.

    This has been my number one wished-for feature on my Garmin edge. I rarely create a route before I head out, preferring to simply explore after looking at a map before kicking off. As a result I’ve never really benefited from all the climbing features.

    Hopefully this comes to Garmin and then to existing edge units.

    • Robin

      I record my rides with my FR945 LTE but still have my old Edge 520 on my handlebars as it’s easier to see. This would make me upgrade to an Edge 540 and also make me reconsider my premium strava subscription.

  10. Bruce Burkhalter

    This is really cool. Very impressed with how they are pushing out great new features. I’m a big Wahoo fan and disappointed they don’t have anything close to this. 🙁

    Did you post this ride to Strava? I’m going to Amsterdam in a month and will be there for 6 months. I want to do this massive climb. 🙂

  11. mjciv

    Not sure if I’m missing the joke, but it’s called “CLIMBER” (not “CLIMBR”) right?

  12. The Real Bob

    (I am in DC also) I almost never create a route, so I never get to see climbpro on Garmin, which is annoying. Garmin really needs to add this.

  13. theQuadfather

    Now don’t be slagging on Gerrie Knetemann! He was a great Dutch racer BITD.

  14. Adam

    Meanwhile Wahoo is rolling out another “bug fixes and performance improvements” update that doesn’t do anything, for the 27th time over the past year. Time to switch head units?

  15. Thomas

    I actually do NOT like ClimbPro when navigating a route (because I want to stay on the map), but I would like to have it when simply riding in known territory without a route loaded. There are many nice hills here and I am always trying to remember the altitude to climb out of my head…

    • Martin Navarre

      agree … I think we need more control of profile data instead of just a climb feature. I especially agree regarding display of map and profile info concurrently. It’s not like climbs have no intersections.

  16. Fabio

    That’s exactly what i need for garmin climbpro ! I usually ride to my ‘climb park’ and then i choose a combination of the same 2 or 3 climbs to reach my goal.

  17. John G

    I loaded the new SW onto my Hammerhead today before my commute home and WHOAH! This is so cool. I’m really glad that I picked this head unit up. I can’t see myself ever going back to Wahoo or Garmin.

  18. LesMc

    I’m not a K1/2 owner (yet), still on an Edge 530, although I am on Hammerhead’s email list. I just received my email informing me of the “All New Predictive Path Technology”, only on Hammerhead. Yeah, this is a feature I would enjoy for fun. I rarely know which hills I’ll be climbing when I set out on my long rides. I have all my climbs of interest as Live segments so I can get climb stats without having to preload a route.

    It would be interesting to know what their hill route predictive logic is (assume the “main road” at a fork? compare against some popularity heat map? mind reading?). I have noticed that my Edge 530 will inform me of sharp curves ahead even when I am NOT following a pre-loaded route. Not sure of this logic either, but it is obviously “aware” of the road I am on. This feature is also triggered by speed, meaning that if I go up a sharp hairpin at 5mph, I will not get a warning. But if I go down it faster, I will get the warning. I haven’t fixated on it enough to try to figure out what the speed threshold is, or even if maybe it is knowledgeable that I am going “up” in a sharp turn, so it figures a high-speed crash shouldn’t be a problem (I guess I could take an e-bike up a climb as see if it’s speed or descent/ascent triggered).

    Regarding discovered climbs by either the 530 or the K2, I’ve noticed that the accuracy on the 530 of the “end of the climb” increases when the true summit is more abrupt. Discovered climbs that gradually start rounding off before the geological summit are much less accurate, always ending before the true summit. This isn’t surprising given the climb definition parameters. Including the top of gradually rounding summits often disqualifies the climb per the parameters, so to qualify as a climb, the flatter end of the climber gets lopped off. So I guess technically, what the head unit is indicating is that “you are now on an incline that is at least 500 meters long and averages at least 3%”.

    And a final question for K2 users, when this new predictive climb feature triggers and most of the climb coincides with a Live Segment, can you page between the K2 discovered climb and the LS?

    • Brandon B

      You sure can. The ‘drawer’ allows you to swipe left/right between a few tabs such as phone notifications, lap data, climber, SLS, etc…

      Ps: the ‘drawer’ is what pops up when the climber appears or a text/email, etc…

    • LesMc

      Thanks. That’s great. The K2 will definitely be my next head unit.

  19. John

    I’d be happy if the the slope on my Garmin reflected the actual current slope, vs. being several seconds behind.

  20. Neil Jones

    Love the photo of what Di2 would have looked like if it had been around in the 1980s, no doubt running on 2 D-cell batteries that needed replacing every two hours.

  21. Obi1

    Awesome update, thanks for sharing!

    Is there a way to set priority between climber and Strava live segments? Seems to default to climber, I would like to default Strava if I can…

  22. Jesper N

    You mention that it must be 400 meters to count as a climb. Any gradient requirement?

    For Garmin it seems to be 500 meters AND 3% AND 1500 if you multiply the 2.
    Why not make this configurable?
    I get the 1500 multiplied, but I want to lower or completely drop the 500 and 3 requirement, so you can have:
    300 meters and 5%
    1000 meter and 1,5%
    And maybe even
    150 meters and 10%
    1500 meters and 1%

    Anyways. Does not matter much, is Garmin dont replicate this feature

  23. Martin Navarre

    I was thinking about these climber functions on my rides over the weekend. One route was largely new roads with >2000m climbing and it’s just not feasible to remember the overall profile … up and down. My hope is that the GPS companies give more control in general regarding the profile information to show. Since these features are named after climbing, obviously all other profiles get ignored – and can be key for pacing or safety (OK, steep descent coming…). On mountain roads, I’d like to know the grade going down as well. Again, basically, I just want more control of the profile info to show. It seems ridiculous that we need a climb mode to trigger. The map page does not trigger. Just give me a page displaying the profile. Like a map, but for profile … and let me control what to display.

  24. Paul Toner

    GARMIN, if you are listening, sort this out. This a brilliant feature that is making me seriously consider switching bike computer platforms.

  25. DLJ

    What’s the likelihood of a K3 coming along in the next 12 months or so. I’m thinking about upgrading from my Edge 1000 but don’t want to push the button if there will be another iteration in a few months.

  26. justin kaplan

    Hey ray as usual great review. I live in NYC – very few hilly climbs. My understanding is that climber only pops up if a hill is > 400m in length. Anyway to change this ? I have a lot of shorter hills and would love to see the climber pop up. Thx.