Hammerhead and Suunto have just announced what they describe as potentially the first step towards a deeper partnership and collaboration. This first step puts heatmaps onto the Hammerhead Karoo series, while concurrently sending completed Karoo rides to Suunto’s platform (as if you completed them with a Suunto watch).
The new heatmaps are a massive step up not just for Hammerhead, but compared to any other heatmap/popularity type solution I’ve seen on-device. I used it this past weekend to do some freestyle routing nearish to my planned route, all without ever stopping to fidget with other maps or devices. These heatmaps act as a layer atop the existing map, allowing you to decide which countries/states you want to download in terms of both the base maps, but also the heatmap layer.
Meanwhile, on the activity sync, any completed rides that you do on your Hammerhead Karoo series will automatically upload to Suunto’s platform, once you’ve connected your account. This essentially populates your Suunto App with Hammerhead data, but also updates aspects like training load and even pushes those workouts to 3rd party platforms not supported natively by Hammerhead (such as Today’s Plan).
With that, let’s dive straight into it.
First up is the ability to add heatmaps to your Hammerhead Karoo. In order to do this you’re gonna need to do things:
A) Update your Hammerhead Karoo to the latest firmware (as of today)
B) Have a Suunto account
C) Connect your Hammerhead account to your Suunto account
After which, you can then download the heatmaps you want.
Once you’ve updated your Karoo, you’ll see a new option in the menu for Suunto Heatmaps:
However, when you tap on it, you’ll see that you need to zip over to the Hammerhead Dashboard/site to authenticate your Suunto account – in the same way you’d connect to Strava or TrainingPeaks.
That only takes a second to complete this:
Once you’ve done that, it unlocks the feature. At this point, you’ll see a listing of countries/regions, and specifically the maps you’ve already downloaded. So you can see you’ve got those base/normal maps downloaded – divided up as usual:
But then I can tap any one of them to add the heatmap for that region as well:
And the sizes definitely aren’t small. In fact, they’re often more than double the size of the basemap, depending on the country/state and the overall cycling amount that occurs there relative to the rest of the road network. Once you tap it, it’ll go off and complete the download pretty quickly using WiFi like normal.
After that, you’ll get the green check mark. Hammerhead and Suunto say they haven’t quite decided on the update/refresh cadence/cycle for the heatmap, but certainly that’s something they say they’ll formulate over time.
In terms of out on the road usage, it’s flippin’ awesome (see my video at the top for some mid-ride action). Not only is it awesome while I’m riding a planned route to see how popular that route is, but it’s also incredibly useful (more useful) to glance at nearby roads and see what other popular routes I’m missing. Meaning, perhaps I always ride the same road to a given area, without realizing that just over the fence is a far more frequently traveled by cyclist route. Maybe I should check that out instead?
In fact, it was great this past weekend on my 90km ‘Great Tulip Adventure’ when I wanted to go off and explore some distant tulip field off my planned route. I’d just glance at the Karoo screen and validate that there was some quantity of cycling occurring in that area. And it didn’t disappoint.
You can also toggle the heatmap layer at any time by just tapping the little heat/fire icon.
The degree to which this is just so much better than anything out there can’t be overstated. For example, Garmin has their purple popularity routing lines. But they’re often hard to read, and realistically don’t give a great representation of the actual quantity of cycling heat that occurs. It’s less heat-map, and more ‘Purple People Went Here’ map. So I can’t really compare how popular two options are easily at a glance.
Sure, you’ll still see improper heat like any other heatmaps – such as people leaving on their devices while driving down the highway, but at least around me, that’s far outweighed by the decade+ of millions of GPS tracks from Suunto users riding their bikes on actual bike pavement. Above, you can see the faint lines of the highway overpass near the railroad tracks – yet it’s easy to see the bright-lava of the bike paths/roads.
Now, a couple of quick notables/caveats/whatevers:
- At this time the heatmap won’t influence any routing decisions by Hammerhead. Meaning, it doesn’t leverage that heatmap data at all, it’ll continue to utilize its existing internal trail/routing algorithm for that. At least for now.
- Once you link up your accounts, your Hammerhead data will contribute to the Suunto heatmap, depending on the privacy of your Suunto account settings.
- The existing Hammerhead dataset (of obviously boatloads of rides), is not being pulled into Suunto’s heatmap dataset, as that would violate GDPR and other privacy rules. Perhaps we’ll see Hammerhead leverage their own dataset, or maybe the much larger SRAM dataset (from people configuring SRAM AXS connected accounts). But that too would require some privacy permissions.
- You don’t have to enable the heatmaps if you don’t want them, but just want the Suunto sync bits. Heatmaps are downloaded manually per region as shown above, not automatically.
In any case, it’s all super cool as implemented – and is thus far my favorite cycling thing of 2022 I think. Admittedly, the bar is pretty low in 2022 since there’s been almost no major cycling tech announcements to date. But hey, I still think this is cool even with that caveat.
Suunto Workout Sync:
Next up, we’ve got the other half of the equation, which is the Suunto workout sync. Once you’ve connected your Suunto & Hammerhead accounts together, it’ll automatically push your completed Hammerhead workouts to Suunto’s platform. This is ideal on a boatload of levels, namely the fact that a bike computer tends to be better at being a bike computer than a watch is a bike computer. Which…I think makes sense the way I wrote it.
Point being, there are countless cycling-focused things the Karoo does better than any Suunto watch does – such as navigation, or sensor support, or structured workouts controlling a trainer. However, there’s also plenty good reason to want those rides in your Suunto account, especially if you’re treating that as the master repository for your training information and training load.
So, once you’ve synced the two accounts and done a ride, you’ll notice on the Hammerhead Karoo ride summary page a new Suunto icon, indicating it’ll get pushed there. As always, you can toggle that on/off if you want on a per ride basis:
Once you hit save/upload, it’ll push the .FIT file over to Suunto. A few seconds later I got notification on my phone that it was uploaded:
Cracking that open, you can see it’s almost identical to the data you’d get from a native Suunto watch. For example it pulls in all the TrainingPeaks related metrics, and you’ll get your total training load stats. Suunto will even calculate those for non-power meter or heart rate sensor users. Meaning, Suunto will do the math just like it would on normal watch activities using more basic parameters to estimate it.
However, one minor gap that I noticed is I don’t get any calorie information in the Suunto activity. Suunto and Hammerhead say that should be working though, and are looking into getting whatever bug caused that fixed.
Now the next piece might be a huge carrot for a lot of folks, which is the expanded partnerships via the Suunto connection. See, on the Hammerhead platform there’s only about 6 current partners (Strava, TrainingPeaks, RideWithGPS, Xert, Komoot, and now Suunto). Whereas Suunto says they’ve got roughly 200 companies that have data connection links that you can authorize (again, you control your data/integrations). An example would be Today’s Plan, which isn’t supported on Hammerhead natively, but is supported on Suunto:
But Suunto points out there’s boatloads (like 199 other) companies that are smaller, that this enables, that might be of more interest. They also note that they won’t pass along any files to partners that Hammerhead already has connections with. Meaning, it won’t re-send it to Strava, since Hammerhead can already sync to Strava. So duplicates shouldn’t be an issue.
The one catch though? These workouts won’t show up/push back to your watch.
Meaning, Suunto doesn’t have any sort of true-up to sync the data from the platform to the watch, updating your training load or status. Thus if you plan/want to look at those values on the watch, you’ll still need to record those rides on your watch.
Overall, I think this is crazy cool stuff – especially the heatmaps part. It just works so well and is so useful, namely if you want to explore/meander a bit. Obviously, if you have a pre-planned route, you’re likely to follow it. But I can think of many times – even just in the past couple months, where I had planned routes that didn’t work out for any number of reasons (namely, me picking the wrong road). So to be able to quickly glance at the map and see ‘Oh, people are mostly actually over there a few hundred meters’ is massively useful.
In terms of where this partnership is headed, in a conference call with both companies on the line, they noted that they see this as a first step. They said dependent on how this is received over the next few months, they’ll consider next steps for how they might improve it – or build it out further.
One thing that came to mind in my discussions was: “What’s in it for Suunto?”. In other words, it’s clear what’s in the relationship for Hammerhead (they get a bunch of heatmap data well beyond what they have today). And it’s clear what’s in it for consumers (again, the heat data and sync to Suunto). But what does Suunto get out of it?
Suunto answered that essentially they get the beginnings of a whole-ecosystem offering for bike+watch. They recognize that many people simply want to ride with a bike computer on their handlebars – no matter how good their watch may be. And to that end, they said that previous to this, if someone wanted to choose a watch platform that had integration with a bike computer, it crossed Suunto off the list. Whereas Garmin & Wahoo have offerings in that area. So from Suunto’s perspective, this helps them compete in that checkbox a bit. Obviously, there’s still work to do around the data sync bits, but again, it’s a good starting point.
And ultimately, it’s been quite a while (if ever) since we’ve seen any sort of integration of this level between two major device makers. The last thing I can think of that falls vaguely into this camp (but not both device makers), is the partnership between TrailForks and Garmin, supplying TrailForks mountain bike data. But again, that’s not a perfect scenario.
Still – as I said earlier, I’m excited to see where this goes. And once again, Hammerhead is showing the fast pace of software development on their units, easily surpassing others in this realm for update speed. One might even say…they brought the heat.
With that, thanks for reading!
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Nice, I was thinking about purchasing a Karoo since I want a bike computer and also want to get out of the Garmin ecosystem, I was waiting for getting Karoo to sync into Runalyze , this should solve that.
I will try to get in touch with them, but I think they don’t have an API yet
Hammerhead? No, they don’t, but now with this Suunto integration Hammerhead to Suunto to Runalyze should be possible I think.
Seeing that side-by-side photo with the Edge makes me realise just how much the Garmin map graphics need an overhaul; it still looks like something from AutoRoute 95. Years of riding with an Edge has made me accept it, but when you see how much cleaner it could be…
Yeah, it’s funny – the lack of luster of th Garmin maps doesn’t bother me too much (keeping in mind one can tweak the detail level in the settings). However, this is the first time where out riding and using it at a glance it was like “Oh, wow, there’s actually a legit use case for higher quality graphics and cleaner data presentation”.
Up till now, I really didn’t need to know whether or not the park nearby was forested on a map as I rode past. Heck, I didn’t really even need to know it was green at all. I did want to know things like water – since usually I can’t pedal on water. So in that respect, all of them largely worked just fine.
But with heat maps, I can’t overstate how easy it was to use to find alternative routes. I mean – I literally never touched the display, I just glanced down. For me living in a place with near unlimited cycling routes, I’m really interested in using this out on rides and just exploring to find new routes on the fly.
Whereas inversely, in some places with minimal cycling infrastructure – this probably isn’t much of a game changer.
Thanks for the update. I am a long term Suunto user, have the Sunnto 9 Baro and was using heat maps today running up the Salève. Also I use Wahoo the Elemnt2 for cycling but not convinced by it, having wanted to move away from Garmin cycling computers and it’s clunkiness/too much other unnecessary fitness stuff.
Hammerhead has been on my list for a while and I think this moves the offering enough for me now to try out the Karoo2 and know it integrates with my Suunto. I can use the heat maps and training too. All are really useful for someone like me who likes to explore and train, keep it simple without the unnecessary guff.
Yesterday I did my first outdoor ride with my new Karoo 2, I’m simply thrilled and wonder if Garmin lives behind the moon.
The synchronization options with Hammerhead are very limited, I came across RunGap this morning, but I can well imagine that the Suunto solution is even better, thanks for the great report
I have no interest in a Karoo because of it’s bulk and my brain not seeing it as anything other than an overpriced budget Android phone. However, it is awesome to see the pace of development from the Karoo platform. Other companies like Wahoo and Garmin will have no choice but to react and this is good for the consumer.
I recently decided on a Bolt v2 to upgrade from my OG Bolt and whilst it is a nice upgrade you only have to look at new feature like this as well as the climbing modes on Karoo and Garmin to see how Wahoo already have catching up to do. All good for us consumers!
This would have been great between Polar & Hammerhead, since I find Polar watches and ecosystem superior to Suunto. That would have been an instant Karoo 2 purchase for me, but I am not yet changing my Vantage V2 to Suunto. Polar is now in a tough spot to please cyclists as all main competitors are providing bike+wrist solution in one ecosystem. Maybe Hammerhead could still add Polar data import and not pair with Suunto only…
I’ll second this. I always thought Hammerhead getting Polar analytics and Polar getting a compatible bike computer was a decent deal for each company (assuming there isn’t a v650 follow up on the way).
In the US, the heatmap files I downloaded were around 25% of the main map size – total opposite of what you saw in Europe. It goes to show the popularity of Suunto in Europe vs. the US.
Or, alternatively, might show the popularity of non-vehicular transportation in Europe. 🙂
Certainly Suunto’s popularity plays a part of it, but I think so does having more places where people can safely ride.
just curious if this is why you moved overseas?
Suunto seems an odd partner for heatmaps, especially for those of us in the USA. I’ve never met anyone with a Suunto device, especially using one for cycling, so I downloaded their app to see how their heatmaps looked in my area. The answer was: Not great, they look like they’re compiled data from just a few people, and from the looks of it, someone who is a mountain bike or gravel rider, paired with someone who does a bit of road riding, but doesn’t venture very far away from the center of town. Essentially, they’re extremely incomplete, and when you get more than 20 miles out of town, non-existent. The comparison to Strava heatmaps is striking.
I guess an argument here is “well by linking up with Hammerhead they’ll improve heatmaps in your area”. True, but I’ve never seen a Hammerhead in real life either, and I’m not buying one to make their heatmap not suck!
Ultimately, Suunto has long had more popularity in Europe than the US (for a variety of reason). However, I think one thing that helps Suunto is the longevity of th data (~15 years worth) – so over time that really does build up.
Certainly though, there are far less people going off-round cycling with a Suunto watch than hiking with a Suunto watch offroad. Which is also why for this go-around, they aren’t splitting out MTB vs road data. Cycling data is cycling data (also, because most user – even on a Garmin, are horrible at self-selecting the correct type).
And of course, yes, Strava with 90 million user accounts will have far more data than Suunto with my guess is under 1% of that.
This may be a more interesting year than I had been expecting.
Wahoo will certainly need to divide their attention on Kansas a bit more. I would bet on a visible reaction from Coros more than from Garmin or Apple.
I am out of touch…what are Heatmaps used for? I think I understand they a basically a tracking device for population of riders/runners and where they ride/run…Is that it? Thanks…really…I am not sure I understand…
Heatmaps can (and largely are) used to help figure out where people are riding, and thus to use that as a good indicator for viability of that route.
The idea being that a lone cyclist might ride a bad road/route once, but in general, you don’t get cyclists riding bad routes in droves. Instead, naturally people go to places that are the best/safest/etc.
In the case of on-device heatmaps, the value is for more impromptu riding/routing, rather than fully planned routes. It’s also useful for detours when a road is closed – to be able to glance down and see which roads/paths nearby are best for cyclists.
Thanks. I guess if bike shops are disappearing this is what is left. But I seem to remember when I first started riding, before the internet, “Exploring” was the motivation…I guess the meaning has changed over the years.
What would make this really killer for me would be to link the Karoo to Strava heatmaps. I looked at the Suunto heatmap for Arizona (where I live) and Strava has orders of magnitude more data around here. Integrating the Strava data would be great. Since the display stuff is already worked out, I would think that it would be fairly easy if Strava would only agree. I don’t know how likely that is.
“I seem to remember when I first started riding, before the internet, “Exploring” was the motivation…I guess the meaning has changed over the years”
The gear has certainly changed, but motivation has always varied from one cyclist to another.
One additional question- do you need to have a Suunto device to have a Suunto account and use the heatmaps? I don’t have a Suunto device and I don’t want to get one just to use the heatmaps.
You can use it without a Suunto Device – there is also the sports tracker app both for Android and iOS which is basically the Suunto App without „Suunto“ but it’s the same account data (you can log in with your Suunto credentials into sports tracker and vice Verda)
In the Suunto app in the privacy section I don’t see a separate option to contribute to the heat maps. Happy to contribute to those, however, I prefer not to have all my activities publicly available.
Great review, thank you. Do you know if the Suunto app is clever enough to merge simultaneous Karoo2 and Suunto watch based exercises? Reason for asking is that I love the Suunto watch Wrist-HR and would not really like to buy an additional HR tracking device only (and link that to Karoo2) to get the HR data to Karoo2 based exercise.
These Garmin heatmaps are indeed useless. Why the heck did they choose this weird rendering style where the lines partially disappear depending on zoom level? Since this is so much better on Strava i still keep my subscription there.
This is a feature that I would actually consider switching platforms for – nice work Hammerhead! I 100% like the idea of using the maps feature for exploration. I’m rarely riding a pre-planned route that I don’t know like the back of my hand, so I don’t use maps or routing all that often. I would definitely use this feature.
> But what does Suunto get out of it?
Possibly money, now that Karoo has the SRAM bankroll. Suunto could straight up license full API access to their platform.
Also possibly an audition. If I surmise correctly, Suunto is in fairly dire straits and could use a white knight. I can’t imagine SRAM would have much use for Suunto’s lifestyle watches, but if they really want to compete with Garmin (and, to a lesser extent, Wahoo), having a decent family of multi-sport watches could come in handy.
I haven’t been able to get rides from my Hammerhead Karoo 2 into Today’s Plan via Suunto. I have connected my TP account to Suunto, I have the heatmaps on my K2, and my K2 uploads to the Suunto App but it doesn’t make it over to TP.
Has anyone else managed to get it to work?
Maybe the Suunto App only uploads activities recorded on a Sunnto device to TP?
Ray, very cool. The ability to push to Today’s Plan is massive. I’ve been at HH for over two years on this now but it just doesn’t seem like a priority. However, is it just me or is the link to Todays’s Plan on the Suunto app not featuring?
Forget that – found it. It’s done via Today’s Plan 🤦♂️
A feature virtually no-one will use.
Its time for a leap in innovation with bike computers. Wearable HUDS in cycling glasses needs to become a reality and should have moved on by now.
Previous comments suggest otherwise. I would definitely use this in areas I’m not familiar with. At moment I use that Garmin generate a route thing when in a new area and don’t have time to do research on Strava but this would be much easier.