You’ve all likely heard of the top brands in the cycling computer world that provide both information and real-time data of your performance. However, some smaller brands are taking on more recognition and shaking things up. Emerging in 2013, Hammerhead is based in New York City, with the original idea sprouting from its founders, Piet Morgan (CEO) and Laurence Wattrus (Head of Technology).
In 63 days during a 3000-mile cycling journey across the United States, Morgan felt the need to make a better GPS for cycling. Hammerhead was launched with several products, including the Karoo Cycling GPS, with the idea literally founded on the bike. Unlike some computers, Karoo uses an Android-based operating system with a smartphone-esque touchscreen and visual navigation.
KAROO 2 TECH FEATURES
This latest take from Hammerhead is ultimately designed for cyclists. The Karoo 2 makes it easy to go on structured workouts, follow/create routes, have accurate maps, connect to third-party apps, give real-time data (power, speed, cadence, etc.), and even keep your loved ones updated where you are located.
The Karoo 2 comes with a 31.8mm out-front handlebar mount that uses Hammerhead’s proprietary mounting system. A plate also slides into the device as an adapter that makes the Karoo 2 attachable to the more common Garmin interface. It also comes with a lanyard, USB-A to USB-C charging cable, and a handy quick-start guide.
The matte finish of the glass screen is scratch-resistant and has anti-glare properties to make things visible in different lighting situations. If you are not a touchscreen fan, the Karoo 2 can be controlled entirely with the four grippy buttons along the sides of the device. The body is also water- and dustproof to IP67 rating with an over-molded outer bumper in case of impact.
The battery size is meant to balance with the design of the computer. Life is claimed at 12 hours of ride time in normal conditions. The USB-C charging with charge rate speeds up to 30 percent in 30 minutes and 50 percent in one hour from completely flat. Packed inside for hardware is 32GB of storage with enough space for maps, workouts and updates that are all running on a Quad-core Qualcomm processor and CPU with 2GB of RAM. It has modern integrations like Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GNSS GPS accuracy and connects to ANT+. Users can also connect to global 3G and 4G LTE cellular band coverage with an additional upgrade of a SIM card. All ride data, including sensors, GPS and workout details, are recorded to a .fit file.
THE SETUP AND RIDE
For smartphone users, the setup is relatively intuitive and easy. We’ll likely see more third-party app capabilities over time, but during our testing time, it worked with Strava (rides, segments, and routes), Ride with GPS, Training Peaks, Komoot and Xert. We also set up the smartphone notifications to keep us up to date while simultaneously tethering a cell network for live tracking. For others to see you, a unique URL is e-mailed to you to be shared with your friends and family any time you want them to follow your rides.
Once mounted to our bike, smartphone-like operation over the touchscreen allows for fast interaction on the map, menu selections and setting up profiles for rides. Much of the same swiping and pinch-to-zoom-in/-out gestures are used just like your phone. Notably, we rarely used the touchscreen unless typing in a route or destination. We even had the screen off in some cases to further prolong battery life. The side buttons are ideal during a ride to avoid messing with a touchscreen.
The Karoo 2 shines with navigation and heads-up commands for a planned route. We also appreciated downloading maps for anywhere in the world and planning a route right on the device. Of course, it was more ideal to make routes before and seamlessly upload them with Hammerhead’s Dashboard, but sometimes you want to try a new route and improvise. The detail on the maps is also impressive, as we found marked sections of fire road and different trails we didn’t know about before in our own local spots. Pinching in even further, there are nifty points-of-interest icons appearing for bathrooms, campsites, stores, cafes, etc. Overall, the display is excellent and functions smoothly even when loaded up with maps and routes. It is bright, colorful and on par with phone technology.
The riding profiles and data-field pages are all very straightforward, and riders tapping for changes will likely know what pages/data fields they want to have displayed. Our favorite visuals for data was Climber that detected approaching ascents. This feature will pop up and give a complete breakdown of the climb ahead. When you are currently not on a climb, you can swipe the Climber drawer up to see all the upcoming climbs on your route. Each segment is color-coded to its average gradient. At the end of the day, it is easy to read and simple to upload rides after combing through all the ride data.
On a last note, we’ve tested the Karoo 2 through numerous updates, and while we did get a bit annoyed at how many there were (some with layout changes right before a ride), this is all for good reason that shows in the final product. Hammerhead has designed an impressive unit at $399 that is packed with technology, but unlike most others at this price, the Karoo does boast more storage with a state-of-the-art screen. Overall, the new Karoo 2 can make things even harder to choose a cycling computer that is best for you.
We feel this is best on the bike of any tech-smart or navigation-prone rider that would base screen clarity and visuals as being worth the cost. This unit is excellent for both the serious rider who needs the data during training and the rider who likes to venture into the unknown where the navigation capabilities of the Karoo 2 soar. We also see this unit as a hit with an endurance/gravel mindset, thanks to its reasonably long battery life combined with Hammerhead’s navigation accessibility. There’s a new computer in town, and it looks like it’s here to stay.