Hammerhead Karoo 2 : Finally a GREAT Garmin & Wahoo Alternative - My 1500km IN-DEPTH Review


Use this link to get The Hammerhead Karoo2 here : https://bit.ly/3hAAOy2


Hey what’s up guys, Charles here. Finally a dedicated bike computer with a operating system base on top of android *pause* that to shame head units from garmin, wahoo and all the other ones. In today’s video, I’ll share everything that I love, and everything that I hate about the Karoo2, from hammerhead


Broll



So, the Hammerhead karoo2, is this the most advanced bike computer on the market as of right now? I think so. The KarooOS is built on top of android 8 and it’s really a complete different experience. I’ve been testing it for over a month now, nearly 1500 kilometers and the good news is that, I did not go back to my Wahoo, I actually gifted it to my girlfriend


Speaking of my wahoo elemnt bolt, this GPS is the one I’ve used pretty much every single day for the last 3 years, I absolutely love it, had no issues at all, so the karoo2 had big shoes to fill when attempting to become my daily driver for my head unit.


So in this video I’ll briefly talk about it’s best features, I’ll share everything that I like about it, I’ll talk about all the bugs and problems I’ve faced and I’ll finish by my final recommendations


Let’s just go down the feature list, ok


  • 3’2 inch high resolution screen with scratch resistant and anti glare matte finish Dragontrail glass panel,

  • The body has a shock reducing bumper with big physical buttons to navigate when riding, and weight only 131 grams for it’s bulky chassi

  • quadcode 1.1 ghz cpu and 32gb of storage is powered by a massive 2500 mah high capacity battery that can offers 12 hours of ride time

  • Usb-c for fast charging, BT 4.0, ant+, wifi, gps AND cellular data through a sim card

  • It supports the Varia Radar, smart trainers, and can also connect to Shimano Di2, Sram etap, campagnolo EPS, smartphone, so you basically have no connectivity limits.

  • All of that wrapped in a body that is IP 67 water resistant and dust proof

There is much much more features, but I’ll let you dive into those on Hammerhead website



Let’s talk about the mount


At first I was a bit shocked because of the change from what I know and am comfortable with, but I think it is actually better. The fact the head unit can slide in from the front to get locked, can allow bigger screens to be as close as possible to the handlebar, since there is no turn to do. There is definitely a learning curve to learn how to remove the unit, I feel I am doing something wrong and breaking something every time. But there are two steps clicks before sliding the head unit out. I haven’t had any issues or accidental dismount since using the unit. Hopefully karoo or third party gps mount builder will soon have a mount for aero bars to replace this garmin one from k-edge, so I can ditch the adapter




GETTING STARTED


Although here I won’t do an in depth tutorial on how to get started, I want to share how easy it was.

The unboxing experience was nice, they included an out-front mount that I’ve putted on my gravel bike, and a garmin to karoo quarter-turn mount adapter. To get started, it was really like any android device, you connect to your home wifi and right away there was a software update, signed into my karoo account that I previously created on their website, entered a few information, set up my data pages and I was ready to roll!. There are a million other customisations you can do, but for the sake of time, I’ll let you dive by yourself in those.


GETTING USE TO


Change is inevitable to move forward, and I got to admin, my first week was difficult. I was arggggg my wahooo was doing this blablabla, and then the karoo doesn't do that blabalba. But after a while, everything started to get in place, I was fast and efficient to navigate the menus, I optimized my screens and just got used to it. And these changes were definitely for the better.




WHAT DO I LIKE


Now let’s get to everything that I like about the karoo2. All of these are subjectives, it’s what I personally enjoyed, but keep in mind, these perks for me, might be no big deal for you.


Ahhhh the navigation is so, so good. In a league of it’s own. I’ve done several gravel rides with extremely difficult routes, and I was always the leader of the group despite everyone having the map on their head units. I was always able to call the shot faster if it was a left or a right turn. The indication is always precise without being annoying and disruptive. The re-routing is also excellent in case you took a wrong turn.


I like how the upcoming elevation is shown in-screen, super precise, I can zoom in and see what’s coming next or zoom out to see what’s further ahead. It’s really a great way to pace my efforts in climbs! You can either consult the upcoming elevation from the main screen pages, or through the swipe-up blue notification, which clearly shows where you are into the climb and what gradient is ahead. It’s really amazing!


I like how customizable all the screens are, I can definitely set everything I need for every discipline, so I have a Road bike page with a lot of sub-pages, a Time trial page with different info etc.. it’s really easy to set up and modify directly on the karoo2. No need to use a phone’s mobile app like the wahoo to customize my pages.


I like the notification tab when sliding down, all the useful shortcuts are here such as screen brightness, sensor connectivity, audio alerts, battery saving mode etc… They are easily accessible even when on the bike to toggle the audio alerts from my Varia or the navigation on and off


I like the live strava segment, it’s super easy to see my previous PR times and how far or or much ahead of the KOM I am.


I love how easy it is to see all the sensors connected, see the battery level of my devices, can even rename it. Super convenient.

I absolutely LOVE that my Varia radar works with the karoo, the cars are really well shown on the pages.


I like that I can fully turn off the screen and save battery when I don’t need it


Importing a route to the karoo is quick and easy. Using the dashboard on the computer or the web-browser application shortcut on my phone, I simply paste the link of the route that my friend made and it will appear on my Karoo2, as long as it’s still connected to wifi. Also since it’s sync to my strava, the routes I create are automatically sync to it, which is so convenient.


I can name my Strava ride right away in the karoo using the virtual keyboard so I don’t need to do it on later on strava


Now the workouts, once paired to training peak, the training of the day will appear there. All the information is really well shown, super clear indication on what to do for the specific workout, it works great, it’s efficient


And here is something else that I like about the karoo, it consistently gets better. Since I have it, I’ve had 3 software updates in 4 weeks. This device just get better and better and the team at Hammerhead really work hard to improve it.


And one last thing about the power of using android, you can sideload apps into the karoo. Sideloading is basically manually adding applications to the device without using the google play store. I will not go into details about it, but here I sideloaded the zwift companion app, where I’ll be able to chat and use my power ups when racing. This is really powerful and offers so many possibilities. I’ve read that you can put other map navigation software, spotify,Netflix, etc… In the future maybe cycling apps will create a dedicated version for the karoo, who knows?!




WHAT DON’T I LIKE


Ooookkkkk now what I don’t like about the karoo. The list seems quite long, but the beauty is, everything can and will be fixed. I had the opportunity to chat with a product expert at Hammerhead where I discussed all my problems and he said most of them will be solved in the future, which is great.


And before going on into these issues, I want to say, these issues happening to me as of today, june 30th 2021, if you are watching this video in the future, have a look at the top pinned comment, I will update it if these bugs and problems are solved.


So my biggest problem with using my Favero Assioma pedal is the power disconnect when I stop riding for a few minutes. I never had any power drops whatsoever when riding ,but if I stop for 5 minutes at the gas station, the powermeter goes to sleep, disconnects and doesn’t reconnect itself. I then need to manually disable the sensors, reactivate and then it will reconnect and I’m good to go. This is a bit annoying when stopping often. But I got told it will be fixed soon. It’s only with my Favero pedals, my magene powermeter crank doesn’t do it.

It’s also the case with my magene powermeter crank.


Something that I hate is I cannot hide the top bar with the time of the ride and time. This is super annoying on big rides to always see the time. It makes the ride feels longer


As of right now, the notification from an android device only shows the last message received. So if I receive multiple messages in a row, I only see the last one, which is annoying. But I got told that it will be fixed soon. Also not possible to swipe the notification once it has been read. It would be cool in the future if I could actually reply to these text messages directly from the karoo, maybe have some customizable pre-programmed answer, that’d be awesome.


As much as I love the navigation and the map, the physical button only goes 3 levels from super zoom, to zoom, to medium view, which is not wide enough. Sometimes I want a birds eye view of the whole map, and the button doesn't let me do it. I have to pinch to zoom out, which is basically impossible when riding your bike with all the vibrations and the dexterity needed. Also the pinch to zoom has some kind of issue that it might swipe your page, which is soooo annoying.


I mentioned that I love the strava live segment, but one thing that is unfortunate is that I don’t see my power or heart rate data. This makes it harder to pace an effort.


Currently no position sharing without using an integrated SIM card. So even if your phone is connected, the karoo wont send your position to friends or family. So you’ll have to use an app from your phone


The rain!! Despite it’s fully waterproof and they says the rain doesn’t affect the screen, well I don’t think so. Riding in the heavy rain last weekend made the touch-screen harder to use, just like your phone when it’s raining. It sometime works, but it sometimes does weird things. At least I was able to do basic navigation with the big physical buttons


The ride doesn't transfer over bluetooth yet. So at the end of every ride, I have to open my phone’s hotspot if I’m not home to transfer the ride to strava. But at least when I get home, the ride automatically uploads itself. You can also rename your strava ride directly from the karoo keyboard, which is nice and I was doing at the beginning, but the keyboard is not that great, no typo fix or auto-completion, so I just got back to renaming my rides in the strava app on my phone.



My final recommendation


So if you are in the market for a new bike computer, despite all the small bugs and problems I had, I really think this is the future and I’m glad to be an early adopter. They have the hardware locked-in, and now it’s all about the software to get better. It’s already good enough, it’s more than a MVP, it passes the test, but can get better and I’m sure it will. There are literally no limits to where the karoo2 and karooOS can be taken, I’m sure we’ll see more apps and official support for third party software one day, and I’ll be there to test everything out.


Price wise, it’s definitely on the expensive side at 400 USD, which is 20$ more than the wahoo element roam and 200$ cheaper than the garmin 1030+. I think it’s totally worth it, well positioned in the head unit market and offers unique features that all the other head units will never be able to offer, until they switch to an android base system, which can take years to catch up to karooOS.


If you want to put your hands on one, there will be a link in the description, it’s an affiliate link so I get a kickback out of that sale, so it’s funds this youtube channel for me to become a fulltime cyclist.


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