I was delighted when Hammerhead agreed to send me their most recent computer, the Karoo 2. Pitched against rivals such as the Wahoo ELEMNT Roam and the Garmin Edge 830 or 1030 Plus, the Karoo is a premium offering, and as such comes with a premium price tag.

First Look

Firstly, the specs, for data geeks and product comparers alike. The unit weighs 132g, with dimensions of 60.8w x 19.3h x 100.6L, and the proprietary mount comes in at 33g.

The Karoo 2 software is built on Android 8, and compared to the Karoo 1, Hammerhead have upgraded the memory, processor and bluetooth chipsets from their initial offering. With a 12-hour battery life, and the ability for the Karoo 2 to seemingly grab routes from anywhere (more on that later), the unit has been designed for and marketed towards the exploding ‘adventure cyclist’ market. Obviously there is GPS recording and they have used ‘DragonTrail’ glass to reduce glare on the glove-friendly, colour touchscreen, which features 292ppi. Not quite at the peak of smartphone graphic ppi in 2022, but pretty solid when compared to existing displays in the cycling tech market.

The unit itself can support a sim card: for instant upload and live track link (without using a hotspot on your connected phone), but can easily be used without. It has found every bluetooth and ANT+ sensor I can find in the shed to throw at it (and that’s a good 10+ sensors across smart trainer, power meters, cadence and heart rate), and has dual bluetooth smart chipsets and a new quad core processor, 32GB storage (think: bulk maps!) and 3G/4G/Wifi coverage.

Unboxing the Hammerhead Karoo 2

Hammerhead have certainly thought about user experience even from the first interaction with the product. The unit itself is in a mysteriously suave black box, with the computer sliding out from the side and a second, larger box nested within the main unit, containing the mount and Allen key. Another little Russian doll box nestles within this, with a braided USB-C mount and lanyard.

I've got the whole Karoo 2 experience, and was also sent their heart rate strap and custom colour kit (white). While these weren’t quite at the same ‘Christmas morning unboxing joy’ level of the main unit, their packaging is consistent, and released a small shot of dopamine with each unveiling.

The colour kit features spare bolts and a tool to change the unit’s main colour, while the HR strap is simply in a small box with a simple set-up guide included.

More on connectivity

The Karoo 2 is kind of enigmatic coming from being Wahoo and Garmin ecosystem native. The Apple/Android Karoo2 smartphone app only serves to push notifications from the phone to the unit itself, and Hammerhead don’t offer the same ecosystem experience that Garmin and Connect do, that gives you reasonably sophisticated ride data, fitness metrics and zones from their apps.

Rather, Hammerhead website gives you a bare bones overview of workouts, instead pushing to a range of third party sites (TrainingPeaks, Xert, Strava). For those using Today’s Plan, automatic syncing of workouts isn’t available as yet, however workarounds by syncing your workouts through Strava (and linking Strava account) are hacks to get around this. But Hammerhead take note: for the Australian market in particular, API integration with Today’s Plan is a must.

When it comes to structured workouts from training platforms, the Karoo 2 currently only supports structured workouts from TrainingPeaks, a disappointment from those who are using alternative platforms.

Syncing is also a little different from competitors, instead syncing via bluetooth, Karoo2 syncs via Wifi. This makes little difference for everyday riding, but for longer or remote rides without Wifi it can lead to delays in uploading, especially when remote mobile data is scarce.

The unit’s USB-C port is plugged by a small grommet, to protect from rain or other undesired port intrusions. Unlike other computers it’s not attached to the main unit, so there is a risk of misplacing this.

One of the great features of the Karoo2 is that you can pre-configure your computer online, using the Hammerhead website, so when it arrives in the post you’re ready to go!

Initial Impressions

I used the quick start guide in my ‘play with it and learn’ approach. The initial start up page features luscious colours and graphics that I haven’t really yet seen in cycling computers. Granted, at this level of computer we are looking at the same dollar spend as a mid-range or last season smartphone: so why shouldn’t the experience be luscious and sophisticated? Wait…why are almost all other cycling computer manufacturers generating graphics that are similar to my Super Nintendo circa 1991 (aka the golden age)? Have we been duped?

After it boots up, you’re prompted to connect to Wifi, all really manageable within the unit with the touchscreen being compliant. I've had no problems typing on the screen, and it’s compatible with all gloves I have used throughout the initial testing period.

After setting up linked accounts, sensors and zone information, it’s ready to roll!

Note, if you are looking at using routing or looking at a map, download the region maps BEFORE you ride (trust me on this, 170km on a white screen got a bit boring), and it can take a few minutes to download a country map. This way you’ll be able to use planned routes and their nifty climb feature.

Flicking through the pages when you select a profile is just a flick across the screen, much like a smartphone. (Profiles are different data sets you would like, depending on the ride. For example you may like a climb-heavy data set, or one with or without power, for example. You can configure this on the unit)

I have used this computer on several big bikepacking days, as well as the navigation feature on local trails, and have found the battery life to be a very reasonable ~12 hours (please note this is run time, not ride time).

So far, I'm are enjoying the easily customisable data screens and simple interface, and can’t wait to put it through it’s paces with planned workouts, multiple navigated routes and it’s very snazzy climb feature. Stay tuned for a full review.

Hammerhead Karoo 2 Unit: $639 AUD

Hammerhead Heart Rate Strap: $89

Hammerhead Karoo 2 custom colour kit: $65

From: Hammerhead