Here it is — the Hammerhead Karoo has finally arrived and is ready for some testing! For those who haven’t been following, the Karoo is a brand new cycling head unit being deliver to knock Garmin off the top step of the podium. Getting such an advanced unit to production ready status is not without its pitfalls and it seems that Hammerhead has fell into every single one. Nevertheless, the units are finally shipping, so let’s take a look!
I wanted to pick up the Karoo for more of my adventuring days. Having a platform with a big, colorful screen and amazing built-in routing & mapping is a huge deal, especially when you’re lost in the woods. This is in stark contrast to how I use my Wahoo Bolt, which is purpose built to be a simple data collector that lasts all day (~17 hours!). After having some issues with my Garmin 800, and seeing some similar issues with my wife’s 810, I was more willing to take a chance at supporting a new brand that was looking to break the mold. Enter Hammerhead and their Karoo!
The Karoo comes in a simple black box with a yellow band akin to Sky’s Tour de France styling. Underneath the head unit you’ll find all the accessories. The larger hex key is for attaching the mount to your bike, the smaller one takes off the Garmin-compatible mount on the device for replacing.
The setup is simple, straight-forward and Android users will feel right at home. It’s here you’ll recognize the standard Android keyboard and icon set. The color screen is gorgeous and the anti-reflective coating does its job without getting in the way.
The fact that the device is built on Android is an interesting choice for the simple fact that it may simplify the development of future feature additions. The Karoo comes with Strava integrated, but I think we can expect to see other apps in the future. Personally, I’d love to see some Zwift integration so I can turnaround or give a thumbs up without having to reach for my phone or keyboard. It’s also my hope that Hammerhead opens up the platform to third-party developers in the future, perhaps in v2 or v3.
The one downside to the Karoo, and really to early adopters of any Android based system, is the weight (186 grams!) & size that is necessary to support the OS and related tech. If the comparison with a Samsung Galaxy S5 is not enough, perhaps comparing to a Wahoo Element Bolt and a Garmin Edge 810 will help.
Time to go ride with it! Come back later for a more in-depth review!