hammerhead karoo 2
We've been a Garminite, we've been a Wahooligan. It was time to become a Hammerhead. I was kindly sent over the Karoo 2 to try out in our new cycling ends of Co. Down and beyond. I was already having trouble finding landmarks to get myself home as every road looks the same and taking the wrong turn would often result in an extra hill that wasn't planned! So the map function would be a big focus in this review. So did the Hammerhead hit the nail on the....well you get it!
If packaging is a thing for you, this bulky thing comes in a nicely presented sliding box with your cable and instructions nicely tucked in the smaller compartments like a little mouse being looked after for a circus trick! It's weighty but anything is compared to my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. I do have to be careful in comparison because the Bolt is a smaller version than the actual Elemnt and I have the old black and white version. The Bolt is simple as you can get it, all button based. The Karoo 2 behaves like a smart phone - touch screen, decent sized on screen keyboard to type in, nice Tinder like swiping for the pages (for confirmation, we are not in that particular app, we are happily married!).
The only issue we came across was during the set up process. You need to make an account on the actual Hammerhead dashboard site where your rides are uploaded and stored. Don't make our mistake and actually set up a customer account and try logging in with those details! The online dashboard customer service was very prompt and made me aware of my error.
Well, it wasn't a cycling one! My recent circumstances opened up a lot of opportunities to get out and explore my local areas and where best to start with getting used to the Karoo 2 with an 8mi walk around Tollymore Forest. I did just plan to record the walk rather than use it for any map reading but as the different coloured walks criss-crossed each other, I checked in with my new friend to see what the map was saying. Not only is the Karoo 2 presented in full colour, the detail of the paths were brilliant. And because it was touch screen, I could zoom in and out to get my bearings whilst finding new walking/trail paths which wasn't evident to me before.
Swiping across from the home screen, the elevation graph is shown from what you have previous climbed and I had walked some steep stuff already. The walk itself was refreshing and the Karoo 2 had made a good start in making sure I found my way back to the car park!
Along with your charging/uploading cable (uploading is done automatically through wifi and it's pretty quick), a bar mount comes with your Karoo 2. So far so good but I am just wary about the tiny screw which holds the bracket together. I didn't feel I did overtighten but the screw on the Elemnt mount doesn't tighten very well and it's a similar if not the same size screw. The Hammerhead slides into the mount and unless you twist it with a bit of force clockwise, it doesn't budge (definitely good to know with the main test coming up).
First ride out and we don't do half measures when it comes to reviews was the big climbs in the area - Spelga Dam and Moyad Rd from Kilkeel. The latter climb is an 8mi climb from the fishing town back into the Mournes. I was curious how accurate the elevation data was going to be on the climbs. Often, when it comes to gradient data, you are at the mercy of the satellite coverage which can be quite weak in certain parts of the mountains. I like having the gradient on my screen as for me personally, helps me to maintain a certain rhythm or whether I should be pushing on a little more.
Spelga just gets steeper the deeper you go in the climb until you reach the dam and then it levels off...slightly! The Karoo 2 was showing fluctuations of 8-11% all the way up which felt about right. That might sound weird to read but most of us know what 20% feels like because you're basically at crawling speed. We have gotten used to the 10%s because we are surrounded by them! The elevation function was a handy tool on the way back up from Kilkeel as I could see how long the descent was. One thing I did begin to notice was the battery life wasn't lasting as long as my previous bike computers probably down to the quality of the screen and the amount of data it churns through on each ride.
The Big Test
There was one big ride which I had targeted to see how good the Hammerhead Karoo 2 really was and that was the Lakelander Gravel Grinder in Ballintempo Forest, Co. Fermanagh. I made sure the Hammerhead was charged up the night before and was raring to go. But those who know me and know my adventures, I always experience a hiccup of some sort. Just my luck that the Hammerhead needed to update itself in the morning when I turned it on just as I wanted to upload the route from Strava. It also didn't occur to me that it seems if you have your routes set as private, I don't think it's uploaded to the device so for the day I didn't have the route. Luckily, the event was well sign posted and I was following 899 other riders around a very remote forest.
The elevation graph went a little moody again so I couldn't see what I had conquered but the gradient data like before seemed quite accurate in comparison to what I was climbing. A bigger range cassette on the gravel bike also makes 10% feel like half the work even if it was on gravel. The map function did however show the trail routes in the forest so even if I did veer off by accident, I'm confident the Karoo 2 would of got me home. Shame I couldn't get the route uploaded as I wanted to see what other features would of popped up but there's always tomorrow!
When you come across articles looking at bike computers and what you should go for, it's always the big 2 which are mostly mentioned. After a good month of testing, I find it hard to see why Hammerhead is not mentioned in the same breath. The Karoo 2 is like having a smart phone as your riding buddy. The map function alone is worth the investment, a massive step up to to my black and white outlook on the Bolt. I missed the touch screen of my Garmin so it was nice to go back to scrolling. One thing I didn't get to test out the screen was in the wet. Believe it or not, it didn't really rain that much in Norn Iron during testing so I need to see if a bit of water upsets the functionality in anyway.
Is it pricey? £359 is right in the ballpark in what you would be paying out for if you're looking for a solid device with a quality map function and brilliant screen definition. I have definitely been converted.