Bike computer test: Hammerhead Karoo 2

It’s the newest entrant into the bike computer market – here’s why we reckon you’ll start to see a lot more of the Karoo 2 on rides in the years to come.

Words Jack Lynch

Hammerhead Karoo 2

If you’re a cyclist who uses social media, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Hammerhead’s Karoo 2. The Brooklyn-based company has been popping up via my Facebook and Instagram algorithms for a few months now, so when given the opportunity to get my hands on one, I was fascinated to see how it compared to the Wahoo and Garmin devices that currently dominate the market. 

Maybe it’s just me, but I often find new products like this can be a bit fiddly and can take hours to set up. So, when I discover a new bike computer that’s simple to use, it’s a big tick. And that was my first impression of the Karoo 2. 

Firstly, it doesn’t require an app. I was amazed when, after I turned on the computer and added in my Wi-Fi password, it began to collect everything it needed for me to set up data fields, download maps, and head out for a spin. Yes, there’s the option to link it to my phone and a desktop dashboard but, for all intents and purposes, this computer is ready to go out of the box in a matter of minutes, not hours. I was thrilled at how quickly it picked up my GPS location even inside, and when I did choose to link to my phone and heart rate strap, it was all rainbows – no moments of despair when Bluetooth failed to pick up my devices.

When it came to fitting the computer to my bike with the supplied Hammerhead out front mount, I was disappointed to see that it’s not a standard Garmin-style quarter turn. Hammerhead has reinvented the wheel to enable, it says, a sleeker and improved fit. However, my immediate concern was my light bracket, which fits snuggly underneath my K-Edge computer mount. Well, don’t despair if you have the same issue – the Karoo 2
comes with a plastic converter for your quarter-turn mount, which is a toolless installation that holds the computer just fine. Another big tick for the new kids on the block.

On the road

You only have to set up a bike computer for the first time once, but hopefully you’ll get to ride tens of thousands of kilometres with it. So how is the Karoo 2 on the road?

Off the bat, I found the touchscreen to be as responsive as a smartphone, even through thick winter gloves. If you don’t like touchscreens, there are also buttons that can be used instead of your fingers on the Dragontail glass. I found the unit intuitive to navigate and accurate; I did the same route several times and there was no deviation in elevation gained at the end of the ride, and only a few metres difference in distance (presumably because of my wobbly steering).

Something I haven’t encountered on other computers is the Karoo 2’s ‘Climber‘ feature with Predictive Path Technology, which shows you upcoming climbs – even when you don’t have a route loaded. Whenever you reach a climb that is more than 400 metres and 4% grade, the computer shows a profile of the climb and gives you real-time progress. It’s great for unseen roads, and I loved knowing when I could accelerate across flatter sections and when I had to fear an oncoming wall.

Strava Live Segments is a similar function that I’ve never managed to explore fully across a number of other computers I’ve owned or tested. It was simple to get the Karoo 2 to start testing myself against myself on the hunt for PRs and the occasional KOM (I know, dream on mate). The touchscreen comes into its own here as you can swipe up to make the segment full screen; swipe halfway to have it on your mind while you focus on other key data (speed, power, heart rate); or swipe down to remove it completely – because no one likes to see themselves losing time to a previous version of themselves!

There are so many features packed into this unit you’re sure to make it
work the way you need it to. I didn’t explore structured training plans or
even turn-by-turn navigation, but I have full faith the computer will be best in class in managing what it says it does. For what it’s worth, the maps are exceptional, and you can move around on them as you would your smartphone’s mapping system, helping you find hidden roads as you ride or look ahead for rest stops, shops and other essentials when you’re far from home.

Comparing with competitors

Hammerhead hasn’t shied away from the fight against its Wahoo and Garmin competitors – indeed, it shows full-scale spec comparisons on its website. The GPS market is a difficult one to break into and only the best thrive, and for mine Hammerhead is well-equipped to rise into the mix.

I believe there are only minuscule differences in the best and worst bike computers on the market in 2022. So long as it can consistently tell me how fast and far I’m riding and can pick up my sensors, I’m happy. But as that famous cyclist George Orwell once wrote, ‘all cycling computers are equal, but some are more equal than others.’ When referring to those more equal than others, he must have had the Karoo 2 firmly in mind for its usability, reliability and functionality. What more can a rider ask for?

Find more about the Hammerhead Karoo 2 here.

Cyclist Australia/NZ