In cycling, battles are often fought between two giants: Mathieu van der Poel vs. Wout van Aert, Shimano vs. SRAM, and in the world of cycling computers, Garmin vs. Wahoo. But things always get more interesting when a third contender challenges the established favorites.
Now, Hammerhead is here to shake up the world of cycling computers with its new Karoo 2 head unit.
The new Hammerhead Karoo 2 mounted on my gravel bike, ready to take me to far away places.
Based out of New York City, Hammerhead was founded in 2013 by Piet Morgan (CEO) and Laurence Wattrus (head of technology). During a 3,000-mile ride across the United States, Morgan realized his cycling computer was falling short of his needs. He teamed up with Wattrus, a life-long cyclist and engineer, and created the revolutionary Karoo head unit in 2018. It was the first bike computer of its kind, using an Android operating system and a smartphone-like touchscreen and navigation.
The Karoo 2 is the latest evolution of Morgan’s vision, combining sleeker hardware with next-gen software. A direct competitor to industry-leading models like the Garmin Edge 830 and 1030 Plus and the Wahoo Elemnt Roam, the Karoo 2 boasts a brilliant, high-resolution screen and responsive navigation that is second to none.
Karoo 2 key features
- Android-based software
- Quad-core Qualcomm processor
- Color 480x800, 292 PPI screen
- Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, Wifi, and GPS connectivity
- SIM card slot for optional 2G, 3G, 4G coverage
- 32g of storage for maps, data, and software
- Waterproof USB-C charging port with fast charging
- Up to 14 hours of battery life
- Audio alerts
- Monthly software updates
Karoo 2 hardware and software
The Karoo 2 carries over many of the Karoo 1's software capabilities, but everything has been squeezed into a package that is 33% lighter and 40% smaller. At 131 grams, it is similar in size and weight to Garmin’s flagship 1030 Plus.
The 3.2-inch 480x800 screen provides 292 PPI, giving the Karoo 2 the largest color spectrum and highest-resolution display on the market. It uses Dragontrail Glass for durability, and it has both anti-glare texturing and a “droplet rejection” coating. The rest of the device is wrapped in glass-filled polycarbonate to make it light and strong, with an elastomer edge to protect it from impacts.
Inside, a Quad-core Qualcomm processor increases processing speed for faster navigation and smooth data visualization. It covers all connectivity needs with Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, WiFi, and GPS, plus a SIM card slot for 3G and 4G coverage. The large battery provides up to 14 hours of battery life, and the waterproof USB-C charging port allows for fast charging (30% in 30 minutes, and 50% in one hour).
The software is Android-based — intuitive and easy to use for any smartphone owner. An interesting benefit to this is that the Karoo 2 can also run third-party Android apps. For example, using an Android app, riders can screen-record on the Karoo 2, which could be useful for overlays on race footage or YouTube videos. We’ll likely see more 3rd party app capabilities over time.
The Karoo 2 also offers Strava Live Segments, TrainingPeaks Workout Integration, Varia Radar Integration, and more. Smartphone notifications keep you connected, and live-tracking lets your family know you’re safe. Hammerhead is also using customer feedback to build new features. Monthly software updates provide new enhancements, features, and bug fixes to keep your Karoo 2 on the cutting edge.
Karoo 2 navigation
If you’re interested in the Karoo 2, it’s probably because you like using your bike computer to navigate during rides. This isn’t to say that is the Karoo 2's sole differentiator, but navigation has always been Hammerhead’s greatest strength.
The smartphone-like touchscreen allows for fast map interaction, with pan and zoom using pinch gestures. (You can also use the hardware buttons instead of the touchscreen if you’re wearing thick gloves.) It provides detailed turn-by-turn directions and extremely fast rerouting if you miss a turn.
The Karoo 2 has downloadable maps for anywhere in the world. These maps are built for cyclists, with points of interest like cafes, water fountains, bathrooms, and campsites. Route-building is also extremely easy. You can use routing providers like Strava, Komoot, or RideWithGPS or you can use Hammerhead’s own online route builder.
A Strava route uploaded and ready to go for spring riding. Just drop the URL into the Hammerhead web dashboard and it appears on your head unit.
Routes are then easy to sync using Wireless Route Import via Hammerhead’s web dashboard or a Chrome extension. Upload the file, or even easier, just copy and paste the route’s URL. You can also create routes on the device itself if it has an active internet connection (though a SIM card or WiFi).
Karoo 2 first ride impressions
I’ve only used the new Karoo 2 for a couple of weeks, but it feels familiar after spending over a year on the Karoo 1. Thanks to the impressive screen, the Karoo 1 was one of my all-time favorite head units. My only complaint was its large size, but the new smaller and lighter Karoo 2 solves that problem.
Size comparison of the Karoo 1 vs. the Karoo 2. The Karoo 2 is now more similar in size to the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus and Wahoo Elemnt Roam.
The display is often the first thing other riders comment on. It’s extremely bright and colorful, and the touchscreen is very responsive. It is on par with a smartphone, and if appearances and functionality are important to you, the Karoo 2 has no rival.
The riding profiles and datafield pages are easy to customize. Two of my favorite datafields are the dynamic heart rate and power zones. A circle is displayed in the datafield that moves and changes color with your heart rate and power. It reminds me of the tachometer of a car, and it actually makes the riding experience a bit more fun whenever I glance down at it.
The map is clear and it's easy to navigate on fly using the touchscreen with your fingers, or by scrolling with the large side buttons.
I don’t use navigation often, but it’s easy to appreciate how effective it is on the Karoo 2. Swipe over to the map and you’re able to interact with it exactly as you do on a smartphone. This came in handy on a ride after I detoured around an immobilized train and got lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood. For riders venturing into the unknown, the capabilities of Karoo 2 can save both time and headaches. I can see it being a great option for endurance gravel events, thanks to its battery life combined with the ease of navigation and screen size/readability.
I generally use Strava to build routes, and I’ve found they're easy to sync via Hammerhead’s web dashboard. I hope to get some use out of it this summer as I plan longer rides. I also plan to take advantage of Strava Live Segments and TrainingPeaks Workout Integration this spring. Segments and intervals look really good when displayed on the Karoo 2’s screen, and that alone is motivation for me to train.
My Karoo 2 with some scars. For a small electronic device packed with tech, it's impressively tough.
On a final note, I’ve already tested the Karoo 2’s durability. I accidentally dropped it into a pile of jagged rocks in my garden and my toddler spent a morning chewing on it and banging it on the floor. Other than a few scuffs, the tough outer case did its job, and my Karoo 2 in perfect working order.
At $399, the Karoo 2 is an impressive head unit packed with technology. It’s priced similarly to the Garmin Edge 830 ($399) and Wahoo Elemnt Roam ($379), but it provides much more storage, and of course, a much nicer screen. Any tech-savvy or navigation-hungry cyclist should consider it, and for me, the screen and visuals alone are worth the price. Expect a more in-depth review to come as I get more time on the Karoo 2.