Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Hammerhead Karoo - On its way to a handlebar near you


The Hammerhead Karoo
Once upon a time, I loved my Garmin. I still use it nearly everyday and, running a cycling business, I rely upon it more than I really care to admit. The thing is though, the latest Garmin cycling GPS's have been....well a bit shit really haven't they. As a long-term user and customer it appears to me that Garmin has no fire in its belly.

This is just my not-so-humble opinion, but I feel the hardware has always been pretty sound but its the frustrating lack of quality control in software updates, the sloth-like movement towards supported apps and third party integration and the general lacklustre approach to innovation from the company is the crux of the problem - to my mind at least.

It was only a matter of time then until an army of other manufacturers would tip-toe in from the sidelines, design/build some units, learn some things and attempt to steal a bit of the pie whilst Garmin slept on the job. Fortunately for Garmin, nobody has really made enough noise to wake them so we are all still waiting for one company or even a partnership with enough software/hardware expertise to risk it all, run into that room (where Garmin are still sleeping) and shout a great big BOO in their faces.

There was a time when I thought Strava would do it given its overall success, the growing user base and masses of data they have been hoarding over the years. That, I reckon would have left Garmin for dead but alas it seems they they were happy just tucking Garmin in at night and going about their business quietly in the spare room. (Don't worry Strava, I still love you dearly, I was just hurt and disappointed).

Anyway, then out of the blue and at a time when we're all considering having to buy the latest buggy, ugly offering from Garmin inevitably with a touch-screen from the 1990's) along came little old Hammerhead. They knocked gently at the door at first with the H1 but the masses didn't really take notice and that wasn't really the intention (at least I don't think it was?) and as for Garmin, they probably didn't even stir. If they did, it would have only been a brief disturbance and just enough for them to come up with the next iteration of the Edge. You know, like tweak some layouts, pack the same old components into a smaller device and all with a touchscreen that doesn't like to be touched. That done, they promptly spent the next 6 months sleeping off all of the tiresome work they hadn't really done.

Meanwhile Hammerhead had been busy on something new so this time around they are knocking a bit louder, have dug deep into their pockets, put everything they know and subsequently learned into a product that could, quite possibly, huff and puff and blow the house down.

Routes, maps and data screens
So, what's different about it? What makes it appear to be better than a Garmin or any other cycling GPS around? Well, some of this subjective, and some is out and out improvement. I feel the biggest leap ahead is the fact that finally someone built a unit around Android and better still, Hammerhead appear to have done that on hardware that is a step up from anything else I've come across. It can house its own sim card so can be a truly independent device. From what I've seen its snappy to navigate around and the ability to create routes easily on the device itself is something we've all been waiting for. The fact Hammerhead's own web portal brings another dimension to grabbing routes whereby you can just grab a route from a strava activity page URL seems obvious but nobody else has done it!

Looks a touch large on the bars owing to the sheer size of the screen

This product, on paper at least, has the chance to really shoulder-barge that Garmin off of the handlebars of a lot of cyclists and I sincerely hope they do - not least as I've taken an early-adopter leap of faith and pre-ordered months before the device was ever even finished being designed!

I'm not saying it's all going to be peachy from the off and it hasn't entirely been a seamless process to date from design to production, with a few unforeseen delays that we and they (Hammerhead) have had to contend with. Recently the communications team have been on the ProPlus and there's been a lot more in the way of updates, production timelines, product stories on the birth and journey of Hammerhead and some juicy sneak peek videos too.


There are a couple of other Facebook videos floating around too: Hammerhead Web Portal Demo

Take a look guys, see what you think and as soon as my unit arrives here in France (hopefully in a few weeks) I'll get down to a full and frank review. I hope my Garmin 810 is listening because you can bet Garmin themselves aren't....yet.

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