There has to be a loser – Wahoo vs Hammerhead vs Garmin | High-Level Overview
The Karoo 2 has adorned my bike for some time now and I will probably get around to adding some more detailed thoughts about it over the next two months. Mostly those thoughts will be a re-hash of my Hammerhead Karoo 1 review from a couple of years back, as the features are near-identical, plus mentioning the new beeper (which I’ve turned off)!
Sometimes it’s possible for a reviewer to stick a bike computer alongside another one on their handlebars and be biased toward looking at and using the regular one. All some reviewers do is log data alongside their main watch/bike computer and then fiddle with the new watch’s menus in the comfort of their own home. Really you need to use the device, whatever device it may be, as your main AND ONLY one for a quite extended period of time. Which is often impractical and it simply doesn’t normally happen. However, that’s what I’ve done with the Karoo 2 and it’s much easier to say you’ve done that than to actually, really, properly do it day-in, day-out. (Any reviewers reading this can protest their innocence in the comments below).
Before Karoo, the Wahoo’s were the main bike computers that I used on their own and before that, periodic single-device usage is what I’ve done with many Garmins of various flavours.
I have REALLY liked using the Karoo but that made me reflect because I REALLY liked using the ELEMNTs as well. Garmin? I wouldn’t say I always enjoy using Garmins, it’s more that for what I do here on this site, they exude a degree of comfort in that I know that the ‘weird thing’ I’m about to do WILL be possible on the Garmin but I also know that some of the standard things that I do will just take longer with a Garmin Edge….same for the Edge 1030 Plus…same for the Edge 530.
The problem with reviews is that they tend to sink to the lowest common denominator. That denominator is ‘A Checklist’. Checklists are biased against some vendors who have certain weird features that aren’t on your special checklist. When you use a checklist, Garmin always wins. Always. I don’t mean sometimes...I really mean ALWAYS.
Strangely, ‘JUST WORKS’ and ‘GREAT USABILITY EXPERIENCE’ are NEVER on reviewers’ checklists. Think about that the next time you come to buy a new bike computer.
Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM is just about Wahoo’s ‘prettiest’ bike computer and its features are much the same as its siblings. What stands out for me with an ELEMNT over the competition is that the interface is highly efficient and button presses are minimised. This makes for a good user experience day-after-day-after-day, it has the ‘just works’ factor. It’s functional.
A performance bike computer or bikenav has to support a wide range of features to be considered competent. The Karoo and the Edge are competent and of course, the ELEMNT is too. ELEMNT connects to weird sensors, displays weird metrics, links to training platforms most people have never heard of and will automatically pull down and execute your next workout that will inevitably be just that little bit too hard for you to successfully complete today in your pain cave.
It’s a bit ugly but..hey. It has character.
Those 3 paragraphs probably sum up why Wahoo has a growing and highly loyal customer base. Sorry, that’s wrong. They have an ADVOCATE base who do a lot of their marketing for them.
Garmin EDGEs are not especially pretty but they are prettier than the ELEMNT. Perhaps you would say their overall looks were bland or harmless or neutral. The screen metrics can often look great but it’s the flow between screens that lets Garmin down. Garmin realises that and is changing how all their menus work. They have to as it is very difficult for you to find one of those obscure features that convinced you to buy the Edge in the first place!
Worse still, because Garmin is in the process of changing their interface(s) it often feels like 3 or 4 different interfaces styles that have been cobbled together. So in the sense of consistency, the screens do not look great. Yet the reality is that you probably have a certain way of using a bike computer and once you have become familiar with how Garmin wants you to work then it becomes second nature. You would probably even argue using an Edge was ‘quick’ or ‘logical’. I used to say that…until I used a Wahoo.
With an extensive feature list, you might argue that Edge was highly functional. I would argue the opposite, they are highly DYSfunctional purely because of the way the device does not work together as a whole.
Hammerhead Karoo 2
You’ve just spent $12,000 on a new superbike. You are pretty certain that your mates will all know how much it costs (because you’ll let it slip at some point) and you’re pretty sure that none of your mates will be able to ever afford one. You are also certain that your mates and you will genuinely all like the looks of the bike. You even have the kit to match. Yes, even the water bottle.
But you have been losing sleep at night recently, haven’t you?
You know that quite a few of your mates have the Edge 530 and others the Edge 1030 Plus. You know. They know. The guy at the cake shop knows. Those Edges ALL have the most features. Yet, if you buy one, it will look EXACTLY the same as your mates’ Edges. You could spend a bit of time curating an obscure ride screen with some equally as obscure CIQ data fields but in the end, you know that one of your mates will simply replicate your screen setup one evening just to annoy you. That’s what mates are for, right? 😉
So you’re contemplating the Karoo 2 because it’s as cool as your superbike.
You’ve only ever seen one Apple Watch 6 Hermes and that’s the one you’re wearing. You’ve never seen a Karoo 2 in the wild (neither have I !!) yet you know that people like me genuinely think its a contender. It looks like an awesome piece of kit and I’m telling you that it does all the stuff that it needs to do. Better still, the screen display and some of the data metrics are super sweet-looking.
OK, I’ll get to the point. Hammerhead used to have a relatively small number of features and they were segued together really well. REALLY well. Using it was/is a super-smooth experience. However, they are now starting to enter the degree of complexity that Garmin encountered a while back. Those features are piling up and sometimes ‘looking pretty’ is being put ahead of utility.
For example, Garmin has the ‘Power Meter Detected, Do you want to calibrate message’. It’s fugly but it’s kinda THE most important thing that you always NEED to do before heading off. It needs to super easy to do that. (OK soon all power meters will self-calibrate but that’s by-the-by). Then the Di2 button delay to take a lap just takes a little bit longer than it should and the Varia radar on/off section of the screen is hard to press with gloves on.
First world problems. But problems nevertheless.
Going back to the headline. Here’s my answer: No-one’s a loser, everyone’s a Winner – It’s the world we live in today.
Edge, Karoo and ELEMNT are all winners.
As me the cyclist, I’ve just convinced all my cycling mates to buy an ELEMNT BOLT. So now I’m happy to annoy them and use my prettier Karoo 2. My personal annoyance with the Karoo is that I can’t get the ride data natively into dropbox.
As me, the5krunner, I’m messing about with CORE and SmO2 at the moment and so I’m just going to have to use a Garmin for that. #NoChoice
As me the triathlete, I’ve just bought a new (to me) TT bike. More of that later but you can rest assured it didn’t cost anywhere near $12,000. I’m going to want my dropbox link and I’m going to want my new Di2 sprint shifter buttons to work ‘just so’ and, as I’m using the ELEMNT RIVAL watch a lot more now it supports running power, then I guess my bike computer might morph back to the Wahoo Bolt too.
Longer-term, the problem for Garmin and Hammerhead of handling feature-complexity is probably only resolved by either sticking a lof of the complexity onto an app (like Wahoo has done) or allowing you to hide menu option via an app (which no-one has yet done).
When cycling with my mates I might have to think of some other tech way of annoying them. Varia! ah yes… that’s it. Blind them into defeat 😉
I hope this was thought-provoking, thank you for being a supporter!
- Wahoo ELEMNT – REVIEW – BUY
- Wahoo RIVAL – REVIEW – BUY
- Garmin Edge 530 – REVIEW – BUY
- Garmin Edge 1030 – REVIEW – BUY
- Hammerhead Karoo – REVIEW – BUY (2)