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We Put Two New Cycling Computers To The Test

A new breed of color touchscreen cycling computers is making it easier than ever to navigate as you ride, find new routes, and see your data.


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Hammerhead Karoo 2

$400 | hammerhead.io
Battery life: 14 hours | Weight: 136g

What

Boasting the highest resolution screen (by far) of any cycling computer out there, Hammerhead has a history of big, beautiful color displays that present data in a visually appealing way. The first iteration of the Karoo was effectively a smartphone—in both function and size. That made it a tough fit between aerobars, but the concept had merits. This new version ports over everything we loved about the first Karoo—excellent data viz, colors for days, and a simple, self-contained unit that doesn’t even need an accompanying app—and slims it down to a totally manageable size.

Pros

The 3.2-inch, almost 300-dpi screen allows a lot of info to be displayed in a unique way. This means more constrasted colors, along with a matte-finish screen, which helps you see what you need at a quick glance—key while on the road. The built-in maps are by far the easiest to read, and the graphic visualizations of heart-rate zones and power zones are super novel and unlike anything else we’ve seen. The fact that the Karoo 2 works with a cell phone’s SIM card means it can update on the go, but even without that, it’s a robust system that favors simplicity and reliability over tons of features. We also like the physical buttons on the side for when touchscreen use is tough or impossible.

Cons

Though the Karoo 2’s on-board operating system and touchscreen makes an accompanying app ubiquitous, sometimes setting things up or viewing rides is better done later, away from the device. Yes, Hammerhead has an online dashboard, but many triathletes have become used to checking an app after their ride. On that same note, data geeks will be disappointed by the lack of in-depth immediate post-ride info—Hammerhead seems to rely on external services like Strava and TrainingPeaks to do everything from data collection to workout creation. (And no, you can’t create workouts in-device…)

This is for

Triathletes who really value ease-of-use, simplicity, and graphical aesthetics. Think: those who like Apple products no matter what.

Garmin Edge 830

$400 | garmin.com
Battery life: 20 hours | Weight: 80g

What

The smaller, more tri-friendly little brother to Garmin’s jaw-droppingly huge Edge 1030, this touchscreen, navigation-heavy computer is small, but packs a ridiculous amount of features. While it has onboard maps, route creation, and more, it also has route suggestions based on ride distance and current location (and they’re actually pretty good). Other performance features, like tracking VO2, recovery, training load, and training status, make this effectively a coach-in-a-box, while all sorts of off-road functions make it great for the dirt too.

Pros

There is little chance anyone will use even 80% of the features on this computer (for better or for worse), but the fact that there are so many functions means there’s a good chance you’ll find a bunch that actually help you get better. The training week dashboard and onboard workout creation is great for in

tegration with other devices or last-minute workout input, and the absolute mountain of post-ride data means you can see what you did, sync it with WiFi, and move on to the next workout.

Cons

The color touchscreen is fine, but in comparison to the Karoo 2, it looks like one of the first iterations of Nintendo’s Game Boy. With blocky resolution and less contrast than the Hammerhead, seeing data at a glance can be a little tougher when compared side-by-side. Also, the Hammerhead’s map graphics are vastly superior to Garmin’s messy navigation display—particularly on the smaller screen of the 830 versus the gargantuan 1030. While neither touchscreen was perfect, the Karoo 2’s ability to pinch and zoom was a big navigation boon, and the lack of enough buttons to navigate the 830’s system sans-touchscreen was troublesome at times.

This is for

Data junkies and those who like a near-bottomless depth of functions and features, and those who might want their computer to do some coaching for them.

The Winner

This is a tough one, but in terms of pure function over form, Garmin’s 830 gets the nod as more of a triathlete’s tool than Hammerhead’s work of fine art.