Best Bike Computer for Climbing: Garmin vs Hammerhead vs Wahoo

Lengthy gone are the times of motorcycle computer systems exhibiting you only a single elevation profile in your whole route, and even simply the near-term elevation profile. Nowadays, the bike computer systems will routinely break down and even categorize the climbs in your deliberate route, together with rea-time standing, till the struggling is full. And on this case, I’ve accomplished quite a lot of struggling for this one.

It is a put up and video I’ve been engaged on since final summer time, and every time I went out to shoot this video, a sure firm (cough…Hammerhead) would actually launch a considerable replace to their climbing app characteristic the next day or week. With out fail, each…single…time. Be it final August or final December, it stored taking place.

So clearly, the one answer to that was to re-test and re-shoot it once more with the brand new options, which after all require going out and using one other epic climb. Thus, the video above. Masking 5 epic climbs from the Dolomites to Switzerland, and each off-road and on-road climbs in Tenerife and the Canary Islands. Plus quite a few different climbs alongside the way in which. In some circumstances, these have been gigantic single climbs up a volcano, and in others it was a collection of climbs, each of which take a look at the options in several methods.

You’ll discover I didn’t record a selected model/mannequin for the three essential firms. That’s as a result of from a technical standpoint, the options are equal amongst their newest models for climbing functions. Thus, particularly, these models:

Garmin: Edge 530, Edge 830, Edge 1030, Edge 1030 Plus
Hammerhead: Karoo 1, Karoo 2

For instance, t.’s no variations between an Edge 530 and Edge 1030 Plus on the subject of climbing options (other than simply display screen measurement). Similar goes for Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM vs BOLT. Word that the Edge 130 Plus does have ClimbPro, however simply not the coloring because it’s a black and white display screen.


The primary element to know is that each one of those require some quantity of pre-ride planning to allow. That means, that all of them require you will have a course loaded with the intention to perform. Not like one thing like Strava Dwell Segments, which largely routinely set off, the climb capabilities on Garmin & Hammerhead want a route loaded. As for Wahoo? Nicely, t.’s really nearly no climb capabilities t., however as a substitute, you should use Strava Dwell Segments in a pinch, however you’ll need to do some planning t. to make sure these particular segments match your climbs.

So, let’s begin with a route I’ve created with Strava, after which synced to the units. At this level, t.’s no variations when it comes to the supply (e.g. Strava vs Komoot vs others, and actually, I take advantage of routes from completely different platforms on this piece). That’s all a wash. With that synced over to the units, the models give me an summary of what’s the day’s route entails.

Within the case of Garmin, pre-ride, they’ll present your deliberate map route, some normal stats round distance and elevation, in addition to every particular person climb element. So I can take a look at all of the auto-categorized climbs, and even faucet right into a single given climb to see the ache t..

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Subsequent, on the Hammerhead unit, they don’t present any climb knowledge pre-ride within the course choice display screen. You’ll get to see the climbs when you load the street (similar to on Garmin), however they don’t seem on the pre-ride screens. Nor does Hammerhead present any course profile .rmation, although, they do present the estimated whole ascent, which I’ve discovered is sort of all the time vastly incorrect and overestimated (an accuracy thread we’ll see extra of on this put up).


Equally, Wahoo doesn’t present something pre-ride when selecting a route, aside from the course size remaining (on this case, I didn’t have a helpful picture of this subsequent to the course, so it consists of the gap from me to the beginning of the course).


When it comes to altering climb-related settings, Wahoo has none. Nevertheless, Hammerhead does help you tweak the climb categorization within the menus. I left it for defaults.


And the identical goes for Garmin, which additionally lets you tweak which measurement of climbs to indicate, whether or not or not a climb notification seems, and which knowledge fields are proven on the backside.


With that, I’ll choose the climbs and get rolling.

Upcoming Climbs:

Okay, with our journey underway, let’s now take a look at what it exhibits on the units as you begin your journey when it comes to upcoming climb knowledge. All of those are configurable on every system – so you’ll be able to disable this should you don’t need it after all. On this case, we could be distant from a climb on flat floor, such because the above picture, which locations us 11KM from the primary climb (although, discover how Hammerhead and Garmin differ within the begin of that climb).

First up, on the Garmin, you will have the ClimbPro web page. This web page will by default present the upcoming climb record, except you’re in a climb, during which case it’ll present the present climb particulars (extra on that within the subsequent part).


On a Hammerhead system, you’ll get the same web page (this was launched final December). This web page will present you the gap till the beginning of every climb, the typical gradient, after which the size of the climb. In the event you faucet a climb, it’ll develop out to indicate you that particular climb.


Within the case of Wahoo, they don’t present any upcoming climb categorized. As a substitute, they do present the upcoming elevation profile (as does Garmin/Hammerhead on different pages). You possibly can modify the dimensions of this, nevertheless it’s simply exhibiting you the general profile, not any knowledge metrics in regards to the climb or climbs arising.


Once I evaluate Garmin & Hammerhead when it comes to this upcoming climbs web page, each of them are fairly comparable. As with most issues on the Karoo, the Hammerhead web page is UI-wise prettier, each within the record perspective in addition to the person climb perspective. However functionally talking, it’s principally a wash between the 2.

The principle factor you’d discover aspect by aspect is that Garmin and Hammerhead categorize climbs barely otherwise, when it comes to begin/finish factors in addition to double-climb eventualities. For instance, whereas main climbs are sometimes tremendous clear in w. they begin/cease, it’s the smaller climbs with extra shallow begins that differ. If we take a look at climbs which have a number of items to them (e.g. you go up a very long time, then possibly flatten out or descend for 30-60 seconds earlier than going up a very long time once more), Garmin tends to group that as a single climb. Hammerhead will typically break up that out.

The exact break up varies, however I’d say generally Garmin aligns higher with the way you’d describe a climb to your buddies at a café, “Man, that climb lasted 15KM with 8% gradient”, Hammerhead tends to be the always-right school-teacher about it, “Nicely really, that climb was 8KM, then a 200m break, then 6.8KM extra”. Thus why on some routes Garmin would say I had 4-5 main climbs, and Hammerhead could be like “Yo, you’ve received 18 climbs!”. Like ice cream preferences, to every their very own.

Each firms publish how they categorize climbs, . for Garmin, and . for Hammerhead. The important thing distinction is Garmin requires 500m in size minimal, whereas Hammerhead is 400m in size. Each require a minimal grade of three%.

Throughout Every Climb:


Now comes the great half, what you see throughout every climb. Within the case of each Hammerhead and Garmin, it would first notify you as you method the climb, then the person climb pages will routinely get enabled if you cross the edge of the beginning of the climb. After all, that threshold would possibly differ between the businesses, as famous earlier.

Within the case of Garmin’s ClimbPro, you’ll see a web page for that particular climb. On the high it’ll say which climb # it’s (e.g. Climb 1 of 4), in addition to the gap till the following climb. Under that, you’ve received the gap remaining on this climb, in addition to the ascent remaining on this climb. These fields replace as you journey, finally whittling your manner right down to zero.


You’ll additionally see the climb profile, with color-coded chunks, and your place on the climb, in addition to the typical gradient remaining for the climb. Nevertheless, needless to say it’ll really zoom in on a bit of the climb, fairly than present all the factor. I really don’t like this explicit side of it, and wished it simply stayed placed on all the climb. On the very backside of the web page are two customizable knowledge fields. In my case, they’re present grade and elevation.


Garmin’s color-coding relies on official UCI categorization of climbs, which in flip relies how a lot elevation you acquire in a given time interval. The darker the colour, the extra painful it’s.

  • Cat 4 > 8000
    – Inexperienced
  • Cat 3 > 16000
    – Yellow/Gold
  • Cat 2 > 32000
    – Orange
  • Cat 1 > 48000
    – Pink
  • HC (Hors Class) > 64000 – Darkish Pink

Subsequent, we’ve received Hammerhead and their particular person climb web page. This web page simply takes the cake on the prettiest climb web page, with theoretically essentially the most element. It’s provided in each a half display screen top and full-height possibility:


Their color-coding is as follows:

  • 0-4.4%: Darkish inexperienced
  • 4.6-7.5%: Gentle inexperienced
  • 7.6-12.5%: Yellow
  • 12.6-15.5%: Pink/peach
  • 15.6%-19.5%: Orange
  • 19.6%-23.5%: Pink
  • 23.5%+: Purple

For the higher portion you’ve received all the climb displayed in 500m lengthy coloured increments, alongside together with your place on it (and your accomplished portion shaded). I instantly like this higher than the Garmin method which zooms in. It’s additionally received color-coding on the pain-factor all through the primary climb particulars. Under that may be a record of numbers that scroll by. These are 100m lengthy chunks with the anticipated gradient in every of these chunks. So principally, you’ll be able to see the following 500m with of gradient inside the scrolling ticker.


The issue although? This knowledge isn’t correct. Particularly on the extremes (e.g. greater grades), hairpin turns, or in mountainous terrain. It is because no matter knowledge supply they’re utilizing merely isn’t granular sufficient for this. So numerous instances it’ll say I’ve received a 14% chunk arising, and it’ll simply be extra of the identical 4-6% I’ve been using (just like the above picture). Once I requested Hammerhead about this beforehand, they acknowledged the difficulty, saying:

“We’ve got been wrestling a few of these elevation knowledge errors and taking a look at methods to raised deal with unrealistic spikes or swings within the knowledge. Your instinct is appropriate in that it’s typically primarily based on the underlying dataset that we’re utilizing for a selected area. We’ve got received our fingers on many of the available ones and are operating some experimentation on how you can deal with dangerous knowledge. We match offline elevation knowledge for a whole downloaded nation onto Karoo 2 in order that even re-routes can have Climber performance. This offline performance additionally signifies that we are able to’t depend on any backup or massaging of the information from completely different sources on an online server. We’ve got a number of strategies we’re taking a look at to enhance this.”

Finally, this turns into a case of type over perform. Sure, it visually seems tremendous cool. However virtually talking, it’s typically inaccurate (in reality, nearly all the time inaccurate). And it’s finally why Garmin in all probability isn’t exhibiting such granular element. In Garmin’s case, they’re slicing it up into far bigger chunks for color-coding, which suggests they’ll clean out a number of the underlying knowledge inconsistencies. Under is an efficient instance of dangerous knowledge – this street by no means had anyw. even remotely near a 25% grade part (nor one then adopted apparently by –9.3% downhill part). Nevertheless, should you look intently on the yellow Garmin part beneath, you’ll be able to see what seems as a spike within the climb, however in Garmin’s case they aren’t granular sufficient displaying knowledge associated to that, to attract your consideration to it.


Anyhow, beneath that streaming gradient ticker part, is the gap to the highest, and the elevation to the highest (plus climb # and present grade). One attention-grabbing word although, is that Hammerhead doesn’t correctly rely mid-climb descents .. So for instance you see that little bump w. I am going down for a number of hundred meters on the above? In that case, Hammerhead doesn’t precisely present my whole ascent as having to ‘reclimb’ that portion twice. As a substitute, their math is solely your objective elevation (high), minus the present elevation. So any temporary downs inside it aren’t calculated accurately, and can undercount how a lot climbing you really should do nonetheless. In case your climb has no temporary descents, then it’s a non-issue.

Nonetheless, if we step again and take a look at the general gist of what the ticker and climb charts are exhibiting you, I feel Hammerhead is essentially on the precise path .. I think in the event that they shifted away from 100m sections, and as a substitute went extra in direction of 200m or bigger sections, it’d be sufficient to get round a number of the short-distance accuracy points they’ve. And equally, fixing the ascent to high must be straightforward since they know the descents simply as a lot as they know the ascents.

As for Wahoo, once more, they don’t have any direct climbing characteristic. However they do even have one workaround: Strava Dwell Segments. In the event you star/favourite a Strava Dwell Phase for that climb (which is normally straightforward sufficient to search out/tag), it’ll set off as you method the climb after which present your actual distance until the top of the climb. Plus the upcoming elevation profile. It received’t present ascent or different climbing-related metrics, nevertheless it at the very least exhibits how a lot struggling you will have left, together with how poorly you’re doing relative to all your pals.


Although, on one explicit lengthy climb final 12 months, I simply adopted Wahoo’s BOLT for my very own Haribo-Professional. One gummy per 1KM remaining. Albeit, this does influence show visibility, however, if you’re climbing for hours on finish with out climbing metrics, you principally get into the groove in any case.


Lastly, some will ask about precise gradient responsiveness. That means, how briskly does every bike pc reply to gradient shifts and show that on the unit itself. And the reply is “it relies upon”. On the whole, it appeared just like the Hammerhead and Wahoo models reported shifts in gradient extra rapidly because the street modified pitch. However not on a regular basis. Within the video I present a bit nearly again to again w. on one street chunk the Garmin lagged, however then moments later it was the Wahoo lagging. Take into account, once I say ‘lagging’, we’re speaking a few seconds. You possibly can see examples of the variations.

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The explanation for that’s that these firms are largely taking a look at ahead motion to find out grade, not the present angle of your bike. So that they take a look at how a lot elevation you’ve gained within the final X seconds, after which work out the gradient primarily based on the gap you travelled. It’s a tremendous line between being too fast to reply to shifts in stress (which might result in inaccurate knowledge), and being too gradual (which ends up in frustration). For just about each situation I encountered, t. have been no significant real-world variations between them on this subject.

Within the sense that, sure, typically one unit was behind one other a number of seconds, however except this was crossing a shallow 100m lengthy bridge, it simply didn’t make a giant distinction to me that it was 2-3 seconds behind exhibiting 6% vs 8%. For any significant climbs, it evened out inside a number of seconds and confirmed me seemingly appropriate values throughout all units.

Going Ahead:


After all, as we method the springtime, we traditionally see features on biking head models. It’ll be attention-grabbing to see if t. are shifts ., from all of the gamers. I feel it’s clearly important that Wahoo in some way get on this realm, particularly as Hammerhead continues to enhance theirs with every iteration each few months. In the meantime, Garmin might look so as to add a bit extra element like Hammerhead, whereas Hammerhead inversely might intention to attempt to get their underlying gradient knowledge both extra correct or maybe much less granular to, in flip, improve upcoming gradient accuracy.

After which past that, all the businesses might introduce added climbing options that haven’t been considered but. T.’s numerous methods this could possibly be expanded, and we solely want to have a look at different characteristic areas to see that. For instance, Garmin lately launched enhanced waypoints assist (known as ‘Up Forward’) on their Fenix 7/Epix collection, or, no one has made a manner for this to be sans pre-loaded route – a long-requested characteristic by many.

Or, the businesses might do a greater job of surfacing these climbs of their post-ride analytics apps, exhibiting the instances and efforts after the actual fact, just like Strava Segments, however with out all of the jumble of quite a few segments. Only a clear record of the climbs and one’s performances on these climbs.

Nonetheless, each the Hammerhead and Garmin climbing options stay my favourite options on every unit. Maybe much less for technical causes, and extra for nostalgia causes. In my case, once I’m utilizing these options to their fullest extent, it’s as a result of I’m off on some bike journey somew. – typically on an epic climb with superb surroundings. And because the snow melts, it’s nearly time for that to start once more. So if and when these firms make modifications, I’ll be able to put them to the take a look at once more.

With that – thanks for studying!