Hammerhead Karoo 2 Review

Shimano’s epic fail with Hammerhead will come back to haunt them.

In an effort to gain an advantage in their running battle against SRAM, Shimano has ordered the bike computer company Hammerhead to remove Di2 support from the Karoo 2, due to Hammerhead’s acquisition by SRAM.

Shimano revoked the company’s license to access the proprietary communications system that transmits Di2’s information and allows hardware control over ANT+. While ANT+ is an open standard for device communications, Shimano’s Di2 connectivity is a private system that uses that open standard.

As of the most recent firmware update the Karoo 2 no longer is able to read or display Di2 gear information or battery status, and the buttons on the Di2 shifters no longer toggle between screens on the computer. In other words, if you’ve got a Hammerhead and Di2 it doesn’t work.

Shimano clearly intended to deprive SRAM of revenue by depriving it of the ability to interact with their electronic shifting system.

This is an awful, and stupid move.

One of the first things you learn in business school is that it’s a bad idea to alienate customers. There are countless examples of this: New Coke is the most prominent example but there’s also classics like Wells Fargo signing customers up for credit lines without permission, Facebook selling your personal information even if you opt-out, and so on.

In its ongoing quest to dominate the bike component market, Shimano has just earned the dubious distinction of becoming (arguably) the biggest cycling company to make a blunder that penalizes not their competitors, but themselves, and their customers.

Picture this: You have purchased a bike computer from a small startup company, one that has shown through constant firmware upgrades and new features, that it is customer-driven.

You have also purchased a very expensive bike, as the Di2 group set costs $2700 by itself and is usually found on bikes in the $4000 and up range. If you’re a Dura-Ace Di2 user the groupset is $3900 and you’re looking at bikes costing much more, sometimes well above $12,000.

This is no small investment in Shimano, and since many companies make both a SRAM and a Shimano version of their bikes, it’s an investment you made because of your preference for their shifting system.

Your bike computer and your Di2 system work in harmony, and the resulting experience makes your Di2 gear even more useful.

Now imagine that the bike computer company was bought by SRAM. You have nothing to do with the acquisition, as a customer the change is seamless and if you hadn’t seen the press release about it, you might not even know it happened.

You go for a ride, and your Karoo 2 tells you that there is an update. You accept it and just like that, your computer no longer shows you any Di2 information, and doesn’t let you control the computer with its controls anymore.

At $400, the Hammerhead Karoo 2 is a pricy bit of kit. Maybe not in the same ballpark as a top-end bike with Di2, but it’s not pocket change.

With no warning, with no way to prevent it, as far as your bike computer is concerned, you’re riding a mechanical groupset.

Who are you going to be pissed at?

Cutting of Your Nose To Spite Your Face

I am certain the thinking at Shimano went like this: “If Shimano’s Di2 support is removed from the Karoo 2, then SRAM won’t make any money from our engineering efforts and new bike customers won’t buy from Hammerhead.”

Aside from the fact that this is a dick move, it doesn’t make sense.

Very few people know that SRAM owns Hammerhead. When a customer goes to purchase a new bike and wants a new computer they’ll look at reviews and find out that all of the bike computers support SRAM’s wireless system, and one major computer does not.

Looking a bit deeper, they’d find out that the reason the Karoo 2 doesn’t support Shimano is because Shimano withdrew their license.

So now instead of both wireless systems being compatible with all the high-end bike computers only SRAM is compatible with all the computers.

Good job Shimano, you just made yourself look less compatible and less desirable than SRAM.

The Logical Conclusion

If Shimano is going to cripple Hammerhead because they’re owned by SRAM, why don’t they cripple ZIPP wheels, or RockShox or Quarq? All of those brands are owned by SRAM, and the reason is now clear.

Shimano doesn’t cripple all of SRAM’s brands only because they can’t. Thanks to the open standards behind most bike manufacturing, there’s nothing Shimano can do to prevent you from running ZIPP wheels with Shimano brakes. If Shimano owned other standards like they own the Di2 wireless one, they’d cripple whatever they could.

Take My Toys And Go Home

The final problem is that Shimano now looks both weak and scared. When little kids aren’t happy at having to share their toys with a friend, they threaten to take their toys and go home. Usually it’s just a threat to get their way, but it looks like Shimano really took their toys and left.

If Shimano wants people to use the Di2 wireless groupset, they should make it so good that it would be a compromise to not use it. Shimano should lead through innovation, improvement and refinery.

Instead they’re making it harder to use their components, they’re making their competition look like they’re more widely accepted, and they’re creating buyer’s remorse for existing customers.

Shimano’s intentions were to hurt SRAM by hurting one of SRAM’s brands. Instead, Shimano just showed that they care more about hurting customers and competitors than they care about improving bicycling.

It’s not a good look.

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