We had a chance to chat with Sam Wood, Bike Odyssey's lead guide, and learn more about how he has been using the Karoo to guide clients on iconic cycling adventures around the world.
Q: Why did you choose the Karoo?
The Karoo was an easy choice for us. Having run tours for over a decade and designed cycling expeditions for more than two decades we have seen the evolution of cycling navigation from paper cue sheets and chalk-sprayed directions on the road to GPS navigation. We used the early generation GPS units and we were always on the lookout for the next step - a smartphone equivalent, user-friendly cycling GPS. When Hammerhead Karoo announced its Kickstarter project to build the Karoo we were one of the first supporters. At the time, we had been frustrated with the quality of the units available and were super happy to see the plans for Karoo. To be fair, the evolution of Karoo since its first software build has been exponential. We used them fresh off the shelves, on the first build to help us navigate a group of 24 riders, from Santiago in Chile to Bariloche in Argentina, a 4 weeks, 2000km Odyssey and there were some teething issues but we got there no problems and this was understandable as a first build - what we have loved and admired is the rapid evolution and continual software updates of the units to genuinely be the best GPS unit out there for cycling navigation.
Q: How does the Karoo help facilitate Bike Odyssey's world-class cycling tours?
All our riders have the Karoo on their bikes as a standard part of our tour package, whether a rental bike from us or their own bike. We load all the routes of the Odyssey (we call them Odysseys rather than tours due to their length and historical connections), which range from 2 to 6 weeks long on the units and they are our primary method of navigation. Our Odysseys aren't simple and the karoos have a lot of navigational work to do! The tours range from 1000km along the Croatian coastline from Venice, Italy to Dubrovnik, Croatia to 2500km over the Pyrenees and Alps from Barcelona, Spain to Rome, Italy to 3000km from the desert in Marrakesh, Morocco to vineyards of Porto, Portugal to 3500km Istanbul, Turkey to Ithaca, Greece- the list goes on! We run huge tours across countries and continents so having a GPS unit both we and our guests trust is extremely important. We also add in custom cues and points of Interest so guests know, direct from the Karoo, when important things like coffee and lunch are! We ensure the routes are perfect from the door of one hotel to the next, so both we know where all the guests are and they know where they are going!
Q: Which features of the Karoo do you find most powerful and useful for your tours?
The clarity of the screen and the simple nature of the navigation. The screen is fantastic, easily visible on the brightest days and sharp and crisp like a smartphone. The navigation is clear, precise and everyone can follow it, which is perfect for touring. The Karoo doesn't re-calculate or complicate navigation in any way which is perfect for us. We are also working now on integrating the Karoo tracking feature into all our tours so we can trace where guests are at all times (only on the bike of course!) This added level of safety is something we are really looking forward to integrating into our trips.
Q: Have you tried using other head units on your tours? How do they stack up against the Karoo?
Without naming brands, yes we have tried all the units available in the market and used some of them for years on our tours, as they were the best available at the time. However, we like to be ahead with technology so have always been on the lookout to improve this aspect of our journeys. Technology is such an important feature of all our lives and can certainly enhance a trip or do the opposite! For a very long time cycling GPS units seemed like they were 10 years behind - we had smartphones which were easy to use, had beautiful screens and worked without any issues, why couldn't there be a cycling GPS equivalent? This is why we were so happy to support Karoo and now use the devices on all our tours as it genuinely fills this void as a cycling GPS which has all the features you expect but performs like a smartphone rather than a computer out of the 1980s.
Q: How do your clients react when using the Karoo for the first time?
The riders who have used cycling GPS units before love it as they see its clear improvements over the other devices out there. Those who are new to cycling GPS units don't notice it and that is the ultimate compliment. It works without problem, essentially like they would expect out of a car GPS unit equivalent, gets them from a to b without fuss or complication. In the past with other devices, I'd carry 3 or 4 spare units in my back pocket to swap with riders when theirs went wrong!