Santa Cruz Heckler Review

July 28, 2020

Santa Cruz Heckler Review
Our Rating - 4.5/5
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The Santa Cruz Heckler is a great combination of sturdy, reliable-built and powerful motor neatly packed in a sleek, well-designed mountain e-bike that will, overcome almost all obstacles you lay in front of him. 

It is so straightforward to use and control - even an amateur will be able to conquer it in no time. 
But, be aware of its hefty price!

Santa Cruz Heckler - In-Depth Review

This model is one of the newest eMTB  models on the market.


Honestly, this is the first eMTB model that comes from the Santa Cruz brand. They are a bit late, considering eMTB's are widely popular nowadays.

Since Santa Cruz is very popular among mountain bikers, I get that they needed to take some time and design the best possible machine that they could. This was a highly anticipated lease so I will check out in this review if the Santa Cruz Heckler was worth the wait (and the money)


Key Specs

Weight

21.09kg / 46.5lbs

Frame 

Carbon CC

Tire Size

27.5 Inches

Motor

Shimano DU-E8000 250W

Battery

Shimano E-8035 504Wh Integrated

Range

Up To 150km (93miles)

Max Speed

20 Miles Per Hour

Brakes

SRAM Code RSC Hydraulic Disc

Now that you’ve seen how the Santa Cruz looks on paper, let's have a closer look at the specs.

Frame

The manufacturers from Santa Cruz modified the body of their most popular model Bronson and made what we know now as a Santa Cruz Heckler. Their goal was to create a lower-suspension mountain bike that will offer a lot of versatility, fun, and make the bike lightweight yet able to oppose all the obstacles it might run on to.

Santa Cruz Heckler Review

The frame is full CC carbon - this is higher quality carbon fiber that offers the strength and sturdiness as the C range carbon frame, but it sports less weight.

The Heckler features 150 mm of rear travel, as well as 160 mm of front travel. It also has a 27.5 inch wheels so you can see how his older sibling Bronson was an inspiration.

The manufacturer used a combination of RockShox Super Deluxe Select rear shock and RockShox Yari RC suspension fork on Heckler R model. 

Heckler S and Heckler X01 RSV models sport a combination of  RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate rear shock and Fox e-Float 36 Performance Elite shock suspension fork.

The Heckler uses a RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock as well as Fox e-Float 36 Performance Elite fork. (Depending on the model you get, R, S, or X01RSV)

The main difference is that the Fox e-Float fork uses different stanchions and has an altered rebound tune. This will reduce the anti-squat effect, significantly providing you with better traction when climbing so you won't risk losing grip on the rear wheel or drive from the motor.

What I love is how clean the frame of the bike is. They have achieved that using internal cable routing that has been located in the down tube. You will be able to access the cables when you remove the battery.

Santa Cruz Heckler Review - Frame & Wiring

The Santa Cruz developed their own handlebar and a rear rim specifically for this model. The handlebar also features internal cable routing for the Shimano STEPS system display and remote.

What I first noticed is that the riding position on all three Heckler versions is slightly stretched back. All saddles are WTB Silverado, and the main differences between these varieties are in their shape, amount of padding, design, and position. 

The Heckler R model comes with WTB Silverado Race Saddle. On the other hand, the Heckler S sports WTB Silverado Pro Saddle. At the same time, Heckler X02 RSV model comes equipped with the best of them all the WTB Silverado Team Saddle, the one specifically designed for trail and enduro riders.

What I first noticed is that the riding position on the Santa Cruz Heckler is slightly stretched to the back. You will need to push the saddle forward to avoid sitting too far above the rear wheel on the steeper climbs. The reason for this is the moderate seat tube angle, which in my opinion, should be steeper considering this model is crafted for overcoming steep hills and climbs. Taller riders will appreciate this for sure. 

Motor

Santa Cruz has chosen to use a full Shimano setup for the motor and battery to be the heart of this fantastic bike, which is a considerably good decision for their first-ever eMTB. Be prepared though - this engine is somewhat noisy.

The Shimano Steps E8000 motor offers 250 W of power and a 70Nm torque E8000 drive unit with 504 W integrated battery, but I will talk about the battery a bit later. 

You will be able to climb steep hills and conquer any hard terrain, considering how easy it is to boost the speed with this powerful motor.

You can hit an approximately top speed of 20 mph, which is more than enough for a fun off-road ride.

The E7000 color display on the Heckler is pretty large and convenient to use, and it will display the power usage, speed, and current mode you are in. The remote is the E7000 model, which features a two-button design located next to the grip for a clean set up. You can set up four different modes: Eco, Trail, Boost and Walk.

Eco consumes the least amount of power, and you should use it when you want to conquer long ranges. The Trail mode is excellent for trail riding when you progressively boost up the energy as you increase your pedaling cadence.

Boost mode is compelling, and it will provide considerable pedal-assistance for speeds up to 20 mph. The walk mode should be used as the name says, when you are off the bike, and you need a bit extra help when you walk to push the bike along.

The display is connectable with Shimano E-TUBE Project app. This app will let you customize the modes' assistance, run firmware updates, and diagnostics on battery health.

Battery

The powerful Shimano DU-E8000 motor can't perform as well as expected if it is not paired with a somewhat compatible battery.

The Santa Cruz's makers decided to go for a Shimano E-8035 504 W integrated battery. Unfortunately, their choice isn't the best. In my opinion, they should have gone with a battery that can provide more juice for the bike as powerful as this one. 

So if you are about to tackle an all-day ride, you should consider investing in a spare battery since this capacity can withstand only 4000-foot climb ride.

Considering there are four different modes to choose from, battery life is highly variable. When you are out hitting intensive climbs on a Trail mode, you can't expect the battery to run for more than 30 miles.

On the other hand, if you are in a Boost mode conquering very steep hills, your battery will die on you after the 13th mile, unfortunately.

So I highly recommend purchasing at least one spare battery to carry around with you. This is a significant downside if you ask me, considering the price tag placed on this model.

Drivetrain and brakes

This e-bike is not the average e-bike that you used to commute around the city. The Heckler is an aggressive trail bike that comes in three different varieties - it is available in S, R, and X01 RSV version. They all use a full SRAM X01 Eagle 12 speed drivetrain without the slightest difference in performance. Anyhow, you can effortlessly switch between 12 different speeds considering the shifter is single click model, so there is no risk of crunching or losing any gear on a fast descent.

The Santa Cruz as well used SRAM Eagle cassettes and chains throughout the whole line. All three different varieties come equipped with the 12-speed Eagle cassettes and 34-tooth Shimano chainring. This high-quality gearing combo will provide the best performance when you need it the most - when tackling hills you encounter on your way.

Also, SRAM takes care of the brakes - each Heckler model features a different type of brakes, so I will try to explain how each type works. 

The Heckler R sports SRAM Guide R brakes that are designed to offer superb stopping power, considering the constant use of higher speeds as well as increased weight of the e-bike.

The Heckler S model sports SRAM Code R brakes that are more suitable for downhill riders than for enduro riders and e-bike riders. But considering how powerful they are, lately, there have been more models of e-bikes and trail bikes that come equipped with these bad boys. The main difference between Code and Guide breaks is that the Code brakes get 30% more fluid, so they reduce the heat build-up way better.

Lastly, the Heckler X01 RSV model features SRAM Code RSC brakes known as the best gravity-fed brakes. They are also heavier and crafted with durability in mind so that they will withstand crashes with ease.

The breaks feature 200mm rotors on both front and back to help you slow down immediately, even with the extra weight. You can be sure that this combination of the drive system and efficient hydraulic brakes will let you drive further and faster.

Rims

The Heckler sports a Santa Cruz Reserve 30 V2 27.5″ Carbon Rims.

Santa Cruz Heckler Review - 2020

The reserve means they are individually crafted for Santa Cruz Heckler and that they fit correctly, providing safety and stability. 

These wheels will keep things easy to maneuver and offer stability on rocky roads since they feature the 65.5-degree head angle.

The hubs are DT Swiss and Industry9 which are very well known as super dependable under heavy loads especially when the extra torque of the motor-assist is available. Also, all Reserve wheels have a lifetime warranty, which is a great thing.

One more thing - Santa Cruz also increased the stiffness and reliability on the back wheel. This means they made the back wheel stiffer than the front wheel using 32 spokes in the 31 mm wide rim.

Tires

At first glance, you will see that this model does not feature fat tires as most mountain e-bikes do. The Santa Cruz Heckler e-bike instead sports mighty tubeless Maxxis Minion DHR II 27.5 x 2.6 EXO+ tires. The tires' width is 2.6 inches, which is more than enough to provide a stable and bouncy ride. The transition between the grass, rocky road, and concrete won't be much noticeable thanks to the tread print on tires.


What Do I Like About Heckler?

Like I already mentioned, Santa Cruz Heckler is an enhanced Santa Cruz Bronson, so if you've been riding this monster, you know what am I talking about.

Get ready to have a lot of fun cruising on this eMTB. Unlike with Bronson, Heckler features a geometry that is not adjustable.

Luckily, Heckler is not too big or too small, and it comes in five different sizes so you can be sure you will find the perfect fit.

The thing that impressed me the most is the agility of this bike and how well it handles the rough terrain. The suspension is lively, and you will feel safe throughout all the rides thanks to:

  • the sturdy and capable fork, 
  • supportive rear-end,
  • anti-squat feature,
  • RockShox super deluxe select suspension on both front and rear wheel,
  • the actual weight of this e-bike

The powerful motor delivers power smoothly, allowing this bike to roll through chunky roads with easy like it's some kind of magic. Without you noticing it, the power ramps up; there will be no on/off situations you might have experienced with some other models.

No matter if you are a pro or a newbie, it is insane how easy it is to jump and ride with this bike thanks to its short wheelbase. Those who need an e-bike to play on the trail will benefit from owning this model.  

Considering the lightweight and high-quality build, you will be in a position to control the Santa Cruz's Heckler without any significant effort. In case anything happens to your frame, you will be glad to know that Santa Cruz's models come with a lifetime warranty, which is a great thing considering you will pay a small fortune for this bike.

What I want to praise on is the sleek look of this bike. I love that they used internal cable routing, making this e-bike look flawless. The whole bike is super user-friendly. You won't have a hard time switch through speeds and modes on your display, or even when you connect your bike and E-TUBE Project app - everything will run seamlessly.

PROS

  • Agility
  • Powerful Shimano motor and Shimano gearing
  • User-friendly
  • Lifetime warranty on the frame
  • High quality built with a lot of attention given to details

What I Don’t Like About Heckler?

The first thing I want to mention is the position of the seat. It is slightly uncomfortable to find a suitable position on it when you are riding up steep hills. You will have to get up and out of the saddle to be able to climb, which can be very tiring. This is something that you do not expect from an eMTB.

The other thing is the battery life. The 504 W battery is just not powerful enough to juice up this beast on longer runs. And, is there a point of having an excellent trail mountain bike if you are limited with how long it can last you? There is not! So if you decide to purchase this model, you make sure you buy an extra battery to carry around with you or risk getting flat out in the middle of the fun and joy.

The price for this Santa Cruz's model is outrageous, especially when we consider that the battery is not the best. Overall this bike features an excellent build, and it sports a lot of useful features, but is that enough to justify the price? 

I'll let you be the judge. 

Cons

  • The angle of the seat tube
  • Battery life
  • Price


Advice to Buyers

This Santa Cruz bike is specifically designed for trail rides, so if you are not interested in having that kind of fun, it would be a great shame to buy this model and not use it for what it was built for. The good news for all Santa Cruz enthusiasts out there is that this model will offer you everything you already got used to from this manufacturer, just spiced up with some extra power and boost.


Conclusion

Don't get me wrong; the Santa Cruz Heckler is an impressive machine - I honestly did enjoy riding it. The handling is a breeze, and you will be safe on this bike throughout the ride. But when it comes to overcoming very steep hills, you will find out that this eMTB is not almighty as it seems.

I would love to see a bit more innovation in Heckler, considering this model is quite late to the show and only recently launched, it can offer you the same performance as some older high-end eMTB models.

About the author

Ruaan is an electrical engineer born in South Africa and currently working in Oslo, Norway. He loves tech and gadgets and owns an electric car (Tesla) as well a front-wheel-drive electric bike. He rides his bike all year, even through snow and ice covered roads in the cold winter.

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