Santa Cruz Heckler gets big battery and big wheel makeover

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The 2nd generation of the electric Heckler gets bigger everything – apart from suspension. The 150mm travel gets big wheels, bigger battery, bigger geometry and some pretty big price tags.

Santa Cruz Heckler vital stats

  • 150mm travel ebike (160mm fork)
  • 29in wheels, or mullet/MX (or full 27.5in wheel on Small)
  • Carbon CC or Carbon C models
  • Shimano EP8 system
  • 720Wh battery
  • 64.5° head angle
  • Longer reach and longer chainstays (461mm)
  • Prices from £6,999 to £11,699

Go straight to our first ride review of the new Santa Cruz Heckler.

The Heckler name first appeared in Santa Cruz’s catalogue back in 1996. Back then it was a pioneering 100mm travel full suspension American trail bike in the era when Canadian hardtails ruled (in the UK at least).

A mk2 Heckler from 1997

The Heckler name was kept in use for several years. It was the single pivot trail with a healthy amount of travel. The Heckler then disappeared in 2016. Santa Cruz left single pivot bikes behind and moved towards the wholesale use of VPP on their full suspension bikes.

Then in early 2020 the Heckler came back. As an ebike. Santa Cruz may try to explain the adoption of the Heckler name for some other ‘it’s the new trail bike’ reasonings, but it was clearly chosen as a pre-emptive comment on ebike haters. And an excellent name choice it is.

New Heckler: Plug in baby

The electric Heckler was initially marketed as the electric version of their super popular Bronson: the 2020 Heckler was a 150mm travel 27.5in wheel bike.

It sported a Shimano E8000 motor with a 504wh battery. And it was only available in Santa Cruz’s top end CC carbon. Later on in 2020, Santa Cruz offered the Heckler in a mixed wheel/mullet/MX option. It was also in late 2020 that Santa Cruz also came out with the new Bullit. Another retired model name getting an electric rebirth.

New Heckler: Big battery is removeable

The Bullit was/is a 170mm travel ebike with mixed wheels, the (then new) Shimano EP8 motor and a 630wh battery. The Bullit is still best thought of as the more overtly rowdy ebike. It’s a plaything for gravity enthusiasts, self-shuttlers or general enduro-heads looking to maximise their descending time.

So how does this new 2022 Heckler fit into things then?

Non-Shimano power button is a clue to what’s inside

Much like the previous Heckler, it’s an ebike that may not offer anything obviously pioneering but it arrives as a very well thought through and constructed modern mountain bike.

The new Heckler is still a 150mm travel trail bike but now it’s a 29er. Okay, it is also available in mixed wheel sizes and even a full 27.5in wheel in the Small size, but it’s the full 29er that looks to be main focus.

Here’s a shot of the empty down tube

We’ll get into the spec of this here £11,699 XO1 AXS RSV model Heckler later but we should point out that the 2022 Heckler range starts from £6,999.

And while it doesn’t appear there’s any plans for Santa Cruz to make any of their ebikes out of aluminium [see our mini interview with Santa Cruz e-ngineer Todd Ford below for more about this decision], the new Heckler is going to be available in their more-affordable C grade carbon.

Neatly secreted wheel sensor

While the 2022 Heckler uses Shimano’s EP8 motor – nothing surprising there – but they’ve opted to pair it with a non-Shimano battery.

Santa Cruz have felt the pulse of the e-bike market and have observed, like us, that the scene is dividing into two clear segments. Lighter weight, lower power e-bikes and full-fat e-bikes with big-as-possible batteries.

Bespoke handlebars hide the display/control cabling

The new Heckler squarely fits into the latter with a generous 720wh battery. It’s not a Shimano battery – they don’t currently offer one that suits – but it doesn’t void any warranty of the Shimano stuff on the bike.

The battery fits inside the down tube and is removable for more convenient recharging. All that you need is a 4mm Allen key.

Yay for bottle bosses

Regarding the Shimano EP8 itself, it’s worth pointing out that the system comes pre-tweaked by Santa Cruz. Instead of coming set-up with the usual Shimano presets, the Heckler comes with a setting that Santa Cruz prefers.

Essentially, Santa Cruz felt that Shimano’s pre-set Trail mode was a bit too close to the Boost mode. The two issues here being that this eats up more power as well as making Boost feel rather unimpressive.

Understated head badge

The idea of Santa Cruz’s setting is to have Trail as ‘strong enough’ and Boost feeling like Boost. Having ridden the Heckler, we have to admit that we think Santa Cruz have it right. Obviously, if you disagree – or have your own ideas – you can just fire up the Shimano E-Tube app and set things how you want them.

Now then. Geometry.

Whereas the previous Heckler looked rather conservative or even timid on paper, the new Heckler sports much more reassuring numbers.

The head angle is 64.5°. The seat angle is 76.7°. The reach on this XL is 492mm.

The chain stays have grown quite a bit, from 445mm to 461mm. And, as well as the difference in suspension travel, it’s the chain stay measurement that arguably more clearly delineates the new Heckler from the Bullit.

Dinky mudguard for the rear shock

The Bullit is still the longer travel play bike for those who like to love back wheel more than they love going back up the hill. The new Heckler is arguably better thought of as the electric version of the Santa Cruz Hightower. A high mileage machine that can still handle fun tracks and technical ascents.

What else is new on the Heckler?

Shock tunnel has been enlarged to accept more shock types

The head tube has got a bit shorter. Again, to help its considerable uphill prowess. The shock tunnel is wider. This is both to make it accommodate more types of piggyback shock as well making it easier to work on any shock down there.

And yes, you can run coil shocks on the new Heckler.

Compared to its non-assisted siblings, the Heckler has beefed up pivot inserts and radial bearings to better cope with the heavier weight of ebikes.

The suspension kinematic is also a bit different to non-electric Santa Cruzs. There’s less anti-squat. Obviously the fact that you have a motor means you can trade in some pedal efficiency in exchange for some extra suspension grip.

With the more supple suspension, longer chainstays, longer reach and lower front end the new Heckler is by far the most capable technical climbing bike Santa Cruz have made. Electric or otherwise!

Santa Cruz Heckler R, £6,999

  • Frame: C Carbon 150mm
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select
  • Fork: RockShox Lyrik Select 160mm
  • Drivetrain: SRAM NX Eagle 12sp
  • Drive unit: Shimano EP8 85Nm
  • Battery: 720Wh
  • Seatpost: SDG Tellis (S: 125, M: 150, L-XXL: 175mm)
  • Rims/hubs: WTB ST i30 TCS 2.0/SRAM MTH
  • Front tyre/rear tyre: Maxxis Assegai 2.5 MaxxGrip EXO/Maxxis Minio DHRII 2.4 MaxxTerra EXO+

Santa Cruz Heckler S, £7,999

  • Frame: C Carbon 150mm
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select+
  • Fork: Fox 36 Float Performance 160mm
  • Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle 12sp
  • Drive unit: Shimano EP8 85Nm
  • Battery: 720Wh
  • Seatpost: SDG Tellis (S: 125, M: 150, L-XXL: 175mm)
  • Rims/hubs: RaceFace ARC HD 30/DT Swiss 370
  • Front tyre/rear tyre: Maxxis Assegai 2.5 MaxxGrip EXO/Maxxis Minion DHRII 2.4 MaxxTerra EXO+

Santa Cruz Heckler XT, £8,999

  • Frame: C Carbon 150mm
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select+
  • Fork: Fox 36 Float Performance Elite 160mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT M8100 12sp
  • Drive unit: Shimano EP8 85Nm
  • Battery: 720Wh
  • Seatpost: Fox Transfer Perf Elite (S: 125, M: 150, L: 175, XL-XXL: 200mm)
  • Rims/hubs: RaceFace ARC HD 30/DT Swiss 350
  • Front tyre/rear tyre: Maxxis Assegai 2.5 MaxxGrip EXO/Maxxis Minio DHRII 2.4 MaxxTerra EXO+

Santa Cruz Heckler GX AXS, £9,999

HyperFocal: 0
  • Frame: C Carbon 150mm
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select+
  • Fork: Fox 36 Float Performance Elite 160mm
  • Drivetrain: SRAM GX AXS Eagle 12sp
  • Drive unit: Shimano EP8 85Nm
  • Battery: 720Wh
  • Seatpost: Fox Transfer Perf Elite (S: 125, M: 150, L: 175, XL-XXL: 200mm)
  • Rims/hubs: RaceFace ARD HD 30/Industry Nine 1/1
  • Front tyre/rear tyre: Maxxis Assegai 2.5 MaxxGrip EXO/Maxxis Minio DHRII 2.4 MaxxTerra EXO+

Santa Cruz Heckler XO1 AXS RSV, £11,699

  • Frame: CC Carbon 150mm
  • Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate
  • Fork: Fox 36 Float Factory E-Tune 160mm
  • Drivetrain: SRAM XO1 AXS Eagle 12sp
  • Drive unit: Shimano EP8 85Nm
  • Battery: 720Wh
  • Seatpost: Fox Transfer Factory (S: 125, M: 150, L: 175, XL-XXL: 200mm)
  • Rims/hubs: Reserve Carbon 30 Front/ DH rear/ Industry Nine 1/1
  • Front tyre/rear tyre: Maxxis Assegai 2.5 MaxxGrip EXO/Maxxis Minio DHRII 2.4 MaxxTerra EXO+

We sent a few quick questions over to Todd Ford (lead engineer on the Heckler):

How is suspension different to non-ebike? More progressive? Less anti-squat?

TF: “We strive to get a pretty supportive feel from all of our VPP bikes, so with Heckler 9 we stuck with a progressive leverage curve similar to our pedal bikes to give support, especially for aggressive riding styles and terrain. We did lower the anti-squat a bit in certain areas of travel, which aids in climbing traction and overall bump sensitivity. We find that the added torque from the drive unit lends itself well to lower anti-squat.”

What exactly is the difference between CC and C carbons?

TF: “C and CC frames are differentiated by the amount of high modulus carbon used in the frame layup. High modulus carbon is stiffer than standard modulus carbon at the same weight, therefore you don’t need to use as much material to achieve similar frame stiffness goals. It’s also much more expensive. On our C frames we focus on both value and strength, which means a compromise to frame weight. With our CC frames our focus is on the best possible stiffness to weight ratio while retaining the same strength as our C frames, which we are able to do by utilizing more high modulus carbon.”

Feels like Heckler is now more like an e-Hightower than an e-Bronson? Would you agree?

TF: “Interesting assessment! I think it really comes down to which wheel size you choose. I personally think the Heckler MX rides similarly to the new Bronson, mainly because of the MX wheels and similar geo. I could definitely see some similarities to the Hightower when compared to the Heckler 29 though, they both maintain speed super well and have excellent roll-over characteristics over obstacles.”

Why no alloy ebikes from Santa Cruz?

TF: “Part of the reason we love the way this new Heckler rides, and how the Heckler [Mk1] and Bullit ride, is because we pay very close attention to frame stiffness, strength and weight. By designing the frames out of carbon, we can ensure that we’re getting those stiffness numbers that we’re looking for, but also keeping complete bike weights in check. We’ve ridden quite a few alloy e-MTBs and the weight is very noticeable.”

Read our first ride review of the new Santa Cruz Heckler.

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Comments (1)

    Pretty good line up from Santa Cruz for the Heckler now, the last line up was a bit of a weird one, the bottom model with a Shimano E7000 motor and bottom end kit, now at least you can get a SC Heckler for less than £7000 that’s got a decent motor, battery, frame and fork, so you can build it up over time if you wish to a better spec.
    Also makes the SC premium a little less with the competition getting more expensive.

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