Santa Cruz Heckler R AM review£2,399.00

A trustworthy, tough trail frame

BikeRadar score4/5Find prices on Bicycle Blue Book

Santa Cruz’s current-generation Heckler was introduced back in 2007, but its entertaining and encouraging performance makes it a true trail evergreen.

Ride & handling: Versatile machine with rider reactive feedback and rock-solid reliability

What marks the Heckler out on the trail is its agility and interactivity. The medium size is a very short-reach frame, which makes it a bike you’ll naturally move about a lot on. This keys into relatively quick steering.

The simple swingarm suspension system stiffens under power and drops the nose under braking. This results in a feedback rich and very responsive bike that reacts noticeably to almost everything you do on it. The direct power feel means it never seems as heavy as it actually is (13.13kg/28.94lb) on the trail either

This leaves it perfectly happy on black downhill runs or long day rides. Pedal bob and the constant interaction won’t appeal to riders who like a neutral bike, but if you like to attack the trail dynamically it’s one of those bikes that just feels right.

The 150mm-travel RockShox Revelation fork on our test bike tips the Heckler's angles back enough to add a bit more stability than your average trail bike, but if you’re mostly about murdering the downhills we’d go for a 160mm fork such as a RockShox Lyrik or Fox 36 to knock the head angle back another degree.

Frame & equipment: Old chassis lacks the latest features but it's trustworthy and tough

The Heckler frame is stiff enough and really nicely put together. The frameset's age does have some downsides, though – it has a conventional head tube, restricting you to straight fork steerers, and there are no remote seatpost cable clips or ISCG mounts. If you really want those features, Santa Cruz’s new Butcher is a fully up to date and outstandingly stiff frame for £400 more.

As it is, the Heckler's ovalised kinked top tube gives plenty of standover a and conveniently reached shock position. Asymmetric high chainstays swing on pivots just above and ahead of the down tube. The squared seatstays loop up from the big open dropouts then twist as they roll down inwards towards a shared seam above the pivot terminals.

There’s masses of mudroom and a removable rear derailleur plate that also includes a hook for opening your post-ride beer. The Santa Cruz has a really nice seatpost quick-release collar and comes in black or lime green.

The frame-and-Fox-shock-only price is a very reasonable £899. The cheapest full build with RockShox Sektor fork is only £1,999. For an extra £400 you get the model we tested, with a Revelation 15mm Maxle fork plus 30-speed Shimano XT/SLX transmission and a durable Hope hub upgrade at the centre of WTB rims. Easton and Truvativ finishing kit is all acceptable gear too, with no obvious shortcuts to get in the way of your ride.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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