Santa Cruz, one of the world’s most lusted-after bike brands, has released its first electric bike. Some might say late, but Santa Cruz has done things its way, not following trends and putting out something for the sake of it.
It wasn’t until Santa Cruz’s founder, Rob Roskop, started riding e-bikes and enjoying them – and a push from team athletes – that Santa Cruz took a serious interest in making an e-bike.
That’s not to say it was then a simple case of bolting on a battery and motor, the team has spent three years developing the reborn Heckler. “We really tested as much as we could, rode as much as we could, and we made sure it would ride as close to a Santa Cruz mountain bike as we could make it,” Todd Ford, Santa Cruz project manager, told us.
Why the rebirth of the Heckler? Well, the original Heckler was released in 1996 and was designed to elevate the rider’s trail experience, and that’s just what Santa Cruz is aiming for with the new Heckler.
Santa Cruz Heckler details
Santa Cruz’s first goal when setting out to make an e-bike was to build the most playful, agile and fun e-bike it could.
Its second goal was to make the bike as clean and good looking as possible, without batteries, cables and clutter on show.
Finally, the bike needed to be as reliable and serviceable as possible, in line with Santa Cruz’s lifetime warranty.
Santa Cruz started by looking at which bikes in its current line-up had the qualities that were as closely related to what it wanted to achieve with the Heckler, and settled on the Bronson. One of its most popular bikes.
So, the Heckler sports 150mm rear wheel travel, a 160mm fork and uses 27.5in wheels with 2.6in tyres.
For every model in the Heckler range, Santa Cruz has used its CC carbon frame, which uses a higher-grade fibre to achieve the same strength and stiffness as the cheaper C layup but for a lower weight.
This CC construction is used for both the front and rear triangles, plus the battery cover. This keeps the bike as light as possible and helps with that playful feeling Santa Cruz wanted.
The only metal in the frame is found in the battery mounts and threaded inserts for the drive unit. Santa Cruz was keen to keep any metal/carbon joints to a minimum to reduce the number of stress-rising junctions between the materials, which require overbuilding and add weight.
The frame features internal cable routing, which is accessible by removing the battery, to keep the look as clean as possible. The Heckler is also the first bike from Santa Cruz made direct-mount 200 compatible – so you can’t run a smaller rear rotor than 200mm, but you can go up to 220mm.
Santa Cruz has kept its hardware in the same style as its mountain bikes, including forged links, thru-axle designs and radial bearings for pivots. However, things have been ‘beefed’ up for the Heckler to increase chassis stiffness to accommodate the extra weight of the battery and motor.
While not strictly a frame detail, Santa Cruz has also made an e-bike handlebar. Because the mode switch uses a Di2 cable, a bar with a hole and groove was made to hide the cable inside, so there are no extra wires on show. This feature in on both sides, so if you wanted to run a Di2 shifter the wire for that can be hidden too.
The Hecklers’ handlebar dimensions are the same as Santa Cruz’s other trail bar: 800mm wide, 35mm diameter, 9-degree backsweep and 5-degree up.
An extra feature on the two top models is the inclusion of the new Reserve 27.5in downhill rear wheel. It features 32 spokes with a 31mm internal width and is stiffer than the regular Reserve 30, which Santa Cruz specs on the front.
SRAM announced all its Eagle products would be e-bike compatible at Sea Otter last year, and Santa Cruz is one of the first brands to take advantage of this. They’re neither using the 7-speed EX drivetrain nor the NX drivetrain (apart from on the lower-spec model) which don’t have the full 50-10t range, but are instead using these higher spec, e-bike specific drivetrains – GX, X01 and XX1 through the top three models – with the full range available.
Santa Cruz claims that even with the extra power from the motor, it works better when you have a higher cadence, so having this easier gear is the best way to get the most efficiency from the motor.
The shifters are also single-shift only to make sure there’s minimal gear crunching when changing with the extra motor power.
Santa Cruz Heckler motor and battery
Santa Cruz chose the Shimano E8000 drive unit for all Heckler models after testing everything it could get its hands on: Bosch, Yamaha, Brose, for example.
Santa Cruz pointed out how it liked the minimalist design of the displays and remotes on the Shimano unit and how accessible Shimano is worldwide; if you need a replacement, any Shimano dealer should be able to get it for you, and you don’t need to hunt down some obscure part.
The E8000 is currently Shimano’s top-of-the-line e-bike system and produces 250W output and 70Nm torque. Santa Cruz admitted some motors produce bigger numbers, but claimed it liked how the Shimano motor rides and its competitive weight at a claimed 2.8kg.
Shimano’s E-8035 integrated battery with 504Wh capacity is used, which is completely removable with a 4mm Allen key. Santa Cruz chose a 504Wh battery because it believes that for most people, it will provide as much riding as they’ll want, without being too heavy to affect the bike’s overall weight, and thus handling.
Plus, Santa Cruz claims that at 2.9kg, it’s possible to carry a spare in a backpack for those riders who want extra range.
For the displays, the two top models in the range get the E8000, which features a colour screen and graphic for the power output. The two lower models use the E7000, which is black and white, and a little smaller. All Heckler models use the E7000 mode switch, which is a subtle two-button remote that sits against the left-hand grip.
Both displays connect to Shimano’s E-TUBE Project app, available on both Apple and Android. The first thing it does when connected is run a diagnostics test and lets you know if any firmware updates are needed. It should also tell you the health of the battery, which after time will start to deteriorate, so you’ll know when you should look to replace it. These features are only available if you run a full Shimano system.
Santa Cruz Heckler geometry details
With the Bronson making the template for the Heckler, there are obvious similarities, but there are also a few changes because Santa Cruz developed this bike alongside its 29er range, including the Hightower.
The head angle sports a trail-friendly 65.5 degrees, while the effective seat tube is a little steeper than the Bronson’s at 76.1 degrees in a size medium. To keep the bike as playful as possible, Santa Cruz made the chainstays as short as it could at 445mm, which spans all five sizes.
The reach numbers are a touch longer than the Bronson, but 5mm shorter than the Hightower. Santa Cruz opted to do this because it believes you climb more seated when riding an e-bike, so a touch shorter reach is more comfortable.
The small size sports a 425mm reach, which jumps up in 20mm increments up to the large. The XL and XXL get a 25mm increase that tops out at a massive 515mm.
Seat tube lengths are sensible on the Heckler, which should allow most people to size up if they want to tame down the agile feeling of the bike for something more sure-footed.
Santa Cruz Heckler suspension details
Santa Cruz has invested a lot of time and development into its VPP suspension platform, and it was essential that the Heckler rode as close to its traditional bikes as possible. So it’s no surprise that the Heckler uses the same suspension platform and keeps a very recognisable Santa Cruz silhouette.
The Heckler uses its lower link suspension design but runs lower anti-squat than the Bronson. Santa Cruz wanted to keep the suspension as active as possible under seated pedalling to make sure the rear tyre has as much traction as possible. High anti-squat can cause the suspension to stiffen up and the wheel to skip, which loses contact with the ground and drive from the motor, which takes away the point of having the assistance.
It has kept the leverage rate almost identical to its other bikes and this leverage rate provides mid-stoke support. Even with the lower anti-squat, Santa Cruz claims it doesn’t sit down and sag into the suspension and have a significant wallowing effect. It helps maintain the bike’s geometry for comfortable climbing.
Using the full range of RockShox’ Super Deluxe rear shocks across the Heckler models, Santa Cruz has kept the shock tune very similar to the Bronson. After testing various configurations, it settled on what it already knew and thought was best.
Upfront, Santa Cruz is running e-bike-tuned Fox 36 forks, which range from Performance to Performance Elite and then Factory models. The E-Tune means the forks use different stanchions and an adjusted rebound tune.
The lowest spec bike comes with a RockShox Yari RC fork, which is already e-bike compatible. All forks are 160mm travel.
Santa Cruz Heckler models and pricing
First things first, the new Heckler should be available now.
Santa Cruz is releasing four models of the new Heckler: the R, S, X01 RSV and XX1 AXS RSV.
These come in two colours: Blackout, which is the same colour as last year’s Hightower but in a gloss finish, and a bolder Yellowjacket, which is a throwback to the first Bronson.
Santa Cruz Heckler CC R
The base model Heckler comes with a full CC carbon frame and Shimano’s E8000 motor and 504Wh battery. It features a RockShox Super Deluxe Select shock and Yari RC fork and uses a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain and Guide RE brakes. It rolls on WTB ST i29 rims with SRAM hubs and DT Swiss competition spokes, which are fitted with Maxxis DHR II 27.5 x 2.6 EXO+ tyres.
- £6,699 / $7,399 / €7,499
Santa Cruz Heckler CC S
The S model features the same frame and drive unit, but upgrades to a RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ shock and Fox 36 E-Float Performance fork. It also gets a SRAM GX drivetrain and Code R brakes. The tyres remain the same, but the wheels use RaceFace ARC HD 30 rims on DT Swiss 370 hubs and Competition spokes. It also get the RockShox Reverb dropper post.
- £7,699 / $8,399 / €8,599
Santa Cruz Heckler CC X01 RSV
Again, the X01 RSV model uses the same frame and motor as the previous models, but the suspension jumps up to an Ultimate model rear shock and Performance Elite model fork. SRAM X01 decks out the gearing and top-of-the-line Code RSC brakes provide plenty of power for slowing down. This model uses a Santa Cruz Reserve DH 27.5 rear wheel and standard Reserve 30 front wheel. Tyres remain the same.
- £9,999 / $10,899 USD / €11,199
Santa Cruz Heckler CC XX1 AXS RSV
This is the top-spec Heckler and comes dripping in premium parts. Once again, the frame and drive unit are the same as is the RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate rear shock, but now you get a Factory level fork. SRAM’s latest wireless electronic shifting AXS Eagle adds to the bling. The brakes are again Code RSCs, and it runs Santa Cruz’s Reserve wheels and uses the same Maxxis tyres. This model gets upgraded hubs to i9 Hydra models.
- £11,999 / $12,599 / €13,399