Santa Cruz has taken a while to bring an electric mountain bike to market, but the Heckler is here and is a bike designed for fun on the trails with 150mm rear travel, 160mm front and 27.5in wheels, and plenty of DNA from the popular Bronson.
Todd Ford, Santa Cruz’s project manager for the Heckler, told us it took the company a while to design an e-bike because there was little initial interest from within the company to produce one. But that changed when Santa Cruz founder Rob Roskopp started to test them, and some pushing from team athletes helped too.
Still, Santa Cruz didn’t rush out a bike and the Heckler has taken three years to develop, with a big emphasis on making it the most fun, playful and agile e-bike out there.
The new Santa Cruz Heckler X01 RSV sitting pretty at a cool £9,999.Max Schumann
Santa Cruz Heckler X01 RSV frame and suspension details
With a goal to make the most fun e-bike on the trails, Santa Cruz began looking at one of its favourite bikes, the Bronson, and the Heckler features 150mm of rear travel, 160mm front travel and 27.5in wheels, just like its sibling.
The frame on all models is full CC carbon. This is Santa Cruz’s higher quality carbon fibre that offers the same strength and stiffness as the C range but for less weight. This includes the front and rear triangles and the battery protector.
The Heckler features Santa Cruz’s highest spec carbon for the lowest weight.Max Schumann
It also features internal cable routing that’s housed in the down tube and accessible by removing the battery with a 4mm Allen key – keeping the bike’s lines clean, which was important to Santa Cruz.
The pivot hardware, including axles the bearings, have been beefed up to increase stiffness of the chassis to better deal with higher forces from the extra weight of the battery and motor.
Santa Cruz reduced the anti-squat on the Heckler compared to the Bronson to give better traction when climbing, so the rear wheel doesn’t lose grip and you don’t lose drive from the motor.
Otherwise, I was told the leverage curve is very similar, as is the shock tune, which Santa Cruz claims provides plenty of mid-stroke support and progression as you move deeper into the travel.
A RockShox Super Deluxe sits at the heart of the Heckler’s suspension, controlling its reduced anti-squat but similar leverage curve to the Bronson.
The Heckler X01 RSV uses a RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock and a Fox e-Float 36 Performance Elite fork. The e-tune Fox fork uses different stanchions and has an altered rebound tune.
Santa Cruz Heckler motor and battery details
Santa Cruz has chosen to use a full Shimano setup for the motor and battery, and spec the bike with the 250W, 70Nm torque E8000 drive unit and E-8035 504Wh integrated battery.
The display on the Heckler X01 RSV uses the E8000 model, which sees a colour screen that displays power usage. The remote is the E7000 model and features a subtle two-button design that sits next to the grip for a clean set up.
Shimano’s E8000 drive unit powers the Heckler with a 504Wh integrated Shimano battery.
This is connectable with Shimano’s E-TUBE Project app that not only lets you customise the assistance of the modes, but will also run firmware updates and diagnostics on battery health.
Santa Cruz didn’t want to have any extra clutter on the Heckler, so built a Di2 compatible carbon handlebar to hide the wires inside.
Internal wire routing through the handlebars keeps the Heckler’s cockpit clutter-free.Max Schumann
Santa Cruz Heckler X01 RSV geometry
One of the main geometry goals for the Heckler was keeping the wheelbase as short as possible to allow it to carve corners and keep the fun factor high.
For this, Santa Cruz made the chainstays as short as it could – very short 445mm – with a 65.5-degree head angle. These figures are the same across all sizes.
There are five sizes from S to XXL with reach numbers that start at a small 425mm and jump to a stretched out 515mm.
The seat tube lengths are all very reasonable too, so most riders should be able to span two sizes with the option to size up or down depending on preference. The medium I tested comes with a 405mm seat tube, but I would also easily fit the large with 430mm for my 5ft8in/173cm height and still have plenty of room for a long dropper post.
Santa Cruz has dropped the bottom bracket by 13mm, giving it a claimed BB height of 346mm. This isn’t the lowest around but is a good compromise between cornering stability and being able to pedal over rocky and rooty trails without too much concern for pedal strikes.
Santa Cruz Heckler X01 RSV specifications
As you can guess, the Heckler X01 RSV uses a full SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, including the cassette. SRAM announced all Eagle products to be e-bike compatible last year, and Santa Cruz has been one of the first brands to take advantage of this.
A thing to note is the X01 shifter is single click only, this is to make sure there’s no gear crunching from over shifting with the additional power of the motor.
Santa Cruz has been one of the first brands to use SRAM’s full range of Eagle groupsets on e-bikes. This X01 RSV model use SRAM’s 10-50t X01 Eagle cassette.
SRAM also takes care of the brakes with its top of the range Code RSCs and the 200mm rotors come as standard front and back to help slow down the extra weight.
The RSV in the title stands for Reserve wheels, which are fitted to this Heckler.
Another measure Santa Cruz took to increase the stiffness and reliability was fitting its Reserve DH 27.5 back wheel. This uses 32 spokes in the 31mm wide rim and is stiffer than the standard Reserve 30 front wheel.
For this build, DT Swiss provides its 350 hubs and Competition Race spokes. The wheels roll on tubeless Maxxis Minion DHR II 27.5 x 2.6 EXO+ tyres and use Stans sealant.
Santa Cruz has fitted the Reserve DH 27.5 wheel for stiffness and tubeless Maxxis DHR II tyres with EXO+ casing for good measure.Max Schumann
Other Santa Cruz products include its new Di2 handlebar, which features the same 800mm width and 9-degree back sweep and 5-degree up as its existing trail bar, plus Palmdale grips.
Otherwise, a saddle from WTB, stem from RaceFace and a Cane Creek headset finish off the build.
Santa Cruz Heckler X01 RSV first ride impressions
I was hosted in Calci, a small province of Pisa, Italy, tucked inland at the foot of the Monte Pisano Mountains to test the new Santa Cruz Heckler.
I rode a size medium and set the Super Deluxe shock at 30 per cent sag with 155psi and rebound two clicks from open.
I ran the Fox 36 forks at 70psi HSC fully open with four clicks of low-speed compression. Both high and low-speed rebound was set at three clicks from open. Due to the rocky terrain and weight of the bike I ran 26psi in the rear tyre and 22psi in the front on Maxxis’ EXO+ tyre casing. Oh, and it was wet.
Santa Cruz Heckler X01 RSV climbing performance
Shimano’s E8000 drive system sits at the heart of the Heckler. It’s a powerful, if somewhat noisy, motor that helps you claw your way up what would be near impossible on a traditional bike. Although for this ride I left the settings as standard – you can customise the motor’s modes in Shimano’s E-Tube app.
Trail mode on the Shimano motor actually changes its output depending on how much effort you put in: stamp on the pedals and it will give you more power; cruise along and it will tame it down.
I used this mode a lot for climbing and found it offered a very intuitive ride feel. The motor engagement was quick but not instant. Starting on steep climbs is possible with a bit of balance and rear brake control.
Using a higher cadence helps get the best efficiency out of the motor, but pedal strokes need to well-timed to avoid striking rocks.Max Schumann
One thing to note is that the motor is most efficient when pedalling at higher cadences. More low effort pedal strokes will get the best out of the motor rather than churning hard gears with low revs. This is all very good on smooth terrain but can become a touch trickier when riding over rocky or technical terrain where you need to watch your pedal placement.
There were a few pedal strikes during the first day on the bike, especially when trying to negotiate tricky uphill sections.
The Heckler climbs well thanks to its 76.2-degree effective seat-tube angle, which made pedalling on longer, smoother climbs comfortable, and placed me in a good position between the wheels when things got steeper.
Even in the wet conditions, thanks to the low anti-squat, finding traction wasn’t too much of a problem. Yes, there were lots of slick rocks that caused the tyre to spin, but most of the time when there was dirt to dig into, there was traction.
A little rear brake on technical uphill corners can help keep the motor’s power under control, and aid balance.Max Schumann
Tight sections, and using Boost mode, definitely require a little back brake control, which can make a big difference to your stability around nasty switchbacks.
Ploughing up sections of double track and fire road is easy, comfortable and a breeze with the extra assistance.
Santa Cruz Heckler X01 RSV descending performance
If Santa Cruz was aiming for a fun, playful e-bike, it got one. The 27.5in and relatively short wheelbase made this bike easy to play around on in the turns. A few of the tracks I rode seemed purpose-built to show off this quality with lots of tight switchbacks.
The bike is happy – as a full-bore e-bike can be – to be thrown around corners thanks to the smaller wheels and trail-friendly geometry.
It maintained its composure well, never really under or oversteering. It does come with a low front-end, which helped add urgency to its cornering, a trait I quite like. But there is room to add more spacers under the stem if needed, but those looking for a high front-end might need to change the bars.
Given its weight, the bike never felt like a chore to handle even through the trickiest trails, and I think it’s a benefit to have the motor and shock so low in the frame, keeping the centre of mass right where you want it.
The Heckler lets you lean it through the corners thanks to its agile geometry.Max Schumann
Of course, when braking on steeper turns, all e-bikes require a little more forward-thinking to slow down in time. Even though SRAM’s Code RSCs did a good job, a few times I found myself hanging onto the brakes longer on the entry of corners than I would have liked – more rider misjudgement than anything else.
The lower anti-squat gives the Heckler a supple feel on the trail, but there’s plenty of progression to stop the bike feeling like it wallows through its travel. In fact, Todd Ford runs his with 33 per cent sag. I never found like that was necessary for the descents, but if you want to get the most traction possible it might be a benefit.
Fox’s 160mm Float e-bike fork instilled confidence in the front-end when hitting choppy trails and gave the whole bike a little more assurance than standard 150mm travel forks, found on the likes of Specialized’s Turbo Levo, for example, which I believe hold that bike back.
When things got rocky, the 160mm Fox E-Float 36 Performance Elite fork provided plenty of front end confidence.
Even though the Heckler has agility covered, it’s still happy to plough through rough terrain if you let it. The capable forks, supportive rear-end and e-bike weight mean it has some firepower for blasting over rowdy rocks and letting you truck on without much hesitation.
One of the best compliments I can give this bike is how easy it is to jump and ride, it’s got a handling characteristic that will allow a lot of people to easily get the most out of the bike they can.
Hitting bigger features will find the limit of the 150mm trail-orientated bike.Max Schumann
The bike’s 150mm travel does have its limits though, and bigger jumps and drops will find them. It’s not quite as burly as a YT Decoy and if you’re looking for your own uplift for downhill laps it will outshine the Heckler.
There’s no option for a range extender either, so if you’re looking for more capacity, you’ll have to carry an extra battery.
Santa Cruz Heckler X01 RSV early verdict
A very fun and capable e-bike that will tear up the trails and burn holes in your pockets.