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2023 Santa Cruz Heckler CC X01 AXS MX Reserve E-Bike

Vital Rating: (Excellent)
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2023 Santa Cruz Heckler CC X01 AXS MX Reserve (Gloss Avocado)
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Vital Long-Term Review - 2023 Santa Cruz Heckler eMTB

An incredible e-bike with a price for those not faint of heart.

Rating: Vital Review
Vital Long-Term Review - 2023 Santa Cruz Heckler eMTB

Previously, the Heckler was the top pick in our 2020 eMTB shootout as it was hands down the most confidence-inspiring, rowdy, and fun to ride when pointed downhill. Had you asked us what would we want in the next generation, the 2022 Heckler satisfies that checklist. It has increased brapability with its mixed wheels paired with a slightly more relaxed head angle, SRAM wireless AXS drivetrain, and increased range with a 720Wh battery powering the Shimano EP8 motor. We gave it our best effort to sift out any weaknesses by putting this Heckler through the wringer over the course of four months. Let’s dive in and confirm the results!

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Highlights

  • Carbon fiber frame
  • MX 29 and 27.5-inch wheels
  • 150mm (5.9-inches) of rear-wheel travel // 160mm (6.2-inches) fork travel
  • VPP suspension design
  • Tapered headtube
  • Guided internal cable routing
  • Universal derailleur hanger
  • Shimano EP8 motor
  • 720 Wh battery
  • Small-XXL frames
  • Coil shock compatible
  • Flip-chip changes geo and suspension curve
  • Boost 148 rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size medium, no pedals): 49 pounds (22.2kg)
  • MSRP $14,249USD (as tested)

Strengths

  • Adjustable geometry and suspension curve options enhance rider preference stoke
  • 720Wh battery range
  • Updated charge port with improved cover 
  • Mixed wheel stoke
  • AXS wireless shifting
  • Reserve wheels lifetime support
  • Superb trail handling
  • Cornering performance

Weaknesses 

  • Tire casing is not ideal for aggressive DH terrain 
  • FOX 36 has pronounced fore and aft flex under braking
  • We broke a rear wheel
  • A wider saddle is welcomed

Santa Cruz has some of the cleanest aesthetics and trend-setting colorways in the game. The Heckler falls right in line with similar symmetry, lower link VPP, and low center mass as their current family of trail bikes. Top it off with attention to details like clean internal cable routing, coil shock compatibility, ideal water bottle cage placement, universal derailleur hanger, easy access for rear shock tuning, and a functional shock crud guard. However. one peculiar detail we immediately identified is that the motor power button is located directly under the Super Deluxe shock which can be awkward to access for riders with large paws. That said, we’d take easy access to shock clickers over the power button every time.

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Geometry

In short, the geometry of the Heckler provides a playful platform that satisfies our inner Goldilocks- it was not too long or too short. The size medium was just right! The ample 455mm reach, relaxed 64.8-degree head angle (in the high setting), and 445mm rear center paired nicely with the mixed-wheel combo and gave us a sense of fine balance for climbing and attacking downhills. We’ll dig into how this all played out on the trail later. It’s safe to say reach numbers for the size medium have settled into what used to be large(ish) and we welcome this approach. Overall, the Heckler offers a balance keeping the rider neutral and we didn’t feel an urge to exaggerate effort to get our weight over the front or rear axle.

Heckler MX Geo

Setup

Griz weighs in at 190lbs or roughly 200lbs with gear and generally runs a stiffer fork and supple rear shock to suit his unique physical needs so his setup will differ from the suggested settings. He ended up setting the fork at 95psi which is recommended for his weight range and ran low-speed compression 8-clicks from closed, high-speed compression 1-click from closed, and both high-speed rebound and low-speed rebound at 6 clicks from closed which is quicker than the recommended 3-5 clicks from closed. The Super Deluxe shock was pumped up to 200Psi at 30% sag with LSC 9-clicks from closed and rebound 6-clicks from closed. It’s also worth noting the Heckler features a flip-chip at the lower shock linkage which we ran in the high setting for the duration of testing as it best suited southwestern Idaho trails.

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Considering the updated reach and head angle numbers, we opted for a size medium (Vital tested the previous generation Heckler in large) and did not feel the need to make any stem length adjustments. Our primary test rider, Griz, prefers a 780mm wide bar but sufficed by riding with his hands to the inside of the grips. Aside from that minor detail, we did not make any drastic changes to suit our preference and felt comfortable with 30mm of stack.

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With respect to the motor, we did feel some areas were lacking. When riding, we spent most of the time in Boost, spinning at 80-95 rpm cadence and the remaining time descending in Trail mode. The EP8 motor feels flat on punchy climbs when compared to its competitors like Bosch regardless of tuning options in the Steps app. If there is one standout weakness it is the Shimano EP8 power plant. Putting it bluntly, there are stronger motor options on the market.

Bonk!

On The Trail

Winter in Idaho limited testing initially to cross country riding in a frozen desert until some more choice areas thawed out for us to get a feel of the Heckler on some flowy singletrack and bike park trails. Then we let Logan abuse the Heckler at Little Gem down some steep moto hill climbs and various off-road moto trails where he confirmed the Heckler is capable of thrashing 50:01 style. When Logan passed the bike back to Griz for more testing, he joined Kyle Warner for a Trail 4 lap (as seen in our 2020 e-MTB shootout) to Hulls Gulch which is a mix of high-speed moto whoops that serve as trail gaps, banked turns and a few chundery rock gardens. Ultimately the slower speed flowy type trails are where our tester, Griz, enjoyed the Heckler's playful demeanor the most as it loves back wheel, jumps with ample pop, and positively rails all types of corners.

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DH/Technical Performance/Fun Factor

Santa Cruz nailed it by covering the three P's: playful, poppy, and planted. This is exceptional considering the industry standard is to cover two of three general points such as the strong/light/cheap analogy. On that analogy, the Heckler covers one point - strong. The 2022 Heckler has killer geometry and low center mass providing that confidence inspiring and planted feel when pointed downhill but admittedly it’s not as hard-charging as the Bullit. The Heckler manuals like a champ and we appreciate having a 27.5 rear wheel not buzzing the ol’ kiester. Like any class-1 eMTB, there is noticeable heft but it’s not too strenuous when compared to the Norco’s we have tested or even the Trek Rail.

Jump...
to manny lanny...
to bump..
jump.

How does the Heckler corner you ask? We can’t praise the planted traction enough, especially with the mixed-wheel configuration. The Heckler is exceptional at dicing inside lines and squaring off tight apexes. Unfortunately, Trail 4 brought out some weaknesses in a few parts. We had a rear tire and wheel failure in a high-speed right-hand corner that Griz reports as a fluke incident. No crashing was involved and he safely managed the situation. The bike's lean angle was in a right-hand corner and the left side of the tire and rim took a massive impact from an overhanging pointed rock, causing a sliced tire and cracked rim. In addition to the tire casing not being sufficient for aggressive terrain, the FOX 36 fore and aft flex was very pronounced under braking pressures and compressions which negatively offsets the rowdy capability of the Heckler. With fantastic geometry and stiff chassis, the Heckler is very capable of thrashing high speed, aggressive terrain but the stock spec does limit the bike. We’ll explain some upgrade possibilities in a moment but in conclusion, we feel the Heckler is fully capable in all scenarios but is best suited in flowy conditions.

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Rear Suspension Performance

The lower-link VPP design is fantastic in all categories for rear suspension performance and we honestly have nothing but praise in this segment. This bike excels in small bump chatter and heavy compressions resulting in minimal unwanted feedback into our feet and ankles. The Heckler has a firm platform for pumping transitions, berms, and popping off lips all while maintaining velcro-like traction. We appreciated the grip, especially in all types of corners setting us up to accelerate with ease. We cannot report any weaknesses in rear suspension performance.

Unique Features 

Having the flip-chip option for rider preference and tuning is a welcomed feature. Although we rode the Heckler in the High setting for the duration of testing, it was nice to know we had an option for zones that may require a bit more relaxed head angle or shorter reach to comply with the demands of steeper terrain.

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Perceived Weight

Weighing in at roughly 49-pounds, the Heckler is surprisingly nimble and fast-rolling thanks to its low center mass and balanced geometry keeping rider position neutrally displaced. As we stated, it loves the back wheel and was not too strenuous on our upper body to raise up that front wheel or when stretching out trail gaps and side hits. Once the bike is up to pace, it maintains momentum like a Mack truck. So well, in fact, our conclusion is that a 220mm front rotor may be a necessary upgrade for riders over the 180-pound range for improved speed control. We did appreciate the agile nature as the Heckler was pleasant to flick around for quick line changes and slashing corners.

Sprinting

The Heckler gets up to speed quickly with its lower-link VPP suspension settling under load and providing a stable platform for dropping the hammer. We notice this bike is quick when getting up to speed, especially when pointed just slightly downhill. We’re talking 9-12 cranks from a coasting start in Boost and you’re at 20mph. Naturally, when the motor-assist cuts out, it feels like you are pedaling a 49-pound sled.

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Climbing

It’s worth noting we climbed with the shock wide open for the duration of testing as we like having small bump compliance going uphill too. The balanced geometry stands out when climbing up steep and punchy climbs where you have to maintain pressure on the rear wheel for traction while pressuring the bars to keep the front wheel from lifting. What does not stand out is the EP8 motor. To put it simply, there are stronger competitors out there with a wider range of motor settings. Kyle Warner let us ride his Bosch-equipped Niner on our Trail 4 lap which was actually several pounds heavier than our Heckler. Yet, the Bosch outperformed in regards to torque and traction on some chunky punchy climbs.

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Santa Cruz continues to spec the Shimano EP8 motor with an updated 720 Wh battery and charge port. Even the charge port cover is updated and is worthy of an honorable mention but there are no notable changes beyond this. As petty as it sounds, covering the charge port on the generation one Heckler was similar to the frustration of a Chinese finger trap but actually harder to succeed. We never killed the battery on any of our rides and even went for multiple days without charges in between. Right around the 36-mile marker is when the battery went into the red zone but again, we never killed it or were left stranded lugging around a 49-pound sled. The battery is very user-friendly to access via an Allen wrench at the downtube/headtube merger for those adventurous riders that want to carry a spare battery in a pack.

We did experience some clickety-clacking on the AXS drivetrain but this was simply due to intentional neglect in our “long term” testing efforts. Applying chain lube solved this issue so we confirmed basic maintenance, such as regular cleaning is always required regardless of price point.

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Build Kit

We may be a bit of a broken record here but yes, our Heckler is the top shelf, X01 AXS RSV build and is an alarming $14,249. This makes it the most expensive e-bike we've ever tested. Ever. The Heckler family starts with the R build at $8,749 though riders will have to get into the 5-figure range to get at least GX parts with the S build at $10,399. By comparison, the Bronson family runs about $3,000-$4,000 less per equivalent models. That's the price for the motor, battery, and engineering that goes into an e-bike these days.

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Fork Performance

The FOX 36 just isn't enough for a full-size class-1 49 pound eMTB and full-sized dad bod riders. Despite the incredible damping performance, the 36 has pronounced fore and aft flex which can be felt under braking forces on chundery trail. This feedback left our primary desk jockey test rider, Griz, desiring a stiffer chassis fork and the flex did reduce confidence in high speed and chundery situations on Trail 4.

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Tire Performance

We have no complaints about the treads or compounds of the Maxxis Assegai and Minion DHR II tires but we would appreciate DH casing tires out of the box. These tires are do-it-all performers with the exception of extreme mud conditions, which we did not experience in testing. By the end of testing, we had a replacement rear tire set up with an XC Cushcore system after we destroyed the stock Minion DHR II on Trail 4 as previously described.

Wheel Performance

As we mentioned, we did break a rear wheel in a fluke incident. That said, the Reserve wheels come with lifetime support and feel stout with minimal flex. Nothing beats crisp engagement and smooth-rolling hubs and Industry 9 nails these features. We can confirm Reserve has a fantastic warranty department that was highly responsive and easy to communicate with, resulting in getting a replacement rear wheel in about a week. We give the warranty crew a 5-star rating and a shoutout to Kyle Warner for supplying the replacement Michelin 2.6-inch e-Wild tire, XC Cushcore system, and install. Thankfully the wheel we broke was not catastrophic and we managed to limp the bike back to the parking lot unscathed. Lastly, the Reserve valves are a noteworthy detail that simply requires one to remove the valve cover to then insert the pump to inflate the tires resulting in one less tedious step in the process - similar to the function of a Schrader valve.

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Brake Performance

Our SRAM Code brakes performed flawlessly with ample stopping power courtesy of 200mm rotors. The awesome modulation really stands out when feathering going uphill into corners. Yes, we brake going uphill because we only climb in Boost! We have no negative issues to report but some riders may prefer stepping up to a 220mm rotor up front for increased stopping power.

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Drivetrain Performance

In an effort to mimic some real world neglect some riders may unintentionally inflict upon their own bike, we bypassed some basic drivetrain service between several rides. This did lead to some clickety clacking and chain popping in the lower range of gears once there was audible chain noise. Funny enough, we spent some time watching this tutorial and realized there likely was no issue with the SRAM AXS drivetrain. A simple drivetrain clean and application of Maxima Chain Pro solved this issue. Drivetrains are kind of like our teeth in the sense that regular hygiene is mandatory. Aside from the intentional neglect, we have no issues to report but did notice some fatigue in the cassette around mile 100 of testing.

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Noise

We had to neglect the Heckler to get any unwanted noise which was isolated to drivetrain squawk. Aside from that, we have no chain clap, cable rattle, or any unwanted audible feedback to report. AXS wireless shifting naturally makes a robotic zzzt-click with every shift but we live in the future and we can embrace this sound for crisp and instant shifting. In short, this bike is super quiet with no chain slap to mention or anything to complain about in regards to unwanted noise.

Upgrades

For the general rider looking to maximize seat time and enjoy riding with minimal risk factors, we agree the stock spec is finely suited for this purpose. For the thrashers out there that would want to charge hard, grab a Bullit We found ourselves feeling incredibly comfortable with the new Heckler and started amassing a list of parts we could throw at it to make it a harder charger. It's just so incredibly fun to ride but we were itching for "that" much more out of it.

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Long Term Durability

Santa Cruz has a proven track record of durable bikes that hold their resale value and we feel the Heckler is consistent in this regard. In the event of a rim failure, Reserve backs you up with a lifetime support package and we cannot praise their customer service enough. We were back up and riding in about one week which is incredible considering the current logistics landscape. Aside from this fluke issue, we believe the first components that will need replacing are brake pads, chains, and cassettes. Accessing the shock linkages for service is incredibly user-friendly and we did not have to service the linkages for the duration of our testing.

What's The Bottom Line?

Santa Cruz made one of our favorite eMTBs even better with improved geometry, wheel options, and overall user-friendliness. Sparing no expenses with a baller spec highlighted by SRAM AXS wireless shifting, fantastic geometry, and increased range capacity with the 720wh battery, we give respect where it's due.

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The Heckler is a flat-out blast to climb and shred down flowy singletrack and bike park style trails but is not as capable as the Bullit in higher speed chunky terrain. We confirmed the Heckler jumps for show and corners for dough like Showtime in his prime! Our concluding impression is that the stock spec is solid for general riders that aren’t willing to apply much risk for cheap thrills and have deep pockets. Its Reserve wheels come with lifetime support and this is an incredible cost-benefit worth noting. If it were equipped with a different motor the Heckler would be leaving its competition in the dust. We would likely consider buying a lower-end model due to personal budget preference but at the end of the day, the Heckler remains near the top of the pecking order as our favorite eMTB.

Visit SantaCruzBicycles.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Sean McClendon - Age: 37 // Years Riding: 23 // Height: 5'10" (1.78m) // Weight: 190-pounds (86.2kg)

"Griz" is a veteran of MTB gravity racing. Following a major crash during the 2010 USA National Championship Pro downhill race, he put in the hours and fought his way back to health and the fun that is two wheels. Griz has ridden for a number of the USA's top teams throughout his racing career, testing prototype frames and components along the way. Currently co-hosting the Inside Line with MTB industry legends and athletes he remains motivated by the mantra "whips don't lie." You'll find him exploring new stomping grounds and wrangling gators in North Carolina.


Santa Cruz Bicycles first entered the e-bike game with the Heckler, just two years ago. At the time, it was a motorized reflection of the Bronson. When we put it into our first eMTB Test Session, the Heckler stole the show. Our testers loved the rowdy nature of the bike, despite its less-than-impressive motor and battery. Not too long after testing, the Heckler was given the new Shimano EP8 motor as well as the option to have a 29-inch front wheel. The original was full 27.5. Just as it was two years ago, the new Heckler remains a reflection of the much-loved Bronson - It has updated geometry and kinematics and comes as a mixed-wheel bike. For the sake of e-bikes, it also gets a larger, 720Wh battery. Will the revised model be the one e-bike to heckle them all?

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Highlights

  • Santa Cruz Carbon CC frame (C Frame available)
  • 29-inch front/27.5-inch rear wheel (full 29er available)
  • 150mm (5.9-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.2-inches) fork travel
  • VPP suspension design (e-bike specific)
  • Guided, internal cable routing
  • Universal derailleur hanger
  • 200mm brake rotors
  • Shimano EP8 motor
  • 720 Wh battery
  • Small - XXL Frames
  • Coil shock compatible
  • Flip chip changes geo and suspension curve
  • Boost 148 rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • MSRP $13,299 US // 12,999 EU // 11,699 UK (as tested)

Santa Cruz is offering the Heckler with both the carbon C and CC frames. What frame riders get is dependent upon the spec level. Either way, there is a definite premium for entering the Santa Cruz e-bike family. Models start at $8,199 for the Heckler R build. Santa Cruz's approach to the builds has altered with this latest update. Before today, the Heckler came as a full 27.5 bike or a mixed-wheel build. When opting for the 29-inch front wheel, riders would get a lighter-duty RockShox Recon or Pike fork, rather than the larger Yari or FOX 36 chassis found on the 27.5-inch models. Rear shocks on the MX builds also went lighter duty. Today, the Bronson comes as a mixed-wheel bike or full 29er. Riders will no longer be running a 27.5-inch front wheel on their Bronson. A sign of the times? Regardless of the wheel configuration, the parts spec remains the same with a RockShox Lyrik or FOX 36 fork paired with a variety of RockShox Super Deluxe rear shocks.

Santa Cruz is carrying over the Shimano EP8 motor from the last update. When Vital tested the original Heckler, two years ago, it had the Shimano E8000 motor. Comparatively, the EP8 is quieter, more powerful and more efficient. Oh, and it is also lighter. This motor change alone addresses nearly every gripe with had with the original Heckler. Though not a new update, we are looking forward to finally getting our hands on a Heckler with this setup. Something that is new is the larger 720Wh battery. The Heckler has been using a 504Wh battery which has become skimpy by today's e-bike standards. It does seem that larger units are becoming the norm. Santa Cruz claims the additional weight is negligible but the additional weight will better speak to how riders use the Heckler.

Geometry

The Heckler keeps its moderate travel numbers just as its counterpart, the Bronson, did. 150mm of rear wheel travel is paired to a 160mm travel fork. This sort of go-anywhere travel is complimented by an update to the Heckler's geometry. The prior iteration was just a touch on the conservative side and while Santa Cruz did bring this eMTB up to date, they did not go wild.

MX Geometry

Full 29-inch geometry

When we first tested the Heckler, we opted for a size large to get more room at the front with just enough clearance for our testers to throw a leg over it. With the revised geometry, we went for a size medium mixed-wheel (MX) build. Highlighted numbers include a 455/452mm (Hi/Lo) reach with a 445/446mm rear center across all sizes. Riders opting for the full 29er will get the same reach but a 460/461mm rear center to accommodate that wagon wheel. A 64.8/64.5-degree head angle pairs to a 76.8/76.6 seat angle on our medium. Santa Cruz adjusts the seat angle measurements for each size, so riders will want to reference the chart for more precise numbers.

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Santa Cruz has also played with the Heckler's leverage curve. While never really digging into their secret sauce, they are open that using the flip chip will alter the Heckler's progression in addition to the minor geometry tweaks it makes. Accompanying the new frame is a larger shock tunnel which will easily accommodate a coil shock.

The Lineup

Santa Cruz is offering the Heckler in five build options, similar to other bikes in its lineup. The first four models use the Santa Cruz C carbon frame with only the top-tier getting the lighter, CC carbon. Every build in the line is offered in either an MX or full 29er configuration. Size runs are limited by wheel size. The MX run technically goes medium through double extra large. Size small frames come as a dual 27.5-inch wheeled bike. The 29er line starts with medium and taps out at the same XXL.

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Every Heckler in the line uses the Shimano EP8 motor and the same 720Wh battery. Riders will be able to easily pull the battery via a single Allen bolt located at the headtube/downtube junction. Also common among all builds are the Maxxis Assegai 2.5 MaxxGrip EXO+ front tire and Minion DHRII 2.4 EXO+ rear tire.

Heckler R 29er - $8,199
Heckler S MX - $9,699

Kicking things off is the R build which comes with a RockShox Super Deluxe Select shock and Lyrik Select fork. A SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, SDG Tellis dropper and WTB ST i30 wheels round out the major parts. With a price tag of $8,199, the barrier for entry on this e-bike is pretty high. The S build bumps riders to a SRAM GX drivetrain, FOX 36 Performance fork, and RaceFace ARC HD 30 wheels and is the last stop with 4-figures at $9,699.

Heckler MX XT - $10,399
Heckler GX AXS - $10,999

Both the XT and GX AXS kit run a RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ rear shock and FOX 36 Performance Elite for suspension and dropper post. They have the same hoops with the RaceFace ARC HD 30 but the XT gets DT Swiss 350 hubs where the GX AXS gets the Industry Nine 1/1. As the names imply, one model uses Shimano's beloved 12-speed XT drivetrain and the other, the amazing SRAM GX AXS system. Prices are $10,399 and $10,999, respectively.

At the top of the heap is our test bike, the X01 AXS RSV. The lone model with the CC carbon frame, it is outfitted with all the fancy bits. RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate rear shock, FOX 36 Factory fork, and a SRAM X01 AXS Eagle drivetrain. As the RSV designation implies, it has Reserve carbon wheels (DH spec rear, standard 30 front) with Industry Nine 1/1 hubs. Of course, the dropper post is the FOX Transfer Factory. In case you missed it in the Highlights, this one will set riders back $13,299.

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Setup

Previously, we had tested the Heckler and Bullit in size large. We opted to size down to medium for the Heckler MX as we noticed an updated approach in geo with the center forward numbers catching our attention. The Heckler MX reach in medium ranges between 10-13mm shorter than the large first-gen Heckler with identical rear center length. The new Heckler essentially splits the difference in head angle and seat angle numbers between the Bullit and prior Heckler - in both hi and lo flip chip setting. We have been spinning around in a frozen desert in the Hi setting with 20% sag, fully unlocked at 195psi in the shock. We have 95psi in the FOX 36 with minimal low-speed compression, moderately quick rebound and mid-range high-speed compression. Once winter cooperates, we’ll get out in the Lo setting and report back on our final clicker settings and how it all feels.

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Currently, we’re rocking 20mm stack spacers and a neutral bar roll. The stock bar width (measured 810mm with grips) is wider than Griz’s preference (780mm) so we'll be chopping those down. He would also prefer 10-15mm extra rise. Speaking of grips, the stock Santa Cruz grips offer crispy diamonds in the palm area with sleek ribs that lock in the crevice of your knuckles. However they are on the thinner spectrum. In closing, we are happy with the neutral feeling of the Heckler MX and appreciate the geometry improvements, flip chip tunability, and mixed wheel set up.

This early into testing we are rocking the stock motor tune and initially impressed with the Trail and Boost power to battery life balance. For testing purposes, we will eventually modify some tune settings but for now, the stock tune isn’t giving us negative feedback to report.

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On The Trail

Winter in Boise has confined us to limited options so we have taken the opportunity to be like Braydon by seeking as many quirky hill climbs in our frozen desert to tackle some climbing tests. How does the Heckler MX fling and cling to the mud you ask? For DH we found a tight, twisty moto single track at Little Gem motorcycle park on the thaw end of a freeze/thaw cycle.

Downhill

Having seat time on both the first-generation Heckler and Bullit set us up for near-instant familiarity with the new Heckler MX. It is stiff, planted, and very predictable. We thoroughly enjoy the planted feel the lower-link VPP provides at higher speeds while the updated geometry and MX wheel combo inspire confidence going into corners and managing quirky climbs. We’ll discuss that more, later. It didn’t take long to get the impression the Heckler MX corners like it’s on rails and we liked how neutral we felt in the bike when pointed downhill. One thing we would feel would improve braking performance is a 220mm front rotor. Put a big boy on a big toy and he needs that larger rotor! We have yet to push the bike outside of its comfort zone, but we will continue to find that limit as the weather permits.

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Suspension

Straight away we felt at home on the dialed VPP performance. Its displays fantastic small bump compliance on baby-head rocky climbs. The new Hecker MX feels all the bit as plush as the Bullit and although this avocado comes with a buttery and tunable RockShox Super Deluxe air shock, riders can run a large body shock – such as an aftermarket coil shock if they want. We are just a few hours into testing but we have yet to sift out any negative traits of the rear suspension performance. For now, we have achieved balanced compression and rebound in the e-tuned FOX 36 and Super Deluxe shock. We’ll keep seeking more rocks and obstacles to smash into when appropriate.

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Climbing

This early into testing we have been primarily focusing on how well the Heckler MX rides uphill as we search for every accessible hill climb covered in baby heads. We can positively approve of the geometry changes and the impact on our climbing posture. Less reach (compared to the large) is ideal when the bike is pointed uphill. The MX wheel combo is a great blend of balance for holding a line and quick acceleration.

Unique Features

Reduced cable clutter with SRAM AXS wireless shifting is amazing once you develop the second nature feel for the shifter pod. The AXS drivetrain is once again proving its mettle by being a solid performer in the e-bike realm. With no clacks, clanks, or slaps, we give the electronic drivetrain two thumbs up. Finally, the addition of a USB-C charge port taps into the larger battery capacity and may come in handy for those trailside charges.

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Geometry

Holy guacamole does the medium size fit comfortably for our 5’-10” test rider. Griz previously identified ideal reach length between 460-465mm paired with a 35mm long stem and the Heckler MX achieves this feel with 455mm reach with a 42.5mm length Burgtec stem. He reports the Heckler MX is very neutral, not cramped whatsoever. We also appreciate the relaxed head angle paired with a steeper seat angle compared to the previous Heckler. We felt confident with more center-forward weight placement when descending than the previous large Heckler. We would give partial thanks to the 29-inch front wheel and relaxed 64.8-degree head angle. We appreciate the flip chip option which on paper adjusts nearly every measurement and have been satisfied with the overall balance of the Hi setting.

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Perceived Weight

The Heckler MX is leaner than your average American, but it is still a full-sized eMTB and feels hefty as expected. When compared to the feel of the last Norco eMTB we tested, the Heckler MX is slightly leaner and does feel a smidge more agile when we have to lift the front wheel up to adjust a line or pick up for a manual.

The Heckler MX is equipped with the Shimano EP8 motor and we have no major improvements or difficulties to report. We only ride Boost but understand the EP8 won’t win a drag race against some competitors.

With the upgraded 720Wh battery, our longest ride so far is 25 miles with approximately 500 feet of climbing. Mostly flat out spinning between 15 and 19mph at an average of 90rpm. We rode in Boost for 80%, Trail 18% and Eco mode for 2% of the ride with an estimate range of 3miles (in Eco) left in the 720Wh battery. We have had no mechanical issues to report and look forward to logging more miles on the Heckler MX!

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What's The Bottom Line?

Santa Cruz's first go at an eMTB was an instant favorite with the Vital crew and this updated model seems to address all our complaints. The barrier for entry is undeniably high but will prove worth it to some. For now, we're eager to keep riding the new Heckler all the way into summer. Look for our full review and follow-up in the coming months. In the meantime, heckle on.

Visit SantaCruzBicycles.com for more details.


About the Tester

Sean McClendon - Age: 36 // Years Riding: 22 // Height: 5'10" (1.78m) // Weight: 190-pounds (86.2kg)

"Griz" is a veteran of MTB gravity racing. Following a major crash during the 2010 USA National Championship Pro downhill race, he put in the hours and fought his way back to health and the fun that is two wheels. Griz has ridden for a number of the USA's top teams throughout his racing career, testing prototype frames and components along the way. Currently managing US Dealer sales and the Fresh Blood amateur development team at DEITY Components, he remains motivated by the mantra "whips don't lie." You'll often find him perfecting his high-flying sideways aerial maneuvers while living the #pinelife in Idaho.

Specifications

Product Santa Cruz Heckler CC X01 AXS MX Reserve E-Bike
Model Year 2023
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S (HI, LO), M (HI, LO), L (HI, LO), XL (HI, LO), XXL (HI, LO) View Geometry
Size S (HI, LO) M (HI, LO) L (HI, LO) XL (HI, LO) XXL (HI, LO)
Top Tube Length 571, 572 599, 600 624, 625 645, 645 674, 675
Head Tube Angle 64.8°, 64.5° 64.8°, 64.5° 64.8°, 64.5° 64.8°, 64.5° 64.8°, 64.5°
Head Tube Length 130 100 115 135 155
Seat Tube Angle 76.9°, 76.7° 76.8°, 76.6° 76.7°, 76.4° 77°, 76.7° 77°, 76.8°
Seat Tube Length 390 405 430 460 500
Bottom Bracket Height 346, 342 346, 342 346, 342 346, 342 346, 342
Chainstay Length 445, 446 445, 446 445, 446 445, 446 445, 446
Wheelbase 1206, 1207 1226, 1227 1252, 1253 1281, 1282 1314, 1315
Standover 720, 716 745, 741 743, 740 741, 737 741, 738
Reach 430, 427 455, 452 475, 472 495, 492 520, 517
Stack 607, 609 616, 618 629, 632 648, 650 666, 668
* Additional Info Multiple values listed for 'HI' and 'LO' geometry positions via a lower-link flip-chip
Measurements are in mm unless otherwise noted
Size Small bikes come with 27.5" wheels
Additional values are available in the geometry chart included with the photos above
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b), 29", Other (Mullet)
E-Bike Class Class 1: Pedal Assist (Pedelecs)
Motor Shimano DU-EP800
Battery Shimano integrated, removable
Battery Capacity 720 Wh
Display/Remote Shimano Display Unit SC-EM800
Modes Boost, Trail, Eco, Walk Assist
Max Speed with Assist 20 mph (32 km/h)
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Carbon CC front triangle and swingarm
Rear Travel 150mm
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate
Fork FOX 36 FLOAT Factory E-Tune
Fork Travel 160
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset Cane Creek 40 IS Integrated (IS41/52)
Handlebar Santa Cruz e35 Carbon, 800mm width, 35mm rise
Stem Burgtec Enduro MK3
Grips Santa Cruz House
Brakes SRAM Code RSC with SRAM HS2 200mm rotors
Brake Levers SRAM Code RSC
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM GX AXS Controller
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur SRAM X01 AXS Eagle, 12-speed
Chainguide e*thirteen E-Spec+ AL
Cranks Shimano EM900 HollowTech arms, 165mm
Chainrings SRAM
Pedals None
Chain SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-speed
Cassette SRAM XG-1295 Eagle, 12-speed, 10-50 tooth
Rims Reserve 30 Carbon 29” front / Reserve DH Carbon 27.5” rear (size Small is 27.5” front and rear)
Hubs Front: Industry Nine 1/1, 110x15mm, 28 hole
Rear: Industry Nine 1/1, 148x12mm, XD, 32 hole
Spokes Sapim D-light
Tires Front: Maxxis Assegai 29"x2.5", 3C/MaxxGrip/EXO+, TR (size Small is 27.5”)
Rear: Maxxis Minion DHR II 27.5"x2.4", 3C/MaxxTerra/EXO+, TR
Saddle WTB Silverado Medium Stainless Fusion or WTB Volt
Seatpost FOX Transfer Factory (S: 125mm, M: 150mm, L: 175mm, XL-XXL: 200mm)
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Seatpost Clamp 36.4mm single bolt
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 12x148mm Boost
Max. Tire Size 29"x2.6" or 27.5"x2.6"
Bottle Cage Mounts One inside front triangle
Colors Gloss Avocado Green, Maritime Grey
Warranty Lifetime for frame, linkages, and bearings
Weight 48 lb 7.4 oz (21,981 g)
Miscellaneous • Heckler model version 9 (2022 release)
• Lower-link flip-chip adjustable geometry
• LO flip-chip setting provides a more progressive leverage curve to compliment a more aggressive geometry
• Can accommodate a large body shock (like a coil) and still fit a water bottler in the front triangle
• Battery can be completely removed with a single 4mm Allen key
• Lower-link VPP suspension system
• Internal cable routing
• Sealed bearing shock eyelet
• SRAM UDH (Universal Derailleur Hanger)
• Mixed ("Mullet") wheels: 29" front, 27.5" rear
• Size Small bikes come with 27.5” wheels, front and rear
• 29" and MX wheel-size frames use completely different swing arms and lower links
Price $13,299
More Info

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