2023 Santa Cruz Heckler1.jpg
FIRST LOOK

2023 Santa Cruz Heckler

Words Pete Roggeman
Photos Deniz Merdano
Date Feb 1, 2022
Reading time

Almost exactly two years ago, Santa Cruz released their first e-bike and gave it a name familiar to long time SC fans: Heckler. Today they are releasing the updated version of that bike. Like the outgoing Heckler, the 2023 version has 150mm of rear wheel travel paired to a 160mm fork, and is available in MX wheels. There's also a full 29er version, whereas the last Heckler was released with 27.5" wheels and the MX version was added when Santa Cruz updated the Heckler to the Shimano EP8 motor from the older E8000.

In addition to the new wheel options, this Heckler also gets a significantly larger battery - 720wh vs 504wh in the predecessor - and comes in C & CC Carbon frames, the former being a slightly heavier and less expensive version with more resin but no performance loss other than a slight weight penalty (less noticeable on an e-bike than one without a heavy motor and battery).

The 2023 Santa Cruz Heckler is offered in 5 sizes from S-XXL, and two colours: Gloss Avocado (wild) or Maritime Grey (mild). My tester is an XL with the XO1 AXS RSV build, and weighs a hair over 49 lb. including OneUp Alloy pedals. That extra battery capacity comes with a bit of a weight penalty, but it's well worth it for the added range.

As Cam noted in his piece on the last Heckler, Santa Cruz applied their usual excellent design standards to the bike and a trained eye will still know right away, but the new Heckler is still a stealthily-packaged e-bike. The EP8 motor comes in a smaller, lighter package, and there is a less pronounced compartment in the BB/drive area to house it. The down tube is, of course, still very thick to accommodate that 720wh battery, but if you've ever seen Queer Eye, you'll know what a few clever style and colour choices can do to guide the eye to what you want it to see. This new Heckler is still flirting with 50 lbs. but the package is a bit more svelte in appearance. Also interesting to me was that the top tube/down tube junction has a similar but evolved angularity which, combined with a few straighter lines elsewhere like the chain- and seatstays, marries nicely with Santa Cruz's more familiar and organic flowing lines.

2023 Heckler Spec

Gone are the days of picking one side of the line or the other in the SRAM/Rock Shox vs Shimano/Fox spec wars. Many brands have been mixing the two for years, but this new Heckler in the top level spec is a true checkerboard: Shimano furnishes the aforementioned EP8 motor while a Fox 36 Float Factory sits up front, but the drivetrain (other than the crank and chainring) is SRAM XO1 AXS (GX AXS shif- er, controller), brakes are SRAM Code RSC, and a RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate gets the nod for the shock. Fox also handles the post with a Transfer Factory. Spec levels change but the brands stay more or less the same all the way through the different trim levels (other than the XT version which sees Fox/Shimano throughout other than the RS Super Deluxe Select+ shock).

Wheels are Reserve Carbon 30 front and DH rear rolling on Industry 9 1/1 hubs. For tires, it's Maxxis Assegai 2.5 MaxxGrip Exo+ up front and DHR II 2.4 MaxxTerra Exo+ in the back. Steady as she goes.

Geometry

This Heckler adds a flip chip that realizes some small differences between Hi and Lo setting, but the bigger change comes in the shock rate: the Low setting causes a more progressive leverage curve which is intended to work in tandem with the slightly more aggressive geometry. It's early days but I can foresee using the chip more than I normally would - I'm usually going to prefer the more progressive curve however being able to tweak the geo slightly to change the Heckler's trail feel depending on where I'm riding may be a welcome option given its long wheelbase. That progressive leverage curve is still very linear in either the low or high setting, as Santa Cruz wanted to balance stout descending with sensitivity while climbing and over small bumps. I'm still playing around with settings and it's too early to call this a review, but I don't feel like I've nailed maximum traction yet, especially while climbing steep sections where traction is hard to find, which is often where you really want to push an e-bike's abilities to help you get up something challenging.

On the geo side, the changes from the last Heckler to this one are small, but somewhat predictable. Since this Heckler is the first to have 29" wheels front and back, you would expect a slightly longer reach (about 5mm), higher stack (14mm), slacker HT angle (about 1 degree) and steeper seat tube (up to 1 degree depending on Hi or Lo setting). Total wheelbase is also longer by about 30mm to the tune of 1297mm on the XL I'm testing. That's a freight train, folks, but the Heckler handles its dimensions very well for reasons we'll get into in the review.

We're going to do something a little bit different with this review. Normally we'll do a first look like this and then follow up with a medium or long term review. But we've had a few internal discussions about the review process and how we might be able to provide a bit more useful information for a would-be buyer, and in the case of e-bikes, there are a few variables that may differ from a regular trail bike. Anecdotally, we think that e-bikes get ridden harder or for longer miles than other bikes in a given amount of time - or both. That means more wear on consumable parts like tires, and chains, as well as service intervals on the suspension and bearings. Andrew covered a similar theme in this piece, which you should check out if you haven't already.

So I'm going to review this bike over a year with updates on a more or less quarterly basis. I'm also going to get it serviced at a local shop and pass along the recommended maintenance costs in labour and parts over the course of the year, as well as the mileage I put on it. Obviously this will be a sample size of one, but it should give a potential buyer for the new Heckler a better idea of what the cost of ownership in year one might realistically be, at least if they plan to use it the same way I do. I'll also report on how everything is performing over a long test period. If you invest this kind of money in any bike - electric or not - you certainly have to understand that the costs don't end when you wheel a new bike out the door.

More info about the new Heckler can be found on Santa Cruz's website.

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Comments

hongeorge
hongeorge
5 months ago
+8 Muesliman mrbrett Pete Roggeman trumpstinyhands roil Sandy James Oates gubbinalia Raymond Epstein

Nice idea with the review format, particularly with reliability such a factor in eBikes.

Still weird that the simple, lightweight Heckler of old has evolved into this.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
5 months ago
0

Happy to hear any ideas or input into the concept but we hope it'll be useful. 

I owned a Heckler in 99/00. It was my first dually and it was awesome to rude and an important step in my chain of gradual upgrades in performance and cost. Ultimately I sold it because it was an old one with v-brakew on the rear and having disc tabs welded on wasn't a good prospect but it's still one of my favourite bikes because of that feeling of upgrading to a dually and learning to ride it. 

I think they had to play around with names a bit when they started using VPP and I'm glad there are still Hecklers and Bullits being made even if they're different bikes than the originals.

Reply

trumpstinyhands
trumpstinyhands
5 months ago
+5 Cam McRae Tremeer023 Dan Pete Roggeman Andrew Major

Yep, great to see servicing being added to reviews. Time taken to replace cables / housing is something that probably isn't mentioned when buying (or selling....) an E-bike, but can be costly, and potentially ride killing if something goes wrong the day before an important ride, and no-one has two hours available to fix it at short notice.

Reply

dan
Dan
5 months ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

Another upvote here for the proposed review process. I dig it. And it need not apply only to ebikes. Anyone interested in spending their hard-earned cash on a bike can benefit from knowing what they ought to be budgeting for maintenance each season. 

Side note: if it's not already in the works, I feel this would be a really useful feature of Strava particularly for users like me who program in the components of their bike(s). I imagine app notifications like: "Oh, you've ridden 100 hours - time for a fork service." Or "Congratulations! You've ridden 30 days in the park this seasons - time to check those brake pads and do a shock service. Here's a link to a local shop."

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
5 months ago
+1 Dan

There is an app for that. I don't remember the name but I can look for it - or if someone knows please post it. But it's a great idea especially for people juggling maintenance duty for multiple bikes, a family, etc.

EDIT: the one I was referring to is called Pro Bike Garage and it does sync with Strava. Someone (maybe me) should really look into writing about it...

Also, we are certainly talking about how to incorporate service and maintenance expectations into more of our bike reviews - not just for e-bikes. We have to balance length of reviews and how much info consumers and readers want, so again, please speak up about what will be useful here. It'll obviously vary between different user types.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
5 months ago
+2 Tim_Clayton Dan

For Tim (above - sorry our commenting system has limitations), that is an interesting idea that we haven't properly been able to test before and yes, I think that's a worthy idea here. If you'd like to drop me an email (pete at nsmb dot com) I'd be keen to hear a bit about your thoughts. We do have contact with several wax lube brands but feel free to let me know what we've got.

And, don't apologize! We love nerding out on this stuff.

Tim_Clayton
Tim_Clayton
5 months ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

Hi Pete, I have used ‘VeloViewer’ (syncs data from Strava) for tracking time spent on multiple bikes across the family.

PS huge fan of immersive wax based chain lubes (I use Molten Speed Wax). I don’t use it for the vast efficiency gains (but with plenty of time spent riding road and TT throughout my life I understand them - purely mtb now, non competitive, non eMTB, 150mm+ travel bikes), I use it for the longevity (cost savings) it provides for the drive train (and cleanliness and general simplicity vs drip lubes). Given the forces put through a chain on a eMTB vs drip lube and the cost/availability of these parts, maybe it’s something you could consider when this drive train needs replacing to compare how much longer it lasts with wax. Sorry if this topic has been canvassed properly before now or it triggers a heated debate. If not, happy to put you on to one of the more passionate people/businesses in this area. 

Cheers.

DogVet
Hugo Williamson
5 months ago
+2 Pete Roggeman cornedbeef

Orbea wild fs team.

1500 km 12 months  in Uk ridden all conditions, I am not a fanatical cleaner of bikes, as they get ridden too often!

Needed full bearing replacement 19 in total including wheel bearings 

Needed complete drive train 

Due lower leg and shock air can service ( every 6 months)

Multiple brake pads, don’t bother with finned versions for winter riding.

Even being a non exec director of a small bike shop this adds up!!

Do the mathematics, it’s expensive to run an E bike!

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
5 months ago
+1 Dan

Great insights there and that's exactly the kind of info we're looking to compile. Thanks for chiming in!

Reply

shoreboy
Shoreboy
5 months ago
+1 Dan

Im assuming that anyone who bought the first version at $10000 - $17000CDN less than two years ago with the 504wh battery is SOL with fitting the new battery?

Reply

LoamtoHome
Jerry Willows
5 months ago
+7 Dan 4Runner1 Andrew Major mrbrett Cr4w JVP Todd Hellinga

Welcome to the ebike world....  spend 15k and it's outdated in 2 years with tech/refinements.  Too rich of a game for me.

Reply

T-mack
T-mack
4 months, 4 weeks ago
0

I've ridden with you, you don't need an Ebike lol

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
5 months ago
+2 Andrew Major Dan

I will check to be sure. 

EDIT: Can confirm, the battery compartments are different sizes so you would not be able to retrofit the newer/larger battery into the old frame. Kinda like an AA/AAA battery situation.

Just like anything tech-related or any product that's fairly young in the development cycle, you can always expect a new and improved version to come along pretty quickly. The last Heckler is still a mighty fine bike and that 503wh battery is still plenty for most riders.

Reply

hongeorge
hongeorge
5 months ago
0

This comment has been removed.

Jotegir
Lu Kz
5 months ago
0

2023??? No, I'm sorry, August is OK. That's a reasonable time to launch a bike. I've always thought May was a bit early when Specialized and Rocky have done it in the past. But 11 months to go? No.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
5 months ago
0

To be fair, Santa Cruz's info said 2023 on one deck and 2022.5 on another. I chose the lesser of two evils. BTW there are lots of 2023 cars on lots already. I know where you're coming from though - I'm barely used to writing 2022 yet.

Reply

4Runner1
4Runner1
5 months ago
0

This comment has been removed.

YDiv
YDiv
5 months ago
0

Am I the only one a little bit lost here? Almost every other outlet has written "2022 Heckler" except NSMB.

Also curious if they said anything about availability (not that I intend on getting one at this price!). Interestingly states that European availability is April 2022, nothing about NA. I'm assuming that might be the reason for putting 2023?

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