First Look | Santa Cruz Finally Announces First e-MTB, The Heckler

We’ve got big news for all you e-Frothers, because today Santa Cruz is unveiling its first ever e-MTB. Answering years of anticipation and rumours from both Santa Cruz fans and e-MTB enthusiasts from all around the globe, the Heckler CC represents Santa Cruz Bicycles’ first jump into the world of electric mountain bikes, and we expect this one is going to make some serious waves.

As fans of the retro era, we are stoked to see the Heckler name revived for this new bike.
Mick’s been razzing the pants off the Heckler. It’s lively and agile machine.

A Santa Cruz e-MTB; Why Now?

Never say never, because sometimes you just ‘never’ know!

In recent years, Santa Cruz has been blatantly clear about its decisiveness in not providing the booming segment of e-Bikes with one of its own. Alongside other core brands like Yeti Cycles, Ibis, Transition Bikes and Evil Bicycles, Santa Cruz is well known for holding out on the e-MTB revolution. As the pressure has built up though, so too has the inevitability that the Californian brand would eventually produce one.

We reckon there are a few factors at play here. For a start, Santa Cruz’ biggest market outside of the US is Germany. And if there’s one thing that Germans love more than bratwurst and hefeweizen, it’s e-MTBs.

Heckler from the golden olden days, before things became so… complicated.
One of the sleekest e-MTB’s we’ve seen.

You may also recall that back in 2015, Santa Cruz was acquired by Pon Holdings – the Dutch super group that also owns Focus Bikes. Focus is a brand that is pushing hard with e-MTB models, which have been outselling its regular MTBs for a few years now. With a backstage pass to the inner workings of its German sister brand, and with the e-MTB market growing at a rapid rate of knots, the question for Santa Cruz internally has at some point shifted from ‘if‘ to a matter of ‘when‘.

Of course from a commercial perspective, Santa Cruz will also be more than aware of the huge demand awaiting its first e-MTB. The likes of Rocky Mountain, Pivot and Intense have done much of the hard work to break the ice already, proving that boutique manufacturers can also have a place amongst the e-MTB market. Meanwhile, Specialized has also been doing its bit to normalise near $20,000 price points, further paving the way for a high performance and premium-priced e-MTB from Santa Cruz.

And that brings us to the new Heckler.

The Heckler is loosely based on the Bronson, with 27.5in wheels, the lower link VPP platform, and 160/150mm of suspension travel.

Introducing The Heckler CC

The last time we saw a Santa Cruz Heckler it was made from alloy, it had a single pivot suspension design, and there was most definitely no electrics to be found anywhere. To say the new Heckler CC is a little different would be the understatement of the year.

The result of three years of development, the Heckler CC is an all-new, carbon fibre full suspension e-MTB. Here are the basics;

Three Years In The Making

The original plan for the Heckler was hatched back in 2017. While three years may sound like a generous timeframe to cook up something juicy, in terms of e-Bikes Santa Cruz certainly put the wheels into motion late in the game compared to brands that are now onto their third or fourth iteration of e-MTB. We don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing, as you can bet they were watching not only how other brands handled things, but also what the market wanted once the dust settled on the teething period.

Once the parameters for travel and geometry were established, the first prototype, a fairly unattractive alloy ‘e-Bronson’ mule, emerged in February of 2018. Various prototypes were designed and tested in-house, though the general consensus was a preference for the lower-link VPP suspension design, along with the more playful attitude of smaller 27.5in wheels.

The end product is a 160/150mm travel e-MTB that is subtle on gimmicks, with a strong emphasis on clean and functional design. Aesthetically and functionally speaking, the Heckler is loosely based on a Bronson, albeit with a 250W motor between the crank arms. It draws a pretty mean silhouette, which we reckon does well to hide the e-bits in the shape and paint – the holy grail of e-MTB design.

This bike, size large, set up tubeless, without pedals weighs 21.54kg.
Now that is a tight fit. The way that Santa Cruz managed to get all of suspension linkage parts, PLUS the motor in that area is remarkable.

Carbon Only, Shimano Powered

The Heckler is engineered from Santa Cruz’ premium CC carbon fibre, with the rigid mainframe and swingarm connected by forged and machined alloy VPP linkages. Santa Cruz hasn’t indicated that it will be offering a cheaper C carbon option, or an alloy frame either.

The whole shebang is driven by a Shimano STEPS E8000 motor and an E8035 battery pack, the latter of which clips into the underside of the downtube – not unlike the Merida eOne-Sixty we’ve been testing lately. A 4mm hex key is all you need to unlock the battery from the downtube, which means you can charge the battery separate to the rest of the bike. Otherwise there’s a port on the frame for charging the battery while it’s in the bike. To protect the lithium-ion cells, the battery is shielded by a thick armour plate that is actually made of the same structural carbon fibre as the rest of the CC frame.

Santa Cruz states that it chose the Shimano motor based on worldwide distribution, serviceability and availability of spare parts. The E8000 motor offers 250W average power output with 70Nm of torque, and it also features the same Q-factor as a regular XT crankset.

santa cruz e-mtb e-mountain bike heckler cc x01 rsv
The swingarm is a one-piece carbon structure that connects to the mainframe via two alloy linkages, with large cartridge bearings and field-proven pivot hardware.
Space is tight for the piggyback Super Deluxe rear shock. The engineering complexity around this part of the frame and BB-mounted motor is extraordinary.

Clean Lines & Nice Bits

In true Santa Cruz fashion, the fine details are particularly fine. We’re very impressed with the frame shape around the rear shock, given there’s A LOT going on in a relatively small space. Santa Cruz has managed to keep the chainstays pretty short at 445mm, while still allowing room for the lower VPP link suspension design – something we assumed would be next to impossible, or just really, really difficult to achieve. Santa Cruz has done it though, and there’s even space for a water bottle inside the mainframe too.

Despite there being room for the piggyback Super Deluxe shock, there isn’t clearance to run a coil shock though. And unlike other Santa Cruz models, you won’t find any geometry adjustment built into the Heckler’s chassis. Instead, Santa Cruz wanted to keep things simple, without introducing packaging constraints of building in flip-chips.

Speaking of simple, there are no new frame standards to be found anywhere on the Heckler CC. There’s an old fashioned threaded bottom bracket shell, a 31.6mm diameter seatpost, and standard Boost hub spacing front and rear.

The suspension pivots use familiar locking collet hardware, along with grease ports on the lower link that allow you to replenish the grease in the angular contact bearings without having to disassemble anything. And there’s a generously thick, textured chainstay guard to silence chain slap.

First seen on the Megatower last year, their lumpy chainstay guard does a stellar job of silencing chain slap noise.
On the down low. The on-button is tucked out of view.
A miniature guard protects the sensitive parts of the rear suspension from harm.

The 2020 Heckler Lineup

We’ll see all four models of the Heckler CC coming Down Under, which share the same frame, Shimano STEPS E8000 drive unit and integrated 504Wh battery pack. All models get a burly 160mm travel fork, 2.6in wide Maxxis Minion DHR II tyres with thicker EXO+ casings, and chunky 4-pot brake callipers with big rotors front and rear.

You’ll be able to get the Heckler in two colour options: Gloss Black w/Matte Copper decals, or Gloss Yellow w/Matte Black decals. There are five sizes to choose from, starting from Small and going up to a big XX-Large.

As you’ve probably gathered, the Heckler doesn’t avoid the Santa Cruz price tag. In fact, it’s worse… The base model sells for a throat-tightening $12,999, and the others trickle-up dangerously close to the $20,000 mark for premium spec. The prices of the Heckler models are fierce, like all Santa Cruz’s, to be fair.

santa cruz e-mtb e-mountain bike heckler cc xx1 axs rsv
The top-banana Heckler, the XX1 AXS RSV, is all about minimising vowels while maximising the bling factor with a rainbow-coloured drivetrain and Kashima gold forks.

2020 Santa Cruz Heckler CC – XX1 AXS RSV

santa cruz e-mtb e-mountain bike heckler cc x01 rsv
The Heckler CC X01 comes with carbon Reserve rims, a Fox 36 fork with the burlier e-MTB chassis, and carbon Santa Cruz Di2 handlebars.

2020 Santa Cruz Heckler CC – X01 RSV 27.5

santa cruz e-mtb e-mountain bike heckler cc s gx eagle
Electing for a workhorse SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain and Performance-level Fox suspension, the Heckler CC S build brings the price right down compared to the X01/XX1 models.

2020 Santa Cruz Heckler CC – S 27.5

santa cruz e-mtb e-mountain bike heckler cc r nx eagle
The ‘R’ build offers the starting point in the Heckler range, using the same CC Carbon frame as the top-end models, along with the Shimano power plant and integrated battery pack.

2020 Santa Cruz Heckler CC – R 27.5

We’ve been testing the ‘cheapest’ Heckler model for the past couple of days.

We’ve been riding the big fluoro beast for the past few days, so if you’d like to know how it rides and how it sits amongst the broader market, check out Mick’s Santa Cruz Heckler CC first ride review and video here;

First Ride Review – Santa Cruz Heckler CC

We’d love to hear what you folks think of the new Heckler. Is Santa Cruz fashionably late to the party? And is this an e-MTB you’ve been waiting for? Or are there other e-MTBs you’re more interested in? Be sure to tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

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Chalk and cheese, the new and old heckler are world’s apart, but we dig the name revival.

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