The chance to see the inner workings of Santa Cruz HQ and have a tour around their Carbon R&D facility was worth every second of the transatlantic flight. The opportunity to ride the Heckler and meet the engineers behind the bike was next level, and worth inhaling every last germ recirculating through the Boeing 787 air conditioning system.
The Heckler... What a bike! There’s my conclusion, no need to scroll to the bottom if that’s all you came for (that’s what I normally do when I read bike reviews!)
The OG Heckler is an iconic bike that shaped my adolescent years so, whilst I was stoked on the revelation of the name, it amplified all the burden of expectation in my head… could it live up to the hype and the long wait for Santa Cruz to enter the E-bike market? I’m happy to say it did. From the instant, I bounced it around the car park because it felt instantly familiar.
This incarnation of Heckler bears no similarity to its namesake. Instead, it’s an E-Bronson in all but name, and the tagline of ‘Bronson with a battery’ is going to be a cliché description in every media review within days of the launch of this bike. The fact that the Heckler will be compared to a bike, and not an e-bike, is something that should be taken as nothing short of an accolade.
The weight is low, low in terms of numbers and low in terms of centre of gravity. This is down to the neat packaging of the VPP lower link suspension layout around the motor unit. The result is a bike which initiates a turn quickly and intuitively. There aren’t many bikes, never mind bikes of the electric variety that you can say that about, but this one I wanted to shralp the grass verges and bounce into turns the instant I sat upon it.
The geometry of the Bronson shone threw at speed and it poise mid-corner was confidence-inspiring, encouraging you to lean it over further, push the tyres into the ground harder and find where it limits lie.
To get a little nerdy and straight into the details here, the spec is ready to shred, and that’s one of the reasons I felt so immediately comfortable… Burly forks, wheels and powerful brakes give you the confidence to boost and shralp on your first ride. In fact, one of my brash claims was that I was going to show the yanks how to shralp tyres off rims. I didn’t achieve that but not for lack of trying, I gave this bike hell in the short time I had it! And the EXO+ 2.6 tyres and Reserve DH 650b rear rim stood their ground and foiled my plans when I’d usually resort to Cushcore on any other combo.
Interestingly, the suspension felt spot-on for me. On a Bronson, at my 15st weight, I run a lot of pressure in the shock so I’d normally be reaching for a MegNeg upgrade to get the trifecta of small bump, midstroke support and end stroke ramp, but on the Heckler, I had no need for it. The stock Super Deluxe delivered traction, support and control. Santa Cruz have got this one nailed, and that was surely a ‘must’ from their design brief. There is no space in the linkage for a coil shock or the larger coke canned Fox X2 or Ohlins TTX Air shocks.
I haven’t talked about the motor and battery yet. Well, it has both. And they make uphills less boring and laborious, ultimately they enable more minutes of descending. Dwelling on the numbers any more than a brief mention is missing the point of this bike and that it’s the grin-inducing performance when the trail points down.
None of this should be surprising. Santa Cruz is a company fuelled by a passion for riding, and they live on the doorstep of world-class trails. Is it any wonder the engineers have created a bike they enjoy riding. They’ll be happy because they are getting to enjoy their creation, but I hope their smiles are a little wider because now they know the rest of the riding fraternity can enjoy it too.
Santa Cruz has waited so long to bring out a bike of the electric variety that now all eyes are on them. The rumours have been circulating the forums and industry gatherings that a new competitor was about to emerge. This fighter has been training in secret for three years and is finally in the ring, and they’ve come out swinging. The Heckler doesn’t pull any punches.
(Look at me! I did a magazine review, with a tenuous analogy that doesn’t actually mean anything! Honestly, I’ve just been sick in my mouth)