Lightweight e-MTBs are the hottest mountain bike category right now and Santa Cruz are making big claims in terms of power and range for their new Heckler SL. From a rider point of view it’s basically Santa Cruz’s maximum fun Bronson with extra “Braaaarp”. Sounds good right, so what are the details?
Electrics or emotions?
I never know where to prioritize the attribute listings on electric mountain bikes, because, for me, the ride characteristics will always be the most important aspect. Especially for a mid travel ‘MX’ (29 front, 27.5 rear) bike that’s clearly designed for maximum fun. It seems like Santa Cruz (and every other manufacturer) like to list the electric aspects first though, so who am I to argue?
So what you have hiding in the belly of the Heckler SL is Fazua’s Ride 60 motor and a 430Wh battery. The big news with Ride 60 Is that both motor and battery are fixed position not removable like the Evation system. Power is up to 60Nm across three evocatively named modes – Breeze, River and Rocket. There’s also a peak delivery 450W Boost mode that last for 30 seconds then resets to stops overheating, and a ‘walk’ mode. That puts the Heckler SL ahead of the Trek EXe and Specialized Levo SLII (both nominally 50Nm) on power and at 360Wh and 320Wh (respectively) on battery size too. Fazua also produce a 252Wh Range Extender battery in an EVOC bag, but there’s no mention of using that in the Heckler SL launch info.
Rider interaction is ‘retro minimalist’ or ‘crude’ depending on your view, with a five LED indicator strip on the top tube giving basic power mode (color) and remaining range (how many lights are lit) information. Modes are controlled by a neat ring shifter on the left hand side and I presume (it’s hard to confirm from the pictures) the SL uses the same hidden cabling bar design as the OG Heckler and Bullitt e-MTBs from Santa Cruz. There’s also a USB-C recharging port under the LED strip. While on bike info is limited, Fazua has a usefully comprehensive Smartphone app which can be used as a bike computer with navigation functions, altering default modes to massage range/power stats or just for reviewing your data afterwards.
The actual bike
Rather than altering the frame outline to drop the motor or battery lower (in terms of dynamic weight center), the SL is pretty much identical to the meat powered bike aesthetically too. It runs Santa Cruz’s latest VPP suspension iteration, with a lower linkage driven shock and DIY serviceable collet bearings with grease ports for easy lubing. Different swingarm positioning for each main frame size effectively gives proportionate rear geometry. Looking at the geometry sheet with it’s dual position options, it looks like there’s the usual shock mount geometry chip, though again, it’s not mentioned on the PR sheet. Both premium Carbon CC and more affordable Carbon C frames are covered by Santa Cruz’s usual, but unusually generous ‘lifetime warranty’ – which also extends to the Reserve carbon wheels if those are on your spec list.
Claimed weight for the flagship spec is 18.7kg (41.2lbs) on the PR, but 18.93kg (41.74lbs) on the Santa Cruz website, which compares to the $14,500 / £13,000 S-Works Turbo Levo SL at 17.4kg (actual weight) and the claimed 18.30kg (40.35 lbs) weight of the lightest $12,999 / £11,500 Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XTR. That’s partly a function of the bigger battery though and price is good for an XX AXS boutique bike with an excellent warranty on frame and wheels at $12,799 / £11,999.
In term of the bike fit and dynamics, the Heckler SL is based very heavily on the current Bronson with 160mm fork travel and 150mm at the rear. Head angle is actually slacker by 0.5 degrees though at 64.3 or 64 degrees and reach is 5mm longer. Sizing shifts larger too, with no XS in the e-MTB, but an XXL option added at the Clydesdale end of the spectrum. All bikes get a 27.5in rear wheel and piggyback shocks on SRAM GX equipped models and above, which immediately puts an emphasis on getting the back wheel sideways for goofing around rather than faster/smoother rolling. As a result, it sounds like a real fun ride (if not as far/fast efficient as it could be), but I’ll be jumping on a test bike as soon as possible to see if that’s true.
Heckler SL build options
- Heckler SL R: $7,299 / £6,599, Carbon C frame with RockShox Lyrik Base fork, Float Performance shock SRAM NX and SRAM/WTB wheels
- Heckler SL S: $8,499 / £7,499, Carbon C frame with RockShox Lyrik Select+ fork, RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ shock, SRAM GX and DT Swiss/Race Face wheels
- Heckler SL GX AXS: $9,499 / £8,699, Carbon C frame with RockShox Lyrik Select+ fork, RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ shock, SRAM GX AXS wireless and DT Swiss/Reserve AL wheels
- Heckler SL GX AXS: $11,499 / £9,999, Carbon CC frame with RockShox Lyrik Ultimate fork, RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock, SRAM XO AXS wireless and Industry Nine/Reserve HD Carbon wheels
- Heckler SL XX AXS: $12,799 / £11,999, Carbon CC frame with RockShox Lyrik Ultimate fork, RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock, SRAM XO AXS wireless and Industry Nine Hydra/Reserve HD Carbon wheels