The new Heckler is Santa Cruz’s first eMTB. The Californian brand took their time in developing the bike and are quite late to the eMTB party. Have they made good use of the time it took to develop their first eMTB and can it live up to the high expectations set by its price? We found out.

Santa Cruz Heckler CC X01 Reserve | Shimano STEPS E8000/504 Wh | 160/150 mm | € 11,199 | 21.24 kg in size L | Manufacturer’s website

There is no mistaking the Heckler for anything other than a Santa Cruz, despite this one being equipped with a motor. The eMTB was developed on the basis of the successful Santa Cruz Bronson and, like all of the Californian brand’s latest full-suspension bikes, it relies on a VPP rear linkage with the shock positioned low the frame. Santa Cruz offer their analog bikes in two carbon versions, a particularly lightweight CC version and a slightly heavier and more affordable C version, whereas the Heckler is only available with the higher-end CC frame.

The Heckler is only available as CC version featuring Santa Cruz’s high-end carbon fibres
Santa Cruz’s first eMTB offers 160 mm travel up front and 150 mm at the rear

The bike offers 150 mm travel at the rear and 160 mm up front. Santa Cruz deliberately chose to design the bike around 27.5“ wheels, as playful and fun handling on the trail was one of their top priorities in developing the bike. Choosing to rely on the complete Shimano STEPS system was also deliberate as Santa Cruz want their customers to be able to rely on Shimano’s worldwide service network. For this reason, the rear wheel is driven by an E8000 motor, which is fed by an integrated but removable 504 Wh battery. While most other manufacturers have bigger batteries on offer, this is the largest integrated battery currently available from Shimano.

The bike is powered by a Shimano E8000 motor
The necessary electricity is provided by an integrated but removable 504 Wh battery
All other components surrounding the motor, such as the remote, display, charging port and start button are also supplied by Shimano
Thanks to the integrated battery, there is enough space in the front triangle for a bottle cage

Attention to detail is one of Santa Cruz’s greatest strength – does this also apply to the Heckler?

Over the years, Santa Cruz have become known for their attention to detail. That’s no different with the Heckler. The bike features generously proportioned protectors where it matters most, effectively protecting the frame’s paintwork and keeping the bike quiet. The internally routed cables are securely fastened inside the frame so that nothing rattles and the sealed pivot points make a high-quality impression. As on all of their frames, Santa Cruz also offer a lifetime warranty on the Heckler, though this is more of a psychological bonus considering the fast-paced development and short-lived product cycles of the eMTB world. Santa Cruz developed their own handlebar and a rear rim specifically for the Heckler. The handlebar features internal cable routing for the Shimano display and remote, resulting in a clean look. On the rear wheel, Santa Cruz rely on an extra sturdy Reserve DH rim and the lifetime warranty also applies to their wheels. The frame is rounded off with an integrated speed sensor in the drop-out and a 200 mm brake mount – no ugly adapters necessary.

As you’d expect, the Heckler features Santa Cruz’s extra thick chainstay guard, effectively eliminating chain-slap!
No adapter required: the rear brake mount is designed for 200 mm rotors. The speed sensor is integrated into the rotor.
The cables are routed in such a way that nothing rattles or rubs – thumbs up!
For the rear wheel, Santa Cruz developed an extra sturdy carbon rim. On this, as well as on the front wheel and the frame, the original owner gets a lifetime warranty
Santa Cruz developed the handlebar for the Heckler in-house and it features internal cable routing for the Shimano STEPS system
A small mudguard protects the shock from dirt

No weaknesses in the componentry of the Santa Cruz Heckler X01 CC

Santa Cruz offer the Heckler in a total of four builds, ranging from €7,499-13,399. We reviewed the second most expensive model in the range and at a price of €11,199, any weakness in the componentry would be unacceptable. Santa Cruz did their homework when speccing their first eMTB, choosing only proven and sensible components for the Heckler X01 CC. For the suspension, Santa Cruz rely on a FOX 36 Performance Elite fork up front with the GRIP2 cartridge and a RockShox SuperDeluxe Ultimate shock at the rear. The X01 drivetrain is supplied by SRAM, featuring a one-click shifter and offering the usual gear range. SRAM’s CODE RSC brakes provide the necessary stopping power with 200 mm rotors, and a 175 mm RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post guarantees plenty of freedom of movement on the bike. Santa Cruz’s Reserves rims are built around DT Swiss 350 hubs and are shod with MAXXIS MINION EXO+ tyres. The hubs don’t entirely suit the bike’s price, but they perform without issues. Santa Cruz’s proprietary handlebar is very wide at 800 mm, though you can easily cut it down.

Frame Carbon CC 27.5 150mm Travel VPP™
Shock RockShox Super Deluxe Select Ultimate
Fork FOX 36-E Float Performance Elite, 160mm, 27.5″
Brakes SRAM Code RSC
Drivetrain SRAM X01 Eagle, 12 spd
Battery Shimano 504Wh Integrated
Motor Shimano DU-E8000
Display Shimano Display Unit E8000
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth
Handlebar Santa Cruz Di2 Carbon, 25mm rise
Stem Race Face Aeffect R
Rims Santa Cruz Reserve 30 V2 27.5″ Carbon Rims
Hubs DT Swiss 350
Tires Maxxis Minion DHR II, 27.5×2.6 EXO+ TR
Price € 11,199

You don’t get the Kashima coating on the fork, but at least the FOX 36 features the high-quality GRIP2 internals. That way, the fork matches the bike’s look while still offering an outstanding performance.
Powerful SRAM CODE RSC brakes provide the necessary stopping power
Plenty of room to manoeuvre – thanks to the 175mm dropper, you can throw your weight around on the Santa Cruz Heckler
The DT Swiss 350 hub performs reliably, but considering the price, we would have preferred an even higher-end hub

A Shimano E8000 motor for € 11,199?

Of course, you shouldn’t ever reduce an eMTB to its motor. Ultimately, it is only one of many factors influencing the bike’s actual performance. However, the fact is that it plays a decisive role in the ride feel of the bike. Be it with how much noise it makes, how it’s tuned, its integration or the haptics of the various components. With the Santa Cruz Heckler, the feeling that the motor conveys is exactly the same as with other Shimano powered bikes that only cost one third as much. If you had to compare it to the automotive industry, it would almost be as if you got a Ferrari with the cockpit of a Fiat. Of course, the Shimano motor is proven and the choice of a complete system ensures a reliable and widely accessible service network, but what the Heckler doesn’t offer is a unique or innovative concept such as the likes of the Specialized Levo.

The complete Shimano system leaves us divided: on the plus side you’ve got the worldwide service network, but considering the price we would have liked a more innovative overall concept!

Nothing special – the Shimano system is proven, but for such an expensive bike we would have expected something more innovative
Seat tube 390 405 430 460 500
Top tube 572 mm 595 mm 619 mm 650 mm 682 mm
Head tube 110 mm 120 mm 135 mm 150 mm 175 mm
Head angle 65.5° 65.5° 65.5° 65.5° 65.5°
Seat angle 76.2° 76.1° 76.0° 75.9° 75.4°
Chaninstays 445 mm 445 mm 445 mm 445 mm 445 mm
BB Drop 13 mm 13 mm 13 mm 13 mm 13 mm
Wheelbase 1187 mm 1211 mm 1237 mm 1268 mm 1304 mm
Reach 425 mm 445 mm 465 mm 490 mm 515 mm
Stack 597 mm 606 mm 620 mm 634 mm 655 mm

Riding Santa Cruz Heckler – how does it perform on the trail?

The Heckler is based on Santa Cruz’s proven, analog Bronson, intended to be playful and a lot of fun to ride. To do so, the American brand designed the bike around 27.5“ wheels. Compared to its unmotorised counterpart, the 445 mm chainstays are much longer – but more on that later.

The riding position on the Heckler is slightly stretched and it soon becomes clear that it’s worthwhile pushing the saddle forward to avoid sitting too far above the rear wheel on the climbs. The reason for this is the moderate seat tube angle combined with the low anti-squat on the rear suspension, which Santa Cruz deliberately kept to a minimum. Anti-squat is used to describe how much the tension of the chain works against the suspension. With lots of anti-squat, the suspension stiffens as you pedal, if it is less the chain doesn’t interfere with the rear linkage as much and the rear suspension can offer more traction and comfort, though it might tend to wallow. In fact, the Heckler offers a lot of grip on technical climbs over roots, rocks and other obstacles – great! However, you end up feeling like you’re hanging off the back of the bike on steep climbs and it takes a lot of effort to keep the front wheel planted. On the other hand, the moderate seat tube angle and active suspension are very comfortable on less steep sections and long days in the saddle. The Shimano E8000 motor performs as well as expected, especially in the smart Trail mode. To find out more about the motor, check out our big motor group test. At 504 Wh, the battery capacity is on the lower end of today’s spectrum and if you want to tackle all-day rides, you should consider investing in a second battery. Thanks to its compact dimensions, a spare battery can easily be stowed in a backpack designed for this purpose.

On steep climbs, you have to weight the front wheel to keep it on the ground

What can be a disadvantage on long rides proves to be an advantage everywhere else. Less battery capacity also means less weight. At 21.24 kg, the Heckler is very light overall, which has a noticeable impact on the handling. Santa Cruz have succeeded in creating a very agile and playful eMTB. In flowing, not too extreme terrain, the defined suspension performs well: the rear end isn’t the most sensitive in filtering out irregularities, yet it offers a lot of mid-stroke support while still generating enough traction. This gives the bike a lot of pop that responds well to rider input with direct and precise handling. Those who like to play with the trail will love this eMTB.

We were impressed with the agility and a very lively suspension of the Heckler
Cornering, the bike is super balanced and predictable

The Santa Cruz Heckler is made for a very specific type of riding, though, given the right conditions, it performs brilliantly!

Thanks to the defined suspension and the long chainstays, you remain positioned very centrally on the bike, generating equal amounts of grip on both wheels while cornering. This makes the Heckler’s handling easy and predictable. Less experienced riders will quickly feel comfortable aboard the Heckler. It changes direction quickly and with little effort, though getting the bike on the rear wheel is hard to do. In rougher and, above all, steeper terrain, the support from the rear suspension pushes the rider forward. Paired with the rear suspension’s lack of sensitivity, this will rob you of confidence and you’ll automatically get on the brakes. For steep, demanding trails, there are significantly more capable and composed bikes on the market.

In steep, rough sections, the long chainstays and the supportive rear suspension push the rider forward, robbing the bike of composure and the rider of confidence

The American brand isn’t only late to the eMTB party with the Santa Cruz Heckler, but they don’t light up the dance floor either. The handling is excellent on flowing, shaped trails, but in technical and steep terrain both up and downhill, you’ll find significantly more capable bikes. The Heckler is a good choice for those who want the most agile and playful eMTB available. However, considering the bike’s hefty price point, its range of uses is far too narrow and we would have expected a lot more innovation. Having said that, who is ever completely rational when they choose a new bike, and so the Heckler is sure to find its supporters among the Santa Cruz fan club.


  • very agile and predictable handling
  • high-quality finish and attention to detail
  • lifetime warranty for peace of mind
  • world wide Shimano Servicen network


  • outrageously expensive
  • seat tube angle could be steeper for the climbs
  • not a bike for rough and steep descents
  • front wheel lifts on steep climbs

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