With the € 12,999 Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV, Santa Cruz enter our 2023 eMTB group test with a bike for all occasions. For a more playful, direct handling, the Californian cult brand relies on a mullet setup. Can the Heckler hold its own against a test field of thoroughbred 29” eMTB bruisers?
Californian bike manufacturer Santa Cruz has gained just as much of a cult following among mountain bikers as their beach resort home town has among surfers. Featuring their trademark VPP suspension system, which provides plenty of support and progression, the Heckler MX XO1 AXS is instantly recognisable as a Santa Cruz. Combining 160/150 mm of travel at the front and rear, it’s the eMTB for all occasions and, according to Santa Cruz, is incredibly eager to take on whatever you throw at it, from exciting backcountry adventures to rowdy trail sessions. Our test bike is the MX model, with a smaller 27.5” rear wheel, but there is also a full 29” model of the Heckler available, which trades a little agility for some more straight-line speed.
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best eMTB of 2023 – 30 models in review
No messing around – How does the Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV compare to the competition?
Although the Heckler MX X01 AXS is distinctly recognisable as a Santa Cruz, it’s unusually beefy, with the massive downtube concealing the 720 Wh Darfon battery and chunky head tube ensuring a rather imposing presence. For the paint finish, Santa Cruz keep it simple, covering the whole frame in a uniform colour except for the minimalist branding on the down tube.
When integrating the Shimano EP8 motor system, Santa Cruz weren’t too keen on experimenting and relied on a proven concept instead. The third-party battery is integrated into the down tube and can be easily removed using a 4 mm Allen key for external charging. However, the Heckler doesn’t feature an integrated mini tool, so we recommend carrying one with you in case you want to remove the battery. The tiny charging port is protected by a flimsy and rather finicky rubber cover. The motor is paired with a Shimano colour display and a minimalist yet intuitive remote on the handlebars. At first, it took us some time to find the start button, because it’s hidden on the down tube right under the shock. While this position isn’t as much of an issue when turning on the motor before setting off, it’s a real pain when you’re already rolling along and suddenly realise the motor is still off. And don’t get us started on the USB-C charging port, which sits right in front of the power button deep down in the frame.
When looking at the spec list, the first thing you’ll notice is the mongrel suspension consisting of a FOX 36 FLOAT GRIP2 Factory fork and RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock. Alongside Moustache, Santa Cruz is the only manufacturer in this test to pair suspension components from different brands, which might look unusual but doesn’t negatively influence the bike’s performance. Shifting is taken care of by an electronic SRAM X01 EAGLE AXS drivetrain. The only questionable spec choice is the MAXXIS tires with EXO+ casing, which might be a great option for moderate trails and light riders, but are far too flimsy for heavy and rowdy shredders. If you belong to the latter category, we recommend upgrading to more robust tires with a tougher casing, which offers better puncture protection and protects the expensive carbon rims. That said, we really like the combination of the soft MaxxGrip rubber compound at the front and harder MaxxTerra compound at the rear, which ensures maximum traction up front and excellent durability outback.
Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV
Motor Shimano EP8 85 Nm
Battery Darfon 720 Wh
Display Shimano SC-EM800
Fork FOX 36 Factory FLOAT GRIP2 Kashima 160 mm
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate 150 mm
Seatpost FOX Transfer Factory 175 mm
Brakes SRAM Code RSC 200/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM Eagle AXS X01 1x12
Stem Burgtec Enduro MK3 42 mm
Handlebar Santa Cruz Carbon 780 mm
Wheelset Reserve 30 29"/27.5"
Tires MAXXIS ASSEGAI 3C MaxxGrip EXO+/MAXXIS Minion DHR 3C MaxxTerra EXO+ 2.5/2.4
Size S M L XL XXL
Weight 22.1 kg
Perm. total weight 157 kg
Max. payload (rider/equipment) 134 kg
Trailer approval no
Kickstand mount no
Tuning tips: Upgrade to more robust tires with tougher DoubleDown casing for peace of mind. | Play around with different spacer combinations. Fewer spacers under the stem improve handling on steep climbs but inspire less confidence downhill.
Sensitive little thing – what is the Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV capable of?
If you’re assuming that the Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV is just a mean downhill ploughing machine, you’ll be surprised to see what it’s capable of on flatter trails. Here the Santa Cruz places you in a relaxed, upright pedalling position, proving an excellent companion for long days in the saddle. When pedalling on level ground, the active rear suspension irons out bumps without bobbing excessively. At the same time, it generates tons of traction on technical climbs, following the contours of the ground with clinical precision. On steeper climbs, however, you’ll have to actively weight the front wheel to prevent it from lifting. This is mainly due to the tall head tube and the rear suspension, which tends to sink deep into its travel. As a result, on challenging climbs, the Heckler can’t keep up with other Shimano EP8 bikes, like the Pivot Shuttle LT and Yeti 160E.
The rear suspension of the Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV is one of the most sensitive in the entire test field.
What holds back the Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV on steep climbs, inspires huge amounts of confidence downhill: the high front end. When shredding your way back down into the valley, the Heckler integrates you nicely between its wheels, preventing unnerving OTB moments on steep trail sections and big drops, and conveying a huge sense of security in the process, whether you’re a beginner or experienced rider. Here the sensitive rear suspension plays a crucial role, providing excellent small bump compliance while at the same time taking the edge off bigger hits and providing enough reserves to bail you out on botched landings. That being said, The Santa Cruz is a tad less defined than its direct opponents, the Yeti 160E and Orbea WILD. The smaller 27.5″ rear wheel has its perks especially on flowing trails, where the Heckler is far more playful than the Transition Repeater, for example, allowing you to flick the rear end from one corner into the next.
|Seat tube||390 mm||405 mm||430 mm||460 mm||500 mm|
|Top tube||571 mm||599 mm||624 mm||645 mm||674 mm|
|Head tube||130 mm||100 mm||115 mm||135 mm||155 mm|
|Chainstays||446 mm||446 mm||446 mm||446 mm||446 mm|
|BB Height||346 mm||346 mm||346 mm||346 mm||346 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,206 mm||1,226 mm||1,252 mm||1,281 mm||1,314 mm|
|Reach||430 mm||455 mm||475 mm||495 mm||520 mm|
|Stack||607 mm||616 mm||629 mm||648 mm||666 mm|
The high front end of the Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV conveys huge amounts of confidence on the trail but also causes the front end to lift slightly on steep climbs.
Who should take a closer look at the Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV and who should look elsewhere?
The Hecker MX X01 AXS RSV is a bike for (nearly) everybody, convincing as a true all-rounder and feeling at home just as much on long tours as it does on demanding trails. The Santa Cruz doesn’t judge you based on your skill level, treating both newbies and experienced riders the same way. Beginners will benefit from its intuitive, confidence-inspiring handling and sensitive rear suspension, while skilled riders will enjoy the agile character and benefit from the suspension’s excellent support. The Heckler is a bike for everyone who wants to spread some sunny Cali vibes onto their local trails.
Conclusions about the Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV
The Santa Cruz Heckler MX X01 AXS RSV is exactly what it wants to be: a bike for all occasions. On the trail, it convinces with agile handling and supportive suspension, inspiring huge amounts of confidence, thus appealing to both beginners and experienced riders. When riding uphill and on long tours, the relaxed pedalling position and sensitive rear suspension ensure a high level of comfort. Only on technical climbs, does the Santa Cruz fall behind the best bikes in test, but only slightly.
- Sensitive rear suspension
- Excellent touring comfort
- Inspires huge amounts of confidence
- Front lifts off the ground slightly when climbing
- Power button awkwardly positioned
You can find out more about at santacruzbicycles.com
The test field
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best eMTB of 2023 – 30 models in review
All bikes in test: Berria Mako Hybrid GT LTD (Click for review) | Bulls SONIC EVO SL EN-1 (Click for review) | Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon LT1 (Click for review) | Flyer Uproc X 9.50 (Click for review) | Focus SAM² 6.9 (Click for review) | Focus JAM² 6.9 (Click for review) | Focus Jam² SL 9.9 (Click for review) | Forestal Siryon Diōde (Click for review) | Giant Trance X Advanced E+ Ltd (Click for review) | Haibike Lyke CF SE (Click for review) | Ibis OSO (Click for review) | KTM Macina Prowler Exonic (Click for review) | MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 975 (Click for review) | Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR LTD (Click for review) | Moustache Samedi 29 Game 11 (Click for review) | Orbea Rise M-Team (Click for review) | Orbea WILD M-LTD (Click for review) | Pivot Shuttle SL Pro X01 (Click for review) | Pivot Shuttle LT Team XTR (Click for review) | Radon Deft 10.0 (Click for review) | Rotwild R.X735 Ultra (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Heckler MX XO1 AXS RSV | SCOTT Lumen eRide 900 SL (Click for review) | Simplon Rapcon Pmax TQ (Click for review) | Specialized Turbo Levo Expert (Click for review) | Transition Repeater AXS Carbon (Click for review) | Thömus Lightrider E Ultimate (Click for review) | Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS (Click for review) | UNNO Mith Race (Click for review) | Yeti 160E T1 (Click for review)
The rating used for riding characteristics refers to the bikes in the group test and the current state of development of eMTBs. The best bikes managed to blend supposedly opposite riding characteristics, feeling both lively and stable at the same time. The handling describes the balance of the bike on downhill sections. The information regarding motor-power refers to the ride-feeling in the overall context of the bike and not exclusively to the motor – that’s why the same motor can present different values.↩
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Words: Felix Rauch Photos: Mike Hunger