We've been waiting for this one for a while - the Santa Cruz Heckler SL. Is it a Bronson with a hidden motor, or a slimmed down Heckler? The answer is both. The Heckler SL combines the best of both worlds with bags of power on tap, a svelte silhouette and the stable yet responsive handling of a non-electric bike, this is the goldilocks bike we've been waiting for.
Since their debut a few years ago, full power emtbs have grown in popularity, and many people love them, however not everyone is convinced. Aside from those that just don't want to go electric, and hey that's okay, there are some that are put off by the inevitable weight of a full-power bike. Smaller riders will enjoy the Heckler SL for the ease with which it can be moved around, and riders that simply prefer a more lively ride will love it too.
The Heckler SL is Santa Cruz's stealthiest emtb yet - we've been getting used to bikes with fatter downtubes of late, with in-frame storage and emtbs becoming more of the norm, meaning the Heckler SL doesn't look far at all from a regular bike, and could easily be mistaken for a bike without a motor.
Key specs for the Heckler SL are mixed wheel or mullet, 150mm rear travel paired with a 160mm fork, and a weight that tips that scales at just under 42lbs for the top end build.
Housing that motor and battery is a typical Santa Cruz frame, with the lower-link driven shock, as per the rest of their lineup. Available in both C and CC frame layup options, sizes S through XXL, and two colour options - Gloss Magenta and Matte Silver, there are options for pretty much everyone.
Motor & Battery Details
The new Santa Cruz Heckler SL utilizes the Ride 60 drive system from Fazua, a company owned by Porsche, renowned for their expertise in speed. Generating an impressive 60Nm of torque from its compact form and powered by a 430Wh battery, the Heckler SL boasts an impressive range comparable to that of a full-power ebike with a 630Wh battery. What's remarkable is that the Ride 60 system, besides being lightweight, maintains a remarkably compact design; it's so discreet that one might easily overlook the fact that the Heckler SL houses both a motor and a battery.
Taking charge of the system is a sleek top tube-mounted LED hub, complete with a built-in Bluetooth interface, battery level indicator, mode indicator, and a USB-C port for charging devices. On the handlebar, you'll find the super slim ring control, enabling mode changes with a simple thumb flick. Additionally, for 2024, there's a forthcoming bottle cage-mounted range extender battery, although specific details are yet to be confirmed.
The Santa Cruz Heckler SL boasts versatile yet progressive geometry designed for agile trail riding. With reach options of 480mm (high) and 477.5mm (low) in the size large pictured here, it accommodates different rider preferences. A 64.3-degree head tube and a low 340.7mm bottom bracket angle provides stability. With a wheelbase varying from 1262.7mm (high) to 1263.4mm (low), combined with a rear center at 443.8mm to balance agility and control and a 77.5-degree (high) to 77.2-degree (low) seat tube angle for a comfortable climbing position.
Every Heckler SL comes specced with a carbon frame, Rockshox Lyrik fork and a Sram Eagle 12sp drivetrain, as well as the same Fazua Ride 60 motor and battery system across the board.
Starting with the R-build, this bike comes with the C-layup carbon, base level Lyrik fork and Fox Float Performance shock, an NX Eagle groupset, Sram's mineral oil DB8 brakes and WTB wheels. Moving up to the S-build it gets a Select+ fork and Select+ Super Deluxe shock, GX Eagle drivetrain, Sram Code R brakes, OneUp V2 dropper post and DT Swiss 370/Race Face Arc wheels. The top level C frame comes in a GX AXS spec, running the new GX Transmission groupset and upgrades to the new Code Bronze Stealth brakes and Reserve 30 aluminum rims.
The CC frames start with an XO AXS Reserve build spec that features Lyrik and Super Deluxe Ultimate suspension, Sram's XO Transmission groupset coupled with Code Silver Stealth brakes, and Reserve 30 HD rims on Industry Nine 1/1 hubs. The top spec XX AXS Reserve spec upgrades to the top of the line XX Transmission drivetrain, Code Ultimate Stealth brakes, Chris King Headset, Industry Nine Hydra hubs, and a Rockshox Reverb AXS for the ultimate stealth ebike experience.
My first ride on the Heckler SL confirmed my hopes - this is the lightweight emtb from Santa Cruz that we had been waiting for. while some people are adamant supporters of full power ebikes, the lightweight category is one that many of us have been patiently waiting for.
With tight, technical trails aplenty on the North Shore, an ebike that can power up the climbs while retaining the handling characteristics of an 'acoustic' bike on the way back down is what many of us want. Those of us that appreciate a singletrack climb and rarely find the need to use full power mode on the way up, yet appreciate the ability to finesse a bike down some janky North Shore moves will rejoice - the Heckler SL truly does what I had hoped for.
Santa Cruz bikes are known for the excellent ride quality of their VPP suspension, resisting squat while pedalling, and providing a supportive platform deeper into the travel. Mimicking the ride of a Bronson, the Heckler SL rides the way a great trail bike should. Its slack geometry gives it confidence at speed while staying supportive and controlled through the chunder, while the low weight and short chainstays mean it dances over and around technical trail features with ease. It has that characteristic feel of every other great Santa Cruz bike, that feels comfortable and familiar, allowing the rider to jump on and instantly push hard.
When it comes to motor support, on technical singletrack climbs, there is plenty of power on tap, with the bike running well in the middle 'river' mode, but full power 'Rocket' mode it feels like it'll power up just about anything. Getting to wide and steep sustained climbs reveals that the motor has a little less power than a full power bike, with the rider having to put in a little work still.
The beauty of the Fazua motor is the lack of resistance inherent in the motor unit, meaning that with the assist fully switched off, it climbs just like a regular bike. Not wanting to just believe that, I did put this theory to the test on Good Sir Martin climb trail on Seymour, and while yes it does climb like a heavy bike it's still very rideable, unlike a full power ebike, most of which are practically unrideable if the battery dies.
The Heckler SL is quite honestly the most fun emtb I've had the pleasure to ride on the North Shore, making the most fun on the descents. It's not necessarily the one bike to rule them all, but It's the emtb for riders that don't need the power of a full-power bike, that want a lighter emtb that rides just like their normal bike with no compromises on the descent. It's the ultimate stealth machine for those that want a nimble, neutral handling bike. I love it.