SANTA CRUZ HECKLER EBIKE
EXPLORING NEW TRAILS IN DOWNIEVILLE
AN EXCLUSIVE FIRST RIDE REPORT
Words by Drew Rohde
Video by Brian Niles/Treeline Cinematics
After having to lie to me for six months about the development of Santa Cruz’s eMTB, Seb Kemp, Santa Cruz Bicycles’ brand manager, finally got the green light to bring me into the circle of trust. After a cryptic email, I got a phone call from Seb, “Well man, you’ve been bugging me longer than anyone else and I’ve had to keep this latest bike super secretive, but I think you’ll be very interested. What do you think about a weekend trip to Downieville?” Seb didn’t offer many details, and I didn’t ask. I just grinned from ear to ear knowing that Santa Cruz finally had an ebike and I was going to be one of the first people to ride it! I asked Seb to book a ticket for me and my video guy and we’d see him soon enough.
About a month later, Brian Niles (Treeline Cinematic) and I arrived at the Sacramento airport and strolled outside. Santa Cruz’s Seb Kemp was at the curb waiting in a rented Grand Caravan. He opened the trunk and there they were – four new ebikes…covered in moving blankets. Dammit!
I’m not going to lie here, as a total bike nerd who’s cynicism has been invigorated by all the new technology and engineering behind these eMTB machines, the fact I was going to have to wait another two and a half hours to see these bikes killed me. I didn’t know what it was called, I didn’t know what color it was going to be, how much travel it had, nothing!
Not wanting to appear overly excited, I ignored the voice in my head. The three of us made small talk as we headed east into the Sierra Mountains, bound for Downieville. More specifically, we were headed to The Lure. It is a riverfront adventure lodge with cabins, scenery, and access to the quaint yet somewhat odd town of Downieville. The old gold mining town is a home away from home for Santa Cruz Bicycles and where they come to test new bikes. It was a regular proving ground for their new eMTB, so it made sense for us to get the first ride on the trails that helped shape it.
As we twisted our way into the Sierras, sunshine turned to snow and we all watched the temperature drop on the Grand Caravan’s lovely digital dashboard display. If nothing else, we’d have a great time hanging in our cabins by the fire talking about ebikes. Luckily for us, the snow wasn’t sticking to the ground and we arrived at The Lure with enough time to unload the van and get our first glimpse of the new Santa Cruz Heckler. After playing the guessing game in my head for the last month, I thought for sure it was going be the MegaWatt, I was blindsided when I read Heckler on the top tube. After roughly seven years away, it was time for the Heckler to make a comeback.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense though. Santa Cruz Bicycles was founded by Rob Roskopp, who has a bit of an anti-scene mentality, and the Heckler name was a bit of a jab to go along with Santa Cruz’s somewhat unorthodox bike and mentality in the mountain bike space. So, it’s fitting that the Santa Cruz Heckler comes back during such a contentious time. The Heckler is here to stick its tongue out and wiggle its fingers at us all, reminding us that fun is fun.