The 65.5-degree head tube angle 76-degree seat tube angle on our large-sized test bike put us in a natural position and kept the bike maneuverable when it came time to navigate raw mountain trails. The 445mm chainstays were short enough to keep the bike playful and nimble yet long enough to keep our front tire down and delivering power on the steep climbs. Wheelbase on the large Heckler is 1,237mm with a reach of 465mm.
Some may criticize these numbers as “2018 geometry,” it’s becoming apparent that my riding style may be out of touch with the current trend of bike design. I for one am thrilled that Santa Cruz’s Heckler is versatile on what I consider proper mountain bike trails. I enjoy rugged, rough and natural terrain. Just one look around the Lost Sierras and it makes sense why this bike doesn’t have a 485mm reach or a 64-degree head tube angle. It just won’t work out here.
The Heckler is designed to be fun, playful and versatile. It is very much those things. If you live to self-shuttle fire roads to access wide open bike park level groomers, maybe it isn’t the right rig for you, although we rode plenty of high-speed trails and I felt pretty dang confident on this bike. What’s great though, is that Santa Cruz didn’t go so extreme that the bike handles like a limousine trying to make a U-turn in a cul-de-sac.
While the geometry, looks and playfulness of the bike are all highlights, I would have liked to have more time on trails I’m familiar with to properly set up the suspension. I admitted to Seb, and for those who’ve read my reviews over the years you already know, I’ve never been a VPP prophet. I’ve come around lately and found the lower-link design to be a great advancement compared to older designs, however I felt a couple harsh hits come from the rear end that reminded me of my old VPP critiques.
I played with the sag once or twice which helped, but the shock didn’t have a high-speed compression adjustment so I couldn’t quite make all the tweaks I’d like to. Plus, I’m sure cold hands and 34-degree temperatures are not optimal conditions for testing suspension. I’m going to reserve my official review until I can get home to ride some more familiar and regular trails and allow more time for set up as the high-speed bench cuts, cliffside ice patches and mining trail switchbacks aren’t part of most rider’s repertoire.
THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Despite the cold, and some of my critiques above, the four of us had an absolute blast riding these brand-new Santa Cruz Hecklers around Downieville. Overall the bikes are very capable and are exactly what I’d expect from the brand. The Heckler is well balanced, playful, climbs well, descends well and is a solid bike for those looking at buying a high-end eMTB.
We hope to be receiving a Heckler from Santa Cruz very soon so that we can start putting some real time on the bike on our home test tracks to see how it stacks up head to head against the best ebikes on the market. Until then, we’d suggest booking a demo with Yuba Expeditions or another Santa Cruz dealer so you can try one for yourself.
Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship