Our testers have been able to spend a significant amount of time on the Heckler over the past few months and we all had similar findings. First off, the bike is very neutral in both geometry and suspension, which allows it to excel in most situations. Just like the pedal bikes from Santa Cruz, the Heckler is a great all-arounder but has some down sides as well.
Climbing performance aboard the Heckler was very solid. The geometry and 27.5” wheels let the bike perform in tight switchbacks, technical chunky climbs, and steep up-and-overs. At 76 degrees, the seat tube angle puts the rider in a nice position to put power down while feeling centered over the bike and keeping it from lifting the front end on steep climbs. In terms of motor power and battery life however, the Heckler’s climbing range and capabilities are lacking, especially when compared to Bosch Performance CX-equipped bikes.
We found that the battery consistently dropped bars quicker than most of our other bikes, which makes sense since the battery is 150-200Wh smaller. On the other hand, the Heckler is also a couple pounds lighter, and on 80% of our rides, the range wasn’t an issue. It just meant we needed to charge the bike after every ride instead of getting 2 or three in before recharging.
On the way down, the Heckler is competent in most situations and absolutely excels in some. Once again, the crowd-pleasing geometry allows the bike to thread technical, tight descents with ease. We could speed through tight and technical obstacles without much delay yet the bike still remained stable at higher speeds.
Our absolute favorite place to ride the Heckler was in twisty, turny terrain. It seems that this bike inspired us all to ride like maniacs, trying to drag handlebars and pedals in berms. Santa Cruz somehow made the Heckler feel like it wants to dive into each corner with a smile on its face. We couldn’t help but pedal straight back up hillsides just to session our favorite turns on every downhill trail we rode. If you live in an area with slalom-like trails or you just love blasting corners, this bike is for you.
The downside to this bike comes when the trails get rougher. We’ve definitely developed a reputation of not being fanboys of VPP bikes, however Santa Cruz has been making us eat our words as each generation of Bronson, Nomad and 5010 gets better and better at eating up square-edge hits. Our biggest complaint of VPP-equipped bikes.
Sadly, it seems that some of the positive gains made on Santa Cruz’s pedal bikes, didn’t make the jump to the Heckler. Our testers found that the rear wheel hung up a bit on square-edge hits. Four to six-inch tall rocks and roots transferred a bit of feedback to our riders feet and hands. Once the suspension got moving and we were in the rock gardens or landing bigger hits, the suspension opened up and worked very well, but the initial hits are where we had the biggest issues finding a happy medium with suspension tune. It’s possible that if we were on larger 29-inch wheels the hits would also be a bit smoother, but then we’d lose out on the fun, playful and peppy demeanor of the Heckler. Some of our favorite parts about the bike’s performance.