Before sharing our initial impressions of the bike, here are some quick questions we had for Santa Cruz’s head product manager, Josh Kissner.
WHEN THE HECKLER FIRST DROPPED, MANY EBIKE EXPERTS HAD DECLARED THAT THE BIKE WAS ALREADY BEHIND THE CURVE AND MISSING SOME KEY INGREDIENTS. WHAT WERE THOSE INGREDIENTS AND HOW DOES SOMETHING LIKE THAT HAPPEN?
Josh Kissner (JK): Haha, maybe you’ll have to give us some more info on what you think those misses were. I will say that we approached the first Heckler in a different way than we have with this latest one. With the first bike our primary goal was to make it light and agile- as much like a normal bike as possible. We knew we were going to follow it up with the Bullit, so we weren’t trying to make the Heckler a big mountain monster. Given that criteria, we felt the feedback we got on it was actually very positive.
The new Heckler is certainly more capable in rougher terrain, and of course it has a lot more battery capacity so it can be quite the backcountry explorer. We think of it as a change in tact rather than fixing deficiencies.
SO OBVIOUSLY THE “EASY” STUFF LIKE DRIVE UNIT, A LARGER, REMOVABLE BATTERY AND ADDING A 29-INCH WHEEL HAVE BEEN ADDRESSED. WHAT ELSE DID SANTA CRUZ WANT TO IMPROVE ON THE NEW HECKLER?
JK: Aside from those “Big ticket items” we definitely wanted to make some refinements as well. The geometry has been updated quite a bit, and we’ve added a Flip Chip at the lower link to allow for further adjustment. We increased the frame’s shock clearance, so nearly all shocks will fit now- where the prior bike cannot fit a coil shock or Float X2. We’ve also designed it to accommodate the 30x8mm shock bearing eyelets available from Fox and Rock Shox, which do improve the suspension a bit. We tuned up the cable routing a bit to make dropper routing easier.
Besides those things- the big change is of course wheel size. With MX and full-29″ options, we’re trying to make a Heckler for everyone. Twentynine for ultimate traction and rolling speed, MX for agility and confidence in the steepest terrain.
WHILE WE REALLY LIKED THE PLAYFUL DEMEANOR AND FUN OF THE PREVIOUS HECKLER, WE FELT THE SUSPENSION WAS A BIT HARSH ON SQUARE-EDGE HITS. HOW HAS THE NEW BIKE ADDRESSED THAT?
JK: The Rock Shox Super Deluxe tune we use has improved a lot since the initial year of the Heckler. We’ve also been using their new Hotdog Piston option for over a year now, which definitely improves the feel on square-edge hits. The new bike carries this forward with the addition of the bearing rear eyelet- which also improves the small-bump feel. Generally, the suspension kinematics are very similar to the prior bike, with the addition of the Low setting on the flip chip which also increases the progression of the leverage curve.
HOW ARE EBIKE SALES DOING FOR SANTA CRUZ COMPARED TO OTHER NON-E MODELS?
JK: It’s an interesting time in the industry because we sell everything we can make. And we make everything we can get our hands on- but bike parts are difficult to get.
WHERE DO YOU SEE EMTBS IN FIVE YEARS?
JK: I’d be lying if I said we knew that…. But if we did, we’d keep it to ourselves ;-)
ANY THOUGHTS ON THE “EBIKE LIGHT” MARKET? LOWER POWERED, LIGHTER WEIGHT EMTBS.
JK: I think this is definitely a category that has legs and is certainly going to expand in the next couple of years. My personal thought is that these appeal to riders who only have an eBike, and they’re looking for a more natural feel from the motor and handling. Riders with eBikes as a second (or 4th?!?!) bike are probably keener on the full-power hotrod and appreciate that it’s a different experience altogether. These are just theories however and we’re just happy to be involved in the bike business and stoking riders out.