Santa Cruz Heckler SL eMTB Review



Words & Photos by Drew Rohde

Over the last few months we’ve taken the 150/160mm mullet eMTB that is the Santa Cruz Heckler SL all over the West Coast for its long-term review. Sporting a 430Wh internal battery; a fun and capable geometry set; and Fazua’s Ride 60 drive unit, this 42.5lb SL eMTB certainly had the internet and text groups abuzz as it seemed to be what so many riders were looking for from Santa Cruz Bicycles. In fact, even our own tester Alex expressed his desire for it when reviewing the latest generation Bronson over a year ago! Let’s see how this bike stacked up as we received it just a few weeks after our SL/Lightweight eMTB Shootout wrapped up, so we had a ton of bikes to put this up against in our mental Rolodex of eBikes.


• 150mm VPP Suspension
• Fazua Ride60 Motor
• 430Wh Integrated Battery
• 2-pos Geometry Flip Chip
• HTA 64.3/64
• REACH 480/477.5 (large)

Price: $7,299 – $12,999


If you missed it, we had a pretty thorough write up and interview with Santa Cruz representatives who dropped this bike off to us, so we’ll keep some of the details here a bit shorter. We suggest you check this out if you want more and to see if our long-term review is much different than our initial impressions.

MODELS | Starting at $7,299 with the Carbon C and going up to $12,999 dollars for the Heckler SL XX AXS RSV model, Santa Cruz is offering the Heckler SL in five sizes from Small to XXL and a range of builds across this price range. For our review, we have the Heckler SL GX AXS with Alloy Reserve wheels. Along with the SRAM T-Type GX AXS drivetrain, SRAM’s Code Bronze Stealth brakes round out the grouppo. Other cockpit spec includes a Burgec Enduro MK3 stem with Santa Cruz 35mm carbon bars; a long OneUp V2 Dropper post and WTB Silverado Medium saddle. DT Swiss 370 hubs are laced to Reserve 30 SL AL rims, which are wrapped in Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR2 tires. We don’t love the MaxxTerra or EXO+ spec call out back, but some may like the longer life and reduced weight. For us, the tradeoff isn’t worth the loss in performance.

Another point worth discussing in the Santa Cruz lineup is their perceived value compared to other bikes on the market. If you look at some of the entry level spec selections compared to pricing, it’s certainly not a bargain, or on-par with some other offerings that can be found, but then again, there aren’t many SL, lightweight eMTBs on the market that compete, so it seems there’s a current premium to pay in the SL space for now.

FRAME DETAILS | Available in both their C and CC carbon, Santa Cruz Bicycles continue to deliver a refined, and beautiful-looking bike out of the box. The CC bikes rely on a more expensive type of carbon that utilizes high-strength fibers, meaning Santa Cruz can use less material and achieve the same strength at a reduced weight. For most riders, we suspect the C will be plenty sufficient.

Cable routing and frame protection details are well executed on the Heckler SL in typical Santa Cruz fashion, without many gripes from our staff. The internal cable routing enters the head tube neatly, however some may be suspicious of mud, water and other ill-willed grit making an ingress. During our testing however, we did not develop any rattle or noise from cables or crap getting in our bike. A nicely ribbed chainstay protector keeps the rear end quiet, as does the integrated upper chainguide. A small fender stickers out from the seat tube and protects the shock and some linkage bits from debris flying off of the rear tire, a nice touch which we appreciated. The rear shock is a bit tough to see and access, but a window port on the non-drive side does allow for easier viewing of the sag-ring for shock setup.

ELECTRONICS | Fazua’s Ride 60 drive unit is impressive, but also has its fair share of issues if you look on the message boards or comment sections. It seems steps have been made by Fazua, and Santa Cruz’s waiting to release this bike seem to have at least reduced the headache some earlier adopters like Pivot and Transition may have had.

Speaking of both those bikes, the Fazua drive unit in our Heckler SL seemed to be louder and make a different sound than the drive units in our other Ride 60-equipped bikes. We’re not sure if it’s the acoustics of the frame, wall thickness or what; but the drive unit in this bike is notably louder and different than the Pivot Shuttle SL and Transition Relay. Inside the downtube is a hard-mounted 430Wh battery, which could be an issue for those who want to fly or like to remove the battery for charging. Another area of note is the plastic Ring Controller Fazua uses. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great, and we just don’t get an overly durable or quality impression from the unit. Combine that with the inability to turn the bike on or change power modes via the top-tube display, and you start to worry that an unfortunate crash or damaging the controller could leave you in a tough spot.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL eMTB Review


Since receiving the Santa Cruz Heckler SL for review, we’ve taken it to some of our favorite test trails here in Bend, Oregon and took it back to our favorite test trails and home turf in Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley, California. We also made some stops inbetween to truly give the Heckler SL a variety of conditions and trail types to see where it shines.

Here in Bend, the trails are smoother, have more flow and feature plenty of lips for air miles. It was here that the Heckler SL proved to be a force of fun! The stiff chassis was great for either pushing into corners and snapping out, or if you wanted to keep the bike upright and push the back end into a choppy drift. Fun, engaging and active are adjectives we’d use to describe the bike here. The geometry is lively, the VPP platform is great for pedaling, allows you to maintain speed in flats and accelerate when pumping rollers or in big berms. Smiles all round.

During our initial testing in Central Oregon – and in our First Ride Report – we commented on some improvements we were hoping to get out of the rear end by spending more time tuning in the rear shock. For those who haven’t read many of our other reviews, we believe all suspension platforms have their pros and cons. Like everything in life, certain things work better in certain areas or for certain people, and most of us are not huge fans of VPP bikes as we like supple and sensitive suspension platforms. VPP bikes offer all the pros listed above for trail areas like Bend: they pedal great; offer a ton of platform for pumping and jumping, and are just a ton of fun overall. However, as a life-long desert rider who loves finding chunky, rough and often-times loose terrain, traction and sensitivity are very important for me.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL eMTB Review

While I did make some notable improvements the longer I had the bike, once I got it on the chunky hometown trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, I still struggled with the same VPP feelings I’ve grown to expect. Santa Cruz definitely do a great job with the VPP-style suspension and we find that longer-travel versions – especially coil-sprung ones – further mitigate the feedback and stiffness off the top, but depending on some other tuned in factors like anti-squat and anti-rise, the platform can stiffen up on certain models more than others. The Heckler SL isn’t as stiff as the full-power Heckler, but nowhere near as smooth as the V-10 or Nomad even.

So, what am I getting at? Well, what I’m trying to say is that once I got the bike on SoCal chunk where traction is low and rocks are plentiful, the Heckler SL’s rear end was a bit rougher and more tiring than I would have liked. This was not complimented by the need to run extra PSI in the rear tire thanks to the EXO+ casing. Also to note, the dry, loose sandstone does not offer a ton of traction, so the firmer MaxxTerrra rubber on the rear tire didn’t help either.

What I found was that the bike did a great job linking up corners, popping in and out of micro-berms, airing into and out of features. On the flip side, when it came time to ground-and-pound extended descents where traction, comfort and control mattered most, I was getting tired, going slower and sliding more.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL eMTB Review

The Wolf’s Last Word

So where does the Santa Cruz Heckler SL sit overall? That’s a really tough question because as much as I loved it, and I mean love it, it’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde scenario. In the PNW on 45-foot jumps, mega berms, loamers and flowy trails it is an incredibly fun all-arounder! It climbs well, corners effortlessly and plays with the best of them. However, if I still lived in Los Angeles and was riding the chunky, embedded rocky trails of Rocky Peak and the Santa Monica Mountains, I’d likely be searching for a suspension platform that offered me a more composed, comfortable and faster overall ride.

As it goes in life; whether it’s tools, vehicles, cameras or anything else you chose, things will have pros, cons and areas they excel. I look at it as a blessing because there are riders all over the world who all prefer and ride different types of trails, and so want different things from their ride experience. If you’re looking for a lightweight eMTB that is a ton of fun, can be jumped, slid, pumped and pedaled on trails with ease, the Heckler SL is a blast. If you prioritize smooth, supple suspension and live for rough and chunky downhills, perhaps another option with a bit smoother of a suspension platform and a more compliant frame would serve you better. Or….tell me I’m crazy, buy this and put a coil-shock on it and have fun, either way, the choice is yours! Have fun.

Price: $9,699
Weight: 42.5lbs

Santa Cruz Heckler SL eMTB Review


Frame: Carbon C | 150mm
Fork: RockShox Lyrik Select+ | 160mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ | 185×52.5mm 

Motor: Fazua Ride60 | 60nm
Battery: FAZUA 430Wh Integrated
Display: Fazua LED Hub
Remote: Fazua Ring Controller

Brakes: SRAM Code Bronze Stealth
Handlebar: Santa Cruz 35 Carbon Bar, 800mm
Stem: Burgtec Enduro MK3, 42mm
Seatpost: OneUp V2 Dropper Post, 31.6
Saddle: WTB Silverado Medium, CroMo

Wheels: Reserve 30|SL AL 6069 29/27.5
Front Tire: Maxxis Minion DHF 29″x2.5″WT, 3C MaxxGrip, EXO
Rear Tire: Maxxis Minion DHR II 27.5″x2.4″, 3C MaxxTerra, EXO+

Cassette: SRAM GX Eagle T-Type, 10-52t
Cranks: Praxis eTor AL, 104BCD, 165mm
Shifter: SRAM AXS Pod Bridge
Derailleur: SRAM GX Eagle AXS T-Type, 12spd

We Dig

Play Bike with Assist!
Pops, Pumps, Boosts, Snaps
Fit and Finish
Can’t Tell It’s an Eeb

We Don’t

VPP is rough in the rough
Not the best value for spec in lower level models
Non-removable battery could be issue for some


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