Santa Cruz Heckler SL Ride Review

Written by Joseph Bonacci, on October 16, 2023

This September, Santa Cruz unveiled their flagship lightweight eMtb, the Heckler SL. Designed with all-day riding in mind and weighing in significantly less than full-power eMtb’s, the Heckler SL is poised to be a category leader. 

Besides its svelte weight, the new Heckler also raises some eyebrows with the use of the sleek Fazua Ride 60 motor system, slightly redesigned rear linkage and MX (mullet) setup as the sole wheel option. These design choices collectively beg the question, will trail performance be vastly improved over the Heckler’s rivals? We’ve been fortunate enough to take the bike out and give it a comprehensive field test to find exactly where this new machine excels. When you jump on the Heckler SL, the first thing you might notice is the length of the bike. The mullet wheel setup extends the front wheel a bit more out in front of you, giving the Heckler SL a wheelbase of 1263 mm (size L), which is 3 cm longer than an Orbea Rise of the same size. On the trail, this enables the bike to charge over any obstacle in its path, putting the rider in a stable position that gives the confidence to rip through technical areas letting the bike absorb the hits. The flipside is that the longer wheelbase does make it more of a challenge to navigate uphill and through corners, requiring some creative maneuvering to get it around tight switchbacks. The Heckler SL is based around the non-electric Bronson, and the compact Fazua Motor is a godsend in helping the climbing ability of the bike. The three drive modes, plus the secret Turbo boost, allow you to essentially climb at any speed and with anyone. The assist can either be set at more of a background level where you can ride with your friends on non-assisted bikes, or over-the-top, where you are able to keep up with people on even the most powerful eMtb’s. The Heckler SL is punchy when it needs to be, but low-key when it doesn’t. For those who need a more in-depth look at the Fazua Ride 60 motor system, we have a journal with everything you need to know. 

The Heckler SL is perfect for high-altitude days, where you spend much of the time climbing to get to a fun descent. The geometry gives you the confidence needed to blast down a technical, rocky descent without feeling like you are going to go over the bars. The 160mm of fork travel combined with the mullet wheel setup allows the bike to absorb most impacts with less rider fatigue. With the Heckler SL, Santa Cruz has created a bike to tackle any descent you want, while not tiring you out on the uphills. Between the full-carbon frame and the lightweight Fazua motor system, the Heckler SL is light for an eMtb and you definitely feel the difference on the trail between the Heckler SL and something like its full-size, full-power sibling, the standard Heckler. The full-size Heckler charges through anything, but with far less finesse or subtlety than the Heckler SL. The Heckler SL inherits the same hard charging personality but adds some finesse to the ride, making it able to float down the trail. This bike is perfect for people looking for an eMtb that is ready to take on pretty much anything they want to ride. From desert red rock to the Wasatch mountains, there isn’t anything the Heckler SL won’t be able to tackle. 

The Santa Cruz Heckler SL is a great choice for those who want a lightweight eMtb to push themselves. The long travel, slack head angle, and the mullet wheel setup gives the rider the perfect platform to push their riding to the next level. The versatility of the bike allows you to have fun anywhere from jump trails to technical rock lines. We'd recommend this bike to people who are interested in the Scott Lumen or Orbea Rise, but want something that will be more downhill focused. It’s also the perfect bike for someone looking for the capability of a full-power eMtb in a lighter package. Give us a call or visit us in store to learn more about the Heckler SL. We are happy to answer any questions you may have and get you out riding. 


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