Introducing the 2020 Santa Cruz Heckler

Yeah, it’s an e-bike. And it’s from Santa Cruz, the brand few people thought would ever make an e-mountain bike. We also never thought that Pluto would be considered anything but a planet but here we are. The 2020 Santa Cruz Heckler e-mountain bike that channels every bit of Santa Cruz design, performance, and ethos and adds a bit of juice to it.

2020 Santa Cruz Heckler Electric Mountain Bike

We’ll cover the tech details of the Heckler below. If you’re looking for a ride review of the bike, Ryan was able to get out to the bushwhacked trails of Santa Cruz, CA to get a good feel of the bike. First ride review HERE.

Ryan - Contender Bicycles. Santa Cruz Heckler E-MTB

Make a Bronson, But Electrify It

The name of the game for the Heckler is like any other Santa Cruz: make an e-bike that fits right into their mantra of “no missed rides.” This means they wanted a platform that was globally-supported, reliable, and serviceable. It needed to be aesthetically clean inside and out, and it needed to feel at home on freshly-groomed and rough backcountry trails alike.

Santa Cruz arrived at that result partially due to the motivation of founder Rob Roskopp. Three years of market research, bringing together a team of engineers already experienced with putting together e-MTBs, and riding the gamut of bikes led to what they call the most agile and playful e-MTB on the market. Testing included tons of runs at Downieville as well as riding through extremely remote terrain and routes. After all, most e-MTB riders in the US are likely to ride on long backcountry rides rather than the steep climbs that have popularized e-MTBs in Europe.

2020 Santa Cruz Heckler Riding - Electric Mountain Bike - Contender Bicycles

The end result is a bike that looks a whole lot like the Santa Cruz Bronson, especially from a distance. Geometry is similar to the Bronson; stack measurements match with about 5 mm less reach per size as e-MTB riders rarely find themselves standing to pedal or in a forward pedaling position. The only major change comes in chainstay length; a 15 mm increase to 445 mm adds stability to the Heckler. Like the Bronson, it’ll fit a 27.5 x 2.8” tire, uses radial bearings for all pivot points and features fully internal cable routing.

Santa Cruz Heckler Pedal Assist Electric Mountain Bike - Contender Bicycles

The suspension is classic Santa Cruz and is designed to feel much like the Bronson. There’s a good reason for it: the Bronson is one of the most fun long-travel bikes on the market at any price. It uses a similar lower-link VPP suspension setup to their other bikes, with the same leverage curve as the Bronson. The suspension is tuned to be more active to better work with the increased weight and 2x chain force that comes from a mid-drive electric drive unit, with a softer feel at the sag point for additional grip. And about that electric unit…

2020 Santa Cruz Heckler E-MTB VPP Suspension - Contender Bicycles

Santa Cruz STEPS It Up

The Shimano STEPS mid-drive electric unit is the elephant in the room. I signed an NDA and couldn’t gossip about the bike, but for whatever reason, there is still surprising disdain toward e-MTBs. I won’t be able to say whether the Heckler will convince people that pedal-assist isn’t devil spawn, (maybe Ryan’s first ride review can) but Santa Cruz did a great job of integrating the drive unit, battery, controller, and display.

Up front is a minimal Shimano STEPS E7000 controller with a similarly unobtrusive display Shimano’s e-bike setup is known for. This is paired to one of two STEPS drive units: the new E7000 unit for Heckler R-Kit and S-Kit builds, and the E8000 unit for X01 Reserve and XX1 AXS Reserve builds. Both drive units offer the same compact form factor, reliable function, and serviceability that lines up nicely with the Santa Cruz ethos. Just a note: while the cheaper STEPS E7000 unit only offers a max 60 Nm of torque, this means that the overall battery range is slightly greater. The STEPS E8000 unit offers a substantial 70 Nm torque. Both are plenty of assist for the vast majority of riders.

2020 Santa Cruz Heckler E-MTB Shimano Steps - Contender Bicycles

All Heckler models share the same 504 Wh battery. Extra batteries are $550 and come with an additional battery cover to make swapping batteries easy, whether at home or on the trail. Other cool features include new Santa Cruz Reserve DH carbon wheels on X01 and XX1 AXS builds, as well as new E-bike-specific Santa Cruz Carbon handlebars that are drilled to hide the controller cable and feed it directly to the main display.

The Santa Cruz Heckler mountain bike is well-considered in the same way that just about every Santa Cruz bike has been from the start. The attention to detail impressive, and leads to an overall cohesive package that makes this a true Santa Cruz.

2020 Santa Cruz Heckler E-MTB Electric - Contender Bicycles

Have any questions about the 2020 Santa Cruz Heckler mountain bike? Give us a call during business hours or send us an email any time to info@contenderbicycles.com.

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