luxury sled

Santa Cruz Heckler CC Review

The name Heckler is iconic. More than 20 years ago, the Heckler was a trailblazer among all-mountain full-suspensions. It was lightweight, simple, and nimble. After a long hiatus from the scene, the Heckler has been revived – now as an E-Bike. Even with a battery pack, the Heckler remains an all-mountain machine, but one designed for the rough and tumble. Our test will reveal if it still has that agile edge.

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Today’s Heckler CC barely resembles its ancestor. The bike exudes sheer power. Up front, a burly RockShox ZEB fork does its job. The downtube is the size of a well-trained calf, housing a chunky battery with 720 Wh.

At first glance, the Heckler doesn’t seem as agile as its progenitor’s genes might suggest. Yet, in one aspect, the Heckler remains true to itself. It’s light. Our test bike in size L tips the scales at 22.4 kg – an impressive figure, especially for a full-power e-mountain bike with a large battery and sturdy components.

Santa Cruz Heckler CC

The Santa Cruz Heckler CC MX by the Numbers

  • Bike Type: All Mountain
  • Travel: 160mm / 150mm (front / rear)
  • Wheelsets: Mullet (29"/27.5")
  • Frame Material: Carbon (mainframe and rear triangle)
  • Weight: 22.4 kg (Size L)
  • Motor System: Shimano EP801
  • Battery: 720 Wh (removable)
  • Max. Total Weight: 136 kg
  • Features: Lifetime Warranty (Frame & Wheels)
  • Price: €10,999
The Santa Cruz Hightower CC Review
The Santa Cruz is a featherweight among full-power E-MTBs at 22.4 kg.
Santa Cruz Hightower CC: The RockShox Zeb Fork
The Rock Shox Zeb makes a burly entrance and craves for speed. The harder you push it, the better it performs.

136 kg payload capacity - WOW!

Sticking with the term “robust”: Santa Cruz exudes confidence in terms of durability. The Heckler CC can be loaded with up to 136 kg. That’s what the Yanks call the maximum permissible payload. The conventional specification of max total weight is not as common in the USA. The difference: The payload describes the weight of the rider plus gear.

The max permissible total weight includes the bike itself in the calculation – so bike plus rider plus gear plus accessories. 136 kg for the rider and their equipment is therefore a top figure. This results in a maximum total weight of 158 kg. Impressive. These values promise durability. Santa Cruz underscores this with a lifetime warranty on frames and wheels.

Santa Cruz Heckler CC on the Trail
136 kg payload with rider and gear, plus a lifetime warranty on frame and wheels – the Yanks are banking on durability.
The VPP rear suspension of the Santa Cruz Heckler CC
The VPP rear suspension is as much a part of Santa Cruz's DNA as its surfer image.

Premium Class: It's All in the Details

Upon closer inspection, several details on the Heckler catch the eye. For example, the cable entries for the internal cable routing. Contrary to the trend of routing cables through the head tube, the cables on the Santa Cruz still run classically along the sides into the down tube. A good thing, because routing through the head tube brings many disadvantages – for instance, on many bikes the stem cannot be set all the way down.

Another great feature is the generously sized chainstay protector. It shields the chainstays along their entire length from impacts. As a result, the bike stays quiet, as the protector can effectively absorb the annoying chain slap.

Santa Cruz Cable Routing
The cables are routed classically through the head tube rather than just through the headset.
Santa Cruz Heckler CC Hits the Trails
The Santa Cruz is touted as an All-Mountain bike. Does it live up to its name?

The bike is unfortunately not quiet. While there’s no noise from chain slap, the Shimano motor announces its presence with a loud clatter. This clattering is inherent in its design, but it’s not something to worry about. The noise level is still irksome, however.

Another thing stands out: the front and rear wheels are not on the same axle. The rear axle sits lower. This is due to the Mullet tires. Or as the laid-back folks from the Californian surf town Santa Cruz like to say: Business in the front, Party in the rear. The large 29-inch front wheel gives the Heckler a stable rollover behavior. The smaller rear wheel adds agility to the mix.

The Shimano EP801 motor
Shimano's EP8 motor is significantly more powerful than the older E8000, but unfortunately, it rattles on the descents.

Across the Peaks: How Much All-Mountain Is in the Heckler CC?

The Heckler is a full power all mountain e-bike designed for extreme terrain. Yet, it aims to score on long rides as well. And it does. The relaxed seating position is still comfortable after hours in the saddle. The position is upright, as with most e-bikes in this category.

A big plus for lengthy tours is the removable battery. With a charger in your backpack, you can easily take out the battery and recharge it during breaks at cafés and restaurants. There’s also ample hydration provided: From size L upwards, the bottle cage in the front triangle can accommodate water bottles up to 750 ml.

Despite the large opening in the downtube, the Heckler feels pleasantly stiff. The power transfer from your own pedaling feels efficiently rewarding. For those who want to go the extra mile and ride in the conservative Eco mode, assisting the motor with your own power greatly extends the range.

Santa Cruz Heckler CC Motor
Button Basher: The button to fire up the motor is tucked beneath the shock.
Santa Cruz Heckler CC frame
The bike provides ample room for water bottle cages in the front triangle.

How much mountain goat is in the Heckler CC?

Santa Cruz is well-known for bikes with a high addiction factor on the descents. But can the Heckler CC also handle uphill? Absolutely. The Heckler CC is a relaxed yet confident climber, that marches up the mountain with control, even on steep ramps. The bike performs with surprising agility, enabling riders to navigate through chunky trail sections without faltering.

The bottom bracket is low. Very low. This provides a lot of control. It feels like you’re literally standing in the bike. As if the bike is an extension of your own body. This is great, especially on technical terrain or when shredding at high speeds on gnarly trails.

Rear triangle Santa Cruz Heckler CC
The rear triangle of the Heckler provides ample clearance for mud or wide tires.
Santa Cruz Heckler CC Frame
Never skimp on the casing. With the Double Down puncture protection, you can confidently plow through rock gardens.

The low bottom bracket does have its downsides, however. Pedal strikes are almost unavoidable – especially with large flat pedals. And that’s despite Santa Cruz already equipping the Heckler CC with compact cranks straight from the factory – the Shimano cranks measure 165 mm.

Yet, the Heckler CC boasts an intriguing feature: the Flip-Chip at the rear shock mount. By flipping the Flip-Chip, you can adjust the geometry in “Hi” and “Lo” positions. The bottom bracket height varies by 8 mm, and the head angle by 0.3°. Granted, the changes are minimal and might seem insignificant at first glance. But 8 mm more ground clearance is nearly equivalent to the jump from a 165 mm to a 175 mm crank. Anyone who has ever switched between 165 mm and 175 mm cranks knows how much you can feel the difference on the trail.

Santa Cruz Heckler CC with RockShox Super Deluxe shock
The Rock Shox Super Deluxe shock sits just above the motor, keeping the center of gravity low.

Accepting the occasional pedal strike on technical climbs as part of the game, you can have tons of fun ascending with the Heckler CC. The bike playfully snakes up the mountain switchback by switchback on rocky trails. The weight distribution on the bike is balanced, keeping the front wheel firmly planted even on steep ascents. The only issue is the 2.4″ Maxxis DHR II rear tire, which provides less than optimal grip on the small 27.5″ rear wheel. This mainly comes down to the medium-hard MaxxTerra rubber compound. However, the tire also appears surprisingly narrow, even though it’s mounted on a Reserve DH Carbon rim with an internal width of 30 mm.

Tuning Tip: Santa Cruz allows for up to a 2.6” tire width on the Heckler CC MX’s rear. For those who prefer tackling ascents on technical trails, a grippy 2.6″ rear tire can be a game-changer — not only for the enhanced grip but also because a wider tire has a larger diameter, effectively raising the bottom bracket. A welcome increase in ground clearance.

Santa Cruz Heckler CC with Reserve Carbon Rims
The Reserve Carbon rims exude confidence with a lifetime warranty.

Gnarly descents: Feels like more than you'd expect

Descending, the Heckler CC impresses with a plush suspension. The rear end feels like it has more travel than you’d expect from a bike with 150mm of travel. The linkage and shock work so seamlessly that the rear suspension outperforms the fork. This leads to a slight imbalance in the suspension.

Compared to the rear, the fork feels a bit over-damped and tends to transmit minor bumps to the rider insensitively, especially at lower speeds. Even with the compression damping fully open, this characteristic is noticeable. It takes a lot of speed and force for the Zeb Ultimate to come alive and show its full potential. The Heckler CC rides better the faster you go.

Santa Cruz Heckler CC on the Downhill
The Heckler's plush suspension and aggressive ride characteristics stand out on descents, though not without some points of critique.

The balanced handling impresses with a healthy mix of playfulness and smooth rolling. The Heckler CC is ideal for E-bikers looking to comfortably push their limits in extreme terrain. Descending, the Santa Cruz proves to be a benevolent full-throttle bike, securely guiding its rider with a plush ride feel through rugged terrain.

The bike’s character is reminiscent of Baloo the Bear: nothing can disturb its calm. Even in gnarly rock gardens, you’ll be tempted to hum “The Bare Necessities” to yourself.

Santa Cruz Heckler CC with Eagle Drivetrain
SRAM's XO Eagle drivetrain shifts smoothly across the cassette, even under full load.

Pro Arguments

  • rather lightweight for a full-power e-bike
  • removable battery
  • Superb Suspension

Contra Arguments

  • Fork feels over-damped
  • The motor could be a bit quieter.
Santa Cruz Heckler CC
Let it rip: High-speed sections play right into the Heckler's wheelhouse.

Comparison: Related Bikes in This Price Bracket

Fazit des Santa Cruz Heckler CC

The Santa Cruz Heckler CC MX is a great choice for e-bikers who enjoy long tours in extreme terrain.

Whether you take it easy or go full throttle, the Santa Cruz cuts a fine figure in any riding situation thanks to its balanced handling. A bike with an enormously wide range of uses.

Further details on all Santa Cruz Heckler models

We’ve been shredding the trails on the top-tier Santa Cruz Heckler CC for our review. To get the full monty, you’ll need to fork out over €10,000. But if you can make do with a bit less bling, there are more affordable builds to consider.

All the details, including geo charts and specs for each model, can always be found on their respective detail pages:

About the author

Maxi Dickerhoff

...liebt es, mit der Hangabtriebskraft zu spielen und bewegt Mountainbikes bergab meist in Schräglage. Sein Fahrstil verlangt den Bikes alles ab, seine Liebe zum Detail macht seine Tests zu einer wahren Hilfe für alle Biker.

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