Santa Cruz Heckler SL Review

“Like Baloo the Bear,” that was the verdict on our test of the Santa Cruz Heckler in the Full Power version. The Heckler SL weighs 2 kilograms less than the Full Power version and features just a Fazua motor with 60 Nm of torque. Does that make it the better Heckler?

Santa Cruz Heckler SL Review
The Santa Cruz Heckler SL review: This carbon E-MTB tips the scales at 19.3 kg in the GX trim and will set you back €12,999 for the high-end model. Will the Yanks' strategy pay off?

The Santa Cruz Heckler, as a non-motorized mountain bike, had an iconic reputation. Our test of the Full Power Heckler model clearly demonstrates that Santa Cruz has succeeded in transferring this renown into the world of e-MTBs.

The Heckler SL version is even 2 kilograms lighter and has a completely different focus compared to its burly big brother. With a smaller motor, a more athletic geometry, and a firmer suspension setup, it aims to be more mountain bike than moped. Does this concept deliver?

Santa Cruz Heckler SL Review
Light-EMTB Shredder? Santa Cruz aims to stay true to its party laps reputation. Will this model deliver?
Santa Cruz VPP Rear Suspension
The closed rear triangle adds plenty of stiffness to the bike. In general, the VPP (Virtual Pivot Point) suspension design performs efficiently, though on the Heckler SL it leans towards the sportier side.

Quick Facts on the Santa Cruz Heckler SL

  • Motor: Fazua Ride 60
  • Battery: 430 Wh (non-removable, no range extender)
  • Travel: 160 / 150 mm
  • Wheelsets: Mullet (MX/29 front, 27.5 rear)
  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • Prices: 5 models from €7,499 to €12,999
  • Weights: 19.3 kilograms (GX build)
  • Special Feature: Lifetime warranty on bearings and frame, VPP rear suspension
  • Permissible Total Weight: 136 kg payload (equivalent to 155 kg max. system weight)
Santa Cruz Heckler SL Battery
The Range: Sporting a fixed 430 watt-hour battery with no option for a range extender, the Heckler SL's reach is somewhat limited in this regard.

Specs of the Santa Cruz Heckler SL GX AXS Carbon C

Santa Cruz doesn’t have the reputation for being a bang-for-the-buck powerhouse. The Heckler SL in the GX AXS configuration does nothing to change this perception. Even with the new SRAM drivetrain on board, there’s still room for improvement, particularly with the suspension and brakes.

The SRAM Code brakes offer solid stopping power, thanks in part to the 220 mm rotor up front, but for nearly €10,000 spent on a new rig, one might expect more than the entry-level Bronze version. As for the suspension, opting for Select+ components means you’re not reaching for the top shelf in the RockShox lineup.

SRAM GX Eagle Drivetrain
SRAM's GX Eagle groupset is, in our eyes, the ultimate EMTB drivetrain. It handles shifting under full load with flying colours—a feat current Shimano drivetrains just can't match.
Rock Shox Lyrik Select+
The Rock Shox Lyrik Select+ may not be a highlight considering the price point of the complete bike, but it offers the same tuning features as the Ultimate model and holds its own on the trails.

On the trail, the components deliver the goods. To our amazement, the functional difference between the Ultimate suspension elements and an Ultimate brake is surprisingly minimal. Even though Santa Cruz skimps on the kit, there’s no need to fear a drop in performance.

SRAM Code Bronze Brake
Not quite at the top of the component shelf: The SRAM Code brakes
SRAM Pod Controller
The AXS Pod Controller for the shifting system provides a significantly better feel than the old Rocker Paddle from Sram.

At a glance

The most importanten ratings of the Heckler SL GX AXS I Carbon C in comparison to the competitor bikes of following categorie: (9800) .

Core Component: What Can the Fazua Ride 60 Motor Deliver?

There’s a lot of buzz in the light eMTB sector right now. Bosch has recently made waves with its new SX motor. However, we believe that despite its abundant power, the Bosch SX can’t score 100% in the light segment. Too noisy, too bulky, too quirky in its power delivery. While the Bosch SX operates in a world between full power and truly light, TQ and Fazua are setting the standard in the real light eMTB segment.

In our tests of bikes with the TQ motor, we’re struck by the natural support and the absolutely silent operation. Compared to the Bosch, the Fazua Ride 60 still operates quietly, but is noisier than the TQ motor.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL Charging Port
For charging, there's only one option. The charging port is located just ahead of the bottom bracket. The battery is non-removable from the frame.

The freewheel/gearbox noise present in Bosch or Shimano motors is there, but with Fazua it’s super quiet and almost fades into the background on the trail. TQ’s HPR 50 is indeed currently the only silent motor on the market. However, the Fazua Ride 60 delivers a much more powerful push. The 60 newton-meters of torque are sufficient to generate fun on the climbs.

The modulation of power is well-managed by the Munich-based unit. Neither jerky starts nor excessive after-pushing are issues with the Fazua Ride 60. Switching from the light Breeze or River support levels to the Rocket mode (the highest continuous support level), there’s plenty of power hitting the chain.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL Weight
The Heckler SL can be easily coaxed into short airtime sessions weighing in at under 20 kilograms, a feat where full-power e-MTBs often have to tap out.

The Fazua Boost Function

With its sporty handling and high power output for a light motor, the Fazua motor stands out significantly from the TQ motor. And the sporty nature of the drive fits the fun-focused approach of the Heckler SL perfectly. The American Santa Cruz team made the right call with this motor.

Another indicator of the motor’s fun factor is the Boost mode. Press and hold the ring switch, and the motor kicks into a temporary Boost mode for 12 seconds, delivering significantly more power than the Rocket support level. This comes in particularly handy for tackling those dauntingly steep inclines.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL Image
Pure sex appeal with a large fan base: The name Santa Cruz sends many bikers' hearts racing.
Santa Cruz Heckler SL Flip Chip
With a flip chip, you can tweak the geometry of the Heckler SL. We've been riding (as usual) in the low setting with a 64-degree head angle.

In technical uphills, this feature is a great asset. It allows riders to build momentum prior to a section, then skip a pedal stroke or two, avoiding a dreaded pedal strike. The boost mode can even be engaged from a standstill, unleashing its power the moment you start pedaling. This can be particularly useful on exceptionally steep inclines.

The ring switch doesn’t need to be continually pressed for the boost function; it just requires a two-second press to activate. The ring switch, which controls the entire system, doesn’t feel quite as high-end as the rest of the Fazua system.

The drive system is still easily operable, but it’s unfortunate that the Munich-based motor manufacturer decided to skimp on the control element, the crucial interface between rider and machine. The ring switch has a somewhat wobbly feel to it and doesn’t seem like it would survive a rough MTB season unscathed.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL Reviewed
The bike masters uphills and steep ramps thanks to the motor's boost function while barely looking like an e-bike.

Strengths of the Fazua Ride 60 System

  • Weight: under 2 kilograms (lightweight)
  • Looks: Hidden away, barely visible in the bottom bracket area
  • Powerhouse: provides significantly more assistance than the TQ HPR 50
  • Boost Function: delivers a burst of power on demand
  • Battery Size: 430 watt-hours (17% more than TQ)

Weaknesses of the Fazua Ride 60 Motor

  • Barrel adjuster: feels low-quality
  • Volume: Quieter than Bosch's CX, SX, or Shimano's EP8, but louder than the TQ HPR50.
  • Range Extender: Currently, no range extender available.
  • Specifically with the Heckler SL: Battery cannot be removed from the frame

All bikes featuring Fazua’s Ride 60 motor can be found in our extensive market overview.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL Pros and Cons
The Fazua system makes a strong impression, though it's not without its criticisms.

Beyond the Motor: What's the Deal on the Trail?

A bike with 160mm of travel on the fork is purchased for one reason above all: to shred trails! And the Heckler SL makes it clear in several ways that it’s itching to do just that.

While the Full Power Heckler has geometry that strongly hints at its e-MTB nature, the geo data from the Heckler SL could come from a non-motorized bike. The short chainstays and mullet wheels ensure that, despite a 64-degree head angle, it doesn’t ride like a lumber truck.

On the contrary: Whether it’s at low or high speeds, tight corners with this bike can be beautifully drifted or, with the right skills, precisely carved through.

SIZE XXS XS S M L XL XXL
Sizing of Manufacturer
-
-
S
M
L
XL
-
Wheelsize
-
-
29 / 27,5 Mullet
29 / 27,5 Mullet
29 / 27,5 Mullet
29 / 27,5 Mullet
29 / 27,5 Mullet
Stack
-
-
616,8
625,8
634,9
653
666,5
Reach
-
-
432,4
457,4
477,5
497,4
522,5
Top Tube Length
-
-
579,6
602,9
621,5
642,7
670
Seat Tube Length
-
-
380
405
430
460
500
Seat Tube Angle
-
-
76,6
76,9
77,2
77,5
77,5
Head Tube Length
-
-
100
110
120
140
155
Head Tube Angle
-
-
64
64
64
64
64
Bottom Bracket Drop
-
-
22,5
22,5
22,5
22,5
22,5
Bottom Bracket Height (absolut)
-
-
340,7
340,7
340,7
340,7
340,7
Chainstay Length
-
-
443,8
443,8
443,8
446,8
450,7
Wheelbase
-
-
1209
1239
1263
1295
1330,5
Standover Height
-
-
716,2
728,8
729,3
731,6
738,6

Thanks to the low weight for an e-bike, you can even lift the rear wheel relatively easily to reposition it in tight switchbacks. The low-slung downtube allows for a low battery placement, which has an extremely positive impact on handling.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL Downtube
The low-slung downtube allows for a low battery mount, effectively lowering the bike's overall center of gravity.
Santa Cruz Heckler SL Head Angle
Despite its slack head angle, you can still maneuver the Santa Cruz playfully on the trail.

The Rock Shox suspension may tend toward the firm side, but the Heckler SL reaches its limit late even in rough terrain. With 35 mm stanchions on the Lyrik fork, it’s noticeably slimmer compared to a ZEB or Fox’s 38. Riders charging hard in steep terrain might feel a bit more flex. However, this isn’t a dealbreaker, especially for lighter riders.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL Hits the Trail
The stiff Fox suspension doesn't reach its limit until late, allowing you to really let it rip on the trails.

The Range - if empty, then really empty

Santa Cruz’s integration of the Fazua motor and battery into the Heckler SL has its snag. There’s no range extender available, nor the option to swap out the battery. Riders have to make do with the 430 watt-hours in the battery, like it or not. If you run out of juice on the trail, you’re done until you can find an outlet.

In our tests with the Fazua Ride 60, we consistently pull off rides with about 1400 meters of elevation gain, thanks to a solid amount of rider input. We’ve never been left stranded, but models like the Cannondale Moterra SL prove that you can achieve a similar weight with a hefty 600Wh battery. Those seeking a bike for long days in the bike park or extreme long rides might find the Heckler SL limits their range.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL Cable Routing
The short head tube and classic cable routing allow for maximum freedom in handlebar positioning.

Review these alternatives

The Santa Cruz Heckler SL is a rad EMTB, but not for those on a tight budget. The Focus Jam² SL comes in at a slightly less downhill-focused yet much more aggressive price point.

Similarly pricey, but equipped with the whisper-quiet motor and a bit lighter, we have already tested the Mondraker Neat. The Specialized Turbo Levo SL impresses with its absolute lightweight construction. And Cannondale manages to bring to the market a full-power bike with a 605 Wh battery weighing in under 20 kg with its Moterra SL. We have detailed reviews and videos for all these bikes. You can find the links and key facts about the bikes in this table.

Model Travel Motor Battery Weight Price
Santa Cruz Heckler (Full Power) 160 /150 mm Shimano EP 801 720 Wh 22,2 Kilo 10.999 €
Focus Jam² SL 160 /150 mm Fazua Ride 60 430 Wh 19,7 Kilo 6.899 €
Mondraker Neat 160 /150 mm TQ HPR 50 360 Wh 17,9 Kilo 11.999 €
Specialized Turbo Levo SL 160 /150 mm Specialized SL 1.2 320 Wh 17,6 Kilo 14.000 €
Cannondale Moterra SL 160 /150 mm Shimano EP 801 605 Wh 19,95 Kilo 9.999 €
Santa Cruz Heckler (Full Power)
Pulse-Pounding Icon Goes Electric: The Full Power Santa Cruz Heckler
Focus Jam² SL
Budget-Friendly Option Among Light E-MTBs: The Focus Jam² SL
Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works
The Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works certainly demands that riders dig deep into their pockets for the thrill.
Cannondale Moterra SL
Tested by us at Lake Garda: The Cannondale Moterra SL
Mondraker Neat
Spanish Lightweight Aesthetics: The Mondraker Neat.

Conclusion on the Santa Cruz Heckler SL

The Santa Cruz Heckler SL is not just a toned-down version of the Full Power model. With a sportier approach, reduced weight, and handling that feels closer to an organic bike than a Fullpower E-MTB, Santa Cruz has created an exciting concept. Trail junkies will be stoked.

For tour riders, the battery concept without a range extender and swappable battery might be a deal-breaker. The Santa Cruz Heckler SL leans more towards a party machine for post-work sessions than a pleasure-oriented endurance athlete. The high permissible total weight and the generous geometry promise show: For the hefty price tag of the Santa Cruz, you get more than just a good name.

All Details on the Santa Cruz Heckler SL Models

For our test, we took a spin on the Santa Cruz Heckler SL GX. If you want the full monty, you’ll need to have over 10,000 € ready to spend. For those who can make do with a bit less bling, there are more affordable versions to consider.

All the details, including geometry charts and specs, for all the models can be found, as usual, on their respective detail pages.

About the author

Ludwig

... hat mehr als 100.000 Kilometer im Sattel von über 1000 unterschiedlichen Mountainbikes verbracht. Die Quintessenz aus vielen Stunden auf dem Trail: Mountainbikes sind geil, wenn sie zu den persönlichen Vorlieben passen! Mit dieser Erkenntnis hat er bike-test.com gegründet, um Bikern zu helfen, ein ganz persönliches Traumbike zu finden.

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