Didn’t the Heckler just come out this year? Yes, you’re pretty astute. It did come out this year, but it’s already seeing some updates. There are two major changes to the 2021 model. First, is the new Shimano EP8 drive system. Second, and perhaps more exciting, is the addition of the Heckler MX to the lineup. What is the MX model? The MX is an homage to motocross bikes with bigger front wheels than back wheels. That’s right — the Heckler MX is a mullet bike.
Don’t know what a mullet bike is or why they are pretty neat? We made a mullet bike video a few weeks ago that gives you all the juicy details. Go check that out and come back here to learn more about why a mullet Heckler is so cool.
What is different about the Santa Cruz Heckler MX?
We rode and reviewed the standard Heckler earlier this year. So what’s different about the MX? Other than the glaringly obvious big front wheel, the geometry and travel change as well. Instead of the 150/160mm of travel found on the standard Heckler, the MX is reduced to 140/140mm. That’s a pretty significant reduction. I’d imagine it’s for two reasons. The first being the 29” fork on the MX will raise the front end of the bike quite a bit. They’ve reduced the travel to minimize the overall front end growth. Second, The MX seems to be Santa Cruz’s lighter, more normal feeling e bike option. Taking advantage of the lighter Shimano EP 8 drive system, the MX comes in at a hair over 44 lb. Compared to the standard Heckler with the same EP 8 motor at 45.3 lb., the MX is a fair bit lighter. The pound and a half won’t likely be felt too much because of its relative insignificance to the overall weight, but it’s nice to see e bikes getting lighter and lighter. Lightweight e bikes are hopefully the future.
The geometry on the MX model changes a fair bit to accommodate the 29” front wheel. The chart below covers most of the significant changes.
Let’s talk about some of the changes here. First, there’s a one degree slackening of both the head tube and seat tube angles. Also, the reach shrinks by 9mm and the stack grows by 7mm. All those numbers make sense with the front end of the bike getting taller. They were able to keep the BB height and wheelbase pretty close considering the bigger front wheel. Most interestingly, the chainstay remains the same. I’d imagine chainstay length is why Santa Cruz went mullet mode for the Heckler MX rather than a full 29er. A unique challenge with e bikes is keeping the chainstays short enough that the bike doesn’t feel huge and cumbersome. They have to make room for the motor somehow. The small 27.5” rear wheel allows Santa Cruz to keep the chainstay relatively short. 445mm is well within reason for a bike that is stable, but maneuverable.
Shimano ep8 drive system
Out with the old, in with the new. The new Shimano EP8 drive system improves upon the old design with a few key upgrades. First, is the overall size of the motor. It’s 10% smaller and 320g lighter than the old system. Due to the smaller size, the bike has higher ground clearance now. The bike/motor interface remains the same allowing Santa Cruz the ability to simply add the new system without any frame changes. Sounds like someone at Shimano has their head on straight. The second upgrade over the old motor is power. The EP8 bring 85nm to the table compared to the old 70nm. Combine that with a lighter and more efficient motor and it makes a significant difference.
The Heckler and Heckler MX now both come with 500Wh batteries. Santa Cruz went smaller on the battery to keep the overall system weight low. They claim it’s easy enough to swap out spare batteries, though. I don’t know about you, but I’m not stuffing a spare battery in my bibs to hot swap 50 miles into my ride. A battery extender option would be cool to see. That said, 500Wh is still quite a few and pretty standard for most full-power e bikes.
Santa Cruz Heckler and Heckler MX Build Kits
Both the Heckler and the Heckler MX are only offered in CC frames — no alloy or C-grade carbon. They are each offered in four different build kits ranging from $6999 to $10999. The 27.5” bike comes with a Rockshox Super Deluxe shock across all builds paired to a Rockshox Yari or Fox 36 depending on the price point. The MX version uses the lighter weight Rockshox Revelation and Pike with a Fox DPS shock on all builds. Apart from suspension, the rest of the components match across the two wheel size offerings. The entry-level R kit comes with a Sram NX Eagle drivetrain. The top-tier build kit uses the Sram X01 Eagle kit. We feel the best value build is the CC XT kit with, you guessed it, Shimano XT components.
We can’t wait to throw a leg over the Heckler MX and give it a proper review. We should have bikes showing up later this week. Stay tuned!
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