Santa Cruz Heckler 27.5
I rode with my buddy Tim from Moab on my pre Outerbike rides who has always loved simple, low maintenance bikes and has owned, among others, an old Bullet, a Butcher, and Kona Dawg in the past. He’s had his eye on the new Heckler 27.5 so I said I’d try and get a ride on one to see how it compares to all the high dollar, carbon, multi-link fancy bikes I’d been testing.
I usually turn my nose up at such simple, low budget two wheeled conveyances, but if someone knows what kind of bike would be good for Moab riding, it would be Tim so I figured the Heckler was worth a look. Besides, I thought it would be good to confirm to my mind why more complicated, more expensive bikes were better.
When I picked up this simply adorned Heckler at the Santa Cruz tent at the end of the day, I scoffed at its triple chain ring, sneered at its lack of any kind of compression adjustment, and sniffed at its embarrassing lack of carbon and its lone rear suspension pivot. I expected it too feel unsophisticated and sluggish with out-of-control pedal bob sapping my dwindling strength with every stroke. I soon found however that it pedaled just fine…. even with the simple Float R shock set with the propedal on the most active setting. Hmm. Must be a bum shock. I’m sure it’s going to be harsh or pogo stick-like once out onto the rockier sections of the trail I thought.
So I turned onto the more techy Deadman’s’ Ridge trail to expose this simpleton’s weaknesses. With tight turns, rocky climbs, ledges, and slabs to deal with I was certain it would soon become evident why I could not own such a bike. Well someone must’ve slipped a Bronson frame under me without my knowledge, because surely a bike so simple and out dated could not handle this type of terrain without bucking me off or wearing me down quickly. This bike did neither The suspension worked fine. It just kept pedaling along, making every climb, rolling every descent, maneuvering through each tricky section of trail without breaking a sweat. I tried to find its supposed weaknesses but could not. It didn’t even feel that heavy! Surely all those low end components and lack of carbon should add up to some tank like final weight. Not bad really.
So when I got out to the far end of Deadman’s Ridge I saw I could follow a black diamond connector called Long Branch Trail over to a final double black descent back down to the paved bike bath called Killer B. Surely this is where I’d find this Heckler’s kryptonite. Nope. Despite my tired legs and the surprisingly steep up and down nature of Long Branch it continued to impress. It made every tight switch back, scrambled up every loose chute, and negotiated all the steeps, exposure, and tech Killer B had to offer. Once on a particularly complicated bit of steep terrain I thought I detected the rear suspension being out matched a bit (maybe) by the variable and harsh undulating slick rock beneath it….. but it was small consolation. My bubble had been burst. The bike snob in me had to admit that you don’t have to spend $6K on a high zoot, multi-link, carbon wunder bike to get a good ride. Of course Tim already knew that.
To add insult to injury, once the suspension was locked out, it even spun up the long paved bike path climb back to the demo area with ease (I think I even passed a guy on an Orbea road rocket on the way). Harumph. The bike snob in me probably would not allow me to purchase such a creature, but I have no problem recommending this bike to those who just want a good mountain bike without all the complicated gimmickery and astronomical cost associated with all the other bikes we tested. In the end, there’s nothing really wrong with this bike at all and it kinda made me feel stupid for spending so much time geeking out over every little nuance and acronym-labled gadget found on all those blue blooded steeds.
In the end, the Heckler reminded me that it’s not really about the bike. Find one you like and go have fun riding it regardless of the cost or complexity. Sometimes simple is just fine.
I’m really sad I didn’t get an on site picture of this bike at the end of the day, all dusty, simple, and humble looking to go along with my tongue-in-cheek ramblings. This stock SC glam shot will have to do.