KRob’s Outerbike 2013 Bike Demo Reviews – Part 2

26er 27.5 29er All Mountain Trail Enduro Outerbike Test Sessions

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.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Kent Robertson

Kent Robertson (better known to Mtbr forum users as KRob) is just a guy who likes to ride. A lot. Kent’s 52 and has been riding mountain bikes for almost two decades, though he says his love of two-wheeled conveyances began when he was 5. His favorite trail type is any, be it fast and flowy, steep and chunky, or jumpy and droppy. Even a mellow bike path cruise with his wife makes him happy. “If I’m on two wheels it’s a good day.” Kent calls Ely, Nevada, home, but he’s ridden all over the western U.S. from Moab and Fruita, to Tahoe and Oregon, to a bunch of places in between. And while Kent focuses on the ride more than the bike, he’s ridden and tested a ton of bikes and knows what makes for a good ride — and a good bike. You can read more from Kent on his personal website,

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  • Bikethrasher says:

    Great work man! I always look forward to your reviews. Especially this year as I wasn’t unable to make it to I-Bike or Outerbike. Real jobs pay the bills but sure restrict my ride time.

  • Don says:

    Nice review KRob. I am a big fan of the Chilcotin. Curious about what you liked better about the Firebird. If you didn’t already have the Knolly, which one would you choose?

    • KRob says:

      The Firebird with its dw-link suspension rewards standing and hammering better than the Knolly. I liked the 27.5 wheels though that’s not a huge deal in a bike with this much travel IMO. The taller stack feels better when standing on flatter terrain and higher BB avoids pedal strikes…. though it gives up some to the Chili in railing turns.

      If I didn’t already have the Chili I’d still pick the Chili over the FB 27.5, but there’s a couple other bikes that aren’t quite in the same class as the Chili on the more aggressive side of things that would sorely tempt me, like the Pivot Mach 6, Devinci Troy, Turner Burner, and Norco Sight. Having said that, if I wanted a bike in that class I’d have to ride the Warden too before making a decision. Big Knolly fan.

  • Mike says:

    I rode the ibis ripley at outerbike and liked it . How does the devinci Atlas compare to the ibis I would realy love if I can get some info comparing the two thanks

  • KRob says:

    Hey Mike,

    Yeah the Ripley was cool. Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to ride the Atlas so can’t compare.

  • Jimmymats says:

    Great reviews KRob, did the Heckler you rode really have a Float R shock? When I look at the specs on the SC website it looks to come with a Float CTD Evo.

    • KRob says:

      You know, now that you mention it I’m not so sure. It did have a propedal lock out because I used it on the paved bike path.

  • Matty says:


    love the reviews! Thanks loads. Any advice to help me choose between carbon Norco Sight le1 x01 and Ibis mojo hdr 650b 2 x 10 xt?? For general all round trail use. Ibis costs a bit more here in UK but has kashima shock… Can only demo the Ibis due to Norco distribution.



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