Today, Santa Cruz Bicycles announced the 2021 Heckler E-MTB, version 2 of the bike introduces just nine months ago on February 10 here. It introduces two major developments, the use of the new Shimano EP8 motor and the availability of a mullet wheel size option called the MX with 27.5 rear and 29er front.
27.5-inch wheels are lighter and easier to move around and Santa Cruz prefers it for these heavier bikes. But many riders now prefer 29er wheels and their ability to hold a line and roll over obstacles with ease. The mixed-wheel option lets riders have their cake and then some with the confidence of a 29-inch wheel up front for traction and roll-over combined with the 27.5 rear wheel to keep the moderate chainstay length of the Heckler (445mm), which provides a snappy and easy-to-handle bike on tight, demanding trails. The rider can still choose between the 27.5 wheels or the MX combo version.
The other significant news is the use of the new Shimano motor called the EP8. We knew this was coming but Santa Cruz is one of the first to announce this motor in the US and have it available! The new Shimano EP8 motor is lighter than the previous unit (380g), has more power (85nm versus 75nm), smaller volume (-10%) for greater ground clearance, less drag (50%), more heat resistant, and tuned to give more power in Trail mode. All this means it’s even more capable of tackling longer, tougher rides. It’s way more configurable with more flexible phone app software allowing the rider to get more range or more power on each setting or each riding profile.
The EP8 motor system also has an available bigger battery with 630wh capacity but that’s not available for use with the Heckler at this time. The Heckler will use the existing 504wh battery with the EP8 motor since the 630wh battery is about 70mm longer than the old. The frame of the Hecker is the same as the existing Heckler introduced in February 2020 (or Version 1).
And like every Santa Cruz bike, the Heckler is built for the rigors of true mountain biking. Shimano electronics were chosen for their refinement and reliability, while quality pivot hardware, easily replaceable radial bearings, and no-nonsense internal cabling were considered with a mechanic’s sanity in mind! When we rode the Heckler ebike for three months, we were floored with how dialed it was in terms of integration, charging, cabling, and quiet performance in the most demanding conditions.
On the old Heckler, the bike surprised us with its agility and playfulness. It rode like a lighter bike and it was willing to jump on the smallest roots and trail undulations. Battery swaps were a dream as well as it just required a simple Allen key twist and a push of a safety lever. Installing a fresh battery was even simpler with just aligning the bottom guide and pushing the battery in.
What do we really think?
The Santa Cruz Heckler was the first step for a long e-bike journey for Santa Cruz. We are firm believers that E-MTBs will take over 50% of high-end mountain bike sales in the future and companies have to get started in this category and introduce their first model asap to be able to compete in this high stakes play in the future.
With the first Heckler, we were impressed with how dialed the Heckler was. It was silent and playful quite a feat for a first e-bike entry by a company. But the motor was dated the wheel size really needed a 29er or Mullet option for those that preferred that rollover and traction of the 29er wheel.
This new Heckler addresses both of our major concerns with the motor and the wheel size so we are very, very pleased. We are shocked that this is already offered in production and in bike shops today when many companies haven’t even announced their EP8 bikes.
We’re a bit disappointed that the 630wh battery is not offered with this bike but we understand that this frame was not changed and the new battery is 70mm longer than the 504wh version. We’ve heard that this EP8 motor is more efficient and has longer range so we’ll determine that shortly on test rides.
With the speed at which Santa Cruz is now developing E-MTBs, we’re excited to see what they have in store for the future now that they seem to be getting their stride in the e-bike category.
For more information, go to: Santa Cruz Bicycles