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Santa Cruz releases new Heckler E-MTB with Shimano EP8 motor and mullet wheel size

One of the earliest EP8 powered bikes available in the US.

Pro Reviews

New motor, new wheelsize and travel and new color are the highlights

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 Shimano motor is the first major revision of their E-MTB motor introduced four years ago.

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.

Ease of battery swaps is a significant advantage of the Santa Cruz Heckler.

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).

Agility is a core value of the the Heckler E-MTB in this growing category of assisted bikes.

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.

No aluminum models keeps the entry price high.

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

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


  • JtotheC says:

    Heckler, of course!

  • Steven M Olson says:

    I still say F**k ebikes I’ll take a Nomad xtr

    • Ehm S says:

      There are plenty of better options from other brands
      That Nomad will be really efficient to pedal around all day …….. not.

  • Mark says:

    Steven would say that to someone using one due to their love for mtb and having a disability??? Ebikes give many folks the ability to continue to enjoy mtb. It’s an open sport and hobby for all I say.

    • Justin M says:

      So 50%of Mtn bikers will be disabled in the future? I don’t think so in fact I would say the handicapped/disabled percentage of Mtn bikers is quite a bit less and Steven was probably referring to the lazy Biotches who actually make up the majority of E motorcycle riders.

    • don says:

      I’ve mountain biked for over 30 years but now have an injury that gets aggravated by big climbs on a mountain bike. It got so bad this past year I was on crutches for two months. I bought a eMTB and it has allowed me to get back to riding. I know others with joints that are shot, and e-bikes allow them to keep riding. Not all e-bike riders are lazy. Some of us have a legitimate reason to be on a eMTB.

      • Francis Cebedo says:

        >> I’ve mountain biked for over 30 years…

        Brilliant! We also know of many others who don’t have an injury or old age to claim. But they’ve discovered or come back to mountain biking and are riding big mountains now, some almost daily. It’s a great enabling tool for all. It makes the benefits and joys of riding biking mountains attainable and not just aspirational.

  • jwilli says:

    I’m always amused of the comments about ebikes from those that obviously have not used one at any length! For me, it allows a much longer ride and the ability to do things I can’t or wouldn’t do on my SB4.5. Huge fun factor.

  • MICHAEL F Valentino says:

    Santa Cruz has the old motor on the base model and this article is slightly misleading. $7,000 for last years technology?

    Have to spend $8,399 or so to get the latest.


  • Mike Leamon says:

    I own a Nomad and a Tallboy and had similar scorn for e-bikes until a road trip to Crested Butte where I rented an e-bike for the first several days. We were able to climb 3000 vertical feet on the first day without any extra trail damage or coughing up a lung because of the altitude change. I am just glad I had never been a troll on a discussion like this before I understood.

  • Keith says:

    Haters are going to hate on any and every evolving change for the future of mountain biking. That’s a given. E-bikes are a blast to ride, plain and simple. Not to mention their role in helping people with injuries and disabilities to get outdoors and enjoy life.
    So to people like hatin’ Steven and Justin above, you won’t be 12 and 15 forever. Enjoy it while you can and STFU!!!💥💣💥🤣

  • Carlos says:

    There will be always haters for any change, thats a face.
    Who cares anyway, they will eventually suck it up (as always) and probably even ride them in the future.

  • pjm says:

    E-bikes are MOTORED cycles. Personal delusion rules in america…Easy Button and fake news dominates the discussion, even with this dangerous trend. …Electric motored bikes are a sign of a lazy, disfunctional and blame-game emerging industry looking to capitalize on this EASY BUTTON. Go ahead and make your argument for motorized mountain bikes, but keep them off NON_MOTORIZED trails! An elegant and simple solution that is the ONLY solution for everyone. Delusion and apologetic commentary rules this disdainful behavior and growing trend towards sedentary behavior. Buy all you want, ride all you want, go anywhere you want to except the trail systems NOT designed for these dangerous machines…ugh.. [

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