In our 2024 trail bike group test, the Santa Cruz Heckler SL takes on the competition with a 60 Nm FAZUA Ride 60 motor and a mullet wheel setup, generating 160/150 mm of travel at the front and rear. Can Santa Cruz’s very first light e-mountainbike assert itself against the competition?

Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV | FAZUA Ride 60/430 Wh | 160/150 mm (f/r)
19.3 kg in size L | € 12,999 | Manufacturer’s website

With the Heckler SL, Californian brand Santa Cruz just presented their very first light e-mountainbike, making it easier to reach the trailhead and allowing you to enjoy the fun part without feeling exhausted after a long climb. The FAZUA Ride 60 motor fits perfectly into the distinctive Santa Cruz VPP frame, making it hard to spot the Heckler SL’s electrified nature if it weren’t for the chunky frame tubes. At 19.3 kg, Santa Cruz’s mullet light eMTB is the second heaviest bike in this test and, at € 12,999, also the second most expensive.

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike 2024 – 15 of the most exciting trail bikes in our 2024 comparison test

The 2023 Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV in detail

As the light eMTB debut of the Californian cult brand, the Heckler SL takes on the competition with countless clever, high-quality frame details, along with the distinctly recognisable Santa Cruz design. As usual, the frame is available in two different versions, C and CC, whereby the high-end CC frame we tested relies on a larger proportion of higher strength fibres, ensuring the same stiffness values at a lower weight. The shock sits deep in the frame and is protected from the elements by a small fender on the seat stays. All cables are routed internally, entering the frame via conventional cable ports in the head tube. This keeps them quiet on the trail, and should make life fairly easy for home mechanics. A generously sized chainstay protector with additional ribbing prevents chain slap and paint chips. The motor is protected by a soft, rubberised TPU plastic cover that is neatly integrated into the frame. The frame features bottle cage mounts on the down tube, but doesn’t have a tool mount unfortunately. The down tube is taken up entirely by the battery, which explains the lack of a storage compartment.

The spec of the 2023 Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV

Santa Cruz’s distinctive kink in the down tube provides the optimal conditions for a seamless integration of the FAZUA motor, because the unusual hockey stick shape allows for enough room to accommodate the unusually long motor. The motor draws its power from a 430 Wh battery, which is permanently integrated into the wide down tube and delivers 60 Nm of torque, making the Santa Cruz the light eMTB with the highest torque output in this test – only the NICOLAI’s full-fat Bosch motor pushes harder in some riding situations. The minimalist LED hub in the top tube shows the battery charge status and support level via coloured LEDs, which feel a little old-school compared with some of the more modern concepts in this test. On the other hand, you’ll get a USB-C port to charge your smartphone or other external device. The motor can be operated with FAZUAS’s Ring Remote, which doesn’t offer the best haptic feedback out there and feels rather vague and undefined. For the rest of the spec, Santa Cruz rely exclusively on top-tier components. These include RockShox suspension, consisting of a Lyrik Ultimate fork and Super Deluxe Ultimate air shock, which offer countless adjustment options and generate 160/150 mm of travel, respectively. A sag indicator on the shock makes it easier to set up the suspension, with a peephole allowing for clear readings. The electronic RockShox Reverb dropper post has a butter-smooth action and perfectly matches the understated, black look of the suspension components. Unfortunately, at 170 mm, it falls short on travel compared with most of the other competitors in our test. SRAM also supply the wireless XX Eagle Transmission drivetrain, which delivers crisp, precise gear shifts even under full load. SRAM CODE Ultimate Stealth brakes with 200 mm rotors front and rear provide powerful and reliable deceleration. SRAM’s Stealth brake series positions the levers and brake lines closer to the handlebars, which ensures a tidier cockpit, but also causes the hoses to rattle against the stem and handlebars. Another highlight are the Industry Nine Hydra hubs and Carbon Reserve 30|HD rims, which are paired with MAXXIS tires. There’s a Minion DHF up front in the thin EXO casing and soft MaxxGrip rubber compound, while at the rear you’ll find a Minion DHR II in the tougher EXO+ casing and slightly harder MaxxTerra rubber compound. By the way, Santa Cruz’s in-house Reserve carbon wheels come with a lifetime guarantee – great!

When riding downhill, the Santa Cruz Heckler is like a lively trail kitten: it’s fast, nimble and playful, and always lands on its wheels.

Ties that stand the test of time…
Santa Cruz’s Reserve carbon wheelset comes with lifetime warranty – yeah!
Sag hole.
Since the enclosed shock design makes it a little harder to read the sag, Santa Cruz added a practical peephole to the frame.
What the Heckler?
The flip chip allows you to change both the head and seat tube angles by 0.3°. At 64°, the Heckler has already one of the slackest head angles in the entire test field, so being able to steepen it up a little is a good thing.
Puck it!
Santa Cruz’s distinctive hockey-stick down tube harmonises wonderfully with the shape of the FAZUA Ride 60 motor.
The art of approximation
The display of the FAZUA Ride 60 motor on the top tube is just as accurate as a slide rule.

Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV

€ 12,999


Motor FAZUA Ride 60 60 Nm
Battery FAZUA Energy 430 Wh
Display Fazua LED Hub
Fork RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 160 mm
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate 150 mm
Seatpost RockShox Reverb AXS 170 mm
Brakes SRAM CODE Ultimate Stealth 200/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM XX Eagle Transmission 1x12
Stem Burgtec Enduro MK3 42 mm
Handlebar Santa Cruz e35 Carbon 800 mm
Wheelset Reserve 30|HD Carbon, Industry Nine Hydra 29"/27.5"
Tires MAXXIS DHF, EXO, MaxxGrip/MAXXIS DHR II, EXO+, MaxxTerra 2.5"/2.4"

Technical Data

Weight 19.3 kg

Specific Features


Tuning tip: Secure the brake lines to prevent them from rattling.

Helmet Troy Lee Designs Flowline SE | Glasses Coast Optics Nita
Jacket Gore Wear Everyday Thermo 1/4 Zip | Pants Fasthouse Shredder Pant
Shoes Crankbrothers Mallet Speedlace

The geometry of the 2023 Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV

The Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV is available in five sizes, S to XXL, offering a suitable option for riders between 155 and 200 cm tall. A flip chip in the shock mount allows you to adjust the geometry of the bike, altering the head tube and seat tube angle by 0.3°. We rode the Heckler primarily in the slack setting with a 64° head angle, which makes it one of the three slackest bikes in this test. While frame sizes S to L all share the same 444 mm chainstays, these grow with the biggest XL and XXL sizes, which should ensure consistent handling across all sizes – or at least provide a more balanced ride for very tall riders.

Top tube 569 mm 603 mm 621 mm 642 mm 669 mm
Seat tube 380 mm 405 mm 430 mm 460 mm 500 mm
Head tube 100 mm 110 mm 120 mm 140 mm 155 mm
Head angle 64.3° 64.3° 64.3° 64.3° 64.3°
Seat angle 76.8° 77.1° 77.5° 77.7° 77.8°
Chainstays 443 mm 443 mm 443 mm 446 mm 450 mm
BB Drop 29 mm 29 mm 29 mm 29 mm 29 mm
Wheelbase 1,209 mm 1,238 mm 1,263 mm 1,294 mm 1,330 mm
Reach 432 mm 457 mm 478 mm 497 mm 523 mm
Stack 615 mm 626 mm 635 mm 653 mm 667 mm

The 2023 Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV on the trail

As soon as you swing your leg over the saddle, the Santa Cruz Heckler places you in a central, well-balanced pedalling position, making you feel at ease from the get go. The front end is fairly high, ensuring a high level of comfort, even on level ground. At the same time, the front wheel always keeps tracking and doesn’t lift off the ground, even when the FAZUA motor is working hard to push you uphill. The smaller rear wheel digs itself into the soft ground, generating huge amounts of traction, thus making it easy to grind your way up the mountain without batting an eyelid – only the NICOLAI’s Bosch Performance Line SX motor pushes harder. If you need a little extra help, the FAZUA Ride 60 has a trick up its sleeve, allowing you to activate the powerful Boost mode, which delivers a burst of 450 W maximum output for 12 seconds while riding. Overall, the Heckler SL’s rear suspension is pretty firm, meaning that you can forget about the climb switch, even on more technical uphills.

The top-tier spec and high fun factor somehow justify the price – and yet, 13k still hurts a little!

Once you get to the trailhead with a massive grin on your face and point its nose downhill, the Santa Cruz shows you how much fun an ebike can be on the descents. The handling is balanced and the weight is evenly distributed between the front and rear, making it easy to carve through berms at Mach 10. Although the small rear wheel tends to break away easily, when it does, it quickly finds traction again – it might be business at the front, but it’s definitely a party at the back! Handling is intuitive, making it easy to control the bike, whether you’re a beginner or seasoned trail surfer. As a result, everyone can benefit from the Heckler SL’s massive potential. The rear suspension strikes an excellent balance between traction and support, delivering a similar performance to the Specialized Levo SL, gobbling up small hits without batting an eyelid while at the same time providing more support than the Levo when popping off ledges and kickers. The Heckler SL XX AXS RSV encourages you to have fun with the terrain, turning every trail into a playground, but also cuts a fine figure when the going gets rough. When things get rowdy, Santa Cruz’s light eMTB is still intuitive to control, making it easy to negotiate obstacles, whether you cruise around them or smash straight through them, because the potent suspension feels like it generates more travel than it says on the tin.

Who should take a closer look at the 2023 Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV?

The Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV is an excellent choice for sporty riders who love to get rowdy, but appreciate the perks of a light e-mountainbike. That said, the Heckler isn’t just for the aggressive trail rider – it doesn’t shy away from epic backcountry expeditions either, providing a high level of touring comfort. The motor adds a welcome touch of uphill flow, saving you energy for the fun part when gravity takes over. Downhill, the Santa Cruz is in no way inferior to an analogue bike – except for the fact that you have to charge it. However, this also makes it accessible to beginners and riders with a lower fitness level.



  1. sluggish
  2. efficient


  1. cumbersome
  2. playful


  1. nervous
  2. confident


  1. demanding
  2. balanced


  1. harsh
  2. plush


  1. planted
  2. poppy


  1. terrible
  2. very good


Cross Country




Our conclusions about the Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV

Despite being the second most expensive bike in this test, Santa Cruz’s light eMTB debut is a real success. The Heckler SL delivers a tremendous performance on the trail and its intuitive handling make it suitable for both beginners and experienced riders alike. The motor doesn’t affect the bike’s riding performance with its additional weight, but it definitely encourages you to squeeze in one more lap. Although it wasn’t able to secure victory in this comparison test, it’s right up there with the most fun bikes on test.


  • Excellent frame platform suitable for both beginners and advanced riders
  • Suspension strikes an excellent balance between traction and support
  • Top riding fun


  • Battery can’t be removed for charging

You can find out more about at

The test field

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike 2024 – 15 of the most exciting trail bikes in our 2024 comparison test

All bikes in test: Cannondale Habit LT 1 (Click for review) | Cube ONE55 C:62 SLT 29 (Click for review) | Ghost RIOT Trail Full Party (Click for review) | Merida ONE-FORTY 10K (Click for review) | Mondraker Neat RR SL (Click for review) | Nicolai Saturn 14 Swift HRZ (Click for review) | Orbea Occam LT M10 (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV | Santa Cruz Hightower X0 AXS RSV (Click for review) | Scor 2030 X01 (Click for review) | SCOTT Genius ST 900 Tuned (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL (Click for review) | Trek Fuel EX 9.9 X0 AXS T-Type (Click for review) | Yeti SB140 LR T3 X0 (Click for review) | YT JEFFSY CORE 5 CF (Click for review)

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Words: Julian Schwede Photos: Peter Walker

About the author

Julian Schwede

Juli is used to dealing with big rigs. Besides working on his bike, he also tinkered and worked on buses after completing his training as a vehicle mechatronics engineer. Since the development of large-scale electric motors was too slow for him, he went on to study technical business administration while building carbon fibre tables on the side. Though his DJ bike is welded from thick aluminium tubes, his full-susser is made of carbon and it's already taken him to the top of numerous summits. Apart from biking, he likes climbing via ferratas or vertically on the wall. Nowadays, his personal bike gets ridden less as he tests the bikes that get sent to us, pushing them to their limits to see what they're capable of. In addition to bike reviews, Juli also takes care of the daily news and thinks of himself as the Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent.