Santa Cruz Bicycles Heckler R AM  2014 Mountain Bike Review

Santa Cruz Bicycles Heckler R AM 2014

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Santa Cruz Bicycles 467,814

At A Glance

At 18 years old the Heckler is finally allowed into the pub for a beer in the UK, obviously it would be foolish to show up not in fashion and so the team at Santa Cruz have kitted it out with 27.5 inch wheels and some geometry changes to keep it bang up-to-date. At the heart of the bike is still their single pivot suspension platform, so whilst it is very much in vogue in some respects, it still retains the feel of its ancestry.

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Tech Heads

The Heckler remains one of the most affordable ways into the Santa Cruz all-mountain club, featuring a tried and tested aluminium frame. Whilst single pivot suspension isn’t really news, the SC boys haven’t been sitting on their laurels and what you have here is a modern take on an old classic. All the pivot points, bearings and angles have been refined, and coupled with an up-to-date shock in the form of a Fox Float CTD Evolution w/CTD (climb, trail, descend). There is 150mm of travel available at the rear end, plenty for almost any kind of trail you could ever think of.

Up front is a Fox Evolution Series 34 Float CTD, which is one of the upgrades you can choose if you are getting a stock bike.

Our demo rig was a bit of a mix and match in terms of the rest of the componentry, SRAM hubs laced to WTB i23 rims, nothing fancy, but remember this is a price point rig.

The drive train was a mix of Shimano with an SLX rear mech and Deore elsewhere, all perfectly serviceable and of decent quality. Stopping duties were catered for by Shimano Deore Hydraulic disc brakes. A set of Easton Havoc Carbon bars looked a little out of place, although most welcome, and were held in place with a Truvativ AKA stem. A Rocket V WTB Saddle was held up with a RockShox Reverb seat post, not an upgrade available on the Santa Cruz site, but a pleasure to have all the same!

Santa Cruz Heckler R AM Medium

Seat tube 432mm
Effective top tube 584mm
Head tube 99mm
Chain stay 439.4mm
Wheel base 1138mm
BB height 345.4mm
Head angle 67°
Seat angle 73°
Reach 401mm
Stack 597mm

Weight w/o pedals 31.4lbs

On The Trail

All too often in the bike industry we get sucked into the fanciful and wondrous land of overcomplicating things. Whilst it’s great that modern suspension design has come so far, it is worth remembering that the vast majority of weekend warriors out there needn’t be baffled by these newfangled things, all they want to do is have a bloody good bike ride when they get some time away from work and the other pressures modern society has bestowed upon them.

The Heckler is pretty good at offering that kind of simple, reliable release that so many of us need and crave. Single pivot has been made most famous by those chaps at Orange, who will no doubt swear by it until the last piece of pig iron has been smelted from the depths of Halifax. However, as Orange have found, a modern single pivot is very different from the days of yore.

Santa Cruz are no strangers to development and with the pivot placed well in front of the bottom bracket at about the same height as the middle ring on the chain stay they have managed to reduce the amount of chain growth you get as the suspension plays out. Obviously more chain growth, whilst allowed for by the derailleur, puts pressure on the suspension itself and it can be left lacking a certain plushness that it should enjoy.

Couple these tweaks with the Evolution CTD rear shock from Fox which allows you to tune the amount and rate of travel and you get a bike that, whilst harking back to the dark ages, has its tyres firmly placed in the future.

That said, when ridden next to the Bronson you will of course spot the difference, where the Bronson has finesse and grace to rival Audrey Hepburn, the Heckler goes at the trails like Pat Butcher racing for a fag after a long haul flight.

What it lacks in lively playfulness it makes up for in sheer speed and excitement when hitting rough terrain hard and fast. Single pivots can often get hung up on big hits, but we didn’t find that with the Heckler. Perhaps the increased wheel size combined with the clever pivot placements help to keep things feeling smooth.

I was possibly most surprised with how well the Heckler climbed, yes it’s heavy, but equally it is a 150mm all-mountain machine, at a very respectable price. Flick the CTD switch to climb mode and the rear end is stiff enough to reduce any loss of efficiency to a bare minimum.

All too often these days bikes are complicated, the Heckler isn’t. You could change all the pivots on this rig without too much trouble and it wouldn’t break the bank either, and that can’t be said for some of the suspension designs on the market at the moment. The ride is predictable and planted, offering lots of confidence on steeper terrain. There is plenty of grip in the corners too and while it might not fly out of the turns as much as a lighter bike you can get plenty of energy back from the trail when you are riding fast.

The negatives are of course the weight, but the Heckler was never designed to be a weight weenie. I’d also prefer to see a double ring on the front with a chain guide, it’s a 150mm all-mountain machine, and the triple ring is just overkill in my opinion. That last complaint is, of course, personal preference and easily remedied.

If you’re in the market for a bike that’s sensibly priced, isn’t overly complicated, has 27.5 wheels and offers 150mm of travel, from a brand renowned for making excellent bikes, then the Heckler is definitely worth a very, very long look…

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This review was in Issue 28 of IMB.

For more information visit Santa Cruz Bicycles


By Nigel Garrood
Nigel Garrood was one of the instigators of the IMB project and has been with us since the very beginning. This loveable rogue has more stories than the Bible and is known to enjoy a beer or two. On the bike, he’s fast and loose and often puts younger riders to shame. Equally he’s been known to suffer from the odd crash and carries the scars to prove it. He was once referred to as being a robot sent from the future to save us all!

Tried this? What did you think?