Santa Cruz Bicycles Heckler RAM  2013 Mountain Bike Review

Santa Cruz Bicycles Heckler RAM 2013

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Santa Cruz Bicycles 425,992

At A Glance

The Heckler has been part of the Santa Cruz heritage for 18 years, which is pretty substantial by any standards. Of course it has changed a lot in that time and in its current guise it represents a simple, single pivot suspension design with all-mountain geometry and travel at a very competitive price. New for this year is a tapered head tube and ISCG05 chain guide mounts.

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Tech Heads

The Heckler is built around a single pivot suspension set up that has survived the test of time. Single pivot has been around for years and it is simple, dependable and very easy to maintain. Santa Cruz uses the same angular contact bearings and oversize alloy pivot axles as their VPP bikes. Which means you are getting some very high tech hardware to go along with your arguably low-tech single pivot.

The frame is oversized aluminium and looks very beefy in the right places, the top tube has a steep drop to improve stand over height and the tapered head tube finishes off the beefy look.

It is specced with a Fox Float CTD shock from their Evolution series, while there are many build options with this bike, the shock is the same for every build.

Our test bike featured the excellent Rock Shox Revelation RL 150mm fork with rebound and low speed compression to “lock” adjustments.

The drivetrain was an all Shimano affair with an SLX rear mech and shifters and an XT front mech, braking was taken care of with Avid Elixir 5’s, Race Face Ride 710mm low rise bars are coupled with 70mm Truvativ AKA stem while a Race Face Ride 30.9 seat post holds a WTB Volt Race saddle. XT hubs are laced to Mavic 321 rims to complete the wheelset and these are wrapped in Maxxis High Rollers front and rear.

Santa Cruz Heckler Medium

Seat Tube 432mm
Effective Top Tube 571.5mm
Head Tube 110mm
Chain Stay 435mm
Wheel Base 1103.9mm
BB Height 350mm
Head Angle 67.5°
Seat Angle 72°
Reach 383.9mm
Stack 577.4mm

On the Trail

We haven’t ridden one of the new Hecklers, so we were keen to see how the single pivot suspension from Santa Cruz would play out. We have ridden both the APP and VPP set-ups in the past and been very impressed but this is something completely different in terms of those systems. Usually you would expect a bit of pedal bob on the climbs but perhaps the most impressive thing about the Heckler is just how well does pedal.

The Float CTD shock has three settings, Climb, Trail and Decent. Climb is pretty much locked out, Trail is for pedalling and surprise surprise Descent is for going down. I’m one of those riders who put’s on the pro pedal and then wonders why my bike feels like a heap halfway down the mountain. I forget, as I am sure many of you do to take it off and open up the shock. For that reason I often ride with the shock wide open, I’m happy to lose out a little on the way up if it means I don’t end up ruining a good descent with the shock in the wrong setting.

With the Float CTD in Descent mode the Heckler still pedalled extremely efficiently, it was actually more impressive than some of the more elaborate bikes we have ridden in the past. Hardly any bob and you never felt like you were wallowing about on a tub. When the trail got steeper we did miss having a 2-step fork up front to drop the nose down, it will get up most things but the option of a 2-step fork would allow this bike to climb even steeper stuff.

The efficient pedalling made the Heckler fantastic round the local single track, on the flat winding terrain it ate everything up and the handling round the corners was predictable and felt very stable. The reasonably wide bars combined with the reasonable short 70mm stem gave you a good feeling of control right off the bat and the front wheel tracked exactly where it should have done.

Coming back downhill the bike really came into it’s own, the stability and great handling allowed the bike to tackle some pretty challenging terrain with confidence. Put a dropper seat post on to complete the package and you’ll have an all mountain rig worthy of anything you can throw at it.

We did run into some issues with the shock not coping so well with short fast hits, causing the suspension to not perform at it’s best. Obviously a more tuneable shock would allow you to iron this out. This was on particularly short and fast bumps; on normal smoother trails it wasn’t an issue at all…

For

At the price you pay, this is a bloody outstanding bike. We were very impressed with its stable nature on the trail, fantastic pedalling efficiency and the ability of the single pivot to handle a wide variety of terrain with ease. The spec is fantastic and the Rock Shox Revelation 150mm RL fork was brilliant, especially at this price point.

Against

We’d love this bike to get the 142mm rear axle upgrade and also to have a better shock on it that allowed a bit more fine tuning. But if you put a more expensive shock on the Heckler would cease to be what it is. A straight up fun loving all mountain machine at an amazing price.

Overall

If you are the kind of rider who enjoys long days out in the saddle, hitting the trail centres fast and wants all that for less, then the Heckler offers excellent value for money. For sure there may be other bikes out there with a better spec at similar price, but the frame is really sorted on this bike and the geometry combines to make it a fantastic bit of kit that I would happily ride again and again.

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This review was in Issue 21 of IMB.

For more information visit Santa Cruz Bicycles

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By Rou Chater
Rou Chater is the Publishing Editor of IMB Magazine; he’s a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, but his passion for bikes knows no bounds. His first mountain bike was a Trek 820, which he bought in 1990. It didn’t take him long to earn himself a trip to the hospital on it, and he’s never looked back since. These days he’s keeping it rubber side down, riding locally and overseas as much as possible.

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