6 months in the saddle and it’s time to find out if Ghost’s short travel all mountain weapon is a phantom menace … or a bit of a shocker.
Words and test by Taff Frewin
Images by Jamie Edwards, rock-garden image by Jay Robinson
What do you think of the Ghost AMR 7500? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook.
“Our super lightweight 120mm AMR aluminum frame featuring Fox chassis, complete Shimao XT equipment and lightweight components. This bike is perfectly suited for any kind of adventure. Reliability can be so beautiful!” Ghostbikes.com
It’s spring, the sun has been shining for a few days and the woods are dry. A frown develops as I realise that it’s mid-morning and I have a boring day of work ahead before I can hit the trails. The smile returns to my face when my phone rings and it’s Martin from Hotlines: “Hi mate, I’m outside your office in the van… I’ve got you a bike to play with”.
Rushing downstairs, I’m greeted by Martin with a brand new Ghost AMR 7500, their 120mm aluminium framed “All Mountain Tour” bike. I can only assume that this description is a German to English translation glitch, as to my eye, this looks like a pretty aggressive trail bike!
Martin has pre-empted my initial (predictable) feedback by putting on a 50mm stem and 740mm Spank Subrosa handlebar. “Any other changes?”, I ask, but quickly realise that with a 120mm Fox Float FIT RL fork on the front, a Fox RP23 on the back and complete Shimano XT drivetrain (and I mean complete, even places where you’d expect shortcuts like the chain, hubs & cassette are XT) there’s no need for any other changes. This is a very well specced bike, especially when you consider the £2299.99 RRP.
Pushing the bike back into the office gets a bit of attention; a few of my colleagues take interest and we all agree that it seems very well finished and more than light enough at 12.4kg (~28lbs). Detailing seems pretty good too, the saddle and rims are customised to match with the bright green and white decals of the frame, perhaps not the most important of features, but certainly a welcome one. There are also a few nice touches such as a branded and fitted neoprene chain stay protector that make you feel like you are getting a bike that people have really put some thought into.
It’s these features that combine with the Fox RP23 on the rear end that make this bike a joy to ride, the 2:1 ratio makes it feel so smooth and progressive that you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were riding a bike with a coil shock and an extra inch or two of suspension. In fact the back-end feels so good that sometimes the 120mm fork feels a little bit out-gunned. If this sounds like a complaint, it’s really not meant that way, more a backhanded compliment on how good the bike feels at the back end.
It would be interesting to see how the bike feels with a bigger fork, my old 140mm coil Pikes feel like they might be a good pairing for the back of the bike. They’d certainly feel better matched, they’d also slacken it out a little from the 69 degree head angle which might make it a little more confident on the fast and rough stuff. When another test rider took the bike for a lap of our regular fast, rough, aggro loop on a night ride, they struggled with this and just couldn’t put their trust in the front of the bike on some of these high speed descents.
Of course, slackening this bike would have other adverse effects, so I’d always be a little wary of such a change, but it sure would be an interesting experiment. There are a few things that might not want to mess with – for example with its existing geometry and a fairly influential Pro Pedal switch, this bike certainly pedals and climbs as well as other bikes in its class. In fact, with the supple back-end, it climbs surprisingly well, perhaps that’s just a bonus of keeping the weight so low?
Is there anything else that I’d change? Of course it would benefit from a remote-adjust seatpost, but you don’t really expect one at this price point. I’d normally go for a 1×10 setup, but in several months of riding this on some pretty rough old tracks, I’ve not dropped the chain once so I’d be hesitant to lose the extra flexibility of gears. The XT drivetrain is as good as anything I’ve ever ridden and the XT brakes (with 180mm rotors) are, to my tastes, perfect. As I mentioned at the top of the article, the stock bar & stem might need changing but Wideopen readers probably expect that.
There was one change that transformed this bike (a pet hate of mine so I’ll try not to rant) and that was the tyres. I rode the supplied tyres for a couple of weeks and genuinely found no surface or conditions in which they worked – at all! I crashed on everything from damp trail centres to dusty pump tracks; the cornering ability and confidence lost through these tyres simply ruined the ride. After giving these a chance to prove themselves I gave up and replaced the front with a Super Tacky Minion DHF and the rear with a Maxxis Ardent – suddenly it was a different bike. To allow myself a mini-rant – this might have made the difference between a bike that I would and wouldn’t buy based upon a short test ride, so I struggle to understand why manufacturers consistently spec such bad rubber. I understand the argument that there are different conditions all over the world, but surely you can find something that doesn’t ruin a bike? If you buy this bike – expect to change the tyres.
The chain guide question explains pretty well how flexible this bike can be; over the summer I’ve used it for pump tracks sessions, trail centers, epic XC adventures and uplift days more suited to DH bikes. In all of these situations I never felt like I was on the wrong bike – don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t attempt a DH race on it, but I’d be more than happy to use it for a gravity enduro.
This begs the question about what type of riding the bike is best suited for; I’ve already talked about it being a jack of all trades, but is it the master of any one thing? With 120mm travel and steepish head angle means that the front end doesn’t descend as well as the superb back end, but then it’s not quite an XC whippet either.
Martin & his van will soon be rocking up outside my office to take the bike away, and while there are a few things about it that I’ll miss, I’ll be more than happy to return to my hardtail or my 140mm trail bike for their appropriate duties. The Ghost slots somewhere between the two and will do the job of the more specialist bike adequately but not impeccably. If you don’t have the luxury of two bikes for trail riding, the Ghost is definitely worth a look, especially if you spend more time on trail centre loops than on white-knuckle natural descents that demand a bit more travel and a slacker head angle.
At the time of writing, this 2012 model is available online for as little as £1600, which is a seriously good price for such a capable bike: remember this comes with a full XT groupset, a pair of Fox dampers and a suspension design that makes the most of the travel available.
What did our test-pilot think?
“A fast, fun and very versatile ‘do it all’ trail bike with a frankly brilliant build for the money. Perhaps not ideal for those that like to ride big, rough, fast terrain but if you want one bike that will cover everything the UK’s trail centers and most singletrack can dish out then the Ghost is definitely worth a look. The rear suspension was a particular highlight and felt far more capable than the modest 125mm would imply”.
What we liked:
Brilliant spec for the money (with some great prices currently available)
Very capable back end
XT brakes were perfect
Great attention to detail
What we thought could be better:
The fork felt outgunned by the rear suspension, making the bike feel slightly mismatched
Tyres needed an immediate change
Head angle was slightly steep for rougher, faster terrain (but was fine for trail centres and general singletrack duties)