Bikes from German company Ghost have been available in the UK for nearly a year now and they've garnered some great reviews. For 2011, the changes made to the AMR model this year – such as the addition of a stiffness-enhancing tapered head tube and press-fit bottom bracket shell – have been extended to much of the rest of the range.
UK distributors Hotlines invited us to Glentress in Scotland to check out the new bikes and put some of them through their paces on the popular 7stanes centre's icy trails. Here's the full lowdown...
The AMR is the flagship of Ghost's mountain bike range, with a trail-centre-friendly 120mm of travel, a choice of alloy ('Actinum') or carbon ('Lector') frames, and two new spec levels for 2011. All models come with a Fox 32 FIT RL fork and RP23 Boost Valve shock, apart from the basic 5700 (£1,899.99) which downgrades to a 32F RL fork and X-Fusion O2 RCX shock.
The frame was upgraded last year with a tapered head tube and press-fit BB, and that successful formula hasn't been tampered with. The shock mounts run on Enduro needle roller bearings – this is said to improve small bump sensitivity and give a very supple feel through the first part of the travel – and the 2:1 shock ratio should mean well controlled damping.
Needle roller bearings and a top-end Fox RP23 Boost Valve shock ensure supple suspension performance on the Ghost AMR
Key models include the AMR Actinum 7500 (Shimano XT, £2,399.99), Lector 7700 (same spec as 7500 but carbon front end, bar and seatpost saves 600g, £2,749.99,) and Lector 8700 (same spec as 7700 but full-carbon frame saves another 300g – claimed weight 24.5lb – £2,999.99).
We took an AMR 7500 for a spin through Spooky Woods – after fitting it with a shorter stem than the 100mm unit specced to speed up the handling – and were impressed. It's quick off the mark yet gobbles up smaller bumps with alacrity, while still holding plenty in reserve for bigger hit. We were cursing the fat grips and narrow (670mm) bar on the downhill, but these are easily changed. Handling was pleasantly neutral – as in suprise-free rather than boring – and we never felt the need for more travel.
Bikes like Ghost's AMR show that 120mm is more than enough travel for most UK trail centres
Aimed at cross-country and marathon racers, the 100mm-travel RT has been redesigned from the ground up for 2011. It's essentially a shorter-travel version of the AMR – with the same tapered head tube, press-fit BB, needle roller bearings and 2:1 ratio – but with a stronger ProPedal platform damping tune. All models are specced with flat bars and bar ends.
The RT Actinum 7500 comes with a RockShox Reba RL Air fork, Fox RP23 Boost Valve shock and Shimano XT for £2,299.99. For £100 less you can get the Lector 5700, which weighs 300g less thanks to its carbon front end, bar and post, despite some spec downgrades (X-Fusion O2 RL shock, SRAM X7, Avid Elixir 3 brakes). At £2,999.99 the Lector 9000 comes with a RockShox SID RLT fork and Fox RP23 Boost Valve shock, Shimano XT and Avid Elixir CR discs.
The RT was another bike we managed to sling a leg over, and we came away impressed. While the narrow (600mm) flat bar and bar ends mark it out as a pure cross-country racer, it feels like it has more travel than it actually does, and we were impressed with its poise and stability in the rough stuff. This was no doubt helped by its 2.2in Schwalbe Rocket Ron treads. Fit a wider bar and shorter stem, and you've got a trail centre rocket on your hands, as well as a potential race winner.
The RT may be billed as a cross-country/marathon bike but it proved sure-footed on Glentress's swoopy downhills
ASX is Ghost's entry-level full-suspension range, with 120mm of travel and the same geometry as the pricier AMR. Money is saved by using more basic tubing, a simplified linkage and a lower grade spec. The basic 3700 model (£999.99) uses the same frame as last year, while the others get a slightly tweaked chassis with tapered headset.
The ASX 3700 is a lot of bike for 1p short of £1,000, with an RST Titan Air LO fork, X-Fusion E1R Air shock, Shimano Alivio and Tektro Draco brakes. Another £250 gets you the 4900, with the new frame, an RST Titan Air SLR fork and X-Fusion O2 RLR shock, and an upgrade to Shimano Deore. At the top end, the £1,699.99 5500 gives you a Fox 32F RL fork and X-Fusion O2 RLR shock, Shimano SLX and Avid Elixir 3 discs.
With prices starting at £999.99, the ASX looks like a sorted entry-level full-susser; this is the £1,249.99 ASX 4900
SE is Ghost's entry-level hardtail range. All of the bikes come with Shimano or SRAM groupsets (including hubs), Ritchey headsets and Schwalbe tyres. The basic SE 1200 (£399.99) and 1300 (£479.99) both have frames made from plain 7005 aluminium tubes and come with V-brakes to cut costs. The more expensive models upgrade to lighter double-butted tubing and hydraulic discs. All come with 100mm-travel forks, with standard 1-1/8in rather than tapered head tubes.
Colour-matched brakes, saddles and other finishing kit gives the SE bikes a look that belies their price. Most of the models come in a choice of two colours. Key models for serious off-roaders include the SE 2000 (RST Gila ML fork, Shimano Alivio, Tektro Draco discs, £599.99), 5000 (RockShox Recon Air, Shimano Deore, Shimano 445 discs, £849.99) and 7000 (RST FirstAir SRL, 10-speed Shimano XT Dyna-Sys, Shimano 505 discs, £949.99 – or £1,049.99 with RockShox Recon Air).
SE may be Ghost's entry-level hardtail range but you wouldn't know from a distance; this is the £599.99 SE 2000
Ghost's high-end cross-country hardtails get a new frame for 2011, with a tapered head tube and press-fit BB. According to UK distributors Hotlines, the aim was to make the bikes as light and stiff as possible, while maximising comfort too. To this end, the stays are heavily ovalised (wide laterally for pedalling stiffness, slim vertically to add a hint of trail-buzz-damping flex) and skinny 27.2mm seatposts are specced throughout the range.
All models get 100mm-travel, tapered steerer forks. The range starts with the £1,599.99 HTX Actinum 7200, which comes with a RockShox Reba RL Air, 10-speed SRAM X9 and Avid Elixir 3 discs. Other key models include the carbon Lector 5800 (RockShox Reba RL Air, 10-speed Shimano XT/SLX, Avid Elixir 3, £1,899.99) and Lector 7700 (RockShox Reba RL Air and full XT, including brakes, £2,199.99).
Ghost also have a full range of MISS bikes for women. These are essentially the same as their men's models, but with slightly shorter, more sloping top tubes, thinner grips and narrower handlebars. The MISS RT 5100 stands out, with 100mm of travel front and rear courtesy of an RST FirstAir SRL fork and X-Fusion O2 RL shock, Shimano Alivio and Tektro Draco discs, all for £999.99.
Most of Ghost's bikes are also available in MISS women's versions. The AMR MISS 5900 is £2,099.99 with Fox suspension and Shimano SLX bits
A revised AMR Plus – which, as the name suggests, is a longer-travel (150mm) version of the AMR – is due out later next year, along with a new 200mm-travel downhill bike that's been tested by team rider Marcus Klausmann on the World Cup circuit. This sounds like it could be a good buy, with sorted sounding geometry (64° head angle, 13.5in bottom bracket) and a four bar rear end with a high pivot location and a chain pulley idler to improve pedalling.
The frame will sell for £1,299 (with Fox DHX RC2 shock), with complete builds available for £2,399.99 ('Northshore', with RockShox Domain dual crown fork and X-Fusion Vector RC shock, Truvativ Hussefelt cranks and Avid Elixir 3 discs) or £4,299.99 ('Downhill', with Fox 40 RC2 FIT fork and DHX RC2 shock, Truvativ Holzfeller cranks, SRAM X0, Tune hubs and Avid Elixir CR brakes).
Ghost also have a range of three four-cross hardtails. The 4X Comp sounds a bargain at £599.99, with a Suntour XCM V3 MLO fork, Shimano shifting kit and Tektro Draco brakes, while the 4X Pro upgrades to a Marzocchi Dirt Jumper 3 fork, SRAM X5 and Avid Juicy 3s. RRP is £999.99. The top-end 4X Team is available as a frame only (triple-butted tubing, tapered head tube) for £279.99 or a complete ready-to-race bike, with RockShox Reba RL Solo fork, SRAM shifting kit and Avid Elixir 3 brakes, for £1499.99.