Ghost ASX 5500 review£1,699.99

Surefooted but weighty trail bandit

BikeRadar score2.5/5

Ghost are massive in their German homeland. The parts-pick certainly puts the top model of their entry-level ASX range ahead of the competition, but it’s not the lightweight marathon bike you might hope. The rear shock requires patience to make it palatable, and the low bottom bracket and high weight also make it an average rather than aspirational performer.

Ride & handling: Looks great, but it has a hefty ride and an awkward shock

The long stroke setup of the ASX's rocker link rear end means it copes with larger hits more smoothly than we expected and you can clatter through stuff okay if you grit your teeth. The low leverage means that there’s very little small bump movement to create comfort and grip though, and we never needed to flick it to the total lockout setting however steep the climb.

Finding a workable air pressure is hard because the stiction stops the bike sagging accurately to judge setup. The rebound seems equally random, with a very narrow sweet spot in the broad range between syrup slow and Buckaroo rodeo. In short, you can get it working okay if you’re patient and persistent but be prepared to take your shock pump with you and fettle a lot on the first few rides.

Ironically, having such a smooth Fox fork up front compounds the contrast with the back end, because you can push into technical situations much harder. We had to substitute the original fork with a new one because it blew its FIT damping cartridge and ended up topped-out with no rebound in less than 10 minutes. But that’s not a problem we’ve had with FIT F32s before, so we’re not going to dwell on it.

The 69-degree head angle and balanced cockpit dimensions of the ASX give it a confident feel when you’re in combat mode. The relatively long rear end keeps it stable at high speeds or under braking, and the low bottom bracket gives a surefooted feel through high speed or slippery turns. While it’s not outstanding there’s enough stiffness in the frame to keep tracking as obedient and predictable as the tyres allow.

The low bottom bracket does limit pedalling clearance in more rooty, rutted and rocky terrain though, so you’ll have to learn to half-pedal rather than hammering the cranks. The overall weight of the bike (13.57kg/29.96lb) becomes more of an issue the further and higher you ride as well.

Given that you’ve already got a lightweight fork and decent other kit on there, upgrade potential is limited too. We reckon you’d be wiser saving your wages for a bit longer and going for the £1,999 AMR 5900 with a totally different frame and Fox suspension front and rear.

Ghost asx 5500: ghost asx 5500
Ghost asx 5500: ghost asx 5500

Frame: Heavy, but offers sorted handling for trail work

The ASX frame certainly has a lot more state-of-the-art features than most entry-level chassis. For starters, it gets a tapered inset headset head tube backed up with a built-in hydroformed throat gusset on the down tube. The top tube and down tube are further reinforced with a separate box-section between tubes. The top tube is ovalised for stiffness and also has a convex underside for the cables.

The single-piece bottom bracket and main pivot keystone, additional linkage mount on seat tube, cut out seatstay bridge and heavily engineered dropouts all add a well finished look too. The 3D linkage plates get embossed Ghost logos and the chainstay pivots ahead of the dropouts make it a proper four-bar system.

There’s not much mud clearance though, and the driveside dropout gets the same reinforcing on top of it as the offside brake mount, which seems odd. Much more importantly, the frame is very heavy, which isn't what you want in a 120mm-travel (4.7in) marathon-styled bike.

Equipment: Fox fork is a good score for the money

At first look, you certainly can’t knock Ghost for the specification they’ve spirited up. The Fox F32 fork with tapered steerer would cost more than 30 percent of the complete bike price if you bought it separately, although we’d have preferred a 15mm axle version to fully capitalise on the tapered steerer stiffness benefits. It’s the X-Fusion shock that limits the ride.

The 30-speed Shimano XT/SLX gearing will be a highlight for many buyers, and you’ll be glad of the big rear sprocket when trying to winch up long climbs. We’ve no complaints about the Avid brakes or the Ghost finishing kit either. We buckled the Alex rims on the first ride though – it’s not the only time that’s happened – and the hard compound tyres are flattering in terms of speed but not grip.

The cockpit and basic geometry are good if you can work around the low bottom bracket: the cockpit and basic geometry are good if you can work around the low bottom bracket
The cockpit and basic geometry are good if you can work around the low bottom bracket: the cockpit and basic geometry are good if you can work around the low bottom bracket

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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