Chances are if someone told you that their new range of bikes was called Riot you would be expecting some beefy, big travel, borderline downhill hell raiser, which makes the first sight of Ghost’s Riot Lector 9 frame something of a shock.
Once you’ve established that the company’s idea of rioting is hammering old-school-style technical singletrack flat out along, down and (particularly) upwards rather than laying waste to a black run descent then this Ghost is a seriously playful and standout-fast poltergeist.
Frame and equipment: hex-citing stuff
While the super-skinny brace tube between the flattened, steeply sloped top tube and skinny seatstays might look freakishly fragile, a second glance will show that there’s serious strength where it really matters. The hexagonal down tube is big enough to work as a front fender even with 2.25in rubber. The bottom bracket basket it expands into covers the full width of the BB95 bearings and you have to really peer down to even see there’s a smaller chainring tucked in on the XTR crank.
The carbon frame and ingenious ‘Riot’ linkage buried in the belly of the bike are designed to be BabelFish efficient at translating your effort into blistering acceleration and effervescent, ego-boosting pace.
There is a riot brewing in that lot… namely a Riot Link
Reading the onsite hype it seems like a lot of effort to create a floating shock with significant bottom stroke ramp up. That’s reinforced when you’re staring down into the belly of the bike trying to work out exactly what’s happening in between the downturned chainstay extensions and the bottom end of the Fox shock. It’s not a bike that we would recommend to riders who routinely leave their bikes long enough between washes to grow a garden either.
The XTR stop/go equipment is as flawless as ever and if you can wait just a couple more months you will be getting the all-new XTR group. The Haven wheels haven’t got the best hub reliability record though, and you could easily find a lighter and/or better-equipped complete bike for the money.
Easton rims are paired with high volume Hans Dampf rubber
We have never been big fans of Ritchey’s Rizer bar shapes and felt the Ghost’s WCS Carbon Rizer 710mm bars could do with some more width to put some torque into turns. They’re usefully stiff though and the WCS 60mm stem means you can play about right on the edge of the plentiful front traction. The X-12 thru-axle rear end and Riot setup can also handle a decent drop without stumbling sideways or obviously losing composure.
Ride and handling: speed demon heaven – where the fork can handle it
As soon as we clipped in and put some pressure through the pedals it was obvious that the Ghost's 26-tooth ring was going to be largely forgotten. In fact we never used it once throughout testing, even on maybe-I-shouldn’t-have-done-that-last-descent cramping crawls back up to the trailhead.
Deflate and cycle the shock and you soon find that this isn’t a typical Pace or Trek-style shock setup where the bottom end of the shock is pulled down and away as the top gets compressed. There’s a fractional drop of the bottom as you move through the first 30 percent (which is mostly sag) but then the rear of the shock doesn’t move again until 80 percent through the stroke. At that point the Riot linkage drives the rear of the shock upwards against the compression loads and creates a super high rising rate ‘stopping track’ effect on the travel.
The Fox shock is driven from both ends for a progressive bottom out
While this sounds (and looks) frighteningly complicated, what it means in reality is that the bike pedals extremely well even with the compression damper wide open. There’s some stiction in the solid state bearing bushes (rather than conventional cartridge bearing pivots) and upper linkage angle that reinforces the firm ‘platform feel’. That gives a psychological advantage going hard on smoother surfaces but it does create a chattery, occasionally traction scattering character over small bumps.
Once the linkage flips through and the shock turns more linear it carries that speed through decent size rock and log stoppers. This can be a recipe for a saggy feel at the rear but the chainstay pivot four-bar rear architecture helps with a rapid return to sag level. This meant the Lector never felt like it was wallowing about when we wanted to get the wattage down.
The linkage also reduces maximum stress loads on the linkage and rear stays too, which is why Ghost can make them so thin. Our medium sample was 500g heavier than Ghost’s claimed weight, and it’s the pedal response not the poundage that makes it a naturally high velocity weapon.
The Strava trophies on your post-ride download aren’t just going to be restricted to the climbs either. While we never bothered using the front shifter to drop us out of the big ring, the Reverb button above it got as much use as a fighter plane joystick trigger. It’s great to see more German brands embracing progressive geometry, and while the Riot isn’t particularly slack the easy mid-stroke makes it hunker down and stretch out if you drive down through your feet into corners.
Precision and poise from the frame is impressive on technical singletrack
The bike’s long anyway and at 335mm from bottom bracket axle to ground it’s really low slung. That gives it great natural stability through high-speed corners even when the treads start to go sideways.
The 32mm legged Fox fork is the only obvious limiting factor if you’re into more aggressive riding. It’s smooth and supple when you get to the climbs and you can get round the linear damping crushing down in hard corners by keeping it in Trail mode.
Throw in some bigger hits and more random roots and rocks though, and the rest of the bike soon starts to push harder than the fork can cope with structurally and you start to trip over it as it twangs back and twists around in your hands. You will generally be able to keep it together down most local woodsy descents, but show it an open rocky hillside and an open throttle and the rest of the bike definitely deserves a burlier fork and much broader bars.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.