A stubby 60mm stem, a healthy 130mm of front and rear travel, nimble 27.5in wheels, and a reasonably slack front end would all normally suggest a playful trail bike. But make no mistake, the Ghost Riot 7 LC is definitely more of a pure cross-country machine in practice – and it'll bite back pretty hard if you treat it otherwise.
Ride and handling: super efficient under power but sketchy at higher speeds
As far as your feet are concerned, there's little about the Riot 7 LC that would indicate it's anything other than a full-blown race bike – or gives away its modest 12.42kg (27.38lb) weight without pedals. It's an exceptionally efficient pedaller with a notably firm standard tune, making it an absolute rocket on climbs with only enough movement from the rear end to keep the tyre glued firmly to the ground, even when those pitches are moderately bumpy. Ghost specs the Riot with a three-position Fox Float CTD rear shock but there's almost never a reason to switch it out of the fully open and active mode.
Don't bother reaching down for the Trail or Climb modes on the Fox rear shock; you won't need either one
Likewise, the handling is XC-quick despite what the 68-degree head tube angle and short stem might otherwise suggest. The cockpit feels substantially shorter you'd expect on paper but as a result, tight switchbacks are child's play to navigate and it's simply effortless to wind your way through twisty singletrack, particularly when combined with the grippy (yet surprisingly fast-rolling) Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres. The nimble reflexes mean you can't fall asleep at the wheel but if you stay on top of it, the Riot rewards with agility you don't normally find in new-school bikes built with ultra-slack and long front ends.
All of this would be fantastic were the Riot 7 LC actually billed as a cross-country race bike. However, Ghost pitches the Riot more as an all-around trail machine and it's here the bike falls a little flat. At higher speeds and on more technical terrain where you'd expect an "all mountain" machine to excel, that nimble handing turns into outright sketchiness. We found ourselves simply hanging on and hoping for the best on more than a few occasions, especially on a few moderately challenging descents that we normally simply charge through without a second thought.
There's supposed to be 130mm of rear wheel travel on tap but it oftentimes feels like less
Similarly, the firm compression tune that's so good at lower speeds for squirting the Riot up climbs and keeping unwanted shock movement at bay turns into harshness as the speedometer needle swings right. Ghost's intriguing 'Riot Link' does actually do a very good job of controlling bottom-out on bigger hits but up until that point, the tyres tend to skitter and skip across the ground instead of staying firmly planted on top of it. Overall, the bike feels like it has less travel than it does.
Frame: killer looks and lots of clever engineering
That the Riot has a bit of an identity crisis is all the more disappointing given how much effort and thought has clearly been put into its gorgeous frame.
Whether all of those angles and creases on the carbon fibre skin actually have any real-world effect is debatable but the proportions of the tubes – and especially the width of the various pivots – give the Riot chassis a reassuringly stiff feel. It's not just the size of the tubes in play here, however; there are also a few seemingly inconsequential details that further boost the chassis solidity.
The frame tubes are huge in size with distinctly creased shapes
Instead of straddling the seat tube, for example, the main swingarm pivot is situated in between two very widely set tabs, which effectively makes for a stouter and better supported foundation to keep rear-end flex at bay. Meanwhile, the aluminium rocker links look spindly but they're rigidly clamped to the ends of a large-diameter spindle, thus creating a more monolithic structure that's less prone to twist than conventional threaded axles where the rocker arms aren't so rigidly tied together.
Then there are a couple of Ghost trademarks. Tucked inside that giant bottom bracket assembly is the aforementioned Riot Link, which connects the lower shock mount to an extension of the main swingarm. Unlike Trek's Full Floater design, however, where the lower shock mount is always in motion throughout the stroke, the Riot Link only kicks in toward the end of the travel to cushion the blow of bigger hits and landings.
Tucked within the huge bottom bracket 'cage' is the clever Riot Link, which ramps up the spring rate dramatically at the end of the stroke to control bottom-out
Meanwhile, out back is Ghost's novel 'Disconnect' disc brake mount, which uses a wholly separate aluminium adapter anchored at the thru-axle and seat stay instead of attaching the caliper directly to the frame. Ghost's claim that this reduces the weight seems a bit dubious but the fact that there are no threads required in the frame – and therefore, no threads to strip out – bodes well for long-term durability, especially if you tend to be a little ham-fisted with torque specs.
Naturally, cable routing is fully internal with tidy entry points at the head tube. It's a bit of a bear to set up, however, so it's a good thing that Ghost has specced full-length cable housing that should hold up better than interrupted setups in the long term.
The internal cable routing setup can be a little frustrating to service
Finally, make sure to carefully check the geometry chart before choosing a size – or ideally, take one out for an actual ride. We found the Riot cockpit to feel shorter than the official reach numbers suggest, and the seat tubes are comparatively long, too. Complicating matters further is the fact that the suspension design precludes slamming the RockShox Reverb dropper post all the way down into the frame, which effectively makes the seat tube even longer still.
Equipment: excellent Shimano Deore XT components, good (but not great) Easton wheels
It's pretty much impossible to complain about a complete Shimano Deore XT groupset and the Riot 7 LC is no exception. Although the two-ring drivetrain might not be as cool as a 1x setup, the extra range is undoubtedly useful and shift quality is exceptionally good. Save for especially rough terrain (for which the Riot isn't very well suited anyway, as it turns out), chain security isn't much of an issue.
The brakes proved to be similarly outstanding with ample power from the 180/160mm front/rear rotor combo, quiet running, and excellent ergonomics. Modulation isn't quite as good as the latest models from SRAM but until we have a couple of years' worth of durability reports, these are still about as worry-free as it gets.
The two-ring drivetrain may not be en vogue but it provides more range than any 1x setup
The Easton Vice XLT wheels are a little more of a mixed bag. Although ours didn't require much attention during testing, the rims are on the narrow side at just 21mm between the bead hooks, and the freehub doesn't engage as quickly as we'd prefer. On the plus side, they are officially UST tubeless compatible with no tape required.
The rest of the build kit gets the job done but could handle a little tweaking. The chunky aluminium stem is a good match for the frame aesthetically but there's a bit of noticeable twist when charging through rock gardens. Likewise, the stock aluminium low-rise bar has good angles but is a tad narrow at 720mm. Finally, the firm Selle Italia X1 saddle offers excellent support for longer rides but it could use a bit more padding.
The Easton Vice XLT wheels come with a true UST rim profile for easy tubeless setup
Bottom line: not quite a Riot of a good time
The Riot is hardly a bad bike. It's just that it's not the all-mountain bike it's made out to be and unfortunately also isn't quite as good as bikes that are actually intended to be dedicated XC rigs. This is a lot to like here but the finished product feels more like a mishmash of good ingredients instead of a nice, cohesive meal.
For more information, visit www.ghost-bikes.com
A note to US readers: Ghost bicycles were recently offered primarily in Europe, Asia, the UK, South Africa, and Canada but they are now available in the United States exclusively through REI.
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: Ghost Riot 27.5 UHM/HM Carbon, 130mm travel
- Rear shock: Fox Float CTD BoostValve
- Fork: Fox 32 Float FIT Performance CTD, 130mm travel, 15mm thru-axle, 130mm travel
- Headset: Acros integrated, 1 1/8-to-1 1/2in tapered
- Stem: Ghost AS-GH3
- Handlebar: Ghost Low Rizer Superlight, 720mm
- Front brake: Shimano Deore XT BR-M785 with 180mm RT-86 rotor
- Rear brake: Shimano Deore XT BR-M785 with 160mm RT-86 rotor
- Brake levers: Shimano Deore XT BL-M785
- Front derailleur: Shimano Deore XT BL-M785
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Deore XT RD-M785
- Shift levers: Shimano Deore XT SL-M780
- Cassette: Shimano Deore XT CS-M771, 11-36T
- Chain: SRAM Red 22
- Crankset: Shimano Deore XT FC-M785, 38/24T
- Bottom bracket: Shimano press-fit
- Pedals: n/a
- Wheelset: Easton Vice XLT
- Front tyre: Schwalbe Hans Dampf, 27.5 x 2.25in
- Rear tyre: Schwalbe Hans Dampf, 27.5 x 2.25in
- Saddle: Selle Italia X1
- Grips: Ghost lock-on
- Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth