While this 120mm trail bike shares the same profile, four-bar suspension and geometry as the £1,800 aluminium version at the other end of the range, the presence of Shimano’s top-end XTR drivetrain and those golden highlights on the Fox suspension hint that this is special.
There’s good news, too: dig deeper and the difference between this model and those at the lower end adds up to a lot more than a few bolt-on trinkets.
Ride & handling: Not the most aggro but fast, capable and versatile
With carbon fibre rampant in both that frame and the spare-no-expense componentry, a race-bike weight of 10.4kg (23lb) is impressive but no surprise. The lack of mass is obvious with the lightest input on the pedals, the bike surging forwards with very little effort. There’s none of the razor sharp edge you might expect, though, as buzz and vibration are gently muted, leaving you feeling fresher than expected on long rides.
As you would hope, the kit works well; we have ridden stronger, sharper brakes than the MT8s but they get the job done without fuss, and the drivetrain is faultless.
The back end is also most noticeable by its absence of fuss, calmly dealing with whatever the trail throws at it, staying active without excessive wallow. We found it easiest to leave it in the middle Trail setting, as the initial support helps to create a livelier, pick-up-and-place character. If you push hard you may appreciate more compression damping, but as an all-day bike it’s spot on.
The 68-degree head angle isn’t as kicked out as those on the aggressive side of the trail bike spectrum, but for fast trail work with an element of self preservation it won’t hold you back. There’s no noticeable flex even when hitting high grip, high turn corners either.
We do have one gripe: that 90mm stem. For even mildly spirited descending it’s simply much too long, and seriously hobbles the bike’s performance – with the roomy top tube offering plenty of space to shift weight around, we can’t see why it’s needed.
Moving to around 70mm allows better weight distribution and more confident descending with no penalty elsewhere. It’s a minor point, but we do expect a thoroughly sorted, well-polished package at this sort of money.
Masses of carbon fibre throughout keeps the lector very light: Russell Burton/Future Publishing
Frame & equipment: Top-end carbon plus XTR and Kashima-coated Fox Float CTD
Lector is Ghost-speak for a carbon fibre frame, with the front triangle, the back end and the rocker link all made from the black stuff. Well thought-out details such as the chainstay mounted E-type front mech and a sculpted, 92mm wide press-fit bottom bracket shell that morphs into the lower shock mount form a solid foundation at the heart of the frame.
It’s all smoothly shaped and well finished, and the matte black with red highlights hits understated old money-style rather than brash nouveau riche. In good news for non-average sized riders, Ghost actually increase chainstay length as well as seat and top tube dimensions as sizes go up, in an effort to keep handling uniform.
The tapered head tube has a broad junction between top and down tubes to resist torsion applied through the 710mm wide Ritchey Carbon WCS bars and matching, wraparound-clamp 90mm stem. The Ritchey theme continues with a carbon WCS post using the neat Monolink single-rail system, while the Selle Italia SLR seat proves lightweight but comfortable.
That triple-ringed Shimano XTR drivetrain means top shifting performance is guaranteed at a minimum weight, although we’d like to see a clutch-equipped Shadow Plus mech for increased chain security. Breaking up the swathe of Shimano’s finest is a set of ultralight, carbon-levered Magura MT8 brakes, which bite down on 180mm rotors at either end.
The four-bar suspension is designed to stay free from squat and other chain torque trickery; it keeps the rear active but without bobbing like a sleepy car passenger’s head. The Fox Float CTD Kashima rear shock uses a needle bearing roller instead of a bushing for maximum terrain sensitivity, and runs a long (60mm) stroke to give twice that amount of rear wheel travel. That low 2:1 ratio ensures the damping is unstressed and remains consistent even when pushing hard.
Up front, the 120mm travel 32 Float fork utilises the best technology Fox have, with Kashima coated uppers aiding supple movement over small and mid-sized chatter, while the FIT cartridge offers sublime damping and support throughout the travel.
Its support and resistance can be quickly tuned via the Climb, Trail, Descend (CTD) lever, and a 15mm thru-axle keeps it tracking accurately; in this 120mm guise the 32 fork suffers considerably less twang than the stretched out 140/150mm versions.
Easton’s EA70 XCT wheelset is a solid performer and Schwalbe’s sturdy and predictable 2.25in Nobby Nics are more welcome than many lighter, sketchier options.
While not essential on a bike focused on fast, do-it-all trail riding, there aren’t any chainguide tabs and the lack of a stiffness-maximising thru-axle rear end (it’s a basic QR) is a bit of a surprise too.
That said, there’s nothing substantively wrong with open dropouts and 135mm spacing; the basic chassis is by no means flawed, but it’s certainly a more conservative take on the trail bike than some of the more lairy competition.
To those who argue that big wheels have superseded the humble 26in bike for the catch-all trail bike – good at everything from distance racing to thrashing techy descents – this Ghost is quite a slap in the face. It’s not the most aggressively pitched bike out there, but it’s a capable tool that’s willing to devour distance and dispatch danger from the first steep climb till the last woodsy descent – and it’s involving and fun from the go.
The low weight flatters fitness and means there’s always something left in the tank to help hustle when things get twisty. Small spec issues aside, it really is very capable; it does cost an awful lot of money, but it’s of comparable value to similarly specced bikes.
That said, try the AMR Lector 8500 EI with its alloy back end, slightly heavier carbon front triangle and XT spec – plus electric suspension trickery – and you can save around two grand. You’ll just have to pedal a bit harder.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.