Bike Test: Ghost Riot 9 LC

Ghost is a design group based on the eastern border of Germany, only a stone’s throw from the Czech Republic. If you’ve not yet heard of the brand, it’s probably because it has only been available in Europe until very recently. The brand was one that we would drool over when visiting overseas for Eurobike, with its award winning bikes built from aggressively sculpted carbon fiber and alloys. Well, fortunately, Ghost has decided to make its bikes available closer to home with a global distribution model that includes selling many of the most popular Ghost models through REI, one of the largest dedicated outdoor retailers we know of.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The Ghost Riot comes in two different versions, the LC and the LT. Both bikes are designed to be quiver killers, with enough travel to satisfy aggressive trail riders and light enough construction to keep them pedal-able. Our shorter-travel LC version of the Riot feels like a cross-country race bike with an attitude. It’s built to be light and fast yet forgiving enough to ride more than lung-busting fire-road climbs. This is a fast and efficient bike with enough mettle to ride technical trails with confidence.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The Riot is a 130-millimeter-travel (5.1-inch) bike built from carbon fiber and held together with a Horst-style four-bar linkage suspension design. This is a classic suspension design that’s stood the test of time and is executed by Ghost with a few additional features. The bike has a massive hexagonal carbon down tube matched with an aggressively sculpted carbon head tube that looks fast standing still. The rear end is built with relatively spindly chainstays and seatstays, and the whole bike is held together with a rocker system that rides entirely on cartridge bearings.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Setting sag: Ghost takes the guesswork out of setting suspension with a built-in sag meter that works with corresponding marks on the rocker and seat tube. We found the guide helpful and landed on our ideal setup very quickly, but it’s easiest to use the guide if you have an extra set of eyes, since you can’t see the measurement while in the riding position. Even if you don’t use the built-in guide, the system is very straightforward. We set the bike to 30-percent matched sag front and rear and hit the trails.

Moving out:

The Riot features a very long top tube matched with a relatively short rear end, which makes the bike feel like a traditionally sized bike with a slight bias toward a racy and laid-out riding position. The bike also comes stock with a relatively short stem, which makes the bike feel very well-matched to the otherwise long cockpit.

Climbing: 

The super-light design of the Ghost Riot makes it climb exceptionally well. While the suspension isn’t littered with superfluous levers for pedaling platforms, the bike still floats uphill with relative ease. The Riot LC is built like a true cross-country race bike, with weight as a primary concern, but offers a bit more travel than your typical cross-country bike. Our test riders found the Riot didn’t need much help from the pedaling platform provided by the Fox CTD fork and shock, and that’s a good thing, because the shock is placed very low on the bike, making it difficult to reach. We put the bike in the Trail mode for all but the smallest of ascents and were rewarded with a firm and efficient feeling bike that climbed well on short, steep, and technical efforts, as well as long, grinder fire roads.

Cornering:

The Riot’s geometry is relatively tight, but the suspension delivers a supple feel that makes cornering feel more confident than the geometry chart would let on. The supremely stiff front triangle delivers tons of confidence when slicing lines on the trail. For most trail riders, the bike will feel perfectly precise through corners without a hint of hesitation. Our most aggressive riders noted a considerable amount of flex in the rear end, probably made more noticeable by the incredibly stiff front end. The spindly rockers and stays track the ground well, but, when the bike is thrown into an aggressive “cut turn,” reveal that this is the place Ghost chose to save weight by trimming material at the cost of overall stiffness.

Descending:

The Ghost is designed to be run with more sag than a typical 5-inch-travel bike would require. Thanks to the overall lightweight package and efficient pedaling manners, the Riot can pull this off without much of a penalty. The extra sag then pays dividends on the descent.

The 5.1 inches of travel feels exceptionally plush, and the geometry keeps the bike feeling confident. While this is far from a plow bike that can be ridden with reckless abandon, it’s not afraid to be pushed into rock gardens with a “little bit of abandon.” The lightweight frame and build kit may make some riders feel timid on aggressive terrain, but our testers felt confident enough to take this bike on some very aggressive trails, including those with small drops and jumps.

Braking:

The Horst-style suspension package delivers a feel that’s decoupled from the braking, making it feel active and plush whether the rider is on the brakes or not. The result is confident braking with tons of traction, which further improves the Riot’s descending ability.

Shimano’s XTR brakes are lightweight and powerful; however, they are very inconsistent in high-heat situations. On our longest descents, we found ourselves not knowing whether the brake would pull nearly to the bar or be on a hare trigger.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

The Riot is equipped with internal cable routing to keep the bike looking streamlined and sleek. Our test bike came with plastic caps to complete the finished look. Unfortunately, the caps popped out every time the bar turned, killing the aesthetics. While this issue had no real effect on performance, it was a serious annoyance. Ghost reassured us the issue has been resolved and will be a running change going forward.

REI has told us they will stock replacement parts, such as the cable guide, which should lend confidence to the American consumer who may feel cautious about buying a German-made bike. Replacement parts such as derailleur hangers, rocker bolts and other wear items may still be more difficult to come by than with a more conventional brand.

Easton’s Haven wheelset felt snappy and lightweight on the trail, but the rear hub refused to stay tight, despite several attempts to adjust it. We eventually had to get used to having a small amount of play in the bearing. While this didn’t directly affect our testing, it was an annoyance and didn’t give us confidence in the longevity of the part.

Ritchey’s WCS bar is on the narrow side at just under 28 inches wide. We prefer something slightly wider for a bike with this type of descending prowess. We swapped the bar for a 30-inch-wide Renthal Fatbar carbon after the first outings and never switched back.

BUYING ADVICE

This is a bike that fits the quiver-killer bill as a do-it-all machine, albeit on the lighter side of the spectrum. This is not a lightweight enduro bike but rather an aggressive trailbike that carries its weight remarkably well. Our testers were impressed with the versatility of the Riot from the start, and even on our more pedal- and climb-intensive cross-country rides, as well as our more aggressive enduro-style rides, the Riot held its own. Some of our most aggressive riders would have preferred more rear-end stiffness, but it wasn’t enough of an issue to detract from the overall package. This is a versatile machine that, like its Riot name implies, smashes and grabs all the trail it can.

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