Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Luca Cometti
With the Big-S FSR patent recently expiring, more and more four-bar style bikes from brands all over the world have started making their way to American soil. Ghost Bikes is one of those brands. With a long history in Germany and all over Europe, Ghost has been designing and selling bikes for over 20 years and offer a huge fleet with more than 150 different models. We were given the opportunity to test the Ghost Riot 7 LC - a 130mm travel 27.5 trail bike with a carbon frame and their unique Riot-link suspension design. Let's see if the Riot 7 LC holds true to its motto: “One bike. All the mountain.”
- Carbon frame
- 27.5-inch wheels
- 130mm (5.1-inches) of front and rear wheel travel
- 4-bar Riot-link suspension - full-floating shock compressed on both sides
- Tapered head tube
- 68-degree head angle
- 74-degree effective seat tube angle
- 12mm (0.5-inch) bottom bracket drop
- 430mm (16.9-inch) chainstays
- Press Fit bottom bracket
- Internal cable routing
- 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
- Measured complete weight (size Large, no pedals): 27.2-pounds (12.3kg)
- Sizes: XS/S/M/L/XL
- MSRP: $5,699
The Riot features some uniquely designed carbon tubing. The angular headtube and contrasting narrow and wide tubes throughout the frame really make the bike stand out in the looks department. Sleek and clean lines everywhere give the bike a traditional, yet refined look that's actually quite appealing. Internal cable routing contributes to the bike's clean look, as does the tubing around the bottom-bracket which somewhat conceals the lower linkage. Integrated frame protection on both the bottom bracket/downtube and the drive-side chainstay are nice touches as well.
Another thing to note on this bike is how easy the shock's adjustments are to reach, which makes setting the bike up and trail-side tinkering that much easier. There's also plenty room for a water bottle cage inside the front triangle.
On The Trail
We tested the Riot on a variety of trails in Southern California, from XC loops with fun, mellow descents to full-on gravity oriented trails with rough terrain, technical bits, drops and jumps. We were surprised in some situations, and a bit outgunned in others.
First, we should discuss setup. Setting up the cockpit was more of a compromise in terms of positioning controls than what we would have liked, but in the end we found a setup that was usable. The Riot comes spec'd with Ghost's own 60mm AS-GH3 stem and 31.8mm Low Rizer Super Light bar, which is 720mm narrow. The bike has a very healthy amount of reach (465mm for the size Large), which helps prevent the cockpit from feeling cramped, but we would have liked to have seen a wider bar in the 750mm range.
We set the bike up with close to 30% rear sag and 20% up front. The Riot has a very progressive end-stroke, so running close to DH amounts of sag on a trail bike seemed doable. The extreme ramp in progression is achieved by what Ghost calls the Riot-link. Basically, the bike is a modified four-bar with a full-floating shock. The shock is compressed only by the main rocker on top for the first 80% of the rear wheel's travel. Once the bike is down to its last 20% of travel, the Riot-link begins to compress the shock from the other side which decreases the leverage rapidly to help prevent bottoming.
How did this all translate to real-world feel? Well, we can say the rear wheel remained active while climbing and over mid-sized hits and chatter. When hard landings occurred the suspension resisted bottoming out very well. In fact, we never fully bottomed the rear shock, even at 30% sag. On a typical ride we'd still have 10mm of shock stroke unused, though on rough descents with larger impacts we'd get close to full travel but never feel the bottom in a harsh way. Despite the linear mid-stroke, the bike never felt like it was blowing through travel - likely a result of the relatively low volume air can.
On mellow, less technical or gnarly descents the bike was a blast to ride. But when things got serious, we got a little scared. To say it bluntly, this is not an aggressive Enduro bike or a mini-DH bike, it's a “more capable” XC bike. Faced with steep, rough terrain, the bike was a bit sketchy and required a lot of control and precise line choice. While we never had a big off while pushing the bike to its limits, the fun factor of gnarly sections just wasn't there. If that's your thing, you're better off with a heavier hitting bike, like the Ghost Riot LT with 20mm increased fork travel or the Cagua enduro bike.
That said, on less technical descents the bike excelled. We could really rally at speed and felt confident enough to pick the front end up to change lines and play around. The stiffness of the frame made corners fun to pop out of and the responsiveness to pedal input made sprinting out of turns and speed robbing sections that much more fun. A 68-degree head angle means it handles quite quickly, which makes tighter, flowier terrain quite fun to ride.
Despite the fact that this bike doesn't handle gnarlier stuff quite as well as other 130mm trail bikes, there were a few times the Riot surprised us. Jumping this bike is extremely fun - it popped off lips well, and felt stable and solid when landing jumps and small to medium sized drops. Even on hard landings the bike maintained composure well. Pumping through successive turns and rollers resulted in a good boost of speed.
Another area the suspension and geometry shined was while climbing. Never once did we feel the need to switch the shock into "Climb" mode, and left it in the "Trail" setting for the majority of our test. This resulted in no bob when climbing, gave a bit more support in corners, and still reacted to small bumps and large hits without complaint. Regardless of the terrain, the rear wheel stayed planted and tracked well, even on steeper, rougher climbs. The 74-degree seat angle puts you in a nice upright position for pedaling.
Ghost is close to having a killer bike on their hands with the Riot 7 LC, but fell short in a few areas. Stiffer suspension, wider bars and maybe a slightly shorter stem would have really helped boost our confidence when trail conditions got sketchy. When things pointed down, the bike just felt a tad nervous which made us ride cautiously.
The 130mm FOX 32 Float FIT Performance CTD fork and Float CTD BV LV shock have seen their fair amount of criticism in the past, but worked surprisingly well with the Riot frame. The only place the suspension fell short was in the fork - we just wish it was a bit stiffer. A FOX 34 might have been a better choice for this bike given its intended purpose.
The Riot comes spec'd with the newly redesigned 2.25-inch Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires, which are actually a big improvement over the 2014 Nobby Nics. Cornering, climbing and braking traction was good, and they still rolled plenty fast for a somewhat aggressive tire. Those seeking to make the bike a bit more stable should consider a slightly higher volume tire.
Easton's Vice XLT wheels handled hard acceleration and braking well and were reasonably stiff for a relative narrow rim. The bike came with tubes pre-installed, but with UST rims and tubeless ready tires converting the bike to tubeless would save even more weight and reduce flatting concerns.
Shimano's 2x10 XT group is always a great mid-level choice for a bike. Shifting performance was precise and positive at all times. We frequently dropped chains, however, especially on rougher descents. Braking performance with the dual 180mm rotors was awesome - never overly grabby with plenty of power and zero fade, even on longer descents.
One detail we weren't super stoked on was the mix of Shimano and RockShox controls, with the odd-man-out being the RockShox Reverb remote. It just doesn't seem to have a good place to sit on the bars no matter where we put it. The best we could do was remove the gear indicators on the shifters in order to slide the post's trigger inward as much as possible. Ideally we would have liked to put the trigger under the bars, but it just wasn't possible with a 2X drivetrain and front shifter.
Long Term Durability
We've been on the Ghost Riot for over two months now, pushing its limits in terms of terrain and aggressive riding. So far everything has held up well and shows no signs of premature failure.
What's The Bottom Line?
Despite the fact that the Ghost Riot isn't a full-blown descent crusher, it does have a lot of characteristics that make it a fun bike for a wide range of users. It climbs extremely well and resists harsh landings on drops and jumps like a bigger bike. It's incredibly responsive to rider input, handles tight corners well and is a total blast to ride on tamer trails. It's all a matter of preference, are you looking for a bike you can blast the downhills and still pedal up with some extra effort, or a bike that can climb extremely well and still handle most descents? If the latter, the Ghost Riot 7 LC is a good bike to consider as it's basically a beefed up XC bike and has a way of making your mellow, lunchtime loop way more fun than it is on a bigger bike.
Visit ghost-bikes.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session.