Accessibility Widget: On | Off

Words by Fred Robinson // Photos by Jens Staudt, Marius Maasewerd, and Fred Robinson

Photo

German manufacturer Ghost Bikes, who are long established and already widely popular in Europe, have only been in the U.S. market for around three years now with REI as their sole retailer. Let’s face it, REI isn’t a bicycle retailer many of us frequent (for bicycle gear anyways), and REI is the first to admit that, deeming it, in their own words, an "unfortunate truth" about the store. That said, we’re all a bit of an outdoors type as mountain bikers, and often do visit REI, be it for hiking boots, backpacking and climbing gear, and even mega-comfy $25 underwear that made all “normal” underwear for us practically unwearable (seriously, we’ll never go back to cotton). REI recognizes the fact that they have avid cyclist walking through their doors who completely ignore their bike shop side of their business, which generally appeals to the beginner and intermediate level riders and was a big driving factor of them bringing Ghost Bikes into their stores. 

REI and Ghost brought us out to the Ghost factory in Waldsassen, Germany, where 70% of the brand’s large line of bikes are still manufactured, to tell us the story behind REI’s intent to shift the bike shop side of their stores to not only appeal to the novice rider, but to offer attractive products and service to the more advanced rider. We also checked out Ghost’s 2017 line and got some saddle time in the insanely epic peaks of the Italian Dolomites, as well as the trails in Ghost’s own backyard. 

The Ghost Bikes team.

Before we dive into our ride experience aboard a Ghost bike, we should tell you a little history regarding the brand. Ghost was founded in 1993 by two friends, Uwe Kalliwoda and Klaus Möhald, in Waldsassen which is part of the Northern Bavaria region. Being avid skiers, Klaus and Uwe used cycling for cross training. After Uwe got a part-time job as a wrench and eventually a sales guy at the local shop, the duo started selling bikes to their fellow college students and eventually opened their own shop using their garage as a storage facility. 

Uwe Kalliwoda, co-founder and CEO of Ghost Bikes.

Eventually, one shop turned into four and they decided it was time to offer something exclusive to their customers and visited a bike factory for the first time and Ghost was born. After steadily growing every year, as well as starting to sell their bikes to other shops, Ghost had to make the decision of whether they wanted to remain solely as retail locations, or dive into focusing on the design and manufacturing side of the business. After deciding to focus on design and manufacturing, Uwe and Klaus sold their retail shops, three of which still exist and sell Ghost Bikes today, and focused only on the production of Ghost Bikes. 

Photo

Ghost eventually invested roughly 7.5-million dollars (USD) into building a huge factory and warehouse in Waldsassen where an old brick factory used to sit and now employ 335 staff, of which 135 work in their hometown. Another key move Ghost made was in 2006, in an effort to streamline production, they opened their own aluminum production factory as well as invested in a small carbon factory, which has now grown to employ over 900 workers. Having a full supply chain for both alloy and carbon in their hands not only helps Ghost recognize potential issues and implement the necessary changes to address them quickly, it also speeds up production and gives them better quality control.

Photo

After numerous awards for their bikes as well as multiple championship and even olympic titles, in 2008 Uwe and Klaus sold Ghost to the Accell Group, with Uwe still at the helm of the ship to this day. Nearly three years ago, Ghost wanted to expand into the U.S. market and partnered with REI, who’s now the sole retailer of the bike brand here in the States. As we mentioned, REI intends to appeal not only to the novice cyclist, but also to the more seasoned riders, and obviously they feel Ghost matches that segment as they build bikes anywhere from $599 to $5,499 that are available in the U.S. market.

Photo

While we were in Waldsassen, we took a tour of Ghost’s massive headquarters. Waldsassen, which is a fairly small town with a population of just under 7,000, is mostly known for their two Baroque style churches, the Waldsassen Basilica and the Waldsassen Abbey. And, not more than half a mile from the Waldsassen Basilica you’ll find the Ghost HQ, which sits on the lot where a massive brick factory once stood. 

Photo

Photo

The sheer size of the warehouse and bike building facilities made us take a step back. We’ll admit to a bit of ignorance here, we had no idea of the size of Ghost. But, if you’re partnering with a huge co-op like REI, it’s obvious Ghost would have to handle quite a bit of volume when it comes to both the production of bikes as well as the storage to house them. 

Photo

Photo

To give us some time on their bikes, Ghost and REI took us out to the town of Nova Levante, nestled in the extraordinary Dolomites region of the Italian Alps. To say this was one of the most incredible riding destinations we’ve ever been to would be an understatement. With lift accessible park riding as well as hundreds of miles some of the most epic backcountry riding we’ve ever seen. Ghost set us up two of their models, the 130mm SL AMR 6 LC the 160mm FR AMR 10 LC.

Photo

Both bikes feature Ghost’s AMR (All-Mountain Rocker) suspension, which is a standard four-bar system. Part spec wise the SL AMR 6 LC, being a mid-priced bike, was built up well for the price. A Shimano XT // SLX 2x11 speed drivetrain, FOX 32 Performance fork and FOX DPS Performance rear shock, as well as a KS LEV dropper and XT brakes were the highlights of the build. We rode the SL AMR 6 LC both on the trails in Ghost's own backyard, as well as the park in the Dolomites. While we didn't take this bike down anything particularly gnarly, the bike park trail we rode was a fast, loose and jump filled run with endless corners from top to bottom. Pedaling performance was excellent and for a 29er, the 68-degree head angle was adequate enough to let'er rip down the bike park, making the SL AMR 6 LC a great choice for an intermediate rider looking to push themselves a bit while still not digging too deep into their bank account for their shred sled. 

Photo

We rode the 160mm travel FR AMR 10 LC, which Ghosts designates as their freeride bike, quite a bit more than the SL AMR 6 LC. Highlights of the build include a 160mm RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork, RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair shock, SRAM XX1 11x1 drivetrain and Guide RS brakes, as well as some proper 800mm wide Race Face Atlas bars and Easton ARC 27 wheels. Despite Ghosts designation of the FR AMR being their freeride platform, we ended up using the bike for an epic 35 mile plus ride through the Alps. With plenty of climbing mixed in the only limitation we felt while chugging the ups was our own legs, as the bike pedaled great even with the shock left in the open position. 

Photo

Ghost also took us to the Fassa Bike Resort, located in Val de Fassa, for some proper downhill. Thankful for that 66.5-degree head angle, the FR AMR 10 LC was definitely up to the task of some pretty rough downhill. Sure, it's not a proper DH bike but it was plenty capable for a 160mm bike that can definitely be ridden aggressively. 

Photo

So how does this wrap back around in regards to REI's intent on legitimizing the bike shop side of their stores? The two bikes we rode, an upper-mid-priced SL AMR 6 LC and the higher-end FR AMR 10 LC fit right into what REI is going for: attractive bikes for both the intermediate and advanced rider. We'll admit we were a bit surprised to hear Ghost was the brand they were bringing in to make this transition, due to Ghost being brand new to the U.S. market and their relatively small U.S. visibility. But, after visiting Ghost's HQ in Germany and seeing the sheer size of the company, as well as meeting and riding with the faces behind their unique looking bikes and seeing the past, present, and future brand, it's clear Ghost is capable of not only handing the volume a store like REI requires, but also fitting in nicely with REI's intent to stock bikes a more advanced cyclist might be interested in. We wish both brands the best of luck in their new partnership, and would like to thank them tremendously for opening up their doors to us and sharing an extraordinary riding experience.  

Photo

For more information, visit www.ghost-bikes.com and www.rei.com

Create New Tag
7 comments
Show More Comment(s) / Leave a Comment