Can the 2016 Ghost SL AMR 7 return to the top of the trail riding pack?
- The Ghost AMR 7 SL has really missed a trick here, by not offering different shock mounts for adjusting the geometry
- Shifting is super slick and direct with Shimano’s 2×10 XT drivetrain
- Hard compound Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres reduce rolling resistance and grip
- With a 100mm drop KS Cruxi seatpost, the Ghost would benefit from a quick release for slamming the seat all the way down
Ghost burst on to the UK riding scene in 2010 with a fresh range of full-suspension bikes dubbed AMR. Sporting a low-leverage linkage design, great angles and competitive pricing, the Ghost AMR SL 7 was an instant hit. But like so many one-hit wonders, Ghost has failed to crack the formula that delivered that initial success. Could the 2016 Ghost SL AMR 7 mark the return to form we’ve waited so long for?
Well it certainly looks the part, with its sculpted tubing and black-on-black Fox decals on the fork and rear shock. Other nice details include the ultra-neat disc brake mount that’s integrated into the rear dropout.
The frame also has internal cable routing running though the oversized down tube, but with no rubber grommets or anchor points, the cables rattle around inside the frame like a ball bearing in an empty can. Not the best start to its comeback then.
All the pivot hardware is really neat though, with most bolts capped with a T50 Torx head. Good thing too, as there’s every chance you’ll need to get it in the stand at some point — our test bike developed an annoying creak after just two wet rides.
Sizing on the Ghost is a little tall by modern standards, so even though our test bike was a size medium, it has a 19.5in seat tube. This made it impossible for us to size up to a large frame with a shorter stem. Thankfully, standover clearance is very generous, and the rest of the geometry is pretty standard for a 130mm bike.
The original bike boasted needle bearings in the upper shock eyelet. These are long gone, but the latest version sports the new Fox Evol aircan with its stronger negative spring, so the 130mm travel rear end is still every bit as plush.
Up front, the Fox 32 Float delivers 130mm of travel, but its slender 32mm upper tubes are a little out of their depth here. Stiffness just isn’t on par with the 34 or the RockShox Yari, and it really undermines confidence in the bike.
We’ve had more than our fair share of issues with Shimano’s bolt-thru hubs in the past; mostly cones working loose and ropey bearings. Well, no such criticism can be levied at the latest XT hubs. Yes, it’s still early days, but fingers crossed we won’t need to dig out the rusty old cone spanners any time soon.
We will, however, be putting the Ghost in the workstand to bleed the Shimano XT brakes, as the bite-point kept changing when dragging them down steep, rutted switchbacks. This did not affect stopping power in any way, but it was, nonetheless, very disconcerting to ride with. It’s as if
the tables have been turned; Avid brakes are now reliable and it’s Shimano that’s having issues!
Even with the rear shock in the open setting, the Ghost plugs away effortlessly on gradual climbs. There’s no unwanted suspension bob and the hollow-forged Shimano XT chainset feels supremely stiff under foot. Shifting between the inner and outer rings is seamless, even under load, but we think you’ll agree that the front mech’s direct cable routing is butt ugly.
Once the gradient pitches up, the Ghost starts to wallow at the rear and lift at the front, so you really do need to flip the lever to a firmer compression setting to help compensate. The lock-out is very firm, so the mid-setting is the best option to maintain traction.
Overall, the Ghost feels spritely and suited to the demands of general trail riding. If anything, Ghost has probably gone too far in the opposite direction as the bike actually feels a touch flimsy at times.
Getting a full Shimano XT groupset at this price point is largely unheard off, but you need more than the latest components to make a great trail bike. Geometry, suspension and stiffness all need to dialled, and even though Ghost has ticked two of those boxes, the SL AMR 7 doesn’t feel solid enough to ride at its full potential. With a stiffer fork than the Fox 32, and softer compound tyres, the Ghost would be a better proposition, but it still has some way to go before the SL AMR 7 tops the trail bike chart once again.