Having rented Ghost bicycles on Alpine excursions in Austria; I was very excited to test ride the latest addition to the Cycle Sphere Demo e-bike fleet: the Ghost SL-AMR s1.7 eMTB (catchy right???).
The bicycle is Ghost’s entry level model of the 140mm travel full suspension SL-AMR range but the key components are anything but entry level…
The frame is German engineered hydro-formed Aluminium with great geometry and coil-sprung rear suspension (standard across all variants) for extra suppleness and control.
A stand-out feature of the design is the use of 27+ rear wheel & tyre to provide outstanding traction, while a 29er equipped with 2.5” tyre rolls fast and steers with pinpoint accuracy. This combination is known as “MX” wheelset.
Electrical pedal-assistance is competently provided by Shimano’s MTB specific E8000 250W crank-drive motor coupled to a 504Wh battery.
Gears are 1×11 Shimano, with 4-piston 203mm hydraulic brakes up front throughout the range as is the dropper seat post.
Since my MTB exploits began in the 1980’s I have experienced a significant number of price points, styles and brands of Mountain Bike but the eMTB was going to be a whole new genre to me.
First impressions: the build quality is typical of German Engineering and that all-too-often overlooked details had been considered; for example the most tactile contact point on the bike was equipped with top-notch Ergon grips ensuring reassuring comfort and control of the handlebars.
Wheeling the Ghost out of the shop the weight (23.5kg) was noticeable and a quick static lift showed the mass was going to limit its ability to be lifted onto a car roof rack for example – more on transportation of e-bikes in a future post…
Throwing a leg over, powering up the Shimano Battery pack and selecting “Eco” with the left-hand “shifter” buttons I was ready to ride.
The plan was simple; re-ride a route I had ridden a couple of weeks earlier on my regular hardtail MTB; a steel framed Niner:
The test route: Relive Route Video
The chosen route had been an enjoyable exploration on the regular MTB after a period of dry weather the trails were mainly firm and fast, I had experienced my first runs of the Rogate Bike Park and revisited the excellent and continually improving QECP blue trail. Replicating the loop on the eMTB would provide direct comparison on regular and less well practiced trails…
Fully charged bicycle, GPS on, Camelbak loaded, ECO mode selected and we’re off…
Peri track was being traversed at speed similar to the hard tail hovering at but sometimes exceeding the assisted speed – weight was not really noticeable at the constant pace. Upon leaving the gate at Conford and ascending the HCC marked cycle track to the A3 crossing the power assist came into play in a subtle but nevertheless helpful manner. The undulating cross-country terrain was being consumed at an advantageous rate compared to the hardtail; I retained the use of “Eco” until arriving at Rogate whereupon I switched up to “Trail” mode.
Shimano e8000 assistance modes:
- Off: no assistance; just a bicycle
- Eco: economic battery use & subtle help; riding normally with a gentle push while accelerating or climbing
- Trail: enthusiastic mode which helps you to power up those hills ready to have a blast on the way down – intelligent use of battery by measuring your effort and assisting accordingly
- Boost: Urgent reaction to each pedal stroke feels like the bike wants to ride off from underneath you – use with caution until you are familiar with the bike as it could provide an aggressive ride with trees and trail features arriving very rapidly!
Notes for all modes:
- Assistance is limited to 25km/h in Europe so regardless of mode you won’t be assisted once you are travelling faster.
- Crank based motors are adding upto 250W @ c.80nm of torque to your own power output through the drivetrain; therefore care should be taken to ease off in a more exaggerated way when changing gear than normal to avoid premature wear/failure of drivetrain components.
The Rogate “push-up” was easily ridden right to trailhead. With a lower heart & breath rate than my previous hardtail ascent I was immediately ready to point the bike downhill, drop the saddle and roll… acceleration was brisk and into the first set of curves and the Ghost just glided around the berms with a plush yet confident sensation, steepening downwards there was no need for pedal strokes to gain speed. The next hump, dip and berm were tracked with ease and braking into the switchbacks was strong, reassuring and brief. The 29er tyre up front to provide the grip to carve the exact line I pointed the Ghost at. The theme continued the whole way to the valley floor ready to turn around and repeat! With each run my confidence in the machine increased dramatically and I found myself allowing the bike to get airborne in places where I’d normally be trying to squash & roll over.
Having enjoyed the eMTB experience at Rogate it was time to re-select Eco and head south through the fast bridleway at Durford woods an onwards to the South Downs. Climbing the minor road onto the Downs I’d also upped assistance to Trail in order to maintain a faster climb rate of 12mph which once again swiftly delivered rider & bike to the summit with ease.
Picking up the westbound South Downs Way the views were delightful across the spring Sussex & Hampshire countryside. Emerging at the “back gate” of Queen Elizabeth Country Park (the car park just south of Buriton on the Finchdean road) the SDW trail rises steeply on a rough double track which normally is a tough leg burner but today a moderate effort was all that was needed with trail mode engaged. As you summit the double track a single track becomes visible on the right, this takes those who venture in, upwards twisting & turning through the woods to the highest point of the blue MTB trail. Arriving at the top still fresh was an unusual state of affairs allowing for a relaxing sip of water, quick check of saddle height & tyre pressures. Gloves on the grips and away down the trail. The initial few metres of pedalling & favourable gradient had elevated the speed beyond the 15.6mph assistance limit but that didn’t matter in the slightest: the bike was now transformed into a trail-eating speed machine soaking up the bumps railing the flowing lines that make up this excellent local venue. Braking from the higher speeds I really began to feel the benefit of the 4-piston caliper up front with plenty of power and modulation creating later more efficient braking zones. The new lower section has increased obstacle scale which the suspension again handled with smooth control. The final flurry of bench-cut trail flew past and rider & machine shot out onto the double track at the base of the hill.
Having undertaken a further blue lap I departed QECP on the homeward leg. The hardtail trip had been running out of time at this stage so the route was predominantly tarmac surfaced for speed, so for fair comparison I followed the same route back on the eMTB loop. Once at Greatham I opted to engage Boost mode for the first time providing incredibly lively acceleration onto the Shipwrights way, for the main part this section is ridden in excess of 25km/h but each corner or rise where the speed dropped below the bike kicked us quickly back upto speed. The final rise was effortless in Boost @ 15mph but upon turning off the road for the final few meters of the ride I was surprised that the power suddenly and completely was lost – battery was empty… the displayed battery level had been keeping me informed of our progress and at no point did I encounter any “range anxiety” as the segments were dropping slowly away and all the hard work had been completed before leaving QECP, what I had expected though was an automated switching down to lower/lowest mode when battery level became critical but this was not the case…
In summary – What a machine!!!
Great trail MTB, excellent eMTB; the combination is outstanding: easy access to the top of the trail and impeccable manners on the way down – increasing the quantity of quality MTB time of each ride.
Battery life was great (even with the unexpected cut off at end of ride) 3-hours of mixed riding over nearly 40-miles with nearly a vertical 1km of elevation gain and carrying 95kg rider plus kit and 23kg bike.
Over the “same” loop I was able to complete 3-laps at Rogate and 2 at QECP instead of the single lap at each AND return with 15-minutes less ride time – see the stats below
The Strava score indicates that although 2/3 of the original ride it was still a worthwhile workout.