Ghost Bikes FR AMR 8.7 AL 2019 Mountain Bike Review

Ghost Bikes FR AMR 8.7 AL 2019

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Ghost Bikes 66,767

At A Glance

25-year-old Bavarian bike manufacturer Ghost Bikes has a diverse list of bikes aimed at those who love to ride hard, and their latest revamped FR AMR sits proudly at the top of the list. What we have here is a mini-DH bike, freeride park toy and enduro weapon all rolled into one. The frame has been revised from its predecessor by using additional bracing and bigger tube cross sections to create a significantly stiffer rear end.

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This yellow rig is the 8.7, which offers the highest spec of the 3 in the range. All models are built around a fairly heavy aluminium frame and show their intent by sporting 165mm coil shocks on the rear and 170mm forks up front. Each of the three build options also come with a chain-guide from E-Thirteen and a pair of Maxxis Minion 27.5″ DHF 2.5″ and DHR 2.4″ shoes, ready to race or ride anything you want to throw it down.

This top-shelf yellow build is equipped with the awesome Cane Creek’s Helm fork and DB Coil CS shock, mixed SRAM GX/X01 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, SRAM Code RSC 4 brakes, a Syntace cockpit, and Syntace 33mm wide (internal) rims. The mid-level orange offering is mounted with the same drivetrain collection, a Fox DPX2 coil shock, 170mm Fox Float Performance fork, Magura MT Fifty 4-piston brakes, and DT Swiss 1900 Spline hoops.

The red entry-level build is set up with a Shimano SLX 11-speed drivetrain, Magura brakes (sadly not 4 pistons), a Fox Van EC coil shock, SR Suntour Durolux fork, and the same DT Swiss wheelset. Each bike comes with a short and wide cockpit and the longest dropper post that should fit most riders.

The geometry numbers for the FR AMR read well, the 76° seat tube and 64.5° headtube angles indicate aggression with pedal-ability. Chainstays lengthen to 440mm for this model and the reach is slightly longer than its predecessor at 466mm (size large).

On The Trail

Let’s start with climbing. Long gone are the days when long travelled bikes only raised interest from those who preferred uplifts to pedalling. Times and bikes have changed in a big way and riding this bike really cemented that fact for me. It looks like it wants to point downhill, maybe it’s the coil shock, but pedalling this thing is surprisingly brilliant. Although the bike feels heavy to lift in and out of the van, it doesn’t feel heavy to ride. The super stiff rear end combined with well thought out angles and the top-notch suspension provides a really direct feel from pedalling. Even on long non-technical climbs, it becomes easy to forget that you’re sitting on a beast; it’s such an unexpected joy to ride uphill for such an aggressive rig. That steep (76°) seat tube allows you to sit nice and central which keeps your body position where it wants to be, allowing technically challenging climbs to be tackled with a smile and a ‘can do’ attitude without destroying energy levels. Using the climb switch on the shock works a treat but even without it, there is minimal energy sapping movement when pedalling.

Downhill, the bike immediately feels confidence inspiring, the 165mm Cane Creek coil shock and 170mm fork chew up the rough ground with ease and offer plenty of traction. Although the reach isn’t super long in today's money, the long rear stays create a wheelbase, which is nice and long at 1242mm (on the large) creating masses of stability. Having such a long wheelbase but a more modest reach took a bit of time to get used to like any new bike does, but after a few long descents I was really impressed with the balance of the FR AMR. It forces your body into a central position which naturally keeps an ideal amount of pressure on the front wheel, so you keep finding the right balance of grip without having to think about it too much. The super slack head angle compliments this and prevents the worry of heading over the bars, the concoction of frame angles and measurements certainly work in a way that makes you want to push hard and get rowdy.

The newly stiffened rear end adds to the stability and helps keep the nerves down when pointing into those committing lines where a twitchy bike has no place. This added stiffness also reduces the load placed on the frame bearings giving them a longer life span. The slight downside to the super stiff feel is that you can really notice catching the edge of a rock or root as it ‘pings’ the rear wheel sideways, but I soon got used to this and if anything, it adds an extra layer of excitement to the ride.

As well as being surprisingly good at climbing for such a heavy long travel bike, it’s also surprisingly playful. It offers a really ‘poppy’ feel; so much so that it encouraged me to bunny hop pretty much every obstacle that came my way. This is another aspect of the bike which demonstrates how well balanced it is, my bunny hopping success was way more consistent on the FR AMR than on any bike I’ve ridden for a while. Combining these playful characteristics with heaps of travel and stability defines this bike's character. Not only did I find myself hopping over everything, but I was also confident enough to hop into steep, rough ground and enter gnarly sections with gusto, totally throwing caution to the wind.

No surprise then that this fine balance also makes for a great bike to jump, it leaves the ground with predictability and the progressive shock set up deals with big hits well. If you like to go big and sometimes find yourself overshooting or landing heavy, then the FR AMR’s ability to hold bottom outs at arm’s length will impress.

It doesn’t hold its own on really fast, groomed trails anywhere near as well as it does on the rough and technical trail though. With a fairly standard 15mm bottom bracket drop and running at around the recommended 30% sag, the bike felt a little close to the ground and a bit numb. But the bike isn’t designed for fast easy trails; it’s meant to perform on demanding terrain and the bike park, which is exactly where it comes alive. Ghost have other bikes in their arsenal for you to try if that’s the sort of riding you prefer.

Spec wise the FR AMR 8.7 is nicely packaged. The Cane Creek DB coil and Helm fork speak for themselves, while the SRAM Code RSC brakes offer heaps of well-modulated stopping power. Gear changing is kept neat and crisp with the SRAM X01 Eagle 12speed and the E- Thirteen bash/chain guide is a nice little addition. The Syntace rims are ok but not up to the hard-hitting capabilities the rest of the bike offers, I managed to put several dings in the rear rim fairly quickly and loosen a few spokes.

Fortunately, they do come with some decent tyres, the Maxxis Minion DHR/DHF 2.4 combo provides all the grip you need but won’t live up to the full scrutiny the bike is capable of in the world of freeriding. Our Test bike had the DD versions, which are much more in keeping with the bikes character. The Syntace bars are fine but I would prefer a bar with more rise and sweep, I think this would better suit the riding style the bike offers, whereas the nice short Syntace stem is engineered well enough to take the forces put upon it. This is a great line up of components for the price, leaving little that needs changing.

The paintwork on the frame didn’t impress as much as the rest of the bike, it chipped easily which made it look a bit rough fairly quickly, but to be honest the type of rider this bike will attract isn’t likely to be the sort to worry about the paint job. The FR AMR is available in 4 sizes up to XL but it is sized on the small side and I would strongly suggest you try a size up from your norm.

Overall

This is a bike that fully excels where it claims to. It comes to life on the most demanding terrain and thrives in the air. Throw whatever you can at it, and it will perform. Amazingly, it provides a fun and efficient climbing experience to take you to the top too. If you have always wanted a downhill bike you can pedal into the backcountry, here’s one, and it won’t break the bank either.

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This review was in Issue 58 of IMB.

For more information visit Ghost Bikes

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By Ewen Turner
Ewen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.

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