At A Glance
The Kato is Ghost's entry-level price offering for the full suspension trail market. It comes in multiple builds and this is The Kato 3, yours for £1259.99. With a suspension design inherited from its bigger brother the AMR, it features 120mm travel out back paired with a 130mm fork courtesy of RST, a manufacturer I haven't seen much from in years.Buy Trail Bikes on
The strong colour scheme looks smart and is matched throughout the bike's components. Designed with the intermediate rider in mind, the geometry would appear to be pretty forward thinking for a bike at this price point, featuring a long(ish) front centre and a relatively slack head angle. Combined, this suggests a nod towards stability at speed as well as having fun on steeper trails.
The Kato features a tried and tested Horst Link suspension set up, controlled by an X-Fusion shock with a compression switch to firm up the suspension on the fly. The frame has some great attention to detail: neat welding and a good paint job; there are even torque ratings on all pivot bolts for servicing.
For a full suspension bike of this price, components will never be top shelf, but some clever speccing puts some quality where it’s most needed, e.g. an XT rear mech matched with some work-horse Deore drive-train, brakes and hubs. Wheels are finished off with some Rocket Rons and the RST fork does the honours up front with 130mm of travel.
The fork features a rebound adjustment and a remote lockout, but on a modern bike, the lack of a bolt-through axle is a shame. Finishing kit is functional rather than flashy, with some narrow bars paired with a rather elongated 80mm stem.
On The Trail
The Kato looks like a bike that should feel at home heading up the hills, especially with its long stem, and with a triple chain ring, running out of gears would not be an excuse. From the off, the Kato pedals well, offering a good return on power through the pedals with little bob. The fast rolling tyres make light work of roads and fire trails and the bike has a great feeling of efficiency.
The fork is impressively supple in its initial travel and has a bar mounted lockout, which may be of interest to some riders wanting to stiffen things up on long climbs. The rear suspension works remarkably well, finding traction and staying glued to the ground. However, as the trails get steeper and the climbs more technical, the rather skinny Rocket Rons found it hard to keep turning pedal power into grip.
Shifting from Shimano is always accurate, and speccing an XT rear mech is nice to see, but the triple chain-ring gives more gears than I knew what to do with. I managed to complete an entire ride without shifting out of the 30t middle chain ring, but it's nice to have a 22t just in case for when the legs tire.
I wasn't expecting too much as I pointed downhill, imagining that the bike and I would survive rather than perform on the descents, but as the terrain became more exciting the Kato performed surprisingly well, the handling is reliable and predictable, however it isn’t exactly inspiring, for reasons explained below.
The reasonably long front centre keeps it stable, but this is then coupled with a long (by modern standards) 80mm stem, narrow bars and a lot of stack height. This combination of frame geometry and cockpit set up left the bike feeling a bit tall and stretched.
In an experiment to inject a bit more fun into the handling, I swapped out the long stem for something shorter and headed out for some trail centre action. Immediately it became apparent that things had improved, and the handling and feel of the bike changed dramatically, making cornering sharper and front wheel lifts more controlled.
When things got rough away from the trail centre, the limits of the RST fork could be found quickly and although supple in its travel, it easily gets bogged down when required to respond to multiple big hits. The lack of a bolt through axle means the front end has a degree of flex you need to keep on top of.
On the second ride out the rebound adjuster fell out of the bottom of the fork, which was an easy fix, but it didn't inspire confidence. In stark contrast to the front, the rear suspension works really well, staying responsive even under hard peddling and braking, making for a very comfortable ride.
Another modern touch missing was a clutch rear mech, which made for a noisy time and numerous chain drops from the middle chain ring. With clutch mechs now commonplace throughout the Shimano range, it was a shame not to see one specced on this model. However, you do have to bear in mind the price point of the Kato FS 3, and when that is considered you can’t really complain at the niggles.
This bike really does well on long days out where it can stretch its legs and cover the distance, efficiently climbing and reliably descending providing the trails don't start getting overly technical. Modern bikes are a wonderful thing; and these days you can get a lot of bike for your money.
The trickle down effect is clear in the Kato's geometry and rear suspension and it is a very competent package. However, it lacks a few modern touches in the cockpit set up and fork that would really help it perform.
That being said this bike has a good frame and rear suspension set up, which is a great base from which you can upgrade the cockpit and fork at a later date if you desire. The next bike up in the range, the FS 5 features a Fox Float Evolution that should prove more capable.
Frame: Kato FS 27.5 aluminium
Fork: RST First GTRL Air RLO 130 mm
Shock: XFusion O2 RL 120 mm
Stem: GHOST AS-GH2 31.8 mm
Handlebar: GHOST Low Rizer light 700 mm 31.8 mm
R. Derailleur: Shimano XT 10-Speed
F. derailleur/chainguard: Shimano Deore
Shifter: Shimano Deore SL
Crankset: Shimano Deore 40-30-22
Cassette: Shimano CS-HG50 11-36
Brake: Shimano 396 Disc 180 mm
Tire: Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.25
Rims: Ryde Rival 19
Hub front: Shimano Deore QR
Hub rear: Shimano Deore QR
Seatpost: GHOST light SP DC1 31.6 mm
Saddle: GHOST VL 3315
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This review was in Issue 37 of IMB.For more information visit Ghost Bikes
By Ewen TurnerEwen 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.