Ghost Hybride SL AMR S1.7+ 2019 Review
Cons: Less torque, shorter distance range, inconsistent power output
Manufacturer: Ghost Bikes
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Ghost is a German bicycle brand that has been producing all types of mountain bikes for over 20 years. They have limited market share in the US and North America, mostly because they have minimal distribution. That is likely to change now that the outdoor giant REI is the exclusive dealer of Ghost brand bicycles in the US. We picked up the reasonably priced, for an e-MTB, Hybride SL AMR S1.7+ because it had promising geometry numbers, a decent build for the price, and a Shimano Steps pedal assist drive unit. On paper, it looked like it could challenge for our Best Buy Award. While we liked certain aspects of the SL AMR's performance, we found ourselves disappointed by its "e-bikeness" as it struggled to keep up with the competition. It works; we just found it to be less powerful and unreliable compared to other models in this review.
Overall, the controls on the SL AMR are functional, but they are far from perfect. They've used the Shimano Steps E8000 motor system which has a small handlebar mounted remote unit that shifts up and down through the output settings. Mounted to the handlebar near the stem is a small digital display that is certainly a nice touch but the screen is so small that it's actually not very easy to read.
The drive unit is turned on and off with the power button on the top of the battery pack on the downtube of the frame. This works just fine but isn't quite as convenient as having a power button on the handlebar control. There is a two button control unit located by the left grip that shifts up or down through the three output settings; there is no walk assist. There is also a small digital display, the Shimano SC E7000, mounted to the handlebar by the stem. This display shows you your output setting, speed, and remaining battery life. We like digital displays, but this one is quite small and hard to read, though far better than no display at all.
Despite the small size of the digital display, testers liked it more than the LED light system on the Giant Trance E+ 2's control, or the backlit buttons on the Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay. Even our Editor's Choice Award winner, the Specialized Turbo Levo Comp has a less user-friendly control system in our opinion.
The SL AMR has the angles and suspension components to really get after it on the descents. It is a confident descender with a slack head tube and long wheelbase. This bike has no speed limit when pointed downhill. The coil shock and burly fork don't hurt either; this bike is a plower.
While the coil shock feels nice and supple, it gives the SL AMR somewhat of a sluggish feel at times. It trucks along at speed and eats up flow trails and chunky rock gardens as long as it's not too tight and can maintain momentum. It's certainly not playful or quick, and we can thank the weight of the bike and the length of the chainstays for that. The cockpit setup feels dialed, and the meaty tire combo provides adequate and predictable traction for this heavyweight bike.
While the downhill performance of the Ghost is one of its best attributes, we are more impressed with the more well-rounded performance of the Giant and the Specialized on the descents. The Specialized has a far more nimble feel that performs a lot more like a regular mountain bike. Even the heavyweight Bulls feels more agile than the Ghost, mostly due to the use of an air shock as opposed to the super cushy coil spring.
The uphill performance of the SL AMR is pretty good. It's got a nice steep seat tube that lines you up above the cranks for a comfortable upright seated pedaling position and efficient power transfer. The reach is moderate in length, and you don't feel cramped on this bike. The long wheelbase can make it feel like a bit of a chore to turn in really tight corners or at lower speeds, but as long as you maintain momentum and plan your approach to technical terrain, it does pretty well. The coil shock has outrageous small bump compliance, and the rear of this bike feels glued to the ground with excellent traction. The meaty Maxxis Minion DHF rear tire also provides loads of climbing traction, even when it's steep and loose.
The drive system on the Ghost is a considerable benefit to its uphill performance, but it also makes this bike lag behind the competition. You'd be hard-pressed to pedal this squishy 50+ lb bike up a hill without the pedal assistance, but testers found the output to be less powerful and less consistent than the competition. When scrambling up steep sections, there is noticeably less torque, and it feels like you're working harder than on other models, even in the highest output setting. We rode this bike back to back with the Giant Trance E+ and there was no comparison, the Giant was more powerful. Testers also noted that unless the pressure on the pedals remained consistent that the pedal assistance would cut in and out. This also contributed to the feeling of working harder and was frankly somewhat annoying.
The Bulls E-Stream Evo has much more torque and a generally much more muscular feel when climbing, with far smoother and more consistent power output. The Specialized Turbo Levo also has a much more lively climbing feel, not only does the bike handle better, but the output is more robust and reliably consistent.
We've ridden other e-bikes with the Shimano Steps E8000 motor system before and have enjoyed the consistent and predictable power output it delivers. The motor system on the SL AMR, however, is the worst we've used with inconsistent power output and numerous torque sensor failures and error codes during testing. Don't get us wrong, when working properly it delivered pretty good power output, but even then it felt like it had much less torque than the competition, and frequent and abrupt power cutoff when pedaling.
Shifting between the three power output settings is relatively easy with the handlebar-mounted control by the left grip. The system can handle being shifted while pedaling, and it felt reasonably smooth when switching from one mode to another. The power comes on quickly and pretty much instantly when you push down on the pedals. It's not quite as smooth as the Bulls E-Stream, but it doesn't lag at all either. They claim a torque of 70Nm which is at the low end of the torque spectrum of the models in this review and its quite noticeable. It feels far less powerful than any other model we tested, and this is especially apparent when climbing. On the same climb in the same output setting, you're using more energy to get the SL AMR up the hill than the Giant Trance E+.
You can get the SL AMR up to 20 mph in the flats or during descents; it's just a bit less eager to get up and go than the competition. We also noticed that the motor is prone to cutting out somewhat abruptly if you don't keep very consistent pressure on the pedals. If you're riding rolling terrain, it's the most noticeable and gets pretty annoying as power cuts in and out every few seconds. In contrast, the Bulls E-Stream Evo has the most torque of all the models we tested with a very smooth power output that never feels inconsistent.
Our range testing revealed that the SL AMR has the shortest distance range of all the models we've tested. This isn't a fatal flaw, but if you're looking for the e-bike that uses its power most efficiently, you'll want to look elsewhere. We were able to ride the Ghost in its highest output setting for 16.75 miles and 3,559 vertical feet. That's not too shabby, but can't really compare to the competition.
For comparison, our longest lasting model with a 500Wh battery is the Rocky Mountain Instinct Powerplay Alloy 50 which went an impressive 20 miles and 4,297 vertical feet. The Giant Trance E+ 2 Pro also impressed us with a range of 19.02 miles and 4,000 vertical feet.
The component specification of the SL AMR S1.7+ is a bit of a mixed bag. In some ways, it's excellent, and in others, it is odd or severely lacking. If one were to look at the specs online, like we did, you'd be inclined to think that this bike is ready to rip some trails to shreds and you wouldn't be completely wrong.
One of our favorite aspects of the SL AMR's build is the suspension package. The 140mm of rear wheel travel is suspended by a RockShox Super Deluxe Coil R shock. Coil shocks are known for being super plush with a progressive feel towards the end of the stroke, and that's exactly how it feels on this bike. We've found that coil shocks work well on heavyweight e-bikes and we think it does wonders on the rear end of the SL AMR. Up front, they've spec'd a RockShox Revelation fork to control the 140mm of travel. This fork is adequately beefy to handle the weight of this bike and works well in this application.
Up at the front of the bike, Ghost has spec'd a house brand 780mm wide handlebar and short, stout stem. There's a set of Ergon lock on grips attached to that handlebar, and this setup is comfortable and provides good, responsive handling which is appreciated on a bike this heavy. At the back of the bike, you'll find a WTB Koda e-bike saddle. We love WTB saddles, and the Koda is consistently comfortable. That saddle is attached to a Satori Sorata Fury dropper seat post that works inconsistently at best. We love the addition of a dropper post, but only as long as they work as intended. We found the Satori dropper to be finicky, sticky, and inconsistent in its travel. It even stopped working altogether for a while.
The task of slowing and stopping the SL AMR has been given to a set of TRP G-Spec Trail S brakes. These are 4-piston brakes that have been paired with nice big rotors front and rear. They provide pretty good braking power and control, but testers weren't wild about the lever feel or overall performance compared to the Shimano and SRAM models found on other bikes we tested. The drivetrain is a mix of Shimano SLX and XT components, and it works relatively well and provides a good range. While we can't complain too much about its performance, we do find that the e-bike specific drivetrains on the market typically seem to be better optimized for this application.
Ghost really threw us for a loop with their interesting wheel and tire combination. Mixed wheel sizes aren't ubiquitous these days, but the SL AMR has a 29" front wheel and a 27.5" rear wheel. They've broken the mold even further by mounting a 2.5" wide front tire and a 2.8" wide rear tire. It is atypical to have a wider tire on the rear. It seems to work pretty well on the trail; however, the meaty Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II treads provide loads of braking and cornering traction and never had us second-guessing the mixed wheel or tire size combination.
At the $5,000 retail price the SL AMR S1.7+ falls toward the lower end of the price spectrum of the e-MTBs in this review. Even though this is one of the less expensive models we tested, we still can't call it a great value. Sure, it's an okay e-bike, but it couldn't come close to the performance offered by the competition, and we had numerous problems with it during our test period. If you're looking for the best value, we'd suggest checking out the Giant Trance E+ 2 Pro which costs less and performs better.
The Ghost Hybride SL AMR S1.7+ is a unique electric mountain bike that has potential but doesn't really come together as a complete package out on the trail. The modern geometry and beefy yet cushy suspension package gave us high hopes, and we've had good experiences with the Shimano Steps drive system in the past. We were generally unimpressed this time around, and the drive system performed inconsistently and with less power than the competition. The bike also proved to be quite one dimensional in its riding performance. Don't get us wrong, the SL AMR has its moments, and it's a fun bike to blast downhill at speed, it's just outclassed in this review by other models with a more versatile, well rounded, and consistent performance.
Other Versions and Accessories
Ghost makes several versions of their Hybride SL AMR electric mountain bikes in addition to the S1.7+ model we tested.
One of the more readily available models is the Hybride SL AMR S2.7+, $6,000. The S2.7+ shares the same frame, geometry, and motor system as the model we tested but has several notable component upgrades.
— Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens, Chris McNamara