Ghost is a German brand that’s aiming to make inroads into the US market via an exclusive relationship with REI. A smart move, I might add. But, does the Kato FS 7 hold its own or is it simply a budget bike that’s skimped too much of the good stuff?
2015 Ghost Kato FS 7 Features:
- 27.5″ wheel size
- Hydroformed aluminum frameset utilizing a classic 4-bar Horst linkage
- Fox Float CTD XV rear shock delivers 120mm travel
- Fox Float Evolution CTD fork features 130mm travel
- Near-full Shimano XT 2×10 drivetrain (Deore cassete, chain and BB)
- Shimano XT hydraulic disc brakes
- Ghost-branded cockpit items
- Wheelset uses Alex MD 21 rims with Shimano XT center lock hubs
- Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25 tires
- Weight: 29.2 lbs (actual)
- Price: $2599 (exclusively at REI)
Let the Ghost Out of the Box
For over 20 years, the Ghost brand has made hay — just not in the United States. With the Kato FS 7, Ghost is entering the US market with a ton of value for the money (and making a bit of hay in the process). That value was at the forefront of my mind as I unpacked this bike and scanned through the parts spec. A full-suspension, aluminum, 4-bar 27.5 bike with full a Shimano XT group outfitted with a Fox Evolution Series shocks for an affordable $2599? **head scratcher**
To achieve that price point, Ghost employs several house-brand parts and does make careful selections elsewhere. While the overall spec is impressive, there are some omissions including a lack of thru axle front and rear, a bit of an outmoded bar width/rise and a rather chunky saddle.
Out of the box, the Kato FS 7 tips the scales at 29.2 lbs. — very respectable at this price. I’ve tested carbon bikes that weigh that much, so kudos to the product managers at Ghost for delivering a really solid value that won’t bog you down on the trail.
All This for $2599?
Indeed. That’s what I kept telling myself as I began to ride the FS 7. I’ve honestly not ridden a full suspension bike in this price range in, well, a long time. So it was good to get back into the meat of the market where most consumers live. No, $2599 is not pocket change, but for what you’re getting, it’s a fantastic deal and it has performed beyond my expectations.
As an aside, bike companies are delivering a ton of value these days on both the road and mountain side — allowing riders to either extend their budget and get a lot more or stay on a tight budget while still getting excellent performance. The Kato FS 7 is a great example of that.
Solid Trail Manners
With the Goldilocks of wheel sizes, the Kato has an advantage out of the gate. And when you add the predictability of a true Horst link suspension design on top of that, you’re going to get a reliable performer. In my case, I’ve been particularly impressed with the responsiveness of this bike. Pedaling efficiency is solid as I’ve found myself climbing up steep terrain and nabbing PR’s on a handful of my test loops.
As far as shock settings go, I found myself climbing in Trail Mode most of the time. In fact, I only switched out of that mode on long descents. As usual, I only put it in Climb Mode for the fun of it, but never utilized that setting for real. The active nature of the suspension design is such that it certainly climbs best in Trail Mode. While you can’t get past the weight of the FS 7 (compared to the 23 lb. bikes I’m used to), it is a respectable dance partner on long climbs. Going tubeless may reduce rolling weight a little and provide a little extra shot in the arm on climbs.
While I am admittedly a 1×11 fan, the workhorse Shimano XT kit performed flawlessly with responsive shifting and appropriate gearing for any terrain I’ve ridden. I spent most of my time in the big ring, but did find it nice to have the granny as a bailout. In all gear combinations, the suspension remained active and supple — again a great attribute of a proven suspension design.
Overall handling has been solid — I just wished for a little wider bars. Regardless, this bike is easy to throw around at all speeds, but particularly when descending. The Fox fork and shock provide a smooth and progressive feel with enough of a platform to manual and flick the bike around when necessary. Rolling, twisting singletrack is a blast on this rig.
High-speed cornering is when you’ll realize that the lack of thru axles does make a difference. It’s been quite some time since I’ve ridden a full-suspension bike without them and now I know why. That said, it’s a flaw that’s livable and only really noticeable by someone who has ridden bikes that cost three times as much. The reality is, that small amount of flex doesn’t detract from the bike’s solid overall trail manners.
And, while the suspension design here is predictable, it lacks some of the bottomless feel that you get with the DW-Link or VPP platforms. Further tweaking might improve it slightly, but it still yields to those (more expensive) designs.
Bits and Pieces
Again, it’s worth noting that this bike features a near-complete Shimano XT kit — including the venerable XT hydraulic disc brakes. Shifting and stopping were never a problem for this bike. Kudos for going with 180mm rotors for extra power — it came in handy.
Again, I’ll add that the full Fox Evolution treatment (fork and shock) is really nice at this price point. Again, it sports a standard QR up front, but the quality of travel is fantastic. All too often you’ll find low-quality, oversprung suspension at this level, but the Evolution series units are consistently smooth throughout their travel.
Some of my minor gripes (like the relatively narrow bars and the huge saddle) are easily changed for not much money. You likely have your favorite cockpit items anyway, so those pieces are really a wash.
- A heck of alot of bike for $2500
- Smooth and responsive suspension design
- Fox Evolution fork and shock delivers quality travel
- Can take abuse like a champ
- Efficient and fast climber
- Lay it down and it responds
- No-fuss Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes
- Nimble handling
- Stealth dropper post routing (nice for a future upgrade)
- Excellent tires that roll well and hook up nicely
- Plenty of room for a large water bottle
- No thru axles?!? (front or rear)
- Bars are a bit narrow by today’s standards
- Saddle is too wide — really hard to drop off the back
The Bottom Line: Ghost Kato FS 7
Bringing this bike to the US market should prove to be an instant win for Ghost, and consumers alike. There is a ton of value here with a few quibbles I’m willing to overlook and others that are easily remedied. If you’re not looking to spend an arm-and-a-leg but want true performance, head into your local REI and swing a leg over this one and I dare you to find a better value for your hard-earned money.
Buy Now: Available Exclusively at REI
The Ghost Kato FS 7 is something of an anomaly in a world of high-dollar machines. You could certainly spend more, but this bike is a flat-out awesome value. It pedals efficiently, isn't too heavy and is a barrel of fun on the trails. Once you get past the lack of thru-axles, all you need to do is swap out the bars and saddle and you're golden.
- Pedaling Efficiency
- Fun Factor