I had been eyeing an eMTB for more than a year. My rider friends said, “Don’t do it. Wait ten years until you need it.” They felt I could justify an eMTB at 72, but not at 62. Still, the idea of some “assist” appealed to me, particularly living in Western North Carolina, where every ride is a sustained grunt up seemingly endless mountains. I rented a Specialized Turbo Levo Comp from a local shop on two occasions and loved it. Rode like a charm, although there were a few technical glitches during my three days of riding. The main issue is that the assist would stop. I felt that the technical glitches could be resolved but not the $6,000 price tag, $1,700 more than another bike I was eyeing, the GHOST Hybride SLAMR S1.9+.
The latter bike sports quite a name. Ghost is a German bicycle company, and REI is the exclusive distributor in North America. When the Ghost was reduced by 15 percent, I decided it was time. All in, with taxes included, the Ghost was $2,570 less than the Specialized eMTB. Granted, Specialized’s bike features better components and a larger battery, and I do love my 2013 Specialized StumpJumper XXL, but the savings on the Ghost, plus REI’s reputation and return policy, won me over. I added the bike to my cart and … well, here I should tell you something.
This bike was essentially “free.” Over several years I had accumulated a ton of American Express Membership Reward points. For example, a few years ago there was an offer of 100k points just for signing up for a card. I used this “hack” and applied for several cards over the years, accumulating enough points to cash in for REI gift cards. This would be harder to do in the pandemic, when few of us have income to qualify for new credit, but if you have points you have forgotten about, REI gift cards are a good spend.
One catch was that REI’s shopping cart will only accept seven gift cards, so I used my gift cards to purchase gift cards from REI in larger increments. The process was tedious but worked. Two weeks later an REI associate wearing gloves and a mask delivered my assembled bike curbside in Asheville.
Back home, I read through the instruction manuals, replaced the pedals with RaceFace Chesters, and straddled the saddled for a 30-mile ride on paved and gravel roads with 3,500 feet of elevation gain. Verdict: The Ghost performed as well as the pricier Specialized. Also, the fit was perfect, and in fact, felt similar to my StumpJumper XXL. If needed I still have room to raise the seat post.
It was love at first ride.I initially thought that I would use the Ghost as my “recovery” ride, pedaling it on days when I didn’t feel like huffing and puffing up mountains, but based on my experience on my very first ride, I feel it could possibly replace my StumpJumper.
Thirty miles did not quite exhaust the battery, but I feel I only had a few miles of battery power remaining. Lighter riders (I weigh 230) will experience better battery life. Also, my ride featured quite a lot of uphill, using the four modes – Off, Eco, Trail and Boost. Boost made even the steepest of uphills easy pedaling.
Another reviewer mentioned being disappointed with the Shimano Steps E8000 command center being black and white and stripped down. That does not bother me. The command center works well for my purposes. Nor does it bother me that the battery is not hidden in the frame, as is the case with the Specialized bike. I found it convenient to be able to remove the battery and charge it inside my home. And yes, the visible battery lets everyone know that the Ghost is an expensive eMTB, which could make it a greater target for theft than an eMTB with a hidden battery, but with bikes, I have learned to be vigilant.
I ride nearly everyday, typically between 10 and 15 miles with around 1,500 feet of elevation gain. The Ghost, or most any eMTB, provides help when I need it. Sure, I can grunt my way up the mountains, but it’s nice to have a little help now and then. Plus, the assist encourage me to explore more. I don’t hesitate to go off route, downhill even, knowing that I will have to pedal back up. I do look at data like time in heart rate zones, and the data from several eMTB rides shows as good as or better overall results when compared to my “analog” StumpJumper. That is to say that I get just a good a workout on the eMTB on a ride that is more pleasurable.
Conclusion: I initially thought that I would use the Ghost as my “recovery” ride, pedaling it on days when I didn’t feel like huffing and puffing up mountains, but based on my experience on my very first ride, I feel it could possibly replace my StumpJumper. The one caveat is that eMTBs are prohibited from much of the single-track trails in Western North Carolina.
If I have problems with the Ghost, I’ll update this review, but for now, this bike exceeded my expectations. Now, it’s time to get out for another ride.
Link to the Ghost on REI's site.