The Ghost Kato FS 3.7 provides a great value for a mid level mountain bike, including 130 mm of travel, a dropper post and a solid suspension, but makes some curious sacrifices to achieve it at this price. This is my review.
Starting with some of the more important basics, the Ghost Kato FS 3.7 is a full suspension mountain bike built around 27.5 inch tires and a generous 130 mm Rockshox Recon AIR MXL Stealthy fork and the popular Monarch R air shock in the rear. The drivetrain consists of a Shimano SLX 11 speed 1 x shift set, while the brakes are Shimano MT 500s with 180 mm rotors, front and back. The kit is finished off with a JD dropper post, Selle Italia X saddle, Continental Mountain King 27.5 2.4″ tires, and comes in at 31 pounds for the medium. MSRP is $2000.
What I liked
Riding the Kato FS has been a blast. It has a mostly modern geometry, with some slack in the front and a relatively high bottom bracket. This translates into a bike that’s not only agile and playful in the turns and over jumps, but also slack enough to handle speed pretty well also. Whipping through flat turns, steep berms or simply crushing through rock gardens, the Kato is always predictable and reacts pretty much exactly how I would expect. It also has a certain amount of error correction built in, snappily straightening up after botched landings or stumbling through technical sections, but still reacts quickly without requiring over-correction. The handlebar is on the conservative side at 760 mm, but keeps the make responsive and nimble. The geometry as a whole is not as slack as some modern day bikes geometry, but does find a fun, exciting middle ground of stability and excitement. Pedals strikes and bottoming out the crank-set isn’t an issue here either, thanks to the elevated profile.
The suspension system as a whole has been rather impressive. Despite not having top of the line components in the front or back, the revamped Rochshox Recon series provides surprisingly good results. The 130 mm of travel does an excellent job of sucking up huge rocks, never ending courtyards of ruts and roots, and especially loves chunky falloffs and drops. The motion is smooth and ramps up perfectly, helping to prevent bottoming out or jarring on smaller bumps. Having ridden much higher spec’d bikes, I went into this expecting harshness and sloppiness in technical sections, but was surprised to find the MXL Stealth to actually ride smoother in gentle to moderate conditions, where I spend most of my time, yet still handles big hits impressively well also. I was also happy to find that the suspension was exceptionally easy to setup, only having to put the correct air pressure in, and perhaps adjust the dampeners to fit particular riding styles or environments. After a quick adjustment, it provided consistently good results without having to constantly adjust it to find that happy spot. The traction is very consistent, provides excellent traction in corners and over choppy sections, and generally is just smooth and enjoyable. I was very impressed here.
Braking is mostly great, and the power of the Shimano MT 500 brakes cannot be overstated. A gentle squeeze the index finger is plenty enough to bring the bike to a fast and mostly predictable stop. It’s strong enough to lock up the rear brake basically at any time, without the front feeling ornery or dangerous to bear down on when needed. On one of my favorite local downhill runs that consists of a 4.5 mile descent, the brakes never overheated or faded, and provided consistent performance the entire way down, despite having to ride them most of the way down due to the speed of the trail system.
The Continental Mountain Kings tires provide excellent grip on hard packed dirt, muddy sections and loose, loamy dirt, and do an excellent job of absorbing chatter on the trail too. There is some debate as to if these are tubeless compatible, but I prefer tubes anyway due to the ease to trail side repairs, and have yet to experience a flat when running between 30 and 35 psi. I have experienced some unexpected skidding when cutting across angle rocks, but the tires quickly regained traction and kept me, generally, facing forward.
Pedaling efficiency is very good in general, with the rear suspension handily preventing bobbing on the uphills when pedaling hard, and the twin pivot suspension system isolating the chain and shifting from shock travel. There is no rear lockout, but I honestly never felt myself wanting one as it has climbed every ascent I’ve thrown at it (including a 4.8 mile local peak bag) without ever feeling sluggish or overly tiring.
The included dropper post is exceptionally fluid and smooth, especially considering it is included at this price point, and the seat paired with it is very comfortable, even after long multi-hour rides.
The Shimano 1×11 drivetrain provides just enough range for steep climbs and hard, fast pedaling descents while also providing fast, reliable operation. It definitely has an affinity for speed, with most of the gears being targeted at gaining speed. Very steep climbs are doable, although an extra gear low end gear would have been nice after a few hours of tireless riding, but at this price point it’s hard to complain with a 1×11 setup.
So far, not a single component has failed me. Hammering the chunkiest rock sections I can find, splashing my way through muddle ruts and even dumping the bike into steep shale laced rock inclines hasn’t yet affected it, despite accumulating some scuffs and scratches (as appropriate).
What I didn’t like
While the brakes are definitely powerful, they do lack some nuance and modulation. There is a fairly steep cut off between hard braking and locking them up, which upon the first few rides does require some adapting. It takes some practice to find that point of maximum braking, without sliding or skidding along the trail. In steep declines over chunky sections this can be particularly demanding, and does take some skill to prevent skidding all the way down them. With some practice, this can be overcome, mostly.
The included grips, while functional, were not very comfortable. After my first couple rides I ditched them and never looked back. I replaced them with some ESI Chunky grips as the stock grips felt like I was wrapping my hands directly around a metal bar, with the shock and vibrations traveling directly into my wrists. They really provide no shock absorption and to me, that’s a deal breaker. The grips in the images are their replacements as the sock grips didn’t make it far enough into the review process for photos.
The Shimano SLX rear derailleur, while reliable, does occasionally offer some chunky shifting. Despite dialing it in, my self and a local professional, I occasionally find it shifts a little rougher than the competitively priced SRAM 1×11 system. However, I have found that the Shimano system does perform more reliably in general and provides less tweaking to stay functional, despite having worse transitions between gears, especially under load.
The rear wheel is not a modern thru axle, instead opting for an older, skewer style quick release dropout. While I honestly didn’t find this to affect the stiffness in the rear too much, it will limit wheel options for those who look to upgrade in the future as most wheels now use thru axles, or even the newer Boost standards. As far as I can tell, there is no way to convert this to a thru axle setup, even by replacing the swing arm as no Kato in the line seems to have a compatible one. Thankfully the front, where it really matters, is a thru axle, but the lack of one in the rear is a minor bummer.
The Ghost Kato FS 3.7 is an interesting bike. It’s a blast to ride, has excellent specs, and has been exceptionally reliable like no other bike I’ve ridden. The frame and geometry are impressive, and feel exceptionally built and engineered. But, it does ditch the rear thru axle (a cost saving measure that allowed for a dropper post at this price range) which limits future upgrades to an extent. For me, however, this isn’t an issue. I personally prefer to swap entire bikes when upgrading as it is actually more cost efficient than trying to upgrade individual components over time, and there is nothing like new bike day. Thankfully, despite not having that rear thru axle, the back end of the bike is still impressively stiff (stiffer than some thru axles I’ve ridden), which is a testament to the excellent frame design and engineering of this bike in general. It’s a solid bike that performs outside of it’s price range, and has features that really make a huge difference, like a solid stock seat and a dropper post, making it easy to recommend.
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I purchased this bike for myself with no obligation to review.
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