Surly has launched the Ghost Grappler, a new bike that combines gravel and mountain biking to create a rugged drop-bar off-roader to take on everything from gravel touring to trail riding.
It's a little surprising that it's taken the American brand so long to develop a bike like this. Surly is known for being a quirky pioneer in the bike industry, releasing niche products before trends make them more mainstream. Surly was ahead of the curve with 29er wheels, plus and fat bikes, as well as a host of unique Surly componentry oddities that fill gaps in the market. It also offers the Surly Corner Bar, a drop-bar specifically designed for mountain bikes.
While the Ghost Grappler might fill a similar position as the recently released Cotic Cascade, when you delve into the specs they are very different bikes. With Surly pushing the Ghost Grappler more towards the dirt tourer and bikepacker than radical gravel descender.
The goal was to produce a bike that was optimized to ride trails in a drop bar position and Surly says it took the unconventional approach of designing the Ghost Grappler, choosing to look at the desired hand position and working from there.
“Generally I don’t start with the handlebars when I design a bike,” Ben Jungbauer. who engineered the bike, says. “But with this one I looked at the hand position on bikes like Troll, Ogre, and Karate Monkey set up with our Moloko Bar. I started from there by saying ‘Here’s where the drops should be,’ and then I duplicated that hand position in a 2D sketch. I worked backward to structure the frame around that hand position, making sure the head tube was the right height and the stack and reach were correct.”
“Working from a given hand position with a certain type of bar and then designing a bike around that — that was a unique approach.”
The result is a 69.5-degree head angle that is commanded by a monstrous 200mm head tube for a medium frame. The seat tube sits at a run-of-the-mill 73-degrees and the bottom bracket drop is 50mm. Reach is 420mm for a medium and the fairly low 796mm standover height offers some wiggle room in sizing.
Surly TIG welds the Ghost Grappler frame and fork using 100 percent Surly Chromoly Steel. Interestingly, Surly has gone against the grain of almost every bike manufacturer by opting for a 1 1/8 steerer and the complete bike comes with 27.5-inch wheels, rather than the à la mode 29er wheels. The Ghost Grappler can run up to a 27.5 x 3-inch tire, or with 29er wheels which will fit up to a 2.5-inch tire. The steel fork has a 420mm axle to crown height as well, which means the Ghost Grappler can't be fitted with a suspension fork either. The fork will clear a 27.5 x 2.8 inch or 29 x 2.2 inch tire.
At the rear Surly has equipped the Ghost Grappler with its 'Gnot-Boost' 145mm drop-out system. Unique to Surly, it's a horizontal drop-out that uses a regular 12mm through axle and can take either 12 x 142mm or 12 x 148mm spaced wheel. Using adapter washers, it can also accommodate 10 x 135mm. As the drop-outs are horizontal, the Ghost Grappler can be easily set up single-speed or internally geared hub setups if desired.
If you're wondering what mounting options the Ghost Grappler has, the short answer is 'yes'.
The Ghost Grappler has just about every mount you could possibly think of; three-pack mounts on upper and lower downtube, seat tube bottle mounts on frame sizes S–XL, the fork has three-pack mounts on each leg and there are even bottle cage mounts on the vertical sections of the seat stays. More than enough options to play with when fitting the bike with your best bikepacking bags.
Rather surprisingly, the only mounts that we can see missing are any top tube bag mounting points - something which has become almost standard on the best bikepacking bikes.
Both the frame and fork have rack and fender mounts, and there is internal dropper routing too.
Ghost Grappler shares the fit and sizing scheme of Surly's mountain bikes with five sizes from XS to XL. While direct comparisons may indicate that the top reach is longer and the stack is higher, this is because the bike has been designed for drop-bars, rather than risers.
Surly Ghost Grappler builds and pricing
Surly is offering the Ghost Grappler in Sage Green as a frameset ($799 / £850) or complete build option ($1,899 / £2,200).
The complete bike comes equipped with MicroShift Advent 10-speed drivetrain with an 11-48t rear cassette and 32t chainring. The brakes are Tektro Mira calipers paired with Microshift AdventX Dual Control drop bar levers. The WTB ST i40 TCS rims are laced to Novatec units and fitted with Teravail Ehline, 27.5 x 2.5 tires. Finishing the bike is a Salsa Woodchipper bar, WTB Volt saddle and a 100mm TransX YSP15 dropper post.
For more details check out the Ghost Grappler at Surlybikes.com.