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Surly Ghost Grappler First Impressions

February 18, 2022

Surly's dirt oriented drop bar monster has finally been unleashed! Behold a brand new member of the family; the Ghost Grappler.⁠

In many ways, the Ghost Grappler is a classic Surly bike build. Simple design, steel frame and fork and utilitarian parts. It also pushes the bounds of traditional categories of bikes, which is something Surly is renowned for. To be honest, I'm kinda surprised they haven't come up with something like this already because it's right up their alley. Whilst the Midnight Special is a bike that can be set up to be ridden off-road, and the Straggler is a CX bike that is capable of moderate off-road touring, they didn't have a dedicated drop-bar, off-road tourer. With this criteria in mind, we're happy to report they've definitely pulled through. 


There are a few things you'll probably notice off the bat. Unlike most of the drop bar bikes that Surly offers, the Ghost Grappler has a very tall front end. This means that even when you're in the drops, you have a comfortable and stable riding position, which makes off road descents much more manageable and long days in the saddle more comfortable. It's able to run 27.5 x 2.8inch tyres, which is much larger than conventional drop bar bikes and provides plenty room for fenders. This means that if you've got a mountain bike tyre you already love, you'll most likely be able to fit it here. So far it's stacking up to sound like a drop bar Bridge Club, but there are still some differentiating features that put it in a different class.


The Ghost Grappler features classic Surly styling, with triple bottle cage mounts and extra reinforcement on the top tube and down tube.


Surly have wisely chosen a 1x drivetrain in this build, which has long been a standard in the MTB world, but is becoming increasingly popular for adventure bikes. For the Ghost Grappler they went for Microshift's Advent X drivetrain, which comes with a 11-48T cassette, providing one of the largest range of gears we've seen on a 1x, drop bar set up. It's also 10 speed, which is notable as it means tuning, durability and wear-life for the drivetrain should be less complicated and more cost effective than it's 12 speed counterparts (meaning you can spend more time in the saddle).


Microshift does use a slightly different shifter mechanism than Sram or Shimano, but is very easy to use and takes little time to get used to. The Salsa Cowchipper bar is a classic for it's shallow and wide drop design, giving you a stable and comfortable hand position for whatever the trail demands.


Like all good bikes designed for off-road use, the Ghost Grappler comes with a dropper post to make getting down those gnarly descents with a full load that little bit easier. Better yet, it's controlled by your left hand shift lever! It's great to see this as often the integration of drop-posts onto drop-bar bikes is less than perfect.


As an off road ubiquity, this bike comes with tubeless-ready tyres and rims, making setting this bike up tubeless a breeze. The Teravail Ehline tyres provide a confident grip on a range of surfaces and are supple, thereby doing a great job at taking the edge off rougher trails.


Surly, in their usual style have included plenty of bottle cage options, including a new one just above the dropouts. We can see this being popular as an extra way to sneak another couple water bottles on the bike! The frame also uses Surly's "Knot Boost" spacing, meaning you can run both boost and non-boost wheels depending on what mood you're in.


The lugs continue upfront with heaps of barnacles on the Ghost Grappler's steel fork, including four bottle cage mounts for ultimate versatility. 


So how does it handle? As with any touring bike that is designed to carry big loads, it feels like a big bike, but has been entirely designed in this way. The frame design, tyre size and components of this bike mean that it's extremely stable off-road while still being very responsive. This is no surprise, as this is the entire purpose of this rig, but we we're still pleasantly surprised with how comfortable this bike was on the rough stuff. Whilst it's not the most efficient bike for road riding, if you're wanting a drop-bar, off-road, bike-packing rig that will take you wherever your heart desires, the Ghost Grappler is the most capable out of box build that we've seen. Beyond a tubeless set up, there's no further modifications we'd deem necessary, as the stock parts are perfectly suited for what this bike is made for. We're excited to see where people take this bike and can't wait to see them out in the wild.


We have a range sizes available now, so if you're interested to see what all the hype is about, come take it for a spin! You can also check it out on our web store here to find more of the nitty gritty details.