BIKE REVIEW: KONA REMOTE 160 DL TRAIL BIKE
KONAREMOTE 160 DL TRAIL BIKE
Already well-known for their line of big-hit-loving Process pedal bikes, legacy Canadian brand Kona continues to bring their off-road R&D smarts to their e-bike line.
For 2021 Kona has brought two versions of their Remote 160—the $7300 higher-end build with the new Shimano EP8 motor and a $6300 version with the Shimano e7000 motor. Both builds use a 504-Wh battery, with the major update for 2021 to both being the move from smaller 27.5-inch wheels to a pair of 29-inch hoops.
The aluminum frame and rear triangle look jump-off-the-top-of-your-house ready. The colorway is a standout indigo-forest grey fade that was something different from the crowd. Kona went with a 64-degree head tube angle, which is on par with a few other heavy-hitting all-mountain/enduro-
“The Shimano motor felt really intuitive and provided an instantly smooth power curve as soon as pressure was applied to the pedal.”
One thing that Kona touched on that helped minimize pedal strikes is a reasonably higher bottom bracket height of 350mm, although not especially high owing to the fact that they had to compensate for the 29er wheelset. The 435mm chainstays were a tad shorter than what we’re used to seeing, and that length remains the same on all available sizes.
To start things rolling, the Remote 160 wheels consist of WTB HTZ i35 rims laced to Formula hubs with black stainless 14-gram spokes. The wheels are covered with extra-grippy 2.5-inch Maxxis Assegai tires. The SRAM Code R brakes partner with 200mm rotors and levers. Although overkill for most riders, an accessory upgrade to 220mm rotors is possible.
The 12-speed SRAM NX-Eagle with an 11-50t cassette is paired to a SRAM GX derailleur and a SRAM NX 1 click shifter. The popular 34t chainring seems to be becoming an industry-wide standard.
The 780mm-wide handlebars are Kona’s in-house brand and are bolted in with a XC/BC 35 with a 40mm stem. Our medium test bike had a TranzX dropper post is internally routed with 31.6mm of travel. Kona spec’d a RockShox Zeb Select + charger, RC 2.1 DebonAir fork with 160mm of travel and a RockShox Super Deluxe Select shock. There is no lock-out feature on the shock, and it only features rebound adjustment. Of course, last but not least is the new Shimano EP8 drive unit paired with a 504-Wh integrated battery.
Shimano introduced their updated EP8 unit late last year as a lighter and slightly more powerful unit than its e8000 predecessor. They’ve increased the assist to 85 N/m in the second power mode (Trail), but only if you can put the power from your legs to the pedal. They’ve also increased overall assist from 350 to 400 percent from the previous e8000 unit. This motor is 300 grams lighter and should stay a little cooler with the new magnesium cases.
The motor is slightly quieter than the previous Shimano unit, and being in an aluminum frame makes it even quieter as opposed to a carbon frame. We honestly didn’t feel that much of a difference in the new motor except when we rode up the hill with someone on a new Bosch- or Brose-powered bike. When compared side by side, it was apparent that the torque had gone up from the previous-generation e8000. Although what we would really like to see is an added power level or two to get more dynamic range right from the handlebar-mounted controls. It’s great that you can adjust the power levels with an app, but it seems like not everyone will love that.
“We found that the medium really was more nimble and agile going through hairpin corners, floating over rock gardens or snaking your way through tight, twisty spots.”
It would also be nice if we could get more assist at a higher cadence as we’ve found with other motors. Nonetheless, the motor felt really intuitive and provided an instantly smooth power curve as soon as pressure was applied to the pedal. One last critique is the charge port cover, which latches securely, but when it’s open and pulled out all the way, it takes some fiddling to get it back into its hole it came from.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
This bike is truly an all-rounder e-MTB. Whether it’s doing laps on a jump line or taking it down the gnarliest downhill trail, the Remote 160 shined bright. We believe that an expert rider would really enjoy the bike. Although we always seem to say this, but the Kona shouldn’t have limits on who can ride it, though the harder we pushed it, the better it seemed to handle. If you’re someone with range anxiety, it might be a stretch for you considering the larger-battery bikes available at this point compared to the 504-Wh battery.
Our first impression of the ride was quite informative, as it taught us a few lessons which we will hold onto. One is whether or not to go with narrower tires.
The 2.5 tires are on the narrower side (than the popular 2.8-inch) and allowed for an even quicker response to rider input, not to mention being able to roll a little faster for a quicker feel up and especially down.
29er wheels also make a big difference in rolling speed and the ability to push through chunky sections, whether your climbing up through them or blasting down. One of our test guys with bigger feet did notice his heel hitting the chainstay occasionally due to it being on the shorter side.
The second is the decision of which size bike to buy if you’re on the fence. We received a medium test bike, and mediums usually aren’t the first choice for the majority of our test riders. But, for riders on the fence between large and medium, it was eye-opening. We found that the medium was more nimble and agile going through hairpin corners, floating over rock gardens or snaking your way through tight, twisty spots. Also, the bottom bracket height was complementary to the 29er wheelset. It was just low enough to have a planted feel, but not ridiculously low to where you experience pedal strikes.
Yes, $7300 is a big chunk of change for any bike, but at least with the Remote 160 DL you’re paying for a sturdy, seriously great-performing machine. In addition to the unique colorway, we were really impressed with the new RockShox Zeb fork, having given it a thorough beatdown on some rocky downhills. The more speed we gave it, the better the fork seemed to handle the abuse.
As for any changes we’d like to see, some riders wanted to have a shifter with multi-shift capability. We also would prefer for it to have a speed sensor mounted on the rotor versus a spoke-mounted magnet sensor that is easier to lose or move.
We were slightly surprised at how quick the battery level went down in Boost mode. So, if battery range is a concern, make sure to learn what you can get out of a charge by using the different power modes. A small but significant detail we would like to see is an improved charge-port cover. And last, it would be nice if Shimano could add more power modes, which might help in battery conservation and eliminate having to go to the app for adjustments.
Overall, our time on the Remote 160 DL was extremely enjoyable, and the list of test riders looking for some saddle time on it never seemed to shorten.
KONA REMOTE 160 DL
Motor: Shimano EP8
Battery: 504 Wh
Controller: Shimano SC-EM800 display
Top speed: 20mph
Drive: SRAM NX-Eagle 11-50t 12-speed
Brakes: SRAM Code R, calipers and levers, SRAM 200mm rotors
Wheels: WTB HTZ i35 TCS 2.0, Formula hubs
Tires: Maxxis Assegai EXO+ TR 3C 29×2.5”
Fork: RockShox Zeb Select + charger RC 2.1 DebonAir 160mm tapered
Rear shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select Trunnion
Seatpost: TranzX Dropper Internal 31.6mm
Weight: 54 lbs
Sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL