EBA’s Bike Review: Kona Bikes Remote 160
Kona Bikes Remote 160
Kona is a famous Canadian mountain bike brand with a legacy of producing burly bikes for hardcore off-road riding. In addition to their catalog of pedal bikes, Kona has a growing number of e-bikes. For 2020 they wanted to build a new e-bike that ventures into the growing category of enduro bikes with 160mm of travel aimed at the most serious of riders.
Kona invited us to do a “First Look” on the Remote 160 e-mountain bike in the mountains above Madrid, Spain, which is known for its beauty and rocky, technical trails. How could we say no?
The Remote 160 features a butted aluminum frame with some reinforcing gussets in place for good measure. To say it is beefy is an understatement. Every tube, every weld, every angle looks serious. It definitely plays on Kona’s expertise from their popular Process line of bikes.
Head tube angle is a forgiving 65 degrees on all sizes of the bike, and seat tube angle is 75.9 to 75.6 degrees depending on the size.
In the U.S., we’ll get the Gloss Charcoal version. We were riding the European colorway in Seafoam Green, which we prefer to the grey.
RockShox suspension components are at the heart of this bike. A battle-proven Lyrik fork and Super Deluxe rear shock each provide very forgiving 160mm of travel. The stock suspension setup has two tokens, which can easily be changed depending on rider preference.
The drivetrain uses SRAM Eagle components, including a 1×12 setup with a huge 50T large ring in the rear (matched to a 39t chainring) to let you climb all but vertical walls. Wide bars and SRAM Code R brakes with 200mm rotors offer plenty of control. The 175mm-long Shimano Deore crankarms are short enough to keep pedal strikes to a minimum.
The Formula hubs are laced with 14g spokes to WTB KOM Trail i35 rims, with tubeless Mazis Minion DH 27.5×2.8-inch tires. Those voluminous plus tires are important, as we found out on the trail.
A 120mm Trans-X dropper post offers enough travel to get the seat out of your way for descents and bring it back up quickly for climbs.
The Remote comes with a Shimano E8000 motor, one of our favorites. Their previous models used Bosch CX motors, so this is a bit of a departure for them. We love it for its compact size and powerful punch, as well as its programmability via the Shimano app.
The battery is a Shimano integrated 504-Wh model, fitting internally inside the downtube. This is one of the first bikes we’ve ridden with Shimano’s internal battery setup, and it looks fantastic. It has the same capacity and power as the traditional external battery.
We think the stock settings for the E8000 are terrible. There’s no other way to say it. We rode the first day in the stock settings, where Eco is a little more than overcoming the weight of the bike, Trail seems almost imperceptibly more, and Boost is way too much with nothing in between.
The display is what we think is the ultimate for an e-mountain bike. Shimano’s E8000 cycling computer is mounted behind the bars and next to the stem, so it’s fairly protected. Although it’s very small, it’s still big enough to see everything you want to see—mode, battery level, power level in real time, and then you can toggle between speed, cadence, max speed, average speed, range and more.
The second day we downloaded the E-Tube Project app. It allows you to tweak each of the settings. We prefer medium or high for Eco, high for Trail and medium for Boost. It makes the bike so much more livable and predictable. On downhill runs we’d keep the bike in Eco or Off (power is on, but you can easily bump to Eco if you find an ascent during or after the descent).
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Kona Remote 160 is aimed squarely at serious, experienced riders. We saw riders manage 8-foot drops; climb extremely technical, rocky terrain; and blast down rooty, rocky sections that were sometimes unpredictably grippy or loose. Other than flat tires, nothing broke through two days of riders treating it as kindly as they’d have treated a stolen car!
The 780mm-wide bars are the first thing we noticed. They offer really great control and the ability to throw the bike around when needed. The head tube angle and forks are incredibly forgiving, yet everything about this bike is lively, making for a fun experience. The suspension was out of this world. It was amazing over everything we rode over, even surprises where we thought we’d lose it. The weight of the bike makes it feel planted when cornering.
Power delivery was natural, especially after changing the power mode settings via the app. We put in enough climbing on the second day that we needed to swap batteries at lunch to finish the ride, but knowing we could, we used more power on the climbs, including the 2,625-foot climb to start the day.
“Other than flat tires, nothing broke through two days of riders treating it as kindly as they’d have treated a stolen car!”
During two days of riding, the WTB Volt Pro saddle never wore in or felt comfortable. It wasn’t a rock, but at times it felt a bit like one. Your mileage may vary, but we’d prefer a different saddle. Several other riders felt the same.
Maybe it was just an adjustment, but the SRAM Code R brakes were a little soft. There was plenty of modulation, but hard braking required a lot of movement of the brake levers.
SRAM’s Eagle drivetrain is absolutely solid. It does well under power, without the loud “clang” that sometimes happens under load when shifting. The 1×12 may be too much, as we often found ourselves shifting two gears instead of one at a time.
Tires should have all gone flat considering the sharp, rocky terrain. We were riding over incredibly sharp rocks, often landing on them from decent drops. In this case, our hats are off to the Maxxis Minion tires with downhill casings. They truly were outstanding. They add a bit of weight, but it’s so worth it when you aren’t constantly flatting. In our small group, we had at least 10 flats in two days, requiring putting tubes in an already tubeless setup. They offer tons of grip, even on the very dry, dusty conditions that we had most of the time. It did finally rain slightly on the second afternoon, making the trail nicer and grippier.
On steep climbs, even with the short rear end, the suspension helped keep the front end down. Even if we pulled up a little to unweight the front wheel over a rock, it didn’t feel like it wanted to loop out. This isn’t something we can say about many bikes we ride, for sure, especially the ones with shorter chainstays. Kona has made a perfect combination of geometry and suspension here.
This bike was so good, and we still can’t believe it’s only $6000! It truly allowed us to push past our limits and ride terrain that was over our head, figuratively speaking.
The Kona Remote truly feels prepared for anything you throw at it and can get you out of a hairy situation you’ve gotten yourself into with surprising grace. It’s just so forgiving. At the same time, some riders thought it inspired too much confidence. Is there such a thing?
Either way, if you’re a beginner rider, even a rich one, this isn’t the bike for you. If you’re a hard-riding rider who wants to take multiple runs for training or just to have fun, the Remote 160 is a very capable bike worth a look.
Motor: Shimano STEPS E8000
Battery: Shimano STEPS 504 Wh
Charge time: 3–4 hours
Top speed: 25 km/h(Europe), 20 mph (US)
Range: 20–40 miles (tested)
Drive: SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed, 11-50T
Brakes: SRAM Code R hydraulic discs, 200mm/20mm
Controls: Shimano E8000
Fork: RockShox Lyrik Select Charger RC DebonAir, 160mm
Rear shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select, 160mm
Frame: Kona Remote 160, aluminum
Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF front, DHR rear, 27.5×2.8”
Weight: 52 lbs (tubeless)
Color choice: Seafoam (Everywhere but US), Grey (US and UK)
Sizes: S, M, L, XL