2021 eMTB SHOOTOUT
KONA REMOTE 160 DL REVIEW
Photos by Dusten Ryen
Video by Brian Niles/Treeline Cinematics
Back for another year, the Kona Remote 160 DL made a strong showing at last year’s eMTB Shootout and the updates made for 2021 were sure to keep this bike high on our list. Along with the Remote 160 DL, Kona Bikes has continued to refine their eMTB lineup. New updates to the Remote 160 DL include Shimano’s new EP8 motor, 29” front and rear wheels, lowered the bottom bracket, and a burly 160mm Zeb fork upgrade.
Kona is known for building burly aluminum frames, and the 6061 on this bike feels like it’s ready to brawl. Just like last year, the Kona Remote packs 160mm of rear travel and some of the smoothest lines around an EP8 system we have seen. The frame has over-molded protection around the chainstay and the battery cover doubles as a bash guard on the down tube. The skid plate is plastic, which we damaged and cracked, like many of the other bikes in our eMTB Shootout.
Geometry is comfortable for an enduro eBike without being cumbersome. On the size large we tested, the wheelbase is 1,254mm, reach is 467mm, and the stack height sits at 635mm. Kona gives the Remote 160 a 64-degree head tube angle and a seat tube angle of 74.9 degrees. These numbers translate to a very neutral and well-rounded bike that had the angles to climb steep and tight trails but enough reach and head tube angle to take you down the gnarliest of descents. We could see some more aggressive descenders wanting a longer reach, and some of our testers noticed the shorter reach on super high speed chunder, but as it sits now, the bike handles those instances without feeling too sluggish on the more commonly ridden terrain.
A RockShox Zeb Select sits up front and a RockShox Super Deluxe Select rear shock is buttery smooth. Drivetrain on the Kona Remote 160 is a mix of SRAM GX and NX Eagle with 165mm Shimano cranks. The cockpit is all in-house Kona XC/BC components but has a nice rise and sweep. Braking duties are managed by SRAM Code R four piston brakes and 200mm rotors. A TranzX dropper had 150mm of travel, which was a little short for our crew. The Remote 160 comes with Maxxis Assegi tires front and rear but for our Shootout we ran a Schwalbe Magic Mary front and Big Betty rear as they were our official test tires.
Kona used the Shimano EP8 motor system with a 504wh battery. The system provides up to 85nm of torque and we found the tune to be on the more powerful side in Boost mode. All motor settings can be custom tuned through the Shimano app, but we rarely felt the need to change it. The few times we did were on big days where the 504Wh battery would be an issue as many other test bikes have 630Wh batteries. Cable and battery management is all internal on the main triangle but externally routed on the rear.
Climbing on the Remote 160 DL is straightforward, it performs similarly to other EP8 equipped bikes power-wise but the supple rear end lets the bike crawl over more technical terrain. The seating position is comfortable for all day efforts, or at least until the battery runs out, and although it wasn’t the steepest in the bunch, we didn’t struggle to keep the power down on the Remote. The reach is just long enough to allow for standing efforts when you need to sprint in a flat or on a quick, punchy climb.
As we mentioned, the EP8 tune seems to have just a little more juice than other EP8 bikes in full Boost, so we didn’t adjust anything there. Unfortunately, the smaller 504wh battery on the Remote 160 only supports around 3,000ft of climbing for our weight and riding style, ( #AllBoostAlltheTime! ) and we regularly hit the last bar before having to Eco-mode the bike back home. The inlaid top tube power button keeps dirt and grime out of the workings and the battery cover is well placed at the side of the battery with a solid protection flap. If you do need to swap out the battery, it is a quick swap with the few screws holding the downtube protector on.
Suspension performance is classic Kona, supportive in the mid stroke and buttery off the top. The active suspension kept the bike lively and plush on the trail but had enough in reserve for a big drop or landing. It definitely rides lighter than the burly 55.4lb weight would suggest. We did notice some pedal kickback on repeated sharp edge hits but nothing that slowed us down. Even on steep, sustained descents with big water bars, the Remote 160 DL stays composed and balanced. It was difficult to find anything that upset the Kona. That being said, our riders noticed that it performed best with a slightly softer suspension feel, meaning less pressure in the shock. This made it smooth, sensitive and supple but also meant it didn’t have the most platform for pushing off of. Granted most of our testing took place in the loose and rocky desert, so riders in a more groomed, flow trail setting may be able to air up and run more pressure for a bit more platform for pop and push.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The Kona Remote 160 DL is a solid package that really can do it all, and it comes with a lifetime warranty. It well in all terrain, whether climbing or descending. The build package offers solid performance for the price. We think the ideal rider would be either aggressive trail shredders who rides big features or casual riders looking for a comfortable eMTB machine. What’s great is the Remote 160 doesn’t require a lot of time to set up and get feeling good! This eBike feels good on the ground and in the air, but what we appreciated most is its ability to soak up the chunder and smooth out the trail most. Although the Kona Remote 160 is very capable and a good bike that our testers enjoyed picking up day after day, there aren’t any standout performance features, either spectacular or bad, and that’s not completely bad. This bike sits happily in the middle and we believe that’s what will make it a good buy for a variety of riders, as long as you can handle that small 504Wh battery.
Frame: Kona 6061 Aluminum Butted | 160mm
Fork: RockShox Zeb Select + | 160mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select
Motor: Shimano EP8 | 250 W, 85 Nm
Battery: Shimano | 504Wh
Display: Shimano SC-EM800
Brakes: SRAM Code R | 200mm
Shifter: SRAM NX Single Click
Headset: FSA No.57E
Handlebar: Kona XC/BC 35
Stem: Kona XC/BC 35
Saddle: WTB Volt
Seatpost: TranzX Dropper Internal
Wheels: WTB HTZ i35 TCS 2.0
Front tire: Schwalbe Magic Mary 29 x 2.6″
Rear tire: Schwalbe Big Betty 29 x 2.6″
Cranks: Shimano M8150| 34t | 165mm
Cassette: SRAM NX-Eagle | 11-50t | 12spd
Derailleur: SRAM GX | 12spd
Chain: SRAM GX-Eagle | 12spd
Smooth and supple
Plastic bash guard
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