Andi has been riding the 2020 Kona Remote 160, find out what he thinks of this electric powered Process here in his review.
Kona is one of the oldest names in mountain biking, and it’s also one of the brands that has been pushing the progressive geometry envelope longest too. Forget about Mondraker and its Forward Geometry and think further back to the 90’s and you might remember reviews talking about how Kona’s geo was leading the pack.
More recently the Process became the first range of bikes offering slacker front-ends and longer reaches. Although an older name in the market, Kona likes to sit on the cutting-edge, so it was no surprise when the Canadian company started to release e-Bikes too.
Liking to be a little different, Kona’s first e-Bikes were touring/adventure models, but not long after came the Kona Remote Ctrl. An alloy bike with internal battery and 3rd Generation Bosch motor.
Building on what Kona learned about the Ctrl, while not replacing it, the designers at the company have come up with this, the 2020 Kona Remote 160. If the bike looks familiar then it might be because you read my first look, or saw the bike in coverage from Eurobike. No, it wasn’t there where you recognise it from? Perhaps it looks familiar because it looks exactly like a Process only with a Shimano motor attached?
The Remote 160 is a burly 160mm travel bike that uses its Shimano E8000 motor to help it get to the top of tricky trails, where you can then switch direction and enjoy the ride down. It’s the type of e-MTB that riders considering a Commencal Meta Power, or YT Decoy might consider, so how does it compare?
Kona hasn’t updated an old model for the Remote 160 but taken a good hard look at the Process and built an e-Bike that offers similar characteristics. Compared to the Remote Ctrl the new 160 is a more refined and better-looking bike, much of that is down to the more compact motor, but the internal Shimano battery helps too.
Inside the large, oversized downtube there is a current-generation Shimano BT8035 internal battery. The pack has the same 504Wh capacity as the external Shimano system. The fact that it’s inside the downtube helps to give a more stealthy look, but functionally it means you’re able to use a bottle cage and ensures the centre of gravity is as low as possible.
Being what is essentially an electrified Kona Process, the Remote 160 comes with a similarly burly build but instead of standard 29in or 27.5in wheels, the Remote 160 gets much bigger plus-sized tyres. A pair of WTB KOM wheels are fitted with 27.5 x 2.8in Maxxis Minion DHF front and DHR tyres.
If you’re not a plus-sized fan, then you’ll be happy to know that the Remote 160 is designed with enough room for 29in wheels and tyres if you prefer. Big wheels and big travel require big anchors so a set of SRAM Code R brakes have been drafted in for stopping duty. These 4 piston brakes offer a ton of stopping power in conjunction with the 203mm rotors.
SRAM gets involved in the drivetrain side of things too with a 1 x 12 Eagle system built up from a mix of SRAM GX and NX Eagle componentry. It’s all the same stuff as you would find on a standard mountain bike, except the shifter which is an e-Bike specific model designed to shift one gear at a time.
A 160mm travel RockShox Lyrik Select Charger RC DebonAir fork, and RockShox Super Deluxe Select rear shock make up the suspension side of things. Not top of the line, but good performing kit.
Of course, this Shimano powered e-Bike gets its fair share of Shimano components too, including the aforementioned E8000 70nm motor, 8035 Shimano internal battery, and Shimano E8000 display and overbar button controller.
The E8000 motor is Shimano’s current e-Bike motor and features 3 drive modes plus a walk function. Of the three modes, Trail mode is actually an adaptive mode and will increase support based on how much of your own power you put into the system. So the harder you pedal, the more the bike gives you.
The large black cover on the downtube is attached to the internal battery. The battery itself can either be charged in the bike from a charging port on the non-drive side of the bike, or off the bike. Removing the battery is super easy and needs just a 4mm allen key.
Kona Remote 160 Gallery
I’ve ridden a great mix of e-MTBs over the year, and no matter what people say one e-Bike isn’t just the same as any other e-Bike. Sure you might get two bikes with similar geometry, the same motor and the same battery, but just like a normal bike, there are too many variables that can have massive effects on how the bike rides.
From riding a lot of Shimano powered e-Bikes this year, I was expecting the Remote 160 to be a nippy ride up, fun on the flats and a riot downhill, but the reality is this bike really is geared more to descending than all-round trail riding.
On flat terrain, those plus-sized tyres quickly become evident and as soon as you stop pedalling the Remote 160 will start to lose momentum. As a result, even with the 70 Nm motor, the Kona does take quite a lot of effort to keep going and this is especially noticeable on flow trails. On a small section of trail close to my home with fast bermed corners and gap jumps, my non-motorised bikes roll and flow freely from gap to corner, but the Kona needs a few extra cranks here and there to retain speed.
The same drag is evident on slight gradients that would normally be fun to flow along on a bike with less rolling resistance. However, get the Remote 160 past a certain gradient and it seems to come to life. It’s almost like there’s a switch on the bike and once the trails become steeper and rockier the Remote becomes more and more eager, and willing to pick up speed. Smashing through steep rocky chutes at speed is where this motorised Kona feels more at home.
Of course, you need to get to the top of those chutes first and actually climbing on the Kona is pretty good. Because you’re always on the power and pedalling the Kona Remote 160 keeps on chugging up the hill, it still would be more efficient, faster and more fun with a lightweight set of 29er wheels on, but the chunky tyres are at least comfortable and offer grip in the dry.
Once the rain falls and the dirt becomes mud, those plus tyres throw up further issues. They simply don’t cut into the mud but instead float over the top. This is geat for drifts, but not so great for confident cornering or steep slimy climbs.
For comparison sake, I did install a front 29in wheel and that improved front end grip and cornering no end, but I couldn’t try a rear 29er as the hub spacing is 157mm for a Superboost hub and that’s not something we had in the office at the time of riding.
The Kona Remote 160 is a vastly improved e-Bike when compared to the Remote Ctrl, but that said there are a few odd choices on this bike. As the Ctrl featured (and still does feature for 2020) the Generation 3 Bosch motor, we thought Kona would have built the Remote 160 with the smaller Gen 4 motor. Sure the Shimano E8000 Steps motor is a great mid-drive unit, but it is starting to feel a little dated when compared to the new Bosch system.
We’ve seen brands spec their plus sized e-Bikes with thin-walled tyres with very little in the way of traction – well at least for UK conditions. Kona has done a much better job with decent Maxxis tyres, however, with room for 29in wheels, we would have preferred to see the Remote 160 get those larger wheels. It would have offered better climbing grip, with the same roll-over and a much lower rolling resistance and could have helped drop the overall weight too.
We also wonder if the pricing on this bike is a little steep considering the specification. Sure you get a good chassis, but for this money, we would expect a higher-end fork, a more upmarket finishing kit, and perhaps some flashier and lighter-weight wheels.
Our bike was a very early sample and a few areas of the bike weren’t quite up to production spec. For example, the paint chipped easily and the battery cover had large gaps. Apparently, all of these issues have been addressed for final production bikes so hopefully, you won’t have these issues if you choose to buy one.
3 Things that could be improved
- Dropper post routing on our pre-production bike was very fiddly and meant remounting the motor to service. This has apparently been improved for production bikes.
- The Remote 160 has been designed so that you can run either 27.5+ or 29in wheels, we think the bike should come with 29in wheels as standard.
- The battery cover on our pre-production bike has large British Leyland style panel gaps that let in water while riding and cleaning. Again, this has apparently been resolved on production bikes.
3 Things we loved
- The compact Shimano motor is a much better mid-drive unit than the Gen 3 Bosch motor that’s found on the Remote Ctrl.
- The compact motor means a much better geometry and thus much-improved riding dynamics compared to the Kona Remote Ctrl.
- It really comes to life once you hit challenging and rocky terrain.
The chassis is very good and offers all the benefits of the Kona Process but with the added power to climb faster than on a standard Process. Due to the weight, it isn’t the most sprightly, and the Remote 160 feels more planted than poppy on the descents, but if Process geometry and Shimano power is what you’re after then this is the bike to buy.
- Frame // Kona Remote 160, 160mm travel.
- Fork // RockShox Lyrik Select Charger RC DebonAir 160mm.
- Shock // RockShox Super Deluxe Select.
- Motor // Shimano STEPS E8000 70nm
- Battery // Shimano 504Wh
- Wheels // WTB KOM Trail i35 TCS 27.5in
- Tyres // Maxxis Minion DHF EXO+ TR DUAL 27.5×2.8in front, Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ TR DUAL 27.5×2.8 rear.
- Chainset // Shimano Deore
- Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
- Shifters // SRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed
- Cassette // SRAM Eagle 12-speed
- Brakes // SRAM Code R with 200mm front / 200mm rear rotor.
- Stem // 35mm Kona stem
- Handlebar // Kona
- Seatpost // Trans-X dropper post Internal 31.6mm
- Saddle // WTB Volt Pro
- Sizes available // S/M/L/XL
- Price: £5699