by Rob Potts March 12, 2023


There are a lot of bike reviews online where the reviewer took it on a ride (at most), stuck the specs online and wrote a review.   I only review bikes I've taken on multiple rides, at the very least.  I've owned a lot of bikes over the last 25 years, including a solid 20 - 25 mountain bikes, both hard tails and full suspensions.  

Here, it's a review of a bike I've owned over a year now.   The Kona El Kahuna Mountain Bike.    It also comes outfitted as the El Kahuna SUV, which I've essentially outfitted my bike to be (I'll get into the differences later).  

So this is really cool what Kona has done here.  I (Rob) have the Kona El Kahuna mountain bike and basically have turned it into the El Kahuna SUV.   

I've long been a big proponent of the Mountain E-bike, as it really is the ultimate all around bike for those that want to ride many surfaces.   I ride mine on pavement, gravel/dirt, and mountain bike trails, often on the same day!  It's really cool to be able to ride from mountain to mountain trail on the pavement (using the pedal assist) then hit the mountain trails and even ride home on the gravel.  

I'm not going to list all the spec on the two bikes, as that's all listed when you click over to the bikes on our website.  The El Kahuna does come in around 50 lbs, and the SUV version just about 3 lbs heavier.  


The El Kahuna mountain bike is Kona's entry level hard tail.  While it retailed for $3,499 in 2022, they got the price down to $3,099 in 2023 (available in April, 2023) and $3,799 for the SUV Version.  As of the date of this review, we've got the 2022 El Kahuna SUV on sale for $3,099, which is an amazing price.   


First, let's go over it as a mountain bike, before we get into the electronic components.   It's based on the Kona Kahuna 29" platform, which is one of Kona's best selling hard tails.   Now, with regular bikes, I've long preferred 27.5" tires to 29" as I'm not super tall (5'8") and the 27.5" feels zippier and more agile to me.  But the pedal assist on a 29" nearly compensates for that.   That's why you see so few 27.5" pedal assist mountain bikes, as the pedal assist largely overcomes the shortcomings of the 29" tires (which go over roots, rocks, etc. more smoothly than 27.5, and have better traction on loose surfaces).  

The bike is a well equipped, aluminum frame bike with Shimano Brakes and Shimano Deore 10 Speed shifting.   The El Kahuna has a  a Suntour XCR34 Air 100mm front shock, which will work great on all our intermediate level trails here.  

So what's the difference between the El Kahuna and El Kahuna SUV?  The SUV adds:

- RockShox 35 Silver R Coil 100mm, an upgrade from the Suntour on the El Kahuna;

- Integrated front and rear lights, connected to the battery; 

- Fenders, Kickstand and Rack; 

- 630Wh battery, compared to 504Wh on the El Kahuna. 

Essentially, the SUV Version is upgraded to ride like I ride it - whatever surface you want to ride on!



Kona uses Shimano systems.  In this one, they use the E6100 system with a SC-E7000 Display   This is a second generation system for Shimano, and is lighter, more efficient, quieter than the E6000 First Generation.   It has three riding power settings and a walk setting.  The buttons to adjust the power assist are easy to use, and the interface display is simple and easy to use. 

It has up to 60Nm of torque, which is plenty for all the riding that I do.  The motor really has a good punch when accelerating on level ground or uphill.  The power boost will taper as you increase your cadence.   I've long been a proponent of mid drive E-bikes, especially performance ones.   For mountain bike riding, I really wouldn't consider anything else. Rear hub drive bikes usually only have 1-2 sensors, and as such do not respond quickly enough to the changing terrain.  This bike has a torque, crank arm, cadence and speed sensor, so it quickly adjusts to the demands that mountain bike terrain throws at it.   Essentially, rear hubs give more power on flat / continuous pedaling, while mid drive give more of a punch on climbs.   With Shimano Steps, I'd say the pedal assist kicks in right at half a pedal stroke, so it doesn't give you a jolt like some systems do. 


I use this bike to commute to work, on mountain trails, gravel/dirt roads and the paved trails.  It's a blast to ride on all those surfaces.  I had a regular gravel bike last year and this bike is a lot more fun than my gravel bike, as it's smoother with the big tires and shock, and of course, I can go a lot faster.   It does as well on pavement as any other E-bike. 

I'd call the regular Kahuna a great bike for someone who wants to ride all our trail systems in NWA, but isn't going to do a lot of really aggressive riding and jumping, though it will handle some.   I've had it on the trails at Mt. Kessler, Lake Fayetteville, Devil's Den, Fitzgerald, Centennial Park, Mt. Sequoyah, Gregory Park, Thunder Chicken and Mercy.   I live in Springdale, so ride a lot more in Springdale-Fayetteville than up north.  I'm not an advanced rider - I like staying on middle of the road trails.   I've found the bike combined with the 60Nm of torque provided by the motor, gets me on all the trails at those systems.   With the pedal assist, I almost always ride double the miles I would on a regular mountain bike, as it takes the pain out of the hills.   I've found the hydraulic disc brakes to be excellent for stopping (that's what brakes do) and trouble free.    The only maintenance I've needed is regular tune ups.  

The pedal assist feels very natural.  To me, sometimes I forget it's on until I look down and realize I'm going several miles per hour faster than I would be on a road bike.  One time, I was heading into a headwind down the road and passed a couple of avid road riders going several MPH slower than me.  I was pedaling fairly hard, just going like 8 - 9 MPH faster than I would be in that headwind, pedaling at the same intensity. 

It says pedal assist up to 20 MPH.  I'd say mine shuts off right at 19.5 MPH.  

Shimano Steps uses a graduated system, which means the power drops off proportionally the faster you ride. I like this, as once you get your momentum, you need less pedal assist. 

How many miles can you get per charge?  It varies based on the level of power assist you're using, terrain, etc.   I can't really find where Kona rates how much pedal assist per charge on this bike, probably for that reason.   For me, I've never drained the battery to zero (they don't really like that).  I've tested it on high a number of times, commuting to work.   The lowest I got was 20% of battery life left, having ridden about 30 miles.  The best I did, was one 55 mile day on the Katy Trail on a consistent upgrade, I had about 30% of battery life left, so could easily have gotten 80 miles on a charge that day.  I got 50 miles one day on a gravel ride, riding about 15 - 18 MPH and up and down some decent hills, with about 10% of battery life left.  

 If you want a mountain bike that will tackle most any mountain bike trail in our area, the El Kahuna will do it.   Want to also use it for gravel/dirt, commuting, paved trails, etc - it will also handle that well.  Obviously, the SUV more equipped to riding on the roads, but you can add equipment to the regular El Kahuna or take off from the SUV.  Though even then, the SUV has a bigger battery and better shock.  While both will give you plenty of miles when exploring, the SUV's battery will give you about 20% more miles.   This bike is great for tame riding to mountain biking and everywhere in between. 

Kona El Kahuna SUV $3,799 (Also comes in a regular mountain bike version at $3,099) - Mountain Bikes Here


FREE LIFETIME TUNE-UPS: As with all Lewis & Clark bikes, these models come with professional assembly and our Free Lifetime Tune-Up plan. Any time your bike isn’t shifting gears or stopping like it should, just bring it in, and we’ll take care of it. This includes our Standard Tune-up and adjustments. If you bring an E-bike for us to build that came from elsewhere, we charge $150. So the difference between buying a direct to consumer bike and one from us, is about $150 cost to build, then another $100 to $150 you’ll save in tune ups each year.

30 DAY TEST RIDE: It’s hard to know which bike you like until you’ve ridden it. Lewis & Clark has a 30-day test ride program with every bike you purchase. That means you have 30 days to see if it’s the right bike for you. If not, you can bring it back to trade for any other bike we have. Plus, if you’re a rebate member, you’ll get 5% back on E-bikes in store credit (10% on everything else).


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