Kona has a new carbon Operator downhill bike, and it’s 29er ready

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Connor Fearon of the Kona Gravity Team is racing aboard a new Operator downhill prototype that features a carbon fibre frame and dual wheelsize capability. 

Everywhere we turned in the race pits during today’s opening day of the 2018 Fort William World Cup we seemed to bump into brand new bikes, prototypes, and soon-to-be-released goodies. Sitting in the latter camp is this brand new Operator downhill bike from Kona, which we found out is due for an official release sometime in July.

Based on the fact that it’s made from carbon fibre, it would appear that the bike that Connor Fearon is racing this weekend at Fort William is pretty close to production. There’s certainly nothing rough or prototype-y about it, with a sleek frame and a high-vis matte paint job that we wouldn’t be surprised to see on the stock bikes for the 2019 model year.

kona operator downhill bike fort william
Kona’s sleek carbon Operator prototype on show at the 2018 Fort William World Cup. All photos by Amanda Wishart.

Aside from the news that Kona is returning to a carbon fibre frame for the new Operator (or at least, for the higher-end models), the other big news is the wheelsize. Yup, Kona is entering the 29er downhill game with the new Operator, which has been built with a load of adjustability in its chassis in order to accommodate either 27.5in or 29in wheels.

In preparation for the weekend’s racing, Fearon’s mechanic has setup two different Operator frames with identical build kits – one with 27.5in wheels, and one with 29in wheels. That said, Fearon is confident he’ll be running the 29er setup, since he thinks the big wheels suit the long and rough nature of the Fort William race course.

kona operator downhill bike fort william
The new carbon Operator is nearing production, with an official launch likely to happen this summer.

Fearon’s race bike shown here is equipped with a full RockShox suspension package, with a Vivid coil shock on the back and the new Boxxer World Cup fork on the front. The fork has been lowered to 190mm of travel to drop the front end a touch with the bigger 29in wheels. The shock uses a shorter coil spring (which is lighter), and has a plastic spacer at the top of the spring to take up the gap between the threads and the preload collar.

While we were ogling Kona’s new carbon gravity sled, we got Fearon on camera to have a chat to him about 29in wheels, bike setup, and what he thinks of the current course conditions leading into Sunday’s main event;

And from the sounds of things, Fearon is taking to his new race bike and those big 29in wheels rather well! Keen to get a closer look? Check out some of our snaps below of the new Kona Operator.

kona operator downhill bike
The Kona Operator prototype features a huge carbon fibre head tube.
kona operator downhill bike
The frame’s reach is adjustable via offset headset cups. Fearon is running the shorter reach option, with the fork’s steerer tube positioned at the back of the head tube.
kona operator downhill bike chris king
There’s a Chris King headset buried in that huge carbon mass.
kona operator downhill bike boxxer
The Operator prototype frame gets a big press-fit bottom bracket shell, and underbelly armouring.
kona operator downhill bike rockshox dual crown boxxer
Bolt-on fork bumpers sit behind the internal cable routing port.
kona operator downhill bike rockshox vivid coil
There’s a trunnion mounted RockShox Vivid Coil shock sandwiched between the enormous carbon fibre rocker links.
kona operator downhill bike rockshox vivid coil
There’s an interesting cable routing path for the rear mech.
kona operator downhill bike rockshox vivid coil sram x0
The chainstay is made from welded aluminum, and features a two-position dropout for altering the rear centre length.
kona operator downhill bike sram code rsc
Likewise, the rear disc brake has a two-position mount to keep the calliper aligned depending on the wheel position. Note Fearon’s sweet custom SRAM Code RSC brakes.
kona operator downhill bike rockshox vivid coil
Further adjustability is provided at rear of the rocker linkage. Flipping this chip either steepens or slackens the head tube, and lifts or drops the BB height.
kona operator downhill bike rockshox vivid coil wil connor fearon
Fearon takes us through his two potential race bikes for the weekend; the 29er Operator (foreground), and the 27.5in Operator (background).
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