Construction and Features
Kona's all-new carbon framed Operator CR has been developed in conjunction with Aussie Pinner, Connor Fearon, who has also been racing this bike since last year which is now available to order. The full carbon (except.for aluminum chainstays) downhill and park rig is specced with 29" wheels but can be used with 27.5" thanks to chainstay adjustment, as well as a flip-chip on the rocker link, and, of course, switching the fork. The CR is available in one build kit, but there are still aluminum Operators available in more affordable options.
I took the Operator CR for some laps of the great bike park in Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis. This bike was specced with a full SRAM build including BoXXer World Cup and Super Deluxe coil suspension, Guide R brakes, X01 DH 7-speed drivetrain, and finished with Mavic wheels and Maxxis rubber.
Kona Operator CR Intended use:
downhill / parkTravel:
29" F -190mm/ R -195mm 29” (27.5" 200/205)Suspension:
'Beamer Independant Suspension'Wheel size:
29" (can be down-sized to 27.5") Hub width:
The carbon front triangle, rocker link, and seatstays are large and have a smooth finish, and there is nearly no nook or cranny to collect dirt or grime. All of the pivot bolts sit nearly flush to the frame and there are no fancy extras – it's a solid looking bike with a job of park shredding and downhill smashing to get on with.
The Operator CR comes with 29" wheels but can be adapted to ride with 27.5" wheels (there's a recommended setup for each) but also allows for some customization, too. The rear wheel can be swapped between two axle locations for a 425mm or 440mm chainstay setting, and there are two pairs of holes to mount the brake correctly for each length. The main adjustment between the wheel size is done by changing the fork and flipping the chip on the rocker link. Build
With only one complete carbon bike available, Kona hasn't gone with the most expensive and shiny products they could get their hands on, but they have put together a very intelligent build. The BoXXer World Cup DebonAir and SuperDeluxe World Cup are the premium dampers from RockShox, and the most costly parts to upgrade after the initial purchase. A clever move to give the consumer the best performance here and cut back on the rest of the componentry that is more disposable than the suspension, that's not to say it's not a solid build.
Using the SRAM GX DH 7-speed groupset, Descendant cranks, and Code R brakes gives high performance without the higher price tag of X01 and RSC versions. The rest of the build is delivered by RaceFace, WTB and Mavic EX630 rims laced on to Formula hubs.Suspension
Kona have dubbed this system 'Beamer Independent Suspension,' which is an evolution of the type of suspension that Kona have employed for years. They claim it to be 'off the top' progressive and it will help to ride higher in the travel and recover from big hits quicker. The massive rocker link is said to help with "pure shock movement, whereby the shock is protected from side-load," which I'm not going to argue against judging by its sheer volume.
I can hear the comments already questioning "why didn't they use a Horst-link!?" Well, there are a number of brands who still believe in this type of single pivot with a linkage driven shock, and there is no patent stopping Kona moving the link from the seat stay to the chainstay. The general reasoning (although it depends on specific frame layout) is that the bike sits into the travel when on the brakes in steep sections and preserves the geometry; there could also be more anti-squat and pedal kickback which can help the bike pedal better and generate more speed when pumping.Geometry & Sizing
The Operator CR is only available in two sizes that Kona hope will satisfy most of their customers. The medium frame has a 435/445mm reach and the large sits at 460/470mm. If you are looking for something longer, the 27.5" aluminum version offers an XL that goes up to 485mm.
The geometry of downhill bikes has settled down, and now we are finding very similar numbers across the majority of frames. The Operator CR has a slightly slacker head angle than most at 62º, and an average bottom bracket drop of -20mm. The chainstay is either side of average and can be set at 425mm or 440mm.
We put in a number of laps in the fantastic Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis bike park which has choices between hardpacked, fast, and bermed trail, or gnarly, natural, steep, and rooty sections, with both styles having plenty of jumps thrown in for good measure.
Out of the gate and on to the pedals the Operator accelerates averagely for a downhill bike but does generate masses of speed really well when pumping and traveling over rough terrain.
Heading into rough and steep sections of trail, it just wants to accelerate, build, and maintain momentum, somewhat scarily as you hold on and try to tame the beast. The rear triangle of the bike is incredibly stiff laterally and is great for schralping smooth berms, but doesn't want to track nicely on roots or off-camber when the bike is leaned over and traveling across the rough.
There is plenty of support from the shock and linkage to push against, pump, and land to flat, and it feels like a bike that could take an unlimited amount of my average whips to sideways landings. Overall, the Supreme Operator appears to be a downhill or park bike that is built to take abuse for seasons on end.