Spotted: Carbon 29er Kona Operator & More BlackBox Boxxers

Mar 5, 2018
by Paul Aston  
Australian National DH 2018
Kona's Connor Fearon at National Champs in Australia.

Kona's Connor Fearon was seen on what looks like a carbon 29er Kona Operator at this weekend's Australian National Champs.

Zooming in on the picture, the front triangle appears to be carbon, the rear shock link looks bigger and more refined than current production bikes, and we can still see welds showing that the chainstay at least is aluminum.

Connor's also running a Blackbox Rockshox BoXXer that's holding a 29" wheel - note the increased offset at the axle.

Australian National DH 2018
Jack Moir's stunning Intense M29, with the massive amount of offset at the front axle.

Sam Blenkinsop was spotted racing in New Zealand last week on a 29"-wheeled downhill prototype from Norco. This weekend's Australian National Champs had multiple riders on what looks like a new BoXXer in a cherry red finish with silver crowns.

What's the importance of this colorway? 1998 saw the first production BoXXer dual crown fork after two years as a racers-only product, with its polished crowns, cherry red lowers and white decals displaying rainbow stripes. 2008 saw a tenth-anniversary edition and guess what, now it's 2018. The previous BoXXer has been through a couple of model years already – surely another anniversary model is due? Plus, RockShox doesn't currently have a production 29" downhill fork, and there are a bunch of brands with big-wheeled production models close to launch.


1998 Boxxer Pro
The original BoXXer Pro from 1998. Photo credit: danbb7
Sam Hill riding the tenth-anniversary colors in 2007, ten years after the prototypes were first raced. Photo credit: ridetolive666
Sam Hill riding the tenth-anniversary colors in 2007, ten years after the prototypes were first raced. Photo credit: ridetolive666

Australian National DH 2018
We can see on this current version of the BoXXer that there is a bushing bulge halfway down the fork lowers. This doesn't appear to be present on the BlackBox versions.

Australian National DH 2018
It looks like Brosnan is running a new fork too. It still looks like he has 27.5" wheels - his fork lowers appear to have less offset than what's on the 29ers.

What's up with the offset? After a possible new version of the Lyrik was spotted at the Andes Pacifico recently, and the direction of enduro products getting more and more capable, and downhill products getting lighter and lighter, would it make sense to use the same lowers for a new Lyrik and new BoXXer? It appears that Brosnan's fork has shorter offset lowers for his smaller wheels than Moir has for his big wheels. Normally manufacturers adjust the offset using the forks crowns and the lowers stay the same for all sizes, but it's also possible to use the lowers to switch the amount of offset.

I'll take a punt that there will be two sizes of lowers shared between the Lyrik and BoXXer for each 27.5" and 29" wheels. Both forks will have different offset uppers for each wheel size. This would give manufacturers the option to mix and match parts to get different amounts of offset. It would make sense to give riders options as there are two schools of thought - those who argue for longer and those that want shorter offsets. There's also the fact that long travel big-wheelers are in their infancy and may need more testing and tweaking.

Whatever happens, we should find out soon when RockShox spec'd 29" downhill bikes hit the shelves.


163 Comments

  • + 209
 "a 29-wheeled downhill prototype from Norco."

Pretty crazy that we're getting bikes with 29 wheels now, ive only ridden ones with 2
  • + 40
 Increased contact patch
  • + 84
 wait until the 28.99 comes out
  • + 15
 Dont worry about 29 wheels, worry about having enough water bottles


www.pinkbike.com/photo/15666952
  • + 78
 Rock Shox - making all the bike nerds happy! So freaking cool that they kept up the original proto color scheme at 10yr and 20yr anniversary
  • + 14
 I love the clean look on the blackbox decals down the fork leg.
  • + 34
 I thought the colour sucked until I read the story. Now I’ve changed my mind - it’s sick.
  • - 1
 @jamesdunford: Danny Hart had red lowers when he won the worlds in 2012.
How does that fit in with the timeline?
  • + 16
 Amd thankfully it ain't orange!
  • - 3
 @jamesdunford: @jamesdunford: I'd like to see this comment in 1998 where no red historic color was set yet. Still sick?
  • + 13
 Christ, you guys will destroy any form of positivity.

@jaame 1) It doesn't.
@qreative-bicycle 2) In 1998, Cherry Red may have been in style.

My reasoning, is that a brand showing heritage is commendable. As humans, we relate to stories. As someone that works in marketing, it's cool to see a brand do something like this and remember the early days.
  • - 1
 @jamesdunford: yep, it is a very new practice indeed.
Never saw that in marketing before, especialy in mtb suspension...
Sorry for being sarcastic but RS should better redirect its marketing budget toward R&D in order to release products that works from scratch (without having to change all the fork internals and with contained level of static friction for the not so deluxe shock) instead of spending money to recall its glorious past.
  • + 2
 @qreative-bicycle: yea the colour was historic in 98 as it was the Judy dh red.
The Judy dh was the first dedicated dh production fork and was that tone of red
  • + 1
 Has the pewter crowns like the 98 boxxer pro too
  • + 2
 @jaame: old forks off eBay
  • + 2
 @gnralized: Seems to me that they make a great product. I have a Pike on my YT and it is fantastic. It is a set and forget for for the most part and I'm fine with it. When it is time for a major service, I'll likely send it to Vorsprung for a Luftkappe kit just for fun, but not because I think it needs more. Are there better, more expensive products out there? Sure. But from a user serviceability and cost standpoint I don't think there is a lot of room for complaint.

And stories sell. Watch a Barrett Jackson auction. The cars with history ALWAYS get more money than an identical example.
  • + 2
 They just made red and white lowers only the year Danny won the Champs
  • + 1
 @deadbeat: ...guess marzocchi super t was out earlier than Rs..
  • + 1
 @jaame: That was 2011.
  • + 1
 @Poulsbojohnny:
I don’t think you bleed your charger damper yourself neither change your lower bushings and perhaps not even your scrapper seals, so you’re only talking about light service like changing lubrication fluid, foam seals, maybe air spring seals. Be it manitou, fox or xfusion, all of 2015 and later forks are easily serviceable until you start working on hydraulics or change bushings.
Good you’re happy with your pike, both of mine were rigid as boiled noodle, with strong buffeting under braking and very sensitive lateral deflection. Both of them (RC and RCT3) laked mid stroke support whatever number of token you use that low speed compression cannot compensate until fully closed.
But this is mainly a question of personnal preferences and feeling. What is real is the number of aftermarket options to improve the ride quality of RS forks, and the fact that almost every rider was blow by Vorsprung kit, Fast suspension cartridge, Novyparts Splug, etc...
This is not the case for 2015 + Fox products, or Manitou Mattoc, or Formula forks for instance. Every people I know who tested back to back a Pike vs. a Mattoc or a 36, or a xfusion vengeance was not convinced by the pike.
RS products are everywhere because they cost nuts in OEM so the brand margin are huge, but that doesn’t mean they worth it.
For instance their fabulous metric deluxe has twice more static frictions than concurrence, that’s why they needed to implement a negative COIL spring (countermeasure) even in the COIL version to lower the amount of forces needed to trigger it (11kg with neg spring, 17kg without neg spring, for the deluxe COIL, vs. 7kg for a DHX2 for instance). Unfortunately this only helps at the stroke beginning, the neg spring won’t help when you’re at SAG since it is not compressed anymore...
So yes, heritage colors, brand history, marketing bullshits, you’d better be happy with them because you won’t get a lot more from your suspension...
  • + 2
 @Goe: the super t was 97 (for pros only) the boxxer was 96 (pros only) then production versions were available 98 Marzocchi had the Z1 in 96 available to the public in 97.
The Z1 showed everyone how good a fork should work
www.pinkbike.com/photo/15328021
  • + 1
 @gnralized: I agree with you
  • + 1
 @deadbeat: yes amazing forks with no hassle or constant servicing
  • + 1
 @Poulsbojohnny: Case in point. First of the new commemorative Bullitt Mustangs = $300,000
  • + 1
 @jaame: Hart just had a matching colorway at champs since there he raced for Britain not Giant
  • + 25
 With all the nail-biting about 29ers at Ft. William I kinda wish Gwin would do his qualification run on a BMX. He’s ‘protected’ right? So it wouldn’t matter? But that video would live on and on.
  • + 5
 point lives matter.
  • + 7
 We’ll compromise with 1 practice run then.
  • + 3
 I suggest Leogang over Ft. William for the BMX run.
  • + 1
 He’s protected yes, but a quail win is worth 50 points towards the overall. I’m not sure about Fort Bill on a bmx but Leogang possibly.
  • + 1
 Atwill did a practice run in leogang I believe in his dj bike last year.
  • + 1
 He should do it on a gt snowracer
  • + 22
 Soo...you're telling me the "power bulge" was just a marketing effort by some guy trying to increase his own personal power bulge?
  • + 24
 Just know that Sram = Marketing Bullshit at its Finest.
  • + 52
 @chillrider199: There is a 28.99% you are correct.
  • + 47
 @chillrider199: that's not a "power bulge" it's a POWERbulge with X-pand and SpeedSENSE for increased torsional stiffness. Also, it's got VOLUtech which is the new version of DEBONair and RapidRespond
  • - 17
flag chillrider199 (Mar 5, 2018 at 12:55) (Below Threshold)
 Why did I get downvoted? Am I wrong? Sram is like the the a*shole of companies in the bike world. At least they arent sueing everyone like Specialize does.
  • + 3
 @chillrider199: "why did my friends say that about me? Because your friends are bitches, that's why."
  • + 1
 Instead of power bulging they should bump the diameter of the staunchions up to 38mm. If they are using it for 29ers now 35 is a little undersized and flexy.
  • + 7
 @wibblywobbly: Your Hired

-Sram
  • + 14
 Missed the main point from weekend PinkBike - 29" is NOT FASTER. 27.5 won in both Elite and Jr National titles, and is a valid and capable wheel size that needs to remain.
  • + 44
 it isn't slower either
  • + 23
 Some fine riders would do well on 26 as well. Surprisingly.
  • + 4
 Hey a rare comment thread that has only comments that have valid points and make sense that everyone and everything is different.
  • - 10
flag chriskneeland (Mar 5, 2018 at 16:40) (Below Threshold)
 It's not faster and it rides like a wagon wheel. But let's kill the smaller wheels anyways.
  • - 2
 Don’t worry buddy, they already been changing the courses to make them more 29 friendly.
  • + 3
 @cmkneeland:
yeah im sure you can tell which wheel is better for every single rider in the world, because all humans are exact the same right?
  • + 1
 @Asmodai: Yes, because physics. Small boat/big boat. Small car/big car. Small wheel/big wheel. See the trend?
  • + 1
 @cmkneeland: no wonder some want to colonize Mars since everything gets bigger here on Earth.
  • + 4
 @cmkneeland:

don't quote physics if you don't know how it works lol
  • + 0
 @Asmodai: I didn't realize boats, cars, and wheel size were exempt from the physics of agility.
  • + 13
 I love this website so goddam much
  • + 13
 Who doesn't love marketing disguised as intrigue?
  • + 3
 @Flowcheckers: We all eat it like candy and love it too. More please.
  • + 4
 @Flowcheckers: Marketing or not, the amount of bike nerding that goes on around this website is fantastic.
  • + 11
 I rode 26 wheels for over 20 years 29 wheels definitely ride over crap smother and give more cornering traction
  • + 6
 cool story. gimme the middle.
  • + 9
 But for those of us who jump, they feel like sail boats. I don't have a problem with 29ers. I have a problem with bike companies completely eliminating 26 in wheels all together. My personal preference is no longer an option.
  • + 1
 @cmkneeland: this would be a great time to make a new wheel size- 23x3.0+. Smaller than 26, which is honestly slightly larger to jump around on, and large enough volume to run lower pressures than usual.
  • + 1
 @R-trailking-S: As a freerider it wouldn't work for me. A 26inch 2.3-2.4 width with 30-35 psi is what works best for my style of riding. I don't think that option will exist for much longer.
  • + 8
 On all the red blackbox forks they have debonair on the top of the stantions below the lower crown
  • + 4
 HAHAHA

I find it very amusing reading all these comments on the blackbox forks.
Then I think to myself!
Look at the riders who are using these forks, Brosnan, Moir, Lucas, Fearon and Blenkinsop. I don't think you keyboard warriors opinions wouldn't hold too much value regarding feedback over these Top World Cup riders.

Do you really think RockShox will make a fork that is terribly wrong with offset etc and make these guys race/ride without any of their feedback....

Im sure I saw on Istagram that the Intense Team had a test camp in Colorado with RockShox.
  • + 1
 I call BS. The riders definitely have some feedback, but most racers are fast because they are fast and not because they know what makes their bike faster. But the bike industry made all the top racers race on unsafe steep head angles for decades, and most of them thought their bikes had dialed geometry. The French racers finally figured it out, but I'm not afraid to admit that many DH racers are clueless when it comes to providing feedback.
  • + 0
 @Flowcheckers: So you saying all these rides feedback is a waste because they are all clueless just because the can ride bike fast. HAHAHAHAHA.

But all these keyboard warriors are far more valid from looking at a few pictures. Without even seeing the product, let alone ridding it.

BOLD STATEMENT!!!!!
  • + 1
 @Peppers24: Then why did all the pro World Cup racers ride with short top tubes and small wheels for so long?
  • + 1
 @Flowcheckers: Same reason why they used to race with narrow bars, V-Brakes and elastomer suspension for so long, Technologies advance. Like is does in every other industry.

In this video from Intense www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuTyxMD5-P4 Jeff Steber talks about Geo and offset adjustments with 29' DH bike. Dean and Jack were running 29' DH forks for the most of last season trying to get the offsets, head angles and trail right. So i think this would have had a lot to do with the offset we are seeing on these BlackBox forks.... I don't think its just a matter of the fork manufacture putting a fork out and just saying deal with it.
  • + 1
 @Peppers24: technologies do advance. But usually because of creative engineers and rarely because of fast DH racers.
  • + 2
 Head angle, crown offset and lower axle offset are all married together so unless you see trail bikes starting to come with 64 deg range head angles and new single crown steerers move from 49/52 to much smaller offsets you won't see a dh lower cross over to an enduro bike very well, you would get some very strange handling.......
  • + 7
 Seems like everything to do with offset is an experimental guess right now and nobody really knows what works.
  • + 3
 @Flowcheckers: This is how the bike industry does R&D. Release some crack pot idea into the wild and see what happens. If it breaks then call it pre-production.
  • + 1
 Boardlife69: My money is on the long offset, especially for world cup DH tracks. I think Transition just may have gotten it all wrong with their speed balance geo.
  • + 1
 @Flowcheckers: Trans got it right, shorter offsets corner much better and are more stable. Longer offset is good if you want to steer with the handlebar (more than with the body) and have a livelier steering despite slack HA.
  • + 1
 35mm diameter, 56mm offset 29", 180,190 or 200mm for 29", 20x110 boost, Charger2 with 4 clicks high speed compression, 20 clicks low speed and rebound. 1kg980 29" without crowns.
around 120psi for 75kg rider and around 150psi for very fast race riders +/- 75kg.
Same tokens than Lyrik and Yari.
What else ? Smile
  • + 3
 I miss my 26" dh bike.26 was equal to 650b because mtb tires have a larger o.d anyway.
And it was just fun.whats fun about this devolution via wagon wheels.
  • + 5
 Those boxxers have a LSC/HSC charger damper too
  • + 19
 #makemotioncontrolgreatagain
  • + 3
 “Hey Guys, i know what we need, the return of the enormous Kona rocker link” ..... said the should be fired-est marketgeneer ever.
  • + 5
 interesting....
  • + 1
 BLACKBOX, pre-production Testing. So don't all go and get your knickers in a knot. Who knows when these forks will go into production.....
  • + 1
 In 10 years we're all riding 7 12" inline wheels on feather weight tank looking dh rigs
  • + 7
 Can you imagine the traction if each wheel was independently suspended?

Also, feather weight and tank probably don't belong in the same sentence.
  • + 0
 The image I have in my head of this is absolute bananas. Steering would be a major issue, as would the crazy high BB and CG.
  • + 0
 New offset triple on that Kona...hopefully the frame geo is updated to support this change and not like the other 29ers which comply with the old geo / fork offset thoughts.
  • - 48
flag thunder-nuggets (Mar 5, 2018 at 11:52) (Below Threshold)
 i bet that kona broke after that picture!
  • + 2
 Where does it say it's a new offset? It'd make sense if it had more than the 27.5" fork - that's how it is with trail bikes.
  • + 20
 Kona has a pretty decent track record making 29ers that shred...I'd imagine they put some work into this one
  • + 0
 @slumgullion: Hopefully not.
  • + 1
 29" will allow a new level of speed but it will take time push the bike to that new limit, I'd love to see gwin on one
  • + 2
 Oh boy, does it come with a new thru axle standard too?
  • + 1
 Sorry but that fork lower is ugly as fuck lol
  • + 1
 All this is getting my boXXers wet!
  • + 1
 hes fast on anything really doesn't matter
  • + 1
 "link looks bigger... more refined" COUGH COUGH... sorry
  • + 1
 So 20mm axle on the Lyrik? Sounds like a cluster...
  • + 25
 Boost 20! lol

identical spacing to the original 20*110 axle, but the brake caliper posts on the fork are in a different position so you can't use non Boost 20 hubs.
  • + 9
 Revolutionary
  • + 3
 19.99 IMO
  • + 2
 @ScandiumRider: Problem Solvers makes an adapter. Other companiees as well. I hate seeing good parts get relegated as standards change.
  • + 3
 Blame it on SRAM again, compromising everything for the sake of marketing bs.
  • + 1
 @ScandiumRider: To be fair all you need is a spacer under your rotor and some longer rotor bolts to make your old wheel work, not exactly the end of the world.
  • + 1
 @PhillipJ: Well it is and isn't funny. I had read that article before and knew about Boost 20.

@Yarlezy, @floor-tom: I'm aware of the problem solvers type solutions to the Boost "problem", but band-aid solutions like that drive me up the wall.
  • + 0
 Is it me or the stanchios look bigger, a 38mm maybe ?
  • + 68
 only on pinkbike can someone call out a 3mm difference from spy shots haha
  • + 16
 Knowing dram they'll go from 35mm to 35.66mm
  • + 1
 @adrennan: There are tons of pictures like this on other sites, instagram and blogs Wink even One with Fearons carbon Kona with the fork near to a TREK guy with normal boxxer, from that i`ve seen that this one looks bigger
  • + 1
 @makripper: Need that extra 0.66mm because previously the bushings and stiffness were just fine but now customers are 73% more likely to buy a new fork.
  • + 5
 @makripper: probably 39.99 to make it so you can’t use fox 40 seals
  • + 1
 What does offset do?
  • + 9
 Changes trail Wink
  • + 1
 What vudu said please
  • + 1
 @mikekazimer: Thank you!
  • + 4
 @Vudu74: Basically nobody is completely sure what is faster, but the companies are changing things hard and fast to stay relevant in the marketing game.
  • + 1
 @Flowcheckers: That's honestly what I read on that. Adjust the offset to reduce HA, increase HA to make offset work, etc. I think you might be right. The industry is grasping at straws to make something "new." Wheel sizes-check. Hub standards-check. Bottom Brackets-check. They have to running out of stuff they can "improve."
  • - 1
 Good to see the key players (SRAM) continuing to move in the wrong direction with fork offset.
  • + 2
 Glad somebody else feels this way...
  • + 2
 @surfhard987: I am right there with you. Luckily I can do something about it!
  • + 2
 You get sold a worse product, then you get downvotes for mentioning it. I've come to believe life is automated, and you shouldn't fight it. You're born, then you get on a conveyor belt, then you get dropped off with severe repercussions if you rustle the conveyor system along the way.
  • + 3
 There's currently testing different offsets via oval crowns to balance back that offset from the casting-ready leg
  • + 1
 @surfhard987: The 49 is a great letdown with the massive offset.
  • - 1
 Engineer around the wheels, problem-solve for everything else. Sounds great, SRAM.
  • + 1
 But is it SBG?
  • - 1
 That kona.... ...looks like a session
  • + 2
 Kona looks like a session?
  • + 5
 Hey Mate, you sure that kona looks like a session? or does the session look like a kona? or does the kona just look like a new gt??? they all look sick and they are all different
  • + 0
 die colorway die!
  • - 2
 Im fucking done with bike indistry standards.
  • + 42
 Not a problem. "indistry" doesn't exist anyways.
  • + 3
 How is a fork offset a industry standard?
  • + 2
 @CaptainSnappy: that's the new standard word for the bike indistry. Haven't you heard? Boy, it's like you're still running 26" and v-brakes!
  • - 1
 yeah me too. So sorry for those who spend their hard-earned dollars in a 27.5 DH soon they will be gone and all the hype, all the new features will jump on the 29 bandwagon So don't buy any bikes! wait till this craze fades out!
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