Test Bike Setup
I didn't have any trouble getting the Operator's suspension dialed in, and my final settings didn't deviate too far from RockShox's recommendations.
My setup for the BoXXer World Cup was +11 rebound, +6 LSC, +2 HSC (all from full open), with one token and the pressure set at 115psi. For the Super Deluxe coil shock, I used a 400lb spring, which gave me around 25% sag and ran it with three additional clicks of LSC from full open. I could have probably dropped down another spring rate if I wanted more compliance, but this setup worked well for the higher speed, hardpacked bike park trails where I spent much of the test period.
Testing took place in the Whistler Bike Park, where conditions ranged from wet and muddy to dry and dusty depending on the day.
Bellingham, WA, USAAge:
5'11" / 180cmInseam:
33" / 84cmWeight:
160 lbs / 72.6 kgIndustry affiliations / sponsors:
None Instagram: @mikekazimer
The Operator isn't the absolute lightest bike in this category, but that bit of extra heft does give it a very solid, ready-for-anything feel – there's no chance of confusing it for an overgrown enduro bike. The frame, and especially the rear end, is quite stiff, but Kona has managed to keep it from feeling overly harsh. It's a muted stiffness, like the difference between an aluminum baseball bat and a wooden one – smack a ball with an aluminum bat and you can feel the vibrations radiate through your bones, while with the wooden bat absorbs more of that sting.
My preferred geometry setting was with the headset cups in the forward position, which gives the bike 470mm of reach, and with the chainstays set at 440mm. Those numbers mirror some of my favorite enduro and trail bikes, which made it very easy to get used to the Operator's handling. I'd actually like to see that 440mm position be the short setting, and have the option to go to 450mm for even more high-speed stability. Short chainstays have their place, but on a bike like this, I don't think the shorter position will see much use.
The Operator CR is billed as a downhill race bike, and it's certainly up to that task, but even with those big wheels it hasn't lost the bike park friendly nature of the previous Operator, and it felt right at home on Whistler's classic jump lines like A-Line and Dirt Merchant. The rear suspension provides plenty of support for pumping over rollers and pushing into turns, with just the right amount of pop to really loft off the lift of a jump. If you do need to toss in a couple of pedal strokes, the amount of suspension movement isn't excessive - that 190mm of travel is very well controlled.
The Operator sits nicely into its travel on steeper terrain, and it's easy to tell what the rear wheel is doing. It doesn't erase rougher sections of track the same way a bike like the Commencal Supreme DH 29 does, likely due to the Operator's higher anti-rise number and less rearward axle path, but the bike felt planted and balanced in the steeps, with plenty of traction at all speeds.