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Review: 2019 Kona Operator CR - An Adaptable & Sturdy DH Machine

Jul 31, 2019
by Mike Kazimer  

When Kona announced the latest version of their Operator downhill bike there was a refreshing lack of hype accompanying the news. At a time when it felt like other companies were tripping over themselves to get a 29” wheeled downhill bike onto the market, Kona quietly rolled out the new Operator, which was compatible with both 29 and 27.5” wheels.

In its 29” guise the bike has 195mm of rear travel that's paired with a 190mm RockShox BoXXer World Cup up front. The front triangle, oversized rocker link, and seatstays are all carbon, while the chainstays are aluminum. There are only two sizes – medium and large – but the reach can be adjusted by 10mm on each bike, which should help it fit a slightly wider range of rider heights.
Operator 29 CR Details

• Wheel size: 29" (27.5" compatible)
• Travel: 195mm rear / 190mm front
• Carbon frame, aluminum chainstays
• 62-degree head angle
• 425 or 440mm chainstay length
• Sizes: S, M
• Price: $5,999 USD, $3,299 USD
• Weight: 37 lb (size large, actual)

There's just one complete Operator CR model, which retails for $5,999 USD. That bike is configured as a 29er and comes with Mavic 630 rims laced to Formula hubs, a RockShox Super Deluxe Coil RC World Cup, SRAM Code R brakes, and a SRAM GX DH 7-speed drivetrain. It's worth noting that the bike pictured here has a different set of cranks than the stock configuration – those should be SRAM's aluminum Descendant DH crank.

There's also a frame-only option for $3,299 USD for riders who want to go the custom route, and Kona does still have the aluminum 27.5” Operator in their lineup.

bigquotesThe 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 version. Mike Kazimer

Kona Operator CR

Construction and Features

The Operator's carbon frame looks like it was built to take a serious beating, and even from a distance it's clear this isn't a spindly featherweight. Just look at that rocker link – its proportions are almost comical, and the headtube junction is heavily reinforced as well.

Fork bumpers are bolted onto each side of the headtube, where they also serve as cable guides for the externally routed rear brake line. The derailleur housing mainly lives inside the frame, other than a couple of spots where it emerges near the seatstays. One feature that seems like overkill is the addition of another bolt to make sure the pivots don't come loose. I understand the concept, but it makes it inconvenient if you want to do a bolt check, and it seems sort of like a low-budget version of the expanding collet design used by other companies.

Kona Operator CR
Kona Operator CR

The Operator's frame is extremely adaptable, with a wide range of possible configurations. A flip-chip on the seatstays is used to adjust the frame to accommodate either 29” or 27.5” wheels, and the chainstay length can be set at either 425 or 440mm by moving the rear axle and brake caliper position no matter what size wheel is being run.

In addition to the chainstay length adjustment, the frame's reach can be increased by 10mm by flipping the headset cups around. Those cups sit in the frame just like the bearings of an internal headset would, so flipping them around is a quick procedure; you don't even need to remove the fork all the way. That's one of the nice features of this frame - there aren't any special tools, brake adaptors, or derailleur hangers required to make geometry changes. Everything can easily be accomplished with a set of Allen wrenches, which makes experimenting a much less daunting task.

Kona Operator CR

Geometry & Sizing

The Operator's head tube angle sits at a slack 62-degrees and, as mentioned previously, the chainstay length can be set at a moderate 440 degrees, or a very short 425mm. That 425mm position does reduce the amount of clearance between the tire and the front of the swingarm, so it's probably not the ideal setting for muddy days.

The reach can be set at either 435 or 445mm for a size medium, and at 460 or 470mm for a size large. Those figures are similar to a number of other modern DH bikes, but taller or shorter riders could find themselves out of luck due to the fact that there are only two sizes available.

Kona Operator CR

Suspension Design

The Operator CR uses Kona's 'Beamer Independent Suspension,' their take on a link-driven single pivot. The leverage ratio changes slightly depending on the wheelsize and chainstay length, but overall it's a progressive curve, with a change of around 21%, a number that's well suited to a coil shock. The anti-squat number is around 90% at sag, which should help keep the bike from feeling too wallowy if you need to throw in some pedal strokes on a smoother section of trail. Anti-rise sits between 80 and 100% for the majority of the Operator's travel.

Kona Operator
Leverage ratio.
Kona Operator

Kona Operator
Kona Operator
Axle path.

Price $5999
Travel 195mm
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe Coil
Fork RockShox Boxxer World Cup
Headset FSA Orbit C No.8 ACB
Cassette SRAM PG720 11-25t 7spd
Crankarms SRAM Descendant DH
Chainguide MRP SXg
Chain SRAM PC1110
Rear Derailleur SRAM GX DH
Shifter Pods SRAM GX DH
Handlebar RaceFace Atlas 35mm
Stem RaceFace Atlas DM 35mm
Grips Kona Key Grip
Brakes SRAM Code R
Hubs Formula
Rim Mavic EX630
Tires Maxxis Minion DHF DH TR 3C 29x2.5
Seat WTB Volt Race
Seatpost Kona OB 31.6mm

Kona Operator CR

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.

Mike Kazimer
Location: Bellingham, WA, USA
Age: 37
Height: 5'11" / 180cm
Inseam: 33" / 84cm
Weight: 160 lbs / 72.6 kg
Industry affiliations / sponsors: None
Instagram: @mikekazimer

Kona Operator CR


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.

Kona Operator CR

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.

Kona Operator CR
Kona Operator

Santa Cruz V10 29
Santa Cruz V10 29 Clint Trahan photo

How does it compare? Kona Operator CR vs. Santa Cruz V10 29

The geometry variations between the Operator CR and the Santa Cruz V10 29 aren't drastic, but they do make a difference. The V10 has a slightly steeper head angle, longer chainstays, and is available in three sizes, while there are only two sizes for the Operator. Add in the fact that the V10 uses a VPP suspension layout and has 215mm of travel, vs. the Operator's linkage-driven single pivot and 195mm of travel and you have two bikes with very distinct personalities.

On the trail, the V10 feels more like a race bike – it felt like an invisible hand was pushing on my back, urging me to go faster and faster. The Operator doesn't have that same sense of urgency; it can certainly go fast, but if felt like it took more effort to really get it up to speed. Strava's not the most reliable witness, but my fastest times occurred when I was on the V10.

Both bikes can handle bigger hits without blowing through their travel, but the V10's extra millimeters of squish come in handy when a line choice doesn't go exactly as planned.

As far as pricing goes, the V10 frame-only price is $400 more than the Operator 29, which is with a Fox DHX2 shock versus the Operator's RockShox Super Deluxe Coil.

Kona Operator CR

Technical Report

Maxxis DHF Tires: What's better than one Minion DHF tire? How about two of them? The dual DHF combo isn't as common as running a DHR II in the rear, but it's an excellent pairing and works well in nearly every condition short of really deep mud.

Mavic 630 rims / Formula hubs: The Mavic 630 rims survived everything I subjected them to with only a couple minor dents, but the rear Formula hub did start making some concerning noises part way through the test period. It turns out that the pawls were in need of a good cleaning and some light grease to keep them from sticking, but there weren't any issues after that.

SRAM Code R brakes: There are brakes that offer more outright power than the Codes, but it's the blend of modulation and usable power that makes these a very fitting set of DH bikes stoppers. However, if this were my personal bike I'd figure out a way to get the Code RSC levers instead. The Code R levers use a bushing rather than a cartridge bearing at the pivot, and it didn't take long before they developed some vertical play.

Kona Operator CR

Is this the bike for you?

It's easy to automatically categorize 29” wheeled downhill bikes as being for racing only, but that's a misnomer – just because a bike has bigger wheels doesn't mean it's only rideable between the tape. If anything, the bigger wheels help smooth out brake bumps, which saves your hands and makes it possible to get in more laps before fatigue fully sets in. At the end of the day, it's all a matter of personal preference, but there's no reason not to consider a 29” downhill bike even if you never plan on racing.


+ Very solid, battle-ready feel
+ Can pull double duty as a race and park bike


- Limited size range
- On the heavier side for a carbon frame

Pinkbike's Take

bigquotesThe Operator 29 was designed with racing in mind, but it's no one-trick pony – it's just as adept at knocking out bike park laps or big days of shuttling. The limited size range does exclude riders on the taller and shorter ends of the spectrum, but other than that the Operator is a versatile and tough downhill rig that doesn't leave out the most important part of the equation – fun. Mike Kazimer


  • 115 1
 @mikekazimer Kona bikes always remind me of how awesome things were back when when your entire income was disposable and your near top-of-the-line bike was still a piece of shit but it mattered less because you had no mortgage and minus work and hangovers near infinite time to ride so could huck whatever you wanted with little consequence.

Please review a mid 2000's Stinky, Bighit, Faith or similar so we can see if bikes have really come that far or if we're just old.
  • 20 2
 God and Satan I miss the late 90's/early 00's, I was young, single (when it suited me), and had money to burn.
  • 22 2
 Bikes have come far AND we are old Wink
  • 20 0
 My '06 Coiler is doing me just fine! Most of my time at the bike park is spent getting outridden by kids younger than the bike, but I think that's more on me than on Old Faithful
  • 3 1

Yep I totally agree
  • 2 15
flag skerby (Jul 31, 2019 at 6:38) (Below Threshold)
 @Preachey: When people mention old bike in the comments but don't have any pictures of the bike on their profile, get it together preachy.
  • 4 1
 OK here are my old bikes, pics for the disbelievers, 2003 Stinky Deluxe, and my old 2000 Big Hit, which were my first disc brakes, and I still have both bikes under the house!
  • 8 1
 It's not an old Kona unless it has a Project 2 fork and Joe Murray written all over it!
  • 3 1
 I feel you on that one man
  • 6 1
 Kona stinky is still a good bike. No I will not be taking questions.
  • 1 8
flag jorgeposada (Jul 31, 2019 at 9:30) (Below Threshold)
 Seatstay pivots, Kona, = Pass
  • 2 1
 @streetkvnt-kvlt: "God and Satan I miss the late 90's/early 00's, I was young, single (when it suited me), and had money to burn." people were scared... the agency had some respect and I got laid every night.
  • 5 2
 @number44: every night??? You know self love doesnt count right ;-)
  • 2 1
 @rjwspeedjunkie: Well, uh, quoting for a friend. Name that movie... Smile
  • 2 1
 @number44: pornhub? That's a kind of movie right ;-)
  • 2 4
 @rjwspeedjunkie: it's not an old Kona unless the frame is cracked ????
  • 3 1
 ha! you should go watch the clip of @mikelevy riding a Brodie 8-ball on their hot lap this year...
  • 1 0
 @rjwspeedjunkie: yup, and a 110mm stem. The good old days!!!
  • 17 0
 ‘Strava is not the most reliable witness’
Im glad someone else has noted how wildly ball aches it can often be. Im no strava bandit but I do use it for running to push myself and it can give such variable distances and tracks. This of course is device related but the point is there when we are talking seconds. Then there is segments. I looked at a segment the other day on the road bike. Some one did it in a seemingly quick time. I drove up the long hill at the speed limit and it took longer. Its all nonsense!
I like the yellow.
  • 9 0
 There's a steep road climb near me, on which the Strava segment name has been changed to 'Joe Bloggs, either flag yourself or fix your GPS', guy's been KOM for months having done an 8% gradient at 35mph.

Riding in a group a few weeks ago I noticed a similar thing with the devices too - my phone was recording about 2% more in distance and elevation than another rider's GPS. That's quite a significant difference over 15 miles!
  • 17 1
 Strava times are often BS. It's still fun to pit your times against friends but you definitely can't take them seriously.
  • 3 1
 it gets a bit more accurate when you use some other device than a cell, garmin and lezyne watches for example
  • 3 1
 @bok-CZ: does it? If i wanted i could be KOM on a trail here where i live with a time twice as fast as the second best rider. That's especially amazing as i didn't even ride that trail that day, but the one next to it. Garmin watch btw..
  • 6 1
 @gkeele: You can flag times on Strava as "in a car", or "wrong activity", or other such things. The activity will be pulled after a review.
  • 1 0
 @ski-or-die: or just click the Crop function on a desktop/laptop computer and remove it from the ride.
  • 1 0
 @Muckal: uh, really? I've tracked some Lezyne watches year or two back and it was way better than a phone so it was my suggestion.
  • 1 0
 @bok-CZ: yeah, there is also the matter of the GPS battery drain on cells. Depending on how someone has their battery drain functions set on their phone, it can override the high frequency pinpoint feature some GPX softwares use.

Its never a good idea to use the Strava app to track a ride if you can use one of the GPS apps that just records waypoints, you turn off all the battery drain protections on the phone, turn off mobile data, bluetooth & wifi.

That way you can use an app that lets you capture the maximum # of waypoints and everything else about the phone isn't draining battery.

GPS watches like my Suunto don't allow you to pick the frequency specifically, they only let me pick "high accurary, medium or low". Luckily it had an update recently that allows you set a screen timeout when running an activity to reduce battery drain. It's pretty neat because when it's not running GPS, the screen is always on in a low light mode, but when on a bike ride I have it set to darken out and not display unless I touch the buttons. Added a lot of battery life back.
  • 1 0
 @bizutch: yep, and it doesn't work without 3 satellites connected
  • 1 0
 @Muckal: The guy who made the segment may have been using a cell for his ride, or an older garmin without the GPS/Glonass combo, so the segment itself might be off.
  • 1 0
 It's not nonsense, someone just forgot to turn off Strava after the ride. Just flag it. He should have some self respect and fix it himself, but you need a computer, and he might not know how. Or care... Easiest to just flag it.
  • 1 0
 There's a popular trail on the shore with some tight corners at the end. Long story short almost all the top times are BS.
  • 1 0
 @quacker13: Hah...There was a segment here on Strava that had me so frustrated because of a switchback right at the start. Took me forever to realize that while I was sitting above it catching my breath from the climb, Strava had already started my segment time. I just had to get over it. Big Grin
  • 17 4
 The rocker link on this bike sums up for me how I feel the conversation at Kona HQ went when they discussed this bike in general.... "Just f*cking get it done"... The Kona operator was one hell of a sexy bike when it came out in what? 2014? And now it looks like about half the shits given to designing and building the DH bike have been relocated to their commuter lineup or some shit.

Don't make bikes out of necessity, make bikes that you believe in Kona.
  • 9 0
 I quite like the frame, including the cartoonishness of it that Kazimier also spoke of. Doesn't mesh well with the harsh black/yellow colorway though, they should've just embraced the visual style and gone with like a Nomad 2015 miami vice style or something along those lines. Would look tons better.
  • 4 1
 @Rusettipasta: The aluminum operator has a wicked colour scheme. They should have gone with that. Or Connor Fearons red/black operator looks rad:
  • 1 1
 Yeah my 2017 looks much nicer.
  • 2 1
 I have to agree, it really seems like Kona has been "phoning it in" with their MTBs for the last 5 or so years. They've gotten swoopier, sure, but they haven't received any significant improvements IMO.
  • 7 0
 The rocker arm could def look better.
  • 1 0
 Couldn't agree more. Jumped on the kona train when the process 111 came out and proceeded to buy 9 konas in the span of three years. Once Mandell left, things seemed to go downhill as far as innovation goes. Now its just the same stuff over and over with no real vision other than trying to be "cool". On to greener pastures now.
  • 7 1
 When I began my mtb obsession 15 odd years ago I probably was saying "they'll never make a 29er dh bike", oh how I was wrong.
Still love my 26er Gambler, but keep up the nice work Kona.
  • 3 0
 Hey Mike,

Thanks for reviewing a DH rig. Keep'm coming. As someone who's current DH bike is getting long in the tooth a new DH rig is on the menu within the next 2 years. Would like to see some comparisons between the 275 vs 29. Wonder if a rear 29" hoop can take the repeated beating real DH dishes out. Too bad DH is on "downward trend". Trail riding is still my favorite but DH is a close second. It hones the skills and importantly gives me my "vert" fix, meaning I can just go out on an old fashioned xc/trail ride on a lighter bike and not worry about missing the bigger features a bigger bike would require. Its really quite liberating.
  • 4 1
 I'd love to see some adjustable chainstay length on the 153 29er - n' some flippy chippys (2 y/o son's voice). I also love that it doesn't need special adapters for the brake caliper either. Just put it in the other hole.
  • 5 0
 I love when I’m told that.
  • 4 1
 I'd like to see some special package bikes from companies that use 170ish travel frames with a 180 or 190 dual crown fork. Something that is kinda of a DH light bike or a longer front travel enduro bike.
  • 2 3
 That Cannondale e-bike has the option. It would be sick to have a "super-super-enduro" bike for park days and general trail riding. MRP made a dual crown with around 180mm travel for this purpose and the boxxer can be lowered to 180 too.
  • 5 1
 Ya, that would be interesting... it's basically what the MRP Bartlett was designed for -

Even with a 150 or 160 rear end bike... when you take a trip to a bike park, you could toss this on the front in 170 or 180. Also slacks it out... turning your enduro bike into a hero bike.

Then throw your single crown 160 or 170 back on when you get home for your local trails. Way cheaper than buying two bikes.
  • 4 1
 @islandforlife: Or leave it on because at 170mm it’s no different travel wise the. Any other single crown enduro fork, still stiffer and would look BA.

I like how you think
  • 4 0
 More modern version of the Entourage. Miss mine was a fun bike with a 180mm 66CR up front.
  • 2 0
 @cougar797: ya you could for sure... I was just thinking the added stiffness might be worth the added weight for your average trail riding and climbing and typically lower speeds... but ya... I think that's what it was also designed for as it's not nearly as heavy as a Boxxer or Fox 40/49.
  • 1 0
 Gotta bring back the Junior T!
  • 1 0
 Evil do their Park bikes which are more or less exactly this.
  • 3 0
 Are the long-travel enduro forks really lacking a noticeable amount of stiffness? Would a 180mm boxxer really be that much different than a 180mm lyrik?

There are bikes that are bigger than regular enduro, although a few of the more dedicated 'mini-dh' bikes seem to have been discontinued so maybe they didn't sell that great - there's plenty like the Commencal Clash (180 front/165 rear), Canyon Torque (175 front/rear), Knolly Delirium (170-180front, 170rear), Pivot Firebird (170front/rear), (Commencal Supreme SX (discontinued - 180 front/rear), Scott Voltage FR (discontinued, 180front/170-190rear), YT Capra (170front/rear), Mondraker Dune (170front/160rear)...

You can get plenty of 'plough' on the upper end of the enduro spectrum at the moment. Honestly if you need more squish than what the big-boi enduros can do these days you probably just need a full-on DH bike. I don't think there's really much of a space in the market there, which is probably why things like the Scott Voltage got discontinued.
  • 1 0
 @StrangeDuck: That's curious. Mine is still mounted to the frame...
  • 5 0
 So what does 27.5 wheels do to the geometry?
  • 1 0
 Not sure but I would think it would stay the same, with just a lower BB and shorter wheelbase.
  • 1 0
 It,s on their site. The regular aluminum Operator has the 27.5" specs. The CR has specs for 29"
  • 1 0
 Yup. Shorter wheelbase, but not a lower BB. Same height BB. Otherwise your BB would be either perfect in one mode and crap and the other.
  • 3 0
 @bizutch: There's no way that the bottom bracket stays the same height when you put a lower axle to crown and lower axles on the frame. It's got a 20mm drop, so I'm assuming that equals 13.3ish with the 27.5 fork and wheels. The HA would increase as well.
  • 1 0
 @chriskneeland: why would you put a different fork on? All you do is put the 27.5" wheel in & raise the fork in the crowns.
Also note the flip chip on the back of the rocker just behind the seatmast. You flip that chip which then raises the rear end back up a few millimeters to accomadate for the smaller wheel. Plus, the wheelbase wouldn't be that drastic of a change because you don't have to flip the chip at the rear axle if you want to leave the rear end long.

Wheel base doesn't change in that regard if you leave it in the longer setting and you leave the 29" fork on. Your wheels are bigger and therefore the bike is longer because the tires are "longer" front to back...but no wheelbase change.
  • 1 0
 @bizutch: 27.5 forks have a different offset.
  • 2 0
 @chriskneeland: I know. But if you want to try both wheel sizes on one bike, some people aren't going to throw out money for 2 forks.
  • 1 0
 29er BB 355MM Fork is 591MM offset is 56MM 27.5 BB 349MM Fork is 581MM and offset is 48MM that,s the major difference between the 2 , The aluminum does not look to have any adjustments
  • 1 0
 @cheetamike: Axle to crown is on a 200mm 29 fork is 602mm, 27.5 is 581mm. 21mm difference adds to the BB drop.
  • 1 0
 @chriskneeland: specs are from the Kona page , they spec a 190mm fork.
  • 4 1
 Have DH bike sales collapsed in the last few years? In my neck of the woods it seems like no one has one anymore, or is it just because I'm old now and no longer in college?
  • 7 1
 Just anecdotal evidence from my Uncle who live at Whistler (yes, I deeply hate him when I look at his Strava account), but he did fairly thorough survey for 2 day last week at the park, and said only 15% of the riders were on "enduro/AM" bikes. That stunned me tbh, as like you, I would've thought it would be the opposite. Again, just 2 random days, and I think PB did a survey on opening weekend and more people were on enduro/AM bikes than DH bikes, so who knows. I also wonder if the M-F crowd tend to be more DH bike park rats, whereas the weekend crowd tend to bring basically anything with 2 wheels? Regardless, it does seem like the DH bike market is flat and/or shrinking, due to long travel bikes like the Nomad, GG Megatrail, Megatower, etc...handling park duties these days for a lot of people...than and DH bikes are pretty dialed thesedays, and don't explode like they used to. Hell, my OG TR450 has a 63* HA and 13.6" BB, so other than the (laughably) short reach and nano-wheels, its not that different than the Operator...well, OK, my 450 is also heavy AF, but it pairs well with my Dad bod.
  • 3 0
 We ride the whistler bike park daily. Big bikes are still king up here. Not sure there any many other places where that’s the case though.
  • 2 0
 @jackalope: ya he should do it again on the weekend. M-F is lots of locals who take the weekends off. Weekends would have way more of the Sea to Sky crowd who own one bike and it's not a DH bike.

If you live in Whis, you're there because you're currently focused on three things, shredding the shit out of the bike park 5 days a week in the summer, shredding the shit out of the mountains 5 days a week in the winter and shredding the shit out of the liquor stores in the evening. When you live like that, you have the best tools for the job - DH bike and park pass (and possibly a non-park bike for valley riding), a top of the line set of winter gear and mountain pass... and a top of the line drinking liver.

He should also keep an eye out for rentals... lots of tourists don't fly with their bikes and rent a DH for their trip while not actually owning one. Which for most people is much cheaper than owning two bikes. Buy a good 140/160 trail bike for everyday riding and rent a DH for your couple of park trips a year.
  • 2 2
 @islandforlife: So many rental GTs in line this year...Vail crushing it I suppose.
  • 1 0
 I think one definite possibility is money. The legit, ski lift, bike parks for me range from an hour and a half drive up to 3+ hours, so mostly I just ride my regular trail systems, which are less than an hour away. There I'm on my AM/Enduro bike obvs. I'm not going to spend the money on a DH bike, when I really would probably only use it 5-7 times a year!
  • 2 1
This...I'm assuming it makes it pretty damn low. My understanding has always been that you can get away with switching between 27.5 Plus and 29, but I'd assume going from 29 to a straight 27.5 would drop things over 0.5", which is pretty significant IMO.
  • 2 1
 That axle path graph is really interesting. It seems to support my theory that 650b bikes will always have a more rearward axle path than comparable 29ers due to the difference in bottom bracket drop and chainring size. I wonder if that may be part of the reason why 29" wheels don't seem to make quite as much of a difference in the rear as they do up front.
  • 2 1
 None of the riding photos look like Whistler Bike Park to me, did you guys lose an SD card and have to do a photo shoot in Bellingham after? Smile . Nice review though @mikekazimer - I like the discussion of chainstay length impact and showing suspension kinematic graphs.
  • 2 2
 I have a Process SE and the axle path on "faux bar" bikes (why have we stopped using that description in suspension?) is fine for getting a bike with suspension, but it has so many drawbacks that you can pick up on the trail.
On a DH bike, when you get into rough stuff where the rider can't pump and keep the bike moving forward, the faux bar bikes hang up and can quite literally slow you down.

The first DW-link bike I rode & all the FSR bikes I've had remind me constantly of how much more they help with momentum in rough stuff.

I was reminded again last weekend when I got to demo a Mondraker Foxy. As I moved uphill over rooty stuff or rode and/or sprinted downhill, the axle path & linkage kept the bike from deflecting. It was on really rooty & rocky stuff and gave the sensation of "accelerating and gaining momentum".

I know the Commencal has that idler to get rid of some of the hang up from that sensation at the pedals, but all the linkage bikes have an advantage. Makes you realize just how truly badass Pierron and Fearon are for being able to get those basic platforms down the mountain the way they do.

Would love to see someone tap into Connor Fearon's true potential and finally put him on a bike with a suspension platform that won't hold him back.

No one find it ironic that Sam Hill races enduro and dominates on an FSR but would be forced to ride a single pivot for World Cup DH? I know I'd never want to try to adapt my riding if on flats between those 2. The difference for a flat pedal rider is huge.

Brook McDonald suffered on that stupid iDrive platform too.
  • 3 3
 hey mike, thanks for posting your suspension setup numbers! i think it gives people some important orientation on where to start.
i think it would be even better if in addition to your setup you could list the settings the manufacturere recommends for the specific bike model. if you'd do it in a consisten way over all bike tests, that would be the icing.
another suggestion - how about listing clicks for suspension setup with +NUMBER beeing from fully open and -NUMBER from fully closed? if we could all agree on that suspension settings would be so much easier to read.
  • 8 4
 You should always start from fully closed though, as this will be constant. Given production tolerances/variances, fully open is not always constant. If Mike gives his fork or shock settings from fully open and you have the same fork & shock, you could end up with different feels when adjusting from fully open.
  • 3 1
 I know you are looking for suspension setup assistance but honestly, the way the reviewer sets up his suspension will be of little use to you as anything but a vague starting point, no better than starting from the manufacturer's recommendations really. His weight, personal suspension feel preference and riding style may vary considerably from yours, so don't expect his settings to necessarily work for you.
  • 1 1
 @SonofBovril: Sure, none the less it's a hint at what might work. Better than nothing.
  • 1 1
 @SonofBovril: the point of him giving the numbers is not for you to set up your own, it's to let you know how his impressions might be different from your own. If he rode it with Gwin like hardness, you might take an observation that the bike is harsh with a grain of salt, and say to yourself "maybe a little less air pressure and compression damping might smooth that out."
  • 1 1
 FWIW, I always start with the recommended setting and the suspension in the middle (same number of clicks to fully open and closed) then I know I can add or subtract damping from there. I rarely need to add or subtract air (or preload) and I usually end up a few clicks from open when I'm done.
  • 2 0
 TR11 or Operator?? Thinking I'm in for one of those bike and pulling the trigger this week. I grew up on a Stab Supreme and have a special place for Kona.
  • 4 2
  • 2 0
 Can we make every frame have adjustable chainstays going forward? Seems like a pretty cost effective way to have balanced geometry for all frame sizes.
  • 4 1
 Why no testing a mullet setup?
Seems made for it.
  • 7 3
 What would be the advantage? Yes, there are some fast guys doing well with mullets on the World Cup circuit, but they're also fast guys who are on the shorter end of the spectrum.

I mentioned it in another comment, but I didn't have any issues with cornering or tire buzz, so didn't see any reason to go that route. It could be a good option for shorter riders, though.
  • 4 2
 @mikekazimer: Less unsprung, rotating mass; stiffer, more playful rear end; more rearward axle path; possibly better cornering grip (as noted in the RC's Foes Mixer review); and as you mentioned, more space to move around for shorter riders.
  • 2 1
 @mikekazimer: Yep and with an already quite slack 62 degree HA... might not be the best choice for this bike.
  • 1 4
 @islandforlife: Did you read the article? The frame is made for it. There's a flip-chip in the seatsays to raise the rear end for 650b. I wouldn't expect the head angle to change much if at all.
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: haha not all of us are as tall as you. I just keep thinking about when Danny Hart was experimenting with a 29 setup and ripped a hole in his pants from buzzing the rear tire so much....
  • 3 0
 @hamncheez: Is it just me, or does it seem like most mountain bike reviewers tend to be above average height?
  • 1 0
 @islandforlife: easily accommodated by adjustable HS or just lowering the forks
  • 1 2
 @mikekazimer: You are talking to a 26 riding 24 lover. Stronger, lighter, faster accelerating, lower, slacker but mostly just more f*cking punk rock and against convention.
f*ck Normie's and sheeple.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: reading this comment a year later, really wish you had posted the bike angles in mullet setup.
  • 2 0
 Santa Cruz v10 29 review please
  • 4 0
 Don't worry, there's one in the works.
  • 1 0

Looking at buying a V10 this week. Anything I should look out for?
  • 1 0
 The bolts on that fork bumper/cable router are already rusted. Humidity must be off the charts.
  • 2 0
 What pedals are you using Mike?
  • 3 0
 Those are Kona Wah Wah II pedals.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: Platform Measurements (mm): 120 long x 118 wide x 13 thick

Those are huge, larger than Stamp Large for instance.
  • 1 1
 What does operate even mean? I actually have no idea, are you operating right now!?!?
  • 1 1
 25% sag on DH bike? You have got to be kidding me.
  • 4 5
 2 sizes .........what a joke
  • 4 0
 DH bikes are dying out, especially in terms new sales. I think Kona knew they were going to lose money on this and wanted to minimize the damage. Rental fleets are the only think keeping DH bikes afloat and they usually aren't buying any more than these two sizes.
  • 2 0
 I agree you need at least 3 to run the gamut of rider heights these days. As much as dh rigs are dying out this will inevitably force people to look elsewhere. KONA please drink some more beer, smoke some more weed and go back to the drawing board for what people really want...a new STINKY!!!
  • 2 0
 @BEERandSPOKES: In some ways, this 2016 Process model was a replacement Stinky. Even the colour scheme is a bit of a throwback to the old Rasta Stinky.
  • 2 0
 @gdharries: 3 years ago yes. I believe it was also one of the last non-kid bikes to be 26. Key number 26... Stinky 27.5 FTW. It's time to get dirty on the trail again.
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