One of the few 26″ wheel hold outs, Kona’s Operator has gotten a new look. It’s also gotten new wheels, which at this point seems like a forgone conclusion as even DH bikes move to 27.5″ wheels as the standard. Along with those new wheels comes a new frame, which was decided on after outfitting Kona test bikes with modified rear ends to accept the larger wheels. These bikes under riders like Connor Fearon and Graham Agassiz were adapted to run 27.5″ wheels in a frame that was previously designed for 26″ wheels. After testing began in 2014 on the World Cup circuit, eventually the decision was made to use their findings to develop a completely new frame that was based around the larger wheels. The key though was to keep the handling similar to the 26″ operator, while offering the advantages of 27.5.
The end result is the new Operator – equally at home at the park or the race circuit…
Looking at the new Operator, the DNA of their previous DH bikes is clearly there. However, there are quite a few other differences starting with the move back to aluminum. While the 2016 Operator and Supreme Operator featured DH carbon front triangles with aluminum stays, the 2017 Operator line is all 6061 butted aluminum. Travel remains at 200mm front and rear and the spacing is still 110×20 and 157x12mm front and rear.
The top end Supreme Operator features a 1×7 SRAM X01 DH drivetrain, while the lower end bikes see 1×10 and 1×9 drivetrains to keep retail price and replacements costs down.
To protect the frame, there are replaceable integrated fork bumpers, and down tube and chainstay protectors. A PF107 bottom bracket widens the bottom of the frame compared to the PF92 that was used for 2016.
Cable routing is a mix of internal through the downtube and external, with the housings popping out in front of the rear shock and then either to the rear brake or into the right chainstay for the derailleur.
Offered in three trim levels each with the same frame construction, the blue Operator starts at $3199, the Orange Operator DL sells for $3999, and the Supreme Operator bumps up to $7499. There will also be a Supreme Operator frame option with a RockShox Kage RC rear shock and thru axle for $1999.
Along with the new wheels and frame, the Operator also has new geometry. Instead of S/M/L as in 2016, the bike now runs M/L/XL, with longer reach number on all sizes up to the 485mm reach on the XL which quite a bit longer than 2016’s 451mm on the L. Kona also managed to keep the chainstay length impressively short at 423mm, only adding 3mm compared to the 26″ frame. The head tube angle also goes 1° slacker at 63°.