I’ve only met Connor Fearon once, he was out at a Kona press Camp is Serfaus/Fiss in Austria with his team manager and mechanic Mathieu Dupelle at the end of the summer. This quiet 19 year old Australian had decided to miss out racing the World Championships in South Africa that very weekend because he decided that the course didn’t suit him… so my immediate impression was of someone that knew his own mind, who wanted to play to his strengths and not waste time travelling the world only to finish–up mid pack. Three weeks later Fearon would bag his best World Cup result to date, a 10th in the finals in Leogang.
DIRT ISSUE 143 – JANUARY 2014
Words by Mike Rose. Photos by Ale Di Lullo
The new Operator (carbon front, ali rear) is one of Kona’s ‘new wave’ of bikes that have been designed and engineered by the new’ish team of Chris Mandell and Jack Russell. They have given Kona’s range of gravity bikes a new lease of life, and in Connor they have found the perfect racer to represent. We caught up with Mathieu to ask a few questions about the bike…Dirt: How long have you been involved with Connor and what is your role?
Mathieu: Kona had signed him as a junior in 2011 and he only did three World Cups that year because he needed to finish High School (he’s a smart guy) The first time I met him was when I picked him up at the airport for the Mt St Anne race. I believe that over that weekend he may have said maybe 10 words to me total! My role with Kona is to take care of the downhill team (mechanic, travel bookings, sponsor stuff, etc.) For 2011–2012 we had two riders, but this past season we only had Connor (in his words ‘we don’t need more’), but for ‘14 I’m glad to say we will have a new young rider.How would you describe Connor’s riding style?
Calculated style, smooth and looking to go faster.So the bike then. Lets talk about the frame. Did you and Connor have any input into the design or development?
For the development of the bike Chris Mandell (product manager) and Jack Russell (engineer) at Kona spoke to us about it and their ideas and took our comments. In July of 2012 Connor got to test the first version of it and give his input.You happy with carbon front end and how it rides? Do you notice a big difference over aluminium?
I am happy with it because it’s reliable, it’s light and it looks good, there are loads of race fans that have come up to the pits to take pictures and say “wow it’s looks good, I want it”, but most importantly Connor likes it. The old aluminium frame was not bad but this one has a better suspension design (even if it looks kind of the same) and Connor feels faster on it. In July ‘12 when we were testing an aluminium version Connor had a hard time letting it go after the test days. This new bike rides better/faster and is lighter than the old one and the old one was not bad.So we met out in Austria in September and we were pretty blown away by the bike and how light it was with the air shock for a DH bike. You guys said that the bike was almost too light built up like that.
Funny. That weekend we had set–up the bike with tubeless EXO Maxxis Minion tyres and a Vivid air shock and it was at 31.6lbs. Connor said it felt too light, because earlier that week he was in Whistler riding with a bike with a coil sprung BoXXer and Maxxis DH tubes which made the bike around 36lbs, and he wasn’t used to the fast rolling tubeless set–up. A couple of days after we met in Austria we did a day of testing in Schladming, Austria, a great, real WC track, and once we got the bike back to race ready condition with freeride tubes (better safe than sorry) the bike weighted in at 34.8lb and Connor said there was better traction on the ground for stopping and cornering on a steep technical track. I believe he will run this light set–up in some of the Aussie nationals this winter.>>