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Kona 2011 Sneak Peeks – Operator DH

Kona have been working on a new 2011 range, here’s a peek at their downhill bike, the Operator.

Ever since the demise of the full Kona Factory Team with Barel and Moseley, Kona have been off the radar a touch, I know Joe Smith has had some great World Cup results recently, but it’s good to hear of some new developments.

Rather than something totally new the Operator looks more like a tweaked Stab, keeping the tried and tested 4 bar and adding a 1.5 Zero Stack tapered headtube and a bit of swoop to the front triangle.

Have a read of what Kona Freeride/DH product manager Chris Mandell says below:

2011 Operator DH

Current 2010 Stab Supreme

The bike looks like a four bar, what makes this different from a Stab or a Stinky?
This bike represents a whole new platform for us, and there are a lot of neat little details to discuss. The bike is a 4-bar. Tried and true, refined, rather than a “regurgitation with facelift” like many of the “new” designs currently hitting the market.

What new suspension characteristics are we hoping to achieve with this bike?
We set out to create a bike that was sensitive off the top and ramped up consistently throughout the travel. We also wanted a bike that maintained good suspension characteristics under heavy side load. Our test bikes have performed flawlessly in this department.

The pivots are massive, what’s the deal?
You noticed. We are using very large bearings and aluminum axles at every pivot. The main pivot and rocker pivot use the same bearing, an 6903-2RS1 with 17mm inner diameter, 40mm outer diameter and a width of 12mm. The chain stay to seat stay and seat stay to rocker pivots use 66200-2RS1 which has a 10mm inner diameter, 30mm outer and 9mm width. You’ll notice that the pivot bolts for chain stay and rocker pivots are in double shear. This feature adds a bit of complexity and cost to the frame but it greatly increases frame stiffness and bearing life.

We went large for a number of reasons. Bigger bearings are more durable than smaller bearings. They resist contamination failure better and will not bind under high loads. Another reason we went big with the bearings was that it allowed us to design our pivot bolts and pivot axles out of lightweight aluminum. As you know a tube can be made lighter and stronger by increasing the diameter.

What’s the deal with the headset?
Head tubes have changed a lot in the last few years. 1-1/8 to 1.5 to tapered 1.5 to… 1.5 Zero Stack tapered. Sometimes I think that bicycle manufactures need to offer apologies to our customers for the confusion. But every step of the way I assure you we tried to make bikes better. This latest change is not an attempt to stay vogue. 1.5 Zero Stack tapered is truly the best system to date.

The minimalistic lower cup houses a 1.5 bearing inside the head tube away from mud and muck spray, as well as your pressure washer. Regardless of if you are running a fork with a tapered steerer tube or 1-1/8 you will always have a robust 1.5 bearing. The 1-1/8 upper and 1.5 lower bearings are both angular contact bearings. Should it ever come time to replace them it is as simple as removing the fork and catching the bearing as falls from the frame. And they are inexpensive.

How much does it weigh?
Wow, you waited until the 5th question to ask this! I usually get this is the second or third. And I always preface my answer to this question by stating that weight reduction, while a distinct concern of ours, took a back seat to the suspension performance, frame durability and overall weight distribution (which we wanted low and centered on the bike). That said, our medium sample frames came in at 8.46 lbs (no shock). This is a full pound and a half lighter than our previous offering and will run solid season after season.


What are the early test results saying?

That this bike is epically sweet. Stable when charging the chunder. Pops out of turns. Pedals in the rough. Super balanced when jumping. In a word, awesome.

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