The all new Kona Operator features a carbon front end with alloy seat and chain stays.
Words by: Ryan Palmer
Photos by: Anthony Smith
Kona has long been known as the blue collar bike brand, which is no accident. The company was built on offering extremely reliable bikes at affordable prices. Sure, at times, Kona has left out some bells and whistles in order to do so, and they’ve often been a bit heavy, but being the lightest or the flashiest brand on the block has never been Kona’s mission. Kona has traditionally focused on making bikes that ride well and last forever, something we can all appreciate.
So, does this new carbon Operator signal a shifting of the tides at Kona HQ? Yes and no. Kona is investing heavily in engineering and industrial design, and it shows, but the foundation on which the company was built remains. Each design element on the new Operator focuses on providing better durability, ease of service and improved ride experience.
If you look closely, you can see that the pivot bolt employs a 12-point hex head, which offers a more robust tool interface, preventing stripping on the alloy fastener. Large diameter pivot bearings provide longer service life, while the internally routed cable is protected from the elements.
Previous Operators had a pinch bolt on the non-drive side alone, but testing showed that twisting forces were wearing on the axle. Adding a pinch bolt to the drive-side as well increases stiffness and strength. The flagship model is spec'd with Hope hubs, which are sure to last at least as long as the bike.
Most of the tubes on the new Operator are round, with the exception of the seat tube. Kona sculpted the seat tube to act as a mud guard for the shock, allowing it to remain protected enough to be situated upside down. Mud shedding was a huge factor in the industrial design of the bike. Notice the data sheet on the frame detailing everything from chainstay length to headset type.
Many rockers are welded together down the center, which requires more manufacturing steps. Carbon would have been much too big to provide enough strength, so Kona found a way to bond the two alloy plates to a carbon bridge.
The carbon Operator has internal cable routing. I can already see the hate comments piling up, but let me explain. Fishing cables through frames sucks, which is why Kona glued in carbon guide tubes for the rear derailleur and brake. Thanks guys. If you'd prefer to run your cables on the outside, you can do that as well. Every detail was considered. Check how the shift cable goes through the ISCG tab, keeping the derailleur housing away from the drivetrain. That apparently was very difficult to convince the factory to do.
Kona will offer two specs for the new Operator. The one pictured here, the Supreme Operator includes a full Shimano Saint group, Fox 40 Air fork and DHX RC4 shock, Hope hubs and Mavic 729 rims, and goes for under $7,000. While that’s not cheap, compare that to the Specialized S-Works Demo 8 at $10,000. The other Operator, with the same exact frame, will come in under $4,100 with Shimano Zee cranks, Sram Code brakes, and Rock Shox suspension. We can’t wait to throw our leg over one.