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  1. #1
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    Jan 2005

    2011 Kona Operator FR Review

    2011 Operator FR Review

    About Me: I recently came off of an 08 Kona Coilair which I came to conclude was a very bad year for that bike series. Before that I rode a 2005 Kona Coiler. I have spent time riding a Kona Stinky, Stab Supreme, and also a Yeti 303 at Winter Park last summer. So those following bikes serve as my comparison. All of the riding I have done on the Operator has thus far been based out of the Black Hills of SD.

    General Impressions: One thing I am happy to see Kona do is put a true bearing pivot on the drop outs. This has long been a bushing that would always start creaking after a year or so. Also, the bearings are very large which gives the bike a very burly look. This medium operator weighs in at only 39 Ibs. Im not going to bother putting a list of component specs on this review...check out Kona's website for that.

    The Ride: So far I am very impressed. I have done riding on everything from fairly steep rocky DH trails, tight single track, and freeride. The rear end feels very plush despite the lack of adjustability in the Fox Van. The stock Domain feels quite good on medium, and large hits. The only thing is it is lacking in small bump compliance. This isn’t surprising since it has only rebound adjust. The domain doesn’t really match the feel of the rear end. My friend has the DH version of the Operator and the Boxxer definitely feels much more matched to the rear end. Another thing I’ll note is the seals started leaking after a month and a half of pretty hard riding. I have a set of endure seals ordered to take care of that problem. I expect that once I have the money I will be replacing it with either a Totem or Boxxer as I am itching for more adjustability. In terms of brake jack, the bike has a pretty minimal amount on what I have been riding…seems like less than a non-dope stinky I rode at winter park.

    Jumping: As I rode a rental Stinky at Winter Park, the thing that I loved about it is the “pop” that it has off of jumps. This supposedly is an inherent trait of the 4-bar linkage. This is where the Operator follows after the Stinky line. I have had the operator off 26 ft gaps at our local freeride trail and I must say the bike feels like it just floats off of the lips.

    Handling: The Stab has long been known as the monster truck of mountain bikes. Large travel, heavy, and point and shoot but at the expense of handling characteristics. I took one run on a Stab at Winter Park and HATED it...and in quick succession opted for a Stinky for the rest of the day. I heard a great analogy…the Stab handles like a shopping cart full of wood. So back to the Operator: Kona took the travel of the Stab, lightened it up, yet maintained very stable/maneuverable handling. I have been riding some very fast tight berms and this bike just RAILS! In the corners it feels very responsive and laterally stiff.

    Noise: QUIET!!! Historically Konas have been known for their excessive trail chatter. I can also attest to this in the previous Konas I have owned and ridden. The Operator is an exception. When bombing through rock gardens all I hear is suspension moving and tires hitting the ground. AWESOME!

    Tires: The single ply maxis minions grip very well, but durability wise they are just not cut out for the rocky black hills. I have already had a number of pinch flats, the rear has a large gash in the sidewall, and the front has a split that I had to patch.

    Brakes: The Avid Code Rs are fantastic! They stop on a dime and have great modulation nuff said. I haven’t had a chance to test their ability to withstand fade since our DH runs are not long enough.

    In Conclusion: Kona really has taken the best aspects of the Stab and the Stinky, combined them, and reduced the weight. For a general freeride/ripper bike and you don’t want to worry about tinkering with your suspension the Operator FR is a good fit. If you are looking at getting into more serious DH riding and/or want to tinker with your suspension, I would suggest spending the extra money for the Operator DH.

    And a few more action shots for your viewing pleasure...

    If I want your opinion, I will give give it to you...

    You got like 3 feet of air that time... -Napoleon Dynamite

  2. #2
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    Dec 2005
    Nice review. I personally think the Operator DH is going to be a huge hit! Super cheap to get into a race ready rig and looks great as well! I've ridden my share of Kona's and I'd agree with you about their pros and cons. I'd be super interested to test out an Operator DH this summer.

  3. #3
    biking is fun
    Reputation: climbingbubba's Avatar
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    Jan 2007
    Great review. A couple of my friends own a shop that sells kona and they have sold a few operator DH's in the past month or so. They have a FR that I have pedaled around a bit and it feels nice. Great bike for the money.

    Weight seems a bit high though. I thought it was 39 with dual ply tires which is respectable but with single ply's its a bit on the heavy side.

  4. #4
    Mountain Dew enthusiest
    Reputation: alex55's Avatar
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    Jul 2007
    Hey Joe, I haven't seen you guys out on the trails lately. Mostly because my driver's license is suspended currently. I prob won't be able to make it out to Pheonix or Double Barrel until next fall when I have my license back. Scotty said the conditions out there are pretty great right now. I've mostly been riding M-Hill and re-riding some of the trails you showed me and I'm already better than I was last fall when I met you guys. I went OTB today though somehow in that narrow rock passageway. Glad to hear you're liking the operator better than the Coilair.
    wishes Iowa had mountains

    '11 Transition Bottlerocket frankenbuild
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    '80 Rumme

  5. #5
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    Dec 2008
    I have been waiting for a good review of this bike, and it looks like you answered al of my questions about it. I Love my stab, it does take some muscle to move it around, but I enjoy it. I am looking at picking an operator up after the summer, but now after reading this I am not sure I can wait that long.

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Reputation: GRR gravity riders's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
    This is how you take care of the small bump compliance issue. this is my Operator with a fox 36 van on the front, I LOVE THIS BIKE
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 2011 Kona Operator FR Review-dscf3840.jpg  

  7. #7
    mtbr member
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    Sep 2008
    Great review! This bike looked very promising before it was released and I have a few friends looking seriously at it.
    2012 Intense M9
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    2007 Custom Litespeed Sewanee

  8. #8
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    Jun 2008
    Cool update. What wheels/tires are you running now ?
    You stated that the MED weighed 39.00 any reductions ?

  9. #9
    Glad to Be Alive
    Reputation: SHIVER ME TIMBERS's Avatar
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    Jan 2004
    great review
    the trick is ENJOYING YOUR LIFE EACH DAY, don't waste them away wishing for better days

  10. #10
    mtbr member
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    Jan 2007
    The link below is for the Kona Entourage tested.
    It appears to be very similar in design to the
    Operator and It looks like a very good bike.

    Kona Entourage tested Video -
    Keeping it Real Since 1971!!

  11. #11
    mtbr member
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    Jan 2012
    You can buy an IS Compression Damper and install it into the domain to make it perform better on small bumps. You'll also need to buy the compression knob.

  12. #12
    mtbr member
    Reputation: eurospek's Avatar
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    Sep 2007
    Great review!!! Kona makes great bikes.

  13. #13
    inner peace to make peace
    Reputation: TrailNut's Avatar
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    Apr 2004

    New question here.

    good review. does Kona sell frame only, a 19", or frame and shock only? if so, for how much?

    Just looking to get in the DH/FR game with full 8" travel frame that's reliable/long lasting. Doesn't have to be bing-bliing or the bestest whatever: just have it hold up and I'll do the rest.
    “Everyday is a good day,” from the Blue Cliff Records, Yun-men (864-949 AD).

  14. #14
    Reputation: aedubber's Avatar
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    Apr 2011
    I have a 2012 operator and man it's a tank and rips thru anything ... It's very active and easily takes jumps and drops like butter love it !

  15. #15
    Roll on Spring Time!
    Reputation: juan pablo's Avatar
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    Jan 2007
    Awesome review. Considering its a stock build and the Domain is a little portly its not bad at all. I am sure with better suspension you will love it even more. No probs with the Vanilla cause you can get it Pushed or Avy'ed easy.
    I had a Domain on my Steel Hardtail and have to say I was very impressed with it. I had very little stiction and the compression adjust worked perfectly. Only downside I had with it was weight. This was back in the day when they were cheap but i have noticed the price has crept up a bit possibly making it harder for people to justify going with the Domain or jumping up to higher end fork. Hammered that fork for 2 years with no issues as all.
    Enjoy the bike.
    I just want to ride.

  16. #16
    mtbr member
    Reputation: tpc1's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
    My buddy bought one last year. We have swapped a few times on rides. I really like the bike, handles really nice and a great ride my only complaint was the Domain. But we just put a Boxxer on it so i will be curious to see how it rides with it.
    Will Miss You Tessa
    RIP Wild Bill

  17. #17
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    Feb 2014
    Great right up for sure! I actually have a 2011 Operator with a Boxxer WC and think it works great!
    Does anyone know what the frame weight is for the Aluminum Operator?

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