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...
Results 1 to 16 of 16
Thread: 2011 Kona Operator FR Review
Check out the hottest mountain bike products from these brands!
See All Interbike Coverage - Click Here »