Bike Check: Connor Fearon's Kona Operator CR - 29 vs 27.5?

The Kona Factory Racing team have been riding the prototype Operator for some time. So it was no surprise when Australian rider Connor Fearon and the rest of the team appear with a brand new Operator for the 2018 downhill season. Our man on the ground caught up with Connor ahead of the Leogang World Cup over the weekend, where he had a good run to finish in 7th place.

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The new Operator CR is all about choice. On top of the usual race weekend tuning (suspension, tyre choice and pressure, and everything else), with the new Operator CR, Connor now has wheel size and geometry tweaks to adjust to achieve that perfect race-winning run.

 

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Connor Fearon has some serious pro-life problems. The Operator can transform between 650b and 29-inch wheel sizes and the team have built him one of each to choose from. The key is a flip chip in the seat stay/ rocker interface that adjusts the bikes to suit either wheel size.

 

I'm lucky to have the choice between the two wheel sizes this season.

 

Last week in Fort William, I rode the big wheels. It is flat out without many turns and I was pretty happy. In Leogang, it is steeper and more technical but it looks smoother to ride, so I'm keen on the 27s. We can do lots of practice runs at Leogang, so maybe I'll bring out both.

 

The wheel size choice is definitely rider specific. Unlike the tall guys who can pretty much ride the 29er all the time, I prefer the smaller wheels on the steeper courses where I can hang over the back easier and turn through bike park type turns better.

 

The Leogang track has really improved this year. Recently it started becoming more bike park influenced losing the technical nature I first liked about the venue but this year it is back to a lot of natural terrain. I'm really stoked to ride here. Connor Fearon, Kona Factory Racing

 

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The Operator's wheel size transformation is made possible by the flip chip connecting the seat stay and rocker.

 

It's not just the wheel size that can change, the Operator's geometry is also designed to be adjustable. The rear axles have two settings for a longer or shorter wheelbase (and chainstays). A longer wheelbase gives the bike more stability at speed while the shorter setting should see the Operator tear through the turns and rough stuff with more agility. Connor's Operator also features a nifty Chris King adjustable headset for reach and head angle tweaks.

 


WC-Leogang-025-ConnorFearon-BikeCheck.jpgA Chris King headset allows Connor to adjust the reach and head angle.

WC-Leogang-061-ConnorFearon-BikeCheck.jpgThere are two options for the rear axle making the bike a bit longer or shorter.


Connor is sporting RockShox's all-new Boxxer with the DebonAir spring and Charger 2 RC2 damper and a coil shock (with some secretive BlackBox goodness?). Everything is clearly labelled with Connor's name to avoid possible confusion in the pits and the RockShox tuning centre.

 

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When gravity is lacking, Connor produces forward motion through a full SRAM X01 7-speed DH drivetrain. At Leogang, he opted for a 36 tooth chainring with a chain guide/ bashguard combo from MRP. Connor is one of the few top racers riding on flat pedals. Connor's pick is some impressively wide HT pedals. Connor has a special pair of bright red Code brake calipers (to match the fork) and more self-branding on the levers.

 


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Kore components are at the centre of Connor's cockpit providing his stem, handlebar, seat post and saddle. Connor's grips are courtesy of ODI. A Marsh Guard on the fork blocks the dirt from becoming a distraction.

 


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WC-Leogang-058-ConnorFearon-BikeCheck.jpgA plastic block protects the frame from the fork while also providing a neat routing option.

Standards can be confusing. Kona helps everyone out with the new Operator by listing all the key measurements in plain sight on the seat tube.

 

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Specifications:


  • FrameKona Operator CR (Large)
  • ForkRockShox Boxxer
  • ShockRockShox Coil
  • WheelsetNovatec Demon (and XL)
  • Front TyreMaxxis Minion DHF
  • Rear TyreMaxxis Minion DHR II
  • CranksSRAM X01 DH
  • ChainringSRAM X-Sync 36T
  • ChainSRAM 11-Speed
  • CassetteSRAM X01 7-Speed
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM X01 DH 7-Speed
  • ShiftersSRAM X01 DH 7-Speed
  • GripsODI
  • HandlebarKore
  • StemKore
  • HeadsetChris King
  • BrakesSRAM Code
  • SaddleKore
  • SeatpostKore 31.6
  • Mud guardMarsh Guard
  • ChainguideMRP
  • PedalsHT Flats

 

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Connor Fearon charging over the Leogang roots on the 29er bike.






4 Comments

Odinson, Jun 12 2018 01:40

29er, please. 

CASSIE1975, Jun 12 2018 02:06

The Operator can transform between 650b and 29-inch wheel sizes and the team have built him one of each to choose from. The key is a flip chip in the seat stay/ rocker interface that adjusts the bikes to suit either wheel size.

 

That is very interesting...same bike with 2 possible wheel sizes...clever people!

Evans_Cuddles, Jun 12 2018 02:50

so they gave him one of each..

 

ie two identical bike frames, with two separate wheelsets.

 

that is kiff

Grease_Monkey, Jun 12 2018 10:26

Nice, keep it coming! Would love to see more bike checks like this on the Hub, especially in some DH and Enduro flavour.

Kief bike, smart move from Kona to make the wheel size adjustable. My question about it is how does it handle with 27.5" wheels and a 29er fork? Because realistically average Joe may have two wheelsets, but probably not two forks - so logical choice would be a 29er fork to accommodate both sizes of wheels....

Or is the idea that you make up your mind about wheelsize when you buy it and then stoxk to that?