Sea Otter report: Kona Hei Hei Supreme and Operator Carbon

Kona’s been on a bit of a tear lately, with lots of new bikes that show a revitalized spirit at this long time player in the mountain bike scene.


Hei Hei Supreme 

The Hei Hei Supreme is a 2013 bike, but this is my first chance to get a look at it in person. This carbon framed racer gets all the geometry updates recently applied to the alloy frame Hei Hei, including slacker angles and shorter chainstays. Frame is claimed to be 4.5 pounds, 5.1 with FOX shock and 142mm rear axle. Stock build with an XO group and no stupid light parts gets to 24.7 pounds. Barry Wicks’ race bike (in an XL frame size) is a pretty shocking 21 pounds.

Operator Carbon

The Operator is the well-received update to the storied Stab DH bike, and for 2014 Kona heads down the carbon rabbit hole with its first carbon-framed gravity bike. Rough weights put this bike at around 37 pounds at the high-end build (FOX 40 with air spring, DHX coil rear shock) and under 40 pounds for the less expensive Boxxer/Vivid build.

This isn’t just a copy of the Operator frame, some small tweaks and upgrades improve on this already solid platform. The aluminum rear end is claimed to be over three times as stiff, not that anyone complained that the current bike was flexy. The suspension link is an aluminum/carban hybrid, which should be just as stiff as a full carbon link, while being smaller and less expensive to build.

The suspension rates are changed as well, being more progressive off the top, and less pogressive at the bottom. Since the beginning stroke now stays up a bit higher in its travel, the bottom bracket was lowered 5mm to keep insure stable cornering. This change also keeps the suspension rates within Rock Shox Vivid’s tuning “windows”. Keeping suspension leverage ratios within these windows means the rear shock will never be over-taxed trying to control a suspension moving at a rate it wasn’t designed to handle.

Derailleur cable routing is internal, the rear brake has mounts to be run either internal or external. The integrated fork bumper also serves to route the cables, pretty slick little touch.

This was a clean sheet redesign, and all suspension design options were on the table. But after much consideration, Kona’s standby walking beam linkage design won out as the best comprise for their design intentions. Same thing with the round profile carbon tubes. Besides still being the best shape for torsional stiffness, the round profile deflects rocks quite well. The exception to the round tube is the wide flat seat tube, which helps protect the rear shock from all the junk being thrown its way from the rear wheel.

The Operator will be available in late summer early fall, no prices are set yet.



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