operator

Connor Fearon Experiences Four Seasons in One Weekend at Val di Sole

Val di Sole this past weekend marked the middle point of the UCI DH World Cup season and the return to one the more classic DH courses of the last decade. Val di Sole is not for the faint-hearted, massive roots, huge holes and its sheer steepness have always meant that the racing and results can be somewhat unpredictable.

Due to Connors hand injury, he missed last years final world cup round at Val di Sole where some major course changes were made. Arriving at the course for round four last weekend he had this to say. “The track looks good this year. Val di Sole is definitely the hardest track on the circuit. It’s just gnarly section after gnarly section the whole way down. I missed this race last year when they made lots of changes so about half the track is new to me. It looks like there’s some rain coming but the track dries up really quickly so I’d say it’s going to be dry come race day”

Connor was not wrong about race day being dry, however, the forecasted storms did arrive and timed training, practice and qualification bore the brunt of that. Rain on the track really shock up the qualifications with times posted before the downpour being considerably faster, a large number of riders from the back of the field made it to the main event while some heavy hitters, not able to cope with the changing conditions had to enjoy the non-quali-party. “The track is really hard to ride in the wet. There’s just roots and rocks the whole way down it’s hard to even steer straight” Connor, although protected and racing his qualification run in the wet, posted a solid 13th result, earning more points towards his overall standings.

Kona UK rider Josh Lowe took advantage of the somewhat drier qualification conditions earlier in the day and posted a 52nd, on race day he backed that up with a very respectible 49th!

“My qualification run was fine. Everyone knew it was going to be really hard to get down and the time gaps supported that. I had a steady run with no crashes and I’m super happy to get some points. Will be interesting if it’s wet like that for finals, but I think it will be dry!”

Connors positive predictions of a dry race day would come to fruition, if you hadn’t been there for the previous days you’d think it was a normal day in the Valley of the Sun. The only downside? No one had really had a chance to ride the track in the dry, and the Black Snake was for all intensive purposes a new course. A full days racing and practice in the dry had really shaken things up and when Connor crossed the line onboard his 29″ wheeled Operator on Saturday it would be for 19th place.

“I was pretty disappointed in how I rode for finals in Italy. The track was a lot different on race day because it had fully dried out and was much faster. We didn’t have much practice to get up to speed on essentially a new track. I just missed the speed a bit and didn’t send it hard enough. I still keep my 11th overall plate which is good. It has me fired up for Andorra where I know I can do well this weekend”

We think a top 20 in Val di Sole is pretty damn good!

Lucky #13

We’re bucking tradition with this week’s race result. Kona ripper Connor Fearon finished his Fort William weekend with a great performance landing in 13th place, moving him into protected status for next week’s race in Leogang. Connor was just 1.5 seconds off of the podium in a super tight race.

“I was pretty happy with the way I rode for FortWilliamm. 13th doesn’t sound like an outstanding result but I just got unlucky being just behind a whole bunch of guys on the same second. Just 1.5 seconds faster and I would have been on the podium. It’s crazy to think it comes down to that after over four and a half minutes of high-speed rock smashing. I was really happy with the way the new 29er rode. After the weekend I’m 15th overall which should mean I’m back being protected which is a relief.” -Connor Fearon

Tegan Malloy finished the weekend in 16th place and put on a jump clinic for the spectators. All in all it was a solid weekend for the Kona crew! Stay tuned for updates from Leogang as the week progreses!

Fearon Qualifies 7th, Malloy Makes the Big Show in Fort William!

It was a good day for the Kona riders in Fort William. Connor Fearon took the track by storm and finished with a scorching 7th fastest qualifying time aboard his fresh new Operator. On the women’s side Tegan Malloy laid down a 5:44 to qualify in 15th.

“I’ve been having heaps of fun at fort William as usual. I like the high speeds and turns the whole way down the track. I feel really comfortable on the 29er here… it’s the first world cup I’ve used it and I’m liking it! 7th is my best qualifying result at fort William so it’s got me confident for tomorrow. I think unless it rains a lot the times are going to be really tight for the top 20… so I’ll be trying really hard to be at the front of that bubble tomorrow!

-Connor Fearon

“The track here in Fort William is super hard packed and is running faster than ever. The new “woods section” has been replaced with a man-made rock garden that is running really quick from top to bottom. I’m going to run the exact same set up for racing as I did for qualifying, I felt comfortable on my bike with a few little things to tweak/ tidy up before finals tomorrow.” -Tegan Malloy

Congrats to both riders and good luck! Tune into Redbull TV at 4:30am Pacific Time to watch all the action live!

Connor 8th in Fort Bill Timed Training

Kona’s premier downhill racer, Connor Fearon stopped the clock with the 8th fastest time today at the Fort William World Cup. Connor will be racing his brand new carbon Operator with 29″ wheels because he feels they handle the rough track the best. There’s been some good coverage of Connor and his bike as well as Kona racer Anthony Poulson aboard his new Operator as well.

Check the links for the info:

Singletrack World: Kona has a new carbon Operator downhill bike, and it’s 29er ready

VitalMTB: Connor Fearon’s Kona Supreme Operator for Fort William

VitalMTB Raw sneak peeks of racers, including Connor, on track

Connor’s Operator at Fort William

Something very eye-catching is roaming around the pits at the Fort William World Cup. Connor Fearon’s super fresh new carbon Operator is out and about and so far the verdict is that it is one gorgeous bike. No word yet on whether he’ll be racing a 27.5″ or 29″ wheel. Want a sneak peak??

Check the link for the full coverage!

What are your thoughts?

Whistler Opening Weekend

This past weekend was the big kickoff of bike park season with the opening of the Whistler Bike Park! Those of us at Kona USA and our Canadian offices are fortunate enough to live within just a short drive of the park, so it was a no-brainer for the dedicated downhillers to make their way through the throngs of traffic and people to sample a bit of some of the best trails on earth. However this year, the crowds and traffic were absent. Whistler’s new policy is to run the chairs until 8pm every single day. This helped keep the crowds at a manageable pace since people were able to space out their riding.

I arrived at 2pm on Friday and was still able to easily crack off double-digit laps on my favorite trails: Joyride, Schleyer, Clown Shoes, Detroit Rock City, and Lower Whistler Downhill (I have a thing for rock slabs.) The dirt throughout the weekend ran the gauntlet of conditions: dusty and dry on Friday, a river after the monsoon of Saturday, and perfectly tacky hero megarad (insert buzzword) dirt on Sunday.

If there’s one thing I took away from the weekend it’s that downhill is not dead! Dual crown forks were everywhere and Operators were happily flying over the A Line Tombstone jump and ripping around freshly sculpted Canadian Open berms. The park has undergone a few changes from last season including a revamped Longhorn trail, which is chock full of super flowy berms. More changes can be expected, including an additional jump line sure to get the Dirt Merchant/A Line crowd hyped up.

Did you make it to the park this weekend?

Connor Fearon Rides in Gamble, Now on iTunes

Connor Fearon is part of a steller downhill cast in Steel City Media’s newest film, Gamble. Fearon along with other legendary downhill racers, take on some of the world’s most creative tracks. Narrated by Snatch’s Alan Ford, Gamble is sure to entertain the mountain bike crowd. Here’s the trailer. You can buy the film now on iTunes.

All photos by Boris Beyer.

Video: Ice Fishing with Aggy POV

Back in early January, Aggy headed out to The Farm in Kamloops. It was the first snow ride of the season and a solid crew showed up to shuttle laps in The Farm‘s winter ‘Burb (an old 4×4 Chevy Suburban with full chains and an internal wood stove!). Aggy was riding his custom painted Trout bike, a 2015 26″ carbon Operator, built up with Maxxis beavers (in the Exo sidewall) with custom studs, up on Novatec demon wheels and hubs. The bike is kitted with SRAM and RockShox head to toe as well and has a Kore cockpit, Sensus grips and HT pedals.

Aggy sets up the studded Maxxis Beavers himself. After drilling holes from the outside in, various length sheet metal screws are then inserted from the inside out of the tire. A standard tube pumped to 60 PSI then provides solid traction, flats are rare and Aggy says that these studded tires still weigh less than his summertime DH setup.

The Trout bike in all its Rainbow glory, painted by Vancouver legend Painthouse Customs

That paint though… If Aggy keeps repurposing his old 26″ bikes like this, then #26aintdead.

Ups and Downs with the Kona Gravity Team and the 2017 World Cup DH Season

The 2017 World Cup season was one of ups and downs for the Kona Gravity team. There was much to look forward to with Connor Fearon coming off a great 2016 season, Josh Button and Tegan Molloy anticipating the World Championships on home turf, and young gun Anthony Poulson seeking to improve upon his last year’s results.

Throughout the season, the team was supported by team manager and all-star mechanic Mathieu Dupelle, keeping track of the team’s logistics and ensuring their new Operators were as perfect as could be for timed runs. A team is only as strong as their support crew, and Dupelle does a hell of a job for our team not only on race weekends but throughout the year.

With three of our four Pro DH riders hailing from Australia, the World Championships in Cairns was not only a focus for the season, but a highlight for all. Below we’ve compiled a short recap of the 2017 World Cup DH season from each of the four riders’ perspectives with photos from Boris Beyer. Enjoy.


Dupelle and the team after Mathieu’s victory at the Boxxer World Championships in Cairns.


Connor Fearon

Coming off my best World Cup season ever, I had big expectations of myself coming into 2017. My off-season was really productive, I felt fit and made a few changes with my bike setup – the biggest of which was moving up to a large size frame which felt perfect after a couple months of riding. I was riding the updated version of the Operator as well which had a few small but good improvements. Our off-season is very long so by the time Lourdes came around I was excited to go racing.

Lourdes was definitely the highlight of my season this year. The track is always fun and pretty gnarly, it was pretty much the same as the last two years apart from a couple new loam sections. I didn’t qualify very well at Lourdes. I don’t really know why but I just had a really average run. In finals I was able to put together a really good run and come away with 5th place. Being on the podium is the best feeling ever and it was awesome to come to the first race of the season with the number 5 plate and leave with the number 5 plate.

Round 2 was Fort William. It’s not my favorite track with heaps of gnarly rocks, lots of straight sections and the mud bog in the middle. That said it’s the hardest track physically and technically, and also presents a high risk of injury because it’s so fast the whole way down. I ended up 8th, my personal best result for Fort William, which I was stoked with. My time was pretty close to the podium times as well. So for a track I’ve always battled with it was definitely a boost of confidence knowing I’m improving on last year’s results.

After a 10th place at Leogang we headed to Andorra where my season would take a turn for the worst. On a really good run which should have seen me easily inside the top 10 again, I crashed in the second-to-last corner and I broke one of my fingers pretty badly. I still got 28th which was a pretty good result considering a huge crash. I tried to ride the next week at Lenzerheide but I just couldn’t deal with the pain/loss of grip strength in my hand. After Lenzerheide I got my hand checked out and actually needed to get surgery to put wires in my finger. That would put me out for the rest of the World Cups which was devastating. Injury is something that’s hard to avoid in this sport, yet I hadn’t missed a World Cup since 2011 – a pretty good run.

I made the decision to come back and try to race World Champs in Cairns. I had the best looking World Champs bike ever and racing and riding in my home country in front of a home crowd is something I’ll never forget. After 6 weeks of not riding any bikes or training properly, along with my hand not being fully healed yet, it quickly became apparent to me that I couldn’t ride anywhere near my full potential here. My goal became to just have fun and not crash and re-break my not-yet-fully-healed finger. I finished 24th which was actually better than I thought I could do considering the circumstances. I was pretty disappointed with the whole situation but apart from the result it was an awesome week back on the bike.


Josh Button

Another year of World Cup racing is complete. For me, it was a really tough one.

Lourdes started me off with a decent result, I was happy, and I was ready to build off of that. Unfortunately, a knee injury during my time at home before Fort William, left me having an arthroscopy, 4 days before flying out. So I was sidelined for round 2.

The next 3 rounds, I felt like I was playing catch up, my mentality wasn’t there. I felt OK in practice, but come race run, I just couldn’t find that intensity that you need. I had a really good break in Bromont before the next few races. I put flat pedals on, rode my bike every day, and just tried to get back to basics.

Mont Sainte Anne rolled around, and I felt much, much better. I was pushing myself in practice, trying lines, and being a whole lot more playful on my bike. Race run though, I was still having these “average” runs, and I knew it was all my race mentality and confidence.

We decided to sit out the final World Cup Round after Connor’s injury, which I was happy with, considering I had more time to prepare for World Champs in Cairns. Cairns rolled around, I really enjoy that track. I felt very comfortable all weekend, I felt I had a good result in me for sure. All my practices went really well, I was ready. Unfortunately, a little off track excursion up the top, and a small crash at the bottom, prevented any result from me. I was gutted!

I’m assuming I am just putting too much pressure on myself, because these stupid mistakes are happening even when I’m not pushing hard. I will spend the next few months reflecting on my season, working out what I need to do to sort myself out, and hopefully plan some races for next season.

Thanks again to Kona and all our supporters, you guys rock!


Tegan Molloy

There are lots of highs and lows as this season draws to a close. This season has been a tough one for me. With a new UCI rule change that now only allows the top 15 women to qualify for racing I had my work cut out for me. After not qualifying in the first couple of World Cups I struggled mentally to be able to put together a qualifying run decent enough to even be allowed to race. I had a solid training regime over the southern summer so I knew I could do it, although my results did not reflect this.

Changing things up a bit this year I took on a few EWS rounds including New Zealand, Tasmania and Whistler, this was a new challenge. I had lots of fun practicing as a team, getting lost, and riding some sweet new trails. Crankworx Les Gets was one of my favorite races this season. I hadn’t been to Morzine/ Les Gets before but the track used for the downhill race was really good. With fast open grass turns, a super fun woods section and a few jumps in the mix, it was a super fun track to ride and race. I would jump at the opportunity to race there again.

I really enjoyed riding my DH bike in Bromont in between races, and not having to travel back to Australia was beneficial as riding back home is not an option due to the winter season. Mont Saint Anne was my best World Cup result this year as it was the only race where I qualified and had the chance to throw down a race run. I only wish I could have done this consistently throughout the season.

Being selected to race World Champs at home in Australia was definitely a highlight for me this season. Racing a World Championship is pretty special and is quickly made even more special on home turf. The crowd was ecstatic and having lots of friends and family there to support me was awesome. I didn’t produce the run I had in my head but at the end of the day I gave it 100% and came away with 12th. The atmosphere at this race was electric and something that I will not forget in my racing career.

A big thank you to everyone who has continued to support me; I appreciate being a part of the Kona Family and the experiences it has given me.


Anthony Poulson

The 2017 season surely had some good highs and good lows but overall I’m happy with how it went. I didn’t get all the results written on paper but became a way better rider than I was before. I got my best ever World Cup result at my home race in Mont Sainte Anne, where I finished in 14th. I also had a podium finish at Crankworx Whistler.

My World Championships race run was going well too with top 20 splits but I went down near the end. Still one of my best races this season, the track was good and the weather was perfect. I was bummed to leave Cairns with no results but it definitely gave me some good motivation for next season and my move into the Elite category knowing the speed is there.

I’ll be making sure I will be the best I can be mentally and physically coming into the first race next season. I’m happy with my results this year but feel like I could have done it more often and even better – I just need to figure everything out to be the racer I want to be and to be consistent. Really happy to have the Junior years behind me and excited to go race against the big guys next year.


Keep up with Connor, Josh, Tegan, and Anthony on Instagram.

“Always up for a trail party…” NSMB.com’s Long Term Review of the Kona Operator DL

NSMB.com has just published their long term review of our Operator DL after joining us at our Retallack launch of the new 27.5″ platform last year. After nearly a year with the bike including lots of time at Whistler Mountain Bike Park, reviewer Tim Coleman was impressed by the Operator’s durability and fun factor.

“The Operator felt stiff in every direction, which works well with my riding style. I think all these choices by Kona fit the design philosophy and geometry of the Operator. All the decisions are middle of road, nothing extreme in any one direction. All pointed cohesively towards one goal; a fun and accessible downhill bike that most folks can go out and enjoy.”

Read the full review at NSMB.com.