The Valais Region of southwestern Switzerland must be one of the best places in the world to ride a mountain bike. Huge vertical releif, spectacular peaks and a lift, road and trail system that navigates the Alps like a giant web of unparalleled mountain access. If the Swiss do one thing besides making watches very well, that’s getting people from valley to peak and back down again in the wildest of ways. Makes sense then that Kona would want to have some Europe’s most prestigious gravity loving press along for a spin on our 2012 Operator, Entourage, Entourage Deluxe, and Tanuki Deluxe mountain bikes.

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For three days in late September, with a fresh dusting of snow on the high peaks and perfect blue bird skies, Kona and 15 press from around Europe descended on the CransMontana bike park on fresh new bikes on DH and XC trails buffed from the recent rain and sun. We introduced them to our Gravity Product Manager Chris Mandell, had them ride with Kona Team members, Antoine Bizet and Grant “Chopper” Fielder, and otherwise sent them loose on great trails and wicked bikes. To be honest, we weren’t that surprised by the positive feedback and good times had by our guests, but we’ll let them (and the great photos by Ale Di Lullo and Joonas Vinnari) speak to that.

“Riding the 2012 Kona bikes has been a big eye opener to me, and a big sign that Kona are right back in the game where they should be. The Entourage and Operator are going to be big bikes for the next year, and there was no better way to discover them than being in Crans Montana with some brilliant people and amazing riding. Chris Mandell’s influence on Kona’s long standing 4 bar suspension design has resulted in bikes with a simple, easy to ride nature with no nasty surprises in character, and the geometry of the bikes is pretty spot on too. The simplicity of these bikes really does result in great ride characteristics and a bike that I could hop on to and ride flat out without any worry.” -Jake Ireland, MBUK

“A fantastic launch event laid on in true Kona fashion – bikes and beers for all, sunshine and quality Alpine bike riding. The Kona representatives were having as much fun riding the brand new Entourage as were we (the journalists) and for good reason. The Entourage loves ripping downhill tracks as much as it does boosting jumps and destroying bike parks – a quality design complete with well thought-through build kit and sensible features such as the tech-box on the frame; this is a true riders bike, I’m sold.” -James McKnight, Dirt

“On the launch: I really had one of my best experiences ever riding in Crans Montana with such great people and really good and improved bikes. Operator, Entourage and Tanuki really impressed me. On the Operator itself: Second generation of the Operator is really amazing, impressive how this bike rides, geometry is really spot on and performance/value ratio this bike has no rivals. On the Entourage: amazing having the chance to ride this agile and fast bike, so capable on big hits that feels livelier and more responsive compared to the more DH Operator and a blast on tight turns. On the Tanuki DLX: I am sure most of XC-Trail fans would not require more than the new 2012 Tanuki is offering. Ideal geometry, great suspension and a great package overall with an unbeatable price.” -Israel Romero, Solo Bici