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Sea Otter: Kona Carbon Operator, disc Super Jake

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Kona's flagship carbon 'cross racer is now the Super Jake, complete with a redesigned carbon frameset and offered exclusively with disc brakes.

Kona's flagship carbon 'cross racer is now the Super Jake, complete with a redesigned carbon frameset and offered exclusively with disc brakes. (Image credit: James Huang)
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ISCG05 tabs are molded into the carbon fiber bottom bracket shell.

ISCG05 tabs are molded into the carbon fiber bottom bracket shell. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The rear thru-axle threads into one dropout and then is clamped in place with two pinch bolts to help tie the rear end together.

The rear thru-axle threads into one dropout and then is clamped in place with two pinch bolts to help tie the rear end together. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The down tube will be armored with a big rubber guard.

The down tube will be armored with a big rubber guard. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The down tube and seat tube make full use of the 104.5mm-wide press-fit bottom bracket shell.

The down tube and seat tube make full use of the 104.5mm-wide press-fit bottom bracket shell. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The aluminum links are joined together with an enormous carbon fiber bridge.

The aluminum links are joined together with an enormous carbon fiber bridge. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Dropouts are milled out from the bottom and welded to the chain stays to create a fully enclosed, hollow structure.

Dropouts are milled out from the bottom and welded to the chain stays to create a fully enclosed, hollow structure. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Kona claims the new Carbon Operator is twice as stiff as the aluminum version - not surprising given the massive tube cross-sections, large-diameter pivots, and the tremendous upper link.

Kona claims the new Carbon Operator is twice as stiff as the aluminum version - not surprising given the massive tube cross-sections, large-diameter pivots, and the tremendous upper link. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Kona has done a good job giving the new Carbon Operator a sleek and low-slung look. Note the continuous line from the top tube all the way through the linkage and seat stays to the dual pinch-bolt hollow dropouts.

Kona has done a good job giving the new Carbon Operator a sleek and low-slung look. Note the continuous line from the top tube all the way through the linkage and seat stays to the dual pinch-bolt hollow dropouts. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Kona sticks with its tried-and-true modified four-bar linkage design for the new Carbon Operator but with less of a falling rate initially so the rear end will tend to sit up higher in the travel.

Kona sticks with its tried-and-true modified four-bar linkage design for the new Carbon Operator but with less of a falling rate initially so the rear end will tend to sit up higher in the travel. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Integrated stanchion bumpers are placed just behind the tapered head tube on Kona's new Carbon Operator.

Integrated stanchion bumpers are placed just behind the tapered head tube on Kona's new Carbon Operator. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Kona has launched a new carbon fiber downhill platform called the Carbon Operator that's 300g lighter than the aluminum version and supposedly twice as stiff.

Kona has launched a new carbon fiber downhill platform called the Carbon Operator that's 300g lighter than the aluminum version and supposedly twice as stiff. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The internally routed derailleur cables exit just ahead of the PressFit 30 bottom bracket.

The internally routed derailleur cables exit just ahead of the PressFit 30 bottom bracket. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Since the brake is now moved to the chain stay, Kona was able to reduce the seat stay diameter to just 10mm for what is expected to be a smoother ride.

Since the brake is now moved to the chain stay, Kona was able to reduce the seat stay diameter to just 10mm for what is expected to be a smoother ride. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Naturally, Kona equips the new Super Jake with a tapered head tube. Derailleur cable routing is internal and convertible for both mechanical and electronic drivetrains.

Naturally, Kona equips the new Super Jake with a tapered head tube. Derailleur cable routing is internal and convertible for both mechanical and electronic drivetrains. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The new SRAM Red 22 hydraulic disc brakes suggest high performance but removable fender mounts lend versatility, too.

The new SRAM Red 22 hydraulic disc brakes suggest high performance but removable fender mounts lend versatility, too. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Kona will use the same carbon fiber frame for a second-tier model that costs just US$4,100.

Kona will use the same carbon fiber frame for a second-tier model that costs just US$4,100. (Image credit: James Huang)

This article originally appeared on Bikeradar

Kona launched two big platforms at this year's Sea Otter Classic: a new Carbon Operator composite downhill bike and a new Super Jake disc brake-equipped 'cross bike. The aim of both bikes is simple: go faster.

Kona's DH platform tightens up

Kona's existing aluminum Operator Supreme is already a popular race chassis, but according to industrial designer Jack Russell, the company was looking to take its flagship gravity machine into a new direction.

"We really weren't trying to iterate that bike. We threw that bike away and were like, let's start with a whole new thing and try to make the raddest bike we can – a totally blank sheet of paper," he told BikeRadar. "When we started, we actually looked at a lot of different suspension designs and stuff like that. We really wanted to make a really responsive, jumpy downhill bike, not a 'plow' bike."

While Kona set out to create a new personality for the Carbon Operator, the new bike carries on with the company's familiar modified four-bar linkage architecture. The leverage ratio has been tweaked, however, with less of a falling rate initially so the bike will tend to sit up a little higher in the travel.

"Our original ideation sketches had a lot of crazy linkages and stuff like that but when we were looking at linkage designs, we really found that doing an evolution of the four-bar walking link we've had forever really gave us the best balance between all these factors," said Russell. "The aluminum Operator was like an updated Stab, which were crazy plow bikes. This one's a lot more responsive. You really know where your rear wheel is and you know what it's doing."

Not surprisingly, the move to carbon fiber construction has also yielded big improvements in stiffness and weight. Russell claims a rigidity jump of 200 percent overall and a frame weight that has decreased from 3.6kg (7.94lb) to 3.3kg (7.28lb).

Kona has also made good use of that ultra-wide bottom bracket shell with enormous down tube and seat tube widths to match, plus main pivot bearings that are pushed as far apart as possible for rear-end stiffness.

Plus, the new bike's aesthetics are distinctly cleaner and sleeker than previous editions.

"I was really going for an understated, subtle look," Russell said. "I wanted it to look like a downhill bike that you would ride fast and not look like some feature on the bike is 'the thing' that's more important about it – a subtle, simple, clean look."

Overall, Russell says he and Mandell got what they wanted – a gravity rig that perhaps required a little more skill and attention than a so-called 'couch' bike but one that also holds bigger rewards for a rider who can extract that potential.

Kona will offer the new Carbon Operator frame in two complete versions: the 'Supreme' flagship with a Shimano Saint group, Fox's latest DHX RC4 rear shock and air-sprung 40 fork, and custom-built wheels with Mavic 729EX rims built on Hope hubs for $7,000 (£4,560); and the standard model with RockShox suspension, a Shimano Zee/SRAM X9 mixed drivetrain, Avid Code brakes, and Sun-Ringlé MTX 33 wheels for around $4,000 (£2,625). Kona will offer the Carbon Operator as a frame-only as well with pricing TBD.

Carbon fiber Super Jake 'cross racer gets a new carbon frame and disc brakes for MY2014

Meanwhile, Kona's carbon cyclocross platform gets a wholesale revamp with a carbon fiber frameset designed for disc brakes. By mounting the rear caliper inside the rear triangle, Kona was able to pare down the seat stay diameter to just 10mm for a smoother ride while beefing up the chain stays for a snappier feel under power.

Up front is a tapered head tube and new monocoque carbon fiber fork with post-mount caliper tabs, while the PressFit 30 bottom bracket shell will allow for both geared and singlespeed drivetrains depending on the crank and bottom bracket configuration used.

The top-end model will come with SRAM's latest Red/Force 22 hydraulic disc group, Stan's NoTubes Iron Cross tubeless wheels, and a Zipp aluminum cockpit. Pricing is still to be determinded.

A second-tier model, the Major Jake, will also be available. Spec and pricing are still TBD.

For all our Sea Otter 2013 coverage, click here.