Builders and fans converge at Chris King factory for ‘Open House’ show

Chris King welcomed visitors to his factory on Saturday.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

As Portland’s largest bicycle company, Chris King Precision Components is in a unique position to be an industry leader. With the success of their mini-summit of bike builders and industry movers and shakers that wrapped up with a big open house event Saturday, the 42-year-old company seems to be embracing that role.

The halls of the Chris King factory were jam-packed for the “Open House” show on Saturday. Among massive industrial machines and assembly rooms that put together some of the most respected and sought after bicycle components in the world, hundreds of bicycle lovers got an close-up look at a very special selection of bicycles and the builders who create them.

For the man behind the brand, Chris King, the gathering must have felt bittersweet. A framebuilder himself, King decided to cease production of his Cielo brand just over one year ago so his company could focus more closely on its core business: designing, making, and selling bottom brackets, headsets, and hubs. King, who still spends about three days a week in the shop, is obsessive about quality and his company makes nearly every piece of their products themselves (yes, even the bearings). Manufacturing products in the United States is hard enough without having to constantly react to the whims of product managers and marketers who seem to push a new wheel size, head-tube size or axle configuration every season.

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Portland-based Chris King ceases production of Cielo frames

Chris King Cielo Cycles factory  -48

An employee puts finishing touches on a Cielo frame at the factory in 2013.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you were waiting to order a Cielo, it’s too late.

Portland-based Chris King Precision Components (CKPC) announced yesterday that they’ve ceased production of all Cielo frames, forks and stems effective immediately.

In a statement, the company said, “After reevaluating marketing and sales goals for the coming years, Cielo unfortunately did not fit into our plans. We are quite proud of the product that the brand has produced over the years, but will be focusing our attention and resources on our core product families (headsets, bottom brackets, and hubs).”

Cielo was started by Chris King in Santa Barbara California 1978. By the mid 1980s King’s headsets had become so popular that he stopped making bikes to keep up with the demands of his fast-growing company. As his headset (and later hubset and bottom bracket) business grew he added staff and moved his business from Santa Barbara to Redding (CA) and then ultimately to Portland in 2003. Once settled into a large manufacturing facility in the northwest industrial district and with a healthy business (the company now employs over 130 people), King rekindled the Cielo brand in 2008.

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Chris King’s Gourmet Century brings it all together

Chris King Gourmet Century-14

Riders dove into freshly prepared Mexican
food from Verde Cocina during the lunch
stop at Banks Elementary School.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Chris King, the man who founded one of the world’s leading bike companies back in 1976, has always been a gourmet. I can recall, as an employee of Chris King Precision Components back in the late 1990s, prepping food for one of King’s “Trail Daze” events in Santa Barbara. On the menu for the mountain bike trail volunteers that day were roasted red pepper sandwiches. As King blackened the peppers in his personal, professional-grade range, myself and several other volunteers were tasked with peeling away the blackened parts and artfully laying the peppers onto artisan rolls as King peered over our shoulders doing quality control.

All the prep was done with an attention to detail and eye for quality that seemed over-the-top for some trailside grub. But to Chris King, food is deserving of the same respect and exacting treatment he gives his eponymous bicycle components.

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