An article about a Portland, Oregon-based bicycle component manufacturer? Really, who would have thought that one of the most cycling-friendly cities in America might host (boast?) a bike company or two? Ok, unless you’re a cyclist that lives under a rock, chances are that you have heard of Chris King Precision Components. Known mainly for their extremely smooth, high quality headsets, they also produce road and mountain bike hubs and bottom brackets, along with a handful of other small parts. While not exactly OEM spec on your average bike shop favorites, they are the go-to brand for anyone looking to upgrade their headset, or build a custom wheelset, especially within the tandem owner’s community.
What makes Chris King special, and what earns them a mention this week, is their commitment to keeping 100% of the manufacturing process (and therefore local jobs and revenue) in the US. The raw materials used are sourced from American and Canadian companies that have been vetted for responsible business practices. Even their machine oil is soy-based, and from US grown soybeans. Along with that, they built a new factory entirely around reducing as much waste as possible, while minimizing overall environmental impact. Finally, Chris himself has been known to cook and serve breakfast and lunch at various events, not just for his employees, but participants as well. He’s also directly or indirectly involved with various advocacy groups from the local to national level. From top to bottom, factory receiving dock to final packaging, Chris King is the genuine deal in terms of corporate responsibility.
In my interview with Chris DiStefano (wow, that was over five years ago!) of Chris King, we briefly discussed some of the topics that make Chris King, the company, stand out in an industry already populated by passionate, responsible cyclists that also happen to be business people. As a response to an employee’s experience with a family member battling breast cancer, they came out with the Pretty and Strong component line, which has been popular since 2004. A portion of each sale of these pink headsets and hubs are donated towards breast cancer research. This was not just some gimmick dreamed up by someone in marketing, it was a way for the company to show an employee that they care.
So we have a company that sources raw materials from other American (or Canadian) companies, manufactures and assembles all their products in a state of the art, environmentally sound factory here in America, looks after their employees like family, and gives back to both their local community and national associations. Chris King offers a ten year warranty on headsets, and five year warranty on hubs and bottom brackets. This says a lot about the quality of their products. From fairly humble beginnings in 1976, Chris King has grown into a company that can be admired on multiple levels, and could very well be a role model for anyone looking to start their own business. They are definitely in the top ten of our favorite American companies, and we’re happy to see cyclists around the world embracing their products.