A highlight of our trip to Portland a few weekends ago was a stop by the Chris King Factory. Chris King has been a go-to for components for years, but we have a new level of respect for them after seeing production first-hand. As a small business ourselves, it was gratifying to see what time, hard work, and sound business practices can build.
Here's a look at what we now admire most about one of the biggest names in the industry.
They Take Care of Their Employees
The Chris King Cafe is a warm, open space where employees are encouraged to commute by bike and can earn credit through accumulated miles to pay for breakfast and lunch served up by in-house cooks. This is only one of many examples for how employees are treated as members of an extended family. Consistent, happy employees means a consistently good product!
They Take Care of Their Equipment
The amount of Lathes and CNC machines this place holds is impressive, and they're all maintained to last. All small replacement parts are made in-house so that machines can run smoothly for the long haul, and employees are trained on how to do small repairs and upkeep on key machines, some dating back to WW2 era.
The factory uses, reuses, and recycles materials in a thoughtful and sustainable way. Aluminum scrap created from hub production is collected, compressed, and recycled. The soy-based oil used as coolant during the machine process is squeezed out of this scrap is also reused. Their heat reclamation system recaptures heat from different processes throughout the building, and redistributes it to heat the whole facility. The factory space is an intentionally clean, safe, and healthy environment for all employees (including some shop cats and dogs).
They Have Cielo
Tucked in the back corner of the factory is a little custom bicycle manufacturing shop called Cielo (we're sure you've heard of it). We were most impressed with their use of this space as they build, weld, and paint their frames in-house.
It's an ideal situation for this bike manufacturing outfit to have every Chris King component and machining tool at arm's reach. Their capacity to innovate for the needs of a particular build without a great deal of extra outsourcing or planning is a dream scenario in the world of small bicycle manufacturing. They are able to control every aspect of the build process, which ensures quality control and streamlined aesthetics on all Cielo models.
They're Still Evolving
They're continually adapting their line of products to the demands of an ever-changing industry, while still remaining true to what they do well. They make over 600 variations of hubs, have a line of headsets that will fit any frame spec and have launched road hubs, disc hubs and bottom brackets in the last few years alone. Of course, they have a line of colors and special limited edition color runs that will always be an instant eye-catcher.
They Feel Like A Small Company
We especially loved the office cat, the stacks of egg cartons, the small messes, and the handmade signs giving directions on how employees can stay clean and safe. These little personal touches remind you that real people run this place.
They Make a Quality Product
This one is kind of obvious. Just as in the Cielo frame manufacturing department, every Chris King component is machined and assembled in-house, with the exception of their annondization (even the bearings, shown below, are made in-house!). This helps them maintain enormous quality control over tolerances and the end-product. Their components are meant to last rather than simply be the lightest or the least expensive. If you invest in their products, they will work, and last, for years.
They Are Made in America
There is a quiet history of reliability, quality, and respect that oozes out of every corner of the Chris King Factory and has for decades. We like that the factory is an extension of an American city known for ingenuity, innovation, and bike culture. It was founded by a guy who still comes to work every day to make the product, and the company, something he can stand behind.
At Mosaic, we are just closing out our 5th year in business. We hope to continue to develop Mosaic on this thoughtful foundation, and do business with the same integrity and ingenuity as Chris King Precision Components has now for over 30 years.
The factory tour isn't currently open to the general public, so thank you to Chris King Precision Components for opening your doors to us and other industry companies. Additionally, thank you to Dylan for being a great tour guide.
Words by Liz Barcheck
Photos by Liz and Aaron Barcheck