After what seems like forever, Chris DiStefano from Chris King Cycle Group was able to take a few moments to answer my interview questions. I know, he’s no Chris King, but he did have the answers to all my questions. Here’s what went down:
Q. Chris King headsets are a “Must have” item for any bike where strength, smoothness, and durability are required. They also speak to our desire to own something precision made that is a thing of beauty, like a Swiss watch. But King Cycle Group produces more than just headsets. Tell us a bit about the rest of your line.
CD: Chris began producing headsets in 1976 and added hubs in the mid-90’s . At present, we have 15 styles of headsets in 3 sizes (soon to be 4) and 9 colors. Hubs are available in 12 styles in those same 9 color options. We also make single speed cogs in stainless steel and aluminium. Headset spacers and cassette cog lockrings are a few other King bits folks can add to their bikes these days. We do our best to have a few funky t-shirts out there and our calendar is quite popular, too. We’ve just begun to ship our Pretty and Strong series of complete built wheels and our 1.5” headset is due out soon. We make everything* right here in Portland, Oregon so we’re busy these days, for sure.
*OK, not the t-shirts but we do have those made just down the street
Q. All those products are made by a company that doesn’t just care about their bottom line; KCG also looks after the environment. I understand that a lot of thought went into not just the building, but also the processes going on inside. What went into getting set up your new digs in Oregon?
CD: Chris has developed a number of proprietary systems over the years within the framework of building construction and layout. I would imagine you can see where this is going, eh? There is not a lot about our set-up that I can share with you here.
Q. On top of that, you’ve got the Pretty and Strong special edition components, which help raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. How did that program come about?
CD: The program developed from an employee’s own family experience with breast cancer. Our first year was a limited edition headset sold only for a brief time around October, which is national breast cancer awareness month. Response was overwhelming and demand for other products was high. The program returned the following year with hubsets, again for just a few limited months of availability. Once more, it was very popular and led us to extend the color across our full range and availability is now year round. We’ve maintained a close relationship with our local Susan G Komen affiliate and have been pleased to see the positive work resulting from our program. I invite you to read the update I wrote following the recent luncheon for grantees of the funds our affiliate has raised.
This program has grown well beyond what anyone here could have imagined a few years back. We now contribute Pretty and Strong product to a number of charity cycling events, raffles, and even teams who make breast cancer awareness their focus.
Q. You also sponsor local events to give back to the community, what’s in store for 2007?
CD: We’ll be out on the road (and dirt) doing more event support this year. Chris made his famous pancakes for the annual Alpenrose Velodrome clean-up day last month and this month he’ll be serving up fajitas at the Pioneer Century just south of Portland. Next month we’re off to the Downieville Classic in California for a weekend of food and fun. We’ll serve lemonade at the local short track MTB summer series in the same way that we do coffee for the cyclocross series later in the year. We’ll be serving the morning coffee at Cycle Oregon and then off to the Interbike trade show. The calendar flips over to 2008 and we start all over again.
Q. Now for the impossible question. In 20 words or less, tell us about “Pucks”. I doubt anyone has given them much thought. I’m willing to cut you a bit of slack on this as well, say, 50 words? Ok, how about just a brief explanation?
CD: 2 seconds of 400-ton hydraulic force recovers 98% of machining oil from waste material. We use it again. And again. (I did it in 20)
Q. Where is Chris King headed? What can we expect to see come out of KCG in the future? Any secret, or not so secret goodies still in R&D?
CD: Man, that’s a tough one. Yes, there are plenty of R&D projects in the works but none that I can share just now. This company moved two times in 5 years, (1999-2003), and that took a lot out of folks. Now, at over three years into our home here in Portland, I can say that we’re moved in, settled in, and thinking only about the things that bike riders want us to think about. The positive energy here is building each day and, yes, it’s a great place to work. There’s no shortage of things to do; a look at the suggestions we receive from our customers will tell you that.
Q. I’d like to thank you for being so generous with your time. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
CD:I apologize for taking so long to do this.