Chris King, founder of King Cycle Group, got his machining experience working in the precise and demanding world of medical equipment manufacturing. He designed the original Chris King Headset in 1976 in his spare time and was immediately faced with staggering local and regional demand. In 1977, Chris started King Manufacturing, a contract machine shop jobbing to the medical, microwave, cryogenic, and aerospace industries. During these years, Chris gained valuable business experience while honing his manufacturing, CNC machining, job planning and tool design skills.
Headset production continued during these years, seeding the regional and national market and developing a strong yet quiet reputation as one of the most exclusive and elite bicycle components available. However, due to the time requirements of other contracted jobs, headset sales never represented more than 10% of the business.
In 1987 Chris sold King Manufacturing to Medical Concepts Inc. (MCI - now known as Karl Storz Imaging), a medical video imaging development and manufacturing company where he spent the next 4 years as the Manufacturing Department Manager. During this time, MCI developed a program combining world class management and manufacturing techniques to become a 30-million-dollar-a- year leader in its industry. Chris was later able to utilize many of these concepts while developing his new company, King Cycle Group, which he started during his tenure at MCI to continue production of the Chris King Headset.
Through the years, the strong but quiet reputation grew into a 'cult' following of road racing cyclists across the country. These convinced customers then became evangelists of the Chris King Headset in the late 80's as the rapidly growing mountain bike market demanded components that could withstand the harsh punishment of off-road riding. The word was spreading and the demand for Chris King's headsets was growing at a rapid rate.
By 1991, the demand for Chris King's components had increased to a level requiring Chris' full time attention. Sales orders had significantly exceeded production and back order lead times were growing to unacceptable lengths. Chris left MCI and committed 100% to his new venture, King Cycle Group. By combining his manufacturing and design talents with the World Class Management skills learned at MCI, Chris quickly caught up with back orders and was soon on his way. Sales doubled during the following years and he never looked back.
Once settled into a groove, producing headsets at a satisfying rate, King Cycle Group turned their efforts to developing new products. In 1993, we started work on three new products. The design objective was to be ground breaking and unique while still upholding a reputation as the best. During the course of this development work, patents were applied for, and granted.
As the demand for King Products continued to increase, it seemed less and less likely that Santa Barbara would be the final home of King Cycle Group. High real estate prices and costs of living made it difficult for King employees to live and work there. More and more often, King employees would drive through 2 hours of heavy southern California traffic to get to work each day. Enough was enough. The search for a new home began.