Go into any bike shop in the U.S. and you will likely find the same three or four big brands that dominate the retail landscape. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with buying a bike from any of those big companies, but it’s important to remember that there is an “independently made” alternative. Portland, Oregon based component maker Chris King’s line of Cielo bicycles are a worthy alternative and a good place to trade your hard earned dollars for a good looking and well made bicycle.
The Cielo Sportif Classic, which is pictured here, is high on my list of things that I need to own. In an age of carbon fiber, the Sportif Classic is designed with the nostalgia of steel framed road bikes of the 1970’s and 1980’s. That steel frame means it is going to be heavier than a lot of bikes out there, but it will also mean that the ride is going to be comfortable and enjoyable. All that said, the bike is great looking and made right here in the United States. The Sportif Classic incorporates many of the quality US-made components that, over the past three decades, have made Chris King such a well regarded manufacturer. The Cielo quality also extends to the styling –each bike is painted entirely in-house with a low VOC (non-toxic) liquid paint without use of any decals, and each detail is masked and painted by hand.
Big company versus independent raises the question: is it worth spending more on higher quality goods that are manufactured transparently? To me, yes it is. I’d rather buy less, but buy better. Does this mean that a similar bike made in Taiwan is less fun to ride or isn’t as good looking? No. I’m reminded of a saying that used to get tossed around the car dealership I worked at in high school: “There’s an ass for every seat.” In my case, I’d rather buy something (even if it costs more) that is made by the little guy who knows how to make great product, not just because of a strong market position and a mastering of economies of scale. But there is also a guy out there who just wants a cheap bike and doesn’t care. That doesn’t necessarily make me better and him worse, it just makes us different. But I have to think that a world with a focus on quality is better than the alternative.
Chris King says it best on its website: “We are fiercely independent, incorruptible by passing trends or fads. Careful consideration drives our actions. We practice patience with new product and process introductions. We recognize our efforts are just a few points in a universal continuum. We are underpinned by quality craftsmanship and premium material selection. Uncompromising fit and finish standards support our lasting brand appreciation.”