The Early Years 1976 - 1979
1976 FIRST MACHINING TOOL Chris King took an $1,800 loan in the summer of 1976 to purchase his first machine, a used Hestika lathe, and set it up in the garage hallway of his Santa Barbara, CA house.
In 1976, Chris was putting all his energy into making a production ready part. Moving on from the “CDK” headset, he had an O-Ring Seal Design that was similar to the prototype headset using salvaged grade 9 bearings but with an o-ring as a seal. This one proved to be impractical in production too, though. But while laying on a beach in Santa Barbara during a freak January heat wave, Chris dreamed up an improved Flat Seal Design. It was this design breakthrough that allowed him to put the first Chris King headsets into production. He took an $1,800 loan in the summer of that year to purchase his first machine, a used Hestika lathe, which he set up in the garage hallway of his Santa Barbara, CA house.
Approximately 500 units of the flat seal design headset were produced in 1977, using salvaged grade 9 bearings. All this work was being done out of Chris’s house and then the first Chris King “headquarters,” which was the back room of Hendrickson’s Bicycles at 629 State St., Santa Barbara.
Chris says, “When we moved into our first shop we took up half of the back room of Hendrickson’s bike shop. By the time this photo was taken, sometime in 1978, we had expanded to the whole room (about the size of a small 2 car garage). Doug Knox owned the bike shop at this time and he was my business partner starting Cielo. The basement below me was where Chris Paulie had his one man custom frame shop but was originally the location of the FBI office in Santa Barbara.”
1978 and 1979 saw iterations of the production headset design with modified, WW II surplus, General Bearing Co. bearings (approx. 500 units), and then with a Chris King custom angular contact design bearing (approx. 1000 units) that were outsourced from a small custom grind house. The bike brand Cielo® was also born in 1978. Local radio station KDB and the local newspaper, The Independent, conducted a contest to come up with the name, which derives from Camino Cielo Road in Santa Barbara. The winner won a frame and fork from the new company.
The first Cielo mountain bikes appeared in 1979, including the one Chris built for himself, that featured 4130.049 Straight tubing. It weighed 45 lbs, which he stopped with Adam Drum Brakes with custom axles and sealed bearings. It also used the first CK BMX headset and a BMX-style cruiser fork.