Welcome to 1×10, where we ask 1 inspiring human 10 questions about how they are using cycling as a force for good. Read on to meet Jay Sycip of legendary bike brand, Chris King Precision Components. Jay has been in the bike industry for 28 years, first starting a company with his brother building custom bike frames in the Northern CA / Bay Area then moving to Portland to work for Chris King 13 years ago. He’s currently the Design and Events Manager and prior to that he designed and managed the Cielo bicycle frame brand at Chris King.
On Earth Day this year, Chris King announced that they had become a B Corps, an official status that indicates they are a “business that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” In becoming a B Corps, they joined the likes of Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, 7th Generation, and other brands leading with purpose. Not only did they meet the rigorous standards, but they became the first manufacturer in the bike industry to achieve this status! Once I saw their announcement I knew I needed to feature them on this blog. And I love that they hope more bike brands join in and become B Corps too! Learn more about Jay’s favorite bike, his favorite trends in cycling, how Chris King Precision Components is using bikes to do good, and more, in this 1×10 interview.
1. How / why did you fall in love with cycling?
I lived in the Los Angeles area while in design school and got into mountain biking then. It was really a love at first ride. I was never an outdoorsy type and to be honest I’m a real urbanite but mountain biking got me outdoors and showed me how to appreciate and enjoy nature.
2. Favorite Bike (that you own or covet)?
I’m biased since my brother Jeremy and I started a frame brand that is still going to this day under his care and craftsmanship. I would say that each SyCip mountain bike I’ve had has been my favorite. Currently I have a couple hardtail SyCip trail bikes. I also owned a Salsa Ala Carte with the jelly bean paint scheme prior to building and designing bikes. There is one bike that I’m very fond of that I never owned but was a major part of its creation. It’s the Cielo we built for the 2009 Oregon Manifest constructors challenge, it has custom racks, custom stem, a lock built into the top tube/seat tube and a ton of other details to match the paratrooper theme. Sadly it has been stolen from our building recently. I hope it gets recovered soon.
3. What’s the most memorable ride you’ve done, and what happened?
I have had lots of memorable rides and find that it’s less of the ride and more of the camaraderie that makes a ride memorable. There is one that was a shuttle ride in the Angeles national forest above LA. We bumped into snow and got very lost. We thought the three of us, a friend, my brother, and I, would have to be rescued but thankfully we found our way out. That was a very long day and night.
“We bumped into snow and got very lost. We thought the three of us, a friend, my brother, and I, would have to be rescued but thankfully we found our way out.”
4. Who do you admire in the cycling world?
Quite a few names come to mind. Mainly the ones who really dedicated themselves to the industry and to best business practices. Ross Shafer (founder of Salsa Cycles) who I felt brought fun and creativeness to the industry, my brother Jeremy SyCip, Curtis Inglis (Retrotec Bicycles) and the countless other builders that continue to build and allow customers into their lives and into cycling. I also admire the component and bicycle companies that continue to strive to make the best so cycling can continue to be even more enjoyable for everyone new to the sport and for the ones that have been enjoying it.
If I were to pick one and it may sound biased, I would say it would be Chris King. Chris started his career in the bike industry after high school. At first working for a bike shop also being a self taught machinist he was able to create a product, the King sealed bearing headset, that drastically improved on what was in the market at the time and arguably continues to be the best headset made today. Chris’s relentless personality helped him overcome quite a few obstacles in the 40+ years he has been in business which includes manufacturing as many parts and pieces in-house from domestically produced materials, designing smart products and is serviceable that carries a lifetime warranty. Recently Chris King Precision Components received the B Corp Certification. We’re the first B Corp certified manufacturer in the bike industry. The care in design and manufacturing are just one of the reason I work for him and respect the business and brand he created. I’ve owned and sold Chris King products for a long time and to this day continues to be the products I strive to own and use on my bikes.
“We’re the first B Corp certified manufacturer in the bike industry. The care in design and manufacturing are just one of the reason I work for him and respect the business and brand he created. I’ve owned and sold Chris King products for a long time and to this day continues to be the products I strive to own and use on my bikes.”
5. Top tip for a new rider, or a cyclist about to take on a new challenge?
Enjoy the activity wholly, from the equipment, to the roads and trails, respect everyone and be helpful to ones that need help. Just be nice. This industry is awesome and I’ve always felt welcomed even if I myself have never been a super athlete. I’d like to see that welcoming attitude continue so cycling can be a bright star in the world.
“Enjoy the activity wholly, from the equipment, to the roads and trails, respect everyone and be helpful to ones that need help. Just be nice.”
6. Favorite trend or innovation in cycling?
It seems like every season there are new trends and innovations that make cycling so much more comfortable, enjoyable and safe from advancements in suspension, brakes, drivetrain, seat droppers, saddles. Helmets, and apparel. Lately, I’ve been thinking that class 1 (pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and have a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph) and class 3 E-bikes (pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and have a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph) have been on top of my list of innovations. I think it is going to add lots more in terms of ridership and allow expansion in the industry. I know from my experience that it’s allowed me to ride more miles and more often. With my SyCip hardtail E-bike I find myself leaving the car at home and riding the 15 miles round trip to and from the trail.
“With my SyCip hardtail E-bike I find myself leaving the car at Thanks home and riding the 15 miles round trip to and from the trail.”
7. What are you doing to use cycling as a force for good?
We manufacture high quality, serviceable parts so that they will stay on bikes and then transfer to the next. We don’t want to contribute to throwaway culture and making parts that outlast the bikes they are on is a part of that. All of our parts are fully serviceable and backed by our lifetime warranty so if you ever wear something out we will fix it. That last bit is key, our parts can be fixed. If someone wears out one of our bearings it is most likely that they only wore out the balls and the bearing races and the rest of the part are still in excellent shape. Rather than tell people to throw away their parts we just clean them and replace the balls. Bringing this awareness to customers and to the industry is key. We should all be, so making purchases count where we can and buy parts that only have to be manufactured once.
We extend these ethos through our entire manufacturing process. Rather than use disposable cutting fluid that generates a waste product we use US sourced canola oil. It means that we have to machine a little slower, so we can’t make as many parts but we can recapture it, clean it and reuse it indefinitely. It also means that instead of having a caustic, water based cutting fluid in our machines that quickly rusts and wears them down they are coated in canola oil, drastically increasing tool and machine lifespan which again reduces the manufacturing impact our production has.
We manufacture our parts in house and in the US so we can control this process, and make the choice to be responsible, and experiment with ways that we can continue to improve. We source our materials from the US because we know that those suppliers have to meet certain environmental and worker treatment/safety/wage laws that other countries might not have. We do have to source materials from outside the US sometimes, when they are not available otherwise, and we have a list of countries that we go to because they have similar guidelines in place.
A great bike is the sum of all of its parts and a manufacturer is the sum of its process and its supply chain. We do our best to minimize our impact from before the raw materials even get to us to when they finally need to be recycled at the end of their life, hopefully after being ridden on many many bikes first.
“A great bike is the sum of all of its parts and a manufacturer is the sum of its process and its supply chain.”
8. Thinking about the work you’re doing, what do you see as the potential change for people or the planet? If you are successful, what impact will you have?
I think the work we are doing in manufacturing sensibly and domestically is pretty important in a industry that is heavily outsourced and off-shored. I think setting an example and getting more companies in and outside the bike industry to consider their manufacturing practices would impact the environment for the better. Yes, we need to find ways to make manufacturing greener, but the biggest effect we can make is to manufacture less. If we can change peoples’ perspectives and get them to buy one headset instead of five we will be making a difference.
“Yes, we need to find ways to make manufacturing greener, but the biggest effect we can make is to manufacture less.”
9. What’s your biggest challenge/obstacle to success?
I would have to say that making customers aware of why we design and manufacture parts the way that we do is pretty tough. We’ve been around for 44 years now but we are still a small company and intend to stay that way. Speaking to the virtues of our manufacturing process and serviceability is not as sexy as new new new. Even if those new new new “innovations” don’t improve a rider’s experience. Getting customers to spend their money on quality components and then spend the next ten to 44 years investing in riding rather than replacements every few years is a challenge.
“Speaking to the virtues of our manufacturing process and serviceability is not as sexy as new new new.”
10. How can people help? Where can they learn more about your work?
Support local bike shops, businesses and as much as possible and read about the companies that make the parts you’re interested in. Ask where they make their product and why. Buying domestically produced parts and bikes is an easy way to start.
“Support local bike shops, businesses and as much as possible and read about the companies that make the parts you’re interested in.”
Jay Sycip is the Design and Events Manager at Chris King Precision Components. He also makes and designs bikes with his brother at Sycip Designs!
Edited by John Kim. When he’s not out for a ride, John uses his expertise in Corporate Social Responsibility to help companies do well by doing good. Find him at email@example.com or VirtCyc on twitter or instagram.