Community Spotlight: Tim Sodko and Sheffield Bike Works

“One of my favorite things about bocce is its simplicity. There aren’t a lot of barriers to get started. Within half a game you’ll be good enough to feel comfortable, but it’s also such a fine skill that it can take years to master. That and the people are what keep me coming back.”

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Tim Sodko rolling stones in his first season at Thalia Hall.

Sounds not unlike what Tim loves about bikes and biking. (By the by, that is a quote from him. All quotes are Tim.) Bikes are simple. Almost anyone can learn to ride a bike—it’s so easy it gave us a cliché. Plus, a bike acts as a key to the city. It opens up one’s ability to explore and experience Chicago in an important way. Neighborhoods that are either a CTA hassle or completely cut off become easily accessible. Chicago is making strides to be a better biking city and even when the lakeshore is busy, it’s still an excellent and beautiful way to get from one end of the city to the other. Tim’s goal with Sheffield Bike Works is to create bicycles that fit the individual and stand out in a crowd, from biking newcomers to cycling enthusiasts and everyone in between.

Tim grew up in the relatively quiet suburbs of Rolling Meadows and Palatine, but always preferred the pace and excitement of the city. Even as a kid he was drawn to the marble and concrete landscapes of Chicago that were so perfect for biking and skateboarding. Tim moved downtown after college in Madison, WI and has lived in the city for the past 10 years. He currently works in advertising, but “not the cool, flashy advertising. I run the analytics department for my company so it’s a lot of maths and visuals.” He spends summer weekends biking all over the city with a group of friends, exploring new neighborhoods and trying new restaurants and bars. “It’s kind of like a Harley gang, but our focus is brunch instead of brawls.” It is this ritual that led Tim to American Bocce Company and helped spawn Sheffield Bike Works.

The bike gang was at Dusek’s for brunch when we saw the sign for bocce upstairs.

“For me, it was love at first sight. The venue, the music, the camaraderie, the bar, the perfect amount of competition. We signed up for the next open league at Thalia Hall and have been playing ever since.

We started out as Chewbocce, but unfortunately we weren’t able to lock down that team name with the new website. We’re currently rolling under the name Dutch Rudders, which stemmed from a hilarious soccer team logo that my buddy Travis found. Not sure if we’ll stick with that, but it works for now.

If I had to name a specific favorite moment it would have to be when we took home the championship last Fall. I try to keep my competitive side in check at bocce, but it felt really good to win it all.”

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Tim (left) and the Chewbocce squad won the championship this winter.

Tim found American Bocce Company at a pivotal moment for his own business project. Entrepreneurial endeavors that grow out of an inner passion is the ABC sweet spot and Sheffield Bike Works is exactly that. The business is based on the simple idea that everyone should be able to have a beautiful bike at an affordable price.

As a kid, Tim used to build bikes for kids in the neighborhood.  He worked in various bike shops while in high school and college, both of which left him with a taste for the craftsmanship of putting a bike together from saddle to spokes. This hobby grew into a potential business venture when Tim joined his girlfriend Mandy in shopping for her new bicycle. All the factory bikes addressed some needs while neglecting others and custom bikes were priced out of reach. They ended up finding a “good enough” factory bike for her, but the whole process left a bad taste. When he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a hole in the market, he began developing a plan to fill it.

Tim tells the story of how the first bike was built.

We found a guy in West Chicago selling a bunch of bikes so we rented a Uhaul and bought eight bikes off this guy. They were all old and neglected, so we tore them down and kept the salvageable parts and frames. The plan was just to build bikes for friends and see if there was interest outside of that. The first one was for a friend that wanted a basic bike to cruise around on the weekends. When it was done I took it outside to take a few pictures to show it off. A couple stopped, said how awesome the bike was and then asked me where I got it. ‘I built it in my living room.’ They were amazed. That’s when it dawned that this might have legs. If you can build something that looks cool, is not off the rack and is not completely out of someone’s price range, then there is something there. That was exciting.

Today, Sheffield Bike Works builds custom bicycles using upcycled frames and a clean design aesthetic formed around classic colors, quality components and personalized accessories.

This is how the process works:

The first step is a consultation to determine what the rider likes and how they want to ride. That personal connection is essential. We treat it like a full custom bike, just not one with frame and geometry specifically built and tailored to you because we don’t want an $800 frame to be the starting block here. I’ll do a comprehensive check of the frame that best fits you to be sure that it’s sound. Once that’s been established I have it professionally powder coated and then spray the insides with rust-proofing. Then we focus on getting you the right parts, because that’s what the ride is really about.

Exciting announcement: you all get to see the process and result in action with the American Bocce Bike that Sheffield Bike Works is building out for us (not the bike below). We’ll have some follow up articles regarding how to find the right bike for you, bicycle maintenance tips, an American Bocce Bike reveal and more here on the blog. To follow the happenings and get a bike of your own started, check out their website here and follow Sheffield Bike Works on Facebook and Instagram.

One thought on “Community Spotlight: Tim Sodko and Sheffield Bike Works

  1. Pingback: American Bocce Bike Examined | American Bocce Blog

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