HQ Interviews… Wilco bikemaker Todd Simeone

Wilco HQ interviewed Todd Simeone, maker of the Wilco Bike — a prize in The Whole Love Pre-Order Store drawings. Todd is a Chicago-based visual artist, general bike guy and co-founder of Tenspeedhero.com.  

1. What inspired you to build a custom Wilco bicycle?
Not sure if it was my inspiration so much as I would like to think it was Jeff’s. I love to build these bikes, and I had made a very nice single speed for a friend. Jeff saw it and approached me about commissioning bikes for the band.  Thinking about it, the prospect of a “Wilco” bike was interesting to me. Not only did the name “Wilco” seem like it could be a bike manufacturer, but based on the music, I honestly couldn’t think of any band other than Wilco having a bike named after it. Wilco and bike riding seemed like a great match.

2. Why a “fixie” (fixed gear bike)?
Actually it’s a single speed, with an option for a “fixed gear” on the hub. A fixed gear has constantly moving pedals, and is very efficient, but can require some skill and concentration to ride. A one speed bike with a freewheel allows the rider to coast and be mellow. Either way, one-speed bikes have a lot of appeal for their simplicity. No gears and little maintenance makes life easier (as long as there are no hills).

3. What makes this bike unique to Wilco and Chicago?
Bikes have always been a huge part of Chicago, from Schwinn to the current fixed gear craze. It’s an easy city to ride a bike, and cycling has impacted the culture in Chicago significantly. As a project, the most noteworthy aspect was the collaborative local effort put in to building the bike. Several talented Chicagoans contributed in amazing ways.

4. What inspired your design choices/colors?
Some of the design choices were made based on classic original bike designs including the original frame manufacturer. There is a timeless quality to a lot of bike design, which also seemed to mesh with Wilco’s aesthetic. Color was my main contribution, and when thinking about Wilco and their music, I could not picture anything but “dust blue” (which also happened to be a 1950’s Ford truck color).

5. Can you give us a synopsis of the process that went into building the bike?
I searched for months for just the right frame, which consisted of several steps including a near re-making of the frame’s basic components.  While other work was being completed, I would chip away at the design and slowly look for the perfect parts. Once everything was collected, the hard part was basically over.  Actually building the bike only took a few days, but even then fine details and intricate solutions had to be made. From inception to final build the project lasted over a year.

6. How did you get started in building custom bikes? How long have you been building them?
I have been riding and building my own bikes since I was a little kid, but only in the last few years got into the idea of restoration. I grew up in the Detroit area, where friends’ parents were always restoring old cars so I was somewhat familiar with the process. It started by restoring one of my own road bikes, and continued as outside interest grew and my skills and resources accumulated.  I have always been partial to putting work into something with a history, and do similar things with my visual artwork. As a hobby, bike restoration satisfied everything I was interested in while giving me a practical break from some of my other work.

7. What are you listening to in your shop these days?
This is a funny question.  The shop is pretty low-fi. There is currently a Hank Williams CD stuck in the changer, and that’s pretty much it.