“I rode the streets of Cardiff, stopping fixed gear riders like some sort of weird bike stalker” – Tim

tim_fixed_gear_web

My wife Hannah and I moved to Cardiff from the East End of London in January 2010. It was something that we had been planning for around six months having had enough of London living after spending over 10 years there.

I grew up in St. Davids, Pembrokeshire so the move for me seemed a little closer to home, especially as my parents are still there and my sister was in St Mellons. Hannah’s maternal family hailed from Cwmbran so there was a connection for her too.

Nonetheless, we were filled with trepidation as we followed the removals van down the M4 towards our new home. We were fortunate enough to have found a house to rent that overlooks Roath Park Lake and gives us the space we need – a far cry from our 2 bed flat in Whitechapel. Bibiche, our elderly, grumpy, overweight cat is still coming to terms with the notion of a garden though.

We had always planned to start a family once we had moved so we were overjoyed to find out that Hannah was pregnant after we’d been here just over a week. Everything was falling into place and we were beginning to feel that we couldn’t have made a better choice of city to move to.

In London, I had pretty much always commuted to work by bike and for the last years or so had got into fixed gear cycling. Riding fixed means riding a bike with only one gear and most importantly no freewheel – your legs drive the rear wheel forwards AND backwards and effectively act as a rear brake. When you’re riding, your legs can’t stop for a break, you just have to keep on pedalling.

A massive scene has grown up around this in London and is now incredibly popular with couriers, commuters and hipsters alike, but I was interested in whether there was a similar scene in Cardiff and if so, could I meet like-minded riders and drop myself in once I moved.

After a couple of weeks of investigation I didn’t really come up with much in Cardiff – the only group I could find was Fixed Gear Wales (now The Foot Down), run by a chap called Tyron out of Swansea. I saw that he was organising an alleycat (an unofficial urban bike race with checkpoints that riders have to hit on their way round the route) and decided that I should make the journey to Swansea, take part and see if I could get the lowdown on anything that might be happening in Cardiff.

I came a pitiful 17th, but had made myself known to the Fixed Gear Wales guys and some of the Trackdropouts lot from Bristol. However, the consensus was that although there were some riders in Cardiff, there wasn’t what you would call a cohesive scene. I got some names of the riders they knew about and headed back to London.

Once we’d moved to Cardiff I decided to harness the power of Facebook and set up the Fixed Gear Cardiff group. I then posted a few notices on other similar groups and contacted the guys whose names I’d been given. I even took to riding the streets of Cardiff, hunting, down and stopping fixed gear riders when I saw them like some sort of weird bike stalker!

Another great help was Martin from the Bike Shed in Pontcanna. Around the same time he was looking to get riders together to play bike polo in Cardiff. Luckily it’s a sport that attracts the fixed gear contingent, so there was a lot of crossover between the groups.

18 months on and Fixed Gear Cardiff is still going. We’ve put on a number of races, get together socially and the polo side of things has really taken off with the Cardiff boys entering and winning a number of tournaments. There’s also a close relationship with Swansea and we often ride together socially and competitively.

More importantly for me it’s been a great way of getting to know some people and making some great friends – from university students to university professors, couriers to hairdressers.

In addition to the impact cycling has had on our Cardiff life, we have found incredible friends and support through the many local baby, health and community groups that exist in the city.

Our son Austin is now nearly a year old and we’re really settling in as a family. Our London life seems a bit of a distant memory now. We truly feel at home in Cardiff, a city that can sometimes feel as small as a village, and wish we had made the move earlier.

We’ve bought a house here now and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Cardiff has given us more roots than we ever could have hoped for in London and I don’t think we could imagine being anywhere else right now. Things are moving pretty fast for us and the city and the people in it seem to be supporting us all the way.

Unfortunately I still work in London so have to be away more than I would like but on the brighter side I get to leave the big smoke and come back here at the end of the day.

Tim is 33 years old and is an technical consultant for Skinkers, a mobile app development firm in London. He has a passion for heavy metal, tattoos and bikes and lives with his wife Hannah and son Austin in Roath. Tim set up Fixed Gear Cardiff in 2010 and hopes to give the “scene” a little more attention over the coming months

Tim was photographed in the rose garden at Roath Park by Adam Chard

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We Are Cardiff – a sexy statistical birthday update

I don’t like to spend too much of my time harping on about statistics. Really! However, in the case of the We Are Cardiff site, they’ve proven to be fairly amusing. And in the interests of a fully comprehensive first-year round up, I’m going to share some with you. Read on!

The basics:

The We Are Cardiff blog has had 24,851 views (to the second I’m writing this, which is undoubtedly already out of date) since it launched about a year ago.

There were 431 views on our busiest day, Friday 27 May 2011 (which was the day we published Bethan Elfyn’s story and also the day we inherited the Guardian Cardiff twitter feed).

Searching

People have found the We Are Cardiff site by searching the following terms.

They range from the expected sort of thing…

–      how the british look upon a person from cardiff

–      pubs on swansea road hirwaun aberdare

–      random noise in splott

–      whats its like to live in splott

–      dr who’s telephone box

–      is cardiff going to have a bad winter?

–      where does cardiff bay remind you off

–      what is splott like?

–      im proud of my city

–      llandaff good place to live?

 

to the more bizarre inquiry…

–      pink ballet net sitting down

–      what is the hooting noise coming from my chimney?

–      look at you now floyd

–      and i in english

–      safer cardiff locksmiths funding crisis

–      wenvoe postman

–      how do you pronounce tempus fugit

–      dzin teenage girls clothing to the skin as a avatar

–      maschine can you use it with turntables

–      what does we at your neck like a violin mean

–      fat violin player

 

 

Some people obviously think We Are Cardiff is some sort of online sex shop/dating service/interactive online map of crack dens:

–      mixed race girls splott

–      crack den cardiff

–      impregnating my mother

–      story stiff corset dependent boy

–      busty grandmothers with big boobs

–      squash players do it against the wall t shirt

–      bad girls in cardiff

–      busty amateur shirt

–      what not to tell hr

–      big tits cardiff area

–      gossip girl cardiff wordpress

–      tits in cardiff

–      huge tits in blue t shirt

–      craigslist cardiff ely sex

 

Some poor souls end up on the site looking for something spiritual that, you suspect, the internet can never offer:

–      lost but never alone

–      no dancing no huggin

–      this cold gotten into my bones

–      the cold feeling that you experience after leaving a swimming pool on a hot, dry, summer day

–      museum of broken relationships

 

 

And finally, and my personal favourite, the one that speaks to the very essence of what we’re trying to do with the project:

–      what’s it like to live cardiff like?

 

Helia Phoenix is a digital mystic who spends her days searching through statistics for the meaning of life. Follow her on Twitter or check her Tumblr.

We are Cardiff at the Pierhead

Here are a few sneak peeks at the new We are Cardiff exhibition at the Pierhead, Cardiff Bay, running until 9th September 2011. Hope you can make it!