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

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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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“You forget how you used to get lost in the streets” – Helen

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I came to Cardiff through one last ditched attempt at following a dream.

Everyone around me knew what they wanted to do with their life and I thought I did as well. This is a normal reaction to being told you are good at something, along with being asked what you want to be when you’re older. I had my heart set on being a dancer. I began training and travelled around England and then the world chasing this dream until I landed in Cardiff on the UWIC Dance BA (Hons) Degree.

I can’t admit to knowing what hitting rock bottom feels like, although my first few weeks in Cardiff definitely came close. I didn’t know anyone, I’d left my job, I was living with people I couldn’t connect with and a romance had ended. This was not the best start to university life and what should have been the beginnings of much happier time.

It became apparent I had to stop wallowing and deal with the situation the best I could. I made an effort to meet people and formed new friendships, and a new romance was sparked. Things started to fall into place and I was excited it was going to be played out in Cardiff.

Skip forward two years through a fire, starting a new job, a broken foot, and many fancy dress parties. I was offered the opportunity to programme a dance evening as part of the Made in Roath arts festival. I suddenly realised that my passion for dance didn’t necessarily mean it had to be in a performance capacity. I now know that even if performance is not for me I can support others in their dreams to perform. Arts management and programming is my new answer to what I want to do with my life.

I love the city and not just because it is where I found my feet. There are so many quirky cafes, pub and restaurants to waste a free afternoon or evening in. Tea and Cake, The Pen and Wig and Daiquiris are among some of my favourite. I could list a number of places in Cardiff worth a mention or visit.

You know you have found your place when there is a sigh of relief on your return back there. You forget how you used to get lost in its streets, as navigating one side of the city to the other becomes second nature. Both of these apply to me and I have learnt that you can dream but be prepared for it to change direction! For now I am happy in Cardiff and think I will be staying for the foreseeable future. Providing my new dream doesn’t change direction!

Helen Di Duca lives in Cyncoed, previously to that Roath and Heath. She harbours an unhealthy addiction to watching YouTube videos and consuming large amounts of Thai green curry. As well as being in her final year of university she works at the CIA and love contributing to arts projects in her spare time.

Helen was photographed in Royal Arcade by Amy Davies

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