Two chaps who like making things and riding hardtails, Paul ‘Burf’ Burford and Tom ‘Tam’ Hamilton have followed their dreams and made the salmon–like leap from ‘mates welding bikes up in a shed’ to becoming ‘a bicycle company that welds bikes up in a shed’. Meet BTR and their first frame the Belter…
From Dirt Issue 124 – June 2012
Words by Billy Thackray. Photo by Ed H.Dirt: So let’s get a bit of background then, who are you two then?
Burf: I started racing DH in 1999 and was hooked, it was all about the racing. I became pretty all right at the old DH game, racing in Expert for the Muddy Fox team back when the Athertons were on it. For as much of that time as I can remember I have wanted my own bike company. So while my mates were all doing seasons in Morzine, I took my self to college and university to study engineering.
Tam: I spent most of my childhood tinkering with stuff with my old man. There was always something to fix; a car, a boat, a lawnmower. By the age of twelve I had a metalwork lathe in my bedroom, so I was always making bits to fix this or that. The plan after school was to go to university to learn engineering and other life skills so I could get a stressful automotive job and earn millions. And that’s kind of how it happened, but somewhere along the line ‘stressful’ got replaced by ‘awesome’, ‘automotive’ got replaced by ‘bikes and stuff’ and ‘millions’ got replaced by ‘not quite enough’. I reckon I’m winning.So how did the lawnmower fixer and the ex–Muddy Fox rider meet?
Burf: I heard about K9 industries in Oxford and got in touch with them. Tam was there on his sandwich year and we just got on and became good friends, riding loads and getting seriously drunk with Old Rosie. We found out that we both wanted to start a bike company and we both wanted it to be ‘Handmade in Britain’. I don’t think we ever said to each other “let’s start a bike company”, it was just something we both wanted and it happened.How did the pair of you decide to take the plunge from being homebuilders to starting up a bike company?
Tam: For us it was more like taking the plunge to homebuilders. We made a tube notcher, bought a welder, made a jig, etc. just for our first frame. From there the progression to starting BTR was pretty stress free. We’ve both wanted to make bikes for a number of years, and we love riding them, so why not try and make it our job?So, why build this super slack hardtail?
Burf: I saw no point in having a massive squishy 8in travel DH bike for the tame tracks we have in the UK and figured a hardtail would teach me a load more about riding DH and be a lot more fun. I said to Tam that I wanted a DH specific hardtail, with a 83mm bottom bracket and a 150mm rear hub and he got to work. A few years and many design changes later, Tam phoned me and said, “are we gonna make this bike then or what?”
Tam: We both wanted a hardtail that didn’t exist at the time, something solid and reliable, cheap, fun in a variety of terrain, and something that would teach us a lot about riding.What are the numbers on the frame?
Burf: It’s got a 61° head angle, 72° seat angle, 390mm seat tube, 415mm chainstay, 125mm head tube, 50mm BB drop. 83mm BB, 150×12 rear end, 1 1/8″ integrated head tube, 27.2mm seat tube, and ISCG05 mounts.You say ‘cheap’ but your frame is 600 quid! Do you think that’s a realistic price for a handmade frame in this country?
Tam: We’re sure it will put some people off, but what we’re up against is the cost of materials and supplies in small quantities. You can buy a whole hardtail frame from Taiwan for less than what it costs us for the gas to weld a frame!It’s been pointed out that you can get something like a second hand fully built Orange 224 on eBay for £600, so why not get that if you want to go downhill fast?
Tam: You can get lots of things on eBay, most for significantly less than £600, but that’s not the point is it. You can buy a 224 if you want, but we’ll have bigger grins and more epic tales at the end of the day!Downhill specific hardtails are a niche in a niche, have you done the maths and worked out how many frames you’ll need to sell to make a go of it? Tam: We hope to sell a few, of course. Sure it’s a small segment of a small market sector, so we would have our work cut out to sell lots, but if we wanted one there must be others that want one. What does the future hold for BTR? What’s the grand plan?
Burf: We just want to keep working on BTR. Hopefully one day it’ll pay our wages, and we’ll be able to move somewhere that’s got quality riding close by, that’d do nicely!