BTR ‘From The Ground Up’: A film about passion and craftsmanship
Despite the cold, rain and general lack of sun in March in the UK, we decide to take geebeebee media down to the South Coast of the UK, to pay a visit to our friends Paul Burford and Tam Hamilton, better known as custom hand-made bike designers and builders, BTR Fabrications. What started out as a simple idea to document how the guys approach building their custom frames, turned into an engrossing documentary, detailing the guys’ passion for their work, the bike industry and building the best products they can…all from quite literally, a garden shed. We put our Sony FS700 to use in filming the guys at work, and as an engineer myself (in a distant past life), it was great to be back amongst the lathes, swarf and smell of burning metal. I guess that’s why we came away from this project with a film we’re so proud of! Anyhow, here’s the film and story we put together…
Walking into the workshop at BTR Fabrications, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in an ironmongers, a car repair shop or a man-shed of epic proportions. Surrounded by both familiar and ‘what on earth does that do’ engineering machinery, you quickly realise you’re at the heart of where something special happens.
This is where bikes are born.
Borne from the ambition to design and build bikes for individual riders, rather than a one-size-fits-all bike for the masses, the bespoke cycle industry centres around the passion and craftsmanship of people like Paul Burford and Tam Hamilton, who are Burf and Tam Racing Fabrications. Working from their shed in Littlehampton, UK, BTR have delivered frames to customers around the world, specialising in their steel hardtail models, the Belter, Ranger and Ripper, whilst developing prototypes such as the 4X-specific Ignitor and the Enduro DH full-sus Thrasher.
Despite the organised chaos of the workshop, Burf and Tam both have established backgrounds in engineering, expertly combining their knowledge of materials, techniques, design and CAD, to produce these handbuilt beauties. And whilst their frames can be bought off-the-peg with standard BTR geometry, the guys pride themselves on being able to customise numerous aspects of their stock frames to their customers requirement, such as a half-degree angle here or an extra few millimetres there, so no two bikes are ever really alike!
After seeing how their bikes and team riders perform in local grassroots races (they’re currently on a winning streak), and seeing their popularity and customer service in the field…literally, we approached the guys with a view to making this film about them, to show their expertise and skill, together with their enthusiasm and personal enjoyment in crafting these bikes.
During our two day shoot alongside the guys in the shed, it was clear that, like a tight sounding band, Burf and Tam didn’t really need to talk to each other that much, with each of them concentrating on the task in hand, then handing their work back and forth until the tubes started to resemble those trusted parts we see each day. After a lot of precision cutting, milling, notching, de-burring, cleaning and welding, Ripper frame number 021, for local rider Aaron Bennett, gradually started to take shape on the jig. As the second day drew to a close, the signature BTR ‘X’ tube gussets were welded into place by Burf, and the frame was finally born.
Two guys with a dream, in a shed…and it’s actually happening.