Michael Braybrook caught up with Tam from BTR to quiz him about his prototype, integrated brake line, hardtail.
Tam and Burf of BTR Fabrications quickly made a name for themselves in 2012 with the release of their bold genre-busting Belter frame featuring some pretty outrageous geometry figures, even to contemporary standards. Six years on and it seems the fire inside that drove them to push boundaries still hasn’t gone out with the first test prototype of their hardline rear brake. We managed to hold Tam down for five minutes to find out more.
So, let’s get right into it. What is it?
It’s a piece of stainless steel tube brazed onto the frame, to replace the majority of the rear brake hose.
Any particular reason? I’m presuming there’s an advantage to doing this?
Yeah, so we’re often looking for greater integration between components and the frame – if it results in better performance. Our internal cable routing goes a little way towards this, where we brazed in a thin tube to guide the rear brake hose through the frame, but with no performance gain. Using a rigid steel tube instead of a plastic, or even braided, flexible hose should give a definite increase in stiffness of the hose, therefore a firmer lever, more like you get from the short hose on a front brake.
And does it work?
Hard to say so far. It seems like the connectors that join the flexi hose to the solid line trap a bit of air, so I haven’t managed to properly bleed the system yet. I’ve had it feeling at least as good as the front brake, but it didn’t stay like that for long during testing at Bike Park Wales. It lasted the day with no leaks, but I did have to pump the lever a bit to keep the bite point away from the bar in my last couple of runs. It would be easy to sort the connectors so that they at least trap a lot less air – this bike just has ones that I machined up quickly, so aren’t particularly accurate.
So this one’s quite an early test model at this stage then – did you find any downsides so far?
In use, none other than the bleeding woes. However there’s clearly some possible issues that we’d want to work on; any failure of the welded part of the system requires metalwork on the frame, as well as the initial brown-trouser moment if the worst happens. Failure is arguably more likely since there are twice as many joins in the hose, and there are even questions around fatigue life of the hard line, since it’s rigidly attached to the frame, but that’s the point of testing it so we can work out these kinks before releasing it.
Is it something you’re hoping to offer on future bikes? Can we expect to see it on the BTR spec sheet any time soon?
If it works well – makes a worthwhile difference to the performance of the bike, and can be proven to be extremely reliable and durable, then we’ll try and bring it into production. A lot of ‘ifs’ there though.
Has anyone tried anything like this before then or are you guys the first?
I’ve seen it once before, on a Titchmarsh custom frame. That said, every car on the road has a similar layout of flexible hose and steel lines, so it’s clearly a sensible move. The main issue is miniaturising the automotive system for bike use, and assembling it in a way that’s reliable.
What’s the plan for the future with it? Can we expect to see other manufacturers having a go?
For now, I think we’ll just run it on our own personal bikes. There are too many unknowns to build a customer’s bike with it. Maybe some other small manufacturers might give it a try, but I doubt any of the larger guys will bother themselves with the risks involved, not yet anyway.
Can we expect to see anything else from the BTR workshop soon then?
Ranger Plus is the next announcement I guess… or the Roamer fat bike. They’re pretty much ready to go, so it shouldn’t be long for either of them! We’re always working on ideas, so it’s worth keeping an eye on our Instagram or Facebook. New stuff tends to appear there before anywhere else!
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