Bespoked Interview: Paul ‘Burf’ and the BTR Gasser

by and 8

Paul ‘Burf’ Burford, from BTR brought his latest creation, the Gasser DH bike, to Bespoked, Manchester. It’s been a long road to this point, and at one point it looked like he might have stopped making bikes, so we caught up with him for a chat.

There’s a few people are like ‘hang on, we thought you’d quit’ and yet you’re here with a new full suspension bike. So so why are you here? How did this happen?

II’m here because Petor [The Bespoked show’s co-owner] twisted my arm. Basically, I wasn’t planning on coming, but I’m here to kind of launch my YouTube series of building this bike. Not necessarily here to try and sell for sell these bikes. I don’t like the price that I have to put them out – because of how long they take to make like they’re pretty expensive. So I’m not super hopeful that I’m gonna sell loads of them. I’m here more to like promote the YouTube series that I hope to launch off building this bike.

So will YouTube series allow everyone watching to become like you and become a builder? Or is it more of a voyeuristic ‘look at the skills!’?

So I guess more voyeuristic at this stage. I do have plans of maybe doing some frame building instructional videos and whatnot, but there’s already a fair bit of that already out there. What I’d really like to do is make bikes that I want to make and then take them on an adventure. This one has been a teenage dream to build myself a downhill bike and then go and ride in Schladming. So that’s essentially what the YouTube series is about: me building the bike and then going riding in Schladming.

But it hasn’t been to Schladming yet?

No, it hasn’t been ridden yet.!

Not even a car park? We could probably arrange a car park test!

So… there’s there’s reasons that it can’t be car park tested.

We’ll come on! That’s intriguing! Can you tell us? Is something held together with some Blu-tack in there?!

The fork and rear shock are like a ‘demo only’ or ‘display only’. So they can’t really be ridden.

OK, fair enough.

The rear shock is not the right shock to be in the frame. And I’ve had to make some sort of sketchy 3D printed offset bushings to make it look right, and they don’t really work when you sit on it.

It’s like one of those pre production prototypes we get told about in the media!

Yeah, yeah!

OK, so where should we start? Start with some numbers. Tell us some numbers.

So there’s some good numbers on my old head badge there. They’ve got, we’ve got 13-14-23-24 and 31, are those the numbers you’re looking for?

What do those ones mean?

Those are all the all my family’s birthdays basically, So the wife and kids’ birthdays, and anniversary.

Hackers, take note! OK, how about the geometry and angles on here?

As I said the the frame has been built for me so it’s my size. I’ve gone for 525 on the reach, 63.5 on the head angle, chain stays 440. Bottom bracket’s -15, I can’t remember what exactly what the seat tube is, but it’s like enough so that rear the tyre doesn’t hit the saddle.

Bespoked 2024 – Victoria Baths, Manchester BTR Photo by Adam Gasson / Bespoked

And it doesn’t matter so much on a downhill bike? It’s not for pedalling!

Yeah, that’s it. It’s 190mm travel on the rear, 200 front. 150mm long head tube, so I get a decent stack out of it. Linear progressive leverage ratio. What else do you need to know? I don’t know the weight of it. I haven’t weighed it. I’m not a weight weenie, like it doesn’t matter what bike I’m riding. I’d prefer it to be strong and reliable, rather than light. So yeah, all my bikes are built that way and this one is no different.

And were there any particular challenges in how you constructed the frame? Apart from Petor’s six week notice!

Yeah, so…. I bought a CNC machine at the end of 2020 after building the first one of these frames because I wanted to machine all the linkages and stuff myself.  And what followed was four years of that machine breaking down and basically just ruining my life. So yeah, the biggest challenge was getting those those linkages machined. That was kind of the the last thing that I made for the frame and it was the last thing that could go really, really wrong. So it was a stressful week. I didn’t have any spare material to make it as well. So if I didn’t make them right first time, then getting that here to the show was kind of off the cards. So yeah, that was pretty stressful.

I couldn’t buy more material in time. So I had to save it and I’d literally just said to camera ‘I can’t f**k this up’. And then I went and f**ked it up, the very first thing that I did.

I was watching some of that happening on Instagram and I think you there was a story that was like ‘I have to do this right first time’ and then the next post was like ‘ohh, I f**ked it up!’ What happened there?

The first operation was drilling the hole for the the shock mount in that linkage. And I basically just got my feeds and speeds way too fast and the drill snapped in the material. So I had to get the drill back out of the material so I could then carry on machining the parts. I couldn’t like reorientate the material to sit the part in there a different way or whatnot. And I couldn’t buy more material in time. So I had to save it and I’d literally just said to camera ‘I can’t f**k this up’. And then I went and f**ked it up, the very first thing that I did.

But you’ve rescued the situation.

Yeah, managed to pull it out the bag.

Just like you’ve rescued Cindy, the CNC machine. Do you have any regrets about buying Cindy?

Yes. The reason that I actually bought her was because of how little money that she went for. It was only £1200 that it went for on eBay, and there was like a much smaller machine that I wanted to get that went for £3000. And I was like, ‘oh, no that’s too much money I can’t afford that’. So I ended up buying Cindy and then I’ve spent about like ten grand on repairs on her since. So yeah, in a sense I regret buying her and having to spend all of that money. But I’ve always wanted a CNC, ever since I was a teenager,  always wanted to learn how to use one. And so, yeah, having her and being able to make the stuff that I wanna make with it is, I don’t regret that.

And are you now in some sort of even stage of the relationship where you’re able to learn to CNC without her screwing it up for you?

Yeah, pretty much, yeah. Touch wood, fingers crossed, toes crossed, everything crossed! Because yeah, like there’s no, there’s no guarantees.

I shall pray to the gods of CNC. OK, we should go back to the bike. Why is there a join on the seat tube?

So the seat tubes, obviously we’ve got to fit a seat post into the top of the seat tube, but for steel bikes, to find a tube that’s got the right size internal diameter, you end up with something that’s really, really thick or it’s just not suitable to use for the complete length of the tube. So the bottom section of the tube is just a plain gauge 35mm, 0.9mm thick 41302. And then the top – that little bit on the top there is 35mm diameter tube, but then it’s got a much thicker wall which I machine out to fit the size of the seat posts, and then just weld it onto the top of the tube. So it’s literally just there to allow a seat post to go into the tube.

How come you’ve got a pinch bolt on the pivot there?

One of the great properties with steel for making hardtail frames is that it’s flexible and you can make a bike that has, you know, a nice flexible soft ride feel, all that jazzy bullshit that everyone talks about with steel. But when it comes to making a full suspension frame, that flex can work against you because you’ve basically got two separate sections of a frame that are held together with bolts and bearings, which inherently have got flex built into them. Like, a bearing – you’ve got two races running on steel, they move around, they’re just pressed into a frame which can then move around and then it’s bolted, which can then move around. So I basically tried to build the swing arm in the main pivot as stiff as possible, which then means that the way that the swing arm attaches to the frame is a little bit unconventional, or a little bit tricky in a sense. So most frames will have like a bolt that you bolt through the bearings through the frame and then bolt it up so that you can then take that axle out and the swing arm will just sort of come off the frame. Whereas that this frame has got a solid axle welded into the frame and then the swing arm is kind of solid. There’s no bits that move on that. So to actually get the swing arm onto or off the frame, you’ve got to remove one of the bearings and then slide the swing arm out of place. So you’ve got to have those pinch bolts on there so that we can get those bearings in and out nice and easy.

Do you have to compensate for the asymmetry in the pivot anywhere else?

No. Basically that’s only because of the chain ring. You’ve only got a limited amount of space for the drive side bearing to go in there. So it’s literally just the the main pivot is slightly offset and then the front portion of the the swing arm is slightly offset. And all that means is that that one tube there is notched at an angle, but then the rest of them are all at 90°.

Was that a tricky notch?

I actually built some fixtures and stuff like that to do it on the CNC machine on Cindy, because it is really tricky. Yeah, to try and hold that on my tube notcher and get both of those angles accurate and then repeat it for multiple swing arms [is really tricky]. So I built two swing arms at the same time, because it’s just too much faff to set it up on my tube notcher, so I made a little fixture system in the CNC machine, and did it in there. We’ll see all that in the YouTube series.

How come the head tube reinforcing rings are different?

The bottom of the head tube has got a 17-4 stainless ring silver soldered onto the bottom of it and that’s just like increases the strength on the bottom of the head tubes that we don’t flare it. The top is just a standard regular Bear Bikes head tube, as it comes with that little lip on the top and then I’ve added a bit of extra onto the bottom.

You did tell me before about the the fact that it’s painted and the colour inspiration for that , so tell us about that?

So I got really into Drive to Survive over the last couple of months and I just really appreciated how Ferrari was always red. They’ve always been red, never changed it. Other teams chop and change depending on their sponsors and all that kind of stuff. But Ferrari is just like, ‘No, we’re red’. I thought that was pretty cool. Also I watched American Chopper when I was a teenager and I absolutely loved it. I just wanted to make Choppers. They built a bike, the Black Widow bike, that was like a candy red and then chrome spider webs all welded around the outside of it. I really liked that red and chrome colour combo. So that’s kind of what I’ve gone for here. Red and Chrome.

It looks good!

Yeah, I think it looks sick as well. I’ve had quite a few projects in the past where you have a vision in your head, in your mind’s eye – ‘this is what I want it to look like’. And then the end result doesn’t quite do it. You’re just like, ‘oh, it’s not quite what I envisioned’. But I’m stoked with this one. It has come out pretty much exactly what I thought it would.

Like Ferraris, you’re not expecting to sell many of these, but if somebody wants to buy one, presumably you wouldn’t say no?

That’s it. Yeah, I’ll happily build one for someone. I’m just not not very hopeful!

Well maybe we’ll have hope for you! If people want to buy things from you other than this, what else have you got in the world for sale? Are you making other bikes still or are you like over that?

No, so I did get really stressed with making bikes and there was just so many things that were going wrong and I was just not enjoying it. BTR is 100% a passion project. I mean, I do not make a decent living, I don’t even make minimum wage. I do it because I love doing it. And it got to a point where I was just really not loving it and it was really stressful, I didn’t have any money. But I just can’t see myself doing anything else, I can’t envision doing anything else. I love going to the workshop every day. And so I can’t, I just can’t let go basically. So yeah, I’ll make stuff for you if you want, but I have to charge what I have to charge in order to make a living. And if I can’t do that, then I’m going to have to go and get a job that I hate!

Can you make Cindy pay for herself? Is there anything that she’s making?

Potentially, yeah, I’ve made some top caps and stuff like that with her, and I plan to make some pedals and some other bits and bobs, but she’s basically too unreliable for me to rely on her to make a living.I can’t put my eggs into that basket, and then her break down and I’m just left high and dry like I was before. I was trying to make stuff for other people before. I was making a rocker link for Paul Aston when she broke down last time, like right in the middle of it. I really needed the money that he was going to give me for making it. And then she just broke down, and I broke down and yeah, just had a mental breakdown. It was horrible.

Well, I hope you can keep getting enough ‘making’ to keep the the ‘art making’, the passion stuff, going. Thank you very much. Thanks for making it here.

Pleasure, thank you for having a chat.

If you want to buy a BTR Gasser, Paul says he’ll only make 10. And this is number 3. It’ll cost you £6,250 to get one! Congratulations to Paul for winning the ‘Best In Show’ and ‘Mike Burrows Innovation’ awards at Bespoked.

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Author Profile Picture
Hannah Dobson

Managing Editor

I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

More posts from Hannah

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • Bespoked Interview: Paul ‘Burf’ and the BTR Gasser
  • 1
    Full Member

    *starts saving*

    Full Member

    £10,000 on repairing a machine you need for work sounds super rough.

    Hope it stays fixed.

    Full Member

    That linkage and rear end looks very much like commencal of old.

    Free Member

    £10,000 on repairing a machine you need for work sounds super rough.

    Was following it all on Insta, it was. She basically needed a full strip and rewire

    Really happy it all worked out (for now), here’s hoping he can recover the costs and Cindy stops being so temperamental.

    Free Member

    Stoked this worked out for Burf, and everything crossed that BTR continue. I have a Ranger (Hannah ran a Readers Rides article on it) and it’s been the longest I’ve kept a frame for in 15 years. I’d order another in a heartbeat, nothing comes close.

    Free Member

    Always comes across as a genuinely nice guy on Instagram. What a great bike and well deserved win

    Full Member

    I love the skills and thought which goes into building something like this. I’ll be watching the YouTube series.

    Full Member

    I was getting worried with Tally Ho virtually finished but looks like I’ve found a potential new YouTube addiction ?

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