BTR Fabrications is a tiny outfit making beautifully crafted steel frames from their small Somerset workshop. The full suspension Pinner is their latest creation and it's about as far as you can get from a product meant to be admired but never ridden - it's built to be thrashed, crashed and generally abused.
Based in Frome in the South West, BTR consists of just two guys, Burf and Tam. The fact that the other letter in their name stands for 'Racing' should give you some idea of how they see their products. The Pinner is the second full suspension machine they've crafted, but it's the first one that designed to be ridden up and well as down. I took it for a spin around their local woods to get a measure of the machine.
Compared to the original 26’’ wheeled downhill machine, the latest Pinner has a completely different front end and suspension kinematics. The demo bike runs 27.5" wheels, but you can of course still fit smaller wheels in the frame should you wish to go retro. The frame uses a linkage driven single pivot design with the linkages themselves being made from machined aluminium. The rest of the frame is made entirely from steel, using Reynolds 631 and 853 main tubes and Columbus for the stays.
The frame can be purchased in either a Burf or Tam edition, the only difference being the shock used. The Burf utilises a custom tuned Extreme Racing Storia LOK shock whereas the Tam uses a Cane Creek DB Coil. The Storia apparently offers a slightly less taut feeling with maximised grip - ideal if you spend most of your time thrashing the downhills - whereas the DB Coil equipped bike that we rode offers a more trail riding friendly feel.
All frames are built to order meaning if you want one, there’s a wait, but then you’d expect that from such handmade beauty. You can specify various options such as internal or external cable routing, custom head badges as well as an element of geometry customisation (for an extra charge). The finished product is quite simply stunning, the back end alone is a genuine work of art and every weld and braze is lovingly finished. The passion and quality are palpable and in the raw, lacquered finish on our demo it offers an almost crude engineering feel - crude in a good way, an organic way.
It's not often you can really feel the labour and love that’s gone into making a product, but with the Pinner, it's indisputable. Burt and Tam’s mission statement for the Pinner is that it's a bike for taking on everything, one that’s happy shuttling your gnarliest DH tracks as well as all day epics.
The geometry is progressive, which is great to see. There's a long front centre with a reach figure of 480mm on the large I rode, a head angle of 64 degrees and a 140mm head tube. The front end is undeniably on the higher side clearly showing its intentions for going down. That said, a nice ‘n’ steep seat angle of 76 degrees keeps the effective top tube at a more than reasonable 636 mm meaning climbing feels far easier than you'd expect.
The frame offers 130mm of very progressive rear wheel travel, enabling super short chainstays of 425mm, while the bottom bracket height is super low at around 330mm. More travel would alter their desired kinematics whilst compromising their love of a short back end and low bottom bracket heights. The large bike I rode had an approximate wheelbase of 1246 mm and a pleasingly short seat tube of 435 mm - thank you BTR, a company that agrees road bike length seat tubes are unacceptable. It can be built to accept a 140mm to 160mm travel fork and 142mm or 148mm Boost dropouts at the rear - the choice is yours.
Fat chewed, the correct weight spring fitted and bike set up and I popped off to Windhill Bike Park near their base in Frome for a spin around. What is immediately obvious is how taut the frame feels but with the steel doing a lovely job of dissipating vibration and unwanted trail buzz. It feels solid, burly and inspires confidence from the get-go. Straight into a red run to get warmed up and the Pinner is clearly disappointed with my somewhat lacklustre inputs. A quick pedal back to the top and I attack the second run with more aggression. Now the Pinner comes alive, the harder you push, the harder you land, the further you huck - to flat if you don't mind - the greater the reward.
Its no lightweight trail centre hack - though the Pinner will oblige - but to deny it its true purpose of shredding the gnarliest line or biggest hucks would almost be sacrilege. Drop an outside leg, bury your heel and weight that high front end and not only will you likely feel your shoe's rubber heel contacting the floor but you’ll also be immediately aware of the grip on tap, the Pinner pivoting swiftly on its low centre of gravity. Pedal strikes can be forgiven when you’re having this much fun.
It’s not a bike to cuddle and caress - it's designed to be ridden, and ridden hard at that. The highly progressive rear end could be accused of feeling a little numb if you’re gentle with it and the short chainstays and high front end ensure it's no marathon climbing weapon which is only saved by its steep seat angle. However, it's a bike built to take you out of your comfort zone and then some, it's built to conjure up the inner hooligan in you.
Rake a line down through your local woods and carve tight lines through it until the ruts are axle deep and blown to smithereens. Got a road gap in mind, one that doesn’t really have a landing, just a slightly smoother patch on the, well, other side? Don’t hesitate, just press send, that aforementioned progressive suspension action will save your arse time and time again. And, when you’re finished being an out and out hooligan, clean it off and sit outside the pub admiring what you did it all aboard.
It's as simple as this - ride the Pinner how you’re supposed to and it’ll reward you with a feeling akin to taking a gun to a knife fight - only you’re using an expensive custom shotgun and your compatriots are using a blunt Stanley knife to achieve the same outcome.
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