Tam is the ‘T’ in BTR. He spends most of his day in front of the computer, answering emails and tweaking designs.
Tam is BTR’s design engineer, among other things, having studied engineering at university. While he’s not a racer, Tam is focused on going fast on two wheels.
A constant thinker and dreamer, Tam analyses, ponders, and obsesses over every tiny detail on BTR products, before they’ve even been made.
Name: Officially Tom, but I’ve always been called Tam really
Height: 5′ 9.5″
Rides: Custom Ranger
Favourite food: Mum’s home made bread with butter
Favourite music: Various artists
Favourite place: Glencoe hills
You grew up in the Highlands didn’t you? What was it like with all that space?
Yeah I’m a country boy. Growing up where I did was incredible looking back at it, though most of the time I probably would have preferred living somewhere near my school mates. Now I really miss being able to head out into the hills straight from my house, and not see another person.
Are you a natural-born engineer? Did you grow up constructing or did that come later?
I guess I always had it coming; my Dad always wanted to be an engineer (and in many ways is, but no piece of paper saying so) so I grew up with him showing me how things worked and how to fix them. I think I grew up bodging more than anything else. If you can fix or make something with the wrong materials, no design, and knackered tools, you’re pretty much set for when you have a detailed design, carefully selected materials and dedicated tooling.
What was the bike riding scene like where you grew up? Were you always out in the hills on bikes or were you doing a range of sports?
Its stupid; I didn’t really get into riding until I moved to Oxford for (Brookes!) uni. I’m sure the riding scene was awesome back home, but I was never part of it! Just look at the likes of Joe Barnes, James Shirley, etc; I went to school with them. In fact Hannah Barnes was in a few of my classes…
What did you study at Uni and why? Have you always had an idea of where you wanted to take it?
I started uni studying Automotive Engineering MEng…thought I was destined for the giddy heights of F1! After a year of that I realised that F1 is a huge business rather than a sport, and really I was done with education so I just wanted to survive and come away with a qualification. I switched to Motorsport Technology BSc (that’s right, I’m a scientist, not an engineer!) and muddled through. Expensive bit of paper. Thankfully I met Luis from K9 Industries at uni, and that got me into working with bikes.
How was it working at K9? Describe what they did and your involvement.
Working at K9 was an awakening. Suddenly shiny and expensive wasn’t best; there was actual physics behind it all. Everything could be analysed, optimised, improved…there was SO MUCH to be done. I worked for them for a placement year, and then 2 years after uni as a design engineer. My main job was designing the frames around geometry defined by Luis, and making sure they would stay together; pretty important on DH and Enduro bikes! That said, in such a small company everyone tends to be involved with everything, so I learned a lot about suspension, geometry, etc.
Was it a big leap of faith to start BTR, or just something that had to be done no matter what sacrifices had to be made?
I had no idea what I was getting into really. I thought I did, but I didn’t. It seemed trivial at the time, just something I wanted to do. Now it’s a bit more real its a lot more daunting. There is SO MUCH more to do! Marketing, accounts, emails, finishing, logistics, rent, rates, overheads… and money doesn’t just magically appear in my account at the end of each month; I (we) actually have to bring business in before we can get paid. Stressful, but satisfying.
Where do you draw influence from for your work on BTR? (i.e. do you look at other sports and how they work on technology and designs or just purely do your own thing?)
I guess I do my own thing mainly. It’s common for parallels to be drawn between cycling and other sports, and at a low level there are a lot of similarities between push bikes and motorbikes, or even between push bikes and cars. But similar rarely means the same. I have ideas brewing most of the time, and so long as I know what something needs to do I’ll come up with a solution eventually. Ideas come to me at the strangest times and places… I just let my mind wander and eventually the right thoughts line up.
What’s the balance between working on paper and good to ride in reality? How do you make sure you strike a good balance?
Working on paper only works when it’s good to ride; that’s the rule. The difficult bit is working out or knowing in advance what’s going to be good to ride. We spend a lot of time thinking about the bikes before we build them, and then everything gets ridden before we commit to selling them. So far we’ve been pretty good at getting things right on the first go, but there are always tweaks to be made and gains to be had.
How many sleepless nights does it take to make a BTR bike?
If you include the initial design, it takes a few. We try not to build through the night if we can; its mainly accounting and other onerous tasks which are reserved for the night shift.
What part of the BTR story so far are you most proud of?
I think I’m most proud of our story; coming from nothing to where we are today. We’ve both worked hard to get to this stage, and we’re still just warming up!
Describe your living setup and the sacrifices you make to be able to focus on BTR…
My living arrangements have been pretty varied since starting BTR. When we started up I ditched life and moved into our workshop (at the time Burf’s Dad’s shed). I slept on a shelf there for most of 18 months. When BTR moved to Frome I took a step up in the world, at least as far as sleeping arrangements were concerned; I slept on the floor of a mate’s narrow boat for another 18 months or so… cheers Ant! Since then I moved to a flat in Bath – very ‘nice’ but not very me – that lasted just over a year; the commute was a bit much, and Bath is expensive and busy! Now I own a house a little closer to the workshop. It’s crazy to think that only a few years ago I was sleeping in a sleeping bag, on a shelf, in a shed…
Best bit of running your own bike company?
Our bikes putting smiles on faces
And the worst bit..?
Stress and/or not getting out enough
Tam's Blog Posts
Ride along with BTR Ambassador and Gasser Diaries’ main man Billy Hoyes as he takes his Pinner travelling, from City To Sand. Billy tackles a spot of street riding, then heads out to Boomerang Bike Park to hit jumps and drops in his signature loose style – all on board his custom Pinner. Big thanks
Unless you’ve been hiding from the long arm of BTR social media, you’ll be aware that we’ve built a rather special bike for the 2018 Grinduro Scotland race. It’s something we’ve been asked about plenty already, and even built a few custom frames, so we’ve jumped on the opportunity to build the Ranger a wider
Introducing fully configurable frame kits – choose from a selection of our favourite headsets and forks with your frame, to kick off your ideal build. [EDIT 30/08/2017 – Fork options now include the Fox 36 Factory RC2] [EDIT 31/08/2017 – Fork options now include the Fox 36 Performance RC2] Choice is one of our key
The Pinner is a single pivot, linkage actuated, steel full-suspension chassis with 130.42mm of travel for riding hard and having fun. It’s available in 4 sizes, and for both 26” and 27.5” wheels. As with everything BTR, it’s designed and built by Burf & Tam in Frome, Somerset, UK. This is our second iteration of