Who I Am
Name: Paul Burford, but most people call me Burf
Born: Via C-section in Rustenburg hospital
Favourite food: Mother Bear’s macaroni cheese.
Favourite music: I like all kinds of music, its rare that I like a whole album though.
Favourite place: I’d say Morzine probably. So much riding is accessible from Morzine, there is always a good drink up, and you are bound to see someone you know out on the trail. But really, as long as the sun is out I don’t care.
When did you start riding and why?
I’ve always ridden bikes, but I didn’t really know about MTB racing etc until my Dad bought a bike shop in Worthing in 1999. I saw a trials demo at a trade show and started doing that on my dads bike that had cantilever brakes and was way too big. I started hanging out with some guys that came into the shop who were into street riding, but I was starting to get interested in DH. The old man suggested we go watch a local race and from then on I have been hooked.
Your dad owned a bike shop, what do you think you learnt about working on bikes from that?
I learnt a lot on how to maintain bikes, which was pretty handy when racing. I learnt a lot more from my Dad about bodging things though. Getting my bike working again with limited spares and tools on the side of a mountain is one of the best skills to have.
What bikes did you used to race downhill on? Describe how you kept them running.
My first DH race bike was a Claud Butler hardtail with some DNM triple clamps on the front. Yeah, I bet you haven’t heard of either of them. My first full sus was a Barracuda Tonga with a DNM rear shock and some Shock Wave triple clamps on front. Another beaut of a bike. I managed to get some pretty good results at the local pedalhounds races on it. Next up was a Coyote DH3, DNM rear shock and Marzocchi Junior T’s up front. I remember people asking me what it was like to ride a bike that had suspension that actually moved. After this bike I was picked up by the Muddyfox racing team and rode a Muddyfox Huck. Absolute beast of a machine she was. The bike was so heavy and we had to do some work on the linkage plates to sort the geometry out, but the team managed some pretty good results on them. After every race I would strip my bike completely, the linkage and all. I would then clean everything and put it back together ready for the next race.
Can you remember any special mods you did to your bikes while you were racing? Fixing forks, tweaks here and there etc.?
I made super thin washers to space the bearings properly and help them run smother. I would also service my own forks etc. Anything I could do to make it run better I would do it. At one of the Nationals at Ft. Bill someone stopped on the side of the track and I hit them, punching a hole in my lower fork leg that all the oil leaked from. The old man and I made a patch and glued it in place, those forks lasted another season or two I think…
What bike brands did you aspire to when you were growing up racing? Which ones really impressed you?
I really liked the handmade British hardtails that were knocking about Like Revell etc., also Spooky and Brooklyn Machine Works. The V-process bikes were pretty awesome, I liked their approach to development. Ancillotti were, and still are, awesome bikes too.
How did you get into welding?
At college they stuck us in the welding workshop for a day because one of the teachers quit and they didn’t know what else to do with us. I learnt MIG and oxy-acetylene welding while there. I wanted to make bike frames since I was about 15 and knew I needed to learn to weld. I toyed with the idea of a welding apprenticeship but decided to go to uni instead
You’re pretty shit hot on the welds – in what job did you really hone your craft?
I learnt to TIG weld when I started a job in a sheet metal fabrication firm. But it has been welding the frames that has improved my skills the most. There is always room for improvement, and the better I get the more I can see room for improvement.
How did you come to meet Tam then? Did you two get on straight away as weld/engineer geek pals?
Tam and I met through a small start up company in Oxford called K-9 Industries. He was into riding and was also keen to have his own bike company, so yeah, we got on straight away really.
Was it a big move to start BTR or a natural progression of everything you’ve learnt from riding, racing and welding?
I wanted to start my own framebuilding firm since I was around 15 years old, so everything I did from going to college to learning to weld was with the view of being able to build my own frames. I’d say it was a natural big move…
How do you and Tam work with one another on each frame? Who does what?
Tam can’t TIG weld and I don’t really do computers, so I weld and Tam designs. We meet somewhere in the middle when it comes to everything else.
Can you describe any unique/special processes or tools (i.e. homemade stuff) that are involved in making a frame?
All the jigs we use have been made by us, also the machine used to notch (fishmouth/cope) the tubes was made by us. There main thing that is unique though is the amount of time we spend on the little details that most people will never notice. It’s crazy when we see a mass produced frame, we just don’t understand how people can not care that much…
How much elbow grease goes into each frame?
More than you could imagine. I never thought it would be so much work, and when we have journalists come visit, they often remark on how surprised they are in how much work is involved.
Which is your favourite BTR frame and why?
You can’t make me choose just one, they are my babies! I love them all for different reasons.
Best bit of running your own bike company?
When you see someone win a race on your frame. Also when you get to go riding and say “this is work”
And what’s the worst bit?
There is a lot more to it than just building and riding bikes. But seriously, how could there be any bad bits? There are people all over the world that have to take whatever they can get just to put food on the table. I get to play around with bikes the whole time!
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