Long before the BTR Pinner was a dream in anyone’s mind, BTR Fabrications started out with legendary Belter hardtail, back in 2011. One of the pioneers of the hardcore hardtail movement, the BTR Belter brought to the table some previously unseen geometry figures, which, when combined with its cross-braced steel structure, created an aggressive package that really conveyed how the bikes were intended to be ridden. The Belter had a 61-degree head angle for crying out loud! That’s still insane nine years on.
Fast forward to the present day and BTR Fabrications are producing a broader range of steel bikes that stay true to the heritage of the original Belter. Through the years they have maintained their image by producing aggressive, no BS bikes, and the Pinner, on test here, is no exception. But how does this translate to how the Pinner behaves on the trail? I was desperate to find out; and thankfully Burf – the main who’s single-handedly running the show at BTR Fabrications these days – was happy to lend me his personal rig to see for myself. The testing period saw the Pinner subjected to the full range of UK mountain bike riding, from trail center blasting to bike park thrashing around the country.
As with all of BTR’s rigs, the Pinner features a blend of steel tubing – Reynolds 631 & 853 front end, with Columbus rear – to deliver their idea of a perfect trail feel. CNC machined & hard anodised 7075 T6 suspension links feature sealed double row and full-complement ball bearings throughout to control the linkage actuated single pivot 130mm rear end. The result is a package that is clearly made to take a beating, as reflected by the 10.1-lb (4.6kg) weight for the large frame tested (including rear axle, derailleur hanger, shock & steel spring, internal cable routing and integrated seat clamp).
The geometry on the BTR Pinner was considered downright ridiculous when it was introduced in 2017, but the shift in geometry over the last couple of years in the industry means it falls on the aggressive side of what is becoming commonplace going into 2020. This is no bad thing though, in my eyes BTR really nailed it with the geometry on the Pinner back at its inception, given its’ rowdy intentions with a playful character.
A 480mm reach and 425mm chainstay on the size Large tested, combined with a tall 625mm stack and 20mm BB drop, give the Pinner an interesting upright stance that feels very aggressive from the get-go. A 64 degree head angle and 76 degree effective seat angle round out the aggressive numbers. This is one wild 130mm travel bike on paper!
Studying the finish of the bike is a very pleasant affair – a lot of attention to detail has gone in to the design of the Pinner, with internal cable routing featuring welded-in stainless steel guide tubes; well sealed pivots designed for the worst of the British mud; braces in all the right places; and a very neat personalised headtube badge that’s inscribed with the customer details.
How much will this quality finish set you back? A BTR Pinner built to your exacting specs starts at £3000 for the base frame, which includes your choice of any RAL colour scheme for the front and rear ends independently. Certainly not a cheap frame – there are some excellent options for a full bike on the market at the same price after all – but the exquisite attention to detail and its’ rare, custom nature go some way to justifying it.
Combined with its’ upright stance, the raked out head angle meant that particular attention was required to weight the front wheel in corners initially. After some time on the bike though this position encouraged attacking corners, and especially shone when bashing through rowdy terrain, where you have a very solid and stable base on the bike. This “attack” position combines with the short rear to spur on popping around the trail and pulling manuals at every opportunity, capturing the playful nature that BTR had intended.
Seated climbing position is reasonable thanks to the 76 degree effective seat tube angle. For my long legs this seat angle does begin to slacken as the actual is 74 degrees, but even so there was little need to consciously weight the bars until climbing the steepest of the steeps, even with the short stays. When seated, the rear end remains quite neutral and bob-free under power, but the weight of the bike with the build I was testing (which was particularly burly) did prevent it from having the snappiest acceleration I’ve encountered. Standing up and giving it some gas, the 130mm rear end doesn’t behave like most others – there’s not quite the support you’d usually expect. However, flicking the compression lever on the EXT Storia shock improved the pedalling platform considerably, without rendering it useless for mellower descents, so you can almost experience a dual personality on the Pinner with the Storia on the rear end. The flip side is that when seated climbing, the lack of chain force causing an extension of the rear end allows the rear wheel to react well to rougher terrains, finding a healthy amount of grip to get you up the chunkier ascents. Nevertheless, the Pinner is clearly not your typical 130mm travel bike on the climbs, but then it’s quite clear that this is not a bike that’s intended to be used exclusively on smooth, pathed tracks…
When things start going down, the Pinner truly comes alive. If it had spotify built in (other music streaming services are available..) then I’ve no doubt that Metallica would blare out at full volume every time you dropped in to a gnarly descent. The aggressive geometry and outstandingly robust construction combines with a rear end that’s incredibly plush and sensitive, to create a machine that embodies nothing short of a downhill rig, just with less cushion to take the sting out of bigger hits. That said, you’d never guess that the rear end only has 130mm travel – the progression combined with the damping quality of the EXT shock suggest a bike with longer legs; more so than I’ve ever experienced. Through all situations on the descent, you’re met with sensitivity and control that’s truly impressive – hard braking doesn’t phase the BTR, and there’s just enough support to generate adequate ‘pop’ when jumping too. The burliness of the rear end does detract somewhat from the off-camber grip that many steel bikes have on offer, but the sturdy feeling that results inspires confidence of the highest order when things get wild. The low bb and short rear end combine to make whipping around corners a pleasure, especially when there’s some serious G’s involved.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The BTR Pinner certainly won’t be to everyones tastes, but few bikes come close to matching the raw aggression that it encourages every time you so much as look at it. It’s by no means the tool that I’d reach for to go on a mellow pedal, but it’s an excellent tool to go and thrash around the woods or attack a bike park, knowing it’s likely to outlast every component on your bike five times over.
Very Stout and Solid
Sensitive Rear End
Pride of Ownership
Heavy Metal Soundtrack
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