WTB Phoenix SE 16.5 - Saber Cam

The origin

This bike came around quite a bit. I think I am the fourth owner, while the bike had also 4 paint jobs, though I didn´t do one. The oldest information I have is: it came from Idaho, then over the ocean to Hamburg, little more to the east Germany to Dresden and then back into Hamburg`s Steelfightsback collection. Another information is it had a repair on the seat collar. Clearly the white was not original,  so repaint, old version Phoenix decals on it support this.

Initially in Hamburg the bike had a 1/8 Potts Type II fork, see above and the the following pics incl. its third paint job (??->white->red)
(pictures by Mauricer)

Second stop, CunningHam style

Last year, I did some searches for Phoenix pictures in the German MTB forum, I was searching wider, clicked on a result in the Youngtimer and BAAM, this is what I saw...

1998 WTB Phoenix SE, picture by Huelse.
1998 WTB Phoenix SE, picture by Huelse.

Huelse reported on his WTB Phoenix SE build, playing with parts and and weight, he choose the silver to reference a Cunningham and clearly sees technical similarities. I agree with him, WTB Phoenix are steel Cunningham, though Steve Potts welded them. I left a comment...

"This is an unbeliveable beautiful bike"
"This is an unbeliveable beautiful bike"

A few weeks later I received a message asking, if I´d be interested to buy the bike. I didn´t think a minute and said yes. A few days later, I took this shot after 1000km pickup drive with a rental car - I couldn´t stop smiling.

WTB Phoenix SE 98607 back to HAMBURG

I got the bike a bit different than on the build shown above. We left also some parts with the previous owner. This is what made it back to Hamburg. WTB Phoenix SE 16.5 with a Rock Shox Judy containing a steel spring and powerful risse cartridge. The stem is from Winterbikes, made / ordered by my VTG MTB Hamburg friend Moritz, second owner.  There is one of the super rare WTB Toggle Cams with logo on the arms and a nice WTB New Paradigm / WTB Classic + WTB Powerbeam rims. Last bit, the WTB / Suntour repro post.

Straight into#SFBLaboratory

After the 1000km pick up session it was clear, were I went the next day - Straight into the Steelfightsback laboratory aka my workshop.

There was not much time between the "find" and build, so I choose parts I knew they perform well and fit time wise. I went for some Ritchey things I like. The compact Ritchey Logic crank to match with the WTB Grease guard bottom bracket, a Logic comp saddle and I wanted ceramic wheel set, so I went for the Mavic Sup Ceramic 117 and Huegi hubs - NOISE, PERFORMANCE=FUN

May youR trails be ...

...crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading into the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. Edward Abbey, WTB catalogue 1997. here some other matching quotes.

Third day, Sunday after pick up. Let´s see

WTB Catalogue 1997 - http://www.retrobike.co.uk/gallery2/d/15755-2/1997.pdf

The ride is key, so on day three, it was time to mount my favorite new tyres from Terra One T1 and check-in to Hamburg hills: Harburg. Most interesting thing, how does it differ from the 18" Phoenix and yes, the suspension fork. My 90kg with an old suspension fork, can this work. YES! And yes, radical sloping top tube, 140mm rear spacing, large diameter thin walls Ritchey tubing and the roller cams  - I can confirm what the power and "smile" feeling.

FASCINATING RIDER, but back to the lab

The ride in Hamburg hills was nice, but what I didn`t mention are two parts, which make it clear what my plan actually was. A  WTB Judy brace and the super rare WTB Saber Cam should go on it. (BTW: I have no idea, why WTB did not build the brace to work with a Speedmaster or Toggle Cam). But since the WTB Judy brace was not able to carry a normal roller cam, because the distance of the cable holder to the cam was to short, the Saber Cam was developed to get the cable housing directly into the cab and tighten the bowden cable on the brake arm. I was told from a WTB collector that Charlie Cunningham and team developed the brake for one of the Mid 90ies Interbike shows but never sent this to production. The design and performance were a bit weak according to them.

....  Back to SFB laboratory, what a view after putting it togehter.

Next to the brake set up I felt like a longer crank would support my long legs (180cm/85cm inseam).The 16.5" ride was amazing, but the the 181mm CQP crank also fit to the bike quite well. In addition I had a spare titanium CQP BB repro to make this plan possible. Last drive train kick: The Ti XTR 950 cog and black Shimano XTR SG-X tings - I was luckily, hence those do not show up too often in this condition... here some shots from the work.

The WTB Judy Brace / Saber Cam Set up

Having  tested and build a few bikes with WTB Speedmaster and Toggle Cams, the set up of the Saber Cam was exciting. But first the brace

Then the Saber Cam, highlighting the drilled left arm and its custom screw to tighten the bowden cable and of course the Saber requiring a smaller bearing for the cam. Of course there will be a WTB brake booster. Lets have a look on at the mounting progress.

Saber Cam in Action

In between, I thought, why not change the o-ring of the WTB Momentum head set:). Besides this, lets have a (close) look how the cam pulls from this .gif shots.

And here you go, Night shot of the silver Steel HAM

Last strike, Umma Gumma

With the final build, I used some Specialized Umma Gumma´s. I liked the silver and grey and thought, actually, I never had a Phoenix with 2.5. I saw these already with Classic friends on their Phoenix and started to search. I don´t know if that happens often, but there were some offered in the bay before Christmas, so I had to invest more than I ever did for tyres, but you might recognize, these are NOS and not only NOS, these are SPECIALIZED UMMA GUMMA MORE EXTREMES 2.5!

Luckily the bike was at home when they arrived, so sure I asked my wife if I may look at it instead of TV this evening - new tyres, no dirt in the living room ;)

I was flashed from that last bit, the dot on the "i". so I took here to a near park to take some pics - of course I could not ride these much further, but only once, that is ok, ha :)?

Then it got winter, ...


The silver Phoenix and it´s unexpectedly cool riding 16.5" with the Judy became within 4 weeks one of my favorite rider. We did all christmas rides including this rare Winter snow spin. Rare because this is the first real snow Hamburg had since the last 5 years. Yahoo, this was fun. Ending this write up with these silver/white impressions.

Change to the right Type II fork

It tool quite a while to organise this fork, but when it arrived I immediately rebuild it, rigid is simply more authentic and direct. love it!

WTB Phoenix SE second version





1998 Phoenix SE - Serial 98601



Fork Rock Shox Judy + WTB brace and steel springs, risse cartdridge

WTB Powerband


Steve Potts Titan


WTB Momentum


WTB Toogle Cam and WTB Saber Cam


XTR ST-900

Brake Levers

XTR ST-900


CQP 181mm

Pedals XTR
Bottum Bracked CQP repro titan
Derailleur Shimano XTR M900
Wheels WTB Classic hub + WTB New Paradigm + WTB Powerbeam + XTR 950 Ti
Tyres Terra One
Seat Post WTB / Suntour repro
Saddle WTB SST and Specialized
Grips WTB