Throwback Thursday: 1987 Steve Potts Signature

‘The Potts that was never ridden’

Steve Potts is a living legend in the mountain biking world. Growing up at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, he was among the original band of misfits who decided that riding bikes off-road was a good idea in the first place. Potts was then one of the first frame builders to focus on off-road bikes in the early 1980s, and as one of co-founders of Wilderness Trail Bikes – better known today as WTB – he was instrumental in driving many of the component designs that permeated the scene at the time.

Today, Potts is best known as a premier builder of titanium mountain bikes. Three decades ago, however, Potts worked only in steel and this 1987 Signature frame showcases some of his best work, with gorgeous fillet brazing work and his trademark rigid fork design, which features sleeved unicrown construction and gracefully scalloped dropouts.

Steve potts is a bona fide legend in mountain bike history. the paint is new but it's done in a suitably retro style by d&d cycles: steve potts is a bona fide legend in mountain bike history. the paint is new but it's done in a suitably retro style by d&d cycles
Steve potts is a bona fide legend in mountain bike history. the paint is new but it's done in a suitably retro style by d&d cycles: steve potts is a bona fide legend in mountain bike history. the paint is new but it's done in a suitably retro style by d&d cycles

The paint is new but it's done in a properly retro style

Amazingly, it sat unfinished in Potts’ workshop until relatively recently – and it’s never been ridden.

“A friend of mine bought several of these frames from Steve about 10 years ago,” said the owner of Vintage MTB Workshop (who preferred to remain unnamed). “They were originally made in 1987 but not fully finished. Steve agreed to finish them up and we even convinced him to make new LD stems for two of the frames.  These two frames were then taken to Rick at D&D Cycles because Rick did some of Steve's paintwork back in the day and he still had Imron. I looked at an original Imron color chart at Mark Nobilette's shop in Longmont [Colorado] and Rick replicated one of Steve's original paint schemes based on the colors I selected.”

“Because of all this, I refer to the bike as the New-Old-Stock Steve Potts Signature. This is the one and only paint job it has ever had.”

Steve potts was instrumental in the development of wtb's speedmaster rollercam brakes. these may be old but the concept is currently being resurrected for many modern aero road bikes: steve potts was instrumental in the development of wtb's speedmaster rollercam brakes. these may be old but the concept is currently being resurrected for many modern aero road bikes
Steve potts was instrumental in the development of wtb's speedmaster rollercam brakes. these may be old but the concept is currently being resurrected for many modern aero road bikes: steve potts was instrumental in the development of wtb's speedmaster rollercam brakes. these may be old but the concept is currently being resurrected for many modern aero road bikes

These WTB Speedmaster Rollercam brakes may be decades old but their basic design is being used on several modern aero road bikes

Perhaps even more impressive than the bike’s gleaming new finish is the full suite of period-correct componentry – all of which is new old stock and unridden. Highlighting the build are WTB Speedmaster Rollercam brakes (with the rear mounted beneath the chainstays), WTB’s brilliant Grease Guard hubs and headset, and a Shimano Deore XT drivetrain with thumb shifters perched on Potts-designed Multimounts.

The WTB dirt drop handlebar is wrapped with Velox cotton tape. Out back, a suede Cinelli Unicanitor saddle is clamped to a custom fixed-angle seatpost that was machined to mimic an old WTB model – the only modern bit of gear used here. Rolling stock consists of polished Araya RM-20 aluminum rims laced with DT Swiss spokes, and WTB-designed Specialized Ground Control tires.

The velox cotton bar tape perfectly matches the cinelli saddle: the velox cotton bar tape perfectly matches the cinelli saddle
The velox cotton bar tape perfectly matches the cinelli saddle: the velox cotton bar tape perfectly matches the cinelli saddle

WTB Multimount shifter mounts made the flared dirt drops much easier to control

“At the time, you could source NOS parts pretty easily on eBay and not pay too much. The rollercams were a little over $100 a piece; they routinely go for $750 now in used condition. Other parts were acquired from buying other bikes that were in mint condition to get what I needed. I also traded for stuff that I needed that people today would probably hang on to.”

All told, Vintage MTB Workshop says the project took about a year – a substantial undertaking, but one that was still easier than a full-on restoration. Regardless, it’s a stunning testament to the sport’s rich history and one of its pivotal figures, and one that isn’t likely to change hands again any time soon.

WTB partnered with chris king to develop a headset that didn't need to be disassembled for overhauls. all you had to do was peel back the telltale orange o-ring, inject fresh grease into the port, and then watch as the dirty grease magically got pushed out. it's a design that was far ahead of its time in 1989, and one that we'd love to see return: wtb partnered with chris king to develop a headset that didn't need to be disassembled for overhauls. all you had to do was peel back the telltale orange o-ring, inject fresh grease into the port, and then watch as the dirty grease magically got pushed out. it's a design that was far ahead of its time in 1989, and one that we'd love to see return
WTB partnered with chris king to develop a headset that didn't need to be disassembled for overhauls. all you had to do was peel back the telltale orange o-ring, inject fresh grease into the port, and then watch as the dirty grease magically got pushed out. it's a design that was far ahead of its time in 1989, and one that we'd love to see return: wtb partnered with chris king to develop a headset that didn't need to be disassembled for overhauls. all you had to do was peel back the telltale orange o-ring, inject fresh grease into the port, and then watch as the dirty grease magically got pushed out. it's a design that was far ahead of its time in 1989, and one that we'd love to see return

We'd love to see WTB resurrect its Grease Guard range of components - just inject fresh grease from time to time and you were good to go

“I've gone back and forth between thinking I should ride it as it was intended and leaving as a display piece. At this point, because I have so many other bikes, including several others made by Steve, I don't think it will get ridden. People now know it as the Potts that was never ridden. Also, it's a pretty big and heavy bike. There’s lots of brass in those graceful fillets, so there are better bikes for riding purposes, even vintage riding purposes. Steve is a good friend, so I hang on to it for that reason as well.”

Special thanks to Vintage MTB Workshop for loaning out such a priceless machine. Also, thanks to the folks at The Pro's Closet, who will soon open up a museum of noteworthy vintage bikes at their headquarters in Boulder, Colorado.

Complete bike specifications     

  •        Frame: 1987 Steve Potts Signature
  •        Fork: 1987 Steve Potts Signature
  •        Headset: WTB/Chris King Grease Guard
  •        Stem: Steve Potts LD custom
  •        Handlebars: WTB / Specialized RM-2
  •        Handlebar tape: Velox cotton
  •        Front brake: WTB Speedmaster Rollercam
  •        Rear brake: WTB Speedmaster Rollercam
  •        Brake levers: Dia-Compe Gran Compe
  •        Front derailleur: Shimano Deore XT FD-M730
  •        Rear derailleur: Shimano Deore XT RD-M730-SGS
  •        Shift lever: Shimano Deore XT SL-M730 with WTB Multimounts
  •        Freewheel: Suntour 7-speed, 13-28T
  •        Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7400
  •        Crankset: Shimano Deore XT FC-M730, 175mm, 26/36/46T
  •        Bottom bracket: Press-fit cartridge bearings with Grease Guard
  •        Rims: Araya RM-20, 36H
  •        Hubs: WTB Grease Guard
  •        Front tire: Specialized Ground Control, 26x1.95in
  •        Rear tire: Specialized Ground Control, 26x1.95in
  •        Saddle: Cinelli Unicanitor
  •        Seatpost: TD Fixed Angle
  •        Pedals: Suntour XC Compe w/ WTB Toe Flips
  •        Weight: 13.11kg (28.90lb, complete, as pictured)
James Huang

Former Technical Editor, US
James was BikeRadar's US tech editor from 2007-2015.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Up in the Colorado high-country where the singletrack is still single, the dirt is still brown, and the aspens are in full bloom. Also, those perfect stretches of pavement where the road snakes across the mountainside like an artist's paintbrush.
  • Beer of Choice: Mexican Coke
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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