This is an Apollo Criterium

Before today, it was impossible to Google the phrase ‘apollo criterium’ and get useful results. I am the change I want to see in the world.

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This is a 10-speed road bike from the 70s or 80s. I think it was moderately high end, based on its weight and geometry compared to other steel bikes from the time. It’s a very small frame, slightly too small for me, which is the way I like it. Makes it very easy to control.


The Criterium came with Suntour components on it. That’s why I say “moderately” high end – Suntour parts kind of suck. If you look closely, you can see that the derailleurs default to the most difficult gear position when there is no tension on the cables. This means that during ascents, you have to really wrench on the shifters to increase tension and get to an easier gear ratio. Since you’re already moving slowly, that extra wrenching can put you off balance – really bad when you’re on a narrow, windy, uphill highway with cars passing at high speed.

Shimano derailleurs work the opposite way – you release tension to get to an easier gear. Makes much more sense.


IMG_20130916_173345I tried to install Shimano components while I was building this bike up, but I wasn’t able to. If you fancy yourself a mechanic, stare at these pictures and a Shimano FD for a while, and see if you can figure out the problem. And if you think of a solution, let me know, because I want to upgrade to 105.



The wheels that came stock on the bike are Suzue – again, standard for old Apollos. They are 27 inches and I guess they work okay. I have some Dura-Ace hubs lying around that I might build up to some new wheels. Something about putting high end parts on a cheap old frame fills me with joy.



IMG_20130916_173409These tires are 35c. That means they’re 35mm across in some dimension or other. They’re pretty big and cushy for road bike tires, which normally are 23-28c, and they have a bit of tread. This makes them durable enough for my commute, which often carries me over broken glass. These tires are not expensive but they’re decent for the money.



The brakes are Dia-Compe side-pull brakes. I think they’re kind of high-end for the period. Anyway, they shine up pretty nicely. If you came here looking for advice on how to reassemble your side-pull brakes after you rip them apart, there’s a pic. You don’t have to take them apart to center them, though. The nut on the back of the fork is the only one that needs adjusting.





The esteemed Japanese engineers who designed my bike decided that it did not need water bottle bosses. I improvised.IMG_20130916_173801The esteemed engineers also provided mount points for the bottom of a pannier rack, but not the top. WIth a bit of jiggery-pokery, this is easily solved.


Behold, the only expensive component on the bike, the Brooks saddle I’ve lusted after for over 4 years. It is the most comfortable place I’ve ever put my bum. If you are wondering why hard leather is more comfortable than a pillow-thick gel seat, please refer to this article by Sheldon BrownIMG_20130916_173634

I replaced the drop handlebars with these bullhorns. I find it’s the best compromise between getting low for less wind resistance, and keeping your back straight and head up.

These brakes are called “interruptors”. They’re normally found on the flat part of drop handlebars. In this case I kind of installed them backwards. Since they’re at the widest part of the handlebar, my hands will be in most stable position possible if I have to slam on the brakes. The closer to the stem, the better your chance of tumbling arse over ears when you have to stop fast.

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Altogether, this is the most comfortable bike I’ve had so far. On other bikes I’ve had trouble with, among other things:

  • Bars too low (sore neck)
  • Bars too high (too windy)
  • Top tube too long (stretches me out)
  • Bottom bracket too high (makes the bike really clumsy when you’re walking it)
  • Front suspension (too f’in slow)

Now I know what I like, and this is it. These are the choices that are right for me – I hope that understanding the reasoning behind my choices will help other people choose bikes that are perfect for them.

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Getting Your First Job After Graduation

I arrived at Malcolm’s house in Sunnyvale, California, by bike, in early March 2011. I had a bad cough and was saddle-sore from riding down from San Francisco on bumpy residential roads (I didn’t know about the bike route at the time).

He made dinner, cracked a bottle of wine, and chatted for a couple of hours about what it was like to graduate with an engineering degree from an Ivy League university and be recruited by Apple months before graduation.

When I graduated from my community college’s Computer Systems Tech program, I had a suspicion that my job search wouldn’t be as painless as Malcolm’s.

In March 2013, I began sending out resumes. I chose jobs I was fully qualified for according to the posted job descriptions, and companies that do interesting stuff: embedded systems, Java and C programming, tech support, or web development in PHP or C#.

AbeBooks, Uvic tech department, BC Hydro, KanoApps, a few different government jobs, a few different web development companies, the Australian company that makes my hearing aids, Tesla Motors (why not), Eecol Electric, Vivitro (They make artifical hearts), Genologics, Strategic Wildfire, some company that does a lot of Java development and another that does a lot of embedded systems, neither of which I can recall the names of now, and a bunch of different oil and mining companies. None of them called me back.

I learned that spamming the whole internet doesn’t work.

Some of my classmates began to report the job offers or interviews they had received or accepted. The strugglers grew increasingly hopeless. I felt caught between the two, as I planned to move to Australia after school ended, and was job hunting halfheartedly as a result.

I learned that half-assing it doesn’t work.

School ended and Australia didn’t work out, so I got serious. I collected business cards at my class’s final symposium, and called all of them, repeatedly, asking people out for coffee and chats. I got on LinkedIn and added everyone I could think of, then started on random celebrities and politicians. I was offered a few interviews.

ITI Canada

My dad made friends with the president of this company, John Sherrah, at the symposium, and got his card. I visited John at his office and spoke on the phone a few times; he did his best to hook me up with a job, but he couldn’t hire me himself and none of the potential jobs worked out

The office of the Ombudsperson

They gave me a sheet of paper with a couple of good questions on it, and half an hour to write my answers. I am an excellent writer and presented myself very well. The interview could not have gone better from my point of view, but as I left the building I knew they wouldn’t hire me. They asked too many questions.

Edoc Group

They make management software for marine fleets. It was the most interesting company of all those I interviewed or applied for. John Harley had coffee with me in Bastion Square and we had a great chat. That was enough to get me a technical interview with his C# development team, which I failed miserably due to lack of C# knowledge. Again, they asked me too many questions.

Atomic Crayon

These guys couldn’t be bothered to meet me in person, even though they were right downtown. I failed the phone interview, partly due to being really bad at phones, but mainly due, again, to total lack of C# knowledge.

I learned that if they want to know your “biggest weakness” or “a time when you provided excellent customer service”, they’re probably wasting your time.


I gave up. I needed a job, any job, to pay the rent. My last thousand dollars was about to evaporate and I was taking handouts from my parents. My friend Darryl is a technician at Hyundai. He mentioned the opening on Facebook and talked me up. Our local Hyundai dealership has massive turnover, and I washed cars for 2 years before going to college. It was the worst letdown to go back to that, but they interviewed and hired me on the spot. They paid me a living wage and the work was physically demanding but well within my ability. Sadly, I settled in to the idea of another year washing cars. Within a day I knew I would get depressed if I didn’t use my off hours well, so I started building bicycles at Recyclistas in the evenings. And three days into the job, I broke my elbow playing polo. So I never did work there full time – I was at 2-3 days a week the whole time, and used the excuse of a broken elbow to spend the other days at the bike shop, wrenching on bikes slowly with my one arm.

I learned that only experience works.


So that was why I had the day off to go interview at NeverBlue Media when they called me. I knew I had the job when I walked in – they needed someone with tech support experience, which I had, and they asked very few questions. Instead, the man I spoke with spent the bulk of our half hour telling me about the company – selling me on it.

I learned that the companies that want you hire you right away and try to make you feel welcome.

But when I got home from that interview there was another offer in my inbox, from Radar Hill. I had interviewed them in 2012, but they wanted someone who was done school. Now that I was done, there was the offer. No fooling around. I accepted, gave up my contract work and gave 2 other companies the push.

I learned that I’m done with this job search BS.

Sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring like a chump. Waiting for someone who doesn’t know you or care about you to give you permission to work for their benefit and let you have enough cash to live for another month. Radar Hill is a great outfit but I can’t imagine that I’ll stay here longer than a couple years. If the next job doesn’t fall into my lap, I’m not sending out a million stupid resumes and praying again. I’m doing my own business, and I’m going to start working on it today.