This is an Apollo Criterium

by | Sep 16, 2013

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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