Building the Apollo: Guest blog, AMS Bike Co-op
September 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
Archived UBC Bike Co-Op blog post 3 Sep 2015
At the beginning of the year I decided to learn how to fix my own bike after a series of unfortunate flats on my ancient Norco step-through: sudden inner tube failure; broken rubber rim strip; pierced last-minute-replacement plastic rim strip followed by dramatic explosion of inner tube followed by return to a rubber rim strip; slow valve leak. Although I’m extremely unmechanical I enjoyed learning how to fix them, first with the help of a friend (a former bike mechanic who suffered silently through all this), then through solo trial and error. I volunteer with HUB, and decided to take some of their classes at Kickstand on brakes, drivetrain, and so on, and then began to think I’d really like to learn more and, if possible, build my own bike.
I teach as a sessional at UBC*, so I knew about the Bike Kitchen, and was lucky that the Co-op had just started up again its Build Your Own Bike program. I turned out to be the first person to sign up. My mentor was Pablo, who also taught the courses I took at Kickstand. Pablo’s a great teacher and it was fun to work with him again over the summer. It was also good to be a student again. I decided I wanted to find an old road bike that I could overhaul, as opposed to building a brand new bike from scratch. I liked the idea of recycling and using as much of the original bike as possible. The hardest part of the project was finding a suitable bike as I needed to find a very small frame — about 19″. I was lucky, and found an Apollo Custom Sport, circa 1983, which turned out to be in really good condition, with a good frame — lugged, double-butted, Tange steel — and a triple chainset.
Pablo helped me to strip the bike, assess the various components, and advise on which parts could or should be upgraded. In the end, we replaced the seat post and saddle, the bars, the brake levers, the pedals, the front derailleur, the chain, and the freewheel.
I decided I wanted to keep the original wheels, which were still in good shape, instead of switching to a new rear wheel with freehub and cassette, which might also have meant cold-setting the frame. I loved the Shimano Deore rear derailleur and downtube shifters, so kept those and they work perfectly with the new freewheel. The friction shifting is gorgeous. We also put on SKS Longboard fenders and a rear rack. Pablo convinced me to try toe cages and although I was sceptical, now I love them.
It was a great experience to work with Pablo and the other mechanics at the Bike Kitchen. Everyone was super friendly and helpful. The program gives you a chance to learn how each component of the bike goes together. And because I was working with an older bike, I also got to do some standard maintenance, such as overhauling a hub and headset, replacing brake pads, adjusting side-pull calliper brake springs, and taking apart and cleaning the crankset and the rear derailleur. You also become familiar with a lot of the standard tools used to work with bikes and basic mechanical practices.
The final test was taking my Apollo on a solo bike camping trip to Galiano this August — Montague Harbour and then on to Dionisio Point, a somewhat remote site at the northern tip of the island.
I felt confident doing this as I have a fairly good understanding now of how my bike works, and what I need to do if something goes wrong. The bike worked beautifully. My thanks to the AMS Bike Co-op and everyone at the Bike Kitchen!
*No longer!! I’m regular faculty now at Douglas College — hooray!!