Apollo are truly the gods of the budget bike olympiad, producing loads of different low cost options in every style imaginable. Unfortunately, although the Paradox looks like a full feature full sus bike, the crucial feature – ride quality – is missing.
Ride & handling: Brutally jarring bottom-out and uncontrolled rebound top-out at both ends
On rough roads and Sustrans gravel bike paths, the super fat saddle and springs at both ends work enthusiastically to isolate the rider from gravel grumble in a bouncing, buoyant gait. When given time to bed in, the brakes develop a distant relationship between lever pull and gradual speed reduction, with the metal levers feeling better than the plastic pieces on cheaper bikes.
Super soft springs mean you can get the rear end to full travel just by pedalling hard. Enthusiastic efforts will also flex the swingarm enough to drag the chain out of its chosen gear, leaving it better suited to being coaxed along the flat rather than charged up hills. Start hitting stuff more than an inch or so high and you unleash a deafening scrapyard soundtrack of cracks, bangs and metal-on-metal explosions as the shocks bottom-out and top-out in initial reaction and then repeated echo of any impact.
The undiluted shocks come straight through the steel bars and stem too, adding wrist and hand numbing pain to the deafening din. While travel isn’t really enough to let it bounce properly out of shape, the pogoing fork is certainly difficult to predict and control with the narrow, violently vibrating bars.
Within half-an-hour of riding relatively tame cross-country trails (roots, foot-high steps and so on) the left-hand pedal fell out of the crank taking most of the woefully soft thread metal with it. Although we bodged it back in for a while, it soon worked loose enough to fall out just by bouncing on the forks without even being on the bike.
Frame: Some impressive features
Frame fit is definitely on the small side for a 17in bike, and we had to have masses of steel seatpost showing to get our correct saddle height and the reach to the bars is very short. The stem length is a reasonable 90mm, but the 600mm bar width is cramped.
Despite the ‘lightweight alloy tech’ frame, the bike’s overall weight only just sneaks under the 40lb (18.1kg) mark. The big rectangular tapered down tube and kinked top tube for extra standover look the part. The welds are neat, cable routing is good and there are even bottle cage and Crud Catcher mudguard mounts.
Equipment: Colour coordinated looks
The Suntour fork and broad rims are colour-matched to the frame and Shimano front and rear mechs manage the 21-speed gear spread through SRAM Grip shifters. Add wavey rotors on the front and rear Clarks disc brakes and it definitely looks like one of the more tempting bikes at this price. A quick magnet check shows you’re still getting a steel seatpost with basic sideways bolt clamp and steel bar and stem though, and the wheels are shockingly heavy, even for this price.