Let's talk Chinese...Apollo bikes

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by RidingDonkeys, Dec 22, 2012.

  1. RidingDonkeys

    RidingDonkeys Purveyor of Awesome

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    I searched, and maybe I missed it, but I didn't see much chatter about Apollo bikes. I'm not looking for a China bashing thread here. I'm looking for input from owners. Who has an Apollo? How do you like it? Is it an adult model, or a kiddie dirt bike?

    I'm looking at them seriously for a kid. I can get a new Apollo for what decade old 50cc Yamaha's and Honda's are running. For a nephew and niece, who are likely to ride it only a dozen times a year, it seems like a viable option.

    And before anybody flames up about Chinese junk, remember that everyone said the same crap about Japanese bikes in the 60s, and they rule the roost now. My Honda's from that era are still more reliable than any American bike I've ever owned.

    Sent from the voices in my head and transcribed by their drinking buddy...
    #1
  2. miguelitro

    miguelitro Chuchaqui

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    Parts availabilty is the only concern IMO. I am not familiar with the apollo bikes though.
    Mike
    #2
  3. johnno950

    johnno950 Long timer

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    Apollo 36extreme to beijing control.....we appear to have a problem
    [​IMG]
    #3
  4. Bill the Bong

    Bill the Bong Supern00ba

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    I've had one for 4 years. Its a locally rebranded watercooled 250 F Apollo Orion RX. Tough as nails. Shitty air filter set-up is the only weak point. Its the bike I ride almost every day. Its a bit shorter than my KTM 250 SX-F but about the same height. Uses 21/18 wheels. Has about 1/4 the power of the KTM, though, but its a very traditional thumper feeling engine. Feels almost like an old XR200. The CDI needed replacement, but a dealer gave me 1 for free, as it costs about $20.

    I bought the KTM in its place, as it was due for replacement, but I ended up keeping it because I can ride it when the rest of the neighbourhood sleeps, its not as loud as the KTM.
    #4
  5. K1W1

    K1W1 Long timer

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    Came across a Chinese MX style bike in the bush last weekend. It wouldn't start, the owner had flattened the battery attempting to start it and when he tried the kick start it the lever snapped off near the engine shaft. Fortunately he was only 100 yards from his car when I found him.
    #5
  6. G19Tony

    G19Tony Been here awhile

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    I like that sumo. If they were less than a grand, I'd give it a go. :evil
    #6
  7. 2 SPOT

    2 SPOT wannabe

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    he prolly didnt have the gas on or something silly, and he prolly broke the lever cause he has temper tantrums,,,, if it even happened at all.

    i saw a ktm break in half on a jump, i saw a husaberg with blue rims bend one, i even saw a honda require several kicks to start. i have seen so many things happens to so many bikes that i guess the moral of the story is dont buy anything, or dont be a brand hater.:D
    #7
  8. RidingDonkeys

    RidingDonkeys Purveyor of Awesome

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    Yeah, I've seen more than a few kickers break.

    Sent from the voices in my head and transcribed by their drinking buddy...
    #8
  9. whipit1k

    whipit1k Been here awhile

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    OK no flame here. When considering chinese bikes, it is my opinion that the current price of scrap metal should be considered and factored into the mix. I have experience with various chinese machines and personally feel that this may actually be the most important consideration
    #9
    B.Curvin likes this.
  10. RidingDonkeys

    RidingDonkeys Purveyor of Awesome

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    With scrap prices so high right now, that logic would make the Chinese bikes a good investment.:D

    Sent from the voices in my head and transcribed by their drinking buddy...
    #10
  11. Off the grid

    Off the grid Unsmooth Operator

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    Depends on the roost. Riders that are even halfway serious about dirt, singletrack and technical riding have moved to Euro bikes because Japanese bikes are still building 20 year old tech.

    Good luck with your Pep Boys bike. There's a Pep Boys build I think in Shiny things. Shouldn't be to bad for a kid if you give it a check over. A lot of the trouble comes from being improperly put together at the store from unskilled labor.
    #11
  12. K1W1

    K1W1 Long timer

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    Yes it happened and yes he had fuel in the tank. He had stopped the bike while riding and it would not restart.
    Other bikes break as well I'm not saying they don't but this one (which appeared to be a knock off of a Honda engine) looked particularly suss.
    #12
  13. JerryH

    JerryH Long timer

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    I'll get this out of the way first. I like 20 year old tech, and even older is even better. The simpler something is the better. The Honda XL series has been great since the very first one. Same with the XRs. I've owned 3 XLs and 2 XRs, and an early '70s Honda 3 wheeler. Not a lemon in the bunch. Quality is what it is all about, not technology. Japanese quality improved very quickly from the beginning. I believe todays Japanese bikes are superior to the much more expensive European bikes in quality and reliability.

    But just because Japanese quality improved so much so fast does not mean Chinese quality has. I have worked on Chinese bikes and scooters for years. I see no real difference in quality between then and now. I believe there are political reasons why Chinese bikes have not and will not improve in quality like Japanese bikes did, but I cannot get into that here.

    I used to have a part time job (about 10 years ago) uncrating and setting up Chinese scooters for a local dealer, that sold only Chinese. The dealer was called Viza Motorsports, in Scottsdale, AZ. They are no longer there.

    What I found was horrifying. Many of the scooters were broken in the crates. I mean actual chunks of plastic and what they called metal were laying in the bottom of the crates. Frame welds were cracked, engines were seized up, and brakes didn't work. Wheels were bent, and nuts/bolts were already rounded off from assembly at the factory. The correct size metric tools did not fit them. This dealer had a small lot out behind the store which customers did not see. There was a large pile of broken parts back there. Even after they were set up and running, these scooters had a 50% failure rate in the first few hundred miles.


    Now, knowing all this, back in '07 I ordered an American Lifan LF200GY-5 200cc dual sport bike on line, and had it drop shipped to me. American Lifan was supposed to be the creme of the crop. They had a large distributor in Texas, who imported bikes that were supposedly built by Lifan specifically for the American market, and indeed their EPA and DOT certification was real, and I had no problem getting it registered. It cost me under $1400 to have it shipped to my door. I wanted to assemble it myself to make sure it was done right.

    To my surprise, it was not half bad on initial inspection, The plastic was cheap and brittle, the welds were poor, but none were broken. While assembling and setting it up, and going over it with a fine tooth comb, I found only one serious problem. This bike had the axle adjusters inside a rectangular box section steel swingarm. But the adjusters were not wide enough to fit tight in the swingarm, and torquing down the axle nuts would have crushed the swingarm. I quickly went to my huge box of washers, and found a couple of the right size ton use as spacers between the adjusters and inside of the swingarm, and got it together with no further problems. After changing the oil and putting real oil in it, I filled the tank, installed the sealed battery with Chinese writing on the side, and it fired right up.


    I rode it around locally, breaking it in. All seemed well. The last 100 miles of the break in was a 100 mile circle around my town on rural roads. That's where I tried the kickstarter (hey, at least it had one) and broke it the first time. Stripped the gears off it inside the engine. Rode home slowly, pulled the right sidecover, and removed the broken gear teeth and changed the oil. At least I had the electric starter. I continued to ride it around, even took it on the freeway for a 235 mile trip, at a top speed of about 50 mph. It was there I discovered a problem with the chain. When It was adjusted properly on the sidestand, it was too tight with a rider on it. I discovered the countershaft sprocket and swingarm pivot didn't come close to lining up, and the farther up the swing arm went, the tighter the chain got. So I started measuring it while sitting on the bike, using a stick with a large nail in it to reach down and check the slack. I also discovered it had a major tight spot. When it was properly adjusted with a rider on it, at the tight spot, it was almost loose enough to fall off with no one on the bike. This was a design problem, at least the placement of the swingarm pivot in relation to the countershaft sprocket. I continued to ride it for several weeks, including some off road riding. At 3700+ miles, the engine started knocking real bad, and seized up on me while I was listening to it. I hauled it home, and again pulled the right side cover. The centrifugal oil filter, which was originally bolted to the crankshaft, had come loose, and fell out when I removed the cover, That is where the noise, and the loss of oil pressure that destroyed the engine, had come from. There was a big nut holding it on, but no lock washer, no sign of locktite, nothing I could see to keep the nut from coming loose, which it did. By this time I had had enough, and GAVE it away on Craigslist. I replaced it with a '94 Yamaha XT225, which has been beat to death, and to this day is still running great. I paid about $100 more for the Yamaha than the Lifan, but have put over 20,000 hard miles on it, with no end in site. I'd say it was the better deal by far.


    I would highly recommend getting a used Japanese bike over a Chinese bike any day. I doubt there is any such brand as "Apollo", someone ordered a few containers of universal Chinese bikes, and had that name put on them. Chinese bikes are sold under hundreds of names. Best place to get information is to go to www.chinariders.net. If anyone knows anything about these bikes, they will. They are actually a pro Chinese bike forum, so you won't get much Chinese bike bashing there.
    #13
  14. Bill the Bong

    Bill the Bong Supern00ba

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    My Orion, according to its Vin plate is a Zhe jiang apollo. Its has a Zonger engine. So the Apollos definitely exist.

    Going on about quality could be misleading, it depends what is available in your country. In the 4 years I've had my Apollo, BMW gave me a new R1200GSAdv because of terminal problems, my crank on my Cagiva Elefant bent because a stator nut backed off. It also caught fire because the regulator exploded. I've spend more money on my KTM 690 R to sort it than the Orion costed. The only bikes I did not have to spend money on was an XR600, a KTM 250 SX and the Orion. Interesting enough, the Chinese bike came with a year's warrentee....

    If you look at this link,

    www.bigboy.co.za/bb-scooters-v1/zooka-ttr250t4.html

    it has a suspension that is almost on par with that of my KTMs. Whether it will remain fresh for as long and whether it would be rebuildable, that are different questions.

    One final thought - my experience has been that in the full-size (not pitbike) bikes, the air cooled motors are more powerfull than the water-cooled models.
    #14
  15. RidingDonkeys

    RidingDonkeys Purveyor of Awesome

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    Went and looked at a couple of Apollo's up close. I was not impressed with the craftsmanship. Crappy welds were common. I took a ride on a used one and it wasnt bad. The engine itself was a bit noisier than its japanese counterparts.

    I'm also looking at a BMW and a Husky for me. I was disappointed to find that their engines (Rotax) are made in China. My first thought was "crap, if I'm paying $8k for a Chinese engine, I might as well go buy 4 Apollo's".

    I'd really like to crack these engines open and have a look for comparison.

    Sent from the voices in my head and transcribed by their drinking buddy...
    #15
  16. scottro

    scottro Been here awhile

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    You're thinking getting small ones for the kids, right? With Honda clone engines? Like this ?

    http://www.apollovehicle.com/Motorcycle_AGB_21A_299.html

    http://www.apollovehicle.com/products_img/20110928210813.jpg

    [​IMG]

    I own a few Chinese pit bikes of this general sort (and some Chinese mini quads). They're fairly generic. Mine have been very reliable, fun to tinker with and ride, and IMO good values for the $$. The first one I bought had been previously owned by a 14-yr old boy and had been BEATEN, JUMPED, REVVED, THRASHED etc. I replaced all the plastics and levers, cleaned the carb, put on a new rear tire, and it starts on the first or second kick every time and runs like a top.

    If you have reasonable mechanical skills and can fix minor problems yourself, they are a good and reasonable bike for the cost and purpose.

    The engines are pretty bullet-proof. If you do blow one up, brand new 70cc--125cc replacements are $200-$300 depending on what size you buy. The carbs require occasional fiddling/cleaning/tuning. It doesn't take much dirt or varnish build up to clog the tiny idle jets, so expect to do that every season or after every long-term storage. A new carb is about $30.

    The plastics are pretty chintzy and will break if crashed. They're cheap to replace if you buy via ebay, or you can upgrade to Polysport for slightly more. Levers and throttle can break in a harder crash, but you can buy extras or higher- quality there as well. I've never had a CDI go bad on one, but the generic replacement 5-pin is about $5. A coil costs about $10 & stators about $20. You could keep a comprehensive kit of spares on hand for well under $100, so the "parts availability" scares really don't mean much.

    Here's a good place to buy spares. http://www.motopartsmax.com/index.php/main_page/index/cPath/117_18/tID/2

    All that being said... If you can't do a little of your own work/tweaking/tuning you probably won't be happy. The carbs will occasionally act up and plastics and levers will break.

    Good Luck !
    #16
  17. dedave

    dedave Gold in dem dare hills

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    So did you ever buy one? I just recently picked up a used 2014 Apollo RX 250. Beat to hell and thrashed bad. Bent twisted etc.
    wiring messed up. I would say connectors are a weak point on the bikes. Just sorted it out and the thing fired up and sounds pretty good. I'm actually pretty satisfied with the build quality for the money.
    #17
  18. RidingDonkeys

    RidingDonkeys Purveyor of Awesome

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    Nope. The frame construction was my only issue. I saw some very bad welds on the ones I looked at. That was the sole reason I didn't go this route.

    Sent from the voices in my head and transcribed by their drinking buddy.
    #18
  19. Bitingdog

    Bitingdog That's not my dog

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    Not to offend anybody, but I wouldn't trust a Chinese bike. They can't even make spoons properly. They same to take pride in foisting absolute shit on North Americans. The bastards
    #19
  20. dedave

    dedave Gold in dem dare hills

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    I welded professionally for years, and on mine, I have not noticed anything horrible right off. On some China bikes I have seen some pretty bad welds.
    #20