First of all, don’t let the name mislead you, because the Bulgarian manufacturer was a bit off when naming a bike with such specifications „Elite”. However, the Sprint Apolon Elite is a 29er with quite an interesting value offer, that excels in terms of comfort.
Frame/On the trail
Apolon relies on a simple alloy frame, the only part that sticks out being the seat stay, which has a curved shape that also avoids collision between it and your legs when pedalling. Despite its very basic looks, the frame weighs 1.96kg, a decent value for an entry-level bike, even more so considering that it features two reinforcements, one above the top tube and the other below de down tube. Still, we have to admit the way the welds’ finishings look like leaves to be desired.
The bike provides a comfortable ride, with a bit of sporty touch every here and there, as long as you pick the right frame size. The central component of the bike aims more towards compliance judging by the angle of the head tube, while the seat tube angle doesn’t make the bike a very good climber. With an 670mm-wide handlebar, Apolon Elite fits in its category very well, featuring an above-average handling, unlike its below-average weight of 15kg.
Regarding stiffness, chapeau to Sprint, as the 92.8 Nm/degree value competes with higher level 29er models, although the massive weight figure has a lot to do with this performance. Compliance is further enhanced by a longer chain stay, which also offers extra security on the trail, so it becomes very clear that Apolon Elite is a bike reserved for rookies.
Skipping the fact that the bike’s components didn’t knock us off our feet, we’ll start by saying the 3×8 drivetrain includes a 2008 Shimano Alivio rear derailleur, a piece we wouldn’t have guessed we’ll see again for the rest of our lifetime. Now, combine the 2008 rear derailleur with the Altus front derailleur, and you’ll get one noisy, entry-level, sluggish pair of shifting mechanisms. Both derailleurs are actuated by 2-way-release-less Acera shifters, and another Acera component, the crankset, rounds-up the drivetrain part, but not before adding, bottom bracket included, 1.230 grams to the bike. A ray of good news comes however from the cassette, which features a 34-tooth sprocket among the cogs installed, that will allow you to engage a 22-34 gear ratio when tackling steep hills.
Not at all surprising for this level, we find a Suntour XCM fork installed, with the mention that the coils turned out to be somewhat softer, although not enough to improve the overall performance, which, as usual, means absorbing the shocks caused by the bigger bumps, while providing only the bare minimum of comfort. And no, the brutal rebound doesn’t score even a single point more than the 2.7-kilogram weight of the fork does in terms of rating.
A slight improvement appears in the shape of the brakes, the old Elixir 1 being replaced by the BD1, a pair of hydraulic disc brakes, with two 180mm rotors (Promax rotors, that is), which offers consistent braking power, diminished by fading only after long descents. However, this didn’t prevent the on/off-type of functioning occuring.
We understood why Apolon weighs as much as it does only when unmounting the wheels. Fully equipped, the pair puts on a massive 5.628 grams, which rules out decent acceleration, the only solace being provided by the Continental X-King tires that are grippy. As for other components, the saddle didn’t take any toll after 60 kilometers of riding, but the handlebar grips could have been softer.
Sprint Apolon Elite represents an interesting offer for those about to purchase their first 29er. Even if it’s not a competition bike, it could have used some newer derailleurs, and its total weight doesn’t recommend it for actual mountain biking. Flat trails are where the bike feels at home, and where it will function as intended to, thanks to different components that bet more on functionality than on low weight.