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I'm an adult that is new to biking due to a triple whammy of a childhood aversion to effort, my family moving to a town on the side of a mountain with steep roads, and my bike getting run over by a neighbor (I gave up riding around age 10).

I didn't buy another one until my wife got me involved riding with her.

I bought it from a guy on Craigslist. He's had it in a storage unit for at least fifteen years, though possibly more.

The thumb shifters are unlabeled and don't have set stopping points for the gears. I can rotate the lever all the way around a 200 degree arc, the chain switches gears depending on where they're pointing. They seem to have hints of rust on them.

The bike rides fine, though there is a slight grinding while pedaling unless I get the shifters just right, but as I can't tell where to stop them, this is difficult.

My wife loves to ride and I want to get better at it so we can enjoy it together, I'm just worried that my bike isn't safe.

What can I do to make sure it's safe and reliable? I know nothing's been oiled or maintained for the previously mentioned time period or since I've bought it.

It's a KHS, so it could be as old as 36 years, but I really have no idea how old it is.

My Bike

UPDATE -

I took a bunch of pictures. I hope they can help you identify things better. Sorry about how much scrolling is required!

Shifters Pedal Gears Not Sure Petals Back Gears Tires Front Badge Under Seat Frame Bike

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Interesting question. Closeups of the shifters and the drivetrain would be helpful, if you have them or can easily take them. –  Neil Fein Aug 5 '11 at 16:44
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@Neil Added several higher quality pictures. –  Kalamane Aug 5 '11 at 20:00
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That is actually a fairly nice bike for its age. Suntour components, a company that is sadly gone, but pretty good quality for their time. Definitely a step up (maybe 2-3) from a "department store" bike. The derailers are only slightly gunked up, so I'd recommend just lubing them (lightly) and leaving them be, unless they give you trouble. The rust on other components can probably be taken care of with a dish "scrubbie" and a little detergent water, followed by a very light coat of oil or wax. (Keep any oil/wax off the wheel rims.) –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 5 '11 at 20:24
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6 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Restoring the bike is a great way understand the bike.

My history is similar to yours. Gave up bikes around 10. Wife want to me ride with her.

I got a top of the line bike on CG for peanuts. of course, it was top of the line around the 90s :)

cleaning

start by REALLY cleaning the bike. simple green and brushes. don't be afraid to wet the bike. just avoid the seat if it's leather. and no water inside the tubes.

shifters

I'd start replacing the shifters for indexed ones. getting the same brands will usually work. but will require a lot of research to match them with the rear derraileurs (the gear shifting thing on the back).

Another option is to just keep the ones you have (friction shifters) and feel the gears changing. Even with modern bikes, this is still the norm with the front gears, so no harm on going that route also. Plus, restoring and fine tunning the bike your self will make you 'know' how to feel the gears better.

Wheels

if it has Sealed bearings in the middle of the wheel you are fine. Those last a life time. It's that axle on each wheel. just turn them. if they keep rotating without ratling noises, you are fine. if they just turn a couple times after you roll them with your hand. you need new ones.

also, if they wooble when you turn them. they need truing. that's the only skill that does not pay off to learn your self. $15 at a bike shop and the wooble is gone.

If they rattle, dont' spin, wooble. just get new wheels.

cables

inspect them all. pull them with your hand via each housing. if there's any drag. try to fix it (i did fix my rear derraileur cable by cutting one broken thread that was pointing outwards and so dragging in the housing. good as new now). If it's a brake cable, spew out the $7 and get a new one with new housings.

WD-40 into all cable paths also help.

brakes

Being by checking that they still have plent of rubber.

Also check your wheel rims for damages.

you have to loose them and tighten them as close as possible to the rim. in a way that they are slightly curved against the wheel, with the BACK of the brake touching the wheel. the front of the brake is the front of the bike. it should look like: \ || / you should be able to touch the rim with some <15% of travel of the brake. the rest of the travel should be extra pressure for breaking power. Play around a lot with this. there's several places where you can adjust your brake.

Second step is to adjust them in a way that when you press the brakes, both sides touch the wheel at the same time! there's usually a screw on the side to control that.

make sure that NO other cable housing goes UNDER the front brakes cable.

And I can't stress this enough: test drive the bike on a straight run EVERY time you adjust them. mostly now that you are getting to know things.

bearings

bike has serviceable bearings in the cranks and in the freewheel (the thing that rotates the back wheel when you are not pedaling). usually your freewheel will be dry, cranks are almost always fine. check it by rotating the wheel and leaving the cranks still. if the chain is dragged to the front at slow rotating speeds, you have to grease/change the freehweel. I'd only change if the cogs are worn out.

you will need a spanner tool to open those.

derraileurs

You will hear about them a lot. it's the pair of gears on the back that change the drive gear on the rear wheel, and the guide on the front that change the drive gear on the cranks.

It the easiest part to restore and adjust. If they do not move sideways when you press with your hands, open them up, clean, and grease the hell out of them. It's easy. was what took less time for me. but everyone will say the opposite.

when they are moving easily when you press them, read the parktool's article on how to adjust it. http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/rear-derailler-adjustments-derailleur

more

There's probably more than I can remember now... but all in all it took me around a week and a half. And around $50 in tools/greases/new chains. I didn't have to replace any component or cable yet. And now i love to ride. I go to work every day riding.

now, to fully understand what you are doing, read:

http://sheldonbrown.com/

http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help

The last link will point you to several expensive tools. I only need them to work on the cranks and remove the freewheel (you don't have to remove the freewheel unless you will replace it, i didn't know it back then). I got the tools asking around at work, one guy had a nice kit i could borrow.

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So lucky having a wife wanting to ride with you and getting you into bikes. Top answer b.t.w. –  ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Aug 5 '11 at 20:29
    
I would also note: Don't spray water on the bike. It can enter the bearings (bad). Get the bike wet, but wipe don't spray. –  sixtyfootersdude Oct 1 '13 at 21:11
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Good Stuff Kalamane, Nothing like finding an old bike and doing it up. There does not appear to be much wrong with it that a good clean and oiling/grease will not solve. As mentioned by others go over the mechanical components/nuts and ensure they are fixed and tightened up.

The components maybe old fashioned (retro?) but will work just as well as new components, just need to get use to them. Many profesionals have had to rough it with friction shifters in the past.

Do it up, ride it for a bit, then decide if you really need a new bike or maybe a more up market second hand one, dont spend lots of money on it unless you really fall in love with it.

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This looks well worth the effort. As @gcb says you can do it yourself and learn how to take care of everything on the bike. Although it does not have index gears and everything else fancy and sophisticated you can ride worry free about anyone stealing it and those handlebars should be nice and relaxed.

One point of concern is the front brake - I would like to see a reflector bracket under the straddle wire and bolting to the hole at in the fork crown. That is a safety detail, if the brake cable snaps you don't want the straddle wire catching on the wheel and throwing you over the handlebars.

Other than air in the tyres and a bit of lube there probably is not a great deal you need to do to get it running. That said, the front derailleur needs dropping by 5+mm so the outer cage is 1-3mm above the outer chain ring. This will need the front derailleur to be re-adjusted on the H-L screws and the cable pulling through to accommodate the drop. With the rear derailleur you may want to check that you cannot push the chain off into the spoke protector. The wheels may need a bit of a true, but if they go round and don't hit the brakes you are in business. As for the brakes, they should not pull all the way back to the bar. Also, with your hands you should not be able to twist the blocks out of alignment. Another thing to check for is play - can you move the wheels from side to side? The same with the chainset and headset?

If you don't really want to go the @gcb route, DIY, learning on the way, then you can take it into a shop for a basic service. Get a quote in advance and don't let them spend any money on it. The determining factor in whether you want to book it in might be your available tools and if there are problems you don't want to do, e.g. play in the bottom bracket, toe-ing in brakes or wheel truing.

Judging by your photos, if I had to get this bike sorted for sale purposes, e.g. if it came in on a part exchange, I would spend no more than half an hour on it and check all of it in that time including a lot mentioned here. If it came in as a service then that would be an hour's worth of time and small niggles that might be okay for second hand would be attended to differently.

Anyway, I am glad this bike has found an owner and even though it may not be the latest and greatest it will get you from A to B in retro style. Enjoy.

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Yeah, it's an old bike -- before "indexed shifters", making it at least 20 years old, I suspect. (The reflectors suggest to me that it's probably not over about 30 years old, though.) Apparently, from the sound of things, it's working fairly well, though, and should be reasonably safe if a few details are given attention.

First off, the tires and tubes, if 20-30 years old, are probably rotten and apt to blow out without warning. I'd advise replacing them (if you keep the bike). At the very least check the tire sidewalls and the tube stem (bend it side to side a bit and look near the base) for cracks.

The brakes should be checked. Mainly it's a question of "do they work?" (ie, stop the bike reasonably well with moderate hand pressure), as the rubber pads may have become too hard to be effective, requiring that the pads be replaced. (Absolutely nothing wrong with cantilevered brakes, BTW. It's "old" technology, yes, but still used on some new bikes, and quite reliable and easy to maintain.)

Lightly lubing the chain (buy a small bottle of "dry" chain oil at a bike shop) and the derailers would be advised. If the rear derailer is gummed up it should be cleaned, but if the bike is really so lightly used that's probably not a problem.

Otherwise, there's not a lot that can go seriously wrong -- not sufficient to be a safety hazard, at least. However, a brief checkup at a local bike shop might be worthwhile, or at least a look-see from a biker buddy.

The "grinding" sound is "normal" (for a non-indexed system) and "fixing" is is basically a matter of learning how to adjust the shifters "just right". It's complicated by the fact that you have two shifters and two derailers, and both derailers can make noise. So until you learn the ropes half the time you'll be adjusting the wrong shifter. (But it's not really that hard to do this -- just takes a little practice.)

Even if you decide to get a new bike, I'd advise using this one a bit first, to become familiar with handling a bike and to get a better feel for what "fits" you and what doesn't.

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You've got a bike there with thoroughly outmoded technology. The handlebar-mounted friction shifters are likely functional, but take quite a bit of practice to use properly. The old-style cantilever brakes are likely functional as well but not nearly as powerful as modern equipment. I would imagine that's a ten-speed (5-cogs) freewheel on the rear end of the bike. Nothing per-se wrong unless it's not been properly maintained in which case the bearings will be suspect. Freewheel set-ups are notorious for bent and broken axles as much of the axle length is unsupported. I would say that if you were bike-handy and had your own tools and some time, you could render the bike into... A new-ish 30 year old bike. You can get a nice, decent modern hybrid (or "comfort" or "fitness") bike from a major manufacturer in the 300-ish dollar price range. It will be better by far than this oldster was when it was new.

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remember that 30yrs ago, little kids used to ride them without any problem :) but yes, new tech is way cooler. but i doubt he paid anything close to 300 on that. –  gcb Aug 5 '11 at 18:49
    
@gcb: True, he didn't pay 300 for the bike, but will it cost more than 300 to put right? It will, for sure. –  zenbike Aug 5 '11 at 19:57
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With all respect, you should look at a new bike, or a used one which is far more current than the one you've got now.

If you are uncomfortable riding it, feel unsafe, or it requires more skill than you have to ride it comfortably, then get one that is comfortable and safe for you. You can buy a new, basic mountain bike, hybrid. or urban bike for about $500 US dollars, which will be more comfortable, and outperform what you have now.

To recondition that bike to any real standard, especially if you want to modernize gears, or brakes, will cost you at least half that, and likely more. And you'll still have a bike which is missing years of design and performance improvements.

There are definitely old bikes which are classics, and well worth the cost and effort of reconditioning thoroughly, but that doesn't fall into that category, especially in it's current condition.

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Why recommend a mountain bike? Most people ride on-road, where a road bike, commuter, or (ugh) even a hybrid is more appropriate. –  Stephen Touset Aug 5 '11 at 17:43
    
@Steven Touset: Solely based on what the picture is of, and universal utility. I don't know the OP, and his wife is a cyclist. I'm sure she'll have input on what he buys. My recommendation was intended to be more generic, since you can ride an mounain bike on the road, but not vice versa. Edited to be less specific seeming. –  zenbike Aug 5 '11 at 17:53
    
@Stphen, don't dis the hybrid. I got hybid 6 years ago and it's been great to me. I've switched out the handlebars, tires, added a rack, and clipless pedals. Rides great, and has served me well. For me it was way cheaper to do it this way then to spend the money on a road bike or touring bike. At the time a decent road bike would have cost $1000+ in my location. –  Kibbee Aug 5 '11 at 18:00
    
@Kibbee: Steven Touset was asking why I only recommended mountain bikes. I added the hybrid and the urban bike at his suggestion. –  zenbike Aug 5 '11 at 18:16
    
I disagree. Older bikes are great. Sure it may not have indexed shifters but otherwise that should be an excellent bike. Looks like fun. –  sixtyfootersdude Oct 1 '13 at 21:13
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