I recently traded my Kent BMX bike I got from Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart Bike

for a Ross road bike used road bike).

My friend tells me the bike sat in his back yard collecting rust, I see it has rust on the chain, the gears, brake lines and the chrome handlebars. The bike rides ok but the gear shifts need a good push and pull with my thumb to work. I know the bike has had no maintenance in a very long time so I was wondering what should I do?

  • 2
    It seems like a good trade! But the picture of your old bmx isn't really relevant to the question...
    – superdesk
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 13:01

3 Answers 3


When I was doing bike rehab for Christmas Anonymous I saw many bikes like this. It can be good or it can be bad, depending on how much weather it's seen.

First thing is to do the obvious -- wash it (we used a power washer), clean & oil the chain, clean and oil the derailers.

If it's been in the weather enough then the cables will rusted solid and will need to be replaced. Otherwise, squirt spray lube (not WD-40, but something that's more of a lube) into the ends of the cables and work them well. Also lube the brake lever pivots and put a dash of lube on the brake caliper pivots (but take care to keep oil away from the brake pads).

The bearings are the biggie. From the sound of it yours may be OK, but exposure to the weather for years contaminates the lube and washes some of it away, so it's best to repack all the bearings, starting with the wheel bearings. (I've seen bearings where all the lube was washed out and there was nothing but bare (and rusted) metal.) If you've never done this before, start with the front wheel, after studying instructions on the Park Tool site. And if, when you open up the front hub, the bearings look good and the grease appears reasonably fresh (it will always be dirty) then you can defer work on the other bearings.

Another thing to look for would be dry-rot with the tires and tubes. Cracking in the tires is a bad sign. Be ready to replace the rim tape if you have to change tubes.

  • Careful with a power washer— you can shoot water through the bearing seals and wash the grease out. Unless, as you stated, you're repacking the bearings. Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 18:17
  • 1
    @AlanGerber - Right. I don't really recommend a power washer for one-off use, but it was needed for many of the bikes we got. And any time one is washing some care needs to be taken to not direct a spray (even from thumb over hose end) directly into the bearings. Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 18:23
  • Another thing to look for is the brake pads. Probably you will have to replace them, if the bike sat for year+.
    – Alexander
    Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 4:43

A bit of very fine wire wool with spray oil on the rusty handlebars should clean them up a bit. Regarding the gear cables - new inners and housings are very cheap, so you'd be better replacing them rather than trying to make old corroded ones work.


Usually with old bikes like this - the drivetrain (chain, gears, cogs) can be rusted up. You can free these with WD40 to an extent. Inside the hubs may be corroded / rusted. If you can dismantle and regrease these it would help. The cables might be rusted inside- you can use WD40 again or replace them. Check for movement in the headset - check there isn't any knocking there- depending on how much use it has had it might need new bearing or at least a rebuild of the headset bearing. Check the tyres aren't perishing as the old ones tend to - you can see this by cracks in the surface which appear when you pinch the material. Check the spokes aren't loose. Hope that helps. You can also check for movement in the bottom bracket which may indicate needing a new one.

  • Maybe you should add that WD-40 is fine to get rusty stuff going again but after that one should apply some serious lube as the light oils in WD-40 might evaporate rather quickly. Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 14:07

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