I have old old 90's Cannondale that has been sitting in a spare bedroom for the last three years just collecting dust (has not been ridden in those three years). I bought a bike trainer over the weekend and so I wanted to throw that bike on the trainer and use it for indoor use.

I set it all up and when I got on the bike and started shifting the bike shifting in the back to the largest cog (so lowest gear) but now I am unable to make it shift at all to a higher gear. Bike was shifting completely fine the last time it was ridden but now not at all. It also doesn't feel like there is any tension in the actual shifter when I push on it. Does this type of problem sound familiar to anyone?

For what it's worth, the shifters are Shimano RSX.

  • Worn spring. Store a bike is smallest cog.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 9, 2016 at 3:13
  • @Frisbee it was on the smallest cog. When I shifted it, it went to the largest cog and now won't go back. Feb 9, 2016 at 3:16
  • Again - suspect the spring
    – paparazzo
    Feb 9, 2016 at 3:53
  • The "usual suspect" is the cables, especially given the way you describe it. Though as Criggie suggests it may be the shifters. Feb 9, 2016 at 13:06
  • Well I am going to take it in to my local bike shop today and once I know the answer I will let you all know. Feb 9, 2016 at 15:22

3 Answers 3


I'm familiar with RSX brifters (brake and shift combo units) If that's what you have then its likely the grease has gummed up, stopping the under-lever from engaging the release.

You might be able to finangle it a couple times by manipulating the underlever carefully, and you'll feel it catch. A blast in the guts of the brifter with brake cleaner or similar can help short term too, but for the long term fix its at least an hour of messing around.

Here's a pre-existing answer where I wrote up the full procedure for cleaning a RSX brifter:

STI shifter sometimes doesn't catch in cooler weather

And here's the howto video showing... how to.

Answer: if a squirt of brake cleaner helps, then the full fix should make it right again.

  • 2
    So I called my local bike shop and they said that the shifters probably got all gummed up (apparently there is stuff in there that will coagulate over the time of not being used) and so he suggested that I shoot some WD-40 into the shifters and to start pedaling and working them around. And guess what, it worked! So you were definitely right about the grease getting all gummed up. Thanks! Feb 9, 2016 at 17:37
  • @RustyStatistician Coincidentally I had to open my brifter to remove the end of a broken gear cable last night. Its fiddly but not hard.
    – Criggie
    Feb 9, 2016 at 19:10

It sounds as though the return spring in the rear derailleur is no longer strong enough to push it back. Most likely the grease or oil in the system has dried out and become glue, probably dusty glue, over the time the bike wasn't used.

One easy test (that may also fix the problem) is to leave the shifter set to high gear and while pedalling the bike on the trainer with your hand, use your other hand to push the rear derailleur back and forth to shift gears. Just wiggling it might free it up enough to fix the immediate problem.

What you should do, though, is get some chain lube and go over your whole bike. Get something that's a solvent+wax, solvent+grease or solvent+teflon (any of the wax lubes, TriFlow or whatever). First lube the chain, obviously, but drip a bit of chain lube into all the joints on the deraillers as well, then shift them back and forth 10 times or so to work that lube into the pivots. The solvent should help loosen that dried out grease.

I'd also pop the gear and brake cables off and lube those too. This answer talks about how to do that a little. Basically get a little slack in the cable, normally by shifting gears into the low-rear and high-front, stop pedalling then click the release lever on the shifters. You'll get slack gear cables. That should let you pop the outers out of the frame mounts, dribble lube on the inner cable, slider the outer up and down to spread the lube, then re-assemble them. I'd do the same with the brakes just on general principles, even though you currently plan to just use the trainer working brakes is always a good thing.

If you have any doubts about the shifters, putting a few drops on chain lube into the mechanisms there is probably a good idea too. But that tends to wash the existing grease out, so if they're working ok leave them alone.


You should look at your barrel adjuster on your rear derailleur. During those three years your cable tension probably loosen up.

Here is one of my favourite videos on how to readjust your rear derailleur

  • If the derailleur's not moving at all it's unlikely to be the barrel adjuster, that's designed for when the cable moves but the gears are not indexing correctly. Also, we prefer self-contained answers so that in a few years time people don't have to visit another site and hope the link is still valid.
    – Móż
    Feb 9, 2016 at 7:55

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