tl;dr;? Just see bullet points below...

My mom recently gave my wife her old Raleigh Horizon bike. She must have gotten it around the year 1990, and there's no way she spent much on it (she's kinda cheap).

I don't know much about bike's - I mean I rode them every day of my life as a kid, but I never really got into the nitty gritty details of a repair or upgrade. My plan with this Raleigh, is to repaint it, which shouldn't be a problem. However, I also wanted to replace the cables and shifters if possible since it's disassembled already. Possibly the cassettes, too.

Finding information on an old cheapo bike like this is kinda hard. Most Youtube videos are for hardcore guys who are all about their $1000+ bikes (probably you guys lol).

I basically want to get my wife a bike that works well but isn't going to cost me more than $100 (USD). I have the bike, it technically works, but the chain does slip off when shifting a lot and these shifters need to pressed pretty hard to make them do anything. They're also slightly rusted.

I've already disassembled the entire thing to prepare it to be painted. I just want to reassemble it with some new parts to make it better...

My questions are:

  • Are brake cables and shift cables the same? On Amazon I see most are sold as "shift" or "brake" cables but they seem the same to me...
  • What type of cables would an older bike like this need if I wanted to replace them (and maybe upgrade, if not too expensive)?
  • Can you recommend a set of sprockets (or cassettes) that would allow the shifting to work better. Nothing extreme, just simple but decent ones... if that's a thing :)
  • Can you recommend a set of shifters?
  • Is there any other inexpensive upgrade that you might recommend?

Thank you! Sorry for the noob questions

UPDATE: updated the terminology to be correct (I think). Thanks @ojs :)

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    Well, you can't demand from a bike mechanic to be also an expert in Wordpress. Formatting aside, the content is very good, the guy is really passionate about his craft and can write sensible texts. After all, all sites look like this 20 years ago; we are just spoiled by modern things that are not always better just because they are new. Jan 21, 2018 at 13:19
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    Possible duplicate of How do I bring an old bike up to speed? Jan 21, 2018 at 14:14
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    Honestly I would have focussed on the mechanical first, and left the painting out completely. A good paint job will cost plenty commercially, and still significant cost doing it yourself. Its not the paint, its the prep time. Plus you'll loose those sweet 80s colours and decals.
    – Criggie
    Jan 21, 2018 at 19:23
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    Agree about the 80s colors and decals. @Adam Plocher, you could just decide to apply touch-up paint (after cleaning off any rust) to any chipped spots that expose frame metal.
    – compton
    Jan 21, 2018 at 19:43
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    Painting the bike is probably unnecessary and overkill. Many bikes are disassembled to be painted and then never assembled again. And unless somethings broken I see no point in changing the shifters or cogs or derailers -- the existing ones appear to be in good shape. This is a friction-shift bike, and changing to get indexed shifting would be problematic (in addition to costing a lot of money). Just replace the tires, fix what's broke, and lube it up. If that isn't good enough, buy a newer bike. Jan 21, 2018 at 23:18

4 Answers 4


I'll throw another answer it now that you posted pictures which give some more info.

Cassette sprockets do not look worn, neither do the chainrings, which probably means the bike has not been ridden very much. Most of the deterioration is due to sitting and slowly rusting. This is actually good news for you as you can refurbish most of the bike, not have to deal with finding replacement parts, and it should work OK (as well as a 1990 inexpensive Raleigh with a 6 speed rear and friction shift is going to work).

There are lots of online resources on bike repair and maintenance. My personal favorite is the Park Tool Company YouTube Channel as it covers a wide range of component types including older style. Yes, the bikes in most online content are newer an more expensive but the principles are all the same.

Parts that should definitely be replaced are the rubber parts: brake pads, tires, and tubes as they perish with age. Replacing cables and housing is a good idea too. Brake and gear housings are of different construction. Something to possibly look out for is getting cables that are too wide to fit into the frame bosses, shifters etc. I'd replace the chain too as it looks too corroded to salvage.

If you are going to do this properly you will need to disassemble, inspect, clean and re-grease all the bearings, and the freewheel as the grease is most likely dried out and gunky. Here's where you will need to put some more money into the project - you will need some specialized tools to get the pedals off, bottom bracket apart, the freewheel off and to take the hubs apart.

The shifters look like they can be taken apart, cleaned, greased and reassembled. Same with the brake levers. The derailleurs probably cannot be fully disassembled, but can be cleaned and checked that they swing through their arcs without roughness. The idler wheel cage can be taken apart and the idler wheel bearing cleaned and re-greased. Note the the top and bottom are generally different so do not mix them up.

I believe there are some products you can soak metal parts in to remove rust.


There's a lot of questions in here. My suggestion is to read through https://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help and http://sheldonbrown.com/ instead of asking a separate question for everything.

  • Brake cables are thicker than shift cables, and the outer cables are constructed differently. There are different variants of the cable ends for both, you need the correct one. "An older bike like this" is not enough information to guess which one you need, there are a lot of different old bikes sold as "Raleigh Horizon".

  • We don't really do product recomendations because they tend to be location-specific and information gets out of date. Once again, we need more information to tell which cassette or freewheel fits your bike.

  • The above applies for shifters, which I guess you mean by "shift nobs".

  • If the tires and brake pads are original, replacing them with new decent quality ones is a huge improvement.

What you didn't ask but I'd recommend anyway: lubricate the chain and cables and adjust the gears before buying anything. The shifters are probably stuck because of old, dirty grease, and cleaning them with WD-40, CRC 5-56 or similar should help.

Update after pictures: This style of shift lever can be completely disassembled and greased. If you want to replace the sprockets, what you need is a 6-speed freewheel and appropriate tool for removing the old one. New one can be screwed on by hand. Newer freewheels have teeth shaped for easier shifting, so upgrading may improve shifting. If you change to a new freewheel, you need to replace the old chain too, because it has worn together with the old freewheel. The correct cables are MTB-style for brakes and road-style for shifting.

  • Thank you, this is a great answer with some info to get me started. As a seasoned StackOverflow'er I assumed asking opinion-based questions was if'y at best, but I decided to throw them out there anyway :). And thank you for correcting my terminology. I'll update my question. Would including photos of the shifters, cables, or cassettes help? Thanks again Jan 21, 2018 at 13:10
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    I would recommend asking separate questions on each piece of equipment that you want to overhaul or replace. Model names and photos will greatly help in each case with identifying possible solutions. E.g. we still do not know how many gears the bike in question has. Jan 21, 2018 at 13:23
  1. Bicycle mechanical cables has not changed much since 1990's. The main difference between brake cables and shifting cables is in diameters. Shifters use 1.2 mm wire and brakes use 1.5 mm wire. Both types should also have matching housing. Brake cables have different "heads" types — barrel (for MTB) or a drop (for road). Make sure you use the same type of cable end as your shifter accepts. Some brake cables have both types of heads on different sides of the cable so you just need to cut it properly.

  2. Any decent cable sets will do. You can find complete sets of cables and housings sold together, along with small ferrules and other minor stuff that may or may not be useful for mounting them on a particular bike.

  3. Note that if you want to change parts of a drivetrain, it is better to be all its parts. It is well known that e.g. older chain and newer cassette work noticeably worse (read: noisy as hell) than an old chain and old cassette. The drivetrain parts are: front chainrings, rear cassette and chain. One can buy a complete groupset that may even include shifters, but it will definitely be more expensive than a 100$. Do not forget that number of front and rear gears may differ greatly on bikes, and so the shifters must match.

  4. Unless visibly damaged, your shifters may be alright, if a little rusty. It is the friction in the old cables that makes shifting hard.

  5. You should definitely look at the brake pads and change them. These things are cheap, and there are not very many types used with rim brakes, so you should easily find a substitute. That is, provided your bike has rim brakes. Overhauling the brakes is recommended in any case. The same goes with tires — if they look bulgy or cause a lot of punctures, they should be replaced.


The good news is that Raleigh is a reputable brand, and compatible with standard components.

  • Brake and shift cables are not the same, they have different fittings on the end to attach to the brake lever or shifter. That said, they can be bought inexpensively as a kit - front and rear shift cables, front and rear brake cables. They'll work on almost any bike and any shifter/derailer and brake/lever combo. Search for "universal bicycle cable" or "shimano cable." Between $5 and $20 from online retailers depending on whether you want a premium brand or something cheap but reliable.

  • The rear set of cogs is going to be a 6 speed freewheel rather than a cassette. Interlok Racing Development (IRD) makes a wide-range freewheel (14-34 range) suitable for casual riding in steep, hilly terrain that will work with your derailers. It's pricey, $75, but I've used their similar 5-speed freewheel on my own resto-mod projects, and have been happy with it. Otherwise, a Shimano brand freewheel, brand new is $15 or so and fine for everyday riding. Stick with a name brand model, IRD or Shimano, as the teeth are carefully designed to work with the derailer better than cheaper generics, and the mechaincs inside will be more robust.

  • Your derailers use simple friction shifters. Sunrace have been making durable and reliable friction shifters for a half century, and they're less than ten bucks for a pair of top-mounted handlebar shifters. I would avoid generic shifters, and pricier high-end friction shifters probably aren't worth the cost.

  • I would recommend converting the bottom bracket to a cassette style for toughness and longevity, and upgrade the old threaded headset to a new sealed bearing model (I wouldn't convert to threadless). Upgrade to a nice set of Kool-Stop brake pads. Also, replace the pedals - I prefer BMX-style platforms, alloy or high-end poly, for their durability. Invest in a nice set of puncture resistant tires. Get a nice set of lights while you're at it.

  • "Raleigh" and "standards" are two words that would never appear together on their earlier bikes - even up to the 80s raleigh had their own systems and threadings. Was only after the 80s bike bust that Raleigh consented to standardise on the same stuff as everyone else.
    – Criggie
    Jan 24, 2018 at 21:01
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    @Criggie - True, but I have a Record Ace from the late '70s with the pretty brazing, and it was using industry standard components by then (SunTour derailers). In the '90s, they were welded and use standard Shimano running gear. Jan 25, 2018 at 16:19

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