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View of entire bike, a Marin Bridgeway from 2015

I've neglected this bike, a Marin Bridgeway, for the past 3-ish years. It's spent a significant part of that time sitting in the sun and (occasionally) rain. I want to fix it up again, but I have no knowledge of bike maintenance and want to just run things by someone more knowledgeable than me to set me on the right track. The main problems I can see that would affect useability are that the tires are flat, and the chain is pretty rusty and has slipped off the chain ring. The back cassettes also look pretty rusty. From the small testing I've done, the wheels seem to turn fine, and when I squeeze the brakes they seem to work, but it's hard to know without riding the bike. I can't really tell whether there are any problems with the shifters at the moment.

For the tires - I see tiny cracks all along the side of the tires. I photographed the worst ones on the front and back tire, respectively. Is this a sign that I need to replace the tires entirely or is this okay? I am also thinking that I'll probably need to replace both of the inner tubes, since I recall that one of the reasons I stopped using this bike was I kept getting a flat tire, but I don't actually know how to check the quality of the inner tube.

closeup of cracks on front tire sidewall closeup of cracks on back tire sidewall

For the chain - I looked at some online tutorials and think I can remove it myself. After that, I'm not sure how to tell whether the chain is in good enough condition to just remove the rust and put it back on, or whether I need a new chain entirely. This bike forum post recommended using Evapo-Rust to remove the rust.

closeup showing rust on chain and casette

For the cassette - I also want to clean the rust off of it, but I'm a bit less certain on how to remove the cassette from the bike. Do I need specialized tools to do it? What is a chain whip and what is its purpose? I don't own any bike tools at all, so to keep down expenses I'd like to minimize unnecessary purchases.

Closeup of rusted cassette

In addition to making it rideable, I would also like to fix up the appearance of the bike a bit. My dad gave me this bike as a gift and I feel bad for having let its condition deteriorate. In particular, most of the screws and bolts on the bike look fairly rusty too, and the top of the seat looks a little worn. My idea is to remove the screws in small batches, cleaning them with a rust cleaner, and reattach them.

Close-up showing rusty screws on bike lock holder

Thank you so much to anyone who takes the time to offer my guidance and advice. I am very grateful for your help and look forward to understanding my bike better!

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    Do you have a better place to store it? Outside is a hard life for a bike. Frankly unless you can store it better, there's no point fixing it. – Criggie Jul 20 at 22:08
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    I do have better storage options now. My life setting has changed, which is part of why I want to fix it up now – Jennser Jul 20 at 22:30
  • The rust on the bolts seems to be pretty much surface rust not affecting function; You can run into trouble replacing them if you don't know how hard to tighten each one, whether to use grease on it or not, and possibly unintentionally change the position of the secured part. Leave them alone for now. – Armand Jul 21 at 0:40
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    @Criggie: Bikes can spend decades outside without suffering too much, as long as it’s not in a saltwater environment. With regular chain lube and stainless metals it’s no issue. – Michael Jul 21 at 6:50
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    @Michael your experiences and my experiences differ then. – Criggie Jul 21 at 7:49
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I would start by just trying to pump up the tires and see if they hold air. Then put some basic lubricating oil on the chain and gears. That should be enough to make it basically rideable so you can use it. Once you are riding, you can decide what is most urgent to work on next.

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  • The problem is, lubing the chain makes it much harder to remove the rust. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 21 at 0:01
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    Wear on the tire sides may be a safety issue (blowouts); I'd certainly replace the tires and why not replace the tubes as well while you're at it. – Armand Jul 21 at 0:37
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    @Armand because they cost money? – Swifty Jul 21 at 9:46
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    @Armand Total overkill. The tires look very good to me. No wear, and those cracks are inavoidable and purely cosmetic. And the tubes are most certainly still fine. I´ve used tubes for fifteen years, they easily survive three changes of tire. – Karl Jul 22 at 1:22
  • @DanielRHicks The rust removes itself while you use the (lubed) chain. If it is so rusty it has become stiff at one or more joints, you have to replace it anyway. – Karl Jul 22 at 1:26
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Being from a rainy country with a zillion bicycles and most of them parked outside, I would say:

  • Leave the tires, they'll be fine for a while
  • Remove the rust from the chain as much as possible and then lube it
  • The same goes for the cassette
  • Clean the derailer itself thoroughly
  • Extra care should go into the cables for the brakes and derailers; those are critical components that wear out

A flat tyre is a bummer but a broken (brake) cable while on the road is a safety hazard. Cleaning and lubing the chain and derailer makes for an energy-efficient bike.

Edit:

I use ordinary paint thinner for cleaning chains and chain wheels. A cheap toothbrush helps a lot there, also for the derailer.

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I would replace the tires and tubes. The bulk of the rust can be eliminated by scrubbing chain and cogs with oxalic acid (sold in paint stores as "wood brightener"), or with some other reasonably credible rust remover. However, the brake and shifter cables and housings are likely rusty and will need to be replaced (though I have rescued them by dripping oxalic acid through the housings).

It's hard to guess whether the bearings need to be disassembled and relubed.

After you've dealt with the rust, oil the chain well with a good bike chain oil, probably of the "wet" variety for starters.

Without a doubt the shifters will need adjusting.

(No need to remove the chain to de-rust and lube. Instead, purchase a "chain scrubber" and use that with the chain installed.)

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    I would not use oxalic acid or other chemical means to remove the rust while items are on the bike for fear of getting it into the nooks and crannies of BB bearings, rear freewheel (I think?), inside the chain rollers, etc. In fact, I would throw away the chain and replace it with a new 7/8 speed chain ($10-15) and just lube the front chainrings and rear gears, leaving the rust in place. It should work fine. – Armand Jul 21 at 0:34
  • @Armand - I suppose you're entitled to that opinion. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 21 at 1:01
  • Good point about the tubing of the shifter cables. If they are worn out or rusty, changing gears becomes a lottery. Plus they are cheap to replace. Keep them at the same (hopefully optimal) lenght! – Karl Jul 22 at 2:05
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Do An Assessment
You can't tell what it will take to get this bike going by looking at it.
Start with a thorough assessment of the bike so that you have a clear picture of what it's really going to take to get this bike going.

Get it working enough using a spray lubrication that you can turn the crank, shift the gears and test the brakes. Air the tires and see if they hold.

This first step will tell you what is so rusted and frozen that it has to be replaced.
You may find that the rust comes off nicely, or you may find sections of the chain rusted solid - or something in between. The cassette may spin smoothly or be rusted solid. It does take a special tool to remove the cassette. Some bike shops will remove the cassette for you if you take in just the wheel and some will do it for a fee, or you can buy the tool.

If / once you get the chain moving you may find that the cables still move smoothly - or that they have rusted into the housings (or something in between)

Tires The best way to know if the tires need replacing is to take them off the rims and do a detailed inspection. If the casing - the threads inside the tire - show signs of cracking, stiffness, oxidation - then the tires need to be replaced. If the tire casing is still flexible and in good shape you can still get some use from them.
If the tubes hold air they are fine.

Put together a list of what needs to be done and do a little research on how to do things and what things cost so that you have a clear idea of what you are getting into.

Bearings
To assess the condition of the hubs, bottom bracket and headset the ideal way is to disassemble them and look.
For a quick check:
Pull the wheels and spin the axles by hand. They should spin smoothly with no play.
Slip the chain off the chainrings and check crank spin for smoothness with no play. You have a sealed cartridge bottom bracket.
The fork/handlebars should turn smoothly with no play.
Since it was ridden so little hopefully bearing condition is good and only adjustment is needed.

Choices
Once you have an assessment it's time to figure out what to do next.

  1. "I have more time than money" On this path you will spend whatever time it takes to get things to work - to remove rust, disassemble lubricate and clean everything, replace only what is unfixable and get the bike back into shape. There is a lot to learn and skills to develop on this path.
  2. "I have more money than time" This is where you drop the bike off at a shop and let them fix it paying whatever it cost. A good bike shop will do an evaluation, give you choices, and then do the work you ask for.
  3. The middle way. Replace the parts that cannot be fixed or that take more time than it's worth (a new 6 speed Shimano cassette is currently around $20 and a new chain is around $15). Fix the things you can fix and let the shop fix things you cannot fix.

It takes work to find out how much work it's going to take.
Doing some work up front will help you go into this project with eyes wide open.

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  • You shouldn't lube anything until after you've dealt with the rust. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 21 at 17:21
  • @DanielRHicks It would be an initial lube. Just enough to find out if it's worth saving and what all else is wrong. You are correct the rust has to be dealt with before riding. – David D Jul 21 at 19:11
  • The problem is that any lube prevents you from effectively dissolving the rust. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 21 at 19:34

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