Cleaning rust off and renovating bicycle questions

I hope there are some dopers who can hellp me with a couple of bicycle building questions.

I’ve been shopping for some bicycles for my GF and her kids I recently came across a guy on Craigslist who had 2 Specialized mountain bikes(a Hard Rock and a Rockhopper). He had left them out in the rain quite a bit. The chain is rusted so that it won’t flex on both bikes, ,and the rear gears are rusted pretty badly and there is some surface rust on the chrome handlebars on one. Is there a solution or cleaner that I can take the parts and drop them into and remove the rust? I’d rather do that than try to clean every little tooth on the gears. None of the parts are rusted internally, its all surface rust, although some of it is pretty heavy. The second part of that question is whether its even worth cleaning them, or if I should just go buy a new chain and gears. Roughly, what would I expect to pay(note that I don’t need anything elaborate at all, just something decent that works). The cables that run to the brake pads are also rusted, I’m assuming it’s just best to replace those too, or should I try to clean them?

In case you’re wondering why I’m even dickering around with them, he gave them both to me for 20 bucks. I figure even if I spend some cash on parts for each of them, you can’t beat 60 bucks or so for each bike.

Throw in the Univega DS900 I found for 40 bucks at a pawn shop and I got out of this little deal pretty cheaply.

High School science projects are wonderful: The Effect of Various Rust Removers on Rusted Iron

You’re going to have to scrub.

For the handle bars use crome cleaner from the auto parts store.
For the chain, replace it. A new chain is way under $20 bucks ($10 sticks in my mind) and if you figure your labor a minium wage, you will end up at twice that plus chemicals to make your chain work, maybe.
For the gear sthemselves try navel jelly or check what Spin posted.

“The chain is rusted so that it won’t flex on both bikes, and the rear gears are rusted pretty badly “

They are shot and will be totally unreliable.
“and there is some surface rust on the chrome handlebars”

I would not use these either but they are probably OK if you go easy.
“The second part of that question is whether it’s even worth cleaning them, or if I should just go buy a new chain and gears.”

Cheap new chains and gears can cost you 40 or 50 but might be worse depending on what bike you bought.

“The cables that run to the brake pads are also rusted, I’m assuming it’s just best to replace those too, or should I try to clean the?”

Please don’t ride with rusty brake cables. They fail when you need them.
Once the brake cables/pads are rusted the bikes are probably pretty well trashed.

If this guy gave them too you then OK, but I wouldn’t pay for them

I’d be replacing the chain, cluster and brake cables. Brake cables breaking might not be good. If the chain or cluster have rusted badly, you can clean off the rust but there will still be pitting. If you just replace one, you may well end up wearing out what you replace pretty quick because it will be rubbing on what you don’t replace.

That’s way over the top. You wouldn’t use something with surface rust? Why the heck not?

What? These are basic wear/maintenance items. You think a bike’s trashed because it needs new pads and cables? Why?

I was gonna write all the little details, but the bottom line is:

replace the chain and cables, clean off the rust, hope for the best.

Buy a do-it-yourself bike mechanics book. I use Anybody’s Bike Book, Ten Speed Press which has been around since the 70s and is still good (and fun to read), augmented by Bicycling Magazine’s Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair by Jim Langley, who I’ve had the privilege of riding with several times. Cool guy.

With hard work and a bit of luck, you may end up with bikes that you could at least bum around town on. Don’t plan to ride across the US on them! I wouldn’t want to take one out on a trail, either; trail riding is hard on bikes as it is.

Yeah I figured that much, like I was saying, they are for my GF and her kids(who will be coming in town this week for the summer) to ride around here at the beach. The frames are all 100%, the handlebars are 100%, just have some surface rust, which is a horrible problem out here…any exposed metal that sits outside rusts almost overnight it seems like. I needed 3 bikes, the Univega is in great shape, and I think I can buy a few parts and these two will be fine too.

Just going over them a little more closely…the brake calipers themselves and the pads appear to be fine, its just the cables on one of the bikes that is rusted. All the components are Shimano Altus, and all appear to be fine. The Hardrock has a DuoTrack 2005 front shock, and Specialized bar ends, both of which are fine. It looks like I’ll need 2 new seats, 2 chains, new brake cables on one, and I’ll try cleaning the gears and hope for the best.

Hey, I’ll throw in an endorsement for your plan! I’ve recovered many bikes that have seen the worst of the elements, and if you replace the normal wear items (cables, chain, brake pads - like you plan), then everything else will probably be OK. You’ll want to hit everything with a good dose of a lubricant (like Tri Flo), check/adjust the bottom bracket (even a replacement cartridge BB is pretty cheap) and headset, and spin the wheels to check for gross misalignment and bad bearings. Oh, and how is the rubber - tire casings can get old/cracked if left out, and new tires may be required. Or, you might try for another trashed bike that has good wheels/tires, and swap around as needed. If any of this is beyond your tool capacity, then either let it go (most of those things aren’t safety-critical except the brakes and chain which you are doing anyway) or take it to a shop for a tune-up (that could end up costing more than the initial purchase prices). Oh, and a good washing will do wonders for the appearance! Good luck.

I meant to add - the bikes you describe will have quite a few aluminum parts (which are immune to rust) and generally decent components - these bikes are well worth saving for the use that you describe.

You might decide the spoikes are a little loose while your cleaning it up. Do not adjust the spokes, leave it for a professional. You will have to buy new wheels in a couple weeks if you adjust the spokes.

Come now. It goes without saying that the OP should find good instructions on how to true a wheel (a google search will do you well, here), but with a correctly-sized spoke wrench and the aforementioned good instructions, any average joe can perform this task. Proper tensioning, not so much, so I wouldn’t recommend tightening loose spokes if the wheel looks straight. These bikes aren’t going to be used hard enough to take proper spoke tension an issue.

It’s personal experience as a teen tightening some loose spokes. It’s a valid warning so the wheels don’t need replacing. I was polishing the chrome in between the spokes when I thought some spokes were loose. I had no idea it would give me pretzels for tires a few weeks down the road.

In this instance, I would suspect that the loose spokes were a sign that your wheels were on their last legs (ha ha), and that they would have tacoed soon in any case. Truing wheels is not rocket science, and anybody who approaches it methodically should do OK. Even wheel building is not out of the reach of the home mechanic if they’re careful. Good luck - you may surprise yourself with what you can accomplish on your own bicycle if you take your time.

That post is meant to be encouraging, not condescending, in case there is any confusion over tone.

Super! Glad to hear it.

IMHO, you don’t need to worry much about the wheels. Use your fingers to test the spoke tension. Hold up the front of the bike so you’re looking back over the handlebars and seat, then spin the front wheel and look for extreme wobbling. Do the same with the back.

If you see any really loose spokes or really bad wobbling, take it into a bike shop and have them true the wheel. You can do this yourself, but for what you want to do with the bikes, why even bother? Wheel truing is not as hard as it seems, but it takes time and practice.

In summary: if I was preparing my own bike to ride it 100 miles, I’d work long and hard on it. If I was reconditioning a “beater” to do errands with, I’d fix anything that was obviously wrong (like no chain!) and then fix other stuff as I discovered it.

In other words, don’t make it too complicated. For a refreshing view of uncomplicated bicycling, see Rivendell Bicycles

FYI - one good source of online bicycle maintenance instructions is Park Tool - you can try them at their park tool website - just click on where you need help.