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I'm going to try to help my buddy bring his old school Schwinn back to life. I'd REALLY appreciate some guidance please!

He said it's all Shimano, 3 gears up front and 6 in rear. Only other thing it says is "M5 Light Action". The shifters are mounted on the frame. He wants to bring it into the modern age with handlebar shifters and all. Can we keep the original gears and derailleurs and just get new cables and shifters, or does it all have to go?

Any advice or suggestions are appreciated!
 

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My suggestion is "don't." It would cost more money than the bike is worth, probably. You would need shifters, derailleurs, cassette, and a new rear wheel (or at least the hub), which would require re-spacing the frame. I'd tune it up to work as well as possible with the existing parts.
 

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It's going to be a money pit. J Cavilia is right. For what you'd spend refurbishig that bike you could likely buy a new one that's better quality & maybe even spend less.
 

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I'm going to try to help my buddy bring his old school Schwinn back to life. I'd REALLY appreciate some guidance please!

He said it's all Shimano, 3 gears up front and 6 in rear. Only other thing it says is "M5 Light Action". The shifters are mounted on the frame. He wants to bring it into the modern age with handlebar shifters and all. Can we keep the original gears and derailleurs and just get new cables and shifters, or does it all have to go?

Any advice or suggestions are appreciated!
Reinforcing what the others have said this proposal is very likely not a good investment of time or money. It isn't like the bike was anything to write home about in the first place. If you were looking at a Paramount then maybe, but you're not.
 
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