It got me thinking about how to Talk Bikes with a true novice, what they need to know. Here's how I answered Shirley.
Let's talk about what style of bike you need/want.
There are three main aspects to a road bike.
1) the frame \
2) the gears / components
3) the wheels and tires
As regards gears and components. Re: that bike your friend loaned you. Is it a road bike? or a hybrid or a mountain bike? can you shoot me a picture of it? Assuming it is a reasonably lightweight road bike, are there 2 rings on the front (near the pedals) and 7 on the back wheel? If so, then 2x7=14 should be adequate for most riders. Of my personal collection of bikes I have 2 with 2x6, and several with 2x8. And 2x8 is more than I generally need. the key is having a gear ratio that is low enough (i.e. easy enough) to allow you to get up any hills you might encounter. of your current bike doesn't make it reasonable to get up a hill, then Yes, there is a problem.
Wheels and tires. if you have very heavy wheels and fat or knobby tires, you will go more slowly (by a good % - I would say up to 25%) and you will have more trouble getting up hills. And the bike will feel sluggish.
The Frame. no need to talk about frames until I better understand what you are comparing to. but a clunky old frame that weighs a ton (over 12 kgs) is also going to slow you down, feel sluggish and make climbing hard. So, get back to me on those points will you? photo. is it a road bike? and is it a 2x7 setup?
I am attaching the pics but it looks as if I have a lightweight 2x7 road bike. Maybe I don't need a new bike but the people at [ the bike shop] felt I needed more gears among other things. I haven't really done a lot of hills so I haven't encountered any trouble there but when I am on a flat stretch, I seem to be limited to a certain speed because my legs just spin without any tension...if that makes sense. I thought I could use a lower gear.
Anyway, let me know what you think.
I would respectfully suggest that Sporting Life (like all bike shops) is in the business of selling bikes, not trying to get people to keep their old bike.
Your comment about spinning out on the flats is perfectly reasonable. I expect that is simply because you have not figured out (again, with respect) the correct gear combination (called Gear Ratio, let's call it GR). GR is measured in Inches, how far you would travel with one pedal rotation in a certain combination of front + back.
Your spinning out suggests you are in too Low a GR for the flats.
It's all a question of very simple math. Not even math. Just counting the number of teeth on the front and back rings and sprockets.
this website has a GR calculator
You need a Low gear to climb a hill easily.
the Lowest gear ratio is when you are in the small front ring and the largest rear sprocket.
I can climb most hills with a 42 teeth front and a 25 teeth rear.
So, according to this calculator that is a 42.1 inch GR
To go flat or especially to go downhill without spinning out you need a High GR.
I would go downhill in my big front ring (52 teeth) + the smallest rear (12 teeth) = 113.9
So that is a Range of 42inches to 114inches. A less fit or experienced cyclist might need a Lower low to get up hills. If I had a 34 front and a 30 rear (like a Mountain bike) that would give me a 30inch low and make the hills much much easier.
Now, do you have it in the BIG front ring when you are on the flats? (the LH shifter)
If so, have you then dropped the back to a smaller rear sprocket (the RH shifter)
it may simply be so old and so out of tune that it doesn't shift easily and so you haven't bothered.
so you may be down to a functional 3 speed if the shifting is really stiff.
In theory, there is nothing wrong with that bike and there is no good reason (assuming the range of GR on that bike is appropriate. You would have to count the teeth on the two front rings -- assuming it isn't marked, which it wouldn't be on a cheap bike. and the teeth on the Biggest and smallest on the rear.)
that bike could not get you through the cancer ride (am I right that you are thinking of doing the cancer ride?)
the tires, while fattish, seem to be smooth (and so would roll reasonably well)
All that said, it would not be the most pleasant experience. That is, I think (Only "think" because I cannot see any details in the photo), a relatively cheap bike probably with relatively low end components. Probably heavy (do you have a bathroom scale? weigh yourself and then you holding the bike. What's the difference. If it's more than 12kgs / 27.5lbs, then it is not lightweight and so is probably not well constructed.)) You cannot as they say make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. It won't feel great. the shifting will always be clunky. It will be hard to tune. It will brake erratically.....And people will look at you and wonder "What is she doing on THAT bike?" So you would need a strong ego.
I am sorry to be so blunt, but this is the reality.
Another possible problem might be if it is the wrong size. If you cannot set the saddle to a comfortable position. If you have the patience to do more measuring, measure the distance from the middle of the Bottom Bracket shell (the big tube that the crank axle passes through) to the top of the saddle, along the seat tube.
for your inseam this distance should be about... 71-72cm (28"-28.5")
But there is nothing that completely disqualifies that bike.
But, if you want to do more than a one weekend ride and if you want that ride to the cancer ride more enjoyably, you might consider a different bike.
I have one, a very nice one, that I would suggest you try. You are welcome to come by and we can test it out. I will set you up, show you have the shifting works and see how you look size and fitwise. You can even borrow it for a weekend. Whether you like it or not, there is no obligation. You will at least feel the difference between a good bike and a poor quality one.
In the end, when she did come over, it turned out her loaner hybrid was a 3x7 setup (perfectly adequate), the wheels and tires were reasonably slick (and about 30mm wide so not TOOOO wide) and it weighed a bout 12.5kg / 27.5lbs. (not grotesquely heavy).
So, I told her that while it was probably one size too small (we were able to raise the seat)