Susan Immelt and her husband Steve are keen bike riders and after a week-long adventure in Portugal, they’re now big inGamba fans, too. Which is great, because we love having them around. They’re exactly the kind of people you want to spend time with, on and off the bike. They’ve traveled extensively around the world, and whatever far-flung destination they end up in, it usually involves a bicycle, either with like-minded enthusiasts or by themselves on DIY-style adventures, complete with pannier bags. We caught up with her for some guest insight on the inGamba experience.
How did you get into cycling?
I actually “got into cycling” seriously in my early fifties. Steve and I took up spinning at our gym as a way to manage our weight. But when spring arrived, I asked why we were riding these stationary bikes inside, when we could be out in the sunshine exploring the countryside about one half of our spinning class friends took to the roads with us. And we stayed together as a cycling group for about 10 years. We rode together almost every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year, as long as there was no snow or ice. Eventually, that group gradually fell apart but Steve and I ride almost every weekend at home with friends, and take several bike trips a year. It’s the only kind of vacation that we take.
I just love the feeling of pedaling and moving myself along. It’s settling and promotes all kinds of thinking. I like exploring too. I know so many roads in nearly every direction from my home, that I never saw when I only drove a car. Also: I lost 40 pounds when I started and haven’t gained it back. Which is great because I love to eat!
How was your overall inGamba experience?
It was fantastic. I can’t think of anything that I didn’t like. And I can think of many things that stood out for me.
The experience that I have thought about and talked about the most is climbing up a long hill behind Manuel, and thinking I might fall off my bike I was trying so hard to keep up. I was looking forward to a restful downhill. Then he showed me the group in the distance, and told me we were going to catch up with them. We did. This is when I learned that inGamba is about trying your hardest and surprising yourself that you can do it. I think that all of the guides at some point pushed me along, encouraged me, taught me something about how to be a better cyclist, and they always kept me company. This was just the most memorable moment and it has affected other areas of my life: if it’s difficult, don’t just slog through it. Attack! Catch up with the peloton! It will take you farther and make you faster.
I also liked the format of taking off in the morning together, not stopping until coffee. Then riding until sometime before lunch. I like to kick back and maybe drink some wine at lunch, and I prefer not to bike after drinking alcohol. The other people on the trip were great as well, the camaraderie, even though most of them didn’t ride with me. Having cocktails and dinner together was really great. Keeping up with everyone after the trip has been really fun. I even met up with another guest and we rode together in Washington.
And even though I was always told to just ride along and enjoy myself, I really liked the push, the expectation that I could ride harder. This is what I liked best about the cycling on this trip, and made it different from other trips. And it was coupled with the fact you can you have massages, the total bike care, daily laundry, and great food.
The support team was brilliant. I loved the daily massage with the same soigneur. I felt more rested at the end of the week than I did in the beginning. I like the daily laundry. I’m a light packer, and I was glad not to have to wash my own stuff. I liked how well my bike fit and was cared for – I was impressed with the speed of the wheel change when I got a flat!
What was the most memorable thing about Portugal for you?
I love Portugal. This was my first time there. Lisbon is a comfortable, interesting city. All the people we met along the way were friendly. The landscape varied from seaside to hills to a big lake. Small towns were lovely. The food was fresh and tasty. The roads were wide open; we could go for miles without much traffic and without slowing down. We stopped at one traffic light the entire trip. I think it was the only one we saw.
A trip in Portugal like this is for the cyclist who really wants to ride. If you want a lot of visits to vineyards, cooking classes, tours of castles, views of iconic churches, and short rides along flat roads with a lift up a steep hill, this is not the trip for you, and probably not the touring company for you. But we both felt it was worth every penny.
For more guest opinions on their inGamba experiences, check out this page.