Valentine’s Month 🧡 Faces of JOY IV: Cristina Bottegaro and Suzanne Smith!

This Southport-based couple had their first date on an outdoor bike ride — and they are still riding together!

“Even though we don’t ride next to each other in the room, Cristina inspires me!” —Suzanne

What initially brought you to JoyRide (i.e. was one of you riding here first and brought the other?)
Cristina: As an experienced cyclist, I wanted to keep working though the winter. So, two years ago, I walked into JoyRide after shopping at Crate & Barrel and loved the desk staff and my first class there. After that, I was hooked.

Suzanne: Cristina is the more experienced cyclist — she was attending classes at JoyRide when she encouraged me to try it. Basically, when she would come home after class, I would ask her “how was class?” The answer was always: “It was so hard - it was the best class!” I thought to myself, "if it was that good and that hard, maybe I should go!” So, I decided to try it. I loved how I walked in and immediately felt comfortable because there was a welcoming spirit of “no judgement.” However, I have to say - I didn’t love it at first. The classes were really hard for me. While I loved the energy at JoyRide, I didn’t get that euphoric feeling right away. But because of Cristina, I kept going because she loved it so much. And one day, it just clicked. I got it. A year later, I was completely hooked. If it weren’t for Cristina, though, I don’t think I could / would have stuck with it.

Which classes do you usually attend? 
Cristina: I usually go three times / week with Rhodie, Mackenzie, Anne or Jaime.

Suzanne: Due to my travel schedule as a Producer and Director for CBS Sports, I tend to go early in the week with Rhodie, Mackenzie or Jaime.

How do you motivate each other / how does riding together affect you? 
Cristina: We don’t actually ride next to each other! I ride in the second row where you can see the instructor, but are not too close to them. Suzanne likes to be a bit further to the side.

Suzanne: We don’t avoid each other - but unlike some couples, we don’t need to be right next to each other to know we are together, nor do I need to feed off the energy of others. Riding is a very personal thing and I am not the “best” at it yet, so I want to let Cristina have her space and not have to worry about me. She doesn’t realize this, but I am always looking at her, because she does inspire me.

What has JoyRide meant to you?
We have been beyond embraced by this wonderful community and have made some good friends. Last year, we all went as a group to a Broadway show with our friend Marilyn (Ostreicher), whose son was the Musical Director!

How did you first meet? 
Suzanne: we met on a blind date! I came out from the city to meet Cristina. She had suggested a bike ride. I acted like a 20 mile ride was "no big deal," but I had to do some serious acting! I was dying!

Has exercise always been a part of your lives? 
Cristina: Growing up in Italy, I had my first bike when I was two years old! As a little girl, I fixed everyone's bikes in the neighborhood! This is a lot because in Italy everyone rides bikes for transportation, in addition to cycling for pleasure. I also love to hike, swim, golf, run, work out, you name it. 

Suzanne: In high school and college I played every and any sport. Many years later, those sports aren’t really an option, but indoor cycling is!

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourselves that could help/ inspire others looking to get fitter/healthier?  
Cristina: Whether it’s during a charity ride, leading a ride out on the road with a group of friends or in class, I love helping others, adjusting peoples bikes and encouraging everyone. It it gives me joy. 

Suzanne: Unlike Cristina, I don’t love to work out! But the past year, going to JoyRide, has made a difference in my life both physically and mentally. I’m fortunate that I have Cristina to guide and inspire me. Even if you don’t have someone like that in your life, you will be inspired and motivated by everyone at JoyRide. From those working the front desk, to the instructors, and people attending class, everyone is supportive of one another. And it’s fun!

Supporting riders’ causes and charitable organizations is of the utmost importance to the JoyRide community, and a vital part of our mission. Is there a cause or organization about which you are both passionate?  
Cristina: Every year I ride in the Smilow Cancer Ride where my team raises over $100,000 for cancer research. I also love animals, so I help by donating to the ASPCA and the Connecticut Humane Society.

Suzanne: The Womens Sports FoundationThe Hetrick-Martin Institute (supports LGBTQ youth) and Time’s Up are all organizations I support.

Most fun ride or class at Joy? 
We really enjoy when FAKE ID is playing for a Cycle Live ride — and all of the theme rides. The instructors' outfits and music are always fun! 

lesley osborn