Betty Diaries: Riding Cyn City
The trails are drying out. The dirt is getting primed. And after a month away, I’m chomping at the bit to get home to Park City — and back on my mountain bike. Looking in my Strava at my favorite mountain bike routes from last season, there’s one major standout: Cyn City, a 2.75-mile, downhill-only trail at Park City Mountain that opened up just under a year ago.
If you look up Cyn City on Trailforks, they’ll tell you that it is a “flow trail with lots of whoops and double ups. Well-built-up berms through a forest of deadfall pine trees. Good flow and speed.”
What they don’t tell you is that the trail was named for one of Park City’s beloved locals, an elite endurance athlete and a pioneer of our mountain biking trail system— and mountain biking, period — Cyndi Schwandt. Cyndi died in a crash in June 2019 while out on her bike, doing what she loved. Cyn City was dedicated in her honor in July 2022.
I had never met Cyndi, so that was all I knew about Cyn City when I rode it last summer, shortly after Mountain Trails Foundation trail builder Chase Smith and Cyndi’s brother Tom cut through a slender log “ribbon” to open the trail that July. I was with my friend Chuck and he wanted to try the newly opened line. I was curious, too, but it was our first time riding together and I’d been hoping for a low-key loop without a lot of climbing. Or a chairlift. I mean, riding up is the thing about PC mountain biking that intimidates me the most. He told me not to worry, we should just freaking do it.
Turns out that was pretty much what Cyndi herself might’ve said had we been riding together. Biking hard stuff — and encouraging weenies like me to do the same — was a passion for the former MTB endurance racer who continued to kick butt well into her 60s. So, it was something she did a lot — especially leading rides for Team Sugar, a women’s group ride that meets every Tuesday at White Pine Touring.
Founded in 2003, Team Sugar was originally a race team. The group came by its name somewhat ironically. Back then, its members “were all very strong riders, but they weren’t so sweet,” says Kari Murray, a fellow member and friend of Cyndi. Kari says Cyndi was in her 50s when she joined the Sugar crew in 2004. “She was a force to be reckoned with on the trails and in the endurance bike scene.”
She continued to ride with Team Sugar even after the group morphed from a race team to a rad lady crew that leads and inspires other women to get out on their mountain bikes. As Kari says, “If someone said ‘I can’t,’ Cyndi would just look at them and say ‘Just ride it.’ I’m not sure many people knew when they were on her rides that she was a former elite mountain bike racer on the national scene.”
Kari says Cyndi was out on her bike almost every day, alone or with friends. “It was always fun to ride with her. We’d be out on one trail and she would take a random turn onto another because she had built it,” Kari says. “She was one of a handful of people who even knew it existed. We called them Cyndi’s secret trails.”
There were a lot of secrets people loved to learn about Cyndi. How she adored the color purple. How her hardcore race friends would be competing as a team at an endurance event and then run into Cyndi — racing it solo. How she came to Park City in the ’80s after earning a master’s degree in horticulture. How she immediately started shaking things up, connecting with a group of mountain bikers and digging out the city’s early trail network—a “bootleg” move, as her friends later recalled, that was “illegal as hell.” How her willingness to break the rules ended up laying the foundation upon which our entire mountain bike scene was built.
All of these things are dust in the wind when you’re finally standing at the top of Cyn City. You didn’t think you could. You didn’t even want to. But here you are. Having very slowly ascended all the way from the Mid-Mountain trailhead on this sweltering day in July. Tommy Two Steps to 3 Candles to Keystone to Fat Lip to 9K. Through the heart of the Black Forest. You’re gasping for air and your heart is pounding. There’s nothing else to do but ride. You’re in the moment, on your bike but out of your body. For awhile, you don’t think. You just are. Surrounded by a canopy of trees, the trail ebbs and flows. A glimpse of a leaf, a rock, a feather of wind brushes against your face. A rush of endorphins from the inside out. And she is right there with you. In this bump and in that berm. Lifting you up. Dropping you down. Flowing all around you.
Then, just like that, it’s over.
Standing at the edge of a grassy field, you look down and see a tiny purple wildflower peeking out by your dusty shoe. And that’s when you remember to breathe.
I just returned from an interesting vacation in the mysterious East. This is the annual bike trip with a very eclectic group of friends who have been doing these trips in one form or another for about 40 years now. This year we were in the Finger Lakes area of New York. It was strikingly different from here.
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