By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Working at Cyclery USA in Rancho Cucamonga, Rich Deiner kept hearing about the mountain bike trails being developed at SkyPark at Santa’s Village.
“People were saying there was talk of the park opening for bicycles,” Rich said. “I started checking websites and heard it was happening. I waited until they opened, then a bunch of our bike group came up.”
Rich and his wife, Cynthia, were both familiar with the mountain. Rich and his family had spent a lot of time in Big Bear, snowshoeing, skiing. “I learned to drive there,” Rich said.
Cynthia’s family used to come up and stay at the Saddleback Inn. “We enjoyed the area,” she said.
The couple has a friend who lives in Twin Peaks who would let them use his cabin as they started coming up more frequently to mountain bike at SkyPark. They were making the drive once or twice a week as they enjoyed mountain biking at the park so much.
“We were coming here for fun so it wasn’t a chore to drive up here,” Rich said.
One day that friend told the couple that the house across the street was for sale. “We looked into it,” Rich said, “and found we could afford it.”
That house didn’t work out for them but they started looking seriously at others. Seven months ago, they bought what is the perfect house for them in Arrowhead Villas. Why is it so perfect?
“We can walk to SkyPark from our house,” Rich said. Cynthia added that “we are excited to be only minutes from SkyPark.”
It made sense to the couple to move closer to the trails they enjoy riding so much.
Rich and Cynthia were well prepared for their first mountain winter. “I checked online,” Cynthia said, “to see how you live through snow. I ordered snow shovels, chains for the car’s tires and got a snow brush. I learned you shouldn’t keep the snow brush in the car because the car gets covered with snow.”
Rich noted it didn’t seem that hard to him as he had lived in Pennsylvania. “Snow has always been part of my life.”
As excited as they were at the prospect of moving to the mountain, they thought it was just a pipe dream. “Cynthia did the leg work,” Rich said. “She found a few houses for us to look at and didn’t stop until we found the house we really loved. I can’t imagine not living there.”
During that house hunt, they continued driving up to SkyPark once or twice a week. Sometimes they came after a long day at work, even if they could only ride for two hours.
How did Rich and Cynthia become such ardent mountain bikers?
“Rich rode for years before I decided to give it a try,” Cynthia said. “I learned how to ride as a child but said I would never mountain bike. I got on one five years ago.”
“She’s been adventurous since then,” Rich noted with pride. “She was a beginner when we started riding at SkyPark. Now she’ll ride down any run.”
“I’m careful,” Cynthia noted. “I know my limits.”
Rich had started riding on road bikes. When he started working at Cyclery USA 11 years ago, he was racing. “The owner told me I should get a mountain bike. He wore me down.”
Within the first year of buying his first mountain bike, Rich was hooked. “We had a trail near our house in Rancho Cucamonga that I used to ride.” And a horse trail he and Cynthia rode on got her comfortable riding a mountain bike before they came up to SkyPark.
Rich said he feels at home at SkyPark because he knows all the bike people. And he knows bikes.
When he started working at Cyclery USA, they had him assembling bicycles. “I thought I was being punished for being new but that teaches you the parts of the bike.”
During the pandemic, bicycles were hard to come by so Rich’s expertise with repairing them became critical.
What is it about SkyPark that Rich and Cynthia like so much?
“I like that it keeps evolving,” Rich said. “They can’t add more miles of trail but they can make what’s there even better. He noted that, when they first came up, there were the same number of trails but not as many features. “The ramps weren’t finished yet,” he said.
“I’ve loved seeing the park change from how it started to the way it looks now,” Cynthia said. “It has gotten better and better.
“It’s such a blessing to be living up here,” she added. “We’re new so we still have the excitement.”
“I’m so happy,” Rich said, “I can’t imagine that feeling going away.”
They love the neighborhood they live in and call their neighbors “a joy.” They even held an impromptu barbecue over the July 4th weekend. “I think we’ve started a tradition,” Rich said.
Over their first winter, Cynthia said, neighbors would call to say they were going to Stater Bros. and wondered if they needed anything.
The couple has not restricted their visits to SkyPark to just mountain biking. “We decided to explore the rest of the park,” Rich said. They ice skated for the first time in years and have been enjoying roller skating. They learned to throw axes and have done archery.
“We did everything because it felt as though we should,” Rich said. The two are also enthusiastic supporters of Tunes in the Trees, the Friday night concerts at SkyPark.
A bout with cancer did not keep Rich from hitting the trails. “To ease my mind,” he said, “I came up to SkyPark to ride bikes, to come to grips with the disease.” He switched to an electric bike, Cynthia said, during his treatments. “I wouldn’t have been riding a bike otherwise,” Rich said.
“SkyPark was my therapy. I exercised every day during treatment. If you’re negative, that will drag you down.” His oncologist told him that the fact he was positive led to faster healing.
Today, Rich and Cynthia just shake their heads as they think about living on the mountain. “Even today,” Cynthia said, “I can’t believe we live here.” Rich added that “it feels like we’re on vacation all the time.
“Every time I see Bill (Johnson), I thank him for having this place,” Rich said. “I can’t imagine the mountain without SkyPark. It brings a lot to the community – not just to the mountain bikers but to families, people who enjoy being outside.”