what about adding water conditioner to a cycle. doesn't that make it ready?
Water conditioner dechlorinates the water. Dechlorinated water and a cycled tank are far from the same thing. Do not be misled by this. The cycle we are refering to is the nitrogen cycle, which is only going to happen after your tank has it's own established colony of bacteria - this is the primary purpose of the filter, it's not to keep the water clean, it's to have a place for the bacteria to colonize, and those bacteria will help to filter the harmful ammonia and nitries in your water in nitrates.
^ That is a good topic on explaining "the cycle" I suggest anyone in question about what it is or how it works give that a good read.
How to cycle a tank:
Because I'm sure that's what you're all more interested in. "Yeah yeah, don't care what it is, just make it work already!"
^ How you can cycle a tank. Several different ways mentioned in there. I prefer doing a fishless cycle with pure ammonia, I tend to find it's a good way to do it, and one of the (usually) faster methods, which involves less dead fish. Mind you, by faster, I'm just saying it probably won't take you 8-10 weeks, like it can with some other forms of cycling.
Then again, I don't like cycling my tanks, but I'm just a stubborn grouch like that. Save yourself the trouble and cycle your tank, it will be better off for you and your fish in the long run, especially if you are not well familiar with aquarium care already.