The solar cycle is the cycle of the magnetic field of the sun. A full cycle is two 11 year cycles or 22 years. At the start there are straight magnetic lines running south to north parallel to the suns axis of rotation. This is the solar minimum. As the sun rotates the equator moves faster than the upper latitudes. Since the lines are moving faster at the middle than at the top they start to twist around themselves. The more twisted they become the more sunspots we see. Eventually about 11 years later the lines become so twisted that they start to break out frequently. This is solar maximum. Then the entire magnetic system collapes.

After this happens the magnetic field reforms but in the opposite direction. Now the lines run North to South perpendicular to the sun's axis of rotation. Again the lines start to twist around themselves until the field collapses

At this time the lines reform running South to North. That is one complete solar cycle.