Gary Bonacker, a pioneer of the mountain biking scene in Central Oregon, passed away last week. He was a legend throughout the cycling community.
“Anybody who ever rode a mountain bike knew Gary Bonacker,” Bonacker’s friend Dennis Heater said.
Bonacker rode through the mountains and trails of Central Oregon for more than 50 years. He was a co-founder of Sunnyside Sports and started the Tour des Chutes, a supported bike ride and one of the area’s biggest fundraisers for cancer care.
Bonacker was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2003.
“He was just a real great guy, you know? You’d go in his shop and he’d always be happy and smiling. Good guy,” Heater said.
Bonacker’s “Tour” would raise more than $1.25 million in its 17-year run.
“Gary had the best sense of humor. It was not mean or sarcastic. It was innovative and he found a way to laugh at things that most people would never laugh at,” Bonacker’s friend Dennis Leet said.
Friends say he spread positivity and was always willing to help friends in need.
“He was able to take a negative which was his cancer, and maybe try to make it a positive for some people,” Leet said.
“I did the Oregon bike ride every year with him. I remember I rode my bike over a cattle guard and somehow or another turned a little sideways and potato chipped my front wheel, and he saved me. He rebuilt my front wheel so I could finish the rest of the ride, because it’s a six day ride,” Heater said.
Bonacker is leaving behind a legacy that helped shape the landscape of one of the most popular sports in Central Oregon.
“If you have a friend, make sure you stay a friend. Because when they’re gone, you’re gonna miss them,” Leet said.
The Deschutes Historical Museum is showing an exhibit about the early days of mountain biking here in Central Oregon. You can learn more about Bonacker there.
Sunnyside Sports says a memorial event for Bonacker is in the works, but the details are still pending.