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Adventure, Cycle / February 3, 2016

Kelly McGarry: Mountain Biking’s Brightest Light Extinguished

Written by: Devon Balet

My plans for Monday were quickly diminished when the snowstorm really picked up Sunday night. A mountain biker with a broken wrist, I am left only with trail running most of the time. As my eyes awoke to a new day I looked out the window of my van home to find the snow really stacked up over night. After rubbing the sleep from my eyes I did my normal social media morning check and was quickly flooded by endless posts sharing the news of a fallen rider.

On Monday morning, Kelly McGarry died in is native country of New Zealand doing what he loves, riding his mountain bike. Initial reports say cause of death is unknown but a bike crash was not involved. In the tight niche culture of mountain biking, it is always a tough day when one of our own passes away, no matter the circumstances. Monday was one of those days. Mountain biking lost a Giant that day, and it wasn’t just because of his stature.


Kelly McGarry was one of those top pro riders that would be bros with anyone. Hailing from New Zealand, this incredibly tall and extremely positive man was well known for the golden locks that flowed out from under his helmet. Best known for his massive back flips, his heart was larger than any canyon he could flip. As Scott Seco with put so well, “One would exhaust a thesaurus searching for adjectives to describe Kelly McGarry.”

As the flood stream of social media posts continued, it was overwhelming to read what everyone had to say about the tall man with a wide smile. Kelly was one of a kind. He loved what he did and he was loved by all. He was the type of person that made you want to be a better form of yourself, to be more positive and smile more often.

“Kelly McGarry was one of those top pro riders that would be bros with anyone. ”

Kelly McGarry seemed to know everyone and everyone seemed to know him. But it wasn’t a popularity thing for Kelly, he was just a genuinely good person. The positive energy he put off could be felt by anyone that had the honor to spend time with him or even simply witness him ride. You didn’t have to be close friends with him to feel his positive energy. It was as if he wanted to give it out to anyone and everyone.

I never really knew Kelly personally, but that never really mattered. He was the type of person who would always say hi to me. It didn’t matter if you were some “Joe Schmo” photographer, another pro on course or even a young kid watching the event; he would make you feel important…he would say “hi” and remember your name.


The bike industry is much like a big extended family and losing a positive soul like Kelly affects much more than direct friends and family. It sends waves to anyone who has had an opportunity to share even a moment with him. Sitting here, staring at my keyboard trying to come up with the words to say, I am at a loss. It always seems like the good die young. The mountain biking world saw one of it’s brightest lights go out this week.

As I continue to read about Kelly and all the personal stories his friends share it makes me ask a few questions; Why do we wait for someone to die to talk about what a good person they are? Why can’t we be like this all of the time? Is it possible for each of us to focus on the good, and pointing it out in others? I think we can and I think Kelly would want us to do that. So as we morn the loss of a great person and friend to all, let us not forget that we all have the ability to be like Kelly. It is inside each and everyone of us. You just have to smile and let it out!

Here are a few articles from Lacy Kemp, Bike Magazine and VitalMTB on Kelly that really shed light on what a great person he truly was. Please feel free to leave a comment with any additional stories we should share. Thank you!

about the author

Devon Balet

Born and raised in Colorado and living in the outdoors with a bike between his legs and a camera in hand, Devon discovered mountain biking after he started working at a bike shop at age 14.

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