Investigators are weighing whether to press charges against the driver.
The bicyclist was 59-year-old Clive Sweeney. Friends and family say he was in the best shape of his life.
"Rode 30 miles a day, every day. Could crank out the steepest hills around here, without a blink of an eye," Sweeney's friend, Corey Korpela said.
Tuesday afternoon, shattered bicycle parts still littered the two-lane road where Sweeney was hit head-on by a SUV that lost control and crossed the center line.
Sweeney died at the scene while the driver who hit him, 26-year-old Ryan Idyler of Durham, had minor injuries.
"The defendant stated that there was a deer in the road and he swerved to dodge the deer," Highway Patrol Trooper Alan Smith said.
"Then he killed a human being. Which is more important. He could have killed a car full of children. Really it's a deer. There are thousands, millions of them that get killed every day, and no one blinks an eye. Who's going to blink an eye now that Clive's gone, because he missed a deer," Korpela added.
Cyclists say they like to ride pleasant green road because of the rural setting. But the roads are narrow with no bike lanes. Many ride with a nagging concern about traffic.
"I'm sort of not immune to it, but used to the idea that I am always at risk on the road. And I try not to think about it too much," a cyclist said.
And Sweeney's wife told Eyewitness News her husband loved to ride the back roads of Durham and Orange County. But he often said he never really felt safe.
His family and friends hope those who are riding and driving will share the road with caution.
"If you're a driver out there, you see a cyclist, just give way. It only takes two seconds to slow down so you have time to get around him. We're happy to comply with all the traffic rules if you guys just give us a break," Korpela said. "Give us some room. We'll be happy if you give us 24 inches. We'll be happy if you can give us that."
Highway patrol say Idyler's speed was not a factor, but charges are still pending.