Ridin’ Dirty: Local bikers love their sport, into their 70s and 80s

Date Published: 
July 18, 2014

Zipping through Roxana fields, two dirt-bikers kick up dust on a humid day. They stop to chat before kicking down on the starter and buzzing away for another loop.

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark : Jim LeBrun, a 74-year-old retired optician, takes his dirt bike for a spin.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark : Jim LeBrun, a 74-year-old retired optician, takes his dirt bike for a spin.But raindrops fall, turning dust clouds of dust into mud splatters. The men finally remove their helmets, revealing white and gray hair.

At ages 74 and 80, Jim LeBrun and Charles “Ed” Jolly could be your basic retirees. But motocross has moved them for most of their lives.

“We don’t go as fast as we used to, but we still have fun,” said LeBrun, a resident of West Fenwick.

They met in the late 1960s, through the Baltimore County Trail Riders Association, which endures to this day as “a group of motorcycle enthusiasts dedicated to promoting and preserving the sport of motorcycle riding and racing,” according to the group’s website.

LeBrun was around 25 when he joined BCTRA and met Jolly. Slightly older than other members, they rode through motocross and Enduros together.

On this afternoon, LeBrun’s dual-sport bike had given out en route, so they took turns on Jolly’s, coming from Ocean Pines, Md. Ever the motorhead, Jolly still owns multiple motorbikes and scooters, usually riding Yamahas and a Kowasaki, and borrowing his son’s Harley Davidson.

Jolly avoids riding on highways, though.

“Scares me to death,” he said. “Automobiles — they don’t like the guys on the bikes.”

Ironically, having moved to the shore, they said the beach is “no fun” for riding. Once sand gets stuck in something, they have to take the machinery apart for cleaning.

They’re also not fond of four-wheelers, which are “too dangerous” and could flip over, LeBrun said. Plus, they make big holes that can sink a bike. Again, riders must disassemble the bike for maintenance.

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark : At 80-years-old, Charles ‘Ed’ Jolly still rides his dirt bike around.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark : At 80-years-old, Charles ‘Ed’ Jolly still rides his dirt bike around.But Jolly’s good at that.

“He’s the go-to guy when you need something fixed on your bike,” LeBrun said. “He can fix anything. He’ll tear a motor apart.”

Motor oil might run in Jolly’s veins. He was a manager in the Chevrolet auto-service department. His father worked for Chevy, too.

“I made eyeglasses for 50 years,” said LeBrun, a former optician. “Anytime he needs eyeglasses, I get him. If I need bike work,” Jolly is there, he said.

“He’s my good buddy. If anything happens to me, he’ll pick me up,” and vice versa, Jolly said.

“It’s foolish to go riding alone.”

They also carried screwdrivers for repairs, plus CO² cartridges to refill tires. But bikes aren’t the only things that break.

Jolly has broken his hand and had his knees done. LeBrun once had a skin graft, and his knees need to be replaced.

“It’s very hard on our knees,” Jolly admitted.

“You ride your best when you’re standing up,” LeBrun said. “Your legs are like shock absorbers.”

So during an hours-long Enduro (an endurance race with obstacles), “You’re standing up for 125 miles,” Jolly said.

Riding North America

Jolly figured he’s done about 100 Enduros through the East Coast Enduro Association. Up to 300 people enter these long-distance races. Jolly said he’s even won one or two.

“I was a good rider, not great,” he said, noting that his favorite Enduro was up and down the C&D Canal. He had a family, plus a boss who said, “Don’t break anything. I don’t wanna see you come in here Monday morning on crutches.”

That hasn’t entirely stopped the two riders from getting into scrapes.

“We’ve had to lift the bike up off of you,” LeBrun recalled. “Good thing we’ve been together on some of the runs.”

Riding through snowy terrain, Jolly’s bike has even fallen through the ice.

The dusty trails have led Jolly and LeBrun beyond the East Coast. Special trips take riders on new terrain each day. A truck follows with food and gear.

“You ride a different place every day,” LeBrun said. To keep riders fed and watered, “A truck follows you every day.”

LeBrun toured Colorado with a guide and seven others.

“You wouldn’t see another person or house” all day long, LeBrun said, riding along the rocky peaks, laced with old train tracks. “You’re so high!”

Then riders would just “drop into a town,” every night for several days.

Jolly had his own incredible trip to Copper Canyon in the Mexican mountains.

However, Six Days of Michigan permanently changed Jolly’s life. His brother was in a fatal collision while riding.

“It made me think a lot,” Jolly said. It hurt, he said, and their father was angry, but eventually the family realized that Jolly’s brother only rode because he wanted to. No one else had forced him to get on the bike.

Still in love with the sport, Jolly returned to his bike, always knowing he had to be cautious.

But motocross has been positive for Jolly, LeBrun and their families. They’ve seen their children and grandchildren grow up and begin riding. And they’ve shared that love of riding at riding club family events.

LeBrun taught his grandson to ride years ago, and now the young Coloradan is repairing that same old bike.

“It’s so neat. They would come down to the beach here. I taught the boys how to ride. He’s the one who stuck to it,” LeBrun said.

Riding today

“Jim’s been my friend for just about life,” Jolly said. “He’s got a nice wife that puts up with him, and my wife puts up with me.”

They mentioned how important it is to have someone that understands your passion.

“Every Sunday, my wife went to church. I went riding,” LeBrun said.

“Marry a good lady that knows that you like to play,” Jolly said. You gotta have an understanding partner.”

“You do,” LeBrun said.

Today, their best advice to potential riders is to get “Get a bike you think you can sit on,” Jolly said.

LeBrun just encouraged people to start early.

They ride at every possible opportunity, but it’s not like it used to be.

“Land development — that’s the biggest thing,” Jolly said.

From Maryland to Delaware, population growth and the value of real estate have pushed open outdoor space to the sea. They especially enjoyed a Pokomoke, Md., site for riding, but it closed recently.

“We used to ride every single weekend,” LeBrun said.

Decades later, they now tour the Eastern Shore together. Instead of racing, they took up dual-sport, which is basically a regular four- to 6-hour trail ride in the woods.

“They’re uphill, downhill, through streams, rocks galore,” LeBrun said. “What really makes it fun today — we’re not competitive like we used to be. It’s just a nice trail ride. … You go at your own pace,” only crossing roads to reach the trail.

“We kinda compete amongst ourselves, if it’s three, four of us going out. If there’s one guy, you kinda buzz around him,” LeBrun said. “That’s what makes it fun … and the camaraderie is just wonderful.”

They’re ridden side-by-side for a long time.

“Yeah, we have,” LeBrun said. “He’s ticked me off for 40 years.”

“How the hell can I … be 80? I just am,” Jolly mused. “Keep thinking positive.”