Malcolm Smith and JN Roberts Celebrate Their 70th Birthdays in Style | Forever Young

Forever Young

By Karel Kramer, Photography by Karel Kramer

Baja is a special place for the riders and racers who have competed there, and in ’95 Malcolm found a way to give back to the local community through the creation of a foundation that supports children in the area. Nearly all Baja rides and races pass through Valle de Trinidad, a farming community between Ensenada and San Felipe. Now it is also home to the El Oasis orphanage, serving under-privileged children from the streets of Tijuana and Ensenada.

It was only natural that JN should want to do his part to support these children and his old riding partner. So when Jim Filanc of Racing For Life asked JN if he could use his ranch to host a fundraising ride, JN was more than happy to comply. The first event was held in 2010, and it returned bigger and better for ’11. A group of 20 riders donated $1000 each to El Oasis and paid all of their expenses for the chance to ride with Malcolm and JN. The 2011 event was a true classic, as it coincided with the pair’s 70th birthdays and the 40th anniversary of On Any Sunday.

After riding with this pair of legends, it's easy to see why riders are more than willing to pay for the privilege. Malcolm is as fun and unassuming as his screen presence led us all to believe. JN is an extremely gracious host, and opened his garage and his ranch to the riders gathered for the ride. Yet today, MS and JN have styles as different as they did in the ’60s. Despite welcoming everyone with open arms, JN rode sweep on the morning loop, rather than dicing with the leaders at the front. After that, he spent time enjoying the company of friends and family and playing host to his guests. During dinner and a celebrity auction and awards ceremony, he was at ease with the microphone, but just as ready to stand back and shoot video of the proceedings.

Like all riders of my generation, I had read a great deal about JN, but my off-road beginnings were in motocross at roughly the same time JN was winding down his desert racing. Plus, he gets credit for saving my butt in the early ’90s when I encountered anti-freeze in a Topanga Canyon corner. A magazine story in which he demonstrated how to crash a streetbike came back to me as my life passed before my eyes, and his tips really worked! Lately he has been getting some old injuries tuned-up with surgery, and he wasn’t at full fitness yet, but you wouldn’t have known it. His recent MX experience has paid off, and his riding style isn’t old-guy, but fully new-age—even over jumps. If you didn’t know better, you’d think he was a kid!

Malcolm, on the other hand, has physical limitations that make him look less spry. At times, depending on flare-ups, the way he walks makes you wonder if he will be able to ride at all. But while Malcolm may not mount a tall motorcycle as effortlessly as he once did, he remains the Real Deal on board. He was right at the head of the ride, having fun with the trail leader on every outing. It isn’t that he feels the need to prove anything; he just wants to enjoy riding—and that means at his pace, out of the dust and where those paying for the ride can come up and join the fun to get their money’s worth. The tighter and more technical the trail, the more proof there is that in his prime, Malcolm was one very quick and talented racer. He may not have chased points, but he easily could have—and to good effect.

Off the bike, Malcolm is a fabulous storyteller with a quiverful of tall-but-true tales that will curl a listener’s toes. At the same time, he is attentive to all with the ease and grace of a man with many decades of success in the retail business. And through it all, his famous ear-to-ear grin is prevalent.

In the end, the Malcolm Smith Motorsports Foundation (www.malcolmsmithmotorsports foundation.org) and Racing For Life (www.racingforlife.org) raised $24,000 for El Oasis. Along the way, a group of dirt-riding diehards had their chance to ride with these old, bold legends. And if they were able to follow closely enough, to hear the On Any Sunday theme song playing in their heads.

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