RALEIGH — State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced Sunday that, following an accident in Beckley, West Virginia, where he broke his right humerus, he would be retiring from his dirt bike racing career.
“On the last lap of my last race, all the luck and favor I have been blessed with in my racing career ended with a clear cut sign that it was time to hand over the handlebars to the next generation,” Folwell said in the post.
In a phone interview, Folwell told NSJ that he’d been training for the last year to participate in this year’s national championship, but even though he won a regional “Mideast” race and came in second at another in Daytona, “it was pretty obvious that there were some 60-year-olds that were a lot faster than I was.”
Folwell said after this realization, he determined this race would be his last. “I’d already put my bike up for sale and everything, actually,” he said.
The courses, according to Folwell, typically take around two hours to complete and involve one mile in the open and another 10 miles through rough terrains, like woods and creeks. He was on the last lap of the course and in second place overall when the accident occurred.
“It was a single-rider accident — it didn’t involve anybody else or me hitting a tree or anything,” Folwell said. “I just fell and, unfortunately, I broke this bone.”
Being temporarily immobile has left Folwell “in a forced state of reflection on all of the success, support and experiences I have been able to have through dirt biking and that community.”
During his career, Folwell won two state championships in North Carolina, called the Hare Scramble Series (in 1999 and 2010) and was also the national champion in 2013’s Grand National Cross Country Series tournament in the “Master C” class for racers 50 and over.
“There’s something about having a hobby that is different,” Folwell said on how he, as an accountant, could double as a dirt bike champion. “I think motorcycles, motorcycling and competing have always been a very positive distraction to whatever problem I was solving in my public service career.”
Folwell also spent seven years as a motorcycle mechanic and said there is some crossover to his political work because both involve problem-solving. He says the people in the motorcycle culture are what has made it a lifelong passion for him.
If anyone is injured or stopped along the trail, he says someone will always check on you.
“This is the true heartfelt fellowship of motorcyclists, whether they are those who ride on the road or in the dirt,” Folwell said.
After Folwell’s 7-year-old son was hit by a vehicle and killed in 1999, he and his wife allowed his organs to be donated. Folwell then devoted time to raising money and awareness for organ donation. In 2006, he rode his motorcycle across the country for this cause, breaking the record for distance on a motorcycle in one month with 32,978 miles.
“I had an opportunity to reconnect with some people I had known for a long time, like Warren Buffett, and an opportunity to connect with people I’d never met, like the folks at Orange County Choppers and Jay Leno and others,” he said of the record-breaking trip. All the money raised went to the Wake Forest Center for Regenerative Medicine.
Folwell said that in life everyone needs “to have someone to love, to have something to do, and to have something to look forward to. And I’ve always looked forward to riding and working on motorcycles and riding on the road and competing in dirt bikes.”
He said he will “probably not” ride a dirt bike again, even noncompetitively, so he’s now searching for a new hobby — something new to do and look forward to.
Despite the accident, Folwell said he’s “been working all week” even though he’s had to do so from home as he recovers.
“As far as duties, I haven’t missed a meeting or a phone call I was supposed to be on,” Folwell said. “The problems we’re trying to solve are bigger than any one person. We have a great team with us in the Treasurer’s Office who are all with me as ‘keepers of the public purse’ every day.”
Folwell’s other vocation, as a politician, has involved various roles in government. He served four terms in the N.C. House of Representatives, rising to the level of speaker pro tem, and also served in Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration as director of the Division of Employment Security. He resigned from that role in late 2015 and announced his run for state treasurer.