Death of Marland Whaley

Marland L. Whaley (3rd July 1958 – 27 June 2019)

It is with great sadness that we report the sudden passing of five time American trials champion, Marland Whaley, aged 60 years.

The former Honda and Montesa factory rider was 9th in the 1979 World Trials Championship, his highest placing in the series.

Born in San Diego, California on 3rd July 1958, he won the ‘Trial De Espania’ in the USA which eventually brought him to the attention of the mighty Honda concern for which he campaigned their experimental RTL series four-stroke machines.

Whaley was AMA national champion 1975-77 on Honda and 1979-80 on Montesa.

Marland Whaley (Honda) in the 1977 Scottish Six Days Trial – Photo: Iain Lawrie

After retiring from motorcycle trials, he took up cross country mountain bike riding, a sport in which he also excelled.

It is believed he suffered a cardiac arrest at his home in Montana.

1979 World Trials Champion, and fellow American, Bernie Schreiber told Trials Guru: “I was stunned when I heard the sad news about Marland Whaley. He was such a great competitor and talented trials rider. We rode and competed together all over the world and always held high the American flag. My deepest condolences to his family. Marland will be missed. R.I.P. Champ“.

Trials Guru extends sincere condolences to the Whaley family at this difficult time.

Mrs Dawn Whaley issued this statement on 7th July 2019: “I just wanted to give you an update and let you know we will be having a memorial service for Marland on August 24, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. We will have the service at Red Barn Bicycles, 399 McCarthy Loop, Hamilton MT. If you can attend, please message me through Facebook Messenger, as we need to get an idea of how many people will be in attendance as to make arrangements for food, chairs, etc. Guys, please wear shorts in honor of Marland, we want everyone to be comfortable. Thank you to everyone for your kind words of Marland and words of encouragement for me. I really appreciate your prayers as well, that is what is truly helping me to get through each day.


The power plant of the factory Honda ridden by Marland Whaley when he rode for Honda USA – Photo courtesy of Jean Caillou, France


26 thoughts on “Death of Marland Whaley”

  1. Marland was a good friend of mine since high school. He will be sorely missed. Very thankful that I stopped to visit him and Dawn 3 weeks ago.

    1. Hi Rex. I’m glad you visited. As you know I had some great times with Marland and all you SoCal guys. We got on so well after bumping into each other in a Scottish stream, and he suggested I came out to SoCal which of course I did with my Beamish. Everyone was so welcoming and Marland and I rode together nearly every day for 3 months. We were chatting recently and he laughed when he recalled me drinking a beer standing in my head. I so hoped I’d be able to get over to the US and visit him again. I’m glad you made it before we lost our dear friend.

  2. Absolutely stunning, and a huge loss to the Trials community and those who knew him. He was a great rider and a good guy. I have a large photo of Marland’s 1975 Honda RTL300 hanging above my office desk. At a mid-70’s National Trial at Donner Ski Ranch in Northern California, Marland kept that bike in a cabin next to the Lodge and let me spend a couple hours alone with it, just to look at it. To a hardcore gearhead like me, it was a gift of untold value and something I will remember all my life. Godspeed Marland….

  3. I can’t believe it. He has always been such an athlete. I regret not taking the time to go visit with him in Montana. Years ago I rode with him with much admiration for his talent.

  4. Fair winds, Marland. Your skill and passion will be remembered and respected. I enjoyed shooting pictures of your amazing riding skill and then writing about your accomplishments for the motorcycle publications back in the 70’s. May your journey be as rich as was your life among us.

    1. Hi Chris,
      I’ve been working for years on a book about trials Hondas of the 70’s and there will be a chapter about Marland. He gave me several photographs (that he asked his father to send me) but I’m still looking for good colour pics, as Len Weed has lost all those he took for his book. I’d be very grateful if you could help. Please drop me an email:
      Many thanks, Jean Caillou, France

  5. I’m stunned is an understatement! What a fantastic competitor he was, what a great champion. Marland always pushed us to be the best we could be, and I truly enjoyed competing against this man. God speed my friend, you gave us so many fantastic memories.

    1. Stunned too Lane. Oh, I’ll miss my good buddy. He was so competitive, until the last and one of my favourite friends.

  6. What sad news. Remember watching him with Bernie and all the other riders of that era. Great rider.
    Our condolences to family Whaley.
    John & family Lampkin.

  7. Still struggling to digest this news. A great competitor and a great person. He will be sorely missed Condolences to his family.

  8. As a young kid Marlin treated me as an equal. He was my hero in 1976. And he still is. Gods speed.

  9. Thank you all for the stories and the condolences. His daughters will be happy to learn about the life they did not get to see. He was a man who lived the race on a trials bike, motorcycle, and mountain and street bike. He loved his children very much!

  10. The Lord Be With You All At your Time Of Loss ! R.I.P.
    I loved watching Bernie and Your Husband compete at Young ages / They were both Awesome 😎!

  11. Feeling very sad at the sudden passing of Marland.. his time here with us representing Montesa was the content for so many of Dad’s “stories” .. he made Dad’s eyes twinkle with delight and humour … Take Care Dawn and Family xxx #montesafamily xxx

  12. I always felt honored whenever I was fortunate enough to draw a starting number close to Marland’s at a national. He was one of my Trial hero’s and always will be. God’s speed Marland.

  13. Went to grade school Carlton Hill’s with Marland he was always nice and very smart sorry to hear he has passed

    1. Hi Kim Don Lincoln don’t know if you remember me. It was a real shock when Dawn call me with the new we would still stay in touch about every couple week.Hope all is good Don

  14. Marland became an idol of mine after first watching his incredible skill at the ’76 El Trial De Espana. His passing is more than a huge shock and even though I didn’t know him personally I felt as if I did.
    Godspeed Marland!
    . .

  15. Thanks so much Martin, for the beautiful tribute to Marland. And thanks to all for reaching out and just reminding us how much he was loved. He was not only my husband, but best friend, mtb coach and Superman! I will be posting information soon regarding a memorial service on facebook, just working out the details. Would appreciate your prayers.

  16. I saw Marland competing in a National event at Chrismas Ranch in Colorado in 1975. It was him that influenced me to give up motocross and compete in trials. Sorry for your loss.

    1. I went to high school with Marland. He was the nicest, sweetest, fun loving friend. I am very very sad to hear this news. I am so sorry for your incredible loss.❤️

  17. Very sad news.
    Marlin was an amazing competitor and deserving champion. Nothing better than watching Marlon and Bernie battle it out back in the day. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Whaley family. So sorry for your loss.

  18. I heard this morning the passing of Marland. My heart dropped. I’ve known Marland since the beginning of his trails career and was lucky enough to be on the same Honda team along with George Smith and the early passing of Joe Gugamelli.. Marland was such a great competitor. Not just a remarkable rider, but what ever he chose to do in his every day life. Marland,you will be remembered. My condolence to the Whaley family.

  19. I just happened upon this page. As a boy I loved the Honda riders, Marland was exciting for me to watch in the trials events. I am saddened to hear of his loss. My condolences to his family at this time. Life is precious and short. My prayers are with the family.

    1. Marland was a student of mine in the mid 1970’s at Santana High School in Santee, CA. I was a student teacher and was getting my teaching credential at San Diego State University at the time and was placed in a motorcycle mechanics class there. Coincidentally
      I owned a 1974 Bultaco Sherpa T 360 and rode novice class at the the many trials events held at Santee Lakes that were put on by Vic Conway (Vic’s Montesa Mission Gorge Rd). What a pleasure it was to have Marland in my motorcycle mechanics class that Jake Bagnell was the full time teacher of. I remember friends of Marland’s (Jeff Fish, Anthony “Ants” Dilabio, Don Buxton, Ron Doster, etc) and hello to all of you as it has been years since we’ve talked. Later on in the 1980’s I looked up both Don Buxton in La Mesa, CA and Jeff Fish San Marcos, CA and went on separate trials outings with them which brought back memories of the hey day of trials of the mid 1970’s. I’ll never forget when Marland actually let me try his factory Honda that he practiced on at Santee Lakes and what a smooth running machine! Thanks to all of you for your respectful responses about Marland’s abilities and understanding of trials riding. It goes unsaid that we should all feel fortunate to have been right there in the midst of a great rider that visually showed all of us that discipline, persistence, passion and practice is how you overcome something that may seem impossible to overcome. Marland you have left us this gift and we thank you.
      Mike Cates, Carlsbad, CA.

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