Words: Martin Belair; Cover Photo: 1973 US Montesa Team
Last week US Trials legend Marland Whaley passed away suddenly from what appears to have been a heart attack. Marland was 60 years old and in peak physical condition. The news has left the trials world in Europe and America, stunned.
Whaley was the most dominant trials rider in the Golden Age of US trials the 1970s.
A factory rider for both Montesa and Honda, Whaley won five AMA National Championships: 1975,76,77 on Honda, with 1979 and 1980 on Montesa.
A native of Santee, California, Marland quickly rose through the highly competitive ranks of Southern California trials. At a time when eight of the top ten in the Nation were from California, Marland and rival Bernie Schreiber battled every weekend and pushed each other to the top. According to 1979 World Champion Schreiber “Marland could have been World Champion if he had stayed in Europe.”
In the early 1990s Marland moved to Montana where he pursued his passion for the outdoors becoming an avid bow hunter, snowboarder and mountain biker. It was mountain biking where we saw his brilliance shine again. He became the Masters (55+) Champion of the National Ultra Endurance mountain bike championship. These races required ultimate fitness. Nine hours in long and 100 mile distances with elevation changes of 10 to 16,000 feet.
Supremely talented, focused and driven were what made him great, but he was also the best and most fun teammate any one could hope for. In an era where long loops and tight time limits were the norm, he was wicked fast, no one was faster on single track than Marland. I am so glad that were re-connected about five years ago, we would spend hours on the phone reliving the glory days. Talking about our families and how lucky we were to have had the opportunities we had. It was like we were eighteen again. For those of us that knew and loved him, we will be telling “Marland stories” for the rest of our lives.
Marland is survived by his wife Dawn, daughters Kendra and and Kiah and four grand children.
Martin Belair, Costa Mesa, California
2 thoughts on “Marland Whaley Tribute”
Beautifully said Martin. I spent months riding with Marland in ‘79 over in Santee after meeting him at home here in Scotland when he suggested I should visit – so I know just what you mean about his drive and passion. I shipped a Beamish 325 over, also rode bicycles together. Such fun to be with and one of my favourite human beings. Missed by many. A special place in my heart for him and my thoughts with his family.
Thank you Martin. Very well said. Marland was a true champion and an inspiration to so many of us. RIP Marland
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