All posts by bigjohn2014

Message from the USA

Photo: Jaxx Lawson

Words: John Hoffman

Hello Trials Guru,

My wife and I have been to Scotland in May three times as spectators to watch the Scottish trials. I enjoy mostly the Pre65 as I find those bikes most interesting.

Two years ago we met Gordon Jackson at a B&B. He has ridden the Pre65 16 times and finished well. We spoke with him for several minutes and he offered me his Bantam to ride in the Scottish the next year.

Two years have gone by and I haven’t made the entry. My dream for many years has been to ride the trial and clean the Pipeline section. After two years of not getting an entry and at the age of 68 Gordon and I thought it best if I rode his Scarborough And District Motor Club trial.

We came over and learned what a gentleman he is. I asked him why he gave me such an offer, his answer was “I must have been drinking”. We came, I rode the trial and placed well, met great people and enjoyed the Yorkshire coast.

Previous to our trip I asked if you would send some “Trials Guru” stickers to Gordon’s house. They were there when we arrived at his home and back in the US I have displayed them on my Bantam, B25, Ossa MAR and 1947 Ariel. Maybe these are the only “Guru” stickers in the US? I’m planning on staying healthy and applying for the Pre65 again next year, hoping my dream will come true.

Best regards,

John Hoffman



SSDT Stalwart Alex Smith passes

It is with regret that Trials Guru has to announce the passing of Edinburgh & District, Dunfermline & District, Scottish Six Days and Pre’65 Scottish stalwart, Alex Smith after a long and brave battle with cancer.

A Smith - 1965
Alex Smith aboard the ex-Tiger Payne 350 AJS at the White Heather Trial in 1965 – Photo Grant Collection, Rogart

Alex Smith was a personal friend of Trials Guru’s John Moffat who said:

“Alex was known to me from an early age as he was a ‘Bathgate Bairn’ raised in Bathgate, West Lothian and was also a keen trials rider who lived in Colinshiel Street and rode a variety of machines from around 1961 to 1975. I used to take hand written messages to his mother’s house from SSDT Clerk of the Course, Geoff Smith in Edinburgh, relayed through my Father’s telephone as the Smiths didn’t have a phone in their house up until around 1970.”

Alex Smith was an Assistant Clerk of Course of the SSDT and Clerk of Course for the Pre’65 Scottish Trial and, at one time, a member of the SACU Trials committee in the 1990s.

He once owned the ex-Brian ‘Tiger’ Payne 350 AJS (YNC526) on which he rode the 1963 SSDT. The machine was later owned by Rogart man John MacDonald, the local postman. In his riding days, Smith rode Triumph Tiger Cub, AJS, Cotton, Bultaco, Montesa and Ossa machinery. He also maintained many of the machines that were used to route mark the SSDT.

Alex served his time with the National Coal Board and later worked life with Wimpey Construction as a Quantity Surveyor/Engineer and was meticulous about records and recording data, a skill that would come in useful when assisting at the SSDT and as clerk of course of the Pre’65 Scottish at which he excelled.

Fifty years ago, Alex was one of the SSDT team, led by Clerk of Course Johnny Graham, who constructed the famous ‘catch net’ up the Blackwater (Ciaran Path) high above Kinlochleven in 1969, which over the years has saved many a wayward trials and mountain bike from falling 100 feet into the river below.

Blackwater Path catchnet - JJM
The Blackwater (or Ciaran Path) ‘catch-net’, constructed by members of the Scottish Six Days Trial committee in the late 1960s. – Photo Jock McComisky

He was accompanied by Willie Pitblado, Tommy Ritchie, and Eric MacNamara to construct the catch net with scaffold poles, cement and plastic safety netting and it is still there to this day.

Building the famous Blackwater Path (Ciaran Path) ‘catch-net’ in 1969 are from left: Alex Smith (Bathgate); Eric MacNamara (Edinburgh); Willie Pitblado (Dunfermline) & Tommy Ritchie (Edinburgh) – Photo: Johnny Graham, Bonnyrigg (Johnny Graham was a former clerks of course SSDT)

In the 1960s, Alex and his friends Willie Pitblado and John Davies set up a bike breaking business in Fife which eventually became Willie Pitblado’s Motorcycle Spares Scotland business in Golf Drum Street in Dunfermline.

Alex Smith was also great friends with Jock McComisky and took delight in telling people that he (Alex) was the ‘brains’ and Jock was the ‘brawn’! Of course it was all in friendly terms and good banter.

A Smith - Jock McComisky - Dam Road
Jock McComisky (left) and Alex Smith were good friends for many years. Seen here during an early Pre’65 Scottish on the Dam Road above Kinlochleven.

Alex Smith was an true enthusiast of the sport and enjoyed many trips up to his beloved Rogart to meet up with the Grant twins and Willie Pitblado for runs over the hills and not only plotting but attempting sections, as well as participating in the White Heather trials that were run in Sutherland in the 1960s and 1970s. His wife Bett (Hopkins) died a few years ago.

Alex Smith - Montesa - Rogart
Alex Smith on his 247cc Montesa on ‘Kerrow’ section at Rogart in a White Heather Trial organised by the Sutherland Car & Motor Cycle Club in the late 1960s.

Moffat added: “From a personal perspective, I always enjoyed thoroughly my conversations with Alex over the years as he had a great knowledge of the sport and the SSDT in particular.

He will be sorely missed by those who knew him in Scotland and further afield in the sport.”

Alex Smith’s funeral has been arranged for Thursday, 25th July 2019 at Mortonhall Crematorium, 30B Howden Hall Road, Edinburgh EH16 6TX at 14.30.


Scott Trial supporter dies

Councillor John Blackie, the official starter of the Scott Trial for many years has died today, Saturday 13th July 2019.

DSC_7339 (Small)

He had battled with cancer for some years and passed away in the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton. His family were at his bedside when he died.

He was a well-known figure on the start field on the Saturday morning and undertook his duties of flagging away every single rider with great gusto and enthusiasm.

His presence will be missed at the annual time and observation event, organised by the Richmond Motor Club (Yorkshire) Ltd on behalf of the Yorkshire Centre ACU.

Whilst not a direct organiser of the Scott Trial, John was nonetheless part of the valuable support the event received locally. Councillor Blackie saw the benefits of having such a prestigeous trial in the Dales each year and within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and he was instrumental in assisting the Richmond club gain the necessary planning consent to run it.

Trials Guru’s John Moffat said: “Councillor Blackie was a great guy. I always took time to interview him when I was start field commentator up until 2018 at the Scott Trial. He was a champion of all things Yorkshire and was a campaigner for trade and tourism in the Yorkshire Dales, the Scott Trial was part of that thinking. His presence at the Scott Trial I’m sure will be sorely missed as he was a great supporter and strong ally of the event”.

Trials Guru conveys sincere condolences to Councillor Blackie’s family at this difficult time.



Trials Guru, what it is!

Trials Guru is a veritable trials motorcyclists reference library. Free to use and packed full of information. Have a look!

malcolm rathmell on the new whispering wonder 325 bultaco released to the riders at the 1974 spanish world round
Malcolm Rathmell on the special Bultaco Sherpa model 133 which was only issued to factory supported riders in 1974 – Photo copyright: Barry Robinson

Use the search box, put a bike make or rider’s name in and see what it brings up, give it a try!

The worldwide trials reference library – Trials Guru – Dedicated to the sport



Marland Whaley Tribute

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

Bob Gollner

6th July 2019

It is with regret that we announce the passing of Bob Gollner after a long illness on 23rd May, 2019.

Bob Gollner - Hants GN 1960 - Francis Custard Photo
Bob Gollner (500 Matchless) at the Hants Grand National in 1960 – Photo: Ron Custard (courtesy of Francis Custard)

Gollner was a well-known trials and scrambles competitor and motorcycle dealer who had his shop, Bob Gollner Ltd at Denmead, Portsmouth, Hampshire. He was a member of the Waterlooville Motorcycle Club.

Gollner Yamaha 1971 2
Frame builder, Mick Whitlock (left) discusses the lightweight 100cc Gollner Yamaha in 1971 with Bob Gollner (right)

Gollner was behind the 1966 Cheetah which used 37A Villiers and Triumph Cub motors until supplies ceased in 1968. He then created the 1968 Gollner BSA Bantam, the 1971 Gollner Yamaha and subsequently Gollner Kawasaki trials machines based on the KT250 model.

He was a close friend of Comerford’s Reg May.

Talmag Trial left to right: Reg May (Norton 500T); John May (350 AJS) & Bob Gollner on WJJ580 – Photo courtesy of John May

In 1988, being a Honda trials appointed dealer, Bob also converted TLR200 and TLR250 Honda trials models to monoshock specification, a machine that is now highly sought after because of it’s rarity.

Trials Guru extends sincere condolences to the Gollner family.


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