Aykroyd rides the blues away

Ottawa-born co­me­dian is se­ri­ous about his Har­ley — and cy­cling for a good cause

Ottawa Citizen - - Driving - LYNN SAXBERG

When Dan Aykroyd says you don’t need a ther­a­pist if you own a Har­ley-David­son, I can re­late. I’m a big fan of the stress-re­liev­ing ben­e­fits of rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle. But when he in­sists that rid­ing his bike is help­ing to save the planet, I’m not so sure. Fuel con­sump­tion isn’t fan­tas­tic with big, heavy mo­tor­cy­cles, and I wouldn’t be sur­prised if it costs less to run my man­ual-trans­mis­sion Ford Es­cort sta­tion wagon than my Sof­tail, which must be fed with pre­mium fuel.

In his case, though, it makes sense be­cause his pri­mary fam­ily ve­hi­cle is a mon­strous SUV, a V-10 Ford Ex­cur­sion, which he calls “the best car built any­where on the planet.”

“As far as pol­lu­tion goes, I ride a Har­ley-David­son and it’s a two-cylin­der, not a 10-cylin­der,” he said in a phone in­ter­view this week. “And I do try to ride it in the sum­mer. I re­ally use the thing to go grab ice cream or the news­pa­pers or cof­fee or to take the kids into the den­tist in town here when I’m in Kingston.”

The Ottawa-born fun­ny­man, who’s fa­mous for cre­at­ing big-screen come­dies such as

Ghost­busters, Cone­heads and The Blues Brothers, is spend­ing a few weeks re­lax­ing at the Aykroyd fam­ily es­tate in the Thou­sand Is­lands re­gion. He says he rides his bike — a 2003 Har­ley-David­son FLHP — ev­ery day of his sum­mer vacation.

Aykroyd, who cel­e­brates his 55th birth­day on July 1, has a long his­tory with Har­ley-David­son. His first one was a 1971 po­lice edi­tion, one of sev­eral cast off from a dis­man­tled Golden Hel­mets drill team. He says he learned to drive it in win­ter, in the al­ley be­hind his place in Toronto.

The elec­tri­cal sys­tem was al­ways a source of frus­tra­tion — when Aykroyd moved to New York City for Satur­day Night Live, the electrics cut out while cross­ing the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Bridge. “I used to have to take the cowl off and re­wire it all the time,” he re­calls.

The bike still runs, and will find a new home in the Ni­a­gara Re­gion, in a mu­seum of Aykroyd mem­o­ra­bilia that will be built in Beamsville, Ont. It will be part of the win­ery Aky­royd plans to open next year.

His cur­rent steed is an an­niver­sary-edi­tion po­lice bike, built in 2003, the year that Har­leyDavid­son cel­e­brated its 100th an­niver­sary. Aykroyd says he bought five of them off the fac­tory floor. One went to his old Kingston friend, Wally High, a mu­si­cian and song­writer. Aykroyd isn’t one to ride in a pack, but he likes rid­ing with High on their twin bikes.

“If I ride with any­body, it’s him. It’s safer with two. You watch out for each other,” he says.

Help­ing each other out is sec­ond na­ture for most mem­bers of the biker com­mu­nity. We ac­knowl­edge each other on the road, and quickly learn that you never pass by an­other rider stranded at the side of the road, no mat­ter what kind of mo­tor­cy­cle they ride. Aykroyd is well aware of the kin­ship.

“In 99 per cent of the mo­tor­cy­cle com­mu­nity, you have a tremen­dous ca­ma­raderie and it ex­tends to all mo­tor­cy­cles,” he says. “I re­mem­ber when peo­ple used to ride Har­leys and say, ‘I’m not go­ing to wave at that Honda.’ I don’t feel that way. They’re risk­ing their lives like I am and I want to be ac­knowl­edged, so I al­ways wave. If you zip by me on that Du­cati at 100 miles an hour, I’ll give you my in­dex fin­ger.”

He’s call­ing on the com­mu­nity to sup­port a fundrais­ing con­cert in Port Dover, Ont., next month, or­ga­nized by his rid­ing buddy High. The ul­ti­mate biker band, Step­pen­wolf, blues-rocker Jeff Healey and High’s band, the Non-Prophets, are part of an all-ages out­door show dur­ing the Fri­day the 13th rally. Thou­sands of mo­tor­cy­clists flock to Port Dover ev­ery Fri­day the 13th dur­ing the cal­en­dar year.

All pro­ceeds go to­wards a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment lend­ing li­brary (MILL) es­tab­lished in me­mory of Joe Chithalen, the Kingston bassist who died in 1999 of ana­phy­lac­tic shock caused by a peanut al­lergy. He was tour­ing Europe with the Ma­hones at the time. There’s a MILL in Kingston, one in Clin­ton, Ont., and one planned for Port Dover, where Chithalen is buried.

The pur­pose of the li­brary is to pro­vide chil­dren with mu­si­cal in­stru­ments to try out. “It’s re­ally, re­ally a won­der­ful idea,” says Aykroyd, who’s a fa­ther of three, “and I think it should spread to other com­mu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially in the States where they have th­ese in­ner-city crime prob­lems … put a sax­o­phone in their hands in­stead of a Glock 9.”

Aykroyd won’t be able to at­tend the con­cert, but you will catch a glimpse of him on the big screen this sum­mer, play­ing the part of a New York fire chief in a new Adam San­dler film. I Now Pronouce You Chuck and Larry opens on July 20.


Dan Aykroyd was a de­voted Har­ley rider be­fore he be­gan his stint on Satur­day Night Live in 1975.

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