‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler Was ‘Scared to Death’ of Fonzie’s Motorcycle

by Emily Morgan

Henry Winkler may have no problem getting mauled by a pack of dogs or jumping sharks for various roles, but we can’t say the same about his motorcycle from “Happy Days.”

The leather-jacket-wearing Fonzie could walk the walk, yet when it came to riding his bike, it was a different story. Being someone who struggled with dyslexia, Winkler’s diagnosis made him very uncoordinated and prone to accidents. As a result, he didn’t ride the bike for more than a few feet at a time. 

During an interview with “CBS Sunday Morning,” he admitted he was terrified of the chopper. “I could not piece together the gear, the speed, the break, I couldn’t,” he said. Chris Haynes, the motorcycle expert for “Happy Days,” recalled, “I spent time trying to teach Henry Winkler how to ride it. But he was scared to death of it.”

During the sitcom’s second season, viewers see Fonzie get a new silver Triumph motorcycle, which legendary stuntman Bud Ekins built. Ekins was Steve McQueen’s stunt double, and Fonzie’s bike was the same legendary hog that McQueen rode in the classic The Great Escape. 

But unfortunately, while Winkler could appreciate the coolness of the ride, he still couldn’t find it in him to get behind the handlebars. While dyslexia may have held him back in some ways, Winkler has never been shy about opening up about the common learning disorder. 

When Howard Stern asked how he could memorize his lines, Winkler said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I read the scripts very slowly, over and over again. I read one word at a time.”

Henry Winkler reflects on the silver lining behind his dyslexia diagnosis

Winkler revealed that the learning disorder, sometimes a hindrance, had a silver lining. As he describes, the condition made him empathetic to others who suffered from intellectual disabilities. During an interview with NPR, he said doctors didn’t diagnose him until he was in his early 30s. Yet, he had a major realization. “I found out I wasn’t stupid, that I wasn’t lazy — that I had something with a name,” he said proudly. 

Having dyslexia also taught the acting veteran that you could devise your own ways to learn. “There is not one road to get where you want to go,” he explained. “There is your road.”

In addition to being one of the most recognized actors today, he also found success in his academic career. Despite his learning disorder, he also was accepted into two of the most prestigious colleges in the country. 

After graduating from high school, he was admitted to two of the top schools in the country: Emerson College and Yale Drama. To top it off, he also earned degrees from both universities.