Writer and former Hells Angels head Donny Petersen reported dead at 74

Donny Petersen, author and former president of the Hells Angels motorcycle club in downtown Toronto, has died at age 74, according to online reports.

The cause of his death has not been officially revealed.

“With deepest sorrow I have to inform the group that Donny Petersen has past away today,” friend and fellow biker John Michael (Hangman) Dykeman posted Dec. 12 on Facebook. “We here send our thoughts and prayers to Donny’s family and all the Downtown Toronto club and all the red and white chapters on their loss of such a great man. Thru his books and meeting him he taught me a lot. He will be missed.”

Donny Petersen books
AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR: Petersen published series of both technical books and memoirs.

Other online obituaries reported Petersen was born in Toronto and attended North Toronto Collegiate Institute, before studying urban planning at York University.

He was said to have been a member of the Para-Dice Riders motorcycle club, which merged into the Hells Angels in 1999.

He was also a highly regarded technical journalist, his specialty being H-D Twin Cam and Shovelhead Motorcycles. He was the “world’s most read Harley technical journalist,” according to a blurb on his nine technical guide books.

He also wrote a memoir, Biker 101: The Life Of Don, in three parts, the last of the trilogy being published in 2019.

Petersen won international book awards in 2012, 2013 and 2014, his Facebook page stated.

He has also served as “Techline” columnist for American Iron magazine for the past 29 years.

Donny Petersen 2015
READY TO RIDE: Photo shows Petersen seated on a bike at a 2015 show.

The last message on his Facebook page, posted two days after his death, is a poem recalling the old days of motorcycle riding and the contribution of the “old guys” like Petersen. It reads in part:

I daydream as I watch the youngsters reinventing the wheel.
Our big cushy bikes with music blaring…check the oil? Why?
I laugh…they look at me, an old guy and think I am losing it.
I imagine them trying to ride a rigid frame cross country.
Using a dead man’s throttle, jockey shift, and suicide foot clutch.
No music, no comfort, no windshield, no protective clothing.
Working on the beast for an hour every night, for tomorrow’s ride.
Sleeping on the side of the road, no money, no credit card.
Loving the whole experience.