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Acme Choppers in Laconia, New Hampshire

 

Although Acme Choppers and Laconia Bike Week share a zip code, Wayne Ahlquist's young, progressive motorcycle factory and New England's 'do-rag scooterfest are as far apart as two peas in the same pod can get. The 5,000-square-foot fab shop, tune-and-service facility and bike-building juggernaut Wayne launched in 2003 is nothing less than Valhalla for modern chopper freaks.

After exposing ChopCult readers to the pristine rigid frames Wayne, his brother Jason and their team crafts in New Hampshire, I wanted to see Acme firsthand. After graciously agreeing to meet me on Memorial Day for a full tour of his business, I flew to New England. What Wayne spent the better part of a national holiday showing me confirmed my suspicions: namely, that Wayne Ahlquist is a talented cat, and that everyone who works at Acme takes the pleasure of doing business in today's chopper scene seriously.

By combining an artist's eye for style with an engineer's obsession for productivity and performance, Wayne Ahlquist—a self-taught manufacturing jack-of-all-trades in his mid-30's—has created a factory that can efficiently build custom components and accessories in volumes that make his products accessible for pro and garage builders alike.

Wayne accomplishes this by engineering jigs and fixtures that allow the crew in his shop to consistently replicate the complex bends, miters and sub-assemblies that embue Acme products with their function and style. The result is a line of parts that fit properly and look great.

A salty dog might ask how a dude with no formal training cultivated such a keen sense of performance and style. Like many of us, in his youth Wayne raised hell on BMX bikes. On a pro-level track near his home in the Boston suburbs, Wayne and his friends thrashed around on the best bikes available in the early '80s. "We were maniacs in those days. I could snap a Cook Bros. aluminum dog bone crank in a day. Frames like Skyway's Aero TA were my all-time favorite. The teardrop tubing and tapered stays looked wicked. I love the old BMX stuff, and I'm always collecting parts on the vintage BMX sites and building old bikes for inspiration."

"Inspiration" is putting it mildly. I've been in BMX since 1974, so I'm qualified to diagnose Wayne's world a clinical BMX obsession. During our visit I photographed eight finished Acme custom motorcycles and saw another half dozen projects in progress. In Acme's back room there are enough bike frames to build twice that many period-correct BMX time machines, and every part and accessory from Araya to Z-rims.

"I know some of this shit is repop," Wayne joked nonchalantly while I mauled his stash, "but most of it is original, and some is even NOS." Wayne Ahlquist's two-wheeled passion is real, and started at an early age. After he grew out of BMX, Wayne switched his discerning eye and insatiable appetite for all things fast from bicycles to cars and motorcycles.

After drooling over Wayne's BMX booty, we headed into the belly of the beast. Acme's fabricating and assembly area covers nearly 3,000 feet on one level, and includes lifts for custom builds, a tune-and-service station, and all the welders, mills, lathes and fixtures any anal-retentive builder could dream of. A storage container off-site houses "dozens of XS650's and other shit" Wayne plans to revive as soon as all models of Acme rigid frames for Big Twins, late-model Sporties, Hinkley and unit Triumphs are in production.

Acme's other big-ticket innovation is their wishbone springer fork. Like Acme's frames, Wayne designed and constructs his front ends in-house, using a battery of milling fixtures and precision parts to assemble each one. Acme forks are available in three widths—super narrow, Narrowglide and Wideglide—and a multitude of lengths from 4" under to 18" over in two-inch increments. In an inspired feat of mass-production planning, Wayne figured out what three common leg and springer-arm lengths were required to cover the complete range of models without sacrificing more than four inches of material to create any given size. This allows Acme to stock raw sub-assemblies for speedier production and delivery. If you prefer the look and performance of telescopic forks, Acme's billet steel Narrowglide trees for 39mm and 41mm H-D legs are elegant and understated to the extreme.

Bike projects abound at Acme HQ, and demand the lion's share of Wayne's personal time. The project that has Wayne scrambling fastest is a rigid unit Triumph for this year's Loconia invitational biker build-off at the Lobster Pound restaurant on Weirs Beach. "I know we'll get our asses kicked by some raked-out bike that looks like a stingray, but I really wanted to build something cool and original to represent the shop. I love Triumphs, and my daily rider is a late-model Bonnie. We've done a bunch of stuff to the motor on this little 650, and I can't wait to ride it down Weirs Beach after the contest. A bunch of dudes on bikes that look like giant unicorns are probably gonna flip!"

To satiate the chopper proletariat at next week's Laconia hoedown, Acme will have plenty of Big-Twin iron on display, too. If you're in the area, Wayne and his crew encourage you to stop by.

Acme Choppers is located off highway 106 at 14 Lexington Drive in Laconia, NH.

For more information, visit Acme's ChopCult profile or check out their website.


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Comment with Chopcult (17)

Commented on 6-14-2010 At 02:55 pm
 

interesting seat on that import rigid, wonder how that rides?

Commented on 6-14-2010 At 03:32 pm
 

id give my left nut to play around in this shop

Commented on 6-14-2010 At 04:50 pm
 

You know they serious about machining when the tool boxes are brown Kennedys rather than red Snap-ons. Nice Shop, Tim

Commented on 6-14-2010 At 05:22 pm
 

Great coverage,
It seems that we are not alone in that us children of the Eighty's who cut our teeth on Skateboarding ,BMX and punk rock that bikes would be the continued evolution into our 40's.
To quote my Mom,

"You have all the same interests and do the same things that you did when you where 14 now you just have kids and a budget to dedicate to them"

Great article.

Commented on 6-14-2010 At 05:38 pm
 

That motor in the last pic is ridiculously sick!!!

Commented on 6-14-2010 At 09:45 pm
 

Some way cool shite!

I don't think they're real bikers, tho. No tattoos.

C

Commented on 6-14-2010 At 11:29 pm
 

Such a kick ass shop. I was stoked to get to wander around during the last Greasebag.

Commented on 6-15-2010 At 01:53 am
 

A very cool shop with awesome people and amazing bikes. I visit whenever I'm up that way.. Long live the Greasebag!!

Commented on 6-15-2010 At 02:28 am
 

I am socially retarded, for the most part. I can't relate to anyone and always feel like an outsider. I only really care about a couple of topics. BMX and motorcycles. I am automatically down with these dudes!

Commented on 6-15-2010 At 05:25 am
 

very nice shop , alot of attention to detail in the shop layout and bike projects and parts they build , top notch IMO .

Commented on 6-17-2010 At 01:21 am
 

huge shop I wish I had that space for bike projects.

Supertrapp is cool!

Commented on 6-17-2010 At 12:51 pm
 

Awsome shop had the greasebag tour and my buddies bike wasnt chargin they were right on it helped us out no matter what they were doin.good eye Tim on the boxes..

Commented on 6-18-2010 At 04:59 am
 

Anyplace that's cool with letting a fat headed Irish moron like me sleep on the floor, is just plain awesome

Commented on 6-19-2010 At 05:27 pm
 

I cant believe you guys remember the White skyway mags. I had a green Skyway with white mags. PIMP

Commented on 6-30-2010 At 01:39 am
 

They make some realy cool parts. I like the bikes
way cool. Great job guys.

Commented on 6-30-2010 At 01:48 am
 

I had the pleasure of meeting these guys at the SmokeOut. Solid is all I can say, and great parts.

Commented on 7-3-2010 At 07:37 pm
 

the bikes and shop look great, but I have to say, $2400 for a frame is crazy!!!!

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