Vintage motorcycle dealer turns East for western parts

Publish Date: 
Jun 27, 2012
By Mike Vaughan

MABLETON, Ga. - Ian Kennedy, proprietor of the Georgia Cycle Depot in Mableton, has been in the motorcycle business for over 50 years, initially as a dealer and builder in the United Kingdom, then in Canada, and finally in his current U.S. location. His business is devoted to supplying used, NOS and re-pops for British and Japanese vintage motorcycles.

He has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of vintage parts. Call him up, tell him what you need and he will likely give you an exact description and a part number, and tell you whether he’s got it in inventory. Although Kennedy does some retail business, he prefers to trade directly with dealers and currently has around 200 customers on his dealer list.

Business is “chugging along.” His main problem: Getting in stock quickly enough. He attributes this to two factors: one, the fact that manufacturers cut back on production during the recession and are only slowly getting back online, and two, that many manufacturers provide parts for both automobiles and motorcycles, and that they’d rather ship 10,000 auto pistons rather than 1,000 motorcycle pistons.

A few years ago Kennedy noted the demand for Japanese cables, pistons, gaskets, etc., and started to source and inventory products to meet it. However, the demand, at least for him, has slowed, and he’s beginning to focus more on British parts.

Kennedy feels general uptick in the economy, and points to the fact that Michigan and its reinvigorated car business have made that state his best market. “A lot of people in Michigan parked their bikes when the car business collapsed,” he says. “Now that it’s coming back, people are taking their bikes out of their garages and putting them back on the road.”

The café racer phenomenon also has been a revived source for Brit products, and he’s developing a catalog exclusively to meet the demand.

Kennedy notes that the vintage parts market is one area where prices are decreasing. “I’m paying less for things like bars, fork tubes, sprockets, cables brakes and gaskets than I was in 1988 in Canada,” he says. “These parts are no longer sourced from the UK. Most of our suppliers have gone to Asian manufacturers for parts. There’s not much out of India, and Chinese quality still is poor, but Taiwanese products are excellent. I’m now paying $25 to $30 for sprockets that used to cost $40 from Britain.”

This story originally appeared in the July 2012 issue.