MOUNT VERNON — Graham Rawson had grown weary of exerting the extra effort required to pedal up inclines of dirt and pavement, as well as the monotonous grind of pumping along lengthy, flat stretches.
The efforts costing him energy and more importantly, precious time on the trails and roads he rides.
The 15-year-old decided to do something about it and the company Circuit Cycle, LLC surged to life. The Mount Vernon High School freshman founded the company, and with it, the motto “premium electric bike kits that last.”
An electric kit attaching directly to a bicycle was the answer.
Rawson, with assistance from his parents Bennie and Kim, became an entrepreneur, responsible for all the work of his business, including graphic and web page design, LLC formation, marketing, and most importantly, the building of the kits.
“I love to mountain bike,” Rawson said, “but I wanted electric assist to get up the big hills more easily. ... I like seeing people having fun and I am having fun. That’s why I’m doing it.”
There’s an environmental component as well.
“I want to help the planet out,” he said. “I want to accelerate the transition of humanity from fossil fuels to electric power. That’s my goal.”
Rawson combined his two other loves — math and science — to construct an electrical-assist system relying on a lithium-ion battery (located on a bike’s down tube) and an internal gearing system seated inside a bike’s rear hub.
All his kits come with either a pedal-assist sensor, which is set to the cadence of the rider’s feet allowing for assistance while pedaling, or a throttle apparatus, allowing for the bicycle to respond “more like a motorbike,” Rawson said.
“A display comes with all my kits and on the side is a little toggle switch where you can choose different levels of pedal assist,” he said.
It all started when he tuned into a YouTube channel and viewed the process of building an electric bike. Following a quick Google search for electric bike kits, Rawson saw an opportunity.
“I had no idea these things existed, with motors inside the hub,” he said. “That fits way better from an engineering perspective. So that’s what I went with.
“And it worked really well. I have mountain biked all over. It’s also really good for riding around town because it makes it so much easier.”
He converted his bike, and following further research and a couple of slight tweaks, constructed his own system.
“I just got really interested in it,” he said. “I saw people were building their own lithium-ion battery packs from these battery cases and I thought, ‘Oh, I can do that.’”
Circuit Cycle offers three models: Turbo, Alpine, and Cruiser for varied applications and distances, all with powerfully geared motors.
“I had been thinking of starting a business for a while,” Rawson said. “It just hit me one day that, oh wait, hold on a minute, this could be the business because there aren’t a lot of electric bike kits online or on the market in general.”
Rawson said the Cruiser is best suited for a commuter bike with light trail use. The Alpine can really be used anywhere and the Turbo, well, it’s really powerful: fast, as in 32 MPH.
“The Turbo kit’s battery is massive,” he said. “It’s not huge in terms of size, but in terms of energy, it holds 955 watt hours. So it’s almost a kilowatt-hour battery pack. That’s going to get you 20 miles going uphill without any pedal assist. It’s going to be 25-30 if you are on a flat road; with pedal assist on a flat road, 50-60 miles.”
From start to finish, ordering parts online and assembling components in his garage it takes Rawson between three and four days to complete the battery and another one to two days to get everything packaged.
There was a niche for his product and it didn’t take long for someone to take notice. That someone was not only his first customer, but also his neighbor, 79-year-old Jannice Eerkes.
Eerkes enjoys riding her current bike and isn’t interested in trading it in on a newfangled e-bike.
She asked Rawson to convert hers the same way he converted his to include an electrical-assist component.
“I love it,” Eerkes said of her Circuit Cycle kit. “It’s amazing. I live by Graham and I saw him riding (via his kit) up our big hill and thought to myself, I want to be able to go up our hill like that. Not as fast, but as easy.”
It changed her riding experience.
“It makes riding really fun again,” Eerkes said. “I usually take short jaunts over to La Conner and with it, I can almost keep up with traffic.”
His company’s next customer will be Eerkes’ 77-year-old sister Pat Williams, who lives in Minnesota but snowbirds along with her sister in Arizona. Eerkes said the two are looking forward to taking long rides together.
“When I was growing up, I was always taking things apart and putting them back together,” Rawson said. “I got a Snap Circuits kit when I was younger and I was constantly changing circuits. So I’ve always been interested in engineering and electronics.”