Local entrepreneur aims to shake up cycling industry with custom e-bikes

(Provided Photo: Gravis E-Bikes)
(Provided Photo: Gravis E-Bikes)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) —  An Indianapolis man is working to change the way people ride bicycles.

Chances are you haven’t seen many electric bikes around Indianapolis. E-bikes are popular in Asia and parts of Europe, but they’re just starting to make their way to the United States. Navigant Research expects global e-bike sales to  total nearly $16 billion this year and $24 billion by 2025.

Todd Embree, an Indianapolis entrepreneur and founder of Gravis E-Bikes, wants to grab his share of this growing market, by making sure his bikes are different than all the rest.

When you first see a Gravis e-bike, you may not notice anything unusual. When you hear the bikes, you’ll know something is different.

“Just riding around town — the attention. You’d stop at a stop sign or a stop light and cars are just honking, people are waving, [saying], ‘Hey, that’s a great bike,'” Embree said. 

That reaction forced Embree to realize the electric bike he built in his garage wasn’t just a project; it was the beginning of his business.

“It’s so easy to ride. It’s more of a beach cruiser — it’s bigger than a bicycle, but it’s no where near a motorcycle,” he explained.

Riders don’t have to pedal on an electronic bike. Instead, cyclists can just push the throttle and take off at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

Embree said a 200 to 220 pound cyclists can go at least 50 miles on a single charge without pedaling. Smaller cyclists or people who want to pedal can easily ride 100 miles without stopping to charge the bike.

Embree said anyone can ride an electronic bike. He told 24-Hour News 8 his first customer was a woman in her seventies.

“A lot of people don’t ride bikes. They might not have the ability anymore. Bad knees — I can’t ride 20 miles on a bike, my knees hurt. But that’s not an issue anymore,” Embree said.

Gravis is one of the few, if not the only company, offering fully customizable e-bikes. Customers can pick the color, leather and style they want.

“The options are limitless — my first customer wanted her bike to look like her ’67 Corvette,” he said.

Embree started building his first bicycle in March 2014. He said he wanted to perfect the product before taking orders.

“Basically, see what you could break. Once we got to the point where we couldn’t break the bikes anymore, we came up with a pretty good, solid product,” he explained.

Embree and his six employees just starting taking orders in April. They still build the bikes in his garage, though they’re in the process of moving to a bigger space.

He hopes someday to make Gravis E-bikes his full-time job, but he never wants to make more than 1,000 bikes a year.

“I can never see growing over to become some mass manufacturer, because I don’t believe you can pay that much attention to detail when you get into that many numbers,” he said.

Embree said it’s important that his bikes are always made in America with the best parts available.

“For the purpose of, if you bought this bike — I want your kid riding this bike when you’re too old to. Literally, it should last that long,” he said.

Embree’s biggest goal has nothing to do with the bottom line.

“We call it: let’s get out and see beautiful. I really want to go around everywhere there’s a city with beautiful bike trails and ride my bikes on them. I think that will be the fun of it,” he explained.

An average Gravis e-bike costs $6,800. If you want to test one out or purchase one click here.

WATCH: Embree shares the most important lesson he’s learned as a small-business owner.