North Shore MN eBikes (Complete Guide)
Like many others, we fell in love with exploring the North Shore on electric bikes. During the pandemic, it became our go-to digital detox in Minnesota. We’ve ridden countless miles, including all stretches of the paved Gitchi Gami trail, and have done fat-tire eBiking in the Superior National Forest near Grand Marais, Lutsen, Schroeder, Silver Bay, and up the Gunflint near the Boundary Waters on forest roads, ATC trails, nearly forgotten logging trails – and everything in between. eBikes have unlocked something of a cheat code for us, enabling us to explore farther and experience more of the North Shore in a fun and eco-friendly way. We’ve seen a side of the North Shore like few before, from the amazing views of Lake Superior with endless waterfalls and pristine inland lakes, to an abundance of wildlife including wolves, lynx, moose, bears, and much more.
We have by no means seen it all, but we’ve learned quite a bit along the way, and we can help inform those of you who are interested in learning about eBiking the North Shore. Knowing where you’re allowed to ride, where you’ll get the best views, which maps to use, what to wear, where you do and don’t get good cell coverage – these are challenging things to know if you haven’t done it before.
We’ve done a lot of exploring, made plenty of wrong turns, and have worked directly with Forest Service and the DNR to learn where eBikes are permitted and create this guide for you.
Below, we outline everything we know about eBiking the North Shore. If you’re intersted in an eBike rental, check out our feature eBike routes and book a rental!
What is an eBike?
eBikes, or electric bicycles, are bicycles that use an electric motor to assist with acceleration. There are many eBike brands with different functionality such as offroad, on-road, fat tire, etc.
eBikes are classified according to their speed and assistance features. Many eBikes allow users to select the class mode setting with a button. Electronic assist works in one of two ways:
- Pedal-assist, where users pedal like a normal bike and the bike gives you a little boost. This is great for increasing speed and getting up daunting hills.
- Throttle acceleration, where users simply push down a lever with their thumb and the bike provides power. In throttle mode, riders do not have to pedal, but are encouraged to pedal when possible to extend battery range.
Both modes are fun and fit for use in different situations.
Pedal assist requires that users pedal, which equates to longer battery life and more exercise. A word of caution: the rider doesn’t fully control when the bike provides a boost, which can potentially be dangerous while trying to brake. Just make sure you are aware of your surroundings.
With throttle assist, riders have full control over the acceleration and power, but they are not required to pedal, which can lead to less battery range.
State and federal authorities determine usage regulations according to eBike classes, which identify the power and speed capabilities of a given eBike and where they are allowed to ride.
- Class I eBikes accelerate up to speeds 20 MPH and only include pedal assist.
- Class II eBikes accelerate up to Speeds of 20 MPH and may include both pedal assist and throttle acceleration.
- Class III eBikes accelerate up to speeds of 28 MPH and only include pedal assist.
For a full breakdown of the Minnesota eBike regulations, refer to the MN website.
Why We Love eBiking on the North Shore
The North Shore is vast, with thousands of acres of pristine wilderness and hundreds of miles of trails, both off-road and on. eBikes provide a great way to explore and adventure the North Shore in a more approachable way than ATVs, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, and other motorized vehicles. The State of Minnesota has invested a lot resources in producing one of the great paved bike paths in the U.S., the Gitchi Gami, which runs along Lake Superior and will eventually connect Two Harbors to Grand Marais – an expanse of 89 miles. There’s hardly a better way to take in the views and encounter the many sights along the North Shore than via eBike, which enables riders to go further with less fatigue and, let’s be honest, more fun.
There is so much to see beyond the Gitchi Gami paved trail, and eBikes are an accessible way to ride long distances in the backwoods of the Superior National Forest. On many occasions, we have ridden 50-70 miles per day, which would be hard for many to do on a standard mountain bike. And to top it off, the bikes are quiet and eco-friendly, making us feel more at one with the nature around us than we would if we were blazing down the trails on a loud, gas-powered vehicle.
One of the biggest perks? eBikes are allowed on more trails than motorized vehicles. You’ll find more about where eBikes are allowed on the North Shore below.
Who is eBiking For?
eBikes afford an increasing number of people the opportunity to experience the North Shore’s bike trails because of the electronic acceleration. For those who would rather not huff and puff their way up hills, eBikes make it easier to keep up momentum and maintain stability and balance while riding.
In other words, eBiking is accessible to many more people than standard biking. We encourage those who are interested in eBiking but have limited experience or have not biked in a while to give it a try – but start slow! There is nothing wrong with going slow, even with the electric assist. Contradictory to what you might think, throttle assist tends to be safer because oftentimes it is the action of pedaling that causes people to lose balance.
Where is eBiking allowed?
The North Shore of Minnesota — which spans from Two Harbors through Silver Bay, Shroeder, Tofte, Lutsen, and up to Grand Marais, is home to amazing and untapped eBike riding trails, both in the form of riding paved trails along Lake Superior on the Gitchi Gami, as well as on the hundreds of miles of backwoods trails, snowmobile trails, ATV trails and forest roads in Superior National Forest.
When we first started exploring the North Shore, it was difficult to know where eBikes were permitted. And once we were out riding, we often lost cell phone signal, making it all the more difficult to navigate and stay on course. Over time, we found maps and mobile app solutions to assist us with our routes. We coordinated with the Forest Service and Minnesota DNR to identify where e-Bikes are allowed in Superior National Forest.
As outlined in the Minnesota guidelines, eBikes are allowed on state bike trails, specifically the Gitchi Gami, as well as state snowmobile trails like the CJ Ramstad (North Shore State Trail). The Gitchi Gami will eventually extend all the way from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. Currently, there are several sections open that cover over 30 miles along Lake Superior, including popular routes from Grand Marais to Cut Face Creek, which was recently completed, and from Lutsen to Schroeder. More information can be found on the Gitchi Gami Trail Association website.
While it is permitted to ride on the CJ Ramstad, it gets little use in the summer months and tends to be overgrown with vegetation. There are also areas that tend to get marshy, and even freeze over in the winter, so keep that in mind when planning your trip.
eBikes are permitted on motor vehicle-approved roads and trails (think dirt bikes and ATVs), according to the Motor Vehicle Map (MVUM).
Links to Download or View Motor Vehicle Use Map
- Vermilion River Area and Virginia Area
- Border Area and Ely Area
- Toimi Area and Isabella Area
- Upper Trail Area and Grand Marais Area
At this time, the only Snowmobile-specific trail that is permitted is the CJ Ramstad. Other snowmobile trails such as the Lynx, which is run by local snowmobile clubs, does not permit eBike riding.
Unless explicitly stated, eBikes are not allowed on the Mountain Bike Specific trail systems of the North Shore, such as Jackpot Trail at Britton Peak, Pincushion Mountain, Sugarbush, etc.
Where do we recommend you ride?
All sections of the Gitchi Gami provide excellent riding, views, and get you to points of interest in a very fun way! So, if you’re new to eBiking and what a more approachable ride, start with the Gitchi Gami.
If you’re looking to get off of the beaten path, you may want to get to know Superior Naitonal forest and ATV trails of the North Shore. The maps above provide a good starting point. You can also check out the Cook County ATV map, or look at our North Shore eBike routes which is where our renters ride
Book a route on our site!
What is the eBike’s battery life?
One important thing to keep in mind when eBiking, especially if you get off the beaten path is your battery life. There’s nothing worse than being on a long route in Superior National Forest and you run out of battery.
With regards to eBiking the North Shore, elevation changes can reduce your battery’s distance beyond what the factory tells you. Our rental fleet includes Super73 eBikes have a stated range of around 40 miles of range from the manufacturer. In reality, when riding offroad, we find that we get about 20-25, even if we are pedaling the whole time. On paved trails, the range is a bit better, maybe around 30 miles, since the bike encounters less friction!
The other big factor which impacts battery life for your eBike is temperature. As the temperature gets coolers, your lithium battery-powered eBike’s range also suffers. So, keep this in mind as you visit the north shore, if the weather looks like it will be cool, you’ll want to reduce the expected range a tad!
What should I wear?
Make sure to check the weather ahead of time to see what kind of temperatures you’re going to be dealing with. Generally, we recommend a few layers so that you are prepared regardless of how conditions shake-up. A good pair of paints with thermal socks, shoes or hiking boots (or Crocs if it’s going to be warm), a well insulated base layer, and a coat to wear in case it gets cool. Just like if you’re going to be going on a hike, but perhaps even dress a bit warmer since you are moving through the air more quickly, which can cool you down more than when you are hiking. Lastly, make sure to bring a good pair of gloves. Not only will they keep you warm, but they also protect your hands from branches that you may pass by when eBiking.
eBike safety is very important. Electric trails requires all riders to wear helmets at all times. Since eBikes go quickly, and the terrain isn’t always perfectly even and things happen. If you plan to ride on highways, wearing an orange vest is a smart way to alert passenger vehicles asto your presence.
Maps and Apps for eBiking the North Shore:
Riding backwoods trails in Superior National Forest requires more planning and a better understanding of mapping to ensure safety and a good time. Cell Phone coverage is spotty on the North Shore as soon as you exit Highway 61. We’ve found that we get a few bars in some areas, but frequently we get none. We caution riders to plan their routes ahead of time and download their maps in offline mode, or make sure to download the proper maps on Avenza. In general, the more populated an area, the more likely there is to be cell signal. Likewise, the further you get away from Highway 61, the more likely you are to have no cell signal.
Our favorite and easy-to-use map, which also works offline is the Cook County ATV map in the Avenza App. It’s free to use and is published by Cook County, so its guidelines are reliable.
The Gitchi Gami Trail association includes great maps on its website.
What else is there to know about eBiking in the North Shore?
Besides it being the most eco-friendly way to see and explore more, eBiking is simply a fun way to adventure. It’s a way to break away from our screens and immerse ourselves in the outdoors of the great North Shore.
If you have any questions or need help planning your eBiking adventure, just reach out to us– we’d be happy to chat!