Electric Trails: Grand Marais business offers e-bike rentalsSep 08, 2022 08:49AM ● By Content Editor
By Rae Wojcik Poynter - Boreal Community Media - September 8, 2022
Whether it’s hiking and canoeing or cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, Cook County has a myriad of outdoor activities for every season of the year. And now, a new business offers another way to get outdoors—by exploring the North Shore on an electric bike.
Electric Trails is located on Highway 61 just up the hill from downtown Grand Marais and offers electric bike rentals for those who want to explore the area on two wheels.
Electric Trails was started by longtime friends Ryan Lloyd, Jacob Seltz, and Tim Saetre.
Lloyd had a Super 73 electric bike and 13 years of experience in the tour industry, while Seltz had purchased property in Schroeder and took to exploring the area on his electric bike. Together they came up with the idea to start an electric bike rental business on the North Shore, and Electric Trails was born.
Meanwhile, Tim Saetre had been looking to make a change in his career, so when the opportunity arose to move up to the North Shore and lead the operations for Electric Trails, he knew that it was the right fit. Saetre manages the in-person operation of Electric Trails alongside his fiancée Emma Sievers, who does marketing for the company.
“All three of them were individual entrepreneurs, and it was only a matter of time before they did something together,” Sievers said.
The original plan for Electric Trails was to have the rental station at North 61 in Schroeder, but North 61 moved to downtown Grand Marais. Saetre and Sievers started looking for places to move the business when they got connected with the owners of the Gunflint Tavern and moved the bikes to the former Harbor Light property (now owned by the Gunflint Tavern).
Since the property was already being used for employee housing, Emma and Tim were able to move into an RV on-site. Sievers said the move to Grand Marais was a perfect match.
“Especially since Covid, we’ve been spending so much more time in the outdoors and focusing our lifestyle around it,” she said. “This has been the best because we get to be outdoors and be part of the community here in Grand Marais. We didn’t know what to expect coming up to a small town, but everyone has been very kind and generous.”
How they work
Although the earliest electric bikes were invented in the late 1800s, modern electric bikes started being commercially produced in the 1990s and soared in popularity in recent years. E-bikes are powered by a small electric motor and rechargeable batteries, and although models vary in design and capabilities, the basic feature that unites them is the pedal assist feature. Pedal assisting makes it easier to pedal the bike, including up hills, up to a speed of 20 mph. The pedal assist can be toggled between different settings, from no assistance to maximum assistance.
E-bikes with only pedal assist are known as Class 1 bikes. Class 2 bikes also have a pedal assist but are additionally equipped with a throttle. This throttle provides power to the bike up to 20 mph with no need to pedal at all. Class 3 bikes have motor assistance up to 28 mph, though these are not allowed on non-motorized bike paths.
Electric Trails offers Class 2 Super 73 bikes: both the Super 73 ZX, which can be used on paved trails, and the Super 73 RX Mojave which can go off-road.
“We’re one of the first companies in the country renting out the Super 73 brand of bikes, and we’re also a licensed dealer for those who want to purchase one,” Saetre said.
Apart from the sheer fun of zooming along the trails, electric bikes make biking more accessible for older folks or for those with health conditions that make it challenging to pedal a bike. There are also no licensing requirements in Minnesota to own or ride an e-bike. (Though riders should still know the rules of the road and take care when riding an e-bike near others, and rental companies such as Electric Trails usually have minimum age requirements for rentals.)
Where to take them
In 2021, a new section of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail was completed from Cutface Creek Wayside to Grand Marais. As Electric Trails is located right across Highway 61 from the trail, users can pick up their rental bike and head straight out. Sievers said that they have been working with the Gitchi-Gami Trail Association so customers can choose to donate to the association with their bike rental.
Electric Trails also rents 1 Up racks for those wanting to transport the bikes and explore other sections of the Gitchi-Gami Trail such as the sections near Schroeder and Tofte.
“A lot of people come up to visit in their RVs, but if they don’t have a second vehicle or bikes then they have to walk everywhere,” Saethe said. “So we’ve had people from the campground rent bikes as a way to get around and get up the hills. Even for us, we have vehicles here but unless we have to buy groceries we take the bikes whenever we need to go into town. It’s more fun and you don’t have to worry about parking even when it’s busy.”
For those wanting a more adventurous experience, Electric Trails offers off-road experiences depending on the kind of bike rented. While the bikes can’t be used on the Pincushion Mountains trails, some places to take them include ATV Trails and Forest Service roads. Electric Trails created a custom-designed GPS map that can be downloaded in the Avenza app. Sievers and Saetre said this is a great new way to get in the woods and enjoy the fall colors.
“People can use the map to find a trailhead and go do a 10 or 20-mile loop and then bring the bikes back, or if they want to do a multi-day rental we can give them extra batteries so they can get more mileage for the trip,” Saetre said.
As far as the rental process goes, Electric Trails is open 7 days a week with rental booking available on their website, electric-trails.com. Customers can choose rentals as short as an hour or as long as a multi-day adventure. (All rentals come with a helmet.)
As for what’s next? One of the neatest things about Electric Trails is that it’s an entirely
portable business; everything is kept in a shipping container that can be sent to other locations.
Saetre and Sievers said they plan to rent the bikes until it’s too cold, but they might take the business someplace warmer for the winter before coming back to Cook County next season.
“It’s fun to see where this will go,” Sievers said. “It’s been really well-received, and there’s not a single person who hasn’t come back smiling.”
More information can be found at electric-trails.com.
Related: Where to find the best waterfalls along the North Shore to fit your itinerary