top of page


We believe that electric assist technology on bicycles provides a number of benefits to riders, including longer riding distances for some, accessibility to outdoor recreation, greater capacity to carry cargo while commuting, and just general enjoyment of the sport. To increase understanding and clarify misconceptions around e-bikes we’ve addressed some common topics below.

What’s an electric bike?

An electric bicycle is really just a bike. Depending on the model, it may have internal or external gear shifting and a range of braking mechanisms as any non-electric bike would. They ride like a bike, shift like a bike, steer like a bike and stop like a bike The difference is an electric bike adds a motor drive to assist the rider as they operate the bike.


By WI Statute 340.01(15ph), “Electric bicycle” means a bicycle that is equipped with fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power and an electric motor of 750 watts or less and that meets the requirements of any of the following classifications:

  • Class 1 electric bicycle is an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.

  • Class 2 electric bicycle is an electric bicycle that may be powered solely by the motor and is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.

  • Class 3 electric bicycle is an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour.

This classification system is applied in all states, with some variances regarding top speeds allowable and where e-bikes are allowed to be operated.


Why choose an e-bike over a non-e bike?

  • It’s FUN!!! Just try one and you’ll see.

  • Easier. While heavier than non-e bikes, the assist from a motor drive means less work for the rider.

  • Safer. That might seem counter-intuitive, since you can go faster than on a regular bike, but you also get an easier start from stopped positions, allowing you to get through an intersection steadier and quicker. When climbing steep hills with cars nearby you can focus more of your energy on controlling the bike instead of propelling the bike.

  • Assists mobility. Use of the electric assist can ease pressure on knees and hips, addressing mobility concerns.

  • Staying together. You may have a riding partner that rides at a different pace than you. An e-bike can even out the pace for both of you.

  • Alternative transportation. The convenience, ease and speed of an electric bike make it an alternative to an automobile more often than a regular bike. A study by Portland State University shows that e-bike owners ride more frequently and farther than when they relied on their traditional bike for transportation. This was the case for all age groups.


Where can I ride an e-bike?

Electric assist bicycles must follow all state bicycle laws. E-bikes are allowed on the Heart of Vilas County bike trail, including connected trail systems nearby. As in most states, Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are allowed on paths and trails while some restrictions are placed on Class 3 e-bikes. The main law to be aware of in Wisconsin for e-bikes is riders under 16 may not operate a class 3 e-bike. Otherwise, e-bikes are allowed in most areas except mountain bike trails on state land. We require operators of e-bikes to be at least 16 years old.


Do I need a license to ride an e-bike?

No. As long as the e-bike has a motor size of 750 watts or less and is programmed so that it can’t go more than 20mph without pedaling, there is no need for a license. In most states you must be at least 16 years of age to operate an e-bike in public places.


How fast can an e-bike go?

Remember, it’s a bike. If you are pedaling, you can go as fast as you are able to pedal it. However, e-bikes stop providing electric assist while pedaling at 20 mph (Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes) and 28 mph (Class 3 e-bikes).


Do you have to pedal to get an assist from the motor drive?

It depends on the bike. An ebike assists your pedaling rather than taking over completely. However, Class 2 electric bikes allow you to operate by simply turning the throttle without pedaling, up to 20mph. Even for e-bikes that have a throttle, you'll need to pedal when going up long, steep hills, although you won't have to pedal hard. Remember, the human controls the machine.


How does an e-bike manage assistance?

An e-bike has a torque sensor built into its drivetrain to measure how much effort the rider is applying to the pedals. The motor’s output is regulated to match this so it doesn’t take over and provides power in a measured way to reflect how you are riding. You have control over how much assist the motor is providing using a control pad.


How important is motor wattage?

E-bikes in all classifications range in top assist speed between 20 and 28mph, which can be achieved with as little as a 250 watt motor. With a properly designed e-bike and e-bike motor, you'll find that you get far more power than you need with 500 watts or less. There are many 250 watt motors that deliver as much torque as motors that are 500 watts or higher. The design of the motor and the gearing of the bike are far more important than the wattage of the motor. For all classes of e-bike, the maximum power output is 750 watts (1 h.p.).


Aren’t e-bikes dangerous on the trails?

No more than any bike. The human controls the machine. While the benefits of any new technology can seem scary, it’s important that we recognize that operators are ultimately in control of the machine, whether it’s a car, a computer, or heavy machinery. This is no different with e-bikes, or any bicycle, as the rider has control of speed, braking and navigation at all times. Riders are responsible for their own safety and that of others regardless of how their bicycle is propelled and e-bikes can increase rider safety by assisting operation in traffic or on congested trails, where frequent stopping and starting are required.


Who’s riding e-bikes in the Northwoods?

Pretty much everyone. Generally the benefits of an assisted bike are enjoyed by riders of all ages and abilities. While early ridership data indicated that e-bikes were being used primarily by riders in the 50+ age range, increasingly younger riders are choosing electric over non-electric. While cycling has increased dramatically in the area, specifically associated with trail systems such as the Heart of Vilas County and Iron Belle, the number of electric bikes on the trails is growing both for recreation and transportation.


For questions or additional information, please contact Chris McMurray at 715/543-8070 or

bottom of page