Located in the Great Lakes region of the United States, Michigan offers landscapes to suit every taste, from waterfalls to dunes, rocky cliffs, and more. Highlights include Mackinac Island State Park, Oval Beach, and Arch Rock.
If you want to explore Michigan’s natural beauty, an e-bike is a great way to do it. With perks like pedal assist, you can more easily tackle tough terrain and ride for longer without getting exhausted.
That said, it’s important to respect the rules of the road when using an electric bicycle. Michigan has laws on what qualifies as an e-bike and where you can ride one. Read on for the details.
What’s legally considered an e-bike in Michigan?
A vehicle must meet a few criteria to be considered an e-bike under Michigan law. First, it has to have a seat or saddle; second, it has to have fully operable pedals; finally, the electric motor can’t have a motor power of more than 750 watts.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Michigan classifies e-bikes into three categories:
- Class 1 e-bikes reach top speeds of 20 miles per hour (mph). They work only when the cyclist is pedaling.
- Class 2 e-bikes can’t go more than 20 mph. However, in addition to having pedal assist, they also have throttle assist. This means they can propel you forward even if you aren’t pedaling.
- Class 3 e-bikes can go as fast as 28 mph (maximum speed). They have only pedal assist and don’t have throttle assist.
E-bike laws in Michigan
Why bother classifying e-bikes? Different rules and regulations apply to different e-bike classes. Below, we summarize Michigan’s electric bike laws. Note that this information is current as of January 2023 but can change.
Where are you allowed to ride e-bikes in Michigan?
Michigan permits e-cycling on all roadways where traditional bicycles are permitted. This includes streets, highways, road shoulders, and bike lanes designated for bicycle use. This applies to all classes of e-bikes.
All classes of e-bikes are also permitted on motorized, natural surface trails. This could include off-road recreational vehicle (ORV) trails, for instance.
Regarding nonmotorized, natural surface (unpaved) trails — like mountain bike (MTB) trails — e-bikes aren’t allowed. However, in some cases, you can seek special authorization to access these trails with an e-bike.
Finally, when it comes to linear paved trails, you’re only allowed to use a Class 1 e-bike. For Class 2 or Class 3 bikes, you’ll need permission from the relevant local authority.
The above is only general guidance regarding e-bike use in Michigan. Precise rules for cyclists may vary depending on the location — we discuss more below.
Can you ride e-bikes in Michigan state parks and on Michigan beaches?
Under Michigan law, natural surface trails are nonmotorized. This applies to hiking and mountain biking trails and may also apply to beaches. Check the beach’s specific bicycle laws before going ahead.
For example, Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail permits bicyclists. However, cycling is only permitted on maintained roads. You can’t ride off-trail onto the beaches.
When it comes to state parks, we recommend checking with the specific park. Each one has its own rules. For example, you can ride a Class 1 or Class 2 e-bike on the trails of Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park, but not a Class 3 e-bike.
How old do you have to be to ride an e-bike in Michigan?
There’s no minimum age requirement to ride a Class 1 or Class 2 e-bike in Michigan. However, you have to be at least 14 years of age to ride a Class 3 e-bike. There are also age-specific helmet laws — more on that below.
What class of e-bikes are legal in Michigan?
Michigan allows Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 e-bikes — but the regulation surrounding each class may vary. For example, you can ride Class 1 e-bikes on certain trails, like the Polly Ann State Rail Trail, Musketawa Trail, North Central State Trail, and Iron Ore Heritage Trail. However, you can’t ride Class 2 or Class 3 e-bikes on these trails.
Check out our list of the best e-bike trails in the country.
Do you need a license to ride an electric bike in Michigan?
As you already know, if you want to drive a motor vehicle, you must complete a practical and written exam to get a license. Do you have to do the same thing for an e-bike? Nope! Michigan doesn’t require getting a license to ride an electric bicycle.
You also don’t need to register your e-bike formally, nor are you required to get any special insurance for it. That said, e-bike insurance can help cover everything from damage to the bike to medical payments for injuries resulting from e-bike accidents.
Do you need a helmet when riding an e-bike in Michigan?
Many states have helmet laws, and Michigan is no exception. There are no helmet requirements for Class 1 or Class 2 e-bikes. However, if you're riding a Class 3 e-bike and are less than 19 years old, you must wear a helmet.
Even if you aren’t required to wear a helmet, it’s a good idea to do so. Numerous studies have shown that helmets can help save lives, reducing the risk of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and other head injuries.
Are e-bikes allowed on Mackinac Island?
Additionally, there’s an exception if you have a qualifying mobility disability. Mackinac Island city has an ordinance defining what falls under that umbrella.
Local ordinances for e-bikes in Michigan
Mackinac Island is one example of a Michigan municipality with its own ordinance for e-bike riders. State laws allow each local agency to call the shots regarding where you can use e-bikes.
That’s why you should check local e-bike regulations before hitting the trails. Possible points of contact could include your local DMV, Department of Transportation (DOT), or police department.
If you’re headed to a park, check with the governing park’s authority for details.
What you should know before riding your e-bike in Michigan
If you want to go e-biking in Michigan, the first step is to look up the local laws specific to the area you want to ride. Other than researching e-cycling laws, you can take some other steps to make your Michigan bike ride a fun experience:
- Research the best trails. Michigan has some great MTB trails. Favorites include the Huron-Manistee National Forest Trail, which is 22 miles long and accessible from Oscoda, and the Keweenaw State Trail, which is 51.7 miles long and accessible from Copper Harbor.
- Respect the weather. Michigan’s weather runs the gamut from hot and sweaty in the summer to cold in the winter. Dress appropriately for the season. Also, for safety’s sake, avoid cycling when it’s icy or snowy, and the conditions are slick. Many trails are closed in poor weather. This guide to trail closures can help you plan.
- Make safety a top priority. When you’re caught up in the excitement of planning an e-biking trip, it can be easy to disregard safety considerations. Don’t make this mistake! Make sure you’re riding safely, for example, by always wearing a helmet, using lights and reflectors, and getting your bike tuned up regularly.
Explore the best of Michigan with a Velotric e-bike
With a top-quality e-bike, you can confidently explore Michigan’s wonders. Velotric’s Discover 1 is ideal for urban riding, while the Nomad 1 is a fat-tire model better suited for riding beyond traditional bike paths and off-roading.
Velotric bikes are rigorously checked for safety: Our frames are tested more than 150,000 times, and our batteries carry UL certification (UL2271). Lights, reflectors, and hydraulic disc brakes help you ride with even greater peace of mind.