Now is a great time to be a cyclist on the North Shore.
Bicycle technology has come a long way since the days of coaster brakes and “fixie” bikes. Developments in the industry like improved suspension, the evolution of the “gravel bike,” and the recent ‘surge’ in e-bikes have made more types of terrain accessible to a broader base of riders. Increased accessibility has led to increased interest in the sport, and increased interest has meant a spike in demand for new bikes and—more importantly—new trails.
Thanks in large part to grass-root efforts by organizations like COGGS (Cyclists of Gitchi Gumee Shores), the SCA (Superior Cycling Association), the Gitchi-Gami Trail Association, and the small army of volunteers and trail builders that make their work possible, the North Shore has not only kept up with rising demand for bike trails, but evolved into a recognized biking destination.
In Duluth, mountain bikers can now pedal from one side of the city to the other along a near continuous 40-mile stretch of singletrack known as the Duluth Traverse. The “traverse” connects close to 100 miles of multi-use singletrack trail and treats riders to a healthy mix of terrain through birch groves, pine forests, wetlands, and exposed rockfaces that open onto sweeping views of the city below.
For anyone looking for a more adrenaline fueled, downhill riding experience, both Spirit Mountain in Duluth and Mont Du Lac in Superior offer lift service to their growing networks of “best in the Midwest” downhill mountain bike (MTB) trails. These trails are not for the faint of heart, and take some practice and the right bike to ride confidently. But, boy are they a good time.
Information on Spirit Mountain and Mont Du Lac’s bike parks, facilities, hours and more, can be found by visiting their websites at: spiritmt.com/about-mtb and mdlresort.com/summer/mountain-biking respectively.
Further up the Shore, Lake County has been hard at work developing their own network of MTB trails to rival those of its neighbors.
Located 8.5 miles outside of the town of Two Harbors, the Demonstration Forest is home to the first purpose-built MTB trails in the county. While the mountain bike system at the Demonstration Forest is relatively small, all of the trails are well-made and varied, making them a great choice for beginner riders.
Split Rock Wilds—Lake County’s newest network of MTB trails—is a much different riding experience from the trails at Demonstration Forest. Split Rock Wilds comprises 21 miles of “rugged backcountry” trail that takes full advantage of the natural, rocky terrain of the North Shore, and is best ridden on a full suspension. Find them on Trailforks for current maps and information on the Lake County MTB trails.
In Cook County, the (relatively) new Jackpot/High climber singletrack trail that connects Lutsen Mountains to the Britton Peak trails system is an absolute blast to pedal. The trail is approachable for riders of all skill levels, though doing the whole 16 miles in one go makes for a big day, especially as an out and back.
It’s not just singletrack trails that are seeing an expansion along the shore. The Lake Walk in Duluth is 8 miles of paved bike trail that follows Lake Superior from Brighton Beach to Canal Park, and then beyond Canal Park, riders can continue cycling a combination of paved bike path and designated bike lanes to the “craft” district in Lincoln Park.
Further north, the Gitchi Gami State Bike Trail has expanded to include some 34 miles of paved bike path along Lake Superior, with the most recent 4-mile stretch between Grand Marais and Cutface Creek having been completed in the spring of this year. The Gitchi Gami will eventually span the full 89 miles between Two Harbors and Grand Marais, making for an awesome bike-touring opportunity once completed.
In addition to expanded trail networks, the quantity, nay, the quality of bike shops that can be found all along the North Shore is absolutely incredible. Today, riders can rent a well maintained full-suspension MTB from Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte, sip an espresso at Spoken Gear in Two Harbors, and check out the latest and greatest bike tech at Continental Ski & Bike or the Ski Hut in Duluth, just to name a few of the shops available to North Shore riders.
New to the sport but want to get involved? Bike shops have finally started to move past the supply shortages of the pandemic, and have bikes on hand to meet just about any budget. Group rides, clinics, and events are commonplace these days on the North Shore, with the COGGS and SCA websites/social media accounts being good places to start looking for ways to connect to the broader cycling community.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to what you can do on a bicycle—nothing to do but get out and ride.