Exploring the Munda Biddi Trail with Jethro
Here at Sea to Summit, we're proud to call Western Australia our home state. It's a place of extraordinary natural beauty, and we've long been committed to supporting initiatives that preserve and promote the wonders of this region. One such initiative close to our hearts is the Munda Biddi Trail, meaning 'path through the forest' in the indigenous Noongar language, spoken in the South West of Western Australia.
The Munda Biddi Trail Foundation plays a crucial role in maintaining, promoting awareness, and encouraging patronage of this unique 1,060km off-road cycling trail stretching from Mundaring to Albany. For the past two years, we have proudly supported the foundation in its mission, including sponsoring our very own section of the trail. Our team has also rolled up their sleeves for trail maintenance days, forging bonds with this remarkable community.
Recently, we had the chance to sit down with Jethro Nagle, the Project Officer at the Munda Biddi Trail Foundation who is at the heart of the action, orchestrating various facets of the trail's operations.
Jethro Nagle, passionate rider and Project Officer at the Munda Biddi
Can you tell us about your role at the Munda Biddi Trail Foundation and what your day-to-day responsibilities involve?
In my role as Operations Officer, I am involved with everything! Most of my time during an average working week usually includes communicating with our amazing sectional trail volunteers. If they have any pressing issues found on the Trail, like a big tree down on the Trail, I will liaise with Parks and Wildlife to form a solution and have it removed or developed into a feature on the Trail. I'm also constantly communicating with our community, answering trip-planning enquiries, or providing advice for upcoming adventures.
As a not-for-profit, we always seek more funding, so writing grant applications to fund future Munda Biddi events is also a regular task. You get pretty good at it after a while. Then, there is social media management and content creation, admin tasks like reporting our volunteer hours or onboarding new volunteers into our team. The great weeks also include getting out on the Trail to either ride or help with some Trail maintenance. With only two full-time employees, you wear many hats, and I love them all.
What makes the Munda Biddi Trail unique, and how does it contribute to promoting outdoor recreation and eco-tourism in the region?
Well, for starters, the Trail is 1,060km of uninterrupted purpose-built off-road cycling Trail and, on average, every 40-50km, you will come across a world-class Munda Biddi Hut or a unique Trail town. No other Trail of this length has this kind of infrastructure. The Trail takes riders through various landscapes, including an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot. Riders will experience the scenic and rocky Darling Range, southern forests, eucalyptus bushland, and amazing coastal plains in the South of Western Australia (WA).
The beauty of the Munda Biddi Trail is that anyone can ride it. The Trail is overall an "easy" graded Trail. Depending on your skill level, you don't need a super expensive bicycle, just one with wide enough tyres. The low barriers to entry make this Trail extraordinarily accessible and a terrific way to stay active and keep fit.
In the last 5-10 years, much research has been carried out and has illustrated the physical and mental health benefits that physical activity can provide. In WA, many regional towns were challenged by the loss of their primary economic industry due to government changes to native logging or coal production. Many towns affected by these changes have successfully bounced back by embracing cycle and event tourism. A recent survey of Munda Biddi riders underscored their positive impact on local economic development, reinforcing the Trail's role as a catalyst for revitalisation.
The Munda Biddi Trail takes you from the forests of the Southwest to the rolling southern coastline.
As someone closely involved with the Munda Biddi Trail Foundation, what is your favourite trail section, and why do you find it particularly special or enjoyable?
For me, there is no debate; Manjimup to Pemberton in either direction is amazing. This 80km section should be everyone's first experience of the Munda Biddi Trail. It has it all. You get the rush of the flowing and fast single-track sections, challenged by the harsh (but fun) climbs, lose your mind on the fantastic descents through the forest and then also in open, green windows XP style farmland! The material you are riding on is magic, lovely tacky dirt/mud, which allows you to connect with your tyres for excellent traction. Imagine doing that with your best friends, partner, mum or dad!
Manjimup and Pemberton are also two fantastic little towns and are well-equipped; it makes it exciting knowing there is somewhere nice to start and finish with good places to eat and drink. Riding this section and others with 2-4 of my great friends is what I love to do most. Stay the night in the local pub, enjoy the local food and drink, then return the other way. It's the perfect weekend trip.
The fast and flowy single-track sections near Pemberton, Jethro’s favourite spot.
What are some of the key highlights of bikepacking along the Munda Biddi Trail?
There are so many, where to start. The Valley of the Giants section near Walpole is incredible. The size of the Tingle and Karri trees you are riding under is incredible. The Wilderness Ocean Walk (WOW) Trail is a unique 7km section of the Trail that brings you along the southern WA coastline between Greens Pool and Ocean Beach. The coastal views are simply incredible. Wildflowers! Spring in the Jarrah Forest is a true delight, with the wildflowers in bloom. The wildflower season starts in the north about August and gradually blossoms from then on heading south. The colourful flowers vary along the Trail in variety, abundance, and season.
The rare red-tingle trees found at the Valley of the Giants are over 400 years old.
How has bush cycling and bikepacking evolved over the years, and what positive changes or trends have you noticed in this form of adventure travel?
Equipment is one thing that has changed quite a lot. These days, many cyclists are riding the Trail on Gravel Bikes - a hybrid between a road bike and an MTB bike, which are generally lighter, faster, and more agile. Riders also use bike packing bags to carry all their gear instead of the pannier bags and rack system. E-MTB Bikes have also become very popular and changed the game for so many riders. It allows those who may not be as physically fit to ride still and enjoy the Trail but with the security of a pedal assistance system to help them on the hard sections.
Locky Gilbert taking on the breathtaking Munda Biddi Trail with his bikepacking setup.
Can you share some insights into Sea to Summit's involvement with the Munda Biddi Trail? How does their support contribute to the Trail's maintenance and development?
Sea to Summit has supported the Foundation for the past two years. As a small not-for-profit, their support has been well-received and has allowed us to continue to run our Trail maintenance days and support our volunteer workforce. Sea to Summit even sponsors their very own section of Trail! The Foundation and Sea to Summit employees took part in a Trail maintenance day recently. The aim was to improve some drainage sites near Mundaring along a single-track section. We gained a few more volunteers for our workforce, let's put it that way. The team did a terrific job, and the weather was beautiful. A great day all around.
Some of the Sea to Summit’s crew (Jason Taafe, Daniela Egloff and Ryan Anderson) volunteering at the Munda Biddi Trail maintenance day.
How does the Foundation involve the local community and volunteers in maintaining and preserving the Munda Biddi Trail?
The Munda Biddi Trail would not exist without our volunteers. For our maintenance purposes, the Trail is broken down into 125 sections. Each section, ranging from 4-15km long, is allocated to a volunteer. It is the volunteer's job to look after that section. Our volunteers visit their section around 3-6 times yearly to keep it in good riding shape and notify the Foundation of any significant issues. As the Trail stretches from Mundaring to Albany, we have volunteers all along the Trail, and we are constantly trying to activate those communities along the Trail with Trail Maintenance social days and rides to engage more volunteers local to their area.
The Foundation hosts trail maintenance days and provides training for the volunteers.
How do you envision the future of the Munda Biddi Trail, and what are some upcoming plans or projects trail users and outdoor enthusiasts can look forward to?
The Munda Biddi Trail will continue to grow in popularity. The rapid growth in outdoor recreation has not slowed down since COVID, and we expect the interest to continue to rise for our unique bikepacking Trail. The Foundation is currently putting together our Adventure Calendar of Events for 2024. These events will include Bikepacking for beginners’ tutorials, weekend riding trips, workshops and more. Also, watch out in September for our Sea to Summit Sleep System Raffle! Thanks to Sea to Summit, we will be raffling off the ultimate sleep system for bikepacking, so follow us on our socials to keep up to date.
The Foundation has a busy events calendar in store for 2024, stay tuned.
Join hands with Jethro and the incredible team, make new friends, and become a steward of this unique trail. By volunteering or participating in upcoming events, you can play an active role in preserving the Munda Biddi Trail's natural beauty and supporting its growth as a hub for outdoor enthusiasts. Discover the joy of bikepacking and explore our specially designed gear for bikepacking, including bikepacking tents, dry bags and compression bags, and stretch locs. You can find these essentials and more in our dedicated bikepacking gear collection. For a deeper dive into our best gear recommendations for bikepacking, check out our article here.
Photo credits: Miles Arbour & Paul Morton