Riding Munda Biddi

Department of Defence

The world’s longest marked off-road cycling trail was tackled by about a dozen members from HMAS Stirling during a bikepacking expedition in WA’s south recently.

Stretching from Albany to Mundaring, the 1060km trail known as Munda Biddi translates to ‘path through the forest’ in the Indigenous Noongar language.

It traverses the scenic Darling Range and southern forests through eucalypt bushland, granite outcrops and unique coastal landscapes.

HMAS Stirling’s Adventure Training Cell coordinated the 17-day expedition, starting with a series of training rides.

The final team of 13 participants, ranging from able seaman to commander ranks, aged 21 to 54, had a broad range of cycling experience.

The trip was two years in the making for the Adventure Training Cell, according to Petty Officer Mark Maddison, who had the aspirational idea to run it for Navy for some time.

“We’ve been gradually acquiring the necessary equipment and last year we ran a three- and four-day expedition on the trail, which proved the concept,” he said.

The riders set off from Albany on April 16 on bikes laden with camping equipment, clothes, food, spare parts, and the all-important chamois cream.

Throughout the ride, only the small country towns they passed through, and an occasional food drop by their support vehicle, assisted them.

‘It’s an amazing attraction to have right on our doorstep, and to be able to achieve the trail end-to-end with the Navy was an even bigger bonus.’

In the true spirit of adventure training, the expedition found a way to challenge each member, requiring all to dig deep, test their limits, and work together.

Riding up to 80km and 1000m of elevation each day, the riders experienced 34-degree heat, 2-degree mornings, drought-stricken countryside, rain, niggling injuries, fatigue, bouts of cold and flu, challenging technical riding, an aversion to sleeping mats, and a cacophony of snoring.

While most of the riders joined as strangers, they soon formed a tight riding group.

If you live in WA and are into cycling, Warrant Officer Shane Davidson said the Munda Biddi tends to appear on your bucket list.

“It’s an amazing attraction to have right on our doorstep, and to be able to achieve the trail end-to-end with the Navy was an even bigger bonus,” he said.

Every night they reflected on each person’s highlight and lowlight and quickly learned to get through the challenges with a laugh and spur each other on to the end of every riding day.

From unknown origins, Shannon Noll’s song What about me became the trip anthem, representing the sentiment that the trail consistently “takes more than it gives”.

The original lyrics were adapted to include the riders’ plight of seemingly endless pea-gravel, soft sand, impossibly steep uphills, technical switchbacks and blistering headwinds.

On the trail, the group met people from all walks of life, many of who had travelled internationally just to ride the Munda Biddi.

It was fitting that on the eve of Anzac Day, the group shared a hut with three New Zealanders who were riding in the opposite direction.

Before departing the next day, they gathered for a moving dawn service. With the Kiwis in attendance, the makeshift ceremony encapsulated the values of mateship, camaraderie, and an appreciation of the freedoms enjoyed today.

After bolstering the region’s economy through eager patronage of local eateries, on May 2 they reached the trail’s northern terminus in the Perth Hills.

Greeted by a small number of friends and family, the riders felt relieved, accomplished, proud of the team they’d formed, and ready for a shower.

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