The secret to Australia’s top bike ride

In researching Ultimate Cycling Trips: Australia, I chose a 128km stretch of the trail between Manjimup and Northcliffe. It was to be a ride through some of Australia’s most beautiful forests, with the canopy of the rod-straight karri trees towering more than 50m above my head as I weaved through three national parks and crossed the remote Warren River three times. But arguably the best thing about this abbreviated section is the fact that every day can finish in a town.

It’s the only extended stretch of the Munda Biddi Trail that can be cycled without camping, and though the trail is strung with well-designed purpose-built camps, it’s hard for its sleeping shelters and tent sites to compete with soft beds and restaurants to end the riding days, and cafes to start them. It’s mountain-biking without the mountain of effort.

Andrew Bain with his Munda Biddi Trail gear
Andrew Bain with his Munda Biddi Trail gear

In Manjimup, reached by bus from Perth, I was already effectively 580km into the trail’s journey without having turned a pedal. Without the need to camp, I carried a single bag – a saddlebag hanging beneath my seat with a change of clothes and a few bike spares and tools – traveling light to reduce the effort over the three days to come.

Even at just 45km, the first day would be my longest, crossing from Manjimup to Quinninup, a tiny town with homes along one side of its main (and pretty much only) street and the tall timber of Greater Dordagup National Park running along the other.

It was through this national park that I set out the next morning, where the Munda Biddi Trail briefly swung onto the King Karri Walk, with the namesake karri trees standing as tall as 73m.

Pemberton is surrounded by  the tall forest of Gloucester National Park
Pemberton is surrounded by the tall forest of Gloucester National Park

Even this was just a foretaste of what was still ahead. At Pemberton’s edge, after a second crossing of the Warren River, the trail entered Gloucester National Park, which all but wraps Pemberton inside the tall forest. It was a spectacular welcome to the one-time forestry town, but the exit was even grander.

After a night in Pemberton, with its myriad accommodation options, restaurants, and the ultimate cycling luxury of a whisky bar, the trail climbed immediately to the Gloucester Tree. Standing 53m high, this karri tree was once one of eight fire-lookout trees sprinkled through WA’s southern forests. Today, only two such trees remain, with metal stakes hammered into their trunks, providing airy climbs into the forest canopy for visitors.

I parked my bike and ascended the spiraling stakes to a platform atop the tree, which peeped above the canopy, providing a view across the green tops of a seemingly endless swathe of trees. Far below, my bike looked like nothing more than a tiny red speck.

The Gloucester Tree towers over the Munda Biddi Trail
The Gloucester Tree towers over the Munda Biddi Trail

By the base of the Gloucester Tree, the Munda Biddi took to singletrack paths, beginning the purest bit of mountain-biking of my three days on the trail. As the paths curled down a ridge, the bare trunks of the karri trees variously glowed yellow, white, and orange after overnight rain. Seen like this, it seemed clear how one of the world’s tallest tree species earned its scientific name, Eucalyptus diversicolor.

The descent from Pemberton bottomed out at the Warren River, which I’d now crossed each day of the ride. I rattled over its dark waters on an old trestle bridge, with the forest continuing to close over the trail, and the trees washed green by the rain. Hours passed without the sight of another person – just me, the forest, and the occasional emu breaking ranks from the trees – as I approached Northcliffe.

Another 300km of the Munda Biddi Trail rolled on beyond Northcliffe, passing through the tingle forests of Walpole-Nornalup National Park and along the coast into Albany, but my own ride was at its end. I’ve locked the rest of the ride in my mind as a mission for another day.

This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com

About the author

Ozzie

Hi! I’m Ozzie!

Before joining Australia Exploring, I was a writer at Tripadvisor.

I'm looking for the best posts for you about travel adventures in Australia and around the world. This website has the purpose to inspire you to travel… travel more and better. I hope it can help you explore the world a little bit better.

I graduated from the University of Sydney. I live in California with my wife and two children.

Categories

Recent Posts