Tales from the Trail - Davey's E-bike E2E

Munda Biddi E2E N2S on an E-bike between the 7-18th October 2020 was the plan – going from power point to power point, charging up at the end of each day. My E-bike has a mid-drive Bosch motor with a Bosch 500 battery on a Cube Cross hybrid mountain bike. The mid-drive gives a nice balance to the bike and also the quality of Bosch behind it. The motor adds an additional 6 kilos on a standard bike, weighing in at around 20 kilos. This bike has a (pretty much) drag free motor when not using any power, giving the option of still being able to ride with a flat battery. I’m going super basic, with no tent or cooking accessories; my extra weight comes in at around 11 kgs, including water and food. I added the water pack on the handlebars; tools, spares and repair materials are in the smaller frame bag, and clothes and accessories in handlebar bag and rackpack. Many thanks to Susan Thomas for the loan of the PLB, it gave my missus some piece of mind! I also got heaps of fantastic help and advice from The Bike Stable in Sawyers Valley.

October 7th; Day 1 - Mundaring to Jarrahdale, 101km

I met Shaun from Parks & Wildlife doing his rounds when I stopped at Carinyah hut. I know understood how difficult it is to keep the bogans from using Carinyah... Parks & Wildlife have tried digging ditches, putting additional logs over the gate fronts, but they still manage to find a way past these additional obstacles and on one occasion he had to rebuild the toilet as it has been deliberately torched.

I managed to get all the way to Jarrahdale with 10-20% left in the battery, but it was very tough and my gooch was pretty sore! In retrospect, I would have liked to have done this section in 2 days, stopping at accommodation in Pickering Brook to break it up, as it is definitely a hard and long section.


October 8th; Day 2 - Jarrahdale to Dwellingup, 74km

Heading south through Jarrahdale was nice and I was cruising all the way to the big descent into the Serpentine Valley. The Trail was nice and firm from all the rain overnight, so it was good to ride. I then hit the infamous Serpentine climb, which I managed to clear in eco mode by keeping the power consistent and managing the battery. One of the reasons why I wanted to do the MB on a E-bike was to help take the edge off the climbs and keep my knee pain free.

Later on, I had a bit of a crazy day mentally, a few stomach issues, and some paranoia about unexplained blood on my leg! But I still managed 74km, all in eco mode, had over 40% battery left, and finished with a smile on my face.


October 9th; Day 3 - Dwellingup to Lake Brockman, 68km

The Trail was very firm and nice to ride. What a treat on the new Murray Valley alignment, mixing the MB in with the recently completed mountain bike trails! Wow... I loved the single-track ups and downs and twists and turns. Even with weight on the bike it was really enjoyable, I powered up a few hills and on towards Nanga Mill.... I'm definitely coming back to Dwellingup to hit these new trails without any extra weight!

I had my first snake encounter today, there was a grey stick on the ground that looked like all the other grey sticks on the ground except this one, when I got about 10 meters away, wriggled super quick into the bush. The snake was about 1.5 meters long, light grey in colour with no other markings. I've never seen a snake of this colour before on the trail.

I made it to Lake Brockman around 4pm and still had about 50% power left after 68km and used the eco mode only.


October 10th; Day 4 - Rest Day

My family came down to Lake Brockman, its a nice place to stay. It was good to rest the legs and relax, I talked to some riders at the lake, it was good to share stories and experiences. I degreased the bike and give it a clean. Also gave it a good check over, finding both rack bolts needed a tighten and the front brake pads looked a bit low. Thankfully I carry spare pads!


October 11th; Day 5 - Lake Brockman to Crystal Valley Outcamp, 77km

Getting some last-minute snacks for the journey, I bumped into some riders outside the office who were doing the section to Collie. Some of them were riding E-bikes and asked if I wanted to tag along. It was awesome to see different E-bike setups on show. This group were mostly set up for pure MTB than long-distance touring, but we still shared many MB stories. Everyone commented on how they had been big E-bike sceptics in the past until the actually test rode them and became hooked!

Today was very fun and a different expereince to riding on my own; I covered 77km in eco mode and had about 50% battery left.

October 12th; Day 6 - Crystal Valley Outcamp to Donnybrook , 78km

I set off earlyish this morning, around 8am with the intention to divert to the Kiosk at the Dam for brekkie at 9am. I was running low on supplies and was down to 2 Up n Go's, half a packet of peanuts and a bag of sour snakes. The ride was relaxing, until the Coalfield Highway, where I stopped to Google the kiosk only to find a Facebook message that they had gone on holiday for a week! Fortunately, it was a beautiful downward run into the Wellington National Park. I discovered that a crappy section I hated had been closed due to a diversion which I was happy with! Pushing on through the forest, at the the famous Honeymoon Pool switchbacks I nearly fell over, as usual...

Despite the change of plans this morning, today was a really enjoyable day. A total of 78kms covered today with about 50% battery left.


October 13th; Day 7 - Donnybrook to Nannup, 76km

I'd hoped to make it to Donnelly River Village today, but I underestimated the time it would take; when I rode this section earlier this year I came from the other direction and didn’t realise how much slower it actually is north to south. Plus there was a headwind and it was quite hot. However, it was a pleasure to ride with a fellow MB traveller today. Jono and I had such a good laugh sharing stories and talking rubbish all day. I look forward to meeting up again for some riding or maybe even sky diving!

The E-bike battery still had well over 50% left today. I am confident I could of made Donnelly River Village, but the time and the heat beat us.


October 14th; Day 8 - Nannup to Quinninup, 129km

What an absolute beast of a day .... I set a new personal record for a one day ride, I was absolutely knackered by the end of it. I found a very economical way to climb the switch backs leading to Karta Burnu hut. As the elevation gain is in the sharp turns at each end, I found the left to rights or right to left pretty flat. I rode without power on the flatter sections, then switched on the power for about 3-4 seconds in the turns. I was at the top pretty quick and had not used much battery. I did the usual book signing and had a break for around 30 mins.

I was expecting to pretty much run out of battery about the 120km mark but made it the extra 9ks with 2ks left in the battery. I was glad to get to my cabin, shower, change and hit the pub for a beer and a chicken parmi!

I believe riding an E-bike is all about battery management. If you whack it in turbo and don't put much effort into the pedalling then it will be super easy, but your battery will last about 30km. If you closely manage your battery against your planned distance then you can eke out more than 100km. You need to take into account your battery size, the terrain, weight on your bike and the effort you want to put in. You also get what you pay for - be super cautious of the cheap imports that seem to be flooding the market. I recommend a trusted brand like Bosch, which have a very good battery range assistant which is useful to calculate potential distances.


October 15th; Day 9 - Quinninup to Northcliffe, 87km

I set out from the cabin at Eco Park at 8am. The first half hour I felt a bit jaded, probably due to the long ride yesterday, but I soon got into my stride and was loving the forest and all the singletrack. Today was a very cool day, perfect for riding. This section of the Trail is full of amazing views, scenic valleys and amazing lakes, including Lake Janis which was not there last time I rode this section.

Today I bumped into Blue, an older guy going north, I think I talked him into buying an E-bike. I saw William, a rider I met the day before at Eco Park, at a cafe in Pemberton. I joined him for lunch, with another rider called Wendy who also heading south. After an uneventful ride, I checked into the Northcliffe Motor Inn just after 3, then got my washing done at the laundrette. I locked up the bike and set the battery to charge, and headed out for meal and a beer at the pub.


October 16th; Day 10 – Northcliffe to Billa Billa Farm, 113km

Today I had covered about 45km and decided to put on the gps thinking that Yirra Karta should be about 5kms away... to my shock the off-course warning started bleeping immediately! After some further investigation, I pinpointed my location, 4.5km south of Nelson Rd on Dixie Rd, but could not understand why ...but I had not seen a marker for a while, even though I was on a fairly straight section. So, after a lot of cursing and swearing, I swallowed my pride and backtracked to the section where I had got it wrong. Then by rechecking my viewpoint coming through a downhill section I found I had assumed yellow stop markers (which are identical to MB markers) were actual MB markers and took a right instead of left!

Finally reaching Yirra Karta, I had lunch and a lie down for a short while before heading off around the Shannon river airstrip, which is now very overgrown and narrow. I had half planned to do the 7km detour to Mount Frankland, but my misfortunes before had made me concerned about battery levels. There was a lot of slow climbing before North Walpole road, but a nice descent into the Kwokralup Beela hut. At the hut, I had dropped to my last bar of battery (about 20%) so I knew it would be close to empty when i got to my accommodation at Billa Billa hut which was about 10kms further on.

I stopped for the night at Billa Billa, an awesome farmstay cottage with everything, including some cold beers in the fridge. I was on my 3rd beer when the owner dropped off a chicken curry...wow.


October 17th; Day 11 - Billa Billa Farm to Valley of the Giants BnB 87km

The climb to Underhill Rd is a bit of beast and and a good warm up for the day, thankfully I managed it in eco mode. Continuing onto Swarbrick, I then enjoyed the downhills to the west of Walpole and the start of the small sandy powerline section I have named 'Tiger Snake Valley'. After riding to Sappers Bridge, it was onto some more monster climbs. I had done all the big climbs on the Munda Biddi in eco mode, managing them fairly well, however there was a climb on Boxall Rd which defeated me and I had to shift up for the last 50m’s to prevent my first MB tactical walk. This was the 3rd huge climb in a row and I just did not quite have the legs in eco! A nice descent helped get some wind back in the sails, then it was onto the Valley of Giants walk climb. I detoured for a drink and an ice-cream at the kiosk before enjoying the downhills, then 20+km back to Walpole via Valley of the Giants Rd and Southwest Hwy, as I was staying in Walpole.

There will be a strong 40km headwind tomorrow which is going to slow me down a bit. I have had a headwind every single ride day on the Munda Biddi - on the flip side I have only rode in 20mins of light drizzle in last 11 days, so can't complain!


October 18th; Day 12 - Bow Bridge Roadhouse to Eaglemont Cottage (North of Denmark) 85km

My transfer dropped me at Bow Bridge Roadhouse about 8.30 and I was on the trail at Middle Rd soon after. The first part was actually not too bad as the sand was super firm and I was making good time. The firm surface I started on today soon changed near Booner Mundak hut, turning to really deep sand. For the first time on the whole of the Munda Biddi I had to get off the bike and push which annoyed me as there was no other option.

The next section to Jinung Beigabup hut is (for me personally) one of the least admired parts of the Trail as it is just mile after mile of straight gravel and sand roads with not much else in between apart from a suspension bridge crossing. It gets a bit tedious and mentally has very little stimulation. I was happy to eventually hit the hut after a long upward slog, around 1pm, and have some fluids and a cheese toastie. I relaxed for about and hour before heading off to Eaglemont Cottage, where the owners invited me to dine with them.


October 19; Day 13 (Final Day) - Eaglemont Cottage to Albany 96km

Pretty uneventful last day on the Trail. I always love the section along Wilson Inlet to Youngs Siding, where I had an ice-cream 'emergency stop!' I started to count down the kilometres from Elleker...It was a bit surreal coming into the Southern Terminus, I was a bit sad, in a way, but tinged with relief that I had eventually completed the End to End after almost 18 months of planning.

Conclusion

Overall, it was a fantastic adventure. I met so many like-minded people on a fantastic trail. I was very lucky with no punctures, no breakdowns, no injuries, no bush fixes, virtually no rain, no accommodation issues and the bike performed amazingly, exceeding my 80km eco mode battery life expectations .... it was probably more like 100km!

I had got to thinking about the E-bike options reflecting on my previous painful end to end, which had me on painkillers from day 2 and icing my swollen knee each night. I tested heaps of different types of E-bikes before eventually settling on the mid drive peddle assist, which allowed me to get a good workout whilst not giving me any knee pain.


There was a lot of preparation leading up to this E-bike E2E; months of test rides on the Munda Biddi and numerous bike setups; the planning and booking of accommodation between 80-100km apart; equipment upgrades; gym work and at bike-specific training at home. The proper preparation came together and helped me achieve my goal.

Hopefully my experience will give confidence to other E-bike riders that, with careful battery management, it can be done. It is ALL about battery management - I rode the Munda Biddi on Eco mode (40% assist) only, which I am now confident will give me 90-100km of Munda Biddi riding. If you use a higher setting you will probably struggle to get half that distance. On flatter and downhill sections I was usually riding above 25km per hour, so not actually using battery power (as the bikes has a 25km power limit). You need to conserve your battery as much as you can to expand your range.

Energy management is also very important. It is a very common misconception that you do not use much energy on an E-bike and it is a lot easier on the rider. My bike was peddle assist, which still required me to peddle for up to 10 hours per day. Whilst the hills were a little bit easier, I still used heaps of energy, so regular stops for rest, food a water are still needed.

I would recommend that when you stop for lunch make sure you actually sit down and completely relax for at least 45 mins. In the past I have always had lunch standing with my bike in between my legs or just walked around, or even worse just stopped for 20 mins then pushed on! I noticed a big difference in energy levels after lunch; I would typically take an hour to sit or lie down to rest all my body completely, putting on a podcast and relaxing, before getting back on the bike and pushing on.

I have since had my long awaited knee operation and am now recovering. I'm already planning next years E-Bike adventure. This time from South to North and also with the intention of a group ride bringing together some of the fantastic people I met over the 14 days and hoping to make more memories. We are super lucky to have such a fantastic trail on our doorstep here in WA. E-bikes can most certainly get more people out there on the Trail of all abilities. Relax, take your time and enjoy the ride. Hopefully I have opened the door to other people who might not be able to manage the trail on a standard bike.

Davey Nisbet