Brynwood Lane in Portland, OR

Steepest Bicycle Climb in Portland

I know it seems crazy to included a 1 mile route on our list of places to ride in Portland but this is a “feather in your cap” ride for local cyclists.

The steepest bicycle climb in Portland is tucked away in the West Hills of Portland. There are many famous bicycle climbs and I’ve pedaled many of the routes of Tour de France. But there is a steep bike climb about a mile and a half from my house that’s one of the toughest I’ve ever ridden.


The Fierceness of Brynwood

The first time I went up Brynwood I was new to Portland and was on a run with a friend. I remember thinking that the muscle fibers in my quads were snapping apart with each tiny stride I was able to muster.

I didn’t pay attention to the name of the road at the time, thinking to myself I would never venture out on run with this “friend” again.

Years later, my running days long since past, I came across Brynwood with a group of cyclists. I didn’t recognize it at first. Why would I? It starts out innocently enough with a steep stretch as far as the eye can see, but nothing that makes you think it’s anything special.

Meeting Your Match at the Hairpin Corner

Then that infamous right-hand hairpin turn arrives. That’s when you realize you’re in deep trouble. Already in a bit of oxygen debt from the first stretch, you meet your undoing with an incredible rise in pitch and no end in sight.

About 4 minutes into this video, you’ll see the madness of Brynwood.

To make it up to the top, you’re faced with several challenges:

  • A one lane road – difficult to tack
  • Cracked pavement and gravel spots
  • A grade so steep you can’t stand and keep the front wheel down

So seated you are, in your lowest gear, painfully struggling to keep the pedals turning, using any and every muscle you can find to keep upright and inching forward.

I’ve been up Brynwood a good six times, usually with some new sucker who simply can’t believe it’s that hard.

Want to give it a try?

The bottom of Brynwood is located in Northwest Portland on Miller Road between Barnes and Cornell. It’s not long – only .28 miles. If you give it a shot, make sure you come back and leave a comment here.

2 replies
  1. Fred
    Fred says:

    I used to live at the top of Brynwood (till 2000) and would run it several times a week. I managed to ride it sucessfully once on a bike in exactly the manner described here and it was downright scary worrying about going over backwards.

  2. Ron
    Ron says:

    Conquering Brynwood is all about balance and luck. You must be comfortable going 2-3 mph and have strong determination. The luck part is that you do not encounter a car coming down or roll over any loose twigs/gravels. The right turn going up is sobering, but I think the next, left turn is the one that will test your morale. You get bonus points if you stay to the right at the very top. That 3-5 foot pitch might make your quads explode.

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