Getting to know Otto Miller Road – UPDATED

Getting to know Otto Miller Road – UPDATED

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It was nice to finally meet Otto Miller.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

On Saturday I finally explored Otto Miller Road. I say finally, because I’ve heard about it for years; but I just haven’t gotten out to do it. Now that I’m finally riding a bit more and have some legs under me, I figured it was time to find this legendary road and give it a try. And I’m glad I did.

Before I share any more, I should thank Rapha — the awesome bike apparel/lifestyle company based in the UK with its North American headquarters right here in Portland. The first time I heard about Otto Miller was (I think) on a tag inside one of their jerseys. I figured it was some legendary European rider. It wasn’t until a few months later I realized it was actually a road. And they simply loved riding on it.

About 20 miles north of Portland on Highway 30, just as you enter Scappoose, you come to Dutch Canyon Road. Take that about 5 miles west and you’ll find Otto Miller Road. It’s a gravel road that climbs southward for about 3 miles, with a few extra miles of rollers before you make your way back up to the southern tip of NW Skyline.


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Riding Otto Miller is tricky. It’s full of tiny rocks (both loose and embedded), washboard bumps, off-camber turns, and so on. Maintaining traction on skinny-tired bikes while working hard to keep the pedals turning is a challenge. Bigger tires would some of the edge off, and of course a cyclocross bike would make things a bit easier. I ran 25c tires on a racing-oriented road bike (aluminum frame and straight-blade carbon fork) and did fine.

If you go, keep a few gravel road climbing tips in mind:
– Keep your weight balanced as evenly over both wheels as possible.
– Stay in the saddle if you can (standing up will almost surely lead to your rear wheel spinning out).
– Use as high a gear as possible to lessen torque and maintain traction.
– Keep you hands on the hoods (versus the tops or drops) for better balance.
– Keep your spin smooth through the entire stroke.
– Don’t turn too sharp.

Whether you like this kind of riding or not (I crave it), the rewards are the same: You get solitude away from traffic, a ride through pine fir and hemlock forests, and a sense of accomplishment.

It was nice to meet you Otto Miller. I’ll be back soon.

Otto Miller opens up some fantastic loop possibilities. Depending on your fitness, or the time you have to ride, you can get there any number of ways. I found this ride map on Trimble Outdoors helpful.

UPDATE: Turns out that PBOT has some great, bike-specific maps for riding out in these areas. Check out their recreational cycling map page and click on maps 3 and 3-A.

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