A favorite among gravel aficionados, Rock Cobbler, is a quirky and challenging adventure race in/around the surrounding hills of Bakersfield, California. Rated by Strambecco as one of the best gravel grinders in California and the Southwest. Rock Cobbler has established itself as a unique blend of challenge and fun, growing from 40 riders in its inaugural year to attracting participants from across the globe over a decade later. As it stands, it’s more of a wild escapade than a mere gravel event. The terrain ranges from asphalt roads to single tracks, steep climbs, and even a museum visit peppered with quirky shenanigans. And as the pro gravel cyclist, Peter Stetina aptly puts it: “The Rock Cobbler is the kookiest bike race I’ve ever done. It’s unclassifiable. One minute you’re on a nice surface, and the next, you’re sliding down a scree field or just plain old riding through a field of dodging cattle. There are 30% run-ups, white claw hand-ups, ball pits, and it’s brutally difficult.” But in the end, the reward, the unique memento, and the sense of accomplishment are unparalleled. When (and if) you finish, you truly understand why it’s named the Rock Cobbler.
Conceived by audacious minds over rides and late-night barstool chats, Rock Cobbler is an epitome of cycling madness and euphoria combined. In essence, it’s a “stupidly hard” ride that skirts the edge of a race. Each twist and turn promises dirt trails, MTB levels, gravel fun, and more. As one journeying into its heart, expect the unexpected, and shenanigans are guaranteed. As the world gears up for its 11th-anniversary event, riders brace themselves for yet another dose of exhilarating surprises.
Event & Course Info
As is tradition, the Rock Cobbler final routes are not announced until the week before the event, but for illustration, we’ve posted 2023 route details below. Held at Stramler Park, Bakersfield, the event starts with a packet pick-up on Friday, including a pasta dinner and a barrel racing event. The main event unfolds on Saturday, with the Boulder Cobblers kicking off at 6:30 am, followed by the remaining waves starting from 8:00 am.
The Rock Cobbler presents a platter of routes for every enthusiast. The main event, the Cobbler, typically spans approximately 80ish miles, and boasts 5500—6500 ft of elevation gain, ensuring your pedals and spirits are constantly tested. The half-sized challenge is the Pebbler course, yet is no less arduous. New for 2024, organizers have introduced a third option limited to 50 riders, the Boulder Cobbler, is the pinnacle of all challenges – stretching across 130ish miles with a jaw-dropping 10K climb.
It’s crucial to come prepared. Your best bet? A gravel bike, fine-tuned with IRC tires and customized coaching to make sure you are ready for the Rock Cobbler’s twists and turns. Participants can expect plenty of SAG support and aid stations, including the iconic Twinkies, beer, a scrumptious breakfast and lunch, and the ever-mysterious “special gift” for all participants. Riders must reach the final SAG stop by 4:30 pm, or risk being taken off the route. Not technically a race, there are awards for the first male and female finisher of each ride (an extra special gift) and plenty of celebrations post-event.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
While there is car/RV camping available with registration, the recommended hotel for the Rock Cobbler is the Courtyard Marriott Bakersfield located 3 miles from the start and typically has many groups of participants staying there. Other options include The Padre and the Homewood Suites, as well as a variety of vacation rentals from renovated homes to pool equipped retreats perfect for a group. For those that enjoy camping, Kern River Campground and the local KOA are both nearby options.
Bakersfield, boasts a diverse culinary scene influenced by its agricultural roots, featuring an array of farm-to-table eateries, traditional Basque restaurants, and a blend of Mexican and Southern Californian flavors. The city serves as a gastronomic melting pot, celebrating its rich history and modern innovations with every dish. Local favorites include Wool Growers Restaurant, Urichio’s Trattoria, and Cafe Smitten.
Nestled within the southern end of the Central Valley, Bakersfield is more than just a gateway to other destinations. For outdoor enthusiasts, it’s a winter haven filled with diverse terrains and activities. While January can bring colder temperatures, Bakersfield’s mild winter climate offers a plethora of outdoor experiences such as hiking the Kern River Parkway Trail. Stretching over 30 miles, the trail is a serene escape in the heart of Bakersfield. The trail follows the Kern River, allowing athletes to revel in the beauty of the rippling waters, native flora, and the sight of local birds. With paved and dirt sections, it’s versatile for both runners and mountain bikers. The trail is dotted with several parks, offering places to rest or engage in some bodyweight exercises amidst nature.
While not in the open air, The Rock Gym in Bakersfield brings the outdoor climbing experience indoors. With over 12,000 square feet of sculpted climbing surface, climbers can challenge themselves on routes that cater to both beginners and experts. It’s a fun way to train, improve skills, or introduce oneself to the sport of climbing. After conquering the indoor walls, climbers can take their improved skills to natural terrains around Bakersfield in the following seasons.
Located just northeast of Bakersfield, Hart Park covers over 300 acres and is a favorite spot for local cyclists to explore the park’s various trails, which range from flat paths to more challenging terrain. The park is home to two lakes and several waterways, making the rides scenic. Along the way, cyclists can spot wildlife such as deer and various waterfowl, making it an invigorating blend of exercise and nature watching.
Although Rock Cobbler is the only event produced by Ames Works, there are many other premier gravel events in Northern California that are worth adding to your calendar. Hopper Adventures, is known as the US’s longest-running gravel/mixed-terrain adventure series producer in the area and runs its Adventure Series which runs annually from January to May, and includes the Low Gap; Huffmaster Hopper; Lake Sonoma MTB; and Ukiah-Mendo Epic. Special events on their calendar include the USAL Hopper: The Lost Coast, Lake Sonoma Enduro, and the Mendo Hopper. They are all considered to be some of the Best Gravel Grinders in NorCal.
For multi-sport athletes, check out other Strambecco best-rated events taking place in California, such as Levi’s Gran Fondo from Bike Monkey or the Mount Diablo Challenge from Valley Spokesmen Bicycing Club, considered to be some of the Best Road Cycling Events in California, the Northwest & Southwest. Mountain bikers will also appreciate top tier events in the area such as Boggs MTB and the Downieville Classic. Trail runners will relish in the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs and Canyons Endurance Runs which is both a UTMB and Western States Qualifier and are considered some of the Best Trail Running Events in the Southwest by the team at Strambecco.