The Grind is a weekly column on all things gravel.
No one would want to ride that mix of stuff.
That was the half-joking comment of Sam Ames’ friend Matt Thompson about the mix of road, gravel, singletrack, water crossings and more that Ames liked to tie together into big rides. Fast forward to today, and Ames is getting ready for the eighth running of the Rock Cobbler, the event that is exactly that mix of stuff in Bakersfield, California.
The challenges are not limited to the riding surfaces, either.
“You might do pushups, throw water balloons, laugh, cry, suck your thumb, meet Tacoman, ride thru a church and or swim… but you WILL hike with your bike and enjoy cussing us. More than once,” is how the flyer reads. “It’s a day full of challenges.”
As of now, Rock Cobbler 8.0 is scheduled for February 13, 2021, with Bianchi USA on board as the title sponsor so it can showcase a forthcoming range of gravel bikes at the event.
Bianchi currently has a few Allroad models with Shimano’s GRX gravel groups. I asked Bianchi USA’s communications VP David Reed about the new bikes, but he wasn’t yet ready to talk about what’s coming.
The first Rock Cobbler in 2013 had 40 riders. After an increasing number of riders came out for the lengthy and challenging Cobbler — push-ups, riding without socks, and other antics are often involved — a shorter Pebbler route was added three years ago.
Ames now bills Rock Cobbler as “a stupidly hard, mostly dirt ride bordering on a race,” with the courses in the 90-mile range for the Cobbler and the 45-mile range for the Pebbler. The elevation gain is between 3,000 to 7,700 feet, largely in absurdly steep chunks.
Ames hands out awards at the end, but won’t reveal what they are until the day is over. Similarly, the actual routes aren’t announced until the week of the event.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic puts a huge question mark over all events, and much could change between now and mid-February. Ames said he hopes things will improve by late January, and that “we will have an extensive Covid protocol in place and probably some wave starts.”
While the Rock Cobbler is still relatively young, heading into its eighth iteration, Ames has been putting on road, cyclocross, and mountain bike events since 1985. He also owns the Gear Grinder Grill, a food truck that supports events like the Belgian Waffle Ride. And the Rock Cobbler entry fee comes with breakfast and lunch.
While some riders view the Rock Cobbler as quite competitive, Ames — who bills himself now as the ‘chief excitement officer’ — is quick to point out that it’s a ride, albeit a ridiculously hard one.
There are no race categories because it’s not a race. You just pick your distance and go. (That said, the Pebbler is already sold out.)
I’ll report back on the new Bianchi gravel bikes as soon as I can cobble together some reliable info.