Keyesville Classic turns 30 and gets dirty

Photo by George Stahl/ Special to the Sun; Over the course of two days, over 250 professional and amateur mountain bike riders participated in a number of races ranging in class from Cross Country, Short Track, and Super D raced in stages and according to classification, gender and age groups.

By George Stahl
Special to the Sun

For the past 30 years, the Keyesville Recreation Area has played host to the Keyesville Classic Mountain Bike Stage Race. This year the event was held on the weekend of Mar. 10 and 11. Over the course of two days, over 250 mountain bike riders participated in any number of races ranging in class from Cross Country, Short Track, and Super D raced in stages and according to classification and gender and age groups. There was a combination of professional mountain bike races alongside amateurs and aspiring professionals competing for the top standings in the many categories.
Since 2012, Sam Ames and his partner Keith Barnden of Bakersfield have been promoting the two-day event under the name SAMBARN Promotions. Together, Ames and Barnden have over 25 years of experience in the cycling world and endurance sports. “There is so much history in this race and there is a strong connection to the area with the race. We are very proud to be a part of it,” Ames said.

A high level of energy could be felt and seen as both racers and spectators mingled around the courses and under the tents set up by vendors. The area around the Gear Grinder Grill tent was the place to be between races where local promoter, Orion Sanders of Notorious Entertainment, sponsored the seating arrangements for diner’s comfort. Among the other sponsors at the ‘Dirty 30th Anniversary’ of the Keyesville Classic were the Southern Sierra Fat Tire Association, manufacturing companies, ag product distributors and business from the Bakersfield area and Mountain River Adventures of Kernville. “As always, we are asking for an opportunity to garner the support of businesses and individuals from the Kern River Valley,” said Sam Ames. “We know the importance of an event like this for the community here, and we want to make it a part of who we are.”

For two days, racers enjoyed the fast pace of the stages set up for the competition. From the high energy, heightened danger of the extreme downhill races starting above Dutch Flat trail, to the one lap short track kids’ races, the level of adrenaline flowing through the racers was contagious, and the spectators cheering them on was heard echoing throughout the meadows of Keyesville.
Along the way, despite flat tires, wheel changes and chains breaking, nothing was going to deter these 260 riders from having a good time. When the day was done on Saturday, every entrant enjoyed a complimentary dinner, live music and good fellowship. After Sunday’s heats, the winners were announced and a huge raffle was held to wrap up a perfect mountain biking experience. For the 30th year, the Keyesville Classic Mountain Bike Stage Race enjoyed continued success. The dates have not yet been selected for the 2019 race, but keep checking the website,, for updates and for information on becoming a sponsor or vendor for the event as well.

In the meantime, be sure to polish up your bikes, grease your chains and tighten your wheels to get ready to be a rider in the longest running, most successful mountain bike race in the entire United States.

Winners lists were not available at press time.

Photo by George Stahl/ Special to the Sun Even kids participated in the Keyesville Classic with a one lap short track race on Saturday, March 10.