The Rat Pack is back, baby, or at least it is on Thursdays in Palm Springs, California.

In the 1950s and ’60s, Palm Springs was the swinging getaway for stars like Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Shirley MacLaine, Elvis and many others who partied the night away in mid-century modern homes, martini bars and velvet lined rumpus rooms. Today it’s morphed into a beautiful winter training wonderland for aging athletes and snowbirds from all over the globe.

Recently, I had the pleasure of riding with the Desert Bike Club on their Flat Fast and Furious thursday ride (aka The Rat Pack). It’s an open ride for bums like me, aging hammerheads, racers and competitive cool cats; there is no better way to start a day in Palm Springs. So, if you’re in town and looking for a cool fast group ride, this ride is solid. I dig it.

Flat Fast and Furious

LOCATION: Palm Desert, California
WHEN: Thursday, 6:45 AM sharp
DISTANCE: 20 miles, ~60 minutes
DIFFICULTY: Single file flat n’ fast
START: Palm Desert Civic Center
RIDERS: 15-30
PRODUCER: Rat Pack Rick

The Rat Pack at rest. Photo: John Woodson
The Rat Pack at rest. Photo: John Woodson
Shorts and jerseys at 6:45 am. Photo: John Woodson
Shorts and jerseys at 6:45 am. Photo: John Woodson
Palm Springs: a beautiful cycling oasis. Photo: John Woodson
Palm Springs: a beautiful cycling oasis. Photo: John Woodson
A ride with million dollar views. Photo: John Woodson
A ride with million dollar views. Photo: John Woodson

Notes

  • Be on time. Don’t worry if only a few riders are at the Civic Center; it’s a Pied Piper rollout with riders jumping in till I10. Soon the pack will grow to 20+ riders.
  • Enjoy the 15-minute warm up on smooth wide bike lanes through palm-lined neighborhoods with manicured lawns and blooming bougainvillea. Now’s a good time to chat with folks, soon you’ll cross I10 and go full throttle.
  • Heading southeast on the I10 frontage road is very fast with an always-on tailwind. Prepare to ride single file, directly into the early morning rising sun – you can’t see a thing. Stay towards the pointy end of the peloton, otherwise you’ll end up in splitsville – off the back.
  • After a few miles, turn left on Avenue 38 into a stiff crosswind. Rather than putting the pack in the gutter single file, the group will echelon curb to curb – all across the road – in a very thoughtful manner. Follow their lead, stay out of the wind and keep an eye up the road for cars, just in case.
    Bucket Tip: If you’re off the back just stay on the frontage road and rejoin the pack at Washington.
  • Next you’ll head back over I10 towards Frank Sinatra (wouldn’t be a proper Palm Springs ride without this road) and then up the Gerald Ford “climb.” If you feel groovy push the pace, take a chance to open a gap, make the light at Portola and stay away.
  • Once you take the left on Portola it’s a straight flat mile or two to the city limit sprint. If it’s groupo compacto get ready for a fast and furious finish, these cats can sprint.
  • If you have more time (you do since it’s only 7:45) continue with the group 5 miles up the lower slopes of the Palm to Pines climb on Highway 74. It’s a steady 2-3% grade and the desert views from the top are incredible.

DBC hosts other friendly open rides each week too, making Palm Springs an excellent winter cycling destination. Plus, the greater Coachella Valley offers some classic rides including the challenging Palm to Pines climb, Joshua Tree National Park and the torturous Tramway Climb – 3.5 miles at 9%.

Cheers, and most of all – enjoy the ride, baby.