Photographs by: Benedict Evans & Words by: Beth Strickland

Bill had registered for one of the toughest hillclimb races in the country and was searching for ways to train. “You could do continual laps of 2-5-10,” suggested Taylor, the local mechanic. Bill raised his eyebrows and his eyes scrunched and grew thoughtful at the same time. “Wait, no way,” said Taylor, “that is humanly impossible…and yet, it’s so stupid that I feel I must attempt it with you.”

Beth Strickland, editor and bartender – 5x finisher
Bill Strickland, editor-in-chief, Bicycling magazine – 6x finisher
Mark Taylor, freelance bicycle mechanic – 2x finisher

Thus, one day in July 2004, three guys set out in the early morning to ride this absurd 10-mile loop which takes you back and forth over the ridge line of our tiny town in eastern Pennsylvania. Each lap climbs around 1400 feet. They would ride 10 laps, climbing 14,000 feet and totaling 101 miles. They rode as a group, always. They were never more than 3 miles from the start. It would take them 10 hours.

Steve Schneider, firefighter – 6x finisher
Gloria Lui, senior editor, Bicycling magazine
Michael Yarnall, veterinary surgeon – 4x finisher

I don’t know why we did it again the next year. No one was training for anything. We had to take vacation time from work. It is not a race. I’m not even sure it’s a ride. I suppose we did it because we couldn’t think of a better way to spend a summer day than on bikes together. Again, just three of us—two of the originals, plus myself. But this time, others jumped in for a lap or two before work or at lunchtime, showing support, telling jokes, providing distraction. By the third year, riders drove from Philadelphia, New Jersey, Indiana to test themselves and be a part of this silly little ride they’d been hearing about. Since the event began—always on the second rest day of the Tour de France in July—80 different people have completed 2-5-10 at least once. Just as many have attempted and failed.

John Adams, school teacher
Joe Percoco Fay, owner and brewer, Sole Artisan Ales – 1x finisher
Jessica Chong, school teacher – 3x finisher

Two of the climbs—Second Street and Fifth Street—are tolerable at 1.1 and 0.5 miles, each a steady 6% to 8% grade, shaded to give welcome relief from the heat. But Tenth Street is a downright monster with its 22% slope and unrelenting ascent. Riders zig-zag across the road, fall over from slowness and curse the rising beast again and again. Three riders, having ridden 99 miles, failed to complete 2-5-10 because they could not face the monstrosity a final time. I have seen a grown man in tears at its brutality. The Virgin Mary statue three-quarters of the way up provides little comfort.

Paul Pearson, photographer – 1x finisher
Topher Valenti, bicycle mechanic – 7x finisher
Erin Mascelli, cycling industry professional

Olympians and National Champions have completed 2-5-10. The oldest finisher is 62; the youngest to pedal a lap was 12. Some riders have completed the entire ride 4…5…6…7 times; some have pursued it year after year only to flounder toward the end. On an average year 10-12 riders finish, and another 50 ride support laps throughout the day. Besides the typical road setup, there have been mountain bikes, singlespeeds and townies. One guy rode a lap in Crocs and jeans while carrying a latte in one hand. We have been stopped by trains, runaway dogs and detoured for road construction. The mid-July heat is stifling, yet blessedly, it has never rained on this day. There was the year the temperature was so ruthless that two water bottles in a 10-mile loop was not enough. Riders put ice bags under jerseys, wrung sweat from their gloves, downed ice-cold Cokes after each lap. One rider woke up in a ditch after passing out from heat exhaustion. Concerned residents brought out hoses and sprinklers to douse the worn and weary as they passed.

Tom Kellogg, framebuilder – 4x finisher
Pat Heine, video producer, Bicycling magazine
Michael Yozell, Bicycling magazine

The ride is the same each year. And yet it is never so. We ride circles as a group, taking 50 minutes for a lap—easy enough not to burn off slower riders, fast enough to move the day along. We stop for 5 minutes each lap to refill bottles and share snacks, always mindful of the time; breaking only after Lap 6 for a 30-minute lunch. When it is done we toast the finishers and retell stories of the day. We hug riders who were strangers to us that morning. We thank those that rode beside us for sharing this day. We swear this is the last time. That we will never do this again.