Standing on a grassy knoll high above the sea, you pull on your biking gloves. Next to you, Sidney checks his full-face helmet. Your breath is a misty cloud in the crisp morning air. Tracey zips her jacket shut over her body armor – she’s got all the latest mountain biking gear.
Fastening her racing goggles, and tightening her helmet, Tracey calls, “My lid’s good. Ready when you are.”
Sidney glances at the trail leading down into the trees and bites his lip. Aside from your helmets and gloves, you and Sidney only have shin guards.
He’s not the only one who’s nervous. Breakfast is dancing in your stomach as if it knows you’re about to enter Mystic Portal. The entrance to the track is a dark gaping hole in the pine forest. Toadstools stand guard on either side of a thin dirt trail heading downwards through the trees. At the bottom of the track is a sandy beach. Expert riders usually make it to the beach by lunchtime. It’s not the entrance or the beach you’re worried about, just all the tough obstacles in between.
You’ve all been training for months for this downhill ride. The three of you met at Tracey’s house yesterday to tune your bikes. You all adjusted your shocks, bled your brakes, lubricated your chains and pumped your tires.
“I can hardly believe we’re finally doing this,” Tracey murmurs with a smile. “I’m glad we’ve already walked the trail a few times, so we know it.”
“Me too.” Sidney is nibbling his lip again.
Nudging him, you ask, “Still want to go?” Hopefully he’ll back out, so you can keep him company.
Tracey rolls her eyes. “Not so fast, guys. You’re not chicken, are you? We planned this. You can’t go home now.”
She’s onto you. Just your luck.
Sidney’s eyes flick back to the track. “Jase said weird things happen when you go down Mystic Portal.”
“But it was fine when we walked it,” says Tracey.
“Things that don’t happen when you walk down,” says Sidney, “only when you bike. You guys sure you want to go?”
“Jase says new jumps appear overnight.” You fight to keep your voice steady.
“Yeah,” says Sidney, “and other jumps vanish.”
Tracey smiles at Sidney. “Okay, I’m nervous too, but if you want to take my bike, I’ll go on your hard-tail.”
Tracey has a top-of-the-range mountain bike, a downhill racing dualie, with the latest greatest shock absorbers on the front and rear suspension.
Sidney’s hard-tail is a cheap mountain bike with no back suspension, so he hits the ground hard when he lands. Yours is a dirt jump bike without gears – even simpler than Sidney’s. You’ve both had a turn on Tracey’s new bike. It feels like you’re landing on a giant marshmallow.
But neither of you can afford a bike like hers.
Sidney’s eyes linger on Tracey’s bike as he considers her offer. “Nah, I’m fine,” he says, toughing it out.
“We can always use the chicken lines,” you say. “We don’t have to do every jump.”
“Let’s go,” says Sidney, jutting out his jaw. He doesn’t want to be the one to chicken out.
You know how he feels.
You get on your bikes.
Tracey zooms down the track, chewing up the dirt with her tires. Sidney’s close behind, crunching over broken twigs and pine needles. Hard on his tail, you go over a tiny rise in the track and pull your handlebars upwards, lifting your bike off the ground.
“Hey you guys, I got some air.” You yell, landing with a smack.
“First jump is Camel Hump,” Tracey yells as she goes past a makeshift sign with a badly painted camel on it.
Who built these cool jumps?” asks Sidney.
“No idea,” she calls. “They say it’s a mystery.”
Tracy takes a corner tightly, stomping her foot on the ground. Sidney sticks to the middle of the trail, nice and safe, cruising around the corner. You rush at the corner, going high on the berm, then speed down the bank, back onto the track.
Ahead, the track splits in two.
“I’m taking Camel Hump,” calls Tracey. “You coming or are you going to play chicken, Sidney?”
“I want to get to Ogre Jaws. The faster the better,” calls Sidney. “That’s the coolest jump ever.”
You have to agree with him. Ogre Jaws is a great jump – it even has teeth. You can’t wait to try it.
He crows like a rooster, then veers off to the left, bypassing the jump and going down the easier trail. He disappears into the trees, clucking like a chicken.
Tracey swoops up the steep reddish rise of Camel Hump. “Coming?” she calls. Her bike flies into the air, then disappears.
No, that can’t be right. She can’t have disappeared. She must’ve landed beyond your line of sight. Either that, or you’ve gone crazy.
Your spine prickles. Or has she really vanished? Weird things happen on this track.
You’re nearing the fork in the trail. To your right is Camel Hump. To your left is the way out – the chicken line, which leads to Dino Drop and Ogre Jaws.
It’s time to make a decision. Do you:
Hit Camel Hump?
Bypass Camel Hump and go down the chicken line?