The End of the Record Breaking Roller Coaster Era

Best Of Coasterology Editorials and Rants

Have We Seen the Last of the True Record Breaking Roller Coasters?
The recent announcement that Ferrari Experience’s F1 Coaster will be capable of 150 mph had me thinking. While this would be a record setting roller coaster, officials from the park said that they might actually operate it at lower speeds. This begs the question: Are we reaching the limits of roller coaster thrills? As part of a series of posts over the next week, dubbed “Record Breaking Roller Coasters Week”, I want to examine the record breaking coaster era and its possible demise. The human body can only take so many g-forces before a ride becomes uncomfortable or dangerous. Are we near that ceiling? Ferrari Experience’s reining in of the F1 Coaster could point to the end of an era.

The Roller Coasters with the Most Loops
The past four decades have produced a steady increase in technological advances and thrilling breakthroughs. In the 70’s it was the corkscrew and then the vertical loop. Then in the 80’s there was a race for the roller coaster Vortex at Kings Islandwith themost loops and a few new loops appeared. In my travels, I’ve been able to ride three former record holders for most loops: Corkscrew at Cedar Point (3), Carolina Cyclone at Carowinds (4), Viper at Darien Lake (5), and Vortex at Kings Island (6). The most loops title faded in importance as a ceiling was hit at seven loops for years. Bolliger & Mabillard’s Dragon Khan claimed the crown with eight loops for a while and finally in 2002 Intamin likely ended the race for good with Colossus. The Thorpe Park coaster and its clone in China share the record for most loops at ten. But really, the looping record race took a back seat to the height and speed chase in the 90’s.

The Tallest & Fastest Roller Coasters
Cedar Point’s Magnum XL-200 set off what has been affectionately known as the Coaster Arms Race for the tallest roller coaster in the World. As height became the most prestigious record to hold, speed came with it until the invention of LSMs (Linear Synchronous Motors). They helped Superman The Escape at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Tower of Terror at Dreamland tie for a new 100mph speed record. Other launch technologies emerged and finally in 2005 our current speed and height record champ, Six Flags Great Adventure’s Kingda Ka, set the bar at 128 mph and 456′ for speed and height respectively. Ring Racer opened briefly this year and will re-open next year likely breaking Kingda Ka’s record only to be surpassed by the F1 Coaster.

The Steepest Roller Coasters: The Final Frontier?
World's Steepest Coaster - Mumbo Jumbo at Flamingoland (UK)For a while it looked like steepness might be the final frontier. Touting an unimaginably steep drop was cool for a few years. Busch Gardens Tampa brought the first B&M dive machine, SheiKra, to our shores and with it a 90-degree drop. While the concept was neat, I was underwhelmed by the actual drop. Today, 90-degree drops are so 4 years ago. Dollywood’s Mystery Mine, Hersheypark’s Fahrenheit,  and several other coasters in other countries have surpassed that level of steepness. Then, last year’s Steel Hawg and this year’s Mumbo Jumbo in Flamingoland went even a step further with 111 and 112-degree drops. Can these drops really be pushed much further?

What’s Next?
So what will the next record setting trend be? Aside from loops, height, and speed, the only other technological advancement to speak of would be that of the 4th dimension roller coasters. There are only a few in the World, but a ride like Magic Mountain’s X2 is worthy of the label of ground-breaking thrill ride. On the other hand, it doesn’t attain an easily marketable title. It’s an insane ride and offers some unprecedented rider positions, but X2 doesn’t really lend itself to any superlatives like tallest, fastest, or longest.

I’m more of a fan of roller coasters that don’t boast the staggering stats or most superlatives, but do deliver the goods. And by that I mean airtime, speed, surprises, and just a great overall package. So, if the record-breakers are dying off, I wouldn’t be too upset.

What’s Your Take?
Are we near the end of the record-breaking era or do you think technology will push the envelope even further? Leave a comment below. Image 1 courtesy of CoasterImage. Image 2 courtesy of the Sun.

58 Comments

  1. opps, sorry, the supports are wood, and in the picture i saw it definitley looked like a woddie, it didn`t say, so i just thought… anyway, TRRW, anyone can post on wikepedia as well, and everyone uses it. just look at CC`s comment above.

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  2. rcdb is where its at……just saying best place to go….i would never use about or wiki…..cause that is how some misinformation gets out……i hadnt seen pictures so i dont know anything about coasters across the sea, but listen to all of the above. They all know what they talking about…..they are good ppl….i feel pretty knowledgeable having 101 credits ( i dunno how much that qualifies any of my opinions to you), but have fun searching coasters more. We all can always learn something new!

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  3. DOD3, what is it whith the "Domain of Death" thing, i don`t get it.

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  4. ^ Long story short: It used to be a heavy metal/random topics site with thrill ride stuff on the side. Eventually I axed the music content and kept the name.

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  5. Thanks, just wondering.

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  6. In a way the era is coming to a end but there is still stuff left that could be brought farther…. But i think the speed and drop steepness records will soon be unbreakable

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  7. I think the next era is going to be the new type of roller coaster era.

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  8. Didn`t CC mention 4Dimesionals?

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  9. My idea is for the coaster with the longest underground section. Another idea of mine is pretty far off, but how about creating a new material that is strong enough for a roller coaster to be built and used. With wood, only Son of Beast had a loop, and it went kaput a few years back. With steel, the options simply seem to be running out. But if a new material is used to build roller coasters, just think of what we could do…

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  10. And a new type of train! If only someone could make a very flaxable one for extreme G's.

    P.S. More flexible than the X-car

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    • errr… blackout.

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  11. Record-breaking is not done. It's just taking a break. Ride advancements will allow us to have a cobra roll on a woodie someday! Records are made to be broken. Speed can be attained by protecting riders fro oncoming wind as is done with cars and planes. Height can be solved with better supports. Son of Beast was built by a company with little hyper-coaster knowledge. Intamin could easily rebuild it, and keep the loop. some years ago, people couldn't think 70 degree banking on a woodie would work. Now we have them banked up to 90+!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    • agrred, records: made to be beaten.

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  12. Do you guys think that the pretzel loops on B&M flyers could count as 360 degree drops?

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    • they dont qualify as drops. drops have to be under 180 degrees, otherwise itr`s a loop.

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  13. The next generation will be 4D roller coasters with robot arms (e.g. Harry Potty Enchanted Castle at Islands of Adventure) but intead of a dark ride, the robot arms will be used for roller coaster trains!

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    • Oh dear….. I smell Rollercoaster tycoon 3

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  14. How can a drop be more than 90 degrees? Isn't 90 degrees straight down?

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    • If a drop goes past 90 degrees, it actualy curves inward. It counts as a drop beccause It dosen't put it's riders completeley upside-down, even though their upsides are technicaly pointing down.

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  15. By the way, you might want to correct one thing in the article.

    Sheikra, was opened in 2005.

    Oblivion, was opened in 1998.

    Which makes Oblivion the first ever diving coaster

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    • I said the first dive machine "to our shores". By that I meant SheiKra was the first dive machine in the U.S.

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    • Also, Oblivion was only 87 or 88 degrees.

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      • "Diving Coaster" is the name of the model line. It doesn't matter how steep the drop was, Oblivion was still the first coaster of the model line that they made.

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  16. Although coasters maybe reaching the limits with their tracks, the trains may not have, other types of seats could be made meaning that the coasters can be a simple track design but still be thrilling because of the train design. Or trains that have already been designed could be made to fit other tracks such as; stand up suspended coasters, lay down/ flying trains on a launch coaster such as ALton Towers Rita or they could be fitted to coasters such as Stealth at Thorpe Park or Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point.

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  17. Roller coasters can get arbitrarily big without killing people with g-forces. It's just a matter of scaling up the curves and inversions proportionally with the drops.

    The acceleration on a curve is the square of speed divided by the radius of curvature. Since the square of speed is proportional to the kinetic energy of the train, it's proportional to the height of the lift hill (if there is one). Make the turns gentler by scaling up the radius of curvature to the same degree, and the acceleration stays the same; and the jerk–the time derivative of acceleration–actually goes down.

    So while there may well be limits to the size of a roller coaster, the acceleration the human body can stand isn't one.

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    • I wrote that comment a couple of years ago, and later realized I was missing something: the time element. Scaling up a coaster in every dimension doesn’t increase the g-forces, but it does increase the amount of time you spend in each element, roughly as the square root of the scale factor. And the effect of high accelerations on the body increases with the amount of time you spend experiencing them.

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  18. Vortex gives me good memories of one of my first roller coasters

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  19. I've always wondered this myself. Coasters sadly have to reach that limit when it comes to being a record breaker or just a marketing campaign at that. I think we have (in a specific way) reached the end of the coaster wars era.

    We've already hit the records for "fastest", "quickest launch", "tallest", and so forth. I only assume that, if some parks were desperate, we can stretch the boundaries of "most inversions" and/or "longest coaster" at this point.

    This is off tangent, but I think parks would be more successful in creating good coasters if they focus JUST on the ride layout instead, say like X2, Space mountain at Disneyland, Phoenix, Giant Dipper, and Megalites.

    None of them are the tallest, fastest, or longest. But what makes them popular and well loved all around is the fact that they keep providing good thrills in different ways without the use of speed/length/height. If more parks wanted to market what is believed to be the best ride ever, I just think they should focus on creating a good ride layout that people will always say is fun.

    that's just my opinion all the way

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  20. I think that now, either tallest loop, most inversions, or some like new form of record. Gatekeeper recently broke the tallest loop that stood since about 2000 with volcano and the smiler broke the loops. I bet you that most airtime will be another new craze. Unless someone makes a “terra” coaster.

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