Is It A Coaster? (part 1)

Just cuz it's got wheels, doesn't make it a roller coaster.

Editorials and Rants Geek Speak

This is the first in a series of posts that will focus on what it truly means to be considered a “roller coaster”. Over the next several posts, I’ll analyze rides like Zamperla’s Disk-O, Intamin’s Half Pipe, and a few others (such as those powered rides built in-house).

1st stop: Larson Loops. Hang on folks, it’s gonna be a bumpy (and slightly nauseating) ride.

I was recently interviewed by CNN Travel regarding the new attraction at Six Flags Great America, my hometown park.

Indeed, I felt compelled to tell the writer that ‘Mardi Gras Hangover’ is most certainly not a roller coaster. I’ve ridden several identical rides at Six Flags Over Georgia (Joker Chaos Coaster) and dozens of cycles on the Ring of Fire on the carnival circuit at traveling fairs.

I scoffed at Great America’s claim that this is their 16th roller coaster — which is doubly misleading, in that they inexplicably counted the wooden racer American Eagle twice — and went so far as to seek clarification from a woman in their PR department.

Regardless of how they want to promote it, their coaster count remains at 14. Not 15, or 16, but fourteen. This agrees with RCDB’s tally at Chicago’s Six Flags.

Most of the interview questions centered around what makes this ride unique, and I mentioned that there’s faceoff seating, in addition to inverted hang time at the loop’s peak. Other than that, it’s nothing more than a standard flat ride (and an unimaginative one at that).

I felt better knowing that another theme park expert, Arthur Levine of About.com, agrees with me wholeheartedly. Larson Loops are powered by motorized tires, not by gravity. There’s no lift hill and no launch, and the whole ride takes place in a single plane. The only motion is a repeated back-and-forth, not unlike the popular swinging “pirate” ships.

So…….is it a coaster? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and stay tuned for part 2!

I've ridden 200+ coasters in my lifetime, including those at 8 different Six Flags parks and 7 different Cedar Fair properties. I'm a huge fan of airtime on old wooden behemoths, while dark ride shooters and drop towers are also personal favorites. The Voyage is the best coaster I've ever ridden!

7 Comments

  1. Definitely not a coaster. It doesn’t coast and is in contact with a drive chain. When El Diablo, another Larson Giant Loop, opened at my home park, it was promoted the same way. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if every ride that involves a vehicle of this type moving on a track gets promoted as a coaster.

    Reply
  2. Well to quote Scotty, “Aye, and if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon er coaster.”

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  3. I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of argument on this one, Eric. Larson Loops ain’t coasters.

    If El Diablo is any indication, they’ll describe it as a coaster in their marketing when it’s brand new, especially if it’s the only new ride that year. It’ll stay described as a coaster on the web site. But when you see a photo or video montage of all the coasters at the park, it won’t be there.

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  4. Agreed. Not a roller coaster. To perhaps offer another side to the issue, here are my thoughts.

    Marketing puffery and hype are nothing new in the amusement industry. Even a mis-categorization doesn’t really surprise me especially when the general pubic won’t know the difference. I’m not saying I’d do it if I was running a park, but many parks use any distinction they can to promote their rides.

    As far as counting American Eagle twice, I’d be interested in hearing everyone’s thoughts on that. I don’t see an issue with that given that when enthusiast calculate coaster count, we generally count each side. Technically a ride like that is composed of two individual roller coasters.

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    • I agree most racers should count as two. I’m curious how would you count the mobious type like Racer at Kennywood?

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      • Good question Dru. I had that question in my head as I wrote that comment. I would think that they’d count as 1 roller coaster, because it’s only 1 track. But I guess I’d follow what the Coaster Count sites do. Anyone know off-hand?

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        • Coaster count lists them separately. Under lift hills left and right. I think it’s correct to list them separately. I missed out on the left side on my trip to Kennywood so what would I have had on my list… a half of a credit that would be silly.
          Joel I am so glad you managed to keep this site going! Thanks very much as always.

          Reply

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