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Vote of the week: What is your favorite roller coaster element?

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Published: September 12, 2008 at 11:46 AM

Yeah, I know the site's name is Theme Park Insider, and we talk about a wide variety of topics here, from dark rides to live shows, and table service restaurants to readers' favorite junk food. But this week, I'm saying to heck with the theme stuff and turning the vote over to our hard-core roller coaster fans.

So what is your favorite roller coaster element? Sure, some chickens shut their eyes as soon as the brakes release in the station and can't tell one element from the rest. These are the folks who think that "Cobra Rolls" are a type of sushi.

This week's vote, alas, is not for them. It's for you readers, with better inner ear function than mine, who treasure every moment, every twist and every element on a roller coaster's track. Pick your favorite, from the classes of elements below, and tell us why you picked what you did, in the comments.

Here are the options, with short, simplistic explanations for those who want them. Note that I've combined several similar elements into single options. Some are the result of different manufacturers using different names for what are essentially the same thing, others are combined because the elements are similar enough that I felt like I would be splitting hairs keeping them separate.

  • Batwing/Boomerang/Cobra Roll - A double inversion, with one facing the other, returning you in the direction from where you came.
  • Corkscrew/Heartline Roll - Any twisting inversion around an imaginary axis. The broader ones are corkscrews, the really narrow ones heartline rolls.
  • Drops - Straight-ahead, high-speed drops down a hill. No inversions or twists involved.
  • Dive Loop/Immelmann - Half a vertical loop leading into, or out of, a twisting curve.
  • Helix - A turn of more than 360 degrees, usually in a horizontal plane.
  • High-Speed Launch - In lieu of a traditional lift chain, the use of a magnetic or hydraulic to propel a coaster instantly from a standing start to full speed.
  • Interlocking Corkscrews - Two corkscrew elements, with one going through the other's axis.
  • Interlocking Loops - Two vertical loops, with one going through the middle of the other.
  • Spinning Cars/Seats - Adds additional motion beyond just riding along the roller coaster track.
  • Top Hat - You launch up, crest a narrow hill, then drop back down. A la Top Thrill Dragster.
  • Traditional Vertical Loop - Just what the names says. The train flips through a straight-ahead, upside-down loop.

  • Readers' Opinions

    From Justin Spisto on September 12, 2008 at 12:09 PM
    I love the feeling of drops, especially on hyper coasters. My second place vote would go to Zero-G rolls, the feeling of Anti-Gravity is sick!
    From Alan Puscus on September 12, 2008 at 12:24 PM
    Drops without a doubt are what really bring me satisfaction. The bigger and steeper the better.
    I enjoy the rolls and flips alot but I would take
    multiple airtime hills/drops over repeated inversions
    8/10 times. The exceptions being the Hulk's launch/roll/dive first element and X2's first rolling drop/ravenclaw. Simply amazing.
    From Bo Pedersen on September 12, 2008 at 1:25 PM
    I voted drops because its that moment as you are at the peak just before the plummet, that is the helpless can't stop this happening sensation that is so good! :)
    From brian lochridge on September 12, 2008 at 1:35 PM
    Drops? Drops? How you vote Drop as an element? It's not even a true element. It's falling, you can get feeling on any ride. Granted I like the drops I just don't count them as an element.

    I had to go with the Immelmann, nothing gives you the intensity of a vertical loop with that sweet release of airtime at the top. Yeah I know that "sweet release" line was cheesy but that’s how it feels.

    From TH Creative on September 12, 2008 at 1:55 PM
    LAUNCH!

    Waaaaaaaaaaaay back in th early 1970s, then rock 'n' roll journalist Jon Landau wrote a legendary passage: "I have seen the future of rock 'n' roll. And its name is Bruce Springsteen."

    There is a paralell line regarding theme parks/coasters. When Islands of Adventure first opened, Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas wrote: "The beginning of the Incredible Hulk is the best five seconds in theme park history."

    'nuff said.

    From Larry Zimmerman on September 12, 2008 at 2:32 PM
    And they do the Hulkster with *(TIRES)*!!!

    A true LIM or LSM launch is a breathtaking experience that will bring tears to your eyes...just make sure you keep them open, or you might just wind up blowing chunks. All the other elements -- as wonderful as they are -- pale in comparison to blasting from zero to 60 or so in just over 2 seconds!

    From Donna Tolliver-Walker on September 12, 2008 at 3:18 PM
    Great poll!

    Had to think about this ... started to put cobra roll first, then thought about Immelmanns, but really the drop is what does it the most for me.

    So, drop first. Then, Immelmann, then cobra roll.

    From Raul Araoz on September 12, 2008 at 3:37 PM
    The first time I went on the Rock n Roller Coaster and experienced the launch, I knew I was riding the future of coasters. The fact that the rest of the coaster fails to fully live up to the launch says miles about the excitement of a great launch.
    From Mark Hollamon on September 12, 2008 at 4:03 PM
    It's kind of funny, I really love all aspects and features of coasters, but my two favorites deal with the first rush you get whether it be by "Super" launch or the first big drop. I think that most features after those just try to catch up to the initial rush.
    From Jeff Nielson on September 12, 2008 at 4:09 PM
    Wow! I said drops too! I love drops for the same reasons as the others on here. Another favorite is Magnetic Launch, especially California Screamin!

    But here is one that is not on the list...

    The entrance Tunnel of the historic Giant Dipper on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk has to be the most amazing element of any old Roller Coaster anywhere. Gravity takes you into the Tunnel. Immediately you curve down into it, and then it totally surprises you by being so long and dark and cool. The smell inside the Tunnel is wonderful and unforgettable, brings back many super happy childhood memories.

    From Tim Biltcliff on September 12, 2008 at 5:21 PM
    I love the Immelmanns. From this way to that way, all at great speed, It's my favorite.
    From Michael Smith on September 12, 2008 at 5:27 PM
    I like airtime hills the best, so I chose drops.

    I don't like fast launches for most coasters. I'd rather have a slow, creepy, anticipation-building climb where I can enjoy the view.

    I can't stand a helix, it makes me sick. (It's why I never ride Expedetion Everest despite the amazing theming.)

    From James Rao on September 12, 2008 at 7:08 PM
    I gotta go with loops. There is nothing quite like the sudden rush as you enter the loop, then the intense push as you leave. It is too bad standard vertical loops seem to be going the way of the dodo.
    From Derek Potter on September 12, 2008 at 9:36 PM
    "The beginning of Hulk is the best 5 seconds in theme park history"

    Until Top Thrill Dragster opened.

    I voted for drops, although I do like the launch and the giant B&M vertical loops that offer hangtime.

    From Tim W on September 13, 2008 at 6:45 AM
    drops by far....are the best!
    From Lynn Wilfong on September 14, 2008 at 6:18 AM
    Didn't even have to think about it. DROPS! Nothing else that's out there gives me that total rush like a drop. From the anticipation of it during the climb, and then that evil hesitation that many of the new rides have right before your heart goes straight to the top of your throat. That split second when you question the safety of your belt/harness. Till you come out of it and head to the next treat, and know you're going to live. Yea,,,,baby.
    From Anthony Murphy on September 14, 2008 at 8:44 AM
    I would go for a good ol drop too!

    Nothing beats the first drop of Raging Bull. Excellent

    From Joshua Counsil on September 14, 2008 at 6:46 PM
    Loops just don't give me the gut-in-the-throat feeling that drops do.

    I'm surprised you didn't include the lift hill - it builds anticipation and allows for nice views.

    From rick stevens on September 14, 2008 at 10:13 PM
    I had to go with drops. It is even better if there are long trains and you are in the front car. As you crest the hill you get to look down just before you drop. The end cars holding you up and giving you the anticipitory adrenaline rush.
    From LJ Warner on September 15, 2008 at 11:09 AM
    I had to go with the DROP, the look of terror in my husband's face as we crest over a lift and hang there waiting for the last chain dog to disengage is priceless. I humor him with a 2nd ride so he can go in his perfered spot - the last coach- I'm a front seat rider, I want to see whats next.
    From Andy Guinigundo on September 15, 2008 at 11:42 AM
    Can anything top the traditional first-hill and drop? The clickety-clack of the chain, the anticipation! I like the front seat where you seem to hang there for a few seconds until the rest of the train completes the climb - then WOOSH!
    From Jason Williams on September 15, 2008 at 2:35 PM
    I do not see how a drop is an option. Considering this is a vote for roller coaster elements, a drop should not be included. You can experience a drop on a drop tower or a log flume at that. With that said, I had to go with an immelman. A launch is a close second.
    From Russell Meyer on September 15, 2008 at 5:02 PM
    Batwing!!! There are only technically two on the planet (Top Gun--oops Flight Deck at Carrowinds and Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa), and both are incredibly intense inversions.

    The Pretzel Loop is a close second, and also very intense.

    From James Rao on September 15, 2008 at 5:23 PM
    Russell, my very own home park, Worlds of Fun (KC, MO), had the first ever batwing loop. It was on a coaster called the Orient Express. It was an awesome coaster. Big first drop, nice speed, interlocking vertical loops (like Loch Ness Monster), and a batwing. I freaking loved that one of a kind coaster.

    Of course when Cedar Fair bought the park they tore the ride down...I still hold a grudge.

    From Eli Katzman on September 15, 2008 at 5:40 PM
    No matter how much I love inversions, I gotta go with drops. On boost coasters, drops are worthless (especially without a top hat), but with a lift hill, it's amazing! The only awesome drop that I've been on a boost coaster (not the first one) is Stormrunner's Flying Snake Dive... "Pure Bliss".

    My favorite type of inversion is immelman. I love it because of Alpengeist and Griffon. Two favorite inversions for me, no matter what...

    James... Orient Express or Patriot...?

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