What Is the Best Part of a Roller Coaster?

October 17, 2020, 7:05 PM · Okay, roller coaster fans — what makes a new or classic coaster a "must ride" for you?

Do you look for height, speed, Gs, or something else? Obviously, it's the sum of the experience that makes certain coasters special, but I also suspect that most coaster fans have a weak spot for a particular attribute.

For me, it's probably speed. Give me a sweeping curve at maximum velocity, just a few feet off the ground so I can really sense that quickness. Those are the rides I'm a sucker for. Yes, I appreciate air time or the view from the top of a lift hill, but I'm a racer at heart and love speed most of all.

That's not for everyone, of course. So people crave that visual from the top of the park. Others live for the airtime — the negative G "pops" that get them out of their seats. A few masochists among us probably even love the positive Gs that drive them back in their seats to the point of lost consciousness. (Okay, did I just reveal my least favorite coaster attribute? Yeah, I did.)

And while I love speed on a coaster, I'm not always a fan of acceleration. Launch coasters can be exhilarating, but they are pretty much the only coasters that make me nervous anymore. I always end up loving the speed at the far end of the launch, but the moments just before leave me feeling dread.

My explanation? It's the lack of control over the launch. On a traditional lift hill, my body "does the math," if you will, and figures out what to expect from the track ahead, based on the height and angle of the track. But a launch is much more of a mystery.

That is what makes it so enticing for some riders, though. (I suspect that there's probably a strong correlation between loving launches and loving riding coasters backward.)

But forget about me — what's your favorite roller coaster attribute? Let's put that to a vote.

In the comments, please tell us your favorite examples of your favorite roller coaster attribute.

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Replies (15)

October 17, 2020 at 7:25 PM

I’m gonna sound like a total kid here, but it’s the happy feeling in my tummy — when the bottom falls out on a steep downhill or a backwards run. I love coasters, but it probably says something about my true thrill level when I admit that my current favorites are Everest, Hagrid’s, Kumba, Montu and Cheetah Hunt. I don’t have any experience with the true steel monsters that a lot of folks reference on this site ... though I’d like to. I’m REALLY looking forward to VelociCoaster, as I get think it will merge my love of theming with a truly great exciting coaster experience.

October 17, 2020 at 7:46 PM

For me it is the speed! Sadly at age 46 my head can't really take much more and loops seems to give me vertigo a few days later.

Robert what ever happen writting that tips article how to ride coasters after 45 years old?

October 17, 2020 at 8:46 PM

Speed although like Madvaz, I'm getting older so can't enjoy it as I used to.

I guess I prefer the slow build as well. A launch coast like Rock n Roller or such is good but that anticipation on the first long climb (think Great American Eagle or The Beast) makes that first huge drop more fun.

October 18, 2020 at 1:59 AM

The best part is when you don’t get stapled and then get thrown out of your seat multiple times. As much fun as positive G’s are, there’s just something special about feeling like you’re about to be ejected from your seat.

October 18, 2020 at 5:39 AM

As somebody who now suffers increasingly from motion sickness my favourite part falls into two distinct categories - 1. the end 2. 30-60 minutes later when I can walk in a straight line.

October 18, 2020 at 6:36 AM

For me it's 'none of the above'. What makes a good coaster for me is the 'flow'.

Coasters are like an act of theatre, or at least they should be. There should be a sense of progression that feels natural and right, but includes some elements of surprise. Good landscaping and theming can massively enhance that flow, that narrative, so I had to go with 'visuals' as it's kind of the closest to how I feel. I hate the coasters that are just a series of elements strung together. Give me a sense of performance, of something designed with a beginning, a middle and an end, and that climaxes several times like a good film or stage play or musical and I'm happy.

October 18, 2020 at 7:43 AM

I don't care for a one trick pony. The best rollercoaster is as exciting when it launces or drop all the way to the end. That said I'm not a fan of positive G's but I love negative G's.

October 18, 2020 at 2:00 PM

Surprised inversions wasn't an option. Wouldn't have gotten my vote, but, still.

I voted airtime, something I've come to appreciate more and more. The negative Gs on the second inversion of Goliath at 6 Flags Gt America, or Joker at Discovery Kingdom is sublime But perhaps the most important thing to me is the flow of a coaster. I don't like slowing, and while the existence of a single break run is something I can grudgingly accept, more than one (Rip Ride Rockit) or a train that doesn't maintain a consistent speed (Revolution, original Colossus) are big negatives for me.

I've also come to appreciate a coaster who's design succeeds om every level for that type of coaster. Stand ups aren't my favorite type of coaster, but I love Riddler's Revenge because it is a near perfectly designed stand up. The Giant Dipper is interesting because it is 96 years old, but it is a great coaster because it is executed nearly flawlessly, with pencil and slide rules in 58 days no less.

Damn, but I miss roller coasters; IOA in 6 weeks!

October 18, 2020 at 2:02 PM

It’s all about airtime, baby!

October 18, 2020 at 2:45 PM

For a single element, it's hard to beat a good launch to get the adrenaline flowing. This is especially true with the hydraulic launchers like Xcelerator or Top Thrill Dragster, where you fully feel the force of being pulled down the track at high speed. Regardless of what comes after, any ride with a strong launch ranks highly in my book. Also, as for Robert's correlation, I dislike shuttle coasters and get extremely nauseous on extended backwards sections, so at least in my case that's not true.

For overall ride quality, however, my favorite coasters are those with a strong dose of airtime. This does not mean the ride is constantly attempting to buck you from the train, smashing your legs into the lapbar over and over. Instead, I enjoy rides with long sustained moments of airtime, such as those produced on hyper coasters. Rides like El Toro, SFNE's Superman, and many of the B&M hypers/gigas rank highly for me for this reason.

Of those listed, the one that affects my opinion of the ride the least is the visuals. Yes, they can enhance a ride (especially for family coasters and sufficiently tall coasters), but once the coaster gets going I tend to pay far more attention to what is going on than what is nearby.

October 19, 2020 at 9:16 AM

No exit through retail as an option?

October 19, 2020 at 10:17 AM

Hard to say One thing over another..

But I really enjoy the Theming lately. Like Hulk, Montu, Everest and Hagrid's motorbike, all great rides plus the Theming\Story...

And Don't forget Sounds can really help enhance the coaster. Just stand under Hulk, listen to the Roar of the coaster along with the Hulk Grunt....

October 19, 2020 at 12:00 PM

For me, a coaster is all about pacing. I've ridden hundreds of coasters around the world, and the ones that always stand out to me have a combination of great elements that are well paced throughout the ride.

October 19, 2020 at 4:11 PM

Ejector airtime - most notably on El Toro - is probably what I enjoy the most but there are so many different things I like about coasters that it's difficult to pinpoint one element or one specific type of coaster. Intensity is one quality which draws me to certain coasters, a prime example being Intimidator 305. Another consideration is novelty, the consummate example being Time Traveler. But heck, even small spinning coasters such as Spinball Whizzer, Pandemonium and Cobra's Curse can be a lot of fun. And really, isn't that the point? Even if your preference is for high thrill rides - and I do tend to lean in that direction - why ride them if you're not having fun?

October 19, 2020 at 5:57 PM

Airtime - both floater and ejector - will always be the number one thing I enjoy, but for me every great coaster needs diversity. In addition to airtime, throw in some laterals, a great inversion or two, maybe a positive G moment, and then you have a complete ride. Theming, or at minimum nice presentation, also is quite important, as it sets the tone, gives you the feel of a story or adventure you’re on, and makes everything feel coherent and like it’s supposed to be there

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