The 16th of August marks National Roller Coaster day! The holiday every roller coaster enthusiast is looking forward to. Let this day be filled with great roller coasters! And this date seemed right for us to talk about some of the weirdest roller coasters out there, roller coasters that maybe aren’t even roller coasters…
First of all, let’s look at the definition of the term ‘roller coaster’ in the Oxford dictionary:
A fairground attraction that consists of a light railway track which has many tight turns and steep slopes on which people ride in small, fast open carriages.
That does seem about right… until you realize some clear roller coasters doesn’t fit this definition and other more vague roller coasters does. Let’s take Schwarzkopf’s shuttle loop coaster for example. It goes up and down, has a looping but not tight turns. And what about gravity? Isn’t that an important factor of how roller coasters work?! Clearly there’s a lot to say about how to define a roller coaster and those who punctually keep their coaster counter know that defining a roller coaster is far from black and white. In the following list we present some of the weirdest roller coasters, who maybe aren’t roller coaster but definitely belong in the gray area of defining a roller coaster.
Also known as ‘luge on a steel track’. This type can be found almost completely in mountainous areas. Typically the alpine coaster lift takes you up the hill and then slides down the hillside. It’s a type of ride that theme parks rarely have in their catalog. Mostly smaller parks in a hill area opt to build one of these rides. Exception is Bellewaerde (Belgium) which has a dueling alpine coaster built on supports since the park is completely flat. But is this a roller coaster?
Of course, it rides on a steel track and it uses gravity to generate speed. It has turns. So why wouldn’t you count this as a clear roller coaster? The biggest issue to that is that the speed is completely controllable by the passenger. The car of an alpine coaster has a brake which each passenger can use differently to have their own preferred ride experience. You can go really slow (and piss those behind you off) or go all the way. Not really a thing that’s common on a typical roller coaster. Weather you count it as a roller coaster or not, alpine coasters can be really fun so we suggest to ride them anyway.
The butterfly has to be one the most discussed type of rides by coaster enthusiasts, if not the most. Many count butterflies as a roller coaster but don’t find it a roller coaster. Others completely ignore them and classify the butterfly as a playground device. For both arguments there’s something to say about. The butterfly is on a piece of steel track and uses gravity. However, it does nothing more than go up and down.
It can be operated by yourself, since there’s no need to have an operator it can be placed on a playground. Technical, it can fit the definition of a roller coaster but the ride experience is far from a roller coaster ride. If you want to do a special butterfly, book a trip to Parque de Atracciones de Zaragoza (Zaragoza, Spain) where you find Ramses. A dueling butterfly XL.
How further we go on this list, how more vague the ‘coasters’ become it seems. Lets take these caterpillar ‘coasters’ for example. If you see one of these it’s pretty normal to ask yourself why it’s counted as a roller coaster. As it seems nothing more than a typical caterpillar fairground ride where you’re doing a circle or oval lay-out in a car. An typical ride you find at many fairgrounds and theme parks. But somehow someone wanted to achieve that ride experience in a different way. Why not using roller coaster track…
But does that make it a roller coaster? Let’s take Jurassic Park from Prague’s Luna Park (Czech Republic) for example. You can see there’s indeed an elevation but the normal caterpillar fairground rides have some elevation too. The ride itself is just one turn and you could say it uses gravity since the cars are being brought up to speed by tires in the station segment. Which is almost half of the ride, the other half it does have rely on gravity to make its circuit. But almost every roller coaster enthusiast will never define this as a clear roller coaster, even if they counted one on their roller coaster counter…
Dark ride on rails
Why is this on the list? It clearly says dark ride… Yes, but some dark rides are on rails and then the discussion can start. Most famous example is Droomvlucht from the Efteling (Netherlands). It takes you to wonderful fairy tale scenes while the car hangs on a rail. Some claim that therefore, Droomvlucht can be defined as a suspended powered coaster. Droomvlucht even goes up slowly to finally go down in a helix. But saying it is a roller coaster goes too far. Yes it’s on rails, but the ride itself isn’t meant to be or be experienced as a roller coaster. Therefore you have to be a huge credit whore to count this kind of rides as a roller coaster.
The Disk’O coaster is one of Zamperla’s best selling products. It’s a big disk where the passengers sit near the edge of it, the disk rotates when going over it’s circuit. That circuit can either be just going up and down or with a hill between the two ends. It is on a rail, however doesn’t use gravity since it’s powered but the manufacturer sells it as a roller coaster. It’s even in the products name. So what’s the problem here?!
It’s the same as the dark ride. The ride experience just isn’t a roller coaster experience but more a flat ride experience. Zamperla calls it a coaster but does that justify it counting as a roller coaster?! In my eyes, no. It could be a smart marketing move to name it a roller coaster, since for parks it’s more interesting to advertise a new roller coaster than a new flat ride, but that doesn’t make it one.
Finally a bit less vague type of ride, however a type of coaster where also discussion about in the community. Powered coasters looks like any other normal clear roller coaster, without a lift or a launch section. That’s because they generate their speed by electricity that runs over the whole circuit. That means they don’t really rely on gravity to ride. That’s the main argument why a powered coaster is not a clear roller coaster, but it is on steel rails and has turns and slopes.
Therefore, the ride experience is pretty close to a clear roller coaster. While coaster counter sites and RDCB have their own classification for powered coaster, don’t feel ashamed to just count a powered coaster as clear roller coaster.
This type of ride recently got popular again since Six Flags opened a bunch of them in their parks. And of course, Six Flags marketed it as new roller coasters. There are probably more directors in the Six Flags board that count it as a roller coaster than roller coaster enthusiasts do. We simply can call this the same trick Zamperla used with their Disk’O coasters, though these superloops doesn’t have the term coaster in their name. Larson, the manufacturer of the superloops Six Flags bought, however describes this type of ride as a roller coaster on their website. A cheap marketing trick not much roller coaster enthusiast will be tricked by.
Also in the gray area: water coasters. This type of vague coaster is however pretty popular and isn’t rare to find. There are however graduations on types of water coasters. Nobody will argue that Europa Park’s Poseidon (Germany) is a clear roller coaster. That one has beside the water part enough turns and slopes to be counted as a clear roller coaster. But what about the supersplash rides Mack also manufacturers?! That type of ride is only going up, going down, airtime hill followed by the water part. No turns or slopes (beside the first drop and airtime hill).
Europa Park’s Atlantica supersplash is counted on RCDB but Plopsaland De Panne’s Supersplash (Belgium) isn’t. Because the last one uses a vertical lift to go up and doesn’t have the backward part Atlantica has between it’s two turntables. If that’s enough to not count it as a roller coaster, does the supersplash type deserve to be counted as a roller coaster?! Or is it just an extended water ride and is that how we have to look at it?!
Is that airtime hill enough to count every supersplash ride as a roller coaster? Because there log flumes out there who also have an airtime hill, on rail or not. Would those count as roller coasters too?! A lot of discussion but on a hot summer day that all doesn’t matter as it will give the proper refreshment its passengers are looking for.
The last one on the list is the zipline coaster, or whatever it’s named. It’s so peculiar that they aren’t mentioned on RCDB, they can be found on coaster-count.com however! Without any proper naming or information who makes this kind of stuff it’s hard to find where on the world you ride this rides. The two examples I know of are located at Parc Saint-Paul (France) and the Kaasboerin (Belgium). It’s like a butterfly but suspended and with a longer lay-out.
Just like the butterfly it uses gravity to generate its speed and is self operable. Which makes it look just like the butterfly more of a playground device than a roller coaster. But hey, it’s on steel track and coaster-count does let you count them! But pretty obvious this isn’t really the stuff roller enthusiasts are dying to ride…
There are some pretty vague roller coasters out there in the world. And weather or not it fits the definition of the term, let that define for yourself. After all, this is something what we roller coasters enthusiasts love to talk and discuss about! And in the first place, just ride them and have fun.