Dear Coaster Friends,
As most of us are dealing with cold weather, and waiting for the thaw of spring I have been thinking about what might be on the horizon for next season and I started looking for what new rides I will possibly experience for the first time. When I say new I don’t necessarily mean new for 2019, but new for me. If you are thinking of ride type or category you might first let your mind wander to B&M. This manufacturer has made a name for itself with that familiar box beam spine on their tracks, but perhaps they are best known for their variety of chassis designs that change the riders’ position and experience.
B&M is often credited for their innovation by shifting the paradigm that a roller coaster train is meant to be sat in, as it had been for over a hundred years. They created stand-ups, inverts, and flyers that change the riders, position. They also created floorless trains, dive coasters, and wing riders that allow the designers to change the riders’ interaction with the track itself. With all of these innovations they are often criticised for being too formulaic, sticking to a script and just providing a very similar experience over and over again in a different location. I hear from enthusiasts that they want B&M to take chances and break the mold. Enthusiasts crave new experiences and say they want B&M to design layouts with more variety for their respective types. I do think that B&M has done just that in the past and as a result has been giving the people what they want, even if it isn’t what they are asking for.
My favorite type of B&M coaster is the invert, and one of them sticks out to me as different Great Bear at Hersheypark. Great Bear rides different from the other inverts I have experienced and it is a fun one too. However I have never heard anyone say it is their favorite, and it often gets lost in the discussion since it does have some major differences. The most obvious and visible difference is the first drop. The drop on most inverts is steep and banked hard to the right or left. This banking adds positive G’s and changes the direction, while keeping the track out of view for the passengers. Great Bear has a helix at the top of the lift that pops you out of your seat, and gives a brief panoramic view before dropping into a fairly straightforward drawn out descent. The inversions on Great Bear are more graceful, especially the Zero-G Roll, where the common sensations on the other inverts is intense positive G’s. Great Bear has a soaring sensation with moments of floating out of the inversions, while other inverts really pin you down.
Our next example is Raging Bull at Six Flags Great America, B&M’s twister style hypercoaster. Hypercoasters are large investments at a park both in real estate and cost. Six Flags Great America created something different from the norm, but they weren’t rewarded with praise from the community. Raging Bull is often called by enthusiasts, their least favorite B&M hyper. This is funny to me since Intimidator, Behemoth, Nitro, Goliath (no the other Goliath), and of course Goliath are often praised for their airtime and experience, but criticized for being rehashed versions of the same thing. Raging Bull changes the dynamic of a hyper being an out and back and creates a twister layout that can only be found in Chicago.
The floorless coasters offer a bit more variety, but again one stands out for being more different. Hydra the Revenge at Dorney Park suffers the same fate as its neighbor Great Bear. It rides with a different feel, has unique elements, and interacts with the terrain while most are built on flat ground. Hydra has the JoJo Roll out of the station, and that is usually where the conversation ends. Hydra does have another very rare element the inclined dive loop, and some odd pairings as well. Hydra has a Zero-G Roll that goes right into a Corkscrew in the opposite direction. The B&M formula typically calls for a layout with two Corkscrews to be back to back or interlocking, but on Hydra the two corkscrews are very separate and stand apart from each other. While I feel there is less consensus on the which floorless is best, I feel most people feel that Hydra is not in the conversation.
Next year we will see if Yukon Striker suffers the same fate as it does look to be the most different dive coaster that B&M has built yet. Will it be touted as the best of its type, or will people prefer Griffin & SheiKra? I don’t want to hate on B&M or the roller coaster enthusiast community. I just want to take a step back and think about what we ask for and how we react when we get it. Maybe the old saying,”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the best business strategy. I don’t think it should be though, because when engineers try something new it is a risk. I don’t mean it is a risk as in danger, but they are taking a chance on how people will react to it. I personally want to see fun rides, if the new yet to be named Hersheypark hypercoaster offers the same ride experience as their others I think that is great, because B&M hypers are really fun. If B&M wants to try something new and stray from their formula I think that is great too because I want to see innovation. I know everyone’s opinion is going to be different, everyone reacts differently to different rides, and for different reasons. However I want to end with consensus, Rougarou is the best stand-up coaster.