Thursday, 24 September 2015

Riding Battlestar Galactica: CYLON for the very first time!

Brothers and sisters, let me begin by saying that I have never taken any upside down ride before. So, this post can be quite useful for those of you taking upside down roller coasters for the first time. For the rest of you, I will cover in detail the experience of Battlestar Galactica: Cylon, possibly the most intense ride at USS (some people, including at least one RWS staff tell me Human is scarier).

Ride Overview

Brothers and Sisters, those humans call us toasters. They think us to be inferior, just because we are...
You are a Cylon Centurion. As part on an ongoing struggle with the Colonials (read: Humans), you have been tasked to fly a Cylon Raider into war. The Cylon Raider is a 3 seat fighter capable of dogfighting with Colonial fighters like the Viper MkII, and also transporting soldiers from space to the ground. However, RWS decided that we mere humans are much smaller than Centurions, so 16 of us can actually fit into the Cylon Raider.

Yes, for this mission you will upgraded into this hulking, robotic contraption and strap onto the fastest and most heavily armed ship the Cylons have to offer!

Battlestar Galactica: Cylon is an inverted looping roller coaster. Inverted basically means that the seats are under the track instead of above the track. You will go upside down 5 times: A cobra roll (upside down 2 times), Corkscrew, Loop and Zero-G Roll in order. The first drop is over 45 degrees steep and over 10 stories tall (the ride is 14 stories but the drop does not reach ground level).

Starring down from the top of the Cobra Roll!

My Experience

This part is VERY LONG!
Scroll to the next picture if you don't want to read the background story
Scroll down to the next heading if you just want to know about my overall comments about the ride.

Ever since I took my first roller coaster, I have always thought about the next logical step: going for taller, faster and longer rides. Going upside down was not an immediately priority, because most roller coaster fans claim that big drop, big hill type roller coasters like T Express in Korea and Thunder Dolphin in Japan are more enjoyable.

However, when I was planning a Theme Park Holiday to the Shanghai area in 2013, I realised that I will miss a lot of rides if I don't have the confidence to go upside down. Ultimately, I never go to Shanghai, but the question continued to haunt me. I realised I have 2 bleak options:

  1. Take a looping roller coaster nearby, make sure I can tahan (take it) before spending money on overseas trips. However, the upside down coasters nearby are all quite intimidating, and I risk being traumatised on my first ride and not progress further.
  2. Go overseas where there are some less scary loopers (eg. Raging Spirits, Tokyo Disneysea), where I have a higher chance of being able to tahan. But I risk losing my entire trip money if the first ride didn't go too well and I have to skip many looping rides in the same trip.
At that time, the only upside down ride available to me was Supersonic Odyssey at Berjaya Times Square, Malaysia. However, for 3 trips in a row, I will plan to visit the park only to detour to other places like KLCC Petrosains Museum, Batu Caves and Sunway Lagoon. At that time, I also find it quite wasteful that I will pay a full ticket price to enter the park just for 1 ride. The other adult rides there are flat rides that are far more intense than roller coasters.

Another thing that stopped me was my experience at Legoland Malaysia. There is a small roller coaster called Project X. When I saw it, I was really confident, thinking that the ride is no more than a small drop followed by left and right turns. However, I had a rude shock as I realised that the turns are a lot more forceful than I could tolerate and the drop was just the right shape that I will float on the seat. After this rude shock, I became very cautions when deciding whether to ride a new roller coaster.

Serious, how scary can a wild mouse roller coaster be? Or so I thought!

When RWS announced the return of Battlestar Galactica in late 2014, my heart was filled with both delight and dread. Dread? Yes, in my heart, I really dreaded the moment Battlestar Galactica Cylon will return. You see, I bought the USS Annual Pass mainly to experience the weekly fireworks, Christmas and Countdown celebrations. Yet I knew that sooner or later, though peer pressure or reader pressure, I will be forced to take this ride. I even turned down an invitation from a friend to take part in ride filming because I suspect this is the ride they intend to film. (no specific details here).

From May to August, I was mainly taking the red side. On one fine day in September, I visited the park with a friend from NS, who is also an annual passholder. I only had time for one ride that day and wanted to accompany him on Human, but when we arrived at the entrance, we learnt that Human was closed, by Cylon was open. It was then that I realised my time has come. I did not want to disappoint him, yet I know I am not ready for Cylon. I really needed a tamer ride for my first looping coaster. 

The warning signs did not help much to boost my confidence!

At the entrance, I told him that "Even though I am entering, I may give up at the loading platform". The queue was about 30 minutes long, so there was plenty of time to contemplate the doom befalling upon me. Inside, I tried every technique that I taught you brothers and sisters for riding first roller coasters: Talking about irrelevant topics, visiting with 1 other friend, minimising the queue time (normal queue is about 1 hour). I even did a headstand in the queue just to prepare myself. 

Before I continue, let me first thank RWS for enforcing the no handphone rule on Battlestar Galactica, so no one could stomp me when I was doing the headstand.

Okay, back to the ride. At the loading platform, I really hesitated very long in front of the seat. I knew once I pulled down the lap bar, there is no turning back. The ride is just one minute, but it could make or break my "coaster career". If I enjoyed it then I will be ready for my overseas trips. However, If I get traumatised on this ride, I know I am likely to avoid all looping rides for a very long time, perhaps forever. 

Finally, I thought came into my head. It was from my Visually Challenged friend. She just took Cylon a week before and thought it was LESS scary than human. I quickly sat down and pulled down the restraint before any other thoughts come in. Thankfully, the seat actually feel quite protected. It is also high enough off the floor so I did not have the "floor disappearing" feeling when the floor was lowered (my feet was already dangling before the floor went down).

I was not concerned about the launch or drop at all, since it is almost identical to Human's. In fact, it sort of gave me a little morale boost because some people actually found the drop more intense than I do. At the bottom of the drop, though, time seemed to stop. I know that everything comes down to this moment. I will be going upside down, whether I like it or not, and 5 times, whether the first traumatised me or not.

The drop on both Human and Cylon are pretty much identical

Going up the first inversion, I first feel that my body is being pulled upwards, then the weightlessness hits. Normally, I crave for weightlessness on non-looping rides, but this one felt really weird because I feel I am floating up but my eyes tell me I am dropping down. Then, there was the sudden jerk to the side and I was pushed back to the normal position again. That's it. I have just completed my first inversion. The upside down hang time was not as long as I expected, but there's more to come.

The next inversion is a corkscrew. Once again, it felt really weird because I was pulled sideways but my eyes tell me I am rolling and not turning. Also, the upside down hang time is longer this time. Gosh, will things only get worse from here?

I was right. The loop comes next and the sensation was the most disturbing of them all. I must admit that although the Cobra Roll was the element I was most worried about, it turned out to be the most manageable one because the ride pulled me sideways before the discomfort from being upside down sets in. The same cannot be said of the loop, as the hang time is substantial. Worse still, many coaster guides tell first time riders to "look down on the floor and you will feel like you are going down a steep hill". On Cylon, there is no floor to look down on!

After the traumatising vertical loop, the rest of the ride, including the zero-G roll was quite manageable. As the ride hits the brake run, I began to contemplate what had happened. It was full of contradictions. Going upside down certainly felt weird, yet the sensations on the ride were exactly as I predicted before I got on. I know that at least that I can tolerate going upside down, but I am still a long way to go from taking a top end looping ride. 

I placed my hands down on my lap, glad that it was all over. Then, I realised that I actually kept my hands up all along. I did not have to grab onto the restraints at all. So perhaps it wasn't so bad after all. 

The Verdict

Brothers and Sisters, let's now talk about what I think of the ride in overall. Compared to Human, here is what I think about Cylon
  • Generally smoother, noticeably less headbanging
  • First drop is less intense, but launch feels a bit faster
  • G Forces are weaker, and a lot less air-time
  • Pace is more consistent (which may or may not be a good thing). Human sometimes goes very fast then suddenly becomes very slow.
Bringing back the comment from my friend that "Cylon is less scary than Human", I think there may be some truth in that. Even though Cylon has the loops which felt really disturbing to me, for most people the scariest part of roller coasters is the drop, and Human delivers a more intense first drop and a second mid-course drop. The G Forces in Cylon is also weaker (I feel about 4Gs). 

I rate Battlestar Galactica: Cylon at 8.6. Discounting the disturbing sensation of being flipped upside down, Cylon is actually a very enjoyable ride with comfortable pace, tolerable G Forces and a good sense of freedom because of the feet dangling seats. The flexible shoulder restraints, similar to those used on some flying and wingrider coasters is also much more comfortable than conventional solid shoulder restraints.

As of today, I took the ride 3 times on rows 2, 1 and 8, in order. I don't understand why people are willing to queue extra long for the first row seat, because it made no difference to me. Maybe its just for the show-off factor like: "you know, I took the first row guyzzz!"

[Tip] The back rows do offer a very intense zero-G roll at the end of the ride as well as a good first drop.

Brothers and sisters, so which side do you think is better? Human or Cylon? Please do share in the comments. You may also like to read about my experience riding Human, and please don't forget to like the second drop facebook page.