Guide: Your First Roller Coaster

Hi everyone, it’s been 10 months since I published the original First Roller Coaster Ride Guide. It covered why people are scared of roller coasters, and has lots of stats and info. In this same period, I took my first full size body water slide, my first swinging roller coaster and my first roller coaster to exceed 100ft. I thought the original guide was good enough.

Standing at the loading platform of Battlestar Galactica: Human for the first time, I realised that all the complicated rules and statistics that you find on Wikihow or Yahoo Answers, and even my own old blog guide doesn’t really work. At the ride entrance, we will forget everything we learnt. Of course, if you are an adrenaline junkie and just takes every ride then this doesn’t apply to you, but for mere mortals like us...

So, I am going to present this guide with just simple rules of thumb. A shoutout goes to Gerd Gigerenzer, author of the book Risk Savvy for inspiring me to rethink this guide. The book is amazing, it will teach you statistics and risk in a way that your mathematics professor will never do.

Okay, when presented with your first first roller coaster ride, you only need to complete a 4 check points in your mind. Get your pen and paper ready...Three, Two, One!

How it feels like on a roller coaster

Yes. The guide ends here. Please do like the Second Drop Facebook Page and share this with your friends. But if you are still not convinced, or want further elaboration, you can read on further.

ANNEX A: Elaborations on Roller Coaster Guide

1) I am feeling well

Any thrill ride like a Roller Coaster puts some strain on the human body. It is therefore very important to make sure that you are feeling well at the moment you are entering. When feeling well, I mean:

  • Is not feeling particularly hungry or full
  • Just went to the toilet, if required
  • Had at least 8 hours of sleep last night
  • Not recovering from any sickness that may be aggravated by roller coasters, particularly severe fever as well as back and neck injuries.
  • Not currently pregnant. 

2) The queue is not more than 10 minutes

This one is very important, because the time when you are waiting for the ride to start is also the moment you are most nervous. When the queue time is short, it means you minimise the waiting time so you get through the worst part faster. In fact, here is my tally for queue lines on first rides:

  • First Roller Coaster - Revenge of the Mummy, walk in ride straightaway
  • First Water Slide - Riptide Rocket, walk in ride straightaway
  • First Water Slide>100ft - Vuvuzela, waited 10 minutes
  • First Roller Coaster>100ft - Battlestar Galactica: Human, waited 2 ride cycles, 4 mins

In fact, you may want to ride your first roller coaster sometime around the park closing (typically 6pm to 8pm) as you will have warmed up from the other rides and also because the queue at those times are usually the shortest.

3) The Ride is only a bit scarier/has 1 new thing compared to the last scariest one I took

This point is important. You see, fear and intensity are relative, which means that if you have taken a more intense ride before than you will find a new ride relatively less intense. So it is important to take one step at a time and progress from ride to a slightly more intense one.

However, what happens on your absolute first roller coaster. What can I compare with? Well, think about the tall slide that you did at the playground or the reckless taxi driver going down the hill. The least intense junior coasters usually are not much more intense than that. Also, if you have taken motion simulators like Transformers: The Ride, they are actually scarier than some small roller coasters.

It is also important to progress to a ride with just 1 more element, so that you are confident that you have only 1 thing to worry about. So for example:

  1. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, Disneyland(s) (motion simulator)
  2. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Disneyland(s) (basic small roller coaster)
  3. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Disneyland(s) (addition: longer ride)
  4. Big Grizzly Mountain Runway Mine Cars, Hong Kong Disneyland (addition: backwards)
  5. Revenge of the Mummy, USS (addition: -1.5G ejector airtime)
  6. Battlestar Galactica: Human, USS (addition: large first drop 10 stories)
  7. Hair Raiser, Hong Kong Ocean Park (addition: goes upside down)
  8. Battlestar Galactica: Cylon, USS (addition: inverted sitting position)

There are still even scarier rides but I think you will know the drill by now. You can even mix and match other kinds of rides if there is a roller coaster gap at your location. For example, a small flat ride (eg. Ring of Fire, Leafoo Village Taiwan) is comparable to a small looping roller coaster, or you may consider a giant swing ride (Clarke Quay, Singapore) before taking a roller coaster with a big drop.

4) I am already comfortable with the last scariest ride

Of course, it is good to progress from one level to the next. Just make sure that you are ready before moving on. There is nothing embarrassing about taking a ride multiple times to get used to the sensation. Besides, I am sure if you told your friends you took Revenge of the Mummy or Space Mountain 10 times, even if it is in preparation for larger rides, they will NOT call you a coward.

ANNEX B: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1) Which one should I choose to be my first roller coaster? 

Alright, the politically correct answer is that it depends on what prior experiences you had before and your tolerance level for new thrills. However, what I can say is that if you are really scared, the “safest” choices will be very basic family coasters like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Disneyland(s). These basic coasters usually have a height of about 3 stories, very short length and normal seats. 

Most people should be alright with a mid-sized family coaster like Enchanted Airways, USS or The Dragon, Legoland(s) as your first roller coaster.

2) What is the best age to start riding roller coasters?

For full sized roller coasters, some theme parks in Europe set a minimum age limit of 14 in addition to the height limit and I think that is a good guideline. 

It is alright to ride smaller family coasters the moment you hit the height limit. Just be careful of “family thrill coasters” (eg. Expedition Everest) which offer full sized thrills with family coaster height restrictions. Biggest culprit of this types of rides is Disney.

3) When should I start looking at looping coasters?

There are some looping roller coasters that are actually not very intense, such as Raging Spirits at Tokyo Disneysea.  You can go on those after taking a mid to high intensity family coaster. For example, if you are at Hong Kong you will find that the Dragon is a good looping ride to take if you are comfortable with Wild West Mine Train. However,  you should have taken at least 1 full sized non-looping coaster before going on a full sized looping coaster.

These roller coasters go upside down fewer times:

  1. Raging Spirits: Tokyo Disneysea (1 Loop)
  2. Diving Coaster: Happy Valley Shanghai and Chimelong Paradise (1 Half Loop) (very intense first drop)
  3. Supersonic Odessey: Berjaya Times Square Malaysia (1 Roll, 1 Loop, 1 Corkscrew)
  4. Dragon: Hong Kong Ocean Park (2 Loop, 1 Half Loop-Half Corkscrew)
  5. Gravity Max: EDA Theme Park (1 Loop) (very intense first drop especially on back rows)