coaster enthusiasts are always talking about their favourite type of
ride and their favourite type of park. Is wood better than steel? Is a
theme park superior to an amusement park? The debates would go on
forever and a day if you let them.
you’re reading this in the hope of some definitive answer to these
questions, you are going to be sorely disappointed, for I’d venture to
say that there is something that tends to be ignored in these arguments,
and it’s not exactly something that prides itself on subtlety. If
it’s raw adrenalin pumping action you’re after, you really
shouldn’t be bothering with parks or roller coasters at all. Nah, if
you’re looking for that life-affirming buzz of manic hysteria, you
should be looking for spin rides and fairgrounds.
the saddest thing about the amusement park industry is that it seems so
blind to the potential of a really top class spin ride. Thorpe Park, for
example, is happy to subject Colossus riders to one of the most
endurance-testing elements of modern coaster design, namely its four
straight heartline rolls, yet just a few feet away, we have Samurai.
on a good day, Thorpe Park's Samurai is but a pussy cat in the
face of properly-run Top Scans.
where do I start? Samurai is a mind-blowingly awesome piece of kit, but
is routinely operated in such a way that its only useful function is as
a cure for insomnia. The truth is that, were Samurai to offer even a
quarter of the ferocity displayed by its fairground counterpart, it
would make the park’s coasters look like kiddie rides.
Samurai may be the most acute
example of how parks can cold-bloodedly rip the heart and soul from a
top-notch spinner, but there are countless others. Consider, if you
will, the experience of a theme park Top Spin. You queue up, you watch
the ride go through the same motions over and over again, then take your
seat, do four or five inversions, and leave. Whoop-de-doo.
never guess that, in the hands of an expert operator the Top Spin is in
fact one of the most versatile and thrilling rides on the planet. You
should be leaving your seat feeling that you’ve experience something
unique and special, different from those who rode before you, and
equally different from those who will ride after you, but all too often
the scene is more reminiscent of a scene from Metropolis, with people
being treated as “units” to be processed.
something that was meant to be so euphorically savage become so
domesticated? When did park visitors become such wimps? When did they
lose their spirit of adventure? When did “fun” become so regulated
and quantifiable that a ride operator can be given his marching orders
for trying to give people something special over and above the approved
script? More to the point, where do we go to find people who are willing
to run their rides for maximum merriment?
going to come with me on this little journey, we have to get one thing
straight: You cannot judge a spin ride by what you’ve seen at a theme
park. For example, to judge the Top Spin on the strength of having
ridden Heide Park’s version would be like judging a Formula 1 car
based on how it performs on a five-minute jaunt to Tesco and back. You
can only truly pass judgement when you’ve seen them at their best, and
the only place where you are likely to see a spin ride really getting
thrashed to its limit is a busy night at a major fairground. Just as the
F1 car is designed for the race track, so the vast majority of spin
rides are designed specifically for the fairground.
are very much en-vogue when it comes to catering to the demands of
the spin ride market was dominated by German firm Huss. Having built
many legendary spinners, such as the Break Dance, Top Spin, Pirate Ship,
and Frisbee, the firm now appears to be concentrating on larger rides
for parks. Its place has now largely been taken by two Dutch firms,
Mondial and KMG.
be commended for creating rides of a high enough quality for the large
German fairs, while keeping the designs simple and economical enough to
be practical for smaller-scale fairs and showmen.
the other hand, appears to specialise in rides that truly push the
limits of human tolerance, with such hardcore rides as the Top Scan,
Capriolo, and Shake.