How to Enjoy Roller Coasters When They Scare You to Death

Don't worry about keeping your "cool" on a roller coaster -- scream as much as you want.
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Answer by Joel Montgomery, Rail Junkie

"Leviathan Reactions" by Jason Campbell (Brother Jay)

As with most things, the only way to get "better" at riding roller coasters is to ride them and to keep challenging yourself. Part of the fun of roller coasters is that you're supposed to feel afraid riding them.

  • Embrace it -- let it be part of the experience.

  • Don't worry about keeping your "cool" on a roller coaster -- scream as much as you want.
  • Cry out to your deity of choice or to the empty blackness if that's your persuasion.
  • Dig your nails into the lapbar or shoulder harness until they dig furrows in the cushions if it helps, or just throw your arms up into the air with reckless abandon and let your fears fly with them.
  • Close your eyes and protect yourself from seeing anything that's coming ahead of you or try to look as far ahead as you can to feel more prepared for what's coming.
  • It's that thrill, that sense of danger, even though you know you're perfectly safe in the harness or lap-bar, that makes roller coasters so fun. With enough practice, you'll find yourself a true rail-junky, waiting with pure excitement for the next ride that offers that extra second of "airtime" when you hit Zero-G at the crest of a hill or a few extra G's of force when you swoop into inversion after inversion. They're fun -- you just have to let go and enjoy them!

    Is it just a fear of roller coasters in general, or some specific aspect of roller coasters that you find particularly intimidating? Or do you suffer from motion sickness?

    If it's more fear than motion sickness, you could start with some more "tame" roller coasters and build your way up.

    Don't start with baby rides, though. Do some genuine roller-coasters, but start with the simple "out and back" style -- they're usually your "simple" wooden coasters and almost none of them have loops or some of the more "thrilling" elements that other coasters implement. Some might race you through a tunnel or do some tight banking turns and helixes, but they're generally a good thrill without being too extreme, since wooden coasters generally don't support the same heights that steel coasters can provide and don't usually do anything too fancy with car design or track mechanics.

    Image by Stevage

    Another good "starter" coaster is a style called the "Wild Mouse." They're not usually very complex -- in fact, there are sometimes Wild Mouse coasters at fairs and carnivals and they're pretty kid-friendly. But the wild mouse style has its own unique thrills. Since the wheels of the coaster are set pretty tight to the center of the car and the tracks are somewhat narrower than your more standard coasters - this ride always involves a lot of twists and turns, and that's what makes it so unique, because the turns are sharp hairpin turns that are further facilitated by the fact that the car wheels are attached to the car on an axis that allows the car to rotate as it turns so that it whips you around in the turn. The real thrill is in the fact that the very first time you ride it, it honestly feels like the car is going to fly right off of the tracks because the car goes over the edge of the tracks before the wheels swing into the turn. It's exhilarating, but there are never any huge drops or loops - just various bunny hills and tight turns. Kennywood in Pittsburgh, PA actually took this style of ride and made it an indoor roller coaster that is a blast to ride.

    Image by Saberwyn

    Once you've gotten a bit more comfortable with some of the more basic coasters, try your hand at one with a loop or one with a more... adventurous mechanic. Many of the suspended steel coasters are still relatively simple -- some may have one or two loops or some various forms of inversions like barrel rolls or tight helixes, but they're usually still pretty gentle on a person and give you a fun sense of flying.

    Best of luck to you -- jump in and have fun.

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