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Steel Vengeance Review

Last Thursday, I finally got to ride Cedar Point’s new hyper hybrid from Rocky Mountain Construction, and I’m still in shock from the sheer power I experienced on the coaster.

As I approached the park, I was struck by how much more prominent the ride was on the skyline. From the start, it was obvious that this ride wasn’t Mean Streak anymore.

As soon as the park opened, I walked to the back of the park as fast as I could. There stood Steel Vengeance, towering over Frontiertown’s buildings and punctuating the air with the screams of terrified riders. The train thundered through inversions and wound through the wooden remains of Mean Streak.

I had heard that Steel Vengeance had just begun a no-phone policy after a rider’s device contributed to an injury on Twisted Timbers, but I wasn’t sure how strict the rule would be or how they planned on enforcing it. Two ride ops sat at the entrance to the ride and asked each rider if they were carrying a phone, instructing them to rent a locker or leave it with a non-rider. I was happy to oblige, but found it difficult to keep track of the time remaining on my locker without my phone, since I didn’t wear a watch. Also, I had hoped to take some good photos from the queue, but I had to resort to snapping a few shots from the entrance and the other side of Frontiertown.

While waiting in line, I saw quite a few security guards patrolling the line and trekking up to the platform every once and a while. A ride op explained that if you were caught with a phone in the station they’d kick you out of the line, and after three strikes they’d call security. In the end, being without my phone was a small price to pay to ride Steel Vengeance, and after tracking Mean Streak’s transformation over the course of two years, I was more than ready to finally catch a ride on the coaster.

After about half an hour, I reached the platform. A ride op was assigning seats but she was happy to acquiesce when I asked to ride in the front. I found this to be the case the whole day, which was great because it kept the line moving while respecting anyone who had a seat preference.

The train took off, rolling over two bunny hills before hitting the unusually loud chain lift. On the way up, I took in the view of Cedar Point’s impressive coaster lineup. Near the top, the entire ride layout came into view, giving us riders a quick glimpse into our imminent joy or terror. Before I knew it, the train reached the apex and slowly crept over the top before dashing to the ground at 90 degrees. In the front car, the drop was exhilarating but not quite ejecting.

The following hill offered a sustained surge of floater airtime at an off-axis angle and sent the train rocketing back toward the first drop. After two more airhills, the real fun began. I was wooshed through first zero-g-roll while climbing, then took a flying turn into the second zero-g-roll while dropping. That drop in particular was extremely disorienting and made for an extreme stomach drop.

After rolling through the mid-course brake run, the ride continued with a sudden plunge back into the course that made me catch my breath. The train dove into the ride’s wooden support structure, tempting me to yank my hands down in apprehension as I was sucked through a third roll. A few hills later, the train took a second pass through the structure, completing a similar roll and maneuvering a set of overbanks. One over-banked turn in particular really stood out, giving me a little pop of airtime while on my side. To finish off the ride, the train flew through a series of five airtime hills in a row, each taken at a different angle.

Sitting in the brake run, I realized that I couldn’t compare the ride experience to any other coaster I had ridden. I decided that it combined some of the best elements of Millennium Force and Maverick while adding in some wacky turns that only Rocky Mountain Construction could conjure up.

After getting off, I got right back in line to try the back row. In the back seat, the first drop was insane! The rest of the train began dropping while the back wasn’t quite to the top, meaning I was pulled aggressively over the top into a 200-foot drop. The ejector airtime I experienced on that drop was by far the best I’ve ever experienced and I would compare it to the negative g-forces on a drop tower.

The ride continued its course, taking each hill and inversion with more intensity than ever. According to the park, Steel Vengeance has the most airtime of any roller coaster, with a total of 27.2 seconds, and I felt like my body was out of the seat more than in it. I was in hysterics for the entire last lap around the ride’s structure, and I got off the coaster with an adrenaline high.

Later in the day, I rented a locker for two more hours and was able to get in three more rides on the coaster (once in the middle and twice in the back). Riding solo, I was able to meet some pretty cool people, some of whom had ridden the coaster dozens of times and others who were about to experience Steel Vengeance for the first time. Everyone I rode with got off with a big smile on their face and a new favorite ride at Cedar Point.

At one point I got to chat with an off-duty ride op for Magnum who was getting in his Steel Vengeance rides for the day. We got to chatting about industry news and other parks across the US, and then he pointed out a few things about the coaster I hadn’t noticed before. For one, the wooden supports sway quite a bit just after the train rolls by, which is normal and serves to relieve the stress from the passing trains. The op said that the park had recently added a reinforcement beam and that it was now swaying much less than before.

He was also able to give me an update on Steel Vengeance’s third train, Chess. On opening day, two trains had a minor collision in the station at a minimal speed, and though no one was injured, Cedar Point was forced to shut the ride down nonetheless. The park switched to two trains while they worked on a fix. According to the ride op, the third train is now ready to run and they have the go-ahead but they’re having trouble getting the mid-course brake run to work, so with three trains they’d have to start one long after the previous like on Millennium Force. So it’s unlikely that we’ll see three-train operation again until next season.

While in line, I also enjoyed checking out the storyline segments that the park added to the queue to explain the ride’s theme. I wasn’t able to get a picture of the signs since I didn’t have my phone with me, but there was a themed poster for each of the three characters (Blackjack, Chess, and Digger) explaining their tie into Frontiertown and their need for vengeance from Blackjack’s ruthless brother Maverick.

There weren’t many themed elements in the ride’s station, but the trains had a great steam engine front car and one of the characters’ names was scrawled on the side of each train. A western voiceover played when each train departed the station, and the loading screen touted fun catchphrases like “A Mean Streak lies beneath.”

In the end, I found a new favorite coaster in Steel Vengeance. The ride had all the elements I crave in a coaster, from the ejector drop to the disorienting inversions and endless airtime hills. In typical Rocky Mountain Construction fashion, the ride managed to combine all these elements with flawless transitions. However, some of the turns on the ride came up so suddenly that I barely had time to prepare myself for their sheer intensity. Steel Vengeance is by no means a rerideable coaster like a B&M Hyper, but I was still feeling great after three rides in a row.

Overall, I couldn’t ask for more from Steel Vengeance, and I thought that the ride experience was absolutely flawless. If I was able to change any part of the ride, I wouldn’t tweak a thing. The length, speed, and intensity were about as good as it gets. I rated Steel Vengeance a first-ever 10 out of 10. I could wax on forever about this ride, but the short of it is that you simply need to experience it for yourself. Steel Vengeance just might be the new best roller coaster on the planet.

Rider tips

  • This tip is pretty obvious, but try to hit the ride as soon as you can after the park opens. Most of the crowd follows the midway past Millennium Force and through Frontiertown, so heading by Top Thrill Dragster and cutting down the Gemini Midway might be your quickest route. Some people even park in the Cedar Point Shores lot for even faster walk to the coaster.
  • Be prepared to part with your phone. The ride ops aren’t going to let you into the queue with a handheld device of any kind, so unless you have a hidden pocket that’s securely fastened, you’re best off renting a locker. Don’t make the mistake I did, but rent a locker for the full day so that you’ll be free to come back to the ride at any point.
  • Try riding in the back row. While I was there, a ride op was assigning seats, but they usually let you sit wherever you want if you ask. In the back of the train, the first drop and airtime hills are absolutely insane. On the way up, a left seat will give a better view of the lake and the right will offer a glimpse at the ride layout and the park beyond.

Have you ridden Steel Vengeance? Feel free to post your review in the comments section below.

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Reviews Trip Reports

Cedar Point on National Roller Coaster Day

Every August 16th, coaster enthusiasts celebrate National Roller Coaster Day, commemorating the day in 1878 when the first wooden roller coaster was patented. I couldn’t think of a better excuse to go coastering, so on Wednesday I flew up to Cleveland to stay with some relatives, and on Roller Coaster Day I headed to Sandusky to pay homage to Cedar Point.

A foreboding forecast

The week leading up to my planned trip, I kept an eye on the Sandusky weather forecast. For a while it looked like there would be intermittent thunderstorms that would clear up by afternoon, but just before I left town, the forecast shifted to all-day storms with a 90% chance of rain. I was left with two choices—trade out my Thursday ticket for a half-day on Friday before returning to Nashville, or brave the storm. I saved the decision for the last moment, and ultimately chose to go on Thursday. Thankfully, the weather held out the entire day and the park was nearly empty, making for very short lines. Even on the new ride…

The hyper hybrid

For years, enthusiasts have begged the park to give Mean Streak the “iron horse” treatment, and I was blown away with the design for Steel Vengeance when it was announced a year ago, naming it my number one most anticipated coaster for 2018. Rocky Mountain Construction took everything that made Mean Streak so unpopular and fashioned it into their wildest hybrid to date. Over the summer, I’ve kept the coaster’s POV on replay and craved every pop of airtime. And this week, I finally caught a ride on the IBox coaster.

Did Steel Vengeance live up to the hype? Yes, and as strange as it may seem, it even managed to exceed my expectations. The utter euphoria I experienced during the pull of the ride’s 90-degree drop made it hands down the best element of any coaster I have ridden. I’m still in such shock that I’m having to process exactly what happened in those two-and-a-half minutes. The first hills were gigantic sweeping airtime machines, the inversions were wildly smooth, and the final lap through the ride’s structure felt insanely fast. I’ll have to save my full Steel Vengeance review for another post, but be assured, this is a coaster no one should miss.

One thing I will point out now is that Cedar Point was very strict about their no phones rule on this ride. The ops at the front of the line told riders to get a locker if they had their phone on them, and one ride op said that if you were caught in the station with a phone three times, they’d call security. While I didn’t really mind getting a locker, it was disappointing to not be able to take photos from the queue, and keeping track of time became a struggle. Quick tip: If you’re ever at the park, be sure to get the all-day lockers so that you’ll be free to ride Steel Vengeance at any point during the day. I unwisely chose to buy a few hours at a time and it kept my rides restricted to those specific periods of time.

A ride in the rain

After riding Steel Vengeance a couple times and grabbing a bite to eat, I decided to head back to Millennium Force. It had begun to sprinkle and the line was so short that I was able to walk all the way onto the platform before reaching other riders. The rain increased to a full drizzle, and though I was wary of riding through it at 93 miles per hour, I decided to give it a shot.

The ride’s first hill afforded a familiar view of Cedar Point and Lake Erie before the train reached the apex and thundered over the edge. Thousands of raindrops stung my face and hands like pins and needles, forcing me to cover my face with one hand and squint through it. The ride was fun as always, zipping along with the sheer speed and power only a Giga coaster can offer. I got a couple moments of airtime and some great positive g-forces, but the drop didn’t deliver for me in the front or the back. While Millennium Force offers a thrilling and re-ridable ride, Fury 325 has a much better layout overall. Over the years, Millennium Force has gone from my number one coaster to sixth place, not because it has aged but because I have since ridden so many superior coasters.

World-class coaster or crowd-pleaser?

Next, I headed over to Valravn, another coaster that had opened since my 2015 trip. Like GateKeeper, the B&M dive coaster was very photogenic and could be seen from most of the park. Its proximity to the midway, paired with the novelty of a hanging drop, made it an extremely popular coaster among the general public.

Walking into the Valravn plaza, I was fascinated by the sweeping Immelmann directly overhead. The line, while much shorter than during regular operation, was considerably longer than my other rides of the day, but I knew it would be worth the wait to try it out. The ride ops had the trains cycling pretty fast, and upon entering the station, I was struck by the small size of the boarding area. I boarded the coaster in the front on the far left and pulled the second-generation over-the-shoulder restraint into place.

The train took a little swoop out of the station and began up the steep lift. From the top, the coaster offered an incredible view of the entire park. Valravn was my first dive coaster, so I found the hang before the drop to be unique but it didn’t trigger my fear of heights as much as I had expected. The drop was pretty good, and the inversions were incredibly smooth, even with the train rattling in a few places. My favorite part of the ride was the zero-g-roll at the end, taken slowly enough to offer a moment of hangtime.

Overall, the ride was alright, but its tame feel and short layout hardly merited the line. I think a tunnel at the bottom of the drop like Yukon Striker or a splashdown finale would have added a lot to the experience, but I understand the struggle of squeezing a whole coaster into such a tight space.

Around the park

After getting off Valravn, I continued down the midway behind Raptor. It’s great to see how Cedar Point has opened up that area and taken it all the way to Blue Streak. Raptor was a walk-on, so I rode it in the back. The layout was absolutely solid, but I found myself fighting the forces of the ride to avoid head-banging during the corkscrews.

Next, I headed to Power Tower. As a huge drop tower fan, I get a thrill out of Cedar Point’s 240-foot model every time.

After that, I got in line for Top Thrill Dragster. Normally, the ride’s line is one of the longest in the park due to frequent downtime, but the ops had all six trains running and the line was moving right along. When I was about two trains away from riding, the ops closed the ride for inclement weather. I stuck around, and when the inclement weather turned out to be a five-minute sprinkle, they reopened the ride and slowly backed the trains into their previous positions. I rode in the front seat and the launch was as thrilling as ever, reaching 120 miles per hour in just four seconds.

Never this wild

After walking by Steel Vengeance to snap some more shots of the coaster, I headed to Maverick. I’ve never seen Maverick with short lines and Thursday was no different.  I had trouble justifying the wait until I got on the coaster and remembered just how good the ride is.

In the past, I’ve always ridden in the front, so decided to check out the back. And man, did it make a difference. The 95-degree drop nearly ejected me from the train and the airtime hill midway through the course was extreme. Everything I loved about Maverick before was intensified, and the way the train took on the elements reminded me of Steel Vengeance. It’s kind of fun to me how Cedar Point tied Maverick into the Steel Vengeance storyline (Maverick is Blackjack’s brother), because the rides were both similar and unique at the same time.

To make the ride even better, the effects like the flashing lights in the tunnel and the water bombs were working for the first time when I’ve ridden it. They added a nice touch and a hint of theming that I had missed before.

Overall, I loved Maverick and would’ve ridden it again had it not been for the length of the line. I moved it to fifth place in my top ten, just ahead of Millennium Force.

Finishing a great day

To end the day, I rode maXair and then lapped Steel Vengeance three times in a row. Having tried the front, middle, and back of the train, I found the back to be the best, with all the elements turned up another notch.

For my last ride on the way out of the park, I hit Iron Dragon to try out the new virtual reality experience that Cedar Point has been running after 7 pm every day. They were only running two trains, so the line was the longest of the day by far and it was amusing to see so many people stacked up for a suspended coaster.

The VR experience was phenomenal. I’ve had mixed feelings about VR on coasters but after trying it for myself, I am in full support. I think running VR for only part of the day is a good model as well. I’ll save the details on the experience for a later post, but it was well done and I completely forgot I was on a roller coaster until we pulled back into the station.

Final thoughts

Overall, my trip to Cedar Point was one of the best park days I’ve ever had. The temperature was 70s all day, the lines were short, and Steel Vengeance was every bit as good as I had hoped. Now that the park has an RMC, their lineup is well-rounded and worthy of the title of Roller Coaster Capital of the World once more. I couldn’t have asked for a better day at Cedar Point, and I hope to return in the near future!

Categories
News

Hyperion Opens at Energylandia

Energylandia’s stunning new mega coaster completed the testing phase and made its premiere at the park Saturday.

Hyperion stands 252.6 feet tall and treats riders to an 84° drop into a tunnel, where it reaches a top speed of 88.2 miles per hour. Designed by Intamin, the ride features four-across seating and a train design not unlike a B&M Hyper.

After watching an on-ride video of Hyperion, I was very impressed with the speed the ride maintained throughout the layout. Several hills appear to have extreme airtime and the Stengel Dive makes for a smooth turnaround not found on many coasters.

Take a virtual ride on Hyperion:

Overall, I think Energylandia hit a home run with their latest coaster and they’re shaping up to be one of the top parks in Europe after only four years of operation. Depending on the Hyperion’s success, I would be interested to see if any American parks decide to invest in Intamin over B&M for their next big coaster.

What are your thoughts on Hyperion? Leave a comment below.

Categories
News

Steel Vengeance Opens at Cedar Point [Update]

Yesterday, Cedar Point officially opened to the public, showing off the ride they’ve worked on for the past two years. Steel Vengeance is finally running alongside its coaster siblings at the Roller Coaster Capital.

Image © Cedar Point

Does it live up to the hype? All of the reviews I’ve seen so far suggest that Steel Vengeance is quite possibly the best roller coaster in the world. Check out what some of the first riders are saying:

It has everything coaster enthusiasts love: height, speed, tight turns, airtime, airtime, airtime, and did I mention airtime? And it does all of this with butter-smooth transitions. —Kyle from Coaster101.

My favorite element (hands up all the way): the outward-banked hill. I’m certain this is the longest and strongest sustained airtime moment I have ever felt. —John from CoasterCritic.

Without a doubt, Steel Vengeance is at the top of my bucket list for this summer. With a 205-foot vertical drop and a plethora of twists and inversions, the coaster combines the best elements of Millennium Force and Maverick while still throwing in the wild unpredictability RMC is famous for. According to Cedar Point, Steel Vengeance features 27 seconds of airtime—the most of any roller coaster.

Ready to see the ride in action? Here’s the official POV from Cedar Point:


Update: Due to a minor train collision in the station on Opening Day, Cedar Point temporarily closed the coaster for inspection. Since then, Steel Vengeance has only been running with one train as Rocky Mountain Construction works on fixing the issue. As a result, lines have been extremely long and the park has removed Steel Vengeance from the Fast Lane Plus program.

Update 2: As of June 1st, Steel Vengeance is now running with two trains once more and has been returned to Fast Lane Plus.

Read next: Time Traveler and Twisted Timbers Now Open

Categories
News

Time Traveler and Twisted Timbers Now Open

We’ve finally reached that exciting time of year when amusement parks begin opening for the season. The new coasters we’ve heard so much about have passed the final stages of testing and are now opening to their first riders. The first major rides to open in 2018 have been Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City and Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion. Judging by their POVs, the coasters turned out every bit as good as we hoped they would.

Time Traveler

Branded as the world’s tallest and fastest spinning coaster, Time Traveler is the first of a more intense line of spinning coasters from Mack Rides. The coaster begins with a ten-story vertical drop out of the station and maneuvers through three inversions during the ride.

 

After looking through pictures of the coaster, I was impressed by the attention to detail in the theming, from the queue to the trains.

The experience itself seems to be family friendly but intense enough to attract the thrill seekers. As for the spinning factor, Mack Rides has equipped the ride with an onboard magnetic brake to prevent the rotations from getting out of control—making for a slow glide to one side through each ride element. According to the park, no two rides on the coaster are the same.

Twisted Timbers

Meanwhile, Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion has also opened, making it Cedar Fair’s first operating coaster from Rocking Mountain Construction.

Image © Guy LaRocca

After a Storm-Chaser-esque barrel roll drop, the the twisted steel snakes its way around the layout in an unbroken sequence of airtime hills and inversions. I knew the finished ride would be longer in length than the original wooden coaster, but the duration of the ride caught me somewhat by surprise when watching the new on-ride POV.

I thought it worth mentioning that Kings Dominion tried their hand at theming the queue. Considering it’s a Cedar Fair park, I’d say they did a pretty good job.

Image © Guy LaRocca

If Time Traveler and Twisted Timbers are any indication of what to expect for this season, 2018 will be a year for coaster enthusiasts to remember!

Are you planning to catch a ride on either coaster this year? Leave a comment below.

Read next: Top New Roller Coasters for 2018

Categories
Announcements Construction News

Kings Dominion Renames Two Rides in Candy Apple Grove

Along with Twisted Timbers, Kings Dominion has been giving the Candy Apple Grove section of the park a facelift. Improvements include repaving the midway, adding a new plaza, upgrading the restrooms, and adding new seating.

The park also announced that it will be renaming two of its rides: Richochet and Rebel Yell. Richochet will become “Apple Zapple” and will receive a red paint scheme. While I’m not crazy about the name, I think that tying the ride into the area is a great idea.

The other name change has sparked some controversy among the enthusiast community, as the legendary Rebel Yell racing coaster will now be known as Racer 75. Kings Dominion describes the name as a nod to its 1975 entry into the park as well as giving recognition to ACE, or the American Coaster Enthusiasts (rACEr 75). This second statement is pushing it a little, as the coaster club wasn’t founded until 1978.

While this move is clearly an attempt to remain politically correct, I’m cool with a name change as long as it is reflective of the ride’s past. Racer 75, though, is about as bland of a name as they could have picked, and will be sure to prick the nostalgia of long-time visitors. The ride isn’t 75 feet tall, Racer already exists at Kings Island, and the trains only race on crowded days. I just wish the park could have picked a more creative name.

Meanwhile, Twisted Timbers is nearly ready for testing and construction crews are finishing up the electrical and mechanical side of the ride. I’ll close out with a picture from Kings Dominion.

Read next: Kings Dominion Reveals Twisted Timbers for 2018