For 125 years or so, wooden roller coasters stayed more or less the same. In 2008, ride manufacturer Rocky Mountain Construction shook up the industry when it introduced new, innovative track designs. The company creates remarkably smooth wooden coasters that are capable of inversions and other features previously limited to steel coasters.
Goliath at Six Flags Great America is the second coaster that RMC has built from the ground up and that uses its unique “Topper Track.” And it is wonderful.
- Type of coaster: Modified wooden with inversions
- Height: 165 feet
- First drop: 180 feet
- Top speed: 72 mph
- Goliath is one of the top 10 fastest wooden roller coasters.
- Maximum vertical angle: 85 degrees
- Length: 3,100 feet
- Minimum height requirement: 48 inches
- Ride manufacturer: Rocky Mountain Construction
Hard to Top This Ride
With its amber-colored wooden structure and electric-orange track (one of RMC's signature colors), Goliath is a dramatic and handsome sight on the midway. The track is the key to Goliath's success.
Traditional wooden coasters have thin metal rail strips atop the stacks of wood that form its tracks. The trains’ running wheels, which are made of steel, roll along the metal strips. Goliath, however, incorporates a thicker and wider metal box that completely covers the top of its wooden stacks (hence the name, “Topper Track”).
RMC’s patented track allows Goliath’s wooden coaster-style trains to remain uncharacteristically smooth, even while they navigate an imposing course layout that includes inverted elements (that turn the trains and its passengers upside down). Instead of steel wheels, the ride’s trains use polyurethane wheels, the same material that is used on steel coasters.
Six Flags hyped the ride as the world's fastest, tallest, and steepest wooden coaster when it debuted in 2014. Lightning Rod at Dollywood, another RMC Topper coaster, which hits 73 mph, subsequently took the fastest coaster title from Goliath. Switchback at ZDT’s Amusement Park dethroned the Six Flags ride in the steepest category by dropping 87 degrees. But Goliath still holds the record as the tallest wooden coaster.
After climbing 165 feet and dropping 180 feet at 85 degrees (nearly vertical) into an underground tunnel, the coaster revs up to 72 mph. The much maligned and now defunct Son of Beast at Kings Island previously held the height and speed records (218 feet and 78 mph, respectively) for a wooden coaster. But it was a painfully rough and miserable ride. Goliath, however, handles its steep, long drop and high speed with finesse.
Son of Beast also included a single loop, but it accomplished its feat by converting the inverted part of the track to tubular steel. The wooden Topper track on the Great America ride remains the same throughout its two inversions.
Grace Under (G-Force) Pressure
Even though Goliath features upside-down moments, it does not include over-the-shoulder restraints. Instead, its restraint system secures passengers around the waist and just below the knee. Its fairly low height requirement of 48 inches—that's just 4 feet or roughly the size of a typical 9-year-old—also gives pause. This is one heckuva thrilling coaster for the tween crowd.
Despite the lack of over-the-shoulder restraints, passengers should feel safely restrained throughout the ride. However, the second inversion, called a zero-G stall, can be especially dicey. Hanging upside down for what seems like an eternity (but is really only a second or two) is both exhilarating and terrifying, especially with no over-the-shoulder harness. The slow-motion inversion is great to watch from the midway.
Goliath negotiates its two inversions gracefully. The entire ride is pleasantly smooth with little of the rough-and-tumble shudder that most wooden coasters deliver (such as Great America's Viper and its especially rough American Eagle). Yet it feels like a wooden coaster. Will the RMC coaster age well, or will it succumb to the same roughness issues that plague most wooden coasters? It's tough to say since the track system is still relatively new, but it is likely that it will hold up well.
With a few hiccups here and there, Goliath is not quite as butter-smooth as another RMC coaster, Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. (Since that ride uses an all-steel "IBox" track and is considered a hybrid wooden and steel coaster, the comparison may not be fair.) At a length of 3,100 feet and a ride time under two minutes, it is also relatively short. While it does deliver a couple of nice pops of airtime, the ride could use more out-of-your-seat moments.
But overall, you’ll be quite impressed with Goliath. It is arguably the best coaster at Six Flags Great America. It is easily the best Goliath coaster out there. (Six Flags has many same-named rides throughout its park chain including the especially rough Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain.) It is so good, it makes TripSavvy’s list as one of the Top 10 Best Wooden Coasters—even though there might be some dispute whether RMC's Topper track disqualifies it as a wooden coaster. Whatever the heck it is, it's a great ride.