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 its 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 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 (RMC's signature color), 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 rails atop the stacks of wood that form its tracks. Goliath incorporates a thicker and wider metal "Topper" track that completely covers its wooden stacks. The track allows its wooden coaster-style trains to remain uncharacteristically smooth, even while they navigate an imposing course layout that includes inverted elements.
Six Flags hyped the ride as the world's fastest, tallest, and steepest wooden coaster when it debuted. (Lightning Rod at Dollywood, another RMC Topper coaster, subsequently took the fastest coaster title from Goliath.) It climbs 165 feet and drops 180 feet at 85 degrees (nearly vertical) into an underground tunnel as it reaches 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 9-year-old -- also gives pause. This is one heckuva thrilling coaster for the tween crowd.
I felt safely restrained throughout the ride, but the second inversion, called a zero-G stall, was especially dicey. Hanging upside down for what seemed 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 so new, but my guess is that it should 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, 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, I would have preferred more out-of-your-seat moments.
But overall, I was quite impressed with Goliath. It is my pick for the best coaster at Great America. (See my rundown of the 9 best rides at Six Flags Great America.) It is easily the best Goliath coaster I have ridden. (Six Flags has many same-named rides throughout its park chain including Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain.) It is so good, I am rejiggering my Top 10 Best Wooden Coasters list to make room for it -- even though I am not sure whether RMC's Topper track disqualifies it as a wooden coaster. Whatever the heck it is, it's a great ride.
If you are interested in RMC's other coasters, check out my articles:
- Hybrid Wooden and Steel Roller Coaster? What's That?
- Ride the Greatest Hybrid Wooden and Steel Coasters