You Might Hate (or Love) Magic Mountain's Goliath Coaster

Extreme G-Forces may Cause Grayout

Goliath coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
••• © Arthur Levine.

Goliath is one of those you-either-love-it-or-you-hate-it roller coasters. Some thrill machine fans put it near the top of their favorites list. Some, however, place Six Flags Magic Mountain's ride in the hate-it category for a number of reasons. Chief among them: They may experience a "grayout" and nearly pass out from Goliath's extreme positive G forces.

Up-front Info

The ride certainly has impressive stats.

In fact, it is among the tallest roller coasters in the world. But stats can be deceiving.

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 8
    Extreme height, speed, acceleration, and freaky lateral G-forces
  • Coaster type: Hypercoaster
  • Height: 235 feet
  • Drop: 255
  • Top speed: 85 mph
  • Height restriction: 48 inches

Goliath is an imposing sight. Its orange track stands out among Six Flag Magic Mountain's crowded coaster skyline. However, like most of the park's coasters, Goliath is set far back from the midway, and it's difficult to get a sense of the ride's layout. To enter the queue, guests walk between enormous "stone-carved" letters spelling out the ride's macho name. A long line leads to the loading station.

A Giant Monster of a Ride

The 235-foot lift hill is suitably intimidating. As the train click-clack-clicks up the hill—and keeps clicking and clacking—the sense of apprehension rises. The first drop into an underground tunnel is exhilarating.

And the crest of the second hill delivers some decent airtime. THIS is what hypercoasters are supposed to be all about.

But, a mid-course trim brake abruptly sucks a lot of the energy out of the train. What's the sense of building a 235-foot tall hypercoaster only to slam on the brakes and dampen all of the fun?

The brake must be an attempt to mitigate the effect of the mind-numbing element that follows it. After a third drop, the train enters a highly banked helix where the track tightly turns and turns into itself. This is where grayouts can occur.

Nearly all coasters deliver negative (less than 1 G) and positive (greater than 1 G) forces. When done right, they can be roller coaster nirvana; they're what coaster junkies crave. In most cases, the G forces are momentary bursts. Even relatively high levels, in small doses, can be breathtaking. Goliath's sustained lateral G forces, however, can feel excruciating.

Goliath, G-Forces, and Grayouts all Begin with "G"

Keep in mind that riders' coaster experiences are unique. Not everyone responds to G forces in the same way. The time of day, the train's row or seat, or any one or a combination of other variables can make an impact on the ride and its forces. Since its debut in 2000, legions of riders have braved Goliath, apparently without succumbing to grayouts.

But a number of passengers (myself included) have reported that they have felt the ride's ill effects. (A few thrill ride warriors acknowledge the grayout experience, but claim that it does not bother them.) The extreme positive G-forces and riders' responses may indicate that something is inherently wrong with the ride's design.

Some riders can start getting foggy as soon as the train began its helix spiral. Instead of letting up, the G forces intensify. Their vision may begin getting blurry, and then everything may appear to have a glowing red cast. As the helix continues its tortuous coil, colors may fade from their vision altogether, and they may feel as if they are fighting to stay conscious. Finally, mercifully, when the train exits the helix, the fogginess generally lifts.

Even if grayouts were not an issue, Goliath would still not rate well. The best hypercoasters, like Six Flags New England's Superman The Ride, use their extreme height and speed to produce a symphony of thrilling airtime and barely-in-control maneuvers. Instead, Goliath squanders its pent-up power and falls woefully flat in its second movement.

Your experience may vary, but you may want to think twice before testing your limits. Younger children especially might find the experience quite unnerving. Consider putting your slingshot back in your pocket, David, and forgetting about Goliath. If you want a really good scream machine, check out Magic Mountain's incredible hybrid coaster, Twisted Colossus.