Review of The Beast Roller Coaster

The Beast coaster at Kings Island
••• Kings Island

The Beast frequently shows up on coaster fans' top-10 lists. It is also one of the world's most famous wooden roller coasters. Heck, noted kid-lit author R.L. Stine even wrote a book about it. But this coaster fan thinks The Beast at Kings Island is the single most overrated roller coaster on the planet. Here's why.

Up-Front Info

  • Type of coaster: Wooden Terrain
  • Height: 110 feet
  • First drop: 135 feet
  • Second lift hill drop: 141 feet

The Beast has Been De-Clawed

At one time, perhaps, The Beast deserved its legendary status. Debuting in 1979, it featured a number of innovative and unique elements. At 7359 feet, it still holds the record for the world's longest wooden coaster. And its twin lift hills certainly distinguish it from the coaster pack. The second lift hill sends The Beast's riders diving into a 540-degree helix, largely in the dark. Buried deep in the Mason, Ohio woods, the terrain coaster careens along its expansive, tree-lined course hidden from the Kings Island midway.

With some TLC, the coaster would likely be capable of delivering a wild and woolly ride. And its army of ardent supporters would seem to indicate that it did just that -- probably for many years.

But somewhere along the way (I rode the coaster in 2009), Kings Island de-clawed The Beast by installing trim brakes.

Rather than bringing coaster trains to a halt, trim brakes are designed to slow them down. Parks often use them during the course of the ride to help reduce wear and tear and thereby save money on maintenance.

With 7359 feet of track, The Beast has plenty to maintain. And it now has plenty of trim brakes. It is among a small group of thrill machines that throws on the brakes on the first drop. Rather than the out-of-control, high-speed release that most coasters offer, The Beast seizes up during its initial 135-foot drop.

The Beast has Been Trimmed

Trim brakes also sucks the fun out of the ride's 141-foot drop after the second lift hill. And the beastly brakes cuts the speed at a number of other points as well. The trim brakes probably contributes to another damning peculiarity: The Beast has virtually no airtime. For a wooden coaster that clocks in at over four minutes, that's crazy -- and inexcusable.

Free-floating, butterflies-in-your-stomach negative Gs, along with more violent ejector air, are synonymous with wooden coasters. But passengers aboard The Beast never leave their seats (at least when I rode it). With no airtime and with trim brakes sapping its acceleration and speed, The Beast is less a coaster and more a rickety ride through the woods.

If you're looking for a more classic wooden coaster experience with plenty of airtime, head over to The Racer at Kings Island. If you want a more modern wooden coaster that is loaded with airtime, check out the park's Mystic Timbers.

For a truly transcendent ride experience, hop on the hypercoaster, Diamondback. You won't believe the floater airtime it delivers.

That's not to say that The Beast has no redeeming value. After the second lift hill, the revolution-and-a-half helix may be compromised by the trim brakes, but it's still fun. A wooden canopy creates a tunnel that envelops most of the long and winding helix for a disorienting, lights-out journey into the namesake Beast's lair. And however odd it may be to remain glued to a coaster's seat, it's nonetheless a rush to be lurching through the woods at relatively high speeds.

There's also a palpable sense of nostalgia surrounding The Beast. Rather than building tension, the cheesy, "suspenseful," look-out-for-The-Beast! music playing as the train crests the first lift hill generates more of a knowing chuckle.

The metal-on-metal screeching and the funky smell of the grease used to lubricate the ride offer additional sensory links to its glory days.

People still flock to the popular ride. They want to love it. And some undoubtedly do. But the anemic experience passengers get today can't be what acclaimed coaster builder Charlie Dinn had in mind when he unleashed The Beast during the Carter presidency. Maybe Kings Island should consider a major overhaul. By adding new trains, doing some re-tracking, and ditching the trim brakes, I'll bet this Beast could roar back to life.