This Coaster Stands And Delivers, Big Time.

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Note: This article, from deep within the ThrillRide! archives, first appeared in Summer of 1997.

Togo, Inc. of Japan first brought the concept of a "stand-up" rollercoaster to America back in 1984, at Kings Island, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The King Kobra featured a single vertical loop, 66 feet high, and a top speed of 50 MPH. Sure, it was a tad peculiar, but it was also a brave step in a new direction.

Now, conceptually, I had never been truly smitten with these particular rides. After all, if I've been standing on line for an hour, the last thing I want to do when I board an attraction is... stand. Which is not to say I haven't had some real fun on stand-up coasters. It's just that given the choice, I'd rather plant my keister and take a load off. But when Bolliger & Mabillard got into the act, with their Iron Wolf, built for Six Flags Great America (Gurnee, IL) in 1990, they began to redefine the whole idea of what a stand-up coaster could be.

Iron Wolf was followed by the Vortex in 1992, B&M's stand-up ride for Carowinds. Then we got last year's Mantis, the Cedar Point quad-looping behemoth that some folks thought might be as intense as a stand-up ride could get.

Them folks, well, they wuz wrong. Because B&M has sired another record-annihilating overachiever called CHANG, and it has changed my attitude about stand-up rides forever.

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If you drive along I-65 to get to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, rest assured that you won't miss your exit. If the park's 15-story Giant Wheel doesn't get your attention, the towering yellow trackwork of this new coaster most definitely will. It's the kind of view that gets a true Thrillseeker bouncing up and down like an overstimulated five-year old; "Lookit, lookit, lookit!"

Rising from the surrounding trees, CHANG is a beautiful sight in more ways than one. On a clear day, the blue sky, green foliage and yellow supports make for a true Kodak Moment. Like everything else in the Kingdom, this coaster is awash in bright primary colors, a treat for the eye as much as for the spirit.

A huge sign over the ticket booths proudly announces CHANG's many new records: it is the world's tallest and longest stand-up coaster; it showcases the largest vertical loop and largest dive loop for any kind of coaster; and it has the largest number of inversions for any stand-up coaster. Hand over your dead presidents and get moving.

Finding CHANG will mean taking a brief tour of the rest of the park. You'll first cruise by the "Hellevator," their demonically red Giant Drop freefall tower. Great ride, brilliant name. Then off to your left, you'll see the "Thrill Park Theatre," a motion simulator venue. Cross the bridge over the road that bisects the park and circle around to the far end. You'll swing by "Mile High Falls," wind under the supports of "Thunder Run" (the park's fast and fun wooden coaster), and trot past the "Top Eliminator Dragsters." The trail bends behind some water slides and brings "T2" into view. This Vekoma inverted coaster is going to be hard to resist - the hot-red, kandy-kolored track, curling over and around itself, is awfully enticing - but save it for later. For just beyond T2 is what you've come for.

Approaching the faux-Asian gate that begins the queue, you can take in every inch of CHANG's hugely complex course. Talk about building anticipation: as you read the mandatory warning sign, indicating the possibility of experiencing 5 G's, a train roars through an inversion directly overhead. What a nice moment that is. Once through the gate, you can get a very clear look at that first vertical loop - if it provokes uncontrolled drooling, don't panic; it's supposed to.

A flight of stairs leads you up to the loading platform, where a gorgeous purple, yellow and red coach awaits. Shimmy your way over one of the bicycle-style seats and get comfortable. It's no surprise that the wizards at B&M have figured out how to make this process smooth and easy. Now, everyone will find their own favorite spot, but I highly recommend the front car. As with inverted coasters, the front "seat" gives you a completely unrestricted view and absolutely no shield against the effects of plowing along at over 60 miles per hour.

The lift hill leads straight out of the station; look to the right and you'll see a large parcel of undeveloped property. Look to your left, and the rest of the park is spread out below you. Soon, it's way, way below you. Cresting the lift hill, the train enters a nice, swooping U-turn, and you face that 144-foot drop and the madness that lies beyond.

It was at this moment that I fully appreciated what stand-up coasters were all about. Ever stood on the roof of a really tall building and tried to imagine leaping away, just letting your body fly into thin air, soaring like a bird? Sure you have, and then you came to your senses and carefully stepped back. Not this time. Standing tall on the top of that hill, you can feel your body tipping forward, falling faster and faster, finally plummeting towards the ground.Wind whipping around every inch of your form... it's pleasure at a very primal level, and it is sweet.

The train enters the first loop, pulling up from the descent, and that sensation of taking flight intensifies. Higher and higher, up and over, you're a bird of prey, diving down for the kill from 121 feet. Glory, hallelujah! You swoop out of that inversion and head directly into the 103-foot dive loop, again rocketing away from Mother Earth and climbing into the heavens.

Twisting and rotating, up and over, the train pulls to the left and makes a sweeping plunge into an element B&M calls a "high-speed carousel." Racing through this tight spiral is a sensually smooth experience; its precise curves are navigated with amazing grace. Round and round, and back down, you flow right into the third inversion, a 72-foot high inclined loop. Once more, the ground is above, the sky below.

A quick little hill is followed by a long wonderful turn to your left that sends you into a brake run. By now, I had already made up my mind that CHANG had taken a high position on my list of favorite coasters, but the journey was still not over.

Right off the brake run, you curl into the first corkscrew inversion. Tilting this way and that, another tight spiral threads you through the dive loop and pours you into a second corkscrew element, this one flying right over the queue. You veer to the right, twist to the left, and then, it is over.

Friends, you must get a taste of this.

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By holding you in an upright posture, stand-up coasters make you acutely aware of their velocity changes, much more so than traditional coasters (if you remember your high-school physics, it's all about torque). And that is what makes CHANG's stunningly smooth trip so mind-boggling; your body gets yanked around at over 60 miles per hour, and yet there is never a rough jolt, a shuddering transition between elements. Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but, damn, Bolliger and Mabillard kick major booty!

Kentucky Kingdom is also to be highly praised for laying out the $12 million this monster required. CHANG is the largest single investment the park has made, and it has already proven to be money very well spent. But, fellow Thrillseekers, this coaster is only one of many big things "The Thrill Park" has planned for the coming years. Remember that undeveloped property I mentioned earlier? It will not remain undeveloped for long. The Kingdom's owners plan to double the size of the park in the next decade, and that won't be accomplished by adding choo-choo trains and merry-go-rounds. Yes, there will be rides the whole family can enjoy, but the recipe will rely heavily on major scream machines. Big, big rides. Nobody will say anything for the record, but they promise, we will not be disappointed. Ex-cellent.

  • TRACK LENGTH: 4,155 feet
  • TOP SPEED: 63 Miles Per Hour
  • MAX. HEIGHT: 154 feet
  • MAX. DROP: 144 feet
  • MAX. G FORCE: 5
  • RIDE DURATION: 2 minutes, 43 seconds
  • CARS: Two trains composed of seven cars. Each car accommodates four passengers across.
  • CAPACITY: 1,566 guests per hour
  • MANUFACTURER: Bolliger & Mabillard, Monthey, Switzerland

Chang logo artwork courtesy Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom.



© Robert Coker
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