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How to Ride a Roller Coaster Without Holding On

Updated on February 21, 2013

Roller Coasters

Amusement park goers for generations have enjoyed roller coasters. From the Thunderbolt at Kennywood to the Cyclone at Coney Island, some of the most famous roller coasters in history have been wood-framed.These old coasters had a very rough ride for visitors that jerked bodies and gave frequent bruises. In the later twentieth century, steel coasters that were much smoother started to appear in amusements parks. The steel tracks with wheels above and below the track allowed for rides that did an amazing number of tricks that took riders to the limit of what was possible. A later generation of coasters created with computer engineering had even more radical designs.

Riding a roller coaster with no hands.
Riding a roller coaster with no hands. | Source

Riding a Roller Coaster is Generally Safe

There are many restrictions that are recommended for would-be roller coaster riders. Those who are pregnant should avoid riding a roller coaster for the safety of their coming addition. Also, those who have had heart attacks, those who have broken bones, and those who have had recent surgery are advised to avoid most roller coasters. Outside of these restrictions, riding a roller coaster is much safer than riding in an automobile on the highway. Derailed roller coasters and other accidents are extremely rare when it comes to the operation of roller coasters.

Safety Precautions on Roller Coasters

Roller coasters come with a variety of safety features that are intended to ensure that riders have a safe trip. One of the biggest safety features is the use of wheels that keep the train on the track. Unlike a railroad that just has to go in one direction, a roller coaster has intense hills, banks, and inversions that could drive the train off of the tracks.

To deal with the intensity of the quick changes in direction at high speed, roller coaster creators decided to put wheels on the side of or under the track in addition to the standard wheels that ran along the top of the track. This provided the stability to keep the train on the tracks.

Another safety precaution is a lap bar or shoulder harness that keeps riders in the seat of the cars. With the g-forces acting upon human passengers on a roller coaster, without these restraints, riders would fly out of the seat to severe injuries or death. These restraints require operators to release them, and individuals cannot open them while the train is in motion.

Have you ever ridden a roller coaster with no hands?

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Riding a Roller Coaster without Holding on

The positive and negative g-forces caused by hills and turns on a roller coaster can lead to a very rough ride, especially on wooden coasters. A badge of honor is the ability to ride a coaster without holding on.

How can you ride a roller coaster without hanging on? The first step in riding without holding on is sticking your arms up in the air, rather than holding on to a lap bar or a shoulder restraint. This is easier said than done, as the rocking of the car can lead to serious bruising and even theoretically broken ribs.

It is important to lean into the curves with the car because of inertia. A body in motion tends to remain in motion, so your body needs to follow the motion of the car as much as possible to avoid banging on the side of the car. This is easier to do while holding on, but it can be done while keeping hands aloft.

One caveat to riding without hands is the few older roller coasters that invert with only a lap bar. Some people may be worried about falling out during inversions. These lab bars are usually quite tight, and centrifugal force during loops tends to push riders behinds into their seats. Falling out is highly unlikely, but the thought of flipping with nothing over my shoulders keeps my hands firmly planted on the lap bar.

People of all ages love to ride roller coasters. I've seen people in their sixties and seventies on them. There are few things that can excite grown adults like a great coaster. Those who choose to ride without hands separate themselves from the average coaster rider. Because of physics, it's almost as safe as riding while holding on for dear life, unless you count bumps and bruises.


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