Roller Coaster Terminology 101 

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Roller Coaster Terminology 101 

Don Helbig |
May 23, 2020

When you’re having a discussion with a roller coaster enthusiast, it’s easy to get lost in the conversation if you don’t know the buzzwords like “Immelmann Roll.”

Below is a list of commonly used jargon by roller coaster enthusiasts to help you understand what the heck they’re talking about and put you on the path to becoming a roller coaster expert yourself.


Airtime – A favorite term for roller coaster enthusiasts! It’s used to describe the feeling created by negative g-forces which gives riders the sensation of floating on a roller coaster. Airtime or negative g-forces are most commonly experienced on a drop or at the crest of hill. Diamondback and the Racer are two Kings Island rides that offer an abundance of airtime.

ACE (American Roller Coaster Enthusiasts) – A non-profit organization founded in 1978 with over 6,000 members world-wide and a mission to foster and promote the preservation, appreciation, knowledge and enjoyment of all types of roller coasters.

Anti-Rollback Device – That click-clack-click sound you hear going up the lift hills on roller coasters like The Beast at Kings Island? That’s the anti-rollback device with the sound caused by the “dogs” attached under the cars that prevent trains from rolling back down the hill in the event of a stoppage.

Ascend – Climbing or rising up a hill or any incline along a roller coaster’s course.


Bank Turn – When a section of track is laterally angled while turning. Riders will experience a series of banked turns while riding The Beast and Mystic Timbers at Kings Island.

Barrel Roll – This term is an inversion term, a corkscrew maneuver on a section of roller coaster track. Riders will experience a barrel roll on the world’s longest steel inverted roller coaster, Banshee at Kings Island.

Batwing – Term used for a boomerang inversion, which consists of two half vertical loops, each at a 45 degree angle, with half the inversion facing each other. 

Bench Seats – A flat-seat designed with no divider between the riders. Bench seats were most commonly found on wooden coasters and mine train coasters. Today, most roller coasters are designed with seat dividers.

Bents – The vertical wood beams on a wooden roller coaster's structure.

Block Brakes – The term refers to sections of track that can be blocked from others using brakes. Built-in safety systems prevent multiple trains from being in the same location at any one time.

Boomerang – A type of inversion with two half loops connected to each other.

Brake Fin – A straight piece of steel located on the underside of roller coaster cars that slides into and through a fin brake mounted on the tracks. The brake fin may also slide through a magnetic brake as well.

Brake Run – A section of track located before the load and unload station where brakes are installed to stop and hold an incoming train prior to entering the station.  


Camelback – This term describes a series of hills on a wooden or steel roller coaster where each preceding hill is slightly smaller than the proceeding one. These produce the airtime moments that roller coaster enthusiasts crave.

Catapult Launch – Coaster trains are launched from a standing start by use of linear induction motors, powered pneumatic tires or compressed air to launch the train. Kings Island's Flight of Fear uses a linear induction motor launch system.

Chain Lift – One of the most common elements found on most roller coasters. The chain lift pulls the train to the top of a lift hill and then gravity takes over with the release of the train.

Cobra Roll – Term used to describe a double inversion which can be found on some roller coasters designed by Bolliger and Mabillard. The design of the element looks similar to the hood of a striking cobra.

Corkscrew – A twisting inversion, designed similar to a corkscrew. Not too dissimilar to a barrel roll.


Dive Coaster – Used to describe a roller coaster that climbs a lift hill and then, for just a moment, hangs at the top, and then makes a 90 degree dive. Valravn at Cedar Point and Yukon Striker at Canada’s Wonderland are among the best dive coasters in the world.


Element – A word used to describe the thrilling features riders will experience on a roller coaster such as bank turns and a barrel roll.

Elevated Curve – A feature on a roller coaster where the track either descends or ascends as it curves.

ERT – Exclusive ride time during roller coaster enthusiast events or a perk for season passholders.


Family Coaster – A roller coaster that is not as intense or wild which appeals to a broader range of guests.

First Drop – The first major drop on a roller coaster generally following the release of the train from the lift hill.

Floorless – A roller coaster whose train has no floor, nothing above or below the rider other than the seat itself. Flying Ace Aerial Chase located in Kings Island’s award-winning kids’ area, Planet Snoopy, is a floorless coaster.


G-Forces – The amount of gravitational force that is put on the body.

Giga Coaster – Term used to describe a roller coaster with a height or drop of 300 feet or more. Kings Island’s newest roller coaster, Orion, is a giga coaster with its 300-foot first drop.

Coaster Crew – A social club that brings perks, discounts, friendships and events at amusement and theme parks across the USA for its members.

GOCC (Great Ohio Coaster Club) – A social club created in 1992 for the simple enjoyment of the roller coaster with over 1,600 members in 26 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. The club typically holds three to four events per year in various locations including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, New York or Canada, along with an annual Holiday Party.

Grab Bars
The handles to the side or in front of riders that allow them to hold on during the ride.

Guide Wheels – An extra set of wheels under a roller coaster train that guide and lock the cars to the track.


Headrest – Headrests are a part of the design of a coaster seat. This device is added to some coasters for rider safety to prevent whiplash.

Heartline Roll – Term used to describe an element in which the train twists but the rider’s heart remains in line with the center of gravity.

Helix – A turn on a roller coaster that forms a radius of more than 360-degrees. A double helix like found on The Beast at Kings Island completes two 360-degree turns.

Hybrid Roller Coaster – A roller coaster with a wooden structure and steel track. If you’ve ridden Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point, you’ve ridden what many roller coaster enthusiasts consider the ultimate hybrid roller coaster.

Hypercoaster – Term used to describe a steel roller coaster under 300 feet in height or length of the first drop designed to feature speed and airtime. Kings Island’s Diamondback epitomizes a hypercoaster.


Immelmann Roll – Term used to describe a diving loop on an inverted steel roller coaster like Banshee. This element is named after a World War 1 German pilot who invented the flying maneuver.

Inversion – Term used to describe any portion of roller coaster track that turns riders upside down. Riders on Kings Island’s Banshee experience seven stomach-churning inversions.

Inverted Coaster – The train hangs underneath the tracks, but unlike a suspended coaster, it cannot pivot freely. Also, inverted coasters have no floors and riders' legs dangle. Banshee at Kings Island is the world’s longest steel inverted roller coaster.


Junior Coaster – A term also used to describe a kiddie roller coaster or a roller coaster designed especially for children, like The Great Pumpkin Coaster at Kings Island.


Linear Induction Motor (LIM) – A launched roller coaster that uses repelling magnetic forces to send trains out of the station. Kings Island’s Flight of Fear was the first roller coaster in the world to feature a linear induction motor.

Launched Coaster – The use of linear induction motors, linear synchronous motors, powered pneumatic tires, compressed air or hydraulics are used to launch roller coaster trains from a standing start as an alternative to a traditional chain lift system. Kings Island’s Flight of Fear, for example.

Lift Hill – The initial climb up a roller coaster.

Loop – An element on a roller coaster sends riders up vertically, turns them over and then back right side up.


Mine Train – Early steel roller coasters with a layout that features fast, quick turns, drops and helix turns.


Out and Back – The trains go out, turn around, and come back in. Kings Island’s Racer is an example of the classic out and back roller coaster.


Point of View (POV) – This term is often used with video footage or animations to describe the type of footage from a rider’s point of view.


Shuttle Coasters – Any coaster that proceeds forward, stops, then heads backwards through the same course in reverse.

Standup Coaster – Riders stand, instead of sit, on adjustable, bicycle-type seats.

Strata Coaster – Cedar Point coined this term to describe its over-400 foot tall Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster.

Suspended Coasters – A roller coaster designed where the trains ride below the track opposed to on top of the track. Suspended roller coasters include The Bat and Flying Ace Aerial Chase at Kings Island.


Terrain Coaster – A roller coaster that uses that natural topography of the land with the track low to the ground following the terrain like The Beast at Kings Island.

Trim Brake – A trim brake is used to reduce the speed of a roller coaster train along sections of track to keep it from exceeding the top speed recommended by the ride manufacturer. One of the first features some enthusiasts look for when scouring over new roller coaster blueprints.

Turnaround – Any element that reverses a train's direction. Typically found at the halfway point of an Out and Back Coaster.

Twister – A roller coaster that turns and twists into itself opposed to an out and back roller coaster. Also referred to in the amusement and theme park industry as a cyclone coaster.


Wing Coaster – Imaging the wings of a bird. That’s similar to the design of a Wing Coaster. Instead of riding above the track, the seats on wing coasters are to the left and right sides of the track. Riders have nothing above or beneath their seats. Cedar Point is home to one of the world’s best wing coasters, GateKeeper.

Woodie – Term for a traditional wooden roller coaster.


Zero-G Roll – A roller coaster inversion where the track twists 360-degrees as it rises and falls in elevation, usually at the crest of a hill.