Rollercoaster Ranking – SLCs

Contrary to the model name – the Suspended Looping Coaster, these rides have since been classified (amongst enthusiast databases at least) as ‘inverted’ rollercoasters. The first layout debuted in 1994 in the home nation of manufacturer Vekoma, just two years after the introduction of the popular ‘Batman’ B&M Invert.
The key difference these inverts had when compared to the ‘suspended’ designs seen throughout the ’80s was that the train is rigidly attached to the track and could therefore perform tighter manouevres, including inversions, and achieve compact layouts on flat land more easily. They also had the novelty of dangling guests legs in the air and thus threw in a bit of intimidation factor for good measure. This new concept soon became a staple investment to be included in any thrill ride lineup and Vekoma’s lower cost alternative managed to tap into a significant portion of that market.

While great news for the manufacturer, this successful business strategy has only ever manifested itself somewhere in between lamentable and loathsome for the coaster counters among us. The ride type is frequently regarded as one of the worst on the planet due to a combination of poor tracking and unforgiving oversized shoulder restraints that commonly result in ‘headbanging’ or ‘earbashing’. In short, the experience is generally unpleasant and not one that leaves you wanting more.

But more is the hand we’ve been dealt. The now prolific Vekoma SLC has been built 33 times while spanning an unusually long career for any coaster model, with the latest having been installed in 2017. Sadly throughout all this time there have been no more than a few variations in layout. There are currently 20 of the standard ‘689m’ version, several other ‘extended’ or ‘bonus helix’ editions of the same original design and a small handful of grim alternatives.

To add insult to sometimes literal injury (purely from this silly author’s selfish perspective), the early 2000s saw various Chinese manufacturers double down on this idea of low cost, highly repeatable SLC design and even ended up replicating both of the standard Vekoma layouts for the vast majority of their installations. With Golden Horse alone now ahead of Vekoma on quantity of sales for this ride type and several other companies striving to do the same, latest estimates would put the number of SLCs worldwide at over 100. A harrowing thought for anyone whose game is to catch ’em all.

How well (badly) have I fared so far then? In terms of the original Vekomas I’m just shy of halfway through the list at 16. By almost actively avoiding anything of this nature in China I’ve also managed to sample just 5 locally built equivalents across 3 separate manufacturers and I shall continue to try and stop myself from making it any more of a habit. For what it’s worth, here’s how these occupational hazards rank from miserable to manageable and any tangential anecdotes that may have helped me in making such ground-breaking judgements.

#21 Flare Meteor (Golden Horse) – Fantawild Adventure Zhuzhou (China)

I rarely use the phrase ‘burn it down’ about anything in the theme park world, but I have done here. Fantawild Adventure parks have a tendency to bring out the worst of me in general and then this ride decided to commence proceedings with two sharp punches to the skull during the first drop and turn. There’s literally no merit to this when it simply stems from poor implementation of a common as muck design. We’re off to a good start.

#20 Twister (Beijing Jiuhua Amusement Rides Manufacturing Co., Ltd.) – Quancheng Euro Park (China)

This was an abomination of equal magnitude but it had certain quirks working in its favour. It’s a requirement to wear a green padded vest for this ride, which they supply you with in the station, so clearly they already know that this piece of hardware has the potential to cause physical injury. At least they aren’t afraid to admit this and embrace the fact that it’s going to continue.
It’s also not a layout inspired by any Vekoma and contains this weird poorly shaped inversion that throws at least one interesting sensation into the mix.
The bad? The cars bounced back and forth really badly while negotiating the track, a usually minor trait that you’ll see later on I had come to even enjoy a little for comedy reasons. This very pronounced equivalent of the effect was rough and unpleasant on the innards as well as the outtards.

#19 El Condor (Vekoma) – Walibi Holland (Netherlands)

The prototype that started it all. What a mess. It had the henchest restraints I had ever seen when I rode this thing and as they are literally already making physical contact there was absolutely nothing to be done to prevent them from gnawing away at your ears from first drop to brake run. Guests audibly swear on this ride more than I’ve heard on anything else in the world.

#18 Dragon In Clouds (Vekoma) – Happy Valley Chengdu (China)

I don’t think I disliked the ride itself as much as I despised the circumstances of this one. The queueline is made up of disgusting metal cages and the staff in this park (by far the worst in China for me) were having arguments with me about pointless seating nonsense while I’m dying inside, desperate to get the stupid thing over and done with. Oh, it was rough though.

#17 Odyssey (Vekoma) – Fantasy Island (UK)

Not even uniqueness can make this one shine in a sea of sludge. The tallest SLC in the world is pure custom goodness and I didn’t like it one bit. They clearly weren’t designed to handle such unprecedented speeds and that only adds to the calamity in this particular case.
Odyssey is notoriously hard to catch due to either technical issues or being susceptible to the awful weather on the North East coast of England so there is some joy to be found in all of this – I’m glad I’ve crossed it off the list.

#16 Suspended Coaster (Beijing Jiuhua Amusement Rides Manufacturing Co., Ltd.) – Window of the World Changsha (China)

Having to do the notorious ‘Happy Valley exercises’ in preparation for some of the finest coasters in production is an entertaining laugh and a character building experience. Having to do them for an SLC is an insult and once again I was just dying to get this thing out of the way. It was far newer than the equivalent layout I had already ridden, from the same manufacturer, and therefore hadn’t yet been reduced to a terrible state. Give it time.

#15 Arkham Asylum – Shock Therapy (Vekoma) – Warner Bros. Movie World (Australia)

If I was being cynical I could claim that we had to revisit this park just to ride the SLC and complete the creds. We were actually just being smart and prioritising time spent on DC Rivals over queuing an hour for nothing but the coaster count (I’ve done far worse of course).
Having caved and come back anyway there was no queue at all, but that didn’t stop this from being a bad experience. My first encounter with vest restraints on these proved that they do nothing but highlight how sub-par the overall track quality is. These rides aren’t good, in case you hadn’t noticed yet.

#14 Limit (Vekoma) – Heide Park (Germany)

If I was being cynical I could claim that we had to revisit this park just to ride the SLC and complete the creds.
Actually I was just being smart and prioritising time spent on B&Ms and Intamin Woodies and then the weather decided to hail and thunderstorm the place into a full closure.
Having caved and come back anyway, there were other things to add to the count as well, but that didn’t stop this from being a bad experience. This was still early days for me and I certainly had noticed, these rides aren’t good.

#13 Vampire (Vekoma) – Walibi Belgium

Cheat! The only one on the list that never received the privilege of my photographic recognition. Instead this is a cheeky shot through the trees of the original Walibi SLC from earlier in the list. I’m sure you get the picture by now. They’re almost all the same.
Sadly we had to resort to paying for fastrack to add this to the collection, only to be thwarted in our cred running efforts by another Belgian park that day anyway. I remember absolutely nothing of the ride experience.

#12 MP-Xpress (Vekoma) – Movie Park Germany

What an eyesore. This was the first time I noticed the weird motion (mentioned above) that the trains can sometimes do on these which involves pumping backwards and forwards rather than the usual side to side that causes headbanging. In minor doses it doesn’t actually do a whole lot and I found it rather amusing, along with the whole setup of this ride. It’s unashamedly ugly, from the gravel service roads to the tin shed station.

#11 Kumali (Vekoma) – Flamingo Land (UK)

I believe I somewhat liked this one back in the day. It was a glorious time in which I didn’t count coasters, obsess over them on the internet or even comprehend that one day I’d be forced to subject myself to the many, many more ‘Kumalis’ out there. Basically it had character and individuality to me, before all this worldly knowledge that I’m spewing out here ruined that illusion – you’re welcome.

#10 Flare Meteor (Golden Horse) – Fantawild Adventure Shenyang (China)

Just cracking the top ten (what an honour) is my favourite Golden Horse in the list. I had some fun running to this one like a man possessed in order to squeeze in the +1 before an appointment with a timeslotted dark ride elsewhere in the park. It was a rather windy day, to the point of threatening ride closure and I actually felt the impact of this on ride through a somewhat unnerving almost-stall in one of the inversions. This particular Flare Meteor performed just fine overall and didn’t leave me with any more than the usual worry about other SLCs from the manufacturer – oh how they would prove me wrong.

#9 Mind Eraser (Vekoma) – Six Flags America

By far the most aptly named of these rides out there, this one promises to do what many further up in this post actually achieve. Fortunately it doesn’t deliver on the promise and was one of the most inoffensive around. It even looks rather nice, comparatively.

#8 Nio (Vekoma) – Greenland (Japan)

Nio is another of which I remember very little about in terms of the ride experience so it was likely fine. The dominating sensation here was that of intense joy – my first day in Japan (and what a way to spend it).

#7 Soaring Dragon and Dancing Phoenix (Beijing Shibaolai Amusement Equipment) – Nanchang Wanda Theme Park (China)

This one has a few things in its favour – they were playing K-pop in the station, it’s (finally) a custom layout and that crude phoenix on the front makes it by far the best attempt at a themed train on any of these that I know of. All of that combined with no major upsets make this my current king of Chinese built SLCs.

#6 Riddler Revenge (Vekoma) – Six Flags New England (USA)

We’re back in vest restraint territory again and I can now say that when paired with adequate tracking, the experience becomes a lot more… inconsequential. Fair play to this one, we saw certain guests choose to ride it more than once.

#5 Golden Wings In Snowfield (Vekoma) – Happy Valley Beijing (China)

I think for some reason, as yet unknown to me, that I slightly prefer this ‘Shenlin’ layout that was born out of another Happy Valley park, when it isn’t trying to hurt me. This one comes with bonus helix and an exceptionally long and well themed queueline that it doesn’t deserve in the slightest.

#4 Snow Mountain Flying Dragon (Vekoma) – Happy Valley Shenzhen (China)

As does this one. You could get lost for hours walking in the general direction of the station through decorative temple ruins and that would actually count as a good excuse to not board the ride.
This was the original ‘Shenlin’ installation, no bonus helix, and I don’t honestly know why it’s stuck with me as one of the better ones. Perhaps some foolishly naive nostalgia about it being my first day in China. Is it possible to have a gut feeling about such a gruesome topic? I have since passed on the opportunity to reride it during a subsequent visit – leave the memories alone.

#3 Rollercoaster Mayan (Vekoma) – Energylandia (Poland)

Straight out of the Vekoma catalogue that forms half of the park lineup at Energylandia, this is the newest build of a Vekoma SLC that I’ve ridden and it seems now that the vests are here to stay.
I was welcomed into the station with a complement from a friendly ride host about how beautiful Liseberg is (courtesy of whichever of their shirts I happened to be wearing, sadly I don’t exude such an aura without visual cue just yet). That alone is almost enough to win this list.

#2 Infusion (Vekoma) – Blackpool Pleasure Beach (UK)

My very first SLC experience and unlike any other in the list I’ve unashamedly ridden it several times (though not in recent memory). It’s one of the better behaved ones, not necessarily in a standout way but I guess I just like Blackpool, I like that it’s over water and… nope, that’s everything nice I have to say about it.

#1 Blue Tornado (Vekoma) – Gardaland (Italy)

Three trains. This bonus helix layout was operating with three trains on track. When observing the operational efficiency of a rollercoaster is the most entertaining aspect of the entire experience, you know you’re onto a winning design.

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  1. Blue tornado is the worst one ever what are you talking about. The extra helix is just extra 5 seconds of suffering

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