Does stapling actually matter?

Saturday, January 16, 2021 3:22 PM

All generalizations are false, right? I mean, I can't even cite Intamin's particular failure as a pattern of behavior: to their credit, the exact configuration they used on Superman: Ride of Steel was fixed by the time they built Millennium Force...and the interesting thing about that one is that *it looks exactly the same*. The difference between the original S:ROS configuration and the Millennium Force configuration is *extremely* subtle but makes an enormous difference. Then they revised it further, then they developed something even better. If anything, I'd give Intamin credit for actually learning from their mistakes and figuring it out.

But while Intamin has had the misfortune of a few noteworthy failures, I do think it really is a more widespread problem, and it often seems to happen because of a mistaken attitude that tighter individual restraints are automatically better than collective ones, and that adjustability automatically adds safety. In my opinion neither of those statements is necessarily true; heck the PTC situation almost demonstrates it. Kind of like that time I was riding Zamperla's oversized Rockin' Tug at Kings Island. One of the changes they made to the ride was to replace the single lap bar with a separate lap bar for each seat, although the bars are all tied together...they're adjustable but not individually. In accordance with ASTM F2291-2005:6.5, cutting the lap bar into pieces technically changed the restraint category from Class 3 to Class 4. At the end of the ride, the young girl sitting next to me simply stood up. She couldn't stand up under the bar, but was able to fit easily into the space between her lap bar and mine...which means that if the bar were the same as the one on the Rockin' Tug (Restraint Class 3), she couldn't have done that.

Now the fact of the matter is, getting back to the original point of this thread, my opinion is that from a safety perspective, jamming the restraint down to the point of being uncomfortably tight is not necessary and is usually counter productive. Causing discomfort or injury does not make one safe. That I can cite examples of restraint design failures doesn't necessarily make the rides they are attached to "unsafe", and I don't think it should be necessary for designers to absolutely prevent any form of unsafe rider behavior. Accordingly, we see a good safety record even for less than perfect designs. Likewise, most designers take advantage of the fact that they can control the forces applied by their rides, making many of their restraints unnecessary if the rider is somewhat cooperative. But as some rides become more extreme, a good understanding of why and how a particular restraint works becomes ever more important. Otherwise we get situations like Intamin putting the same seat and restraint on their drop tower that they used on their inverted coaster, resulting in a design that allowed an improperly seated rider to come out because the force on the drop tower is different from the force on the coaster. Or Tivoli putting a KMG seat and shoulder bar on the ReMix and having a rider get thrown because the seat has no lateral support...on a ride that, when it uses non-foot-dangling gondolas (that would be an Orbiter), doesn't even require active restraints at all. Tivoli knew that the shoulder bar on the ReMix was way above and beyond the restraint that ride needed, but somehow they missed the necessary lateral support, and the ride ran for many years before someone accidentally found the problem.

So Intamin had a couple of bad designs. They aren't the only ones, but they are quite literally the easiest to pick on because of the nature of those flaws. I do think that on the whole the industry is doing a pretty good job and is getting better. I like to think that in general the engineers who are designing the containment and restraint systems on these rides understand well what they are doing, the bigger problem is that most everybody else doesn't, which is why...circling back to where we started...we have park management and ride operators "stapling" riders and enthusiasts who ought to know better cheering them on.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


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Sunday, January 17, 2021 12:34 PM
Tommytheduck's avatar

I've seen so many different styles of restraints that I have no idea what's going on.

You mention Magnum, a ride I find incredibly painful at my home park. No matter where the restraint is, it hurts my legs. Compare to SV, which has 2 holding points with larger surface areas, is always "stapled," and has very strong forces as well, and I do not find it painful at all.

Intamin hyper restraints. The S:ROS coasters and Millennium Force had the same restraints as far as I can tell. Then SFNE switched to a newer style which restrains the shins as well as the legs. 4 years ago I rode this new style and what was once my favorite hyper was so painful I opted out of the re-ride that was offered with our Flashpass.

And Revolutions' different restrains over the years? I cannot see how that simple metal lapbar they once used could possibly be safe if ever stuck in an inverted position, ala what happened to Demon. And even if it could hold you in it would be absolute agony supporting your entire body weight on that tiny amount of square inches.

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Sunday, January 17, 2021 8:37 PM
Jeff's avatar

Magnum: Pull the belt as tight as you can get it, and it will be a comfortable (but wild) ride.

The Superman coasters don't even have the same restraint among them, let alone like MF. The MF seats are a little deeper, if I recall, so the geometry mentioned above is correct.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Sunday, January 17, 2021 9:09 PM

If you ride on a rough wheel seat, Magnum can be a bit of a jarring headache inducer, but it has nothing to do with the restraint. In a good seat on a warm summer night, that airtime on the return trip could easily be my favorite part of any coaster.

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Sunday, January 17, 2021 10:20 PM

When the Sirocco over in Belgium launch malfunctioned in 1997, it had just enough speed to clear the loop forward, but got stuck upside down, since it stopped at the precise spot in the loop where it was balanced.

Riders were stuck around 2 hours upside down, while the firemen got riders out car by car.

What was the restraint? The original Schwarzkopf lap bar and it kept riders safe upside down.


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Sunday, January 17, 2021 11:15 PM

^I was also just thinking about the Schwarzkopf restraints from SDL at HP. That ride has been around for 40+ years and always had the single bar design. Revolution had them when built, and then I think the California laws or insurance providers required the OTSR, which as we all know, ruined the ride for all those years.

I also remember being able to release the same lap bar on SDL while the ride was in motion into the mid 80s. The design of the ride forces almost made the bar unnecessary, until the brake run. Back then we considered SDL an extreme ride. Today's it's a family coaster.

Anyway, back to stapling, I really don't seem to mind either way, except on MF trains with that seatbelt. Stapling that bar and having that seatbelt latch in my stomach can ruin the ride experience.


Fever I really enjoy the Simpsons. It's just a shame that I am starting to LOOK like Homer.
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Sunday, January 17, 2021 11:49 PM

Absimilliard said:

When the Sirocco over in Belgium launch malfunctioned in 1997, it had just enough speed to clear the loop forward, but got stuck upside down, since it stopped at the precise spot in the loop where it was balanced.

If the train just balanced why wouldn't they just give it a push like they do on Top Thrill Dragster? And if they started to unload, they would have to secure the train since it would roll out of the loop once passengers started to get out.

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Monday, January 18, 2021 1:42 AM

The train wasn’t balanced, it was jammed. The push plate on the back of the train is weighted so that in the station the weight holds it “up” until the electrical solenoid pulls it “down” so that the pusher can come up behind it and shove the train out of the station. Once engaged there is a pin on the push-car that holds the plate down even with the solenoid de-energized. It just so happens that there are points along the loop where the clearance between the car’s back bumper and the track ties is reduced as the car pitches about its rear axle. If the push-plate is down, it can strike the track tie in the loop. The same counterweight that normally holds the plate “up” will hold the plate “down” when the +Gz force reverses...because the train is upside down and the rotational force that normally pulls the train to the outside of the loop is missing because it isn’t moving. So the train stalls out, and starts to roll back out of the loop...but can’t because the push plate jams against the track tie. That plate is strong enough to shove the train forward; it’s strong enough to prevent it from going backward.

In the Demon incident the mechanism was similar except it was the back end of the last car that was hanging up on the track ties and preventing a roll-back out of the loop.

—Dave Althoff, Jr.


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Sunday, January 24, 2021 1:03 AM

I have to disagree with the statement of pulling the seatbelt as tight as you can on Magnum to make a comfortable ride. No, I have never done that. But on my last visits there in '14 & '15, the belts were shortened so much that I barely fit in. Sorry, in my mind, I would rather have my legs slamming against the lapbar instead of feeling like the belt was going to cut me in half! But that's my personal preference. :)

On the topic of stapling actually mattering. For me...yes. It is a comfort issue. Also, it seems like if there is room for me to move, it is less painful than being pinned into the seat. Again, my preference. Anybody that knows me, knows how much I love Magnum and riding ejector seat majority of the time. :)


Jerry - Magnum Fanatic
Famous Dave's- 206 restaurants - 35 states - 2 countries

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Sunday, January 24, 2021 9:15 AM

CoffinBoy said:

I have to disagree with the statement of pulling the seatbelt as tight as you can on Magnum to make a comfortable ride. No, I have never done that.

When I was a kid I hated all sorts of foods. But to be fair, I had never tried any of them.

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Sunday, January 24, 2021 1:17 PM

Let me explain the 'seat belt trick' on Magnum...

The lap bar is roughly 1" in diameter and because it is circular the contact patch is even smaller. In the 'ejector seat' your displacement can be a few inches, and the lap bar is naturally too tight to accommodate that (grr). The seat belt, on the other hand, is about 2" wide, and because it is flat (a seat belt should NEVER be twisted, in any situation!) and because it has some flex to it, if you can get the seat belt to grab you before the lap bar does, it will be a lot more comfortable. It doesn't need to clamp you down in the seat, but it needs to be tighter than the lap bar for this to work.

Magnum is a poster child for lap bar "stapling" being a bad idea.

Another tactic is to reach down and firmly *lift up* on the lap bar as you go over the airtime hills. The objective is not to raise the lap bar, but to hold yourself down relative to it.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
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Sunday, January 24, 2021 4:41 PM

Of all the rides I've learned to ride "defensively" over the years, Magnum has never been one of them. Even in the ejector seat I've never once found the airtime painful. I'll avoid the back wheel seat of all the cars but the first to avoid head jarring, but I've never needed to defensively prepare myself for any of the elements like I do on other rides.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021 5:04 PM

Kings Island had a ride called Flight Commander (or Flight Simulator...or something like that). I guess it was a Disney Astro Orbiter on steroids because the two person vehicle we sat in could rotate almost (if not) completely around so that you were upside down. My first and only time riding that I was "stapled" in so tightly that I was in some significant physical pain...and I had to yell out to the rider operator to come free me.

If I had to endure the entire ride in that stapled mode I'm not sure I would have survived it. By far it was the most pain and discomfort I've ever had on an amusement ride (and I'm including some rough winter rides on Mean Streak in here). I didn't know they it was called "stapling"...but it was brutal.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021 5:24 PM
Vater's avatar

Yeah, I rode its twin Sky Pilot at Kings Dominion a few times. Even when you weren't stapled, it was claustrophobic and uncomfortable as hell, unless you left the controller alone and didn't do any maneuvers...then it was just a complete bore (more than it was already).

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021 9:08 PM

Jeff said:

Magnum: Pull the belt as tight as you can get it, and it will be a comfortable (but wild) ride.

The Superman coasters don't even have the same restraint among them, let alone like MF. The MF seats are a little deeper, if I recall, so the geometry mentioned above is correct.

This.

When I boarded S:ROS several years ago, I can remember thinking "wow these seats are flat." Seems to me getting an angle less than 90 degrees between legs and torso goes a long way.


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Wednesday, January 27, 2021 2:31 AM

On S:ROS that only happens in the even numbered rows. On Millennium Force the seats are still shallow, but the geometry is fixed. Dragster has a deeper seat and a redesigned lap bar.

—Dave Althoff, Jr.


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Friday, January 29, 2021 1:47 PM

Disclaimer: I've been riding coaster for 4 decades, and I've always been a strict coaster restraint rule follower.*

I respect the park's rules, and the physics involved in these rides. And I always will. Also taught my boys to do the same.

To respond to the original question: I can't quite explain it, but at least in my experience, even a half inch of "safe freedom" can up my excitement rating, especially when magnified over hundreds of feet. Perhaps it's mostly mental. But for me, it's there. That little inch, allows a little movement, that allows me to better feel the changing forces.

I do have a tiny bit of claustrophobia when restrained tightly. Perhaps that makes a difference.

I do miss the buzz bars on Beast, Racer, and any woodie I once rode with them for these reasons.

As Rideman explained, I prefer feeling "contained" but not necessarily "restrained". **

*Except for that one time I was young and foolish enough to stick my arms sideways on the Beast. Oof. Thankfully lesson learned with no scars.

** Kings Island's old Skylab ride pushed this to an exciting, even fear inducing level. I loved it.


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Friday, January 29, 2021 6:19 PM

Always fun to watch the first-timers on the Enterprise and Skylab rides. You can always spot them: they're the ones who sit down, slide the door closed, and start looking for the seat belt.

Now those are being replaced with the Zamperla Endeavor, which isn't a bad ride...but it has shoulder bars for crying out loud...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
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Friday, January 29, 2021 7:02 PM

I bet Gonch didn’t reach for a seatbelt the first time he rode one.

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