Ask any amusement park enthusiast what the most terrifying ride is, and most will name some type of death-defying roller coaster. The horrifying aspects usually include breakneck speeds on hairpin turns, seemingly endless vertical slopes that seem to climb for days and then drop you like a rock on the other side, and cars that appear to be plummeting to the ground at virtually every curve. Definitely not for the faint of heart — or someone who just chowed down a corn dog and a basketball-sized globe of cotton candy.
Now imagine a really slow roller coaster. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? In fact, a carousel ride sounds more exhilarating. But if you factor in a few important details, you’ll understand why the SkyCycle in Japan strikes fear in the hearts of even the most seasoned thrill seekers.
Instead of motors, gears, pulleys, and chains propelling cars around the track, SkyCycle is powered by pedals. Not just any pedals, but pedals operated by the riders. It sounds boring at first thought, like a piece of playground equipment designed to amuse toddlers, but it’s already been called the most terrifying roller coaster on Earth.
Conventional roller coaster seats are built out of heavy gauge steel or aluminum. Passengers are typically secured in place with both a lap belt and a shoulder harness. For extra security, a metal bar is locked into place diagonally to keep you inside if you happen to fly off the track and end up hurled into the atmosphere.
Not so with SkyCycle. The seat is literally a bicycle seat, which makes weird sense since it’s attached to a metal pole that connects to the wheel (yes, that’s singular) that sits on the track. The backrest is a U-shaped piece of conduit with a small pad attached for your comfort. The so-called safety belt is a three-inch wide piece of cloth, similar to the first lap-style seatbelts installed in cars…the ones that cut you in half during major impacts.
These seats are arranged in sets of two. You can ride alone, but that adds the danger of imbalance, which high winds can make doubly terrifying when you’re only stopped in by a fabric sash.
If you still think this sounds like the most boring amusement park ride ever, wait until you factor in the height of rails you’re pedaling on: 53 feet off the ground. Still sounds kind of wimpy? Pshaw! 53 feet is nothing! In reality, 53 feet is equal to more than three stories of an office or apartment building, which are typically 15 feet tall each. Not exactly a fall out of the bed of a pickup truck should things go wrong.
The ride typically takes about three minutes, though many riders have said it feels more like three hours. But on top of causing people to pedal and possibly pray, the most popular attraction at the Washuzan Highland amusement park in Okayama, Japan also provides one of the most fantastic views in the city, and of the dazzling islands that dot the nearby Seto Inland Sea.
If you fancy yourself a top-notch daredevil, testing your mettle on SkyCycle will certainly take you closer to the crown.