Speeds of Roller Coasters

Hand holding stop watch

The speeds of roller coasters are the factors that keep some thrill seekers coming to parks again and again for a ride - and that send some more timid theme park goers running for the hills. Roller coaster speed varies widely between different rides, depending on the intended audience for the ride. Fast roller coasters are big draws for theme parks, and franchises constantly try to one up each other to make sure they have the fastest rides around.

A Brief History of Coasters and Speed

Roller coasters might seem like modern marvels, but the inspiration of these thrill rides can be traced all the way back to 15th century Russia. There, people used to ride on specially constructed hills of ice, which included a carved wooden track. These roller coasters usually consisted of a 60 to 70 foot drop. The coasters were especially popular around the port town of St. Petersburg, and these early rides earned the name "Russian Mountains." In many languages, "Russian Mountain" is still the term for roller coaster.

In America, coasters experienced a boom in the late 1800s when mine owners hit on the idea of selling rides on mining trains to thrill seekers. The first actual roller coaster was constructed on Coney Island in New York in 1889. This ride, called Switchback Railway, consisted of one climb, one hill and a return ride on a reverse track.

Switchback Mountain was hugely popular, and roller coasters began springing up around the country. The speeds of these coasters were variable but moderate. The Great Depression slowed down the growth of theme parks and coasters significantly, but they rose to popularity again in the 1970s, thanks to The Racer, in Kings Island, Ohio. That ride was the fastest coaster of its day and sparked a boom in roller coaster interest plus competitiveness between designers to build ever faster and bigger rides.

Speeds of Roller Coasters

The speeds of roller coasters are always increasing, and roller coaster designers are constantly looking for way to make rides go faster and faster. To date, here are some of the rides around:

Tower of Terror

Located at the Dreamworld park in Australia's Gold Coast region, the Tower of Terror is one of the world's fastest and tallest coasters. The ride reaches over 100 mph and includes a 377-foot drop.

Superman: Escape from Krypton

Formerly known as Superman The Escape, this Six Flags Magic Mountain, this ride also clocks in at top speeds of 100 mph.

Wicked Twister

The Wicked Twister, located at Cedar Point in Ohio, reaches 72 mph, making it the fastest double impulse ride in the world. It is also one of the tallest such rides, with a drop of over 200 feet.

Mr. Freeze

There are two Mr. Freeze coasters: one at Six Flags Over Texas and one at Six Flags St. Louis. The launching loop style ride starts indoors and reaches its max speed - 70 mph - within seconds after it takes off.


This Las Vegas based ride goes from zero to 45 in two seconds and then from 45 to 70, its maximum speed, in another two seconds. The ride starts inside an actual café and runs forwards and backwards.


Possessed is an inverted shuttle style ride located at Dorney Park and Wildlife Kingdom in Pennsylvania. The ride climbs to 70 mph and used to be known as Voodoo.

More About Roller Coaster Speeds

If you're a roller coaster lover and don't want to risk missing out on the latest fast ride, visit Ultimate Roller Coaster, where you'll find all the latest breaking coaster news plus reviews of all the fastest rides.

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Speeds of Roller Coasters