As of 2017, The Smiler at Alton Towers holds the world record for most inversions on a roller coaster. A Gerstlauer Infinity coaster, it features four trains with four cars seating four across for a total of 16 riders. The restraint is an over the shoulder harness. The queue leading up to the loading station is ominously dark although the loading station itself is brightly lit.
Upon dispatch the train takes a 180-degree left turn and propels the riders through a heartline roll in the dark before emerging from the station and ascending the first of two chain lift hills. From the top the train veers to the right and downward, entering a corkscrew followed by three consecutive dive loops. It then ascends into a sidewinder and traverses a corkscrew, coming to a stop at the second lift hill.
There is a about a 10-second pause at the bottom of the second lift hill, an opportunity for riders to catch their breath. The lift hill is a vertical one and after reaching the top of the hill the ride really kicks into high gear, going through a corkscrew, sea serpent inversion, cobra roll and two corkscrews before returning to the station.
The inversions themselves are nothing unusual but the sheer number of them is rather amazing and results in a pretty awesome ride experience. Prior to riding The Smiler, the maximum number of inversions I had experienced on a coaster was 7. I did wonder whether 14 inversions might be a bit much, but it works and is easily doable. Of all the roller coaster inversions I’ve experienced, a heartline roll is undoubtedly the most intense. For The Smiler to feature a heartline roll prior to reaching the lift hill made for a great start. (I’d ridden only one other coaster with a heartline roll before the lift hill, Hydra at Dorney Park.) The vertical lift hill is a great way to start the second half of the ride and the inversions that followed were pretty intense, particularly the combination of cobra roll and sea serpent. While rough in spots, The Smiler proved to be enjoyable enough to merit repeat rides. And it should be noted that Smiler has a single rider queue, which enabled me to get on in less than 10 minutes. 4 out of 5 stars. For more information about rides at Alton Towers, visit https://www.altontowers.com/