The Smiler - General Discussion

Cheese

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Helix, Liseberg
I shall describe the experience as accurately as possible. I'll warn you now that not everything will be positive, but bear with me.

Your experience begins in the poorly drained (and hence usually filthy) concrete pit, penned in by wire mesh and with the soundtrack blaring at you. It goes without saying that this is an unpleasant place to spend what's usually a good 40 minutes on a typical day; even more so at night when most of the light across the area comes from the glare of the massive LED displays on the Marmaliser structure in the centre. The saving grace is that you do get some good views from under the ride, which is no less mesmerising to watch from below than alongside. A good tip to reduce the time you spend in this satanic hole is to join the queue shortly before ride close, at which point the absence of fastrack and exit riders means the main queue gets the full use of the ride's not-quite-adequate capacity and actually moves.

You then move into the optical procedure room, a darkened indoor area where you usually get an amusing demonstration of why video projectors in theme park applications benefit from adequate ventilation and shock-proofed mountings. On anything remotely approaching a sunny day this room gets stuffy. Sod's Law also dictates that this is also the most likely place for you to be waiting in the event of a prolonged ride stop due to breakdown/vom cleanup etc.

Eventually you ascend the stairs to the station and get batched onto the train. Like any Gerstlauer Infinity coaster or Eurofighter, the over the shoulder restraint will want to tighten during the ride, so while there's no need to completely squash it into your thighs, there's no point in trying to leave a gap above your legs. Incidentally, having been on Infinity coasters with lap restraints, they would not be the improvement you might think on Smiler - the seat shape is different, with a pointed edge that digs into the bottom of your thighs, and the lap restraint is even more likely to try and crush the top of them.

Restraint checks on only 4 rows are generally quick, and the train soon trundles out of the station into the curving first drop. You'll want to lean forward into the acres of chest space provided in the restraint to keep your head forward and avoid any ear bashing, which also has the benefit of keeping your nose away from the invariably foul smelling (unless it's the very start of the season) black padding on either side. The pace of the inline roll at the bottom is well judged enough to make you hold on without having you sliding around in your seat. The train is then braked to a stand to wait for the hook that will drag the train up the lift hill to reach the right position. While you wait a short blast of the soundtrack gets played at you. I say 'played at' because with the pleasant exception of a few rides I had last year where the volume was reduced, this is invariably deafening - a hysterical scream part way through is particularly unpleasant on the old lugs.

You'll notice the chain move forward briefly and stop again as the hook meets the train, and the train is then fed onto the lift hill. With no prominent clatter of anti-rollback dogs this is strangely quiet compared to most coasters, the only real noise being the clang of the anti-rollback fins dropping out of the way. The ascent happens quickly, and at the top you'll want to hold on and stick your head forward again.

Straight away the train means business, dropping down to the right before rising slightly as it tips up into the first roll. Immediately you'll get some measure of how much attention your train has been given recently; some track reasonably well, while others feel like they run on polygonal wheels and almost bounce along. This is a shame because the actual track profiling feels quite good, the roll throwing the train over swiftly before starting to level out for the bottom of the proper first drop.

As you exit the roll you will want to brace. The amount of pratting about needed to get Smiler's track to go together during its hurried construction is well known, and the bottom of this drop is presumably one of the points that needed some 'adjustment', because riders encounter the first of two unpleasant jolts on the ride. I wouldn't say either is as nasty as the similar one Saw has at the bottom of its beyond vertical drop, but they're definitely among the most unwelcome parts of the Smiler experience.

Fortunately you don't get too much time to think about that, as the train charges into the first of the pair of sizeable dive loops. The second is followed by a low but pleasing airtime hill before the double inversions of the batwing, which is immediately followed by a tight corkscrew that feels like it barely fits into the space, the slight rise into the brake run contributing to this feel. The rapid-fire nature of this sequence is exhilarating even for hardened repeat riders, but once you're familiar with the layout it's easier to keep your bearings than you might think.

Now it's time for the second lift hill, and train is braked to a halt. These lift hills are why Gerstlauer use that hook system rather than conventional ratchets on the train. Again you wait for the hook to get into position, and again you're subjected to laughter while you wait. I'm never a fan of vertical lift hills, the angle of Gerst seats tilting you back at an angle that feels almost unsettlingly wrong when the track is vertical, and the fact that their length is little shorter than the gain in height is a mercy in that at least you ascend quickly. I'm also generally not a fan of coasters that stop dead part way through; it tends to break a ride's 'flow'. Smiler just about gets away with doing this by virtue of the fact that the brake run feeds straight into the lift, and after the short ascent you're straight back into the action. By contrast, the Eurofighter Takabisha for instance (which I admittedly haven't ridden) has a hugely cumbersome looking sequence of brake run, turnaround, lift and holding brake in the middle - awful!

Soon you're over the top, dropping down to the left this time and rolling over once more before levelling out and dropping further. The section that follows is my favourite part, pulling up into the first half of the fantastic sea serpent roll which is followed by a second, much pointier (and consequently more thrilling) airtime hill before the first half of the cobra roll.

From here things get a bit less enjoyable. The second half of the cobra roll has that other jolt I mentioned right at the top, and although it doesn't really show on POVs, from on ride the way the train shuffles through it feels all sorts of strange. After this I suggest tucking your left shoulder firmly into the top of your restraint, as this will help to keep you in place through the following two rolls which have different but equally odd shapes and are taken at a breakneck pace. After this we have the last bend and finally the second brake run, at which point you can catch your breath. From the station all that stands between you and the shop is the exit path, which seems to have been routed specifically to give the most convoluted and knackering walk over hill and down dale to freedom that's possible within a building.

Smiler can almost be considered two coasters of normal duration and inversion counts put back to back. While the thought of a 14 inversion ride may be daunting, the layout is actually more varied than it seems, and as Alsty pointed out, the constant variation in force and direction gives me no reason to think it'd be more likely to make anyone that suffers from motion sickness feel unwell than any other coaster. I find that inward-facing spin 'n' swing rides like Frisbees and Afterburners can upset my stomach now, but I've never had an issue with Smiler or any other coaster.

Speaking in more general terms, the ride is hard to give a glowing review for simply because it's such a poor quality installation. A lot of its issues result from the frantic pace of construction, but the variability of ride comfort I mentioned earlier would likely be a problem regardless. This is by no means the most unpleasant Gerstlauer out there, and you're nowhere near as likely to get the infamous 'Gerstache' (a headache caused by a ride that feels like it vibrates the inside of your head while not being conventionally rough) from it as on Saw for instance, but Danny summed it up well recently when he said that it's Towers' second newest thrill coaster and rides like the oldest. I think this has something to do with Gerstlauer's rolling stock design; the prominent bolts on the wheelsets often look like they're set at different lengths, so my theory is that the wheelsets aren't sprung in the same way as on some other manufacturers' coasters, and this variance in ride quality is a combination of wheel wear and the resulting need to periodically adjust the tolerance between the wheels and rails. I also seem to recall hearing that the wheel compound used was changed to a harder one post-2015 incident as a measure to reduce the likelihood of stalling, which if true may also be a factor.

Comfort aside, the saving grace of The Smiler is its layout, the quality of which shines through the shortcomings. A ride that's this long and intense is unusual to start with in a UK park, and with it being less of a one trick pony than it might appear to be, I ultimately think it's this that has made the ride such a popular part of Towers' ride lineup. I've no idea how it'll continue to age or how long it'll last, but I'm sure it'll be remembered long after its departure.
 

USLShadow

TS Member
I shall describe the experience as accurately as possible. I'll warn you now that not everything will be positive, but bear with me.

Your experience begins in the poorly drained (and hence usually filthy) concrete pit, penned in by wire mesh and with the soundtrack blaring at you. It goes without saying that this is an unpleasant place to spend what's usually a good 40 minutes on a typical day; even more so at night when most of the light across the area comes from the glare of the massive LED displays on the Marmaliser structure in the centre. The saving grace is that you do get some good views from under the ride, which is no less mesmerising to watch from below than alongside. A good tip to reduce the time you spend in this satanic hole is to join the queue shortly before ride close, at which point the absence of fastrack and exit riders means the main queue gets the full use of the ride's not-quite-adequate capacity and actually moves.

You then move into the optical procedure room, a darkened indoor area where you usually get an amusing demonstration of why video projectors in theme park applications benefit from adequate ventilation and shock-proofed mountings. On anything remotely approaching a sunny day this room gets stuffy. Sod's Law also dictates that this is also the most likely place for you to be waiting in the event of a prolonged ride stop due to breakdown/vom cleanup etc.

Eventually you ascend the stairs to the station and get batched onto the train. Like any Gerstlauer Infinity coaster or Eurofighter, the over the shoulder restraint will want to tighten during the ride, so while there's no need to completely squash it into your thighs, there's no point in trying to leave a gap above your legs. Incidentally, having been on Infinity coasters with lap restraints, they would not be the improvement you might think on Smiler - the seat shape is different, with a pointed edge that digs into the bottom of your thighs, and the lap restraint is even more likely to try and crush the top of them.

Restraint checks on only 4 rows are generally quick, and the train soon trundles out of the station into the curving first drop. You'll want to lean forward into the acres of chest space provided in the restraint to keep your head forward and avoid any ear bashing, which also has the benefit of keeping your nose away from the invariably foul smelling (unless it's the very start of the season) black padding on either side. The pace of the inline roll at the bottom is well judged enough to make you hold on without having you sliding around in your seat. The train is then braked to a stand to wait for the hook that will drag the train up the lift hill to reach the right position. While you wait a short blast of the soundtrack gets played at you. I say 'played at' because with the pleasant exception of a few rides I had last year where the volume was reduced, this is invariably deafening - a hysterical scream part way through is particularly unpleasant on the old lugs.

You'll notice the chain move forward briefly and stop again as the hook meets the train, and the train is then fed onto the lift hill. With no prominent clatter of anti-rollback dogs this is strangely quiet compared to most coasters, the only real noise being the clang of the anti-rollback fins dropping out of the way. The ascent happens quickly, and at the top you'll want to hold on and stick your head forward again.

Straight away the train means business, dropping down to the right before rising slightly as it tips up into the first roll. Immediately you'll get some measure of how much attention your train has been given recently; some track reasonably well, while others feel like they run on polygonal wheels and almost bounce along. This is a shame because the actual track profiling feels quite good, the roll throwing the train over swiftly before starting to level out for the bottom of the proper first drop.

As you exit the roll you will want to brace. The amount of pratting about needed to get Smiler's track to go together during its hurried construction is well known, and the bottom of this drop is presumably one of the points that needed some 'adjustment', because riders encounter the first of two unpleasant jolts on the ride. I wouldn't say either is as nasty as the similar one Saw has at the bottom of its beyond vertical drop, but they're definitely among the most unwelcome parts of the Smiler experience.

Fortunately you don't get too much time to think about that, as the train charges into the first of the pair of sizeable dive loops. The second is followed by a low but pleasing airtime hill before the double inversions of the batwing, which is immediately followed by a tight corkscrew that feels like it barely fits into the space, the slight rise into the brake run contributing to this feel. The rapid-fire nature of this sequence is exhilarating even for hardened repeat riders, but once you're familiar with the layout it's easier to keep your bearings than you might think.

Now it's time for the second lift hill, and train is braked to a halt. These lift hills are why Gerstlauer use that hook system rather than conventional ratchets on the train. Again you wait for the hook to get into position, and again you're subjected to laughter while you wait. I'm never a fan of vertical lift hills, the angle of Gerst seats tilting you back at an angle that feels almost unsettlingly wrong when the track is vertical, and the fact that their length is little shorter than the gain in height is a mercy in that at least you ascend quickly. I'm also generally not a fan of coasters that stop dead part way through; it tends to break a ride's 'flow'. Smiler just about gets away with doing this by virtue of the fact that the brake run feeds straight into the lift, and after the short ascent you're straight back into the action. By contrast, the Eurofighter Takabisha for instance (which I admittedly haven't ridden) has a hugely cumbersome looking sequence of brake run, turnaround, lift and holding brake in the middle - awful!

Soon you're over the top, dropping down to the left this time and rolling over once more before levelling out and dropping further. The section that follows is my favourite part, pulling up into the first half of the fantastic sea serpent roll which is followed by a second, much pointier (and consequently more thrilling) airtime hill before the first half of the cobra roll.

From here things get a bit less enjoyable. The second half of the cobra roll has that other jolt I mentioned right at the top, and although it doesn't really show on POVs, from on ride the way the train shuffles through it feels all sorts of strange. After this I suggest tucking your left shoulder firmly into the top of your restraint, as this will help to keep you in place through the following two rolls which have different but equally odd shapes and are taken at a breakneck pace. After this we have the last bend and finally the second brake run, at which point you can catch your breath. From the station all that stands between you and the shop is the exit path, which seems to have been routed specifically to give the most convoluted and knackering walk over hill and down dale to freedom that's possible within a building.

Smiler can almost be considered two coasters of normal duration and inversion counts put back to back. While the thought of a 14 inversion ride may be daunting, the layout is actually more varied than it seems, and as Alsty pointed out, the constant variation in force and direction gives me no reason to think it'd be more likely to make anyone that suffers from motion sickness feel unwell than any other coaster. I find that inward-facing spin 'n' swing rides like Frisbees and Afterburners can upset my stomach now, but I've never had an issue with Smiler or any other coaster.

Speaking in more general terms, the ride is hard to give a glowing review for simply because it's such a poor quality installation. A lot of its issues result from the frantic pace of construction, but the variability of ride comfort I mentioned earlier would likely be a problem regardless. This is by no means the most unpleasant Gerstlauer out there, and you're nowhere near as likely to get the infamous 'Gerstache' (a headache caused by a ride that feels like it vibrates the inside of your head while not being conventionally rough) from it as on Saw for instance, but Danny summed it up well recently when he said that it's Towers' second newest thrill coaster and rides like the oldest. I think this has something to do with Gerstlauer's rolling stock design; the prominent bolts on the wheelsets often look like they're set at different lengths, so my theory is that the wheelsets aren't sprung in the same way as on some other manufacturers' coasters, and this variance in ride quality is a combination of wheel wear and the resulting need to periodically adjust the tolerance between the wheels and rails. I also seem to recall hearing that the wheel compound used was changed to a harder one post-2015 incident as a measure to reduce the likelihood of stalling, which if true may also be a factor.

Comfort aside, the saving grace of The Smiler is its layout, the quality of which shines through the shortcomings. A ride that's this long and intense is unusual to start with in a UK park, and with it being less of a one trick pony than it might appear to be, I ultimately think it's this that has made the ride such a popular part of Towers' ride lineup. I've no idea how it'll continue to age or how long it'll last, but I'm sure it'll be remembered long after its departure.
That was one hell of a review. You sir should be an author of the time! Very detailed and actually fairly reassuring! Thanks!

As above I tend to find anything that spin in one or two consistent directions Ala Ripsaw, Submission or Enterprise make me feel god awful afterwards.

More and more people, yourself included, are saying that this really isn’t so much of an issue with Smiler as it’s constantly changing which is hugely reassuring!

Cheers :)


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Poisson

TS Member
Favourite Ride
The Giant Squid
I feel an Ultimate one would have to be in the Tavern, for the extreme amount of swearing would get it kickbanned here.

Anyway, I digress. Honestly the best approach for The Smiler for you if you're nervous is head there as soon as the park opens, don't watch it and just get it done. No thinking, just doing.
 

USLShadow

TS Member
I feel an Ultimate one would have to be in the Tavern, for the extreme amount of swearing would get it kickbanned here.

Anyway, I digress. Honestly the best approach for The Smiler for you if you're nervous is head there as soon as the park opens, don't watch it and just get it done. No thinking, just doing.
Frankly I suspect even the Tavern may kick the poor boy out for doing a worded POV for that monstrosity.

I think your probably right there. Either that or do everything else as a warm up then just get on. Don’t think. Just do.

That is until I’m stood in the queue and start thinking.


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Skyscraper

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Nemesis
Tbf It will probably depend on how friendly the batch host is and how busy the queue is. Does the second row offer a similar experience to the front?
 

USLShadow

TS Member
Tbf It will probably depend on how friendly the batch host is and how busy the queue is. Does the second row offer a similar experience to the front?
I’d suspect queue length will have the greatest impact but if the batch host is in a good mood may be able to persuade them to skip a batch to get in front


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Cheese

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Helix, Liseberg
Incredible. @Cheese can we have worded-POVs of other coasters please to get us through this extended closed season?

You must be keen. I saw that original double please!

I might give another one a go soon (I got part way towards it with my post on Taron here). With this I was trying to capture something of the spirit of the reviews on Coaster Kingdom, which was a site I read quite a lot of before I was even coming on meets. The site's not on its original domain any more, but if you Google search 'Coaster Kingdom [UK or European ride here]' you'll find the remains of it.

Does Smiler have a front-row queue? Only row I want to try for my first ride. :tearsofjoy:

Nope. It's a shame in a way because for optimal comfort you really want an inside front row seat, but remember that with only 4 rows, a front row queue would represent an extended wait for too high a proportion of the total capacity per train. There's also very little space available in the station for one.
 

Matt N

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
@Cheese; you should start a website like Coaster Kingdom used to have, and do more of these reviews! I love Coaster Kingdom's reviews (or at least, what's left of the website), and I feel like a modern version would be fantastic! You definitely capture a similar style, if that was what you were aiming for!
 

Mikw

TS Member
That was absolutely beautiful. Is it as bad for dizziness as it seems or does the fact it’s mainly half inversions/Rolls (Batwings etc instead of corks and heart lines) help?

Which was does that first inversion go? I still can’t work it out ahah


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I love The Smiler, and i think you will too.

Remember, that halfway round, you get a break for about a minute. It stops, and the lying down on your back on the vertical lift hill always cures my dizziness.

And the air time moments, on straight bits of track, are a relief from the inversions too. It's well designed.
 
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