Most roller coasters are all about adrenaline-inducing speed and neck-snapping turns. One ride in Japan, however, brings a different kind of thrill to amusement park guests.
Not your typical theme park
The Washuzan Highland theme park is in Okayama in the southern part of the Japanese island of Honshu. It's a Brazilian-themed amusement park complete with a resident samba troupe. But this isn't as unusual as it might sound. Brazil has the largest population of ethnic Japanese people outside of Japan, so there's a strong connection between the two countries.
The park has an impressive menu of high-speed rides including a stand-up roller coaster, a bungee jump tower and a coaster on which riders face backwards as they fly through a looping circuit. Washuzan also has a water slide, a 100-meter swimming pool, several other roller coasters, an ice rink and a number of carnival-style rides.
Much slower, but still thrilling
Then there's the Skycycle. The Skycycle doesn't fit in with the other speedy attractions at this park because it's pedal-powered, and it doesn't feature any major descents. The cars, which can hold two passengers each, ride on a coaster-like track that's more than 50 feet above the ground. However, if riders don't pedal, they won't move at all. And even when they do pedal, they don't move quickly.
Don't let the lack of stomach-twisting drops and hairpin turns make you think the Skycycle doesn't have some danger to it. Riders are only held inside their pedal-powered car with a seat belt. There are no guard rails on the cars, which are basically two connected bicycles side-by-side on a track that's more than 50 feet above the ground. There are no railings or barriers on the sides of the track. Even though the speeds are modest at best, the ride is thrilling (or frightening) because of this open design.
The track is built on the top of a hill, so it feels even taller than 50 feet at many points along the circuit. Despite its lack of speed, the ride is reportedly the most popular in the park. The height and the openness of the Skycycle cars might bring riders a sense of excitement, but the view is probably the main reason for the popularity.
Because it's near the top of one of the area's highest points, the track provides panoramic views of Kurashiki City and Okayama Prefecture, the Seto Inland Sea and the impressive Great Seto Bridge, which connects the small islands that are a part of Seto Ohashi National Park.
Though it's an important population center, Okayama has maintained a great deal of natural beauty. In that sense, it's fitting that a pedal-powered ride is the best way to see the area.
Another thing Skycycle has going for it is the length of the ride. Unlike standard roller coasters, where the excitement is over in a matter of seconds, a circuit around Skycycle takes about three minutes, on average. Riders often slow down at the farthest point on the circuit, where they can see the bridge and islands stretching out almost to the horizon.
Other pedal-power rides are faster, but not as thrilling
There are other pedal-powered rides in the world, but none can offer the views and height of Skycycle. There's the Shweeb in Rotorua, New Zealand, a 200-meter monorail with pedal-powered pods. It might beat the Skycycle in terms of speed because of its ultra-efficient pedaling design, but it doesn't sit 50 feet above the ground, so the views aren't in the same category.
Most pedal-powered rides are geared towards children, including the Merlin's Apprentice Ride at the Legoland Discovery Center.
A one-of-a-kind ride
Washuzan is built in a hilly area, so the views of the sea are good from other parts of the property as well. The park's Sky View Tower, for example, offers 360-degree views from a height of 180 meters above sea level for those who want panoramas but don't care for the pedal-power concept.
Skycycle stands apart because of its height, the open design of the cars and the track and the amazing views that riders can enjoy along the circuit. If you ever wished that a roller coaster would slow down for a second so you could take in the view, then this one's for you.