Typical Zip Line Configurations and Materials
CENTER DISMOUNT – The center dismount is suspended with a considerable belly or drape in the cable. The passenger launches and speeds down to the center then starts up the other side. The passenger slows to a stop before reaching the end of the cable and slides back down to the low point (not always the center) where they are dismounted using a ladder or removable platform. Center dismount zips can be as long as 3,000 feet without specialized equipment. The weight of the rider, trolley type, and wind speed are not significant factors for center dismount zips.
WALK-UP LANDING – Zip Lines or Walk-up landing Zips are used for most commercial canopy tours and zip line tours where riders go from one end to the other and land on a platform or ground near the very end of the zip line cable. The weight of the rider, wind speed, and type of trolley used will affect the speed and the landing for each rider. The longer the cable, the more unpredictable the landing speed. A variety of new braking systems have really improved safety and allowed for faster rides and more predictable landing speeds.
TOWER to TOWER – These designs are gaining popularity mostly with amusement parks, water parks and other closed venues. Typically these are less than 800′ zip lines and will have multiple cables going back and forth. Pre-engineered steel tower designs are available. A variety of wood pole structures can be designed to accommodate just about any venue. These zip line towers are usually built with stair cases to easily accommodate a variety of ages and abilities.
POLE & STEEL MOUNT ZIP LINES – Allow for complete control over length, landing speed, heights and configuration. Pole zips can be designed to accommodate almost any zip line design need. Poles can be used with trees to create a tour through wooded areas to your design. Zip lines can be designed over canyons, cliffs and open range up to over 5,000 feet.
TREE ZIP LINE – Designs totally depend on the layout of trees and clearance of zip corridors. Tree courses usually use walk-up landings which require meticulous cable placement, platform design, and cable drape ratios. Trees are also used for center dismount designs. Tree courses usually require at least one site visit and perhaps an arborist involved to assure the longevity and health of the zip line support trees.
GRAVITY BRAKES – A brilliant system that shows wisdom as a designer and builder. The cable ends are attached nearly level and the cable is sagged appropriately to assure the rider stops before the crashing violently into the receiving end. The rider will stop at the landing deck or glide back toward the low point of the cable for dismount. GRAVITY NEVER FAILS
ACTIVE BRAKES – The most common brake in the 90’s and early 2000’s and there are still many in use today is the brake block/bungee system. Tires, giant springs, big cargo nets, and inflatable impact bags have been used with some success. Remember active brakes need constant inspection and maintenance to function safely. Bungee does NOT tolerate the sun, rain, humidity or anything outside very well.
ZIPSTOP – The zipSTOP uses a self-regulating magnetic braking system to brake zip line participants safely and comfortably. With the ability to brake participants safely at high velocities, the zipSTOP fills a critical need for zip line operators.
HAND BRAKING – A braking system widely used outside US borders. This system requires the rider to judge their speed and apply appropriate brakes by providing friction to the cable with a heavily gloved hand.
The friction of the glove against the cable slows the rider down avoiding a violent collision with the termination point. This sketchy system is most likely needed for platform landings. The lack of documents for training for riders and frequency of injuries keeps this system from being widely used in the US. Installing a zip line that requires hand braking will most likely result in injury at some time down the road.
EMT DISMOUNT – Hold-on only zip lines where serious injury will occur if the rider lets go too soon. Popular with backyard zips and hospital emergency rooms.