When I came up with the idea of comparing Great Bear and Talon, I was reminded of something that happened in June of 2014 at Coasting For Kids, a fund-raising coaster marathon at Dorney Park during which I set a personal record of 36 rides in one day (12 on Steel Force, 16 on Talon and 8 on Hydra). On one of my rides on Talon I found myself sitting next to a teenage boy who struck me as somewhat challenged – I suspect that he was autistic – and who kept chanting Great Bear, like a mantra, throughout the ride. At the time I wondered why he was fixated on a coaster at another park but in retrospect it made perfect sense, as these two coasters are strikingly similar.
Layout And Setting
Great Bear is partially, scenically situated over Spring Creek whereas Talon is situated primarily over turf. Both coasters ascend the lift hill directly from the loading station and the lift hill on Talon displays several titillating signs – GOING UP, NO TURNING BACK, GETTING CLOSER, ALMOST THERE – on the way up. Once at the top, Great Bear descends into a 360-degree helix before completing a 124-foot drop while Talon drops 120 feet to the right. Great Bear clearly has the edge for setting and the early helix.
Elements and Sequence
Great Bear and Talon are B&M (Bolliger & Mabillard) inverted coasters that feature essentially the same elements. These consist of a vertical loop, Immelmann, zero-g roll and corkscrew. Both coasters travel at the same speed (58 mph), enter the vertical loop after the initial drop and seat four across in eight rows with similar restraints (over the shoulder harnesses). Although the elements are the same, the two coasters do not enter them in the same order. On Great Bear it’s vertical loop/Immelmann/zero-g roll/ corkscrew; on Talon it’s vertical loop/zero-g roll/Immelmann/corkscrew. From my perspective, the fact that Talon goes into the zero-g roll right after the loop makes a tremendous difference in the ride experience. Talon seems to gain momentum very quickly as a result. On Great Bear I found the first part of the ride somewhat lacklustre; it was only after the zero-g roll that the coaster seemed to kick into a higher gear. For positioning of the elements and pacing Talon has a decided edge.
Highs and Lows – From Soaring To Swooping
Both Great Bear and Talon afford the sensation of soaring into space and both coasters make maneuvers that send them close to the ground. Great Bear dives close to the water before the vertical loop then later on a straightaway. Talon makes a swooping, very low to the ground left turn (location of the camera) before transitioning into a corkscrew/ flat spin followed by a left upward helix. This swooping turn, which comes pretty much out of the blue, greatly enhances the ride experience and earns Talon extra points.
And the winner is: Talon, which comes out ahead in two of the three categories. I find that Talon offers the better overall ride experience as well as being seriously underrated. It seems to have more energy than Great Bear. Great Bear is a coaster that I would ride maybe once on a visit to Hersheypark, time permitting, whereas Talon is a coaster I would seek out and ride repeatedly during a visit to Dorney.
What’s Your Take?
Have you ridden Great Bear and Talon and if so, how do you think they match up?