When riding a zipline, there are a number of thoughts that will be rushing through your mind. Your internal monologue may very well go something like this: “WAHOOOOOOOOOO! This is incredible! I’m having so much fun right now! Gee, I wonder how ziplines work. Boy, I sure hope I didn’t lock my keys in my car.”
Unfortunately, we don’t have any special insight into the location of your car keys. Have you checked your coat pocket? However, we would be happy to tell you how our Gatlinburg ziplines work! Here are four things you probably didn’t know about the physics behind ziplining.
1. A zipline is a cable that stretches from a higher point to a lower point.
Gravity is the secret ingredient of ziplining. The sloping design of the zipline cable allows gravity to take effect and pull passengers toward the ground at lightning fast speeds. So pay attention to which end of the zipline you are getting on, because it’s going to be a pretty lame ride if you start at the end.
2. Too much friction will spoil your zipline.
Remember when I told you that gravity is the secret ingredient of ziplining? I lied. The real secret ingredient is friction, or rather lack of friction. In case you slept through your high school physics class and need a reminder, friction is a force that holds back the movement of a sliding object. If a zipline cable has high friction, you aren’t going anywhere.
3. Ziplines use a pulley system to reduce friction and go fast.
The solution to excessive friction on a zipline is the pulley. A pulley is a wheel with a grooved rim that turns as it travels along the zipline. This simple machine dramatically reduces friction on the zipline cable and lets passengers travel at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.
4. Ziplines can have manual or passive brakes.
Crashing into a mountain wall is not the preferred method of braking. Instead, some ziplines use manual brakes, which are implemented by the participant or the instructor. Other ziplines use passive brakes which are built into the design of the course. For instance, a zipline might include a gentle upward slope at the end of the ride, which will cause the passenger to slow down and eventually come to a complete stop.
Now that you’re an expert on how ziplines work, it’s time to start planning your next zipline adventure! Adventure Park Zip Lines has 6 different lines that range from 450 to 2,000 feet long. Our Gatlinburg ziplines run through a beautiful 70 acre nature park that offers unparalleled views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Find out everything you need to know about our ziplines by visiting our FAQ section!