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Ride Profile: Ninja

By on 10/09/2011

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

Ride Type: Roller Coaster

Manufacturer: Arrow Dynamics
Model/Style: Suspended Swinging
Year Built: 1988

Back in the late 1980’s, the roller coaster wars had started to heat up again and Six Flags Magic Mountain was determined to be a part of it. They already had Gold Rusher, Colossus, and Revolution, but those were all at least ten years old. Shockwave, a stand-up roller coaster from Intamin, was their most recent addition and it was installed in 1986. Six Flags decided it was time for a new record-breaking coaster and on May 21, 1988 Ninja made its world debut.

Dubbed the Black Belt of Roller Coasters, Ninja is a suspended swinging roller coaster built by Arrow Dynamics at a cost of $6,000,000. It was the fastest swinging suspended coaster in the world at 55 MPH, and a record it shares today with a sister coaster in Canada. It is also the only coaster of its type west of the Mississippi River. It has 2,700 feet of track, a height of 60 feet, and lasts 1:30 minutes. Each car seats four riders in a 2×2 configuration.  There are seven cars per train, for a total of 28 riders. With up to three trains, the ride can theoretically handle up to 1600 people per hour.

Like some of Magic Mountain’s other coasters, such as Gold Rusher and Revolution, Ninja was custom built to take advantage of the unique hill in the middle of the park. The entrance to the ride was placed on top of the hill, known as Samurai Summit. The entrance, seen here, is close to the Sky Tower and directly across from the upper station of the Orient Express:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

Looking down from the top of the stairs in the above photo, there is a small plaza that leads into the first of three queuing areas:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

This is the first of three queues. I have never seen it so busy that this queue had to be used. People usually just walk all the way down the left-hand side to the next queue, which you can see in the top-right of this photo:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

This is the second queuing area, that wraps around the outside of the loading station. Again, I have never seen anyone ever have to use this area either:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

Once you turn the corner after the second queue area, you are at the top of the stairs that lead down into the third queue and the actual loading area. I have seen this area get quite backed up, but the line moves fast if they are running multiple trains and doing a good job at getting them dispatched in a timely fashion:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

This building used to be the upper station for the old Dragon people mover, which was similar in concept to the Orient Express but for the backside of the hill. It was closed in 1981 and the station sat unused until Ninja was built in 1988. I’m not sure if the Asian theming was already here from the Dragon ride or if it was added/changed for Ninja, but it’s quite nice. Unfortunately, it’s also showing its age and lack of maintenance. I know the coaster track was repainted in 2007, but I do not know if that also included the station. As you can from the following photo, the walls are filthy, the paint is peeling, and the banners that used to hang from the ceiling have been reduced to ripped remnants:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

The following shot was taken from the top of the stairs, to show the loading stalls/air gates. You can also see that the lift hill begins as soon as the train is dispatched. Ninja is unique in that the initial lift hill is fairly short. Because the ride starts at the top of a hill, not much height is needed to get the coaster rolling:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

This is an aerial shot of the Ninja station. The people you see are just rounding the corner and starting down the stairs:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

Each car has over the shoulder restraints, but there really isn’t any discomfort because the ride does not feature any inversions. They actually make for pretty quick loading/unloading. You’ll also notice the yellow shocks/dampeners on each car. Because each car swings throughout the ride, up to 90 degrees each direction, these help keep things swinging smoothly:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

An aerial view shows the red and white coaster twisting in and out of the trees as it makes its way down to the bottom, over the entrance to Jet Stream. The red hexagon building at the bottom of the photo is the Ninja loading station. You’ll notice a similar looking brown building almost straight up from it. That was the lower station for the Dragon ride at the bottom of the hill. It has sat unused since 1981:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

Because it sits on a hill, the ride designers were able to take advantage of the terrain and really give the coaster some great high-speed banking:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

Lots of mature trees for the coaster to slide in and out of:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

This is Ninja peeking through the trees with the Sky Tower shadow looming large:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

This is a good shot that shows the cars actually swinging. If you look at the post support on the lead car, you’ll notice that centrifugal force has swung the car up past the 90 degree mark compared to the part of the car attached to the track:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

This curve of the track is low and fast, making you think you’re going to go right into the water. When the lake is full, all the way up to the water stain mark on the concrete pillars, it’s even more exhilarating. This is the fastest curve of the ride, with the official Ninja press release stating it as being close to 4 Gs. However, the Wikipedia entry on the ride pegs it at only 2.9 Gs. I’m not sure which one is correct:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

One of my favorite things about this roller coaster is that there are no brakes. At least not during the ride. Once you clear the lift hill, there is nothing to slow you down until you hit this brake run at the very bottom of the hill, just above Jet Stream:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

Once stopped at the bottom, you round a corner and start back up another lift hill that takes you back up to the loading station. Remember I said the first lift hill was fairly short? That’s because the bigger one is at the end of the ride:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

As you can see from the preceding photo, the transfer track and maintenance area are also located at the bottom of the hill. In addition to the primary track heading back up to the loading station, there are three additional maintenance tracks:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

If you take a ride up to the top of the Sky Tower, you’ll see some items put out on display as part of the Magic of the Mountain Museum. One of the items is an old Ninja uniform. Back before the park made everyone wear ugly neon yellow polo shirts that double as walking ‘do not litter’ signs, they had unique uniforms for each ride. I don’t think the following uniform conveys much of an Asian theme, but I like it a whole lot better than what they are wearing today. It added character to the park:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Ninja

Ninja may be 23 years old, which is getting to be pretty long in the tooth in the coaster world, but it’s still a people pleaser. It’s a fairly smooth ride, it’s pretty fast, and there are no inversions so it makes for a great training coaster for younger kids. It’s one of the few rides that I don’t mind going on every time I visit the park.

33 Comments

  1. SFMMCrazy

    10/09/2011 at 6:26 pm

    I really love Ninja! I part of my favorite 10 rides at Magic Mountain!I know for sure that it wont leave soon as soon as BBW as Jay Thomas or Neil Thurman(I forgot who said that) said at West Coast Bash 2010

  2. Ryan O

    10/11/2011 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks, that was a great ride review! Ninja is one of those coasters that I can ride over and over and it never gets old (rode it 4 times this past Sunday). The trees and terrain add a lot to the ride experience. I just find Ninja really relaxing and smooth, but still exhilarating each time I ride it.

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  6. ellie

    11/03/2011 at 7:03 pm

    If you look under the stairs while waiting in line you can see old dragon tracks. And when it brakes at the end if you look closely to your left you can see some more old tracks as well as the other old loading platform.

    • Kurt

      11/04/2011 at 7:25 am

      Good point, Ellie. I mentioned the lower station but not the old tracks. Maybe I’ll update the article with a picture of each.

      ~K~

      • Ralph Fr3m

        04/04/2013 at 8:28 am

        Did u notice the revolving floor like Jet Stream at the station of Ninja?? Do you know what thats for?

        • The Coaster Guy

          04/04/2013 at 8:32 am

          That was for an old people mover on the back of the hill called The Dragon. The Ninja station was the upper Dragon station. The lower station is still next to the Jet Stream entrance.

  7. Spokker

    11/05/2011 at 1:42 am

    I rode Ninja in 2007 after a refurbishment which included a track repainting. The damn thing looked pristine and I really appreciated this underrated gem. It really uses the landscape to its advantage. You have something like Scream which takes place in a boring parking lot, and I’d take Ninja over that sort of ride any day.

  8. Eric

    11/19/2011 at 2:11 am

    Ninja is perhaps my favorite coaster in the park. I just like the whole concept, and I’m surprised that so few of these were built. With so many other swinging suspended coasters being removed, Ninja is one of fewer than ten of these left. It’s the only swinging suspended coaster I’ve ridden, but going by reports from others, Ninja is definitely one of the best of its kind. I’m thankful that Magic Mountain has kept it.

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  10. caleb

    01/02/2012 at 10:45 pm

    Great ride profile. Ninja is fun, hopefully MM will keep it considering it takes a pretty big chunk of land. I think they will because like u said it is one of the few “intermediate” coasters left there

  11. Chase

    03/19/2012 at 9:36 pm

    This comment is mainly about the uniform notes at the end. I am a new hire at Magic Mountain this year and was thrilled that when I got my uniform there isn’t anymore annoying black text on the back! Slowly all the “do not litter” signs will die out. Apparently the reason for the switch to the green is Bonnie Rabjohn wanted employees to stand out more. It worked. Another plus-side of having uniforms that aren’t ride-specific is that we can switch around staff in the area. For example, I officially work on Tatsu but sometimes Tatsu is overstaffed and Ninja is understaffed. I have training on Ninja so whenever this occurs I get sent over to work dispatch on Ninja and I don’t have to change uniforms or change anything to something ride-specific.

    • Eric

      04/26/2012 at 3:31 pm

      Actually, the neon green uniforms made their appearance during Jay Thomas’ tenure as park president. Employees do stand out, making it easier to find one if you need one for anything.

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  13. Anthony Stamps

    05/05/2012 at 11:04 am

    Those quee lines areas that are empty now used to be packed until 1996. I remember times when I have to waith like one hour to ride, when superman was added to samuray sumit the crowds in ninja splited into both rides.

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  17. Brandon

    12/11/2012 at 10:11 pm

    Just wanted to say that also remember crazy lines for Ninja as late as 1997 (when Superman finally opened). The queue was set up to handle two lines/sides once you reach the stairs, making the queue at the bottom essentially just a big u-turn similar to Viper.

    Also like Viper, Ninja had 4 trains even though it only operates with up to 3 (mostly just 2 these days). Seems it was a Arrow standard to provide an extra train…all their big rides from that era seemed to come with an extra train.

    • Nathan

      03/17/2013 at 1:23 pm

      I went in 2009, right after Apocylapse opened. Pretty much all the rides (except for Goliath, which was closed) had really short lines, even X2 and Tatsu. The only rides that had long lines were Ninja and Apocylapse. Weird! Ninja was using the second queue section.

  18. Nick

    12/20/2012 at 2:29 pm

    The original sponsor of the ride was LA Gear footwear, just before the 1st queue there was a large display case to the left (They were the original light up shoe, not very Ninja lol). It remained empty for many many years. Willoughby’s mansion used to be a Ninja Gift Shop.

    The old Dragon Tracks also can be seen under the 2nd lift hill and if you walk down from the station, there’s an access fence where it can be seen on the left. Unlike Express, it was a cable loop. I dont know if it gripped the cable as it was in station, or just on the hill like an inverted SkyWay where the buckets unclamp.

    This year I was able to ride the suspended coaster at Cedar Point, Iron Dragon. Built on flat ground, but hidden in trees, it features an initial lift with a 2nd one halfway in the ride. It was a lame ride, most of the time it was pretty meh. I now understand why so many have been removed. It’s a shame, but you can see for yourself how the Point’s goes.

    • Kurt

      12/20/2012 at 2:41 pm

      I know the video probably doesn’t do it justice, but that looks pretty lame compared to Ninja. It also looks and sounds very rough. I think Ninja is a great ride for what it is and is perfect on the hillside.

  19. Rosie

    06/03/2013 at 5:24 pm

    The Ninja is alot of fun, we’re going to the park this year and I can’t wait to intro my own daughter to this one

  20. Andrew

    07/08/2013 at 1:31 am

    I’m not exactly sure how true this is, but my mom told me that the boarding station used to be at the lower people mover station, right before the second lift hill,( which at the time was the first).

    By the way, am I the only one here who has seen the whole queue filled? Superman was built before I was born so its not like lines were bigger then. I have seen all three queues filled!

  21. Rosie

    02/24/2014 at 10:47 am

    This is one of my favorite rides and now it’s my daughter’s favorite too we had such a blast on it, next time we go, we’d like to take a night ride. The trees on the side make you feel like a ninja flying through the trees. Hope this classic stays a long time for future generations to enjoy

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  24. Looper

    07/08/2014 at 8:11 pm

    Had to take a look at this as I felt it was needed for me. Thanks for the profile.

  25. Andrew

    07/28/2014 at 5:17 pm

    “One of my favorite things about this roller coaster is that there are no brakes. At least not during the ride. Once you clear the lift hill, there is nothing to slow you down until you hit this brake run at the very bottom of the hill, just above Jet Stream”

    I think a tree accepted your challenge.

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