zip line

Zip-line

A zip-line (also known as a flying fox, zip wire, aerial runway, death slide or tyrolean crossing) consists of a pulley suspended on a cable mounted on an incline. They are designed to enable a user propelled by gravity to traverse from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable, usually made of stainless steel, by holding on or attaching to the freely moving pulley. Zip-lines come in many forms, most often used as a means of entertainment. They may be short and low, intended for child's play and found on some playgrounds. Longer and higher rides are often used as a means of accessing unusual areas (a rainforest canopy for instance) or found at outdoor adventure camps where they are usually one element on a larger challenge or ropes course.

Flying fox

The term "flying fox" is most commonly used in reference to a small-scale zip line typically used as an item of children's play equipment, except in Australian English and New Zealand English where it also refers to professional forms of zip-line equipment.

In a flying fox the pulley(s), attached to the car, is fixed to the cable. The car itself can consist of anything from a simple hand grip, with the user hanging underneath, or a bucket for transporting small items to a quite elaborate construction, perhaps including a seat or a safety strap. Children's versions are usually not set up with a steep incline, so the speeds are kept relatively low, negating the need for a means of stopping.

In order to be propelled by gravity, the cable needs to be on a fairly steep slope. Even then the car will generally not travel completely to the end, although this will depend on the load and some means of safely stopping the car at the bottom end is sometimes needed. It can be returned by several means, a line leading from the car to the uphill end being the simplest.

New Zealand is home to the world biggest / longest Flying fox.

Professional courses

Professional versions of a zip-line are most typically used as an outdoor adventure activity. In contrast to "flying foxes" professional courses are usually operated at higher speeds covering much longer distances and sometimes at considerable heights. The users are physically attached to the cable by wearing a harness which attaches to a removable trolley. A helmet is required on almost all courses of any size.

Cables can be very high, starting at a height of over 30 feet (9 m), and traveling well over 1500 feet (457 m). All zip line cables have some degree of sag. The proper tensioning of a cable is important and allows the ability to tune the ride of a zip line.

Users of zip-lines must have means of stopping themselves. Typical mechanisms include:

  • Thick purpose-built leather gloves.
  • A mat or netting at the lower end of the incline.
  • An arrester system comprised of springs, pulleys, counter-weights, bungee cord or other devices, which slows then stops the trolley's motion.
  • Gravity stop utilizing the inherent nature of the sag in the cable. The belly of the cable is always lower than the termination point. The amount of uphill on a zip line controls the speed at which the zipist arrives at the termination point.

Costa Rica is known for their Canopy Tours where a vacationer can zip through the rainforest. The zip-lines are scattered among several platforms, some as high as 130 feet.

Zip-lines are a common way to return participants to the ground at the end of a ropes adventure course.

In past days in the Australian outback, flying foxes were occasionally used for delivering food, cigarettes or tools to people working on the other side of an obstacle such as a gully or river. Australian troops have used them to deliver food, mail and even ammunition to forward positions in several conflicts.

Zip-lines may be dangerous devices, requiring proper knowledge of ropework.

Media references

  • In the cartoon Go, Diego, Go!, Diego and his friends often travel on zip-lines. His Rescue Pack's song specifically mentions it can become a "zip cord."
  • At Wrestlemania XII, wrestler Shawn Michaels entered the ring via a zip-line prior to his match against Bret Hart for the WWF Championship.
  • On the television show Little People, Big World. The Roloffs go to Hawaii and Matt fights his fear of heights and goes down + 500' drop off cliff. After their experience they went on to build a private zip-line for themselves on their family farm in Oregon.
  • On the television show The Office during the Weight Loss episode, character Toby Flenderson is shown with a broken neck following a zip-line harness failure.

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