I don’t want to brag, but I just zoomed down the same luge and bobsled track that Olympians do. I wasn’t in a regular bobsled like they use, but it was the same icy track that the Olympic athletes train on. How cool (pun intended) is that? This may have been the second time I’ve been on a real bobsled training track. The first time was in Jamaica, but this was faster, colder, and much closer to an actual Olympic experience than what we did there.
In a little town outside of Riga, tourists can experience what it’s like to race down the same icy track that professional athletes use to luge, do skeleton runs, or careen around the icy curves at tremendous speeds in a bobsled. Opened in 1986, it’s one of the few tracks in the world that visitors can experience when competitions are not in practice.
In order to do a regular bobsleigh ride which can reach speeds of 125mph, you need at least two passengers at (50+ Euros each) to ride with a pilot. Naturally, there are certain health factors that need to be taken into consideration as well. The track measures 1200m and includes 16 curves. I was game to try the real bobsleigh ride, but felt much more comfortable riding the Soft bob down the same icy track for 10 Euros per person.
When we arrived, the men told us to put on a helmet and we climbed into our soft, padded bobsleigh. They told us to keep our arms and hands inside, and then they pushed us off and away went went, soaring down the track at 60mph on our own.
What is the Soft bob ride like?
I laughed/screamed with exhilaration almost immediately. It was something like a roller coaster as far as the thrill element, but it was so much more than that. In a roller coaster, you know that the engineers have designed the track and cars and everything about the ride. In the soft bob, it was just us; three Americans zooming down the ice with no idea of what we should or shouldn’t do.
Since I was sitting in the front, it was similar to watching the Olympians with cameras attached to their sleighs or goggles so that you feel like you’re going down the track with them. In fact, that may have been what made me nervous — knowing that they’d trained to zip up onto the sidewalls of the curves and still sometimes crashed, or flew out of their sleds. There was nothing to prevent us from doing the same, though our speeds were lower than their aerodynamic sleighs. Still, we could have been thrown out onto the ice. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing.
Was it fun?
Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. It was a thrill! A cold wind froze our faces as we laughed through 60 seconds of twists and turns in an out-of-control ride. We finally leveled out and cruised to a stop where the men loaded the soft bobsleigh into the back of a truck that we also climbed aboard for the ride back up to the top of the track.
It was over all too soon. I would have loved to race down the track again and again. But for that kind of track time, I think I’d have to really be training for an Olympic race. And then they wouldn’t give me a padded sleigh. I’d be in a real one; maneuvering the curves with a finesse I certainly don’t have. But for that one minute on the track, I pretended I did. And it was amazing.
Would you go for the soft bob version or the real thing?