Braking Systems In Zip Lines
There are two main types of zip line brake – active brake and passive brake. The former needs the rider to trigger it and is less safe, but arguably, more fun. The passive brake, meanwhile, is something that engages by itself and brings the rider to a slowing stop without them having to work for it.
People who argue for an active zip line brake usually place the argument that this gives the rider more control over the run. The speed boosts the experience immensely, and also the enjoyment they get out of it. With active brakes, the setup is decidedly easier, and the versatile nature allows them to be used in a broad range of zip line applications. In contrast, passive brakes are known for being safer, especially when there are children in the picture. They usually lack the skill to actuate an active brake.
Active braking with a leather glove
This is the most common active zip line brake, comprising a leather glove worn on the rider’s hand. The rider needs to apply increasing friction to slow down and bring them to a gradual stop. It takes considerable training and practice to get this right.
Passive braking with a bungee brake
This zip line brake uses a padded lock, which mounts on the cable near the end of the zip line. It moves freely carrying a length of bungee cord, which is also connected to an anchor spot like a tree. When the rider’s trolley blocks this and pushes it down the cable, the bungee cord id stretched, and it absorbs the rider’s momentum. This retracts the bungee, and the rider comes to the low point near the end of the line. This method is commonly employed in backyard zip lines, where there is no platform at the end for dismounting.
Passive spring brakes
This works a lot like a bungee brake, but minus the need for being anchored off to the side. The spring compresses when it encounters force from the rider’s trolley, instead of taking which in, it pushes the rider backwards.
There are commercial zip lines that make use of more than one spring for the braking system. These also use impact pads, which keep the spring from pushing back till the rider has unclipped and gotten off the trolley. Springs are not suited for the residential setting because of the shorter braking distance.