Common Zip Line Braking Methods
All Zip Lines require some type of braking system. These are referred to in the zip line world as passive braking and active braking. An active brake is one that must be initiated by the rider, such as a leather glove. This is a kind of risky method because the rider must reach up and slow themselves by using the friction from the leather glove to slow themselves. Passive Braking involves no action by the rider. This is a much safer option for families with children.
An example of passive braking is the Brake Block Kit. This braking system encases the cable line at the end of the ride and has bungee cord (usually 15' or more) that is connected to the block and then strung out and anchored to either a tree or post nearby. Once your trolley makes contact with the white stopping block of the deceleration system it engages the bungee and stretches it until all of the momentum is absorbed. The bungee cord will then retract and bring the rider back to the low point of the cable where they can safely dismount. This method is very common for backyard zip lines because it is extremely easy and hassle free, it also makes for a smoother ride.
Another example of passive braking is The ZLP Spring Stop Brake. This system works similar to the bungee brakes except there is no need to have an anchored bungee cord at the end of the ride. This system works by absorbing the shock directly from the trolley and then using the momentum of the rider, it pushes the trolley back towards to low point of the cable where the rider can safely dismount. For set up you feed the cable line through the padded ends of either side of the spring. There are a few downfalls to using a Spring Stop Brake. One downfall is if your cable line is already set up you will have to remove the cable line to feed it through the spring. The second downfall is it is not used to stop a very fast rider. We recommend these on shallow sloped zip lines. Many backyard zip lines use this method because it takes up less cable and allows for a longer ride.
Alternative Braking Systems
This method involves tightening or loosening the zip line cable tension to ensure the rider stops before the end of the zip line. In this case, the rider's momentum will be stopped by gravity as they would reach the lowest point of the ride before the end of the ride. Be sure to do a lot of testing with this method (a bucket of water attached).
Trolleys with Brakes
There are some trolleys with speed control that will help slow down a rider, but we do not recommend this as the sole braking system.
There are some people brave enough to actively brake with leather gloves. They apply friction to the zip line with their hand strength. We aren't those people. We want families with children to be able to safely ride their zip line and this method is very advanced.
Tires or Tennis Balls
Yes this method does seem a little rudimentary, but it works. We have a customer who poked a hole in several tennis balls, put it through the zip line like beads and used that in an indoor gym. The travel speed was super slow so tennis balls were perfect. Just like a tennis ball, you can get tires onto a zip line.
Taking the necessary precautions will ensure that you enjoy your zip line in the way that it was intended, most injuries are a result of the people altering their zip lines or having ineffective braking systems. I hope this article helped!
If you'd like to check out our different braking systems click here!
If you need help deciding on a zip line check out this article!
This was a great help when deciding which braking system to go with for my zip line, thank you!