Ride Review: Is TRON Lightcycle Run Worth the Time or Money?

TRON Lightcycle Run is Walt Disney World’s newest attraction, opening in 2023 at Magic Kingdom after being announced way back in 2017. This roller coaster review shares our thoughts on the thrill ride, comparisons to other attractions, and whether it’s worth the time and energy to join the virtual queue or cost of buying line-skipping Lightning Lane access.

We first experienced TRON Lightcycle (Power) Run almost 7 years ago at Shanghai Disneyland. That feels like a lifetime ago, especially given everything that has happened since and while watching the lethargic pace of the roller coaster’s construction at Magic Kingdom.

I’ve made no secret about being a bit let down by TRON Lightcycle Run there, and had cautioned Walt Disney World fans not to expect too much given the drawn out timeframe of the addition. Given that, the conclusion of this TRON Lightcycle Run ride review might seem foregone. However, expectations are a funny thing.

After thinking that it’s not that great for several years and telling everyone else to temper their expectations, my first time on the Magic Kingdom version of TRON Lightcycle Run exceeded my own. Ride number two was just as good, confirming that TRON Lightcycle Run was better than I remembered.

For me, it was likely a matter of perspective. My first time doing it all those years ago, TRON Lightcycle Run was the #2 attraction attraction in a brand-new castle park that was billed as being revolutionary–and with a budget on par with Tokyo DisneySea.

Our first ride in the new park was Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, which set an impossibly high standard that would be a tough act for anything to follow. Even though I knew they were fundamentally different experiences, TRON couldn’t live up to that high mark. Nothing else could.

There are two possible reasons why I’m offering that anecdote. Maybe it’s filibustering in a ride review about a roller coaster that’s under 2 minutes long and in the dark, as there cannot conceivably be that much to say about this ride (challenge accepted). The other is that perspective is key, and it’ll likely shape your own opinion of TRON Lightcycle Run in Magic Kingdom.

If you have been watching the gravity building slowly rise and ETFE cushion canopy be installed at a snail’s pace while doing loops aboard the TTA PeopleMover, perhaps you’ve set similarly high expectations. Imaginations can run wild, especially when seeing something for such a long time and having the chance to really mull it over. Maybe your mind has already programmed its version of TRON Lightcycle Run, and any deviation from that will disappoint.

Even if you’re not a diehard Walt Disney World fan who has visited several times since construction began, it’s still possible for impossibly high expectations for TRON Lightcycle Run. In fact, all it might take is first riding Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.

Or, perhaps you read up on and jumped through the hoops of the virtual queue, getting up before 7 am to score a boarding group, spending more time on the online ‘grid’ of My Disney Experience to ride TRON Lightcycle Run than any other attraction at Walt Disney World. Another possibility is that you spent $20 on an Individual Lightning Lane for TRON Lightcycle Run, quite the high cost when measured in ‘dollars per minute’ of the ride experience.

The converse is also true. Maybe you went into TRON Lightcycle Run cold, or knew that construction was purposefully drawn out, and not due to any complicated aspects of the attraction. It’s possible you prefer the virtual queue, favoring a couple minutes of effort at 7 am or 1 pm to avoid a couple hours in the standby line. Likewise, maybe your value of a Lightning Lane is measured not in ride duration, but in time and headaches saved.

This just scratches the surface on a range of reasons why Walt Disney World fans might be underwhelmed, overwhelmed, or somewhere in between with TRON Lightcycle Run. Since this is a review, let’s switch gears from the hypothetical to where we stand on each defining aspect of the attraction.

Let’s start with one of the biggest positive notes of the experience, which is what it adds to Magic Kingdom as a whole. If you’ve been watching TRON Lightcycle Run take shape over the last however-many years, you’re probably familiar with the Upload Conduit canopy that covers the outdoor portion of the roller coaster.

Although I still think it’s regrettable that Disney didn’t shorten the Tomorrowland Speedway track to open up the area a bit more, the plaza under the Upload Conduit is something special. The flow of the walkways, enormous canopy overhead, and views into the rest of Tomorrowland are fantastic.

This whole space just oozes kinetic energy. Standing under the Upload Conduit at night as it changes colors and the lightcycles whizz by overhead, the speedway cars putter along below, and the TTA Peoplemover glides by is nothing short of incredible. It’s right up there with the submarine lagoon at Disneyland as the ultimate in atmospheric experiences. Once the whole area around TRON Lightcycle Run is open-access, this plaza is going to be a top-notch spot for watching Happily Ever After.

For me, this is the highlight of TRON Lightcycle Run. That might seem like a backhanded compliment, but it’s really not. I absolutely adore attractions that have something to offer everyone, and improve the park experience as a whole. I wish it weren’t quite as disconnected from the rest of Tomorrowland, but once you’re back in this TRON plaza, it feels like an organic extension of Magic Kingdom.

My favorite “part” of TRON Lightcycle Run thus far has been simply standing under the Upload Conduit for a few hours at night, taking these photos. This is one way that TRON Lightcycle Run races laps around other new attractions at Walt Disney World. The ride itself won’t be for everyone, but what the kinetic energy and atmospheric quality that it adds to Magic Kingdom certainly is.

The Upload Conduit and its ambiance is one of those things that puts the theme into the park. This is a stellar addition to the ‘skyline’ at Magic Kingdom, and another reminder of what makes these parks special. As always, the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

With that glowing praise out of the way, let’s enter the queue, immediately after tapping into the virtual queue or Lightning Lane. TRON Lightcycle Run is a mixed bag here, greeting guests with ribbed archways set below the canopy that are meant to conceal the gravity building.

There are little blue signs garnishing these arches highlighting Team Blue, as well as an ENCOM SHV 20905 digitizer laser, through which human Users pass from the real world into the digital world of the Grid.

After passing under the laser, Users enter a hallway with lighting and designs meant to evoke a circuit board and the digital realm. As a sucker for flashing lighting, I appreciate this…but it is also very clearly a flashy hallway.

This is not the only ‘obvious hallway’ in the queue for TRON Lightcycle Run. Perhaps this is a “me problem” and a matter of impossibly high expectations, but I found these sections stuck out when contrast with the ‘wow moment’ and impressive areas of the queue and ride as a whole in TRON Lightcycle Run.

To each their own, but the goal here is impressing upon guests that they’ve entered the digital realm, and I found this suspension of disbelief difficult at times. To be clear, I’m not saying that recognizing a regular hallway ruined the immersiveness of the experience or anything of the sort.

Rather, that the depth of the themed design and level of detail was not consistent throughout TRON Lightcycle Run’s opening act. I’d actually go a step further and say TRON Lightcycle Run is lacking the level of attention and polish throughout, with a bunch of “little things” that are minor in isolation but add up in aggregate.

Truthfully, I don’t think this is a “me problem” or result of impossibly high expectations. Again, Cosmic Rewind is a good contrast. That attraction transitions guests through multiple settings, but each is done with such care and detail that believability and suspension of disbelief is simple. That attraction has a tougher task, but sticks the landing better.

None of the shortcomings in TRON Lightcycle Run are make or break, and I’d imagine that most guests won’t even notice them. But this is a review and Imagineering has created certain fan expectations by touting its attention to detail and emphasis on everything (that’s precisely why so many of us became fans), so this is all far game.

The aforementioned ‘wow moment’ in TRON Lightcycle Run occurs after passing through the first digital hallway. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a brief pre-show reveal that is very impressive. This is also similar in idea to a moment in Cosmic Rewind, and is the kind of thing that elevates something from ‘ride’ to ‘attraction.’

Following that reveal, the next room of the queue is one of the more impressive ones. The thematic flourishes and design are mostly well done in here, but what commands your full attention is a preview of the lightcycles preparing for launch. So much about TRON Lightcycle Run has been described as a ‘nextgen’ Space Mountain. I don’t think that’s a fair characterization, but this does remind me of the Space Mountain load area overlook (at Disneyland) on steroids.

Towards the end of the queue, guests arrive at the lockers. TRON Lightcycle Run is the first attraction at Walt Disney World to require lockers for pretty much anything larger than a phone or wallet. This is a new system for the domestic Disney parks, but hardly new–roller coasters around the world having been requiring lockers for years.

New to TRON Lightcycle Run, a double-sided and digitized locker system is used to store bags and loose items while you race your Lightcycle. These free lockers pair directly with your MagicBand, ticket media, or provided keycard so you can easily lock and reopen your locker with a quick tap.

All items must be placed either in a locker before you board your Lightcycle, or in a small compartment located on the attraction vehicle that can hold items such as cellphones, glasses or wallets. I placed my camera bag and tripod in the locker, and it took some contortions to fit both. For reference, my bag is 12.2 x 8.66 x 18.11 inches (per Amazon) and I don’t think it would’ve fit if it were much larger than that.

If it’s your first time using required lockers at a roller coaster, you might not be appropriately impressed by this. As someone who has used many of these, this is as good as it gets. The lockers at TRON Lightcycle Run (like VelociCoaster before it) are an absolute breeze and total gamechanger. It’s smooth and seamless, with a level of unprecedented ease and zero friction.

Load for TRON Lightcycle Run is also similar to Cosmic Rewind, right down to the dual platforms and how Cast Members direct guests to each side. Cast Members are absolutely masterful at this, and TRON is already proving extremely efficient–despite some hiccups–because of how adept they’ve become at directing guests.

Those aforementioned hiccups are the issues encountered by larger sized guests. Suffice to say, if you’re tall, have muscular legs, or are plus-sized, you might have issues with the normal ride vehicles on TRON Lightcycle Run. We cover everything you need to know in TRON Lightcycle Run Problems for Larger Guests. If you think you could have problems fitting into the lightcycle, we’d highly recommend reading that. It covers common issues, but also “solutions” for improving your chances of riding the attraction in a standard seat.

TRON Lightcycle Run is a semi-enclosed launched steel motorbike roller coaster, meaning that it goes from zero to high speed very, very fast. There are essentially two (unequal) halves to the ride, with the first taking place under that swooping outdoor canopy and affording breathtaking views of the people around and, if you look around a bit, Tomorrowland and distant areas of Magic Kingdom.

Following that, guests enter a huge gravity building (a big dark warehouse) where you’re on Team Blue and racing against the Grid’s menacing Programs – Team Red, Team Yellow or Team Orange. Your goal is to be the first to race through eight Energy Gates, digital markers that Users and Programs compete to “capture.” The first team to capture all eight Gates by passing through them is declared the winner. (Spoiler: you win.)

Much of the fan debate about TRON Lightcycle Run has revolved around whether it’s too short. That was my criticism after first riding in Shanghai Disneyland. Depending upon how you measure ride duration, it’s somewhere between one and two minutes.

Some fans have argued that the thrilling part is only ~60 seconds, and that’s too short. Others have countered that it’s about on par with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and there’s not heated debate about its duration. (I’d argue that’s because it’s older. That coaster debuted during the nascent years of the internet, and the ship has sailed for online arguing about duration. Just like it will for TRON Lightcycle Run’s length by 2025.)

Personally, I’m of two minds about this. First of all, I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rule for what’s “long enough” for a roller coaster. Not in seconds or in feet of track. It’s more an art than a science, and satisfaction comes from any number of things–pacing, cadence, thrills, layout, etc.

Part of the “problem” with TRON Lightcycle Run is that it has two distinct sections: the canopy and the Grid. From my perspective, the canopy is immensely satisfying. Flying under the swooping canopy and over the sidewalks leading to the attraction is incredibly cool, and I could never get enough of this–but feel more or less content with it after each ride.

The gravity building is a different story. As noted above, there are eight Energy Gates you need to capture. While the “story” is not really essential to enjoying the attraction–and easy to miss because a lot is going on inside the gravity building thanks to screens and visual effects–I actually think it helps to know what’s going on, and focus your attention on it. (In my view, there’s nothing to spoil here.)

Focusing on capturing the Energy Gates narrows your attention, and initially makes it feel like TRON Lightcycle Run is going to last a while, as there’s significant space between the first five Energy Gates. Then the climactic moment of the race happens, and you obtain the final three gates in fairly quick succession.

If there were just a tad more spacing between those final few Energy Gates, I think TRON Lightcycle Run would be the perfect duration. Of course, I wouldn’t complain if it were many minutes longer than that–I could ride this thing all day–but I wouldn’t think it’s at all too short in that case.

As it stands, I suspect a big part of the perception that it’s too short stems from the canopy section and the Energy Gate race being so separate from one another. If it were just a race through the Energy Gates or simply swooping around under the canopy–and not both–it would probably feel more complete, but it would also be a single distinct experience instead of two.

Upon the conclusion of TRON Lightcycle Run, I’m left craving those experiences again, not thinking “that’s it?” and ready to move on. So by that metric, TRON Lightcycle Run mostly delivers for me on the ride itself. The music, visuals, pacing, and sense of exhilaration are all top notch. For me, TRON is not as satisfying as Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind or VelociCoaster, but those are elite attractions–it falling slightly short of those marks is more praise for them than an indictment of TRON Lightcycle Run.

There’s also the fact that it’s fundamentally different. More than anything else, I’d categorize TRON Lightcycle Run as a “wish fulfillment ride.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the films, straddling the lightcycle and racing through the Grid is, itself, an experience that will be etched in your memory long after the specifics of the roller coaster–and most other rides you did on vacation at Walt Disney World–fades away.

To answer the titular question, all of that makes TRON Lightcycle Run worth the energy and effort of the virtual queue. (To that point, consult our TRON Lightcycle Run Virtual Queue Strategy Guide for improving your odds of successfully scoring a free spot to ride.) As someone with strong disdain for the pay-per-ride Individual Lightning Lanes, I cannot answer that one. I personally have never bought one of those, but my circumstances also differ from a once-in-a-lifetime tourist.

Hopefully the above commentary about TRON Lightcycle Run being a wish fulfillment attraction and indelible memory can help you decide for yourself. Failing all of that, simply standing under the canopy gazing up and around is an experience that’s easily “worth it” for anyone who can’t ride.

Ultimately, I do not love TRON Lightcycle Run in the same way as other recent additions to Walt Disney World, but there’s absolutely something to be said for its memory-making quality and coolness factor. The unique nature of the ride plus the kinetic quality of the Upload Conduit that amounts to a park enhancement enjoyable for all–not just thrill seekers–add up to make TRON Lightcycle Run a strong addition to the Walt Disney World ride roster and Magic Kingdom mountain (?) range.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of TRON Lightcycle Run? Are you excited for this new Magic Kingdom roller coaster, or does it not interest you? Thoughts on the aesthetic and kinetic energy it adds to this corner of Tomorrowland? Agree or disagree with my assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!

30 Responses to “Ride Review: Is TRON Lightcycle Run Worth the Time or Money?”
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