A common tip given to new and developing disc golfers is to only throw slow discs like mid ranges and fairway drivers. While this advice is sound for building a solid foundation of skills, it's tough to resist the allure of the extra length that high speed drivers promise. In this article, we'll compare the Innova Roadrunner vs Sidewinder, two fast distance drivers that are excellent for beginners.
Innova's Roadrunner and Sidewinder are two of the best understable distance drivers on the market. Built for players with slower arm speeds, these two discs are perfect for long turnover shots, easy hyzer flips, and long distance rollers. They will both glide for days and fulfill the promise of extra distance with minimal effort.
For all their similarities, there are some subtle differences between these discs. Let's take a closer look.
The Sidewinder and Roadrunner have the exact same dimensions:
- Diameter: 21.1cm
- Rim Depth: 1.2cm
- Rim Width: 1.8cm
With a low profile and shallow rim, both discs are easy to grip for any hand size. Their 1.8 cm rim width gives them a bit of extra speed, but not so much that they become difficult for beginners to control.
The Sidewinder and Roadrunner can be best classified as a bridge between the fairway driver and distance driver category. For many players, they are a great first distance driver, as they introduce a bit more speed without a loss of control.
For advanced players, either one will work as an excellent finesse driver. They will get extreme glide with less effort, and have a very predictable high speed turn that makes long turnover shots a breeze.
With the exact same dimensions, it makes sense that these two discs have similar flight characteristics as well. But similar does not mean identical, and we can parse some subtle differences between the two.
- Speed: 9
- Glide: 5
- Turn: -4
- Fade: 1
With an extreme -4 turn rating, the Roadrunner is one of the most understable drivers Innova offers. When thrown hard with a hyzer release, it will flip up to flat and begin to glide on an anhyzer angle.
Dial back the power a bit and the it will fly very straight and show off its high glide rating. Low power players will be able to get maximum distance with the Roadrunner.
This extra turn is especially helpful when learning to throw roller shots. True to its name, the Roadrunner will hit the ground running on roller lines. Throw it with an anhyzer release angle and it will take an extreme turn, almost getting vertical in the air, and catch edge on the ground.
Rollers are not only useful for getting under obstacles, they could potentially be a maximum distance option. Depending on the condition of the fairway and the prevailing winds, a roller can get more distance than an air shot. Almost any understable disc could be used for rollers, but the Roadrunner is practically built to roll.
- Speed: 9
- Glide: 5
- Turn: -3
- Fade: 1
The Sidewinder has the same flight ratings, but with a tad less turn. As its name implies, it "winds" to the "side," meaning it wants to turn and drift. This turn will be slightly less extreme than the Roadrunner, allowing for more control on hyzer flip shots and straight shots.
Just because a disc is very understable doesn't mean it is impossible to throw on a hyzer line. With an extreme hyzer release and a lot of height, the Sidewinder will execute a long sweeping hyzer shot. The Roadrunner could potentially do this, but it is more likely to flip over or fly straight.
Along these same lines, the Sidewinder will be easier to control on turnover shots. Where the Roadrunner will continue turning anhyzer for its entire flight, the Sidewinder will eventually hook up and fade to flat or even a subtle hyzer. This makes the Sidewinder a more versatile option. It can hit more lines and be used in more situations.
Both the these classic Innova molds are available in a variety of plastic blends. Here they are listed in order of stability:
- Halo Star
Knowing your personal power level is vital to choosing the correct plastic blend. This is especially true for very understable discs.
The baseline DX is a good option for brand new players or casual disc golf fans who only play once in a while. This plastic is easy to grip and throw, but has a low durability rating. It is easy to scrape, cut and dent.
Pro Tip: All of the disc golf discs in our shop ship out the same day, with photos of the exact disc you will get.
G-Star is a grippy and flexible option with moderate durability. Generally discs will fly more understable in this plastic, making it an excellent option for low power players who need a durable workhorse driver. The stiffer Star blend is very similar, with a tad more stability and longevity.
Halo Star and Champion plastics are the most durable and start off with the most stability. They will require more power to activate the turn and glide. For many players, a Champion Sidewinder might have closer to a -2 turn and 4 glide. This video review by youtuber IceBerg TV highlights how much stability the Sidewinder has in Champion plastic.
Roadrunner vs Sidewinder: Differences
There are a few minor difference to highlight between these two distance drivers.
Breaking In Period
One of the drawbacks to throwing understable discs is their relative lack of longevity. As discs take tree hits and skip off the ground, they will show various signs of wear. Over time the rim will get slightly warped or bent, and the disc will gradually lose stability.
Since both these discs start out very understable, they will only get more flippy as they break in. Buying premium plastic blends will slow down the breaking in period, but not stop it completely. After a few months of heavy use, the Roadrunner will quickly age into the furthest extreme of turn, dropping to a -5 or lower. You can read more about disc stability if you aren't familiar with these terms yet.
At that point it becomes a pure roller disc for the average player. That's good for a niche spot in the bag for specific situations, but if you were relying on the Roadrunner for air shots, you will need to purchase a new one. With more stability off the shelf, the Sidewinder will have a longer breaking in period before it becomes too understable.
Neither of these discs perform well in headwinds and crosswinds, but the Roadrunner is especially difficult to control in such conditions. The Sidewinder, particularly in Champion or Halo Star plastic, will offer more resistance to turning over in the wind.
On the other hand, with the wind at your back, these two will get huge distance. Understable discs with a lot of glide are perfect for riding a tailwind, so these both fit the bill. Ultimately, the Sidewinder will have more versatility in windy conditions.
Which One Is For You?
If you are a beginner who wants to learn how to shape hyzer flips and turnover shots, the Roadrunner is the ideal choice. This disc makes it very easy to activate the turn portion of the flight. This Champion Metal Flake Roadrunner available in our store now is a durable option that would make for one of the best beginner distance drivers.
The Sidewinder is a better option for experienced players who want a reliable understable disc that isn't going to flip over and turn into a roller. We have the Sidewinder available in several plastics, but we recommend the the extra durability and stability of the Halo Star model to intermediate and advanced players.
What is the difference between a Sidewinder and Roadrunner?
They are extremely similar, but the Roadrunner is a bit more understable than the Sidewinder.
Which is more popular, the Roadrunner or Sidewinder?
Due to its extra versatility, the Sidewinder is a bit more popular than the Roadrunner.
Do pros throw the Sidewinder or Roadrunner?
2018 World Champion Gregg Barsby is known to thrown a Roadrunner for roller shots. Several pros use the Sidewinder for rollers as well. Christine Jennings has a 2022 Signature Glow Sidewinder available in our store now. Check out her review of the Sidewinder:
The Sidewinder and Roadrunner are great discs for unlocking the wonders of hyzer flips, glidey turnovers and massive rollers. Take these discs to an open field to work on your finesse game and find unique shot shapes.
For beginners, they are the ideal option for a first workhorse distance driver. Spend time mastering the Sidewinder and Roadrunner before jumping up to the maximum distance driver category.