What to Look for in a Rope

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Texture, Weight and Body
How do you like a rope to feel in your hand?

If you like the rougher feel of ridges in your hand, go with a three-strand, which has 25 percent fewer crowns than a four-strand.

If you grew up with a true nylon and that feels most comfortable to you, it's still out there in ropes like Dub Grant's White Winner, King's Nylon or Classic's Gold. To get a little weight in a rope, look for poly blends, four-strands and cores.

Remember that if you take a rope and stop swinging it, it should come back round, not oblong (no matter how soft it is). If your rope doesn't have enough body, it'll feel dead when you swing and deliver it. If it has too much body, it'll feel bouncy and you'll have a tendency to wave it off or heel steers up around the belly, thus slipping legs or missing dallies.

Materials and Lays
How pliable, long-lasting and visible do you want your rope?

Different color dyes not only make a rope easier to see, but can reduce slippage at the horn and affect the way it feels to swing.

Poly blended into a rope can give it weight and longevity, as can lower crowns, which mean less friction. Trevor Brazile thinks pure nylon ropes are apt to be straighter, so he prefers a poly blend to give him a forward kick (the opposite of a backswing) in head ropes.

Guys like Clay Tryan and Jake Barnes subscribe to the "smaller the horns, the softer the lay" theory. But Barry Berg, who started the tiny-is-better revolution, says that to be fast on small horns, a rope doesn't need to be softer or lighter-just smaller (as long as it has enough body).

Climate
Where do you live and rope?

Ropes can stiffen in heat, so the general rule is to go softer in summer and harder in cold temperatures. One rope-maker believes that it's harder to get three-strand ropes to hold their memory in the winter. Several companies claim their ropes don't change with the thermometer, including wax-free ropes, but personal experience might be the best guide.

Feel
What's your skill level, body size, and style?

Beginners need a rope that's pliable in their hand and turns over easily. A looser-twisted rope will be more forgiving and run less at the horn. And don't forget to think about balance between your hands.

Also consider backswing, which comes from further back in the coils, and pick a rope that will rebound well.

Bottom line? You want your rope working for you, not against you. It should swing freely in all seasons and feel like an extension of your hand, not its worst enemy.