Years ago, there wasn't a whole lot of choice when it came to rope selection. When I was a kid, you either headed with a soft-lay head rope or heeled with a hard-lay heel rope. I can only remember a couple rope makers when I was a kid, so there weren't many choices. We used our ropes forever. We'd use each rope up, then tie a Honda in the other end of it and use it that way, a lot of time with a wire burner in it. That's just what people did. Nobody made money roping. It was just for fun. So you didn't want to spend a whole lot of money to do it, and made due with what you had. Until I started winning quite a bit as a teenager, and it started to become more important that I had good ropes to use, it wasn't any big deal. After that, I started thinking more about my ropes, what I liked and what worked best. That's about the time other rope companies entered the market and there started being more of a selection.
I've always used a pretty hard rope. Right now I'm using a medium hard four-strand Hypnotic, which is about as hard a rope as they make on the modern machines. Ever since I was a little kid I've used a hard rope, so that's all I've ever known. I developed a feel for a hard rope, and like that stiffness because that's what feels good to me.
I think you should use what's comfortable to you. Most of the top guys use ropes similar in stiffness to what I use, but that's not to say that's what's best for you. Generally speaking, a beginner is better off with a medium or medium soft to start off with, to learn how to swing a rope, get your slack and dally. A softer rope is easier to swing, turn over, rotate and dally with.
But as you climb up the ladder, I'd look at experimenting with the same kind of rope the best guys use. There's a reason to use a stiffer rope. Otherwise, 80 percent of your top-level ropers wouldn't be using them. When you bring the bottom of the loop into position, the feet can sometimes be spread apart a little bit, so you need some help with that loop staying open. A more limber rope will tend to close up on you a little more. A stiffer rope is also a little harder to swing, but once you're used to it you think nothing of it.
I recently switched to a four-strand rope (Hypnotic). used a three-strand rope my entire career until now, but when Cactus came out with this I figured I'd try it. The loop keeps a lot of body to it. I think it's tougher, and the loop holds its shape better. For my dallying, I think the body of the coils stay shaped better also. The rope just holds together, and it's tough. You can probably get twice the use out of it before it's used up.
There are so many different ropes out there. Nowadays, there's just so much to choose from. So I think it's harder for ropers to figure out what to buy and what to use. It's easy for me, because I'm with one rope company. I also have the advantage of being in close contact with the guy who makes the ropes, so I can tell him what I'm looking for and give him feedback on what I want in a rope.
I think what everybody's looking for in a rope is consistency. With the weather changes, from hot to cold, summer to winter, I think you want to buy from a brand that's well-schooled in how that affects ropes. They change their ropes, and stay on top of how the seasons affect your rope, so they can keep their ropes feeling good year-round. Ropes are coiled for each season. For example, if you try to use a rope that's coiled for the winter in the summertime, it's going to have too much kick in it and it'll flair out to the right too much because of that little twist. There's truth to the advantage of having a fresh rope that's coiled for that particular season, because it's adjusted to the temperature from that time of year.STW