After a while, your ropes or leather straps will start to look a little worn. Maybe your ropes start to get fuzzy. They are thick, stiff, and wavy right near where they pass through the pulley. Or, your leather straps start to crack or come apart at the seams.
But is this cause for concern?
The answer is different depending on which setup you have.
Your ropes eventually get thick and fuzzy where they travel over the pulley. This is not a safety concern, but it can affect how work with the loops can feel.
Look at the photo below. You can see the rope on the top is smooth and thinner than the bottom rope. If you zoom in, you can see that the braiding of the rope is much clearer in the top (new) rope than the bottom. The bottom rope has a thicker diameter (it’s subtle, but it’s there), and most importantly, feels much stiffer when handled.
Don’t hesitate to feel the ropes, move them in your hands. If the section between the pulley and the carriage feels stiffer than the end of the rope that never touches the pulley, that’s compromising your smooth feeling.
I notice this especially when doing arms- or feet-in-straps because it usually makes the movement feel a little bumpy. These movements should feel smooth. Teachers and clients often use the words juicy, delicious, and yummy to describe them. But thick and stiff ropes make these movements feel worse.
Many people incorrectly assume this feeling is because of the wheels, when it is actually be worn ropes! (To read more about how to figure out what is causing your bumpy carriage ride, read this blog post.)
My favorite before and after moment with my maintenance clients is to have them do leg circles with their current ropes, and then change the ropes to new, smooth ones and repeat. It makes a big difference! But often, you’d never know because the deterioration happens slowly over time, so your body adjusts.
To get the smooth glide you love during work with the straps, I recommend replacing your ropes when they get thick and fuzzy.
Sometimes, you may notice that the ropes get fuzzy fairly quickly, but they aren’t really thicker near the pulley. That’s okay. The little fuzzies (like the photo below) are normal and don’t really affect your ropes. Keep using them until you notice that the ropes are thicker and stiffer near the pulleys than near the loops or carriage.
I want to reiterate that this is not a safety issue. This is a feel issue. If you need to work the cost of new ropes into your budget later in the year, you’ll be fine waiting until you can afford the expense. No rush.
Last year I talked about how to properly care for your leather straps. This is incredibly important to extend the life of your straps and to help make them feel really good.
When you clean your straps, inspect them very carefully for cracks at the seams or near holes. Unlike ropes, when straps deteriorate and crack like the photos below, they can break! In fact, I’ve seen this happen.
So, it’s important to keep your inspections regular in order to keep you, your instructors, and your clients safe.