Bicycle rim tape explained

Bicycle rim tape explained

Updated: 16/11/2018.

This post shortly explains important things concerning bicycle rim tape. Many cyclists already know all this, but many don’t – author of the text has often had bicycles brought into his bicycle repair shop with tubes punctured, or damaged from the rim, or the spokes – because of rim tape problems.

 

1. What does the bicycle wheel rim tape do?

Rim tape is put directly onto the rim. It’s function is to cover all the sharp and rough edges, therefore protecting the tube from being punctured by the rim. A very simple device. It’s supposed to stick firmly to the rim, preventing tube from being punctured by spoke nipples, or by spoke nipple holes in case of rims with recessed spoke holes.

 

2. Rim tape dimensions

There are two standard widths (most common, but there are other widths as well). Narrow 15 mm ones, and wide 19 mm.

When it comes to length, they also come in two variants: in self adhesive rolls (like duct tape), that can be cut to the desired rim circumference; or pre cut and glued to a certain rim size standard, with a pre-drilled valve hole.

For example: a MTB wheel will use a rim tape for 559 mm diameter rims (MTB standard) and 19 mm wide; while a road bike with narrow rims and tyres will use a rim tape cut for rims of 622 mm circumference, 15 mm wide.

 

3. Rim tape types

There are rubber ones, made of material similar to the one used for tubes. They are quite easy to stretch, which makes them easy to slide onto even bigger rims than the one they are made for – in case of emergency.

Rubber rim tape, pre cut to a size.
Rubber rim tape, pre cut to a size.

The more expensive and of higher quality are tapes made of strong fabric (or hard rubber/plastic). They usually have “high pressure” printed on them.

High quality high pressure rim tape.
High quality high pressure rim tape.

 

4. Bicycle wheel rim types

There are simple single wall rims, where spoke nipples are screwed onto the rim interior, so that rim tape goes directly over the spoke nipples:

Single wall rim. Rim tape lies directly over the spoke nipples.
Single wall rim.
Rim tape lies directly over the spoke nipples.

For this type of rim, cheap rubber rim tape can be used, or a tailored old tube, or even a duct tape.

Modern rims are usually double walled (and made of aluminium).

Double walled rim.<br /> Nipples are inserted into pre drilled (sharp edged) holes.
Double walled rim.
Nipples are inserted into pre drilled (sharp edged) recessed holes.

With these rims, tyre pressure presses tube against the sharp holes. That’s why a high quality, high pressure rim tape needs to be used. Rubber rim tape, old tubes, duct tape etc. will not do with these rims.

BikeGremlin TIP
BikeGremlin TIP

When mounting rim tape, attention should be paid it is not too narrow (so it doesn’t slide off nipple holes), or too wide, so it interferes with tyre mounting.

Since it can slide during mounting, a valve can be put through valve opening on the rim tape and the rim, to hold everything in place.

Valve that can be placed (and screwed in place), to hold the rim tape while it is being mounted.
Valve that can be placed (and screwed in place), to hold the rim tape while it is being mounted.

 

Author’s recommended rim tape. Clicking on an image below opens Amazon.com on-line shopping search (as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases):

Schwalbe high pressure rim tape at Amazon.com. Choose the size for your wheels (rims).
Schwalbe high pressure rim tape at Amazon.com.
Choose the size for your wheels (rims).
Schwalbe tubeless rim tape - at Amazon.com
Schwalbe tubeless rim tape – at Amazon.com

2 thoughts on “Bicycle rim tape explained”

    • Thanks for the note.

      The original idea was to provide a link for people to conveniently buy decent quality at low price, without need for looking loads of adds, comparing prices. Recommending something I know works well.

      However, Amazon offers seem to change, so links work for quite short amount of time often. Can’t manage to update them all, so I’m removing them.

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