Alternatives to Bicycle Rim Tape: A Short Guide (2023)

Have you ever looked at that grubby strip of tape covering the inside surface of your rim and wonder if you could use a roll of electric tape you have lying around at home to freshen it up?

In this article we explain what bicycle electric tape is designed to do and consider some alternatives that would make a good substitute for it (and some that wouldn’t).

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What exactly is rim tape, and what does it do?

Bicycle rim tape is a strip of flexible material that is placed in the rim bed around the circumference of the rim prior to installing inner tubes and mounting tires.

As simple as rim tape is, it actually performs the important function of protecting your inner tubes, which expand in size and have thinner walls once inflated, from abrasion or punctures due spokes protruding through the inside of the rim or holes or any sharp edges around the inner spoke holes or rim joints.

Rim tape is made using various materials, including cloth or fabric as well as vinyl and rubber. Some tapes have an adhesive side to secure it to the rim bed surface. It can come in a single circular piece of tape that is stretched around the rim, known as “looped tape”, or a roll of tape that can be cut to the required length.

Alternatives to Bicycle Rim Tape: A Short Guide (1)Alternatives to Bicycle Rim Tape: A Short Guide (2)In the days of single-wall rims, when the spokes where directly inserted into the inside of the rim, common practice was to use thick rubber rim tape, given that the tape goes directly over the nipples and needed to be thick enough to protect the inner tubes.

(Video) Best Tubeless Rim Tape - Alternative

Modern rims are double-walled, that is they have a recess where the spokes are inserted and the spoke holes have these sharp edges that need to be covered with the appropriate width of rim tape, while still being thin enough to prevent interference with the tire bead and rim bead hook interface.

Tubeless setups have a special type of rim tape, simply known as tubeless tape. Like regular rim tape, tubeless tape comes in various widths, but it is made using materials that ensure better adhesion to the rim bed to prevent air loss. Tubeless tape is also resistant to some chemicals present in tubeless sealants.

Can I use any tape instead of rim tape?

The answer is: it depends. Some non-bicycle specific tapes make good substitutes, some don’t (we discuss this in more detail further on in this article). Many household use tapes are not, in fact, great substitutes for rim tape because the dimensions can be either too narrow, too wide or otherwise have other properties that would make them not well suited for use on bicycle rims.

Before we have a look at some good (and not so good alternatives) to bicycle rim tape, let’s answer a more fundamental question…

Can I ride my bike without rim tape?

Alternatives to Bicycle Rim Tape: A Short Guide (3)

There is certainly nothing to prevent you from riding your bike with no rim tape fitted to your wheels, but it is also not good practice to do so.

As soon as you inflate your inner tubes, they will start expanding into the spoke holes, and as previously explained, the expansion of the rubber tubes makes them susceptible to friction against sharp metal edges inside your rim, and accordingly more puncture-prone. With this in mind, rim tape is one of those “prevention is better than the cure” pieces of kit.

(Video) The Key To a Flawless Tubeless Tape Install

What are some good alternatives to bicycle rim tape?

For tubed wheels:

  • Hockey tape: Hockey tape is widely available, made of cloth and comes in two sizes. These properties make hockey tape very similar to classic bicycle cloth rim tape, and thus makes it suitable for use as rim tape on tubed wheels.
  • Electrical tape: Electrical tape designed to insulate electrical wires and connections works well as rim tape. One caveat here is that not all electrical tapes are created equal.

    The very cheap varieties of electrical insulation tape have bad adhesion, tend to wrinkle up when stretched and are often not wide enough for modern rims. If you have narrower rims and have good quality electrical tape on hand in an appropriate width, it should work fine! (pro tip: considering how thin most electrical tapes are, you might have to do a double wrap)

For tubeless wheels:

  • Filament reinforced strapping tape: Strapping tape is used for sealing boxes and – you guessed it – strapping stuff together. Given this function, high-quality strapping tapes are often made to be strong with good adhesion, comes in many widths and can be removed without leaving significant residue.

    These properties make reinforced strapping tape and excellent alternative to bicycle tubeless rim tape. It is rumored that one of the most popular bicycle tubeless rim tape brands is actually a rebranded industrial strapping tape (pro tip: I’ve had very good experience with using Scotch 8896 strapping tape for some of my tubeless wheels)

  • Old inner tubes: This pile of old punctured inner tubes you have bundled up in your bike stuff box (that you’ve been meaning to patch but never got around to) might finally be useful! You can make excellent rim tape if you carefully trim an old tube to size, preserving the loop structure.

    There is even a method of using old inner tubes one size down from your wheel diameter as tubeless rim liners for older rims that don’t have a great tubeless seal (often known as the “ghetto tubeless” method).

What’s not a good alternative?

Not all general use tapes work well as rim tape for all applications. For example, when it comes to tubeless rim tape, Gorilla Tape is a popular alternative, but it is actually too thick to be used in some rims and blocks the bead hook which make it difficult to install the tire or get a good seal.

Additionally, the aggressive adhesive leaves a residue that is often difficult to remove from the rim when the time comes to replace the tape. Tapes similar to Gorilla Tape are also fabric tapes, and while they may work well for tubed wheels, tubeless rim manufacturers usually recommend tapes made from non-porous polymers.

How do I determine the correct rim tape size for my wheels?

Rim width is the primary consideration in determining the necessary size of rim tape, followed by rim diameter if you’re buying pre-cut (looped) rim tape.

In days gone by when we only had very limited standard rim width choices, tape used to come in fabric strips that were available in two or three standard widths from 15-19mm. Nowadays, with the wide range of rim types and widths available, rim tapes also come in many widths to match.

(Video) 5 Hacks For Fewer Flat Tyres On Your Road Bike | GCN Tech's Guide To Road Bike Maintenance

It is important to get the right width of rim tape for your wheels. Tape that is too narrow will fail to fully cover the spoke holes, increasing risk of punctures.

Tape that is too wide will prevent you from fully seating the tape onto the rim bed between the rim walls, and possibly encountering difficulties in installing the tube and mounting your tires.

Your rim width can be found by checking the specifications listed by your wheel/rim manufacturer, or often by simply looking for the specifications listed on the outside wall of your rim. Failing that, with your tire unmounted you can simply measure the inside width of your rim between the rim walls.

Final thoughts on rim tape alternatives

In an emergency situation or if you don’t have access to bicycle-specific rim tape, you can certainly try using whatever tape you have on hand (any tape is better than no tape!).

That being said, when you’re shopping for new rim tape, it is always best to buy tape designed for use on bicycle rims rather than an alternative that may or may not work as intended.

Admittedly, bicycle rim tapes seem to be a bit more expensive than general use tape that you can buy in big inexpensive rolls (like electrical tape), but you can’t put a price on the peace of mind of knowing that you have the right tape for the job which makes for the most reliable setup for your bike.

The key thing here is to use the right tape for the job. Using tape designed for a different application may or may not work for your tubed or tubeless setup, so why risk it? Always choose to use the tape designed for your bicycle rims and recommended by the manufactures.

(Video) How to fix a bad rim strip

Alternatives to Bicycle Rim Tape: A Short Guide (4)

Hani Morsi

Hani Morsi is a seasoned multi-discipline cyclist with a particular liking for mountain and gravel bikes. Hani is also a mountain bike coach, trail builder and experienced bike mechanic.

(Video) Making Rim Tape for a Bike Wheel using an old Inner Tube

FAQs

How do you make bike rim tape? ›

After it's dry I now wrap the strip around the rim and trim it so that the two ends touch. When I

Can I use duct tape instead of rim tape? ›

Duct tape may be used as rim tape for wheels with inner tubes quite well. It's more difficult to apply well in a tubeless setup. Low-quality duct tapes may not adhere as well to the rim as good ones. Gopher tape usually works good.

Can I use Gorilla tape as rim tape? ›

Gorilla Tape is not just a “gaffa tape”. It is thicker and stronger, has more layers, is very sticky, slightly flexible & stretchy - making it perfect to tape and seal rims.

Can you use electrical tape as tubeless rim tape? ›

Condensed answer: It's not recommended to use electrical tape as rim tape because it cannot handle high air pressure. Electrical tape is overly flexible and easily loses its shape and subsequently stability. Also, heat and moisture harm the adhesive side.

Can you tape a bike tube? ›

You can always use duct tape to patch the tube and then return later to do the rubber cement method. Just be sure to completely remove all the tape residue with alcohol and sandpaper.

Is bicycle rim tape necessary? ›

Rim tape is essential to protect the from punctures caused by the tube expanding into recessed spoke holes, from pinch flats on the sharp edges of the spoke holes or from scratches or imperfections on the inner rim.

How many times do you wrap rim tape? ›

Depends on the rims and the tires. The overwhelming majority of modern low-pressure systems need only one wrap. High pressure should use two, unless the manufacturer says otherwise.

How wide should my rim tape be? ›

An appropriate tubeless rim tape must adequately cover all spoke holes.
...
Recommended tubeless tape widths.
Rim Tape Width1 Layer (Center over holes)2 Layers (Left/Right)
18mm (Full coverage 17mm rim)17-23mm26-30mm
25mm (Full coverage 24mm rim)24-26mm35-40mm
31mm (Full coverage 30mm rim)30-32mm41-50mm

Can you use duct tape for tubeless rims? ›

Remember when the only way to make a rim tubeless was to cut a tube and overlay the spoke holes, pinched beneath the tire? Or, you could wrap the rim in one to three layers of duct tape or Gorilla tape until the tire became tight enough to seat. Thankfully, we no longer have to fudge things.

What is tubeless rim tape made of? ›

What is it? Bike rim tape is a cloth, pvc or nylon tape that runs around your bike rim to protect your inner tube from being punctured by your spokes and or spoke holes. Rim Strips: Most entry level bikes and many older bikes come with rubber rim strips that stretch around your rim like a big rubber band.

Is tubeless rim tape sticky? ›

No, that's a standard rim strip to protect a tube from the spoke holes. Tubeless tape is adhesive backed.

Does Gorilla Tape work on bike tubes? ›

Just an FYI that several of the local bike shops have been using Gorilla Tape to setup tubed and tubeless wheels. The mechanics I've spoken with say it works great and no failures. Best of all - it's cheap! It's available at most hardware stores, usually in the duct tape section.

What does bicycle rim tape do? ›

The purpose of rim tape is to protect the bicycle wheel's inner tube from spoke holes, which will puncture the tube if exposed inside the rim. Faulty rim tape will cause recurring flats, so it's something to look at when diagnosing the cause of flat tires.

How do you tape a tubeless rim? ›

How to install tubeless rim tape that won't leak | Syd Fixes Bikes

How often should you change tubeless rim tape? ›

How often should I replace tubeless sealant? You should aim to replace your sealant every 3 to 6 months, although, you may want to replace it more often than that. Since your tire is healing itself, you may not even notice how many punctures you've accumulated over time or how much fluid you've lost.

How do I know if my wheels are tubeless ready? ›

A tubeless ready rim will have a sidewall with a hooked design, which helps catch and hold the bead. Older rims will appear rounded without a hook shape. The shape of the rim will force the bead up snug against the outer hook, and will have a deep section in the middle to make it easier to remove.

How do you tape a mountain bike rim? ›

SRAM MTB Wheels Rim Tape Installation - YouTube

What household items can I use to patch a bike tire? ›

How to Fix a Bike Flat without a Patch Kit - YouTube

Can you use super glue to patch a bike tire? ›

No. "Super glue" dries hard, and will not flex as needed when the tire flexes. It will flake off in short order. Plain old "rubber cement" (the stuff used to glue paper) is a far better choice.

Can you use duct tape to fix a bike tire? ›

Cut a three-inch piece of electrical or duct tape. Believe it or not, materials contained in patch kits often aren't as effective as good-quality tape. Place the piece of tape over the hole, making certain the hole is in the center of the strip. Wrap the tape completely around the tube.

Is rim tape necessary for tubeless? ›

While less common nowadays, you'll need rim tape when converting a non-tubeless rim into a tubeless setup. You will also need rim tape when building a new wheelset or if your new wheelset does not have rim tape pre-installed.

What is tubeless rim tape made of? ›

What is it? Bike rim tape is a cloth, pvc or nylon tape that runs around your bike rim to protect your inner tube from being punctured by your spokes and or spoke holes. Rim Strips: Most entry level bikes and many older bikes come with rubber rim strips that stretch around your rim like a big rubber band.

How do you tape a tubeless rim? ›

How to install tubeless rim tape that won't leak | Syd Fixes Bikes

How wide should my rim tape be? ›

An appropriate tubeless rim tape must adequately cover all spoke holes.
...
Recommended tubeless tape widths.
Rim Tape Width1 Layer (Center over holes)2 Layers (Left/Right)
18mm (Full coverage 17mm rim)17-23mm26-30mm
25mm (Full coverage 24mm rim)24-26mm35-40mm
31mm (Full coverage 30mm rim)30-32mm41-50mm

Can you use duct tape for tubeless tires? ›

Remember when the only way to make a rim tubeless was to cut a tube and overlay the spoke holes, pinched beneath the tire? Or, you could wrap the rim in one to three layers of duct tape or Gorilla tape until the tire became tight enough to seat. Thankfully, we no longer have to fudge things.

Can you reuse tubeless tape? ›

If the adhesive is still good you should be okay to re-use it.

How often should you replace tubeless rim tape? ›

How often should I replace tubeless sealant? You should aim to replace your sealant every 3 to 6 months, although, you may want to replace it more often than that. Since your tire is healing itself, you may not even notice how many punctures you've accumulated over time or how much fluid you've lost.

Is bicycle rim tape necessary? ›

Rim tape is essential to protect the from punctures caused by the tube expanding into recessed spoke holes, from pinch flats on the sharp edges of the spoke holes or from scratches or imperfections on the inner rim.

Can rim tape be reused? ›

Can You Reuse Rim Tape? If the integrity of the tape hasn't been compromised, it can be reused. Nonetheless, if you have new rims, it's advisable to buy new rim tape for them.

Can rim tape cause flats? ›

Use rim tape to protect against flats

Faulty rim tape will cause recurring flats, so it's something to look at when diagnosing the cause of flat tires. In addition, rim tape that's too wide or thick will make tires more challenging -- and sometimes impossible -- to mount properly.

Where does tubeless rim tape start? ›

Clean the inside of the rim channel with a rag and a little acetone or isopropyl alcohol. Take the time to clean the rim thoroughly in order to ensure proper tape adhesion and seal. Once cleaned, start to apply the tape 1 ½ spoke holes behind the valve hole. Tack down the first 3 or 4” to secure the tape.

What size rim tape do I need Stans? ›

FITMENT: Stan's 36mm Rim Tape is recommended for rims with an internal width of 34-36mm.

How many layers of rim tape do I need? ›

If you'll be inflating your tires to 45psi or less, one layer of yellow tape in the bed of your rim is all you need for most rims. For road tubeless and similar tires that require more than 45psi of pressure, a double wrap of tape is required. WHAT IF I HAVE AN OLDER RIM?

Should rim tape be wider than rim? ›

Such a narrow tape would provide a very narrow and insecure cover. Instead, we recommend using a wide tape that reaches from rim wall to rim wall.

How many layers of Stans rim tape? ›

Our road rims require two layers of tape. All of our in-house built wheels come with tape and valve stems pre-installed.

Videos

1. Does the BROMPTON need a Rim Tape?
(Chris by Bike)
2. How to Convert Your Bicycle Tires to Tubeless
(Park Tool)
3. Orange Seal Rim Tape
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4. Making rim tape out of an old inner tube
(First Timers Cycling)
5. Tech Talk: The Ultimate Rim Tape Set-up. Veloplugs and Answer BMX Rim Tape.
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6. Trailside Tip: Making Rim Strips from Electrical tape
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