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After repeated punctures, I concluded that the rim tape needs replacing. I'm travelling in remote Yucatán, Amazon charges too much and takes too long to ship this basic item.

What are alternatives? Mine is a road bike, so high tire pressure makes electric tape unreliable.

The best I've found so far is a 15mm strip cut from a 20" tire tube, which stretches nicely to hold in place in my 700c rim. (Conveniently, the 20" tube has longitudinal lines that guide scissors straight.) No punctures yet, but I wonder if this will last.

Any thoughts on alternatives to rim tape when buying new one is not an option?

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  • 1
    The rubber strip you describe should work pretty well. Jul 20, 2022 at 13:14
  • 1
    I have had rubber rim tape that looked a lot like that, but was manufactured as rim tape. It lasted several years
    – Chris H
    Jul 20, 2022 at 14:29
  • 1
    Using old 20" or 24" BMX tubes as rim strips using to be the key part of the the tire setup known as "ghetto tubeless"
    – Paul H
    Jul 20, 2022 at 14:59
  • 2
    Use that tape you have made and put electrical tape over it if you think there is a risk of it squirming out of place. I can’t see you’ll get a more practical answer than the one you made for yourself
    – Noise
    Jul 21, 2022 at 8:49
  • I have used strips of old inner tube as rim tape that has lasted for years on MTB at about 40 PSI. Electrical tape Has proved useful too. My installation tips are: do not stretch it when installing and use several layers. Some times I spend an entire small roll on a single rim.
    – Jahaziel
    Jul 21, 2022 at 16:08

4 Answers 4

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Several layers of any non-elastic adhesive tape with fabric reinforcement should work.

For example medical “fixation” tape like this one from a pharmacy:

enter image description here

There are more robust variants, for example the Leukotape Classic which climbers use when the skin on their fingers gets too thin. It’s quite easy to tear off narrow strips.

Normal duct tape probably works too, though tearing it length-wise could be hard and it tends to be somewhat elastic and soft, especially in hot weather.

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    I like this idea. I have some in my riding first aid kit and it would seem much easier than duct tape if the rim tape fails (the rubber rim tape I once had did fail at a nipple causing a puncture, so it can happen). I've also used similar tape as a tyre boot
    – Chris H
    Jul 21, 2022 at 6:59
9

I've never tried it, and it would be awkward to cut strips narrow enough but Duct tape should be ideal for the job.

It's made with a mesh fabric (which could be made of various materials) which would give it plenty of strength for the application. The biggest down side is that it has quite a powerful adhesive backing that might take some effort to clean up when you want to change it later.

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    I wonder about folding it rather than cutting it, leaving a strip of bare adhesive down one edge to tack it in place without getting glue on the nipples
    – Chris H
    Jul 20, 2022 at 14:28
  • 2
    I'm worried about how this would perform in high heat. In my experience, duct tape tends to become more stretchy and the adhesive starts to melt at higher temperatures.
    – Cullub
    Jul 21, 2022 at 13:22
  • 2
    I've used duct tape for rim tape before. I think I had it on for a long time, maybe multiple years (probably a decade ago so I forget). Although I was probably always in weather lower than 90* F, so I don't know about melting. It did leave a lot of sticky residue behind when I removed it.
    – Evan
    Jul 21, 2022 at 16:44
  • @Cullub once inflated the tube should hold it in place pretty well. With my suggestion of folding, you'll have a less stretchy result anyway, though the join would be a slight weak point. I've also used duct tape in a tyre, to secure the end of a tyre liner among other things, and it seemed to hold nicely. But it did leave a mess afterwards
    – Chris H
    Jul 22, 2022 at 5:57
  • I have used duct tape as rim tape - and while it worked, it left an unholy mess when I tried to remove it.
    – Popup
    Jul 22, 2022 at 14:37
7

One of the LBS I went to sells Gorilla Tape as rim tape.

https://www.gorillatough.com/product/black-gorilla-tape/

That being said, it's a branded product, I don't know what would be the equivalent in markets where this is not available. It is available in DIY shops in some countries.

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  • Gorrila tape would fall under the generic category of duct tape. Another popular brand is 'Duck Tape'.
    – Andy P
    Jul 20, 2022 at 13:08
  • Does @Renaud 's LBS use duct tape for rims on road bikes? Tires inflate to ~100psi
    – emagar
    Jul 20, 2022 at 16:14
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    @emagar They also sell proper bike rim tape, it's the only "generic product" they sell. Now about the use on road bikes, I didn't ask. The descriptive is more about rim tape for tubeless in fact. But it's also the kind of product I'd try by lack of alternative. Duct tape is among the resistant tapes.
    – Renaud
    Jul 20, 2022 at 17:31
  • 1
    Gorilla tape specifically (as opposed to other brands of duct tape) has been popular for going tubeless on the cheap, mainly for MTB use. I don't know if that's just a fad, or if there's some small difference between brands.
    – Chris H
    Jul 21, 2022 at 6:57
  • 3
    I would take Gorilla Tape over most other duct tapes any day. Gorilla tape is a thicker, more sturdy tape that does better at higher temperatures and over longer periods of time.
    – Cullub
    Jul 21, 2022 at 13:24
5

I've used 3~5 wraps of painter's paper tape as rim tape for tubed tyres and it has held up well.

The trick is to have the right width of tape such that it fills the valley in the rim without getting into areas where the tyre bead should hook.

No amount of protection will help if your spokes are already poking through the end of the nipples, so if there's any edges detectable by your fingers, then get in there with a file and make it smooth, and finish with sandpaper. Clean out debris well before reassembling. You generally don't need to protect the bare metal because it will be brass or aluminium or stainless steel. Only steel needs protection from corrosion,

Also deburr the edge of the valve stem hole with a hand scraper and not with an oversized drill bit.

The pressure of air in the tube should hold your tape in place - and the valve stem limits the distance around the rim that the tape might migrate.


Second option is that plastic strapping tape which holds boxes to pallets for shipping. Not the metal version. Lay a length in, overlap it, and make a hole through the overlap for the valve stem. You should also tape it down. (see comments)


Finally if you're caught really-bush, then look around for some flax-like plant and use some leaves. It won't be great and will stain, but should be enough to protect your tube till the next town.

Then find the LBS in the next town and talk to them. Amazon really isn't the best source of bike parts specially if you're touring.

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    I had a very bad experience with plastic strapping tape. Over time, some strands of the tape broke and unraveled, and were hard and pointy enough to cause a puncture, which was fast enough to fully deflate my MTB from tire from one (standing on pedals) stroke to the next, leaving me no time to react to the slippage and I almost fell under a moving small bus. (continued...)
    – Jahaziel
    Jul 21, 2022 at 15:57
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    (Continued...) That happened after about 4 months of commuting 2 o 3 days a week. The remaining, unused tape seemed just fine, not cracked or unraveled. This tape came from a range stove packaging. I would never risk using it again. I prefer to use cheap electrical tape (sometimes available even in the supermarket) wich I can spend a whole roll on one rim if need be. I've had success using it for 60-70 psi (slick 26x1.5 tires on mtb rim)
    – Jahaziel
    Jul 21, 2022 at 16:02
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    I'm not surprised about the threads in packing tape causing punctures. I've had tyre threads do the same (for some reason that tyre wore locally on the inside). It may still be useful though: if you have slightly pokey spokes and no way to file them down it could be used to reinforce adhesive tape
    – Chris H
    Jul 22, 2022 at 6:02
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    Interesting that paper tape has held up well when your climate isn't dry. I often get water in my rims from riding through deep puddles on roads and can't imagine masking (painter's) tape lasting 5 minutes once wet
    – Chris H
    Jul 22, 2022 at 12:21
  • 2
    @ChrisH yep - and spoke nipples aren't waterproof either, so plenty of ways for water ingress. Maybe its the multiple wraps, and that once the tube is pressurised its just about the thickness ? I don't remember if it was good tape or budget.
    – Criggie
    Jul 22, 2022 at 21:41

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