How To Replace a Rim Strip
The rim strip is a strip of plastic or cloth that fits inside your rim between the rim and tube. Its purpose is to protect the tube from sharp edges of the rim, especially near the spoke holes. If the rim strip is damaged or slips out of place, your tube could be punctured immediately.
Whenever you buy a set of wheels or an entire bike, it probably comes with cheap plastic rim strips installed. These work to get you started, but you should replace them as soon as you get the chance, because they are almost worthless.
Plastic rim strips have a number of problems. First, they slip and slide around the rim, so you never know when it will move and allow the tube to be sliced open from a sharp metal edge. Second, they become brittle as they age and will break apart, allowing the metal rim to come into contact with your delicate tube. Third, as it breaks down with age, the rim strip itself could scrape the tube enough to cause a flat!
So we are going to replace our cheap plastic rim strips with a high quality cloth rim tape. The #1 rim tape is from Velox, but you can also find cloth rim tape from Pedro’s and Performance Forte.
(Just make sure to get the right size tape for your rim. Road bikes usually use a 16mm wide tape, and mountain bikes a 22mm width.)
Step 1: Remove the old rim tape.
If you have plastic rim strips installed, remove them. You can grab the edge and rip it or stretch it enough to pry it off the rim, and it will probably slide off in a big circle.
Step 2: Clean the rim.
Now you should clean the rim. You want to remove any residue from the old tape and make sure the rim bed is clean so that the new tape will adhere nicely. I like to use a soft cloth and rubbing alcohol and just rub it along the rim bed.
Once you have removed the dirt and residue, let the rim dry a few minutes.
Step 3: Install the new rim tape.
Now we can install the new rim tape. Grab a roll and we’ll get started…
First, start peeling off a few inches of the tape and you should find the valve hole. Line up the valve hole in the tape with the valve hole in the rim, and press the tape onto the rim. Be sure to keep the tape centered in the rim bed and cover any spoke holes or sharp edges.
Once the tape is started, continue unrolling the tape and pressing it down on the rim bed, keeping it centered. During this process you should apply pressure to the rim tape you already put down, to make sure it stays in place (i.e. hold it down as you go along.) The adhesive on the back of the tape isn’t that strong and you could pull it all off if you go too fast.
As you get to the end, it should overlap a few inches but not cover the valve hole. If it is too long, just cut the tape before it covers the valve hole. (But the tape should overlap a little bit, to ensure a continuous seal.)
Step 4: Inspect.
Now just make sure the rim tape is securely pressed onto the rim and that all of the spoke holes and sharp edges are covered.
Step 5: Install the tire and tube, and ride.
Now that the rim tape is on and secure, you can install the tire and tube like normal and head out for a ride.