Your bike’s rim tape is a strip of tape applied around the diameter of your wheel’s rim, which sits between the rim and the tube and covers the spoke holes.
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.
Rim tape can be made of fabric or rubber and is available in a single circular strip (one for each wheel) or as a length of tape that can be cut to length. Some rim tapes have an adhesive strip on one side to help keep them in place, or in the case of rim strips for tubular tyres (tub strips), both sides.
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Your rim tape covers the spoke holes in your rim and helps to prevent the inner tube from expanding into the holes and puncturing on the exposed spoke ends.
When choosing rim tape there are two things to consider: wheel size and tape type.
Wheel size: It’s important that the rim tape is the right diameter for your wheel, and the right width for your rim. Tape that is too narrow can slide out of place, exposing the spoke holes. Rim tape is available to suit road rims (700c, which also fits 29” MTB wheels) as well as 26” and 27.5” MTB rims, and in two widths – wide (19mm) and narrow (15mm).
A typical road bike, for example, would take 700c/Narrow tape while a 29” MTB wheel would take 700c/Wide and a 26” MTB would be 26”/Wide.
Tape type: Two types of rim tape are available – rubber (with the ends joined to form a single circular strip) and fabric (which is adhesive on one side and cut to length) .Rubber rim tapes are not suitable for hollow section rims, because the inflated tube pushes them into the holes, so fabric tape must be used. Fabric tape is also useful to prevent the tape slipping, especially in warm conditions, as the adhesive used is heat-resistant.
BMX rim tapes are specially designed for the wider profile and smaller diameter (20”) of BMX wheels, and are made extra wide so they don’t slip out of position and expose the spoke holes.
BMX rim tapes are generally made of rubber and are of the circular strip variety rather than the cut-to-length type.