Installing Tubeless Rim Tape On Wheels With Inner Tubes – Good or Bad?

Tubeless rim tape can be used in conjunction with an inner tube as a substitute for classic rim tape or strips. If the tire operates at a high air pressure, it’s recommended to apply two layers as one may not be enough to stop the inner tube from entering the spoke holes.

The Purpose Of Rim Tape and Strips

When you pump up the inner tube, it expands and presses against the rim. Without a rubber strip or tape, the inner tube will get into the holes on the rim to which the spokes attach.

If the tube comes in contact with a sharp edge or the tip of a spoke, you will get an “internal” flat tire.

An “internal” flat tire is a puncture caused by a wheel’s component (rim, spokes, outer tire) rather than an external object.

Internal flats could leave beginners puzzled because the culprit won’t be apparent. In most cases, the problem is a rim strip that’s either out of place or simply worn.

The edges of a spoke hole or the spoke’s tip would damage an inner tube without a rim strip.

Note: The image above shows a protruding spoke. In general, this is considered bad practice.

However, it’s not uncommon to get a wheel built like that when shopping on the second-hand market.

Usually, the problem comes from re-used old spokes that aren’t the right length for the current rim and hub.

If a spoke is sticking out, the chances of getting a flat without running a rim strip of some sort raise exponentially.

This wheel is built to a higher standard and doesn’t have protruding spokes.

What Is The Role of Tubeless Tape?

Tubeless tape acts as a seal preventing tubeless sealant from leaking between the walls of the rim or outside.

Unlike rim strips, tubeless tape has adhesive on one side to completely hermitize the rim.

Can Tubeless Tape Work as a Rim Strip or Rim Tape?

A quality roll of tubeless tape should provide enough protection for the inner tube.

  • If you’re running low PSI mountain bike tires, one layer will be sufficient in most cases.
  • If you have a road machine with tires operating at a high air pressure, a second layer would provide additional security.

(The higher the PSI of the tire, the harder the tube is pressing against the rim.)

Benefits Of Using Tubeless Tape as a Rim Strip

1. Reduced Air Loss

Tubeless tape applied properly makes the rim airtight and lowers the amount of air leaking from the inner tube upon getting a flat. As a result, flats aren’t as “surprising.”

2. Protection From Water and Dirt

Tubeless tape stops water and dirt from getting into the wheel through the spoke holes.

3. A Tighter Fit

Tubeless tape is fairly thin and allows the tire’s bead to sit deeper into the rim. This results in a tighter fit.

The Cons of Using Tubeless Tape as a Rim Strip

1. Price

Quality tubeless tape could be expensive. If you don’t plan to run a tubeless system at some point, it will be more economical to stick with regular rim strips.

2. Multiple Layers

If your tires are operating at a high air pressure, you will need to install more than one layer to prevent punctures because tubeless tape isn’t as thick as rim strips.

3. Non-reusable

During installation, tubeless tape is stretched significantly. If you have to re-use it, there’s a great chance that it will fail to seal the tire sufficiently and move around.

Conversely, rim strips can be removed and re-used fairly easily. This makes spoke and nipple replacement simpler.

Note: If you have to replace a spoke, you don’t have to remove all the tubeless tape. You can peel off only the part covering the faulty spoke. After repair, cover the area with a new piece of tape.

How To Apply Tubeless Tape

1. Buy tape that’s as close as possible to the inner width of your rim.

2. Carefully peel off a small piece and begin applying tape on the rim. Make sure that the tape is centered.

If there are bubbles under the tape, press them with your fingertips until they disappear.

3. Continue the procedure until you cover the rim once or twice.

4. Find the valve hole on the rim and use an awl to make a small hole in the tape. The diameter of the hole shouldn’t be larger than that of the valve.

Note: Some people heat a small Philips screwdriver and use it to pierce the tape to make a valve hole. This approach seals the cut and gives a cleaner look.

FAQ: Can I use duct tape (e.g., Gorilla Tape) instead of tubeless tape?

People have been using duct tape as an alternative to tubeless tape with a decent amount of success for a long time.

Duct tape can also be used as regular rim tape. It’s strong, thick and doesn’t lose its shape easily.

Nonetheless, it does have downsides, namely:

  • Quality duct tape isn’t cheaper than rim tape.
  • Duct tape leaves a sticky residue. If you have to replace a spoke or clean the rim, you won’t like what you will find underneath the tape.
  • Duct tape isn’t reusable.

FAQ: Why do tubeless riders carry a spare tube with them?

Tubeless riders carry spare tubes for situations when the outer tire gets a large cut that the sealant can’t fix. When that happens, the rider can install a tube and continue cycling.

If the cut is particularly large, it may also be necessary to use a tire boot to prevent the inner tube from expanding out of the outer tire.

Summary: What You Need To Know

1. Tubeless tape can be used as a substitute for rim tape/rim strips.

2. If you run low PSI MTB tires, a single layer will be sufficient in most cases, but if you’re on a road bike, a hybrid, or a commuter operating at high PSI, a second layer is also recommended.

3. Even though tubeless tape can work just fine, it’s not as convenient as a good rim strip because you have to peel it off to fix a nipple or a spoke. After the repair, you have to apply a new patch to secure the area.

A rim strip, on the other hand, can be simply removed and re-used.

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  1. Charles U Farley


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