01 June 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Ritchey Snap-On Rim Tape

It's not a bad idea to have a quick look at a wheel's rim strip whenever a tire is replaced. Rim strips that have cracked, moved or gone AWOL can be the cause of persistent mystery flats that have the capability to drive most home mechanics crazy. For years, there have been basically two options for rim strips. The first (and widely preferred) is a dense adhesive-backed cloth tape. The second has been the plain rubber strip that's protected Huffy tubes since time began. On a modern double-walled rim, the rim strip's function is to prevent the tube from pushing into and getting cut on the hole in which the spoke nipple sits or on the spoke or nipple itself. The rubber rim strips are wholly unsuited to decent quality rims (appropriate only for single-walled rims), making cloth tape the only choice for quite some time. However, the adhesive on the cloth tape can dry out or its life shortened by moisture, allowing the tape to shift and expose holes. If looked after, though, the standard Velox rim tape can work quite well.

About 5 (maybe 10) years ago a third option started popping up. Snap-in rim strips are loops of hard plastic or densely woven nylon that literally snap into the rim bed. They span the entire width of the rim and stay in place quite well. However, the molded plastic ones were a pain in the ass to mount or remove, and folks often forgot about the valve hole (which needs to be aligned during installation. Traditionalists (myself included) scoffed and went back to their Velox. At some point, I built a wheel and needed rim tape. The local shop was out of Velox and (very much wanting to ride my new wheel) I reluctantly took a $4.00 gamble and went home with a set of Ritchey Snap-On Rim Tape. The Ritchey tape is made of a densely woven nylon material. The 700c size fills the entire width of an Open Pro, Sun ME14A, Mavic Cosmic or similar road rim, so can't shift and expose the holes. Drop an allen key or philips screwdriver through the tape and rim's valve hole (to maintain orientation) and snap it on. It's reassuringly snug but stretches enough that installation isn't a battle: probably a 30 second operation altogether.

How's it work? On several bikes over several years and thousands of on- and off-road miles, I've never had one fail. They're probably a shade lighter than the Velox, but the ease of installation and greater longevity are more valuable. At $4 for a bike's worth, they're half the price. They're also re-usable, particularly important for those fancy (aggravating) road wheels with hidden nipples. Ultimately, it's a product that does its job better than the competition at a lower price. What's not to like?




Stephen said...

I had a failure coming down a really steep, windy and rough road (Coxey Brown Road near Harmony, MD). Lots of braking and the rim got hot. When I took the tire off, the clear plastic laminate had separated from the nylon and wrinkled; the whole thing fell apart when I pulled on one end. The air stem was separated from the tube on one side. I tend to think the rim tape failure caused the tube failure, probably due to the clear laminate bunching up between the tube and the rim. Looking around for new ones, I see two things; these apparently were reformulated recently, and nobody has them in stock. I've ordered the Zefal cotton tape from Amazon (supposed to be like Velox).

bikefix said...


Yikes- that sounds like a frightening experience. I wonder if you have a different tape- from what I can tell, mine is homogeneous- there's no laminate to separate. I was a long time Velox user, but it does make tire removal more difficult and the adhesive eventually gives up. Let us know if the Zefal is any thinner...