The lowly rim strip is one of those bike parts that seemingly should have been perfected around the time Laurent Fignon won his first Tour de France. As bike parts go, it’s hard to make one very heavy; similarly, it’s hard to make one much lighter than any of the others. They are parts of such inconsequential impact that they really only affect performance when they fail.
My first brush with crappy rim strips came in 1996. I had just moved from temporary digs in Bel Air (long story involving Alan Alda, a crazy woman and entrapment, though not in that order) to the Santa Clarita Valley. I left three bikes in my car in a covered parking garage. The next morning, two out of three bikes had both front and rear flats. The rim strips melted while the bikes were in the garage (which was probably somewhere around 110 degrees) and the tubes flatted when confronted with the sharp edges of the aluminum rims.
The cheap bike of the bunch had thicker rim strips and for reasons I can’t explain, they were just thick enough that they didn’t reach their melting point. What, exactly, is the melting point of various rim strips I have no idea, but the fact remains, one melting point reached, but another not so much.
That incident and another one like it the following weekend confirmed my love of Velox rim strips. I’d loved them all along but had no idea just how much better they were than everything else. It’s a bit like being blind when you get married then getting your sight and realizing that your bride is the prettiest woman in the room. Or some such.
I wouldn’t be writing this post were it not for the damned mylar weave rim strips being marketed by any number of companies. I wouldn’t have a thing to say about them if they had an adhesive on the bottom to make sure they never move. But they don’t.
It’s that detail that has caused me a number of flats in rapid succession. That is, once I have one flat, I tend to have another. The mechanism at work is simple; without anything to hold the rim strip in place, it slides to the side, exposing the drill holes in the rim. Once the rim strip slides over it gets a crease in it and keeps sliding over, even if you re-position it with your fingers. To this I can attest.
Also, I have noticed that the tighter the fit of the tire on the rim, the sooner the rim strip gets pushed to the side and the sooner the flats start.
I’ve had a couple of companies tell me, ‘These rims strips aren’t like the crap ones. These will stay put and they’ll be lighter than the others.”
For the record: I don’t care if they weigh twice what every other rim strip on the market weighs. I just want them fool-freakin’-proof. Full stop. From here on out, I don’t care what I’m sent, I’m going to replace them with Velox rim strips.
So what brought this on? The realization that two of the three flats I suffered in the final 36 miles of the Son of the Death Ride were rim strip-related. While it felt like I lost fewer than 10 minutes to the two flats, if someone had timed it and informed me that I’d lost more like 20 or 30 minutes and it just seemed like less because I was so fatigued, I wouldn’t be surprised. Nor would I argue.
Some shit just needs to work. Bottle cages shouldn’t break. Seat binders should hold a seatpost securely. And rim strips shouldn’t permit the drill holes in a rim to cause a flat.