Helicopter tape is an industry-grade adhesive tape that is high in strength and can withstand heavy loads. This type of tape is often used in the aviation and construction industry as it allows for quick and easy bonding in certain types of equipment. Bikers also use helicopter tape on their bike frame because it has a strong adhesive that can protect the paint for a long time without stretching or tearing.
But finding the best helicopter tape for your bike can be a tough task as regular scotch tape or normal tapes from your local hardware store will not work in this case. Today we will be discussing the different types of helicopter tapes available in the market and some of the features and benefits it offers.
Why is Helicopter Tape Used on Bike Frames?
Now, some common questions might come to your mind which are, why an industry-grade tape used for aviation or construction purposes should be used on bike frames? Is it really necessary to apply a tape used in helicopter blades into a bike frame?
Duct tapes or gun grip tapes are two of the strongest tape categories in the market. It usually lasts between 1-2 years at best whereas a Heli tape lasts between 3-5 years on a bike frame easily.
Helicopter tape manufacturers also make them especially for bicycle usage apart from aviation purposes and they come in pre-cut or non-pre-cut shapes. They also make it aesthetically pleasing and available in either matte or gloss finish. A variety of colors are available in a variety of widths and lengths too.
In addition, no other type of tape can provide such protections from outside elements and extreme weather.
How Strong is a Helicopter Tape?
Helicopter tapes are stronger and thicker than heavy-duty duct tapes or gun grip tapes. The general thickness of a heavy-duty duct tape or a gun grip tape is usually between 3 mils or 0.003″ – 17 mils or 0.017″ where on the other hand helicopter tapes are widely available in the market in thickness between 8 mils or 0.008″ – 43 mils or 0.043″.
Since more thickness results in more adhesiveness and durability, helicopter tapes are stronger than the other two. That’s why it’s also known as protective tape.
Top 4 Best Helicopter Tape for Bikes Reviews
Let’s move on to the reviews of our top picked heli tapes for bikes and answer a few related questions.
1. WilderWild Bike Frame Protection Helicopter Tape
WilderWild Bike Frame Protection Tape- High Impact Clear Vinyl Wrap Includes Tool (4”x72) Bicycle Frame Protector
WilderWild Bike Frame Protection Tape is a premium, removable, transparent PVC vinyl tape. It’s made of the highest-quality materials with a matte finish that gives it a smooth and clean look. This tape is .38mm or 15 mils thick, durable, and comes in a variety of unique styles and colors. Dragon scale matte, geometric camouflage matte, glossy clear, and topographic marble matte are the four color options available for this product.
It’s weather, water, small rocks, debris, sand, and dust resistant. This frame protection tape is perfect for outdoor riding and makes your bike look stylish and unique!
The vinyl tape is 72 inches long and 4 inches wide. It’s not precut, which is awesome because it can be tailored to fit your bike frame perfectly. I used one roll of tape to wrap the top tube, down tube, seat stay, and seat tube. The process took me about 5 hours from marking, cutting, and applying it accordingly.
Many customers might find it a bit tricky at first, but the installation process is straightforward. The included templates and instructional videos easily provide most people with all they need to know. Don’t worry about any air bubbles as you go along to wrap it around your bike frame – just use the scraper and lightly heat it after with a heat gun.
Since the tape is translucent, it’s very discreet so you won’t be able to find it easily. It’s also compatible with a variety of mountain and road bike frames, whether its surface type is Aluminum, Carbon Fiber, Metal, or plastic.
Is this Helicopter tape better than the 3M™ Helicopter Tape?
The thickness of a 3M™ Helicopter Tape is 0.22mm or 8.6 mils whereas, on the other hand, Wilderwide Vinyl Helicopter tape is 0.38mm or 15 mils thick. More thickness results in more adhesiveness and frame protection, so Wilderwider Vinyl is the clear winner here. Plus, it comes in different colors and finishes, unlike the 3M™ Helicopter Tape.
Do I need a heat gun to install this tape?
To get the best results, you must use heat to install these PVC Vinyl Tapes. If you heat the tape lightly, you will make it more flexible when wrapping it around the curves of the bike frame. Heat also activates the glue to give you a secure bond.
How does one remove this helicopter tape when it is time for it to be replaced?
Peel the tape back like any vinyl tape would be removed. You will just need to get a hold of a hairdryer or heat gun and slowly remove the tape. Make sure not to overheat it, though, for this might make it difficult to re-apply it in the future on the frame and leave behind some residue.
What type of metal will this work on?
This tape works on most of the metal frame but Aluminum bike frames are the best for this as it sticks to the frame without any issues, unlike other custom-painted metal frames.
2. Allstar ALL14275 Clear Surface Guard Helicopter Tape
Allstar Performance ALL14275 Clear 2″ x 30′ Surface Guard Tape
Allstar Performance Surface Guard Tape is the best for protecting your bike’s surfaces from chips, scratches, and nicks. The polyurethane film is only 8 mils or .008″ thick and is easy to apply. This helicopter tape is ideal for use on carbon fiber, metal, and painted surfaces. It leaves a high gloss finish with a waterproof coating.
This crystal clear translucent tape is 30 inches long and 2 inches wide which is enough to cover the important parts of a bike frame. It’s better to get a tape that’s not pre-cut as you can just cut and apply it on your bicycle frame the way you want.
The best method to install this tape on your bike is by using the wet or soapy water method. First, pour soapy water on your bicycle frame with a spray bottle and then apply the tape. Let it dry completely.
You can slide the tape around the frame easily and push out air bubbles using a scraper because of applying soapy water around the whole frame at first. The whole process took me about 8 hours and you should let it dry for an entire day to get a perfect finish.
The end result I got was a glossy invisible look. The adhesive of the tape is also very strong and offers protection from harsh weather conditions.
Do I need a heat gun to install this tape?
I used a heat gun to let the tape stick to the surface faster at a temperature between 50F-80F. It really helps the tape stick well in the frame surface whereas, if you don’t, it will peel off in under a year. Use a hairdryer as an alternative if you don’t have a heat gun.
Does it leave a sticky mess on the bike frame when you peel it off?
It might leave a sticky mess on your bike frame but that depends on the age or type of paint you used. If the paint of your bike frame is more than 5-6 years old, then removing this tape would leave some sticky mess and it might also damage the paint unless you used a clear coat before. But if the paint is new enough and has a clear coat applied over it, then you won’t face any problems peeling it off.
Can this be put on a plastic bike frame?
Yes, it can be put on a plastic frame but make sure to apply a clear coat first on the frame. Otherwise, the tape won’t stick and protect the frame for a long time.
3. Lamin-x Bicycle Frame Helicopter Tape
Lamin-x Bicycle Frame Tape Guard (Matte)
The Lamin-x Matte Bicycle Frame Guard is one of the perfect tapes out in the market to protect your bike frame for the long haul. It’s a professional quality tape that is easy to install and remove, and will not fade with age. It also has a glossy finish option.
The Matte Frame Guard is a great option if you love a matte transparent finish over a glossy one. It protects the frame of your bike from small impact damage, scrapes from chains, cables, and shoes. It also protects your bike from sandblasting and can withstand harsh atmospheric conditions.
The length of the tape is 60 inches long and its width is 4 inches. It comes with installation tools like a squeegee, spray bottle, and an NT cutter. The tape is 8 mils or 0.008 inches which is thick enough to protect your bike frame made up of metal, plastic, or painted surfaces. It’s made with Urethane material and it seals the paint and clear coat firmly.
I was able to cover the entire down tube, top tube, both chainstays, and seat stay just by using one roll of this tape.
It took me at least 2 hours to finish this task using the soapy water method and it got easier as I started to learn how to do it. Each new section gets a little easier as you figure out the right technique.
The width of the 4″ tape was perfect for fitting the frame’s top tube and down tube. I then used the NT cutter to cut it into 2″ strips for the seat stays and chainstay. The end result I got was a flat even finish and it looked just the way I wanted.
How long will the tape last if applied without a heat gun on a bike frame?
If you want the tape to stick on your bike frame for a long time, then applying it using a heat gun is a must. You can install this tape without a heat gun too. But even after applying it by following all the instructions like pushing out the air bubbles or wrapping around the curves carefully, it won’t last more than a year. It’s because heat activates the glue to give you a secure bond.
Is it possible to paint this tape (i.e. put the tape on then paint it for personalization)?
No, it’s not possible to paint this tape after applying it to a bike frame. It’s because the paint would be unable to stick to the surface unless it was first covered with a bonding agent. But, even if you manage to do so, the end result won’t be satisfying and long-lasting.
Is this really thick enough to protect a carbon bike frame from chips and dents?
Yes, this tape is thick enough to protect a carbon bike frame from chips and dents. This is an 8 mil thick tape which is quite durable, but use a 12 mil tape if you want better protection.
4. ISC Racerstape Surface Protection Helicopter Tape
ISC Racerstape Surface Protection Tape / Helicopter Tape 2 Inch x 12 Feet
When it comes to Urethane-based films, you can’t find any better than ISC Racers Tapes. Despite being incredibly thin and virtually invisible to the naked eye, it’s tough enough to protect any surface susceptible to scratches, chipping, or weathering.
Whether you need protection from UV light, temperature extremes, and solvents, or just want your bike to have a glossy finish, then this product is for you.
It will not yellow over time, is semi-permanent with a removable release liner, and features a tough 8 mil thick film. You can try it with confidence, without worrying about the tape’s durability or the tendency to peel off quickly.
The length of the tape is 12 feet long or 144 inches and it’s 2 inches wide. It’s long and wide enough to cover the whole exterior of a mountain or a road bike frame.
Soapy water or wet method is also the best way to apply it on a bike frame. First, pour some liquid soap into a spray bottle and add plenty of water to the empty container. Clean the surface where the tape will be applied.
Spray with the soap mixture, apply tape, gently squeeze out the bubbles using a scraper & you’re done! It takes just a couple of hours. You can install it on carbon fiber, metal, or plastic painted surfaces without any issues.
Can I stretch this helicopter tape?
If you want to stretch this tape or want to apply it on the curved surfaces smoothly, then use a heat gun to do so. It will not only make the tape stick firmly on the bike frame but also can help you cover the uneven parts like chainstay, bottom bracket shell, etc.
Will the wet application or soapy water method affect a carbon frame?
No, it will not affect the carbon frame if you use soapy water or a wet method for sticking it. A carbon fiber frame is not as weak as bread. It’s a hard epoxy resin that’s light, strong, and stiff. It doesn’t even have any side effects while riding in wet weather, so the tape will easily last for 3-5 years.
Is the tape meant to be permanent or can it be removed from a painted mountain bike frame after two or three years?
The tape is not permanent and can be removed from a bike frame anytime without doing any harm to the paint. For the best result, use a heat gun or a hairdryer to remove the tape from the surface so that it doesn’t leave any sticky residue behind. Finally, use rubbing alcohol to clean the whole frame and the paint will look brand new.
Things to Consider before Buying a Helicopter Tape
Let’s look into the key factors that you must know before buying a heli tape. I have tried to focus the discussion on the more common as well as important questions you might face.
What type of Helicopter Tape Should You Apply on Your Bike’s Frame Surface?
Different Helicopter Tape is suitable for different surfaces. Polyurethane Vinyl, and Urethane are three of the best type of Helicopter tapes for bike frames. Bike frames also come in a number of sizes, shapes, and surfaces. Metal, Plastic, and Carbon fiber are the three most common types of frame surfaces that are used on road and mountain bikes.
Vinyl tapes are far better than Polyurethane and Urethane tapes because it’s stronger and thicker than the other two and can also resist more stress. Vinyl tape-making formula is also superior to polypropylene and as a result, it offers superior temperature resistance, so it’s suitable for both freezer and cold storage applications.
On the other hand, there’s hardly any difference between Polyurethane and Urethane tapes. The term polyurethane means that the material contains two or more urethane groups. To sum up, polyurethane tape is basically a stronger and more durable version of Urethane.
Overall, Vinyl tapes are the best for using on a bike frame regardless of their surface type. The best helicopter tape on this list for carbon fiber and plastic surfaces is the Wilderwide Vinyl Bike Frame protection tape. However, for metallic surfaces like aluminum, any tapes on this list will work fine if a clear coat is already applied on the surface.
What Should be the Ideal Tape Thickness for a Bike Frame?
The ideal thickness of a helicopter tape should be between 8 mils or 0.008″ – 15 mils or 0.015″. You can purchase a tape thicker than 15 mils but it’s not worth it since anything thicker than 15 mils will likely provide the bike frame with the same type of durability and protection. It will be expensive too. However, don’t buy any tape that’s less than 8 mils or 0.008″ thick as it won’t be long-lasting and will peel off quickly.
At what Price Range, Should You Buy a Helicopter Tape?
It depends entirely on the length and width of the tape, the material, and the level of your experience with a tape. Vinyl PVC tapes are a bit more expensive than polyurethane and urethane tapes even though they come in shorter length and width.
But, the price difference isn’t that far apart. It’s generally $5-$6 higher which is still affordable. Spending a bit more money on a higher quality product is worth every penny.
However, if you are inexperienced and are wrapping tape around a bicycle for the first time, then it’s better to buy some additional tape in case you run out.
Beginners are more likely to make mistakes while applying tapes on their bike frame and get stuck with lots of waste. Also, if you have more than one bike frame to cover, then you might need to buy at least 2-3 tapes. Buying more tapes will likely increase your budget so it’s better to go for an inexpensive option with good reviews in this case.
Choosing the Right Finish Bike Frame Helicopter Tape?
A helicopter tape for a bike frame usually comes in with two types of finish. They are matte and glossy. If you want your bike frame to look reflective and shiny, then go for the glossy option. Polyurethane tapes usually come on the market with this feature.
However, if you want a flat refreshing look and just want to protect your bike frame from outside particles, then choose a matte finish instead. Vinyl PVC and urethane tapes are the two options that provide this finish.
Since Vinyl is the most durable tape out there for bike frames, try to choose this as it surprisingly also has glossy options. If you want a matte vinyl tape to look like a glossy one, then there’s a way around which is to use a glossy clear coat above the bike paint and then install it above. The clear coat will shine underneath since vinyl tapes are translucent. This process will likely cost you a lot of money but it will protect your bike frame for years to come.
How to Apply Helicopter Tape on a Bike Using the Soapy Water Method?
Soapy Water Method of Applying Helicopter Tape on a Bike:
- First, pour some liquid soap into a spray bottle
- Then add plenty of water to the empty container.
- Clean the surface where the tape will be applied.
- Spray with the soap mixture and apply tape.
- Finally gently squeeze out the bubbles using a scraper & you’re done!
It takes just a couple of hours.
How Long Can You Leave Helicopter Tape on Your Frame?
A helicopter Tape typically lasts between 5-10 years on a bike frame depending on the tape thickness, adhesive solvents, and usage. If you are a typical rider and you ride your bike occasionally, then the tape will last easily for 8-10 years. However, if you are a heavy user and you participate in bike competitions too, then the specks of dirt and grease will wear and tear the durability of the tape down and it won’t last more than 5 years.
You also need to check whether the tape is showing some form of discoloration or yellowing after years of use. It’s a clear indication that the tape will start to peel off soon. So, change it before it gets worn out. A tape usually lasts between 5-10 years as previously mentioned before it starts falling off.
Lastly, the way or method you used to apply the tape on your frame matters too. If you apply the tape without special methods like the wet application or soapy water method, then you won’t get long-lasting results from the tape. Applying it normally will only make it last for less than a year before you start to see it peel off.
But, if you apply helicopter tape using a soapy water method or wet application and also use a heat gun or a hairdryer to seal the tape with the frame, then you will see it last for years to come. Just make sure to use a scraper to push out bubbles and wrinkles from the surface after the heating process is done.
Whether you are using a road or mountain bike, you should always use high-quality tape to secure your bike frame. The tape will help to protect the frame from the various elements that can damage it. Failing to do so will come at a costly expense for you in the future.
The outstanding adhesive properties and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures make helicopter tapes a favorite among bikers. Some of the other factors that you should keep in mind before choosing a helicopter tape are already mentioned above. With the help of this information, you will be able to give your bike a trendy look and at the same time make it safe from dangerous debris.