I remember the cloth tape with metal closures on the bikes of my childhood when drop handlebars and five gears were uber-cool, or groovy as no one used to say.Elasticated rubber rim tape seems to be the ubiquitous choice today but in France, I found hard, yellow, plastic rim tape on a Michelin rack. I was unaware of this in the UK but I thought it could be worth an investment of a few euros.It was a fairly tight fit as it had very little stretch but it seemed to grip better than rubber and hold itself in position firmly. It also seemed a slightly neater fit around the fat Schrader valve of a slime-filled tube, which might prevent water seepage.Dry tubes seem to move easier in the tyre giving a supple feeling to the ride and if there is any water ingress the talcum sticks losing the benefit.Occasional removal of the tyre and cleaning of the rim and the tube is needed to keep everything dry so anything that helps reduce maintenance is worth a try.After a few rides I have removed the tyre and the tube to compare the difference with my previous rubber tape. No movement or stretch and completely dry. This seems to be due to the close fit at the valve opening, which has not elongated as is common with the rubber version.A quick tyre change, a little talcum, and the task is over. This is better than cleaning the rim, the tape, and the tube followed by drying and then powdering.So for me it seems like progress. I will change the front wheel then check both wheels after a longer trial period.
One wheel was changed to plastic and one wheel left with the original rubber rim tape. Both tubes were clean, dry and dusted with talcum.From the photographs it is quite clear that the black rubber rim tape has elongated at the valve hole and this has allowed water in. The tube inside this tyre was damp and had lost the supple feeling that a dry, freely moving tube seems to give.The yellow plastic rim tape had not elongated and there was no evidence of any water ingress. The tube photograph shows that it had remained dry and the talc was preventing it sticking to the inside of the tyre.Overall the plastic rim tape seems an improvement over the rubber version and even if you are not a talcum convert a dry tube makes it easier to find and repair punctures. I have changed both tyres to plastic now but I will update this if there are any longer term disadvantages.After a year of use the rim tape has worked well but can move sideways out of the well. If left it distorts into this position and seems reluctant to move back into the well. There is no water penetration at the valve hole when using Schrader tubes and therefore an improvement on the rubber variety.Overall a definite change for the better but perhaps it needs annual replacement to prevent any distortion of the shape becoming permanent.