Cheap Mylar Wheel Covers
According to the rules...
Wheel covers are legal in events sanctioned by
USA Cycling and American Bicycle
Racing among others, as well as in events run by most other bike racing
organizations in the US. They are not legal in UCI events or in events run by
organizations that enforce UCI rules. So they're legal in events that 99.9% of us
in the US enter, and mostly prohibited otherwise.
This is for a track wheel. This works for road wheels but it's more work. I ride
wheel covers on my road bike as well. I weighed the expense vs. weight vs.
durability arguments between home-made mylar and purchased covers and decided to
buy a set of CH covers. If CHs came dished for track wheels I wouldn't bother
with any of this.
Once the covers are attached you will no longer be able to easily true the
wheel. Use a wheel built by someone you have confidence in.
For road wheels you need to use a V section rim. This is so you have some rim
surface other than the braking surface to attach the mylar to.
||The finished product.
- A roll of mylar film. I get this from hobby supply stores. It is
used in model and RC airplane construction and also for kites.
I have experience with two brands:
- Monokote - This is the most common brand. It comes in
about a billion different colors. It comes with a heat
sensitive adhesive that is formulated to stick to balsa
wood and won't stick to metal worth a darn.
- Ultrakote - This brand is harder to find. It comes with
a pressure sensitive adhesive that works OK on bike rims.
The adhesive isn't good enough to not creep over time, so
you won't get more that a season out of it. The other
difference is that the roll is not wide enough to cover
a wheel without splicing. This is easy to do but hoses
- Adhesive - I use contact cement. I think any brand will do, I bought
what the local hardware store sold. It worked fine. If you use
Ultrakote you can skip this but you'll get a better bond if you
The first time I worked with Monokote I gathered all the adhesives
in the house and glued test sections to a rim. Most failed totally,
the best was Fast Tack. So I used that. It worked OK but crept over
time so that the cover only lasted a year. I've gotten two years of
use from the wheel in the picture, contact cement doesn't creep.
- An iron. The mylar works like shrink wrap when heated. I use a cheap
mini travel iron so I don't accidentally screw up my wife's nice
Rowenta. They also work well for waxing skis, don't forget to clean
off the wax first.
- A large ring. This is for valve access. I used the bottom of some
forgotten plastic food container.
- Two small rings with a lip. The center hole should be large enough
to fit around the center section of whatever hub you're using. These
provide a surface to glue the mylar to at the hub and hold it out
away from the spokes. I cut out the centers of a couple of small yogurt
I only have pictures of the finished product. I've had two seasons of use out
of this wheel and didn't feel like ripping it apart just to show the
intermediate steps. If I ever wreck it and have to do this again I'll be sure to
document the process.
This should not be considered gospel. It's what I did and it worked for me.
My cosmetics suck and I've seen other wheels where the cosmetics didn't suck
so if you know anyone into model airplane contruction don't be afraid to ask
- Cut out the cover sections. Be sure to account for the dish i.e. don't
just lay a rim on the sheet and cut out that amount. You need more.
- 'Dish' the cover section. What I did was to make a pass around the edge
with the iron, shrinking it down a little bit. The mylar will pucker
a little bit when you do this. There is probably a better way to do it.
- Glue one of the small rings to the center of the cover section. Make
very sure you know where the center is. Cut out the center of the cover
section to match the center of the ring.
||That's the lid from a yogurt container under the mylar at the
hub. It provides a surface to glue the mylar to and the lip
holds the fabric clear of the spokes.
- Apply adhesive to the rim and cover section. For a track rim just slop
it onto the rim sidewall. For road wheels it's probably best to mask off
the contact strip to avoid getting adhesive on the braking surface. I
do know one guy though that used the braking surface for attachment on
a TT wheel, figuring he'd only use the rear brake in an emergency.
- Stretch and attach the cover section to the rim. You'll know right away
if you got the dish right in step 2. Trim the excess mylar.
When I used Fast Tack as the adhesive I cut tabs along the edge of the cover
section at the spoke holes. I stretched the tabs over the spoke holes
and attached them to the opposite rim bed. If you do this at the spoke
holes you don't lose any tire adhesion surface. But the cover still
crept and loosened.
||Maybe someone who built model planes as a kid would do better
at the cosmetics than I did. If there's a way to dish the
cover without puckering I don't know what it is.
- Glue the valve access ring to the inside of the cover. Cut out the mylar
in the center of the ring.
||Valve access. That's another food container ring under there.
You only have to do this to one side of the wheel.
- Repeat with the other cover section.
- Iron the mylar until smooth and taut.
Maintained by Bob Schwartz
Last modification: 20-Jan-99
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