A Yeti wrapped in invisiFRAME.
Nothing hurts more than scratching your bike. It tears at your heart, a painful reminder that nothing perfect can last. We are all destined for the grave. Dramatics aside, messing up a shiny new mountain bike really does suck. Fortunately, it’s easy to keep your bike frame looking pristine with protective frame tape and films.
Frame protection can be applied to any part that might get scratched, chipped, or rubbed, and it can be removed easily when it comes time to sell your bike, upping your bike’s resale value. Some protective films are so advanced that they’re practically invisible and can even self-heal after sustaining damage. There are a lot of frame protection options out there, and different riders will have different needs and preferences. We’ve picked out seven of the best frame protection products, so you can decide for yourself.
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Lizard Skins Frame Protector / Frame Kit
Pros: Cheap, simple, pre-cut to fit key areas.
Cons: Won’t provide complete coverage, can be more visible.
Basic stick-on protectors are the cheapest and easiest way to protect your frame. Of the many brands that make stick-on frame protection, my favorite is Lizard Skins. It uses clear polyurethane film and it comes pre-cut with slits to help it articulate around frame areas like the down tube and chain stays.
You can buy a single large downtube Frame Protector or a complete Frame Kit that comes with multiple small and large-sized protectors, and some patches to protect smaller areas. It’s super cheap and easy to apply — you just stick it on a cleaned surface. The downside is that a Frame Kit may not have enough pieces or the right shapes to provide full coverage for your frame. It’s also slightly thicker and more visible than more expensive tapes, and you can end up with bubbles after installation if you aren't careful.
Lizard Skins Frame Kit - $39.99
Helicopter Tape / ISC Racers Tape / 3M Scotchgard
Pros: Readily available, one roll will last for multiple bikes.
Cons: No pre-cut shapes, will require arts and crafts skills to install.
The DIY favorite is a simple roll of “helicopter tape.” Clear polyurethane film tape was originally used to protect the leading edge of wings and helicopter blades, hence its name. There are a lot of heli tape manufacturers out there, but the brand I’ve used for the last few years is ISC Racers Tape, which is affordable and easy to find.
A 12-foot roll is around $30, and when used judiciously, it’s enough to cover 2-3 bike frames. The wet application method (using soapy water and a small squeegee) will make it bubble free and help it conform to odd shapes, but it can also be applied dry. Applying it dry can be helped with a bit of heat from a hair dryer or heat gun.
Another popular DIY option is 3M Scotchgard protection film, which is an automotive film commonly used to protect car paint. Scotchgard should be applied wet to get the best results and will require cutting to fit your frame.
ISC Racers Tape - $32.95
3M Scotchgard - $19.99
All Mountain Style Honeycomb Frame Guards
Photo courtesy of All Mountain Style
Pros: Pre-cut to fit key areas, thick, durable, easy install, fun designs.
Cons: Won’t provide complete coverage, can be tricky to install on weird frame shapes.
All Mountain Style (AMS) is a Spanish brand and one of the first to provide an alternative to “boring” clear helicopter-style tapes. AMS Honeycomb Frame Guards come in kits with various pre-cut strips. You can choose between four different levels of protection: Basic, Extra, Full, and Total. Beyond cost, the only difference is the number of strips and shapes you receive with the kit. There are also cool graphic options if you want to personalize your ride.
AMS Honeycomb is made of super durable PVC, so it’s relatively thick and stiff, and it has an interesting honeycomb texture. It’s also the easiest to install. You simply stick it on a clean surface. It requires no heat and it doesn’t end up with bubbles underneath. I’ve also found that it’s the easiest tape to remove. The stiffness makes it tricky to get the bigger pieces to stick around curves and sharp corners though. Also, like the Lizard Skins frame protector, you may not have enough pieces or the right shapes to get full coverage for your frame, but it will still protect the most vulnerable areas.
All Mountain Style Honeycomb Full - $59.99
Effetto Mariposa Shelter Protective Tape
Pros: Shock-absorbing, can prevent carbon damage, self-healing.
Cons: Thick, not very discrete, expensive.
Effetto Mariposa’s Shelter tape is significantly thicker than the other products on this list because it is designed to dissipate the force from impacts. This makes it great for protecting carbon frames from damage. After an impact, the tape will self-heal and return to its normal resting state. If you’re looking to cover your entire frame though, Shelter tape is a bit too thick (it will be quite visible) and expensive. Instead, use it on the most vulnerable areas of your frame, like shielding the down tube from rock strikes or protecting the chain stay from chain slap. My favorite use for Shelter tape is on XC bikes that have low handlebars that can spin and damage the frame during a crash. A single wrap around the top tube provides extra peace of mind.
Effetto Mariposa Shelter - $34.95
Photo courtesy of DYEDBRO
Pros: Pre-cut to fit key areas, big selection of fun designs.
Cons: Lots of logos, requires care to prevent bubbles during installation.
DYEDBRO is another Spanish brand and it’s an acronym for “Do You Even Drift Bro?” It sells pre-cut kits with pieces designed to cover the top tube, down tube, and rear triangle. You have basic clear options, but DYEDBRO is known for its wild designs. There are nearly 100 different patterns and graphics to choose from, which makes it the best way to personalize your bike.
Like the Lizard Skins and AMS frame kits, you won’t get complete coverage, but you’ll still protect the most important areas of your frame from damage. Compared to those two, however, it is a bit trickier to install. The down tube and top tube protectors are fairly large, and it’s best to use a hair dryer or heat gun to get them to conform nicely to the frame with no bubbles. Also, every single piece of the kit features the DYEDBRO logo, even if you choose to go with a clear kit with no designs. Depending on your taste, the amount of logos can be too much.
DYEDBRO Frame Protection - $47.99
Photo courtesy of invisiFRAME
Pros: Custom-cut full-coverage kits, self-healing, very discrete.
Cons: Expensive, more difficult to install
UK-based invisiFRAME was the first to successfully produce and sell custom-cut full-coverage frame protection kits. It uses a premium-grade automotive film that can self-heal after being scratched and it looks nearly invisible when applied. invisiFRAME has the largest selection of supported bike brands, and its kits are precisely cut to perfectly fit specific models and frame sizes. There will be some small gaps, but otherwise, it’s as close to a complete frame wrap as you can get. It also makes your frame super easy to clean, even without water. Plus, it weighs only 40 grams!
If you want the best frame protection possible, opt for full wraps like invisiFRAME. But the major downside, other than cost, is the installation difficulty. It’s the hardest product to install on this list and it needs to be installed wet (using soapy water and a small squeegee) onto a perfectly clean frame. Also, because of how thoroughly it wraps the frame, it’s best to do it on a frame that has been fully stripped of components. As a beginner, I managed to do a frame in my garage in about 3 hours, with only a few mishaps and bubbles. If you’re not up for the task, you’ll need to find an installer, which can run you another couple hundred dollars.
Photo courtesy of RideWrap
Pros: Custom-cut kits or lower-coverage options, self-healing, very discrete.
Cons: Tailored kits are expensive, more difficult to install
RideWrap comes from Whistler, B.C., the mountain bike mecca, and it’s invisiFRAME’s top competitor for full-coverage wraps. There’s little to differentiate the two. RideWrap provides kits for a large selection of bikes and they’re custom-cut for specific models and sizes. It uses a premium-grade automotive film that can self-heal and looks invisible. It needs to be installed wet and the installation difficulty is the same.
The big difference comes in the types of kits on offer. A complete “Tailored” wrap is $125, but for $65 you can get the “Covered” wrap which covers about 60% of your frame (top tube, down tube, back of seat tube, stays), and for $32 USD you can get the “Essential” wrap which covers 30% (top tube, the lower portion of the down tube, and the inside of the drive side stays). The lower-coverage kits are universal, so they aren’t custom-cut for a specific frame. But they are a great way to get the highest-quality protection film pre-cut into a shape that should fit most frames.
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There are plenty frame protection options on the market, but these are the most popular and they tend to provide the best results. To summarize this list, Lizard Skins is the simplest, All Mountain Style is the easiest to apply, and helicopter tape is the best for DIYers. For protecting the most vulnerable parts of carbon frames try using impact-resistant Shelter tape. If you want extra style, then DYEDBRO has the most designs. Finally, if you want full coverage and the best protection, go with invisiFRAME or RideWrap. Just be prepared to spend more money and time to get it installed.
Do you have experience with a frame protection kit? Tell us about it in the comments, or ask any questions you have about frame protection.
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