Bike frame protection wraps have finally come to the mainstream in the form of vinyl film. While the technology may be somewhat similar to automotive wrap, bicycle frames have a tiny surface area in comparison while having much more intricate shapes and sizes making application difficult. Enter bike frame protection kits that are tailor-made for individual frame models in all sizes.
After debating the costs and benefits for far too long, I pulled the trigger on a matte tailored kit by RideWraps to put on my YT Tues downhill mountain bike. I’ll go into my experiences with that from application to crash testing, and compare it to my other bike wrapped in automotive vinyl.
Pro-tip: Pre-cut frame protection can have more than 90% coverage! Which comes at a steep price. If you want a cheaper alternative to cover only vulnerable areas, check out the best bike frame protection tapes on Amazon now.
But let’s start from the beginning and talk basics first.
What are bike frame protection wraps?
Bike frame protection wraps from RideWrap, Invisiframe or EasyFrame are protective films that keep the frame surface and paint job from taking damage through the usual wear and tear but also crashes. They are self-healing, meaning that they mend minor marks and scratches when moderate heat is applied.
Why put protective wrap on your bike
Frame protection wrapping protects a bike from signs of wear due to weather, abrasion, and even crashes. Especially mountain bikes take abuse from regular use. With bikes as expensive as they are and prices steadily increasing, the costs for frame protection kits actually get smaller in relation, while helping with value preservation.
With mountain bikes, there is really no way the frame stays unmarked if you ride it at all and not just display it in your living room. Even if you never lay it over, just moving the bike in off-road terrain will have its effects. Take for example the rocks thrown from your front wheel or throw in the elements, that can surprise you at any time with some rain and muck.
Is it worth wrapping a mountain bike?
With the average price of a new mountain bike at around $ 4,000 the cost for a tailored frame protection kit of around $ 100 is only 2,5% of that. It stays on the frame for years on end, shielding it from value-reducing damage. 95% coverage and an easy application process, compared to other options, are worth it to wrap an MTB in frame protection.
Should you wrap your fork?
The suspension fork on an MTB is the single most expensive component, and also one that is very prone to touching the ground in the case of a crash. This is why putting protective wrap is strongly recommended. There are seperate fork protection kits, tailored to your specific single or dual crown suspension fork from RideWrap, Invisiframe and EasyFrame available.
Alternatively, this is a bike part, that is not as difficult to make your own wrap for out of automotive protective wrap for. For a couple of extra bucks this is a no-brainer for me. If you go for frame protection, do it from top to bottom and include the fork lowers.
How long does it take to put on RideWrap?
Let me get this clear. Putting the vinyl on your frame is not difficult per se, but tedious. Let me explain.
On average, expect to spend two to three hours on the installation of a tailored frame wrap kit. Proper bike cleaning not included. The process takes its time but is not difficult to do because of the same reason: A full kit is comprised of up to 100 pieces in various sizes, each with its specific place on the frame.
The frame of my YT Tues I most recently wrapped is pretty straight and square edge with minimal bends and curves to work the film around. That being said, the head tube and rear end will be the most difficult pieces. Not only because there are so many, that need to be placed in relation to each other, but also because of those hard-to-reach places, especially for a full-suspension frame. So I would suggest you build up some experience and confidence with bigger pieces on the front triangle before tackling the finicky ones.
I opted to not take off the dual crown fork and brake saddles. This means I was making it more difficult for myself to work around brake lines and headtube. A price I was willing to take to not re-adjust by brakes and handlebars again. All in all, only removing the wheels may have improved my total time wrapping.
Clear and concise instructions with individually numbered pieces. The wet application technique removes all the doubt I had from other large decal and vinyl jobs in the past. It’s weird how the wet pieces can be freely moved around for quite some time, but stay in place when you found the perfect spot for them.
I also got it for my fork. Took me about 3 hours total. It was tedious but not difficult. I didn’t find it very hard to get the bubbles out. There are a few still, but small and not noticeable and mostly around tight areas like the rear linkage, where YT Industries put their brand name sticker. Wrapping over decals is never going to look great. If you can, put the frame wrap in direct contact with the frame and any decals on top.
Excluding the initial cleaning, it took me just over two hours to install the tailored kit. I’d rate the installation difficulty somewhere between easy and moderate. The wet application process is very forgiving but with so many pieces, nooks, and crannies, it’s still an involved process. So, not difficult but you need to be dedicated.
After installing, the bike has been through several muddy rides with washings in between. The kit isn’t showing any signs of wear. In fact, each kit comes with a 10-year warranty against cracking and discoloration.
If protecting your investment is a top priority and you don’t mind dedicating a few hours to the cause, then the RideWrap Tailored Kit is for you.
How long does frame wrap take to dry?
After the wet application, the most time-consuming but passive part is the 48-hour wait for the adhesive to take hold and the water to subside. Letting the wet frame wrap sit for a prolonged period of time is necessary to guarantee a perfect and durable long-term fit.
Tailored frame protection kits vs automotive protection tape
I actually used both methods: RideWrap tailored kit on my YT Tues downhill bike and regular protective tape on my Nukeproof Mega enduro bike.
While regular automotive protection wrapping is indeed cheaper in the initial expenses, the time investment to make pieces in the correct shapes and sizes necessary for your bike frame is where the commitment gets costly. This time-saving and wet application process are the major benefits of tailor-made bike frame protection kits.
Most protective tape gets torn up and actually leaves the frame off looking worse than some chipped or scratched paint after. Due to different adhesives, it can damage the paint job underneath when removed.
While in the end, both options might accomplish similar goals, there is a gaping difference in commitment during application. Additionally, only putting on tape or some smaller protection kits can look bad. Depending on the paint job, sometimes the patches of protective decals are extremely noticeable. Especially on not-so-shiny paint jobs.
RideWrap vs Invisiframe vs EasyFrame
The very similar tailored frame protection kits from RideWrap, Invisiframe and EasyFrame basically provide the same coverage. The actual coverage percentage is more dependent on the actual frame than the brand as each kit has to be specifically designed for each frame and frame size. So you can’t collectively claim one is better than the other.
They use much of the same technology, only in slightly different thicknesses. All their wraps are applied using the same easy wet application method, which is extremely helpful and forgiving. Same goes for easy removal.
Their kits are even similarly priced.
The biggest actual difference maker is where you are located as this affects not only shipping time but even more so additional fees and possible delays due to customs.
So, my take is simple: Decide based on your region.
North America: RideWrap.ca
Europe Mainland: Easy-Frame.com
United Kingdom: InvisiFrame.co.uk
How do you wrap a fork on a mountain bike?
With a specific fork protection wrapping kit, the application only requires the front wheel to be removed. For the best protection, position any opening towards the wheel. It is recommended to not put the protective film over decals, but instead any decals on the wrap for better adhesion and to prevent air bubbles.
I removed the largest decals before wrapping, but the “Fox” Decal stayed on. Had I removed that too, you would never know this fork is wrapped with vinyl. This is because these decals, as thin as they are, are responsible for trapping a little air at the edges because the tough protective film just can’t conform to differences this tiny.
The same is true for any dirt trapped under it. So make sure the surface you are applying it to is squeaky clean, or you will conceal any of that stuff under there forever.
I have no realistic means of calculating my frame’s total surface area and also not for the percentage of the area the protective kit covers for that matter. The claim is 95%, but is it 96% maybe, or even lowly 94%? Even if I could tell you that number for my specific frame and frame size, it doesn’t matter. It’s much more important which areas are covered. If the 5% uncovered area is on the bottom downtube, that gets abused the most, even 95% coverage isn’t helping much.
What I can tell you is that the areas that should be covered are indeed covered, especially the high wear zones. The only minor gripe I have is that I was hoping for more protection on the seat stay
The only other larger area not protected entirely is the top of the downtube. There is a strip of about an inch where the film doesn’t quite wrap around enough to meet again at the top. This area in particular is not exposed anyway so no harm no foul. (See the picture below)
The most exposed parts are definitely covered very well. Those include the areas where the brake and shifter hoses rub, the side of the top tube where your thighs will rub, the bottom of the downtube that gets hit with all kinds of trail debris and muck, chainstay where shoes touch, the side of the head tube where the fork bumpers touch,
Looks of a matte frame wrap
First of all, why did I choose the full matte kit? My YT Tues frame is actually both matte and glossy, with a distinct separation between the two areas. I got that particular one because I love the matte white look.
Turns out matte paint is very fragile, extremely easy to taint, and hard to get clean and maintain. The only aspect turning me away from a frame wrap was the possibility it made the frame look not as nice and unique anymore. Smooth matte wrap, after all, is not completely matte, but more silky-matte.
And honestly, it does indeed take away from the original look of a matte frame paintjob. But the silky effect is minor and something I am willing to accept for the overwhelming benefits it provides for a vulnerable paint job.
With a full matte kit also came the compromise of having matte wrap over shiny paint. To my knowledge, Invisiframe are the only ones offering a mixed kit for that frame. The two other brands’ solution for me was to order two kits – one shiny and one matte one and mix them myself. That was an expense I was not willing to spend.
I would have loved keeping the stark contrast between shiny and matte paint. Now they trended towards each other with matte becoming a little shiny and shiny becoming a little less shiny. Nothing you would notice at a glance, but it’s easily identifiable that the shiny painted parts are wrapped, while you have to be close up for the matte parts to see it.
Hue and color distortion
After many months of playing in the dirt, getting dirty, and cleaning it all up again, there is no yellow hue to speak of. This is a phenomenon most often reported by other customers, most commonly seen on lighter frame colors.
What I can report, however, is a very slight blue-ish hue, which is only even noticeable in certain light conditions and because the frame underneath is pure white. It’s the result of the silky texture of the matte wrap, that distorts at least some light instead of none like the original matte would. Imagine putting a white piece of paper in a matte cling film. It’s not quite as matte anymore and also starts to shine just a little.
Protection & Durability
After getting my freshly built-up bike from the bike stand, there were enough marks from my hands that sealed the deal for me to spend some extra money on some frame protection. The matte paint job is just too delicate and it’s sporting on a mountain bike after all. I’d like to have a good-looking bike for years to come, please.
Over the season I took a couple of tumbles in various flavors of violence. One among them was harsh enough to sideline me for a couple of weeks. With a fair amount of involuntary bike-to-ground testing, let’s look at the results.
The first, and probably most needed characteristic for a matte frame, is the fact that a frame wrap makes cleaning so much easier. Not only the actual cleaning part but also the help of not as much dirt and muck sticking to the frame in the first place. I’m sure I would have condemned my matte frame by now had I left it original without any kind of protection.
As far as preventing damage from “extraordinary occurrences” (i.e. crashing your brains out) goes, it did what it was supposed to do. On top of actually preventing damage to the frame itself, it also protects my ego from taking any more hits than it already did by crashing. Damaging the bike in a crash always leaves a pit in your stomach sprinkled with some extra guilt.
For the roughed-up areas, the wrap’s film has a self-healing top coat that allows light scuffs, scratches, and marks to dissolve with a little bit of moderate heat from the summer sun or a hairdryer. Individual pieces could be replaced, but I don’t expect to need to replace any of them over the lifetime of this bike. In any case, RideWrap still offers ordering for specific single pieces for around $10 each.
Can you take frame wrap off?
Protective bike wraps like RideWrap, Invisiframe and EasyFrame are designed to be easily removed. This is so that single pieces can get swapped out in case of damage or the entire kit removed before selling the bike with a frame as good as new.
There is non of that annoying sticker glue left that is just pure horror to get off.
How to easily remove frame wrap
Bike frame wrap kits are designed in many separate pieces for easy removal without leaving residue. Removal can be assisted by moderate heat application to the pieces to soften the adhesive for gentle peeling off. Pieces are removed individually, so in other areas, they can stay in place unchanged.
While it stays where it should be unobtrusively, with a little help from a hairdryer removal is easy as pie. Just start at corners to get the best angle of attack. The individual pieces normally don’t tear as some decals would. Be careful to not overheat them or the frame to damage the paint, just enough to facilitate peeling a corner off.