Thursday, June 23, 2016

How to Tape an Aerial Hoop. Probably the Only Guide You'll Need.

Yep, I said it, I meant it- I’ve retaped more lyras than you can shake a stupid stick at, and I’ve tried different methods, and only one makes me happy every time.

The Internet knows Nothing, Jon Snow. 

A brief consult with Google reveals only one piece of advice repeated over and over, which is the old “Start at 5 and tape to 12 o’clock, then repeat” method. I loathe this method because it makes the tape back-curl in the ONE PLACE that you most frequently hold the damn thing, which is at 5 and 7 o'clock. So one of your hands always gets torn up, not to mention the backs of your knees.  I've even read suggestions to tape the hoop from 3 and 9 o'clock, which is truly masochistic.

So why do people do this?

The benefit is meant to be that the bottom of the hoop, where the most action occurs, will have a double layer of tape so that if one layer gets worn away, there is another layer waiting.
“that way the tape will be smooth when your hands slide down and the bottom of the hoop will have 2 wraps where most wear occurs.”
This sentence has been copy/pasted between the dozen sites that suggest this same method. By the way one of them had an incorrect rigging example right above this soooo… I really hope ya’ll are educating yourselves via many channels, because there is so much bad advice on the internet.

Why this makes no sense:

Using this method, if a layer of tape wears away, you aren’t left with a lovely usable backup layer of tape. You are left with a gaping, glue-filled maw yawning in the surface of the tape, which as soon as you hang on it will commence taking a bite right out of your palm.

But Rachel, you might say, at least you won’t have to retape your hoop!

Again, let’s take a closer look.
If you’re using athletic tape and you wear it down enough to rip off the bottom, yes you will have to retape your hoop. Also, the rest of your hoop by that time will have absorbed months of your body oils, skin cells, chalk, and rosin and sweat, and is by now discolored in places and needs to be retaped anyway. So the choice is yours- athletic tape and a lively re-taping every several months (according to use), or cloth tape and live with the same old tape until it gets too shiny and dirty with the aforementioned buggery to give you grip anymore.
If the priority is really, truly to tape your hoop as rarely as possible, throw some money at the problem and buy cotton milled handlebar tape like Newbaums or Velox, which lasts much longer.

Either way, the back-curling of tape is evil and I hate it, so on to Life According to Rachel’s version of how to tape a lyra.

This is way simple, yo. That is why it’s so easy to mess it up.

  1. Look at the lyra like a clock, tab at the top. If it’s tabless, you will need to mark this place so that you hang the lyra in the correct orientation.
  2. Start taping at 6 o’clock, overlapping the tape by about a third of its width.
  3. Tape up to 12 o’clock
  4. Repeat on the other side.

That’s it. That’s all you need. You don’t need a double layer of tape, ever, in my estimation. If you are using athletic tape, after you’re done, cover the whole thing in a thick layer of chalk to absorb the extra glue. If you don’t do this, the lyra stays sticky for longer as your body oils, etc. fill in the gluey gaps.

4 Simple Steps to turn this:

World, meet Aurora.  This is what she looks like nekkid.

Into this:

All dressed up

What kind of tape should I use?

I’ve used many different brands of athletic tape with similar results. Mueller comes in lots of colors, and in a bind good old drugstore brand adhesive cotton tape works just fine, as long as you have access to chalk as it can be quite gooey. For nerds, the goo comes from the zinc oxide adhesive. I have not to my knowledge used a non-zinc oxide based athletic tape but would be interested in the results.

The cotton milled tape I mentioned above is sold in bicycle shops intended for handlebars, or purchased online. Velox and Newbaum’s are the two brands I’m aware of, but I’m sure there are more, and they come in over 30 colors. They are far more expensive but last much longer than athletic tape.

I’ve heard of people using hockey tape, gaffer’s tape, and painting their lyras after they tape them. My advice is to experiment with whatever materials strike your fancy and find the way that works for you.

How many rolls do I need?

Using athletic tape- you will probably need less than two rolls.
Using cotton milled tape- you will need 6-10 based on the size of your hoop. My 38” hoop took 8 rolls of Newbaum’s. 

Do I need pre-wrap?

No. But if you want to use corking or pre-wrap to cushion the lyra, don’t let anyone shame you for it. Your practice, your lyra.

Do I need tape removing spray?

Nope. That’s just something else people are trying to sell you.

When retaping the lyra, do I need to clean off the old goo before putting on new tape?


Are you really, truly certain that I don’t need a double layer of tape??

Yes, I am really truly certain.

Any other advice?

Yes.  Use a color you can live with, particularly if you are using cotton milled tape.  For example I invested in several rolls of my favorite color, emerald green.  Halfway done I looked at it and said out loud, "No.  No, no, we cannot be having this.  I am not a leprechaun."  And had to start over.  See?  

This isn't doing anyone any good.

Want to see a visual aid?

Or perhaps if you're like me and find fast motion videos to be extremely satisfying to watch, I made a dumb little video right here.  Enjoy and happy taping!

psssssst! I tell my email list stuff I don't announce anywhere else.  You can be one of em by following this link ----->
I can't promise it will save your life but, you know, it could save your life.


Karen Liu said...

Now I know!!

How long does it take to tape Aurora?

Madame Rex said...

I've got it down to about a 20 minute experience now...but I like to take my time. I enjoy the ritual of it!

Thy Dai said...

Hi! I have a powder coated solid lyra, and I want to remove the tape and use the metal! What is the best method to do this? Thank you so much!

Madame Rex said...

Oh man, Thy I wish I had better news for you, but hunker down with an episode of Frasier or something and peel it off the old fashioned way. Sometimes it goes faster if you ball it up as you go. To get the tape goo off afterwards you can use a little oil on a cloth, or goo gone if you like. Then to get the oil off you can use some rubbing alcohol on a cloth. make sure you get that oil off. :) Hope you enjoy your nekkid hoop!

Aerial Essentials said...

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Wonderfully written! :-)
I am the owner of
Not only do we want to work with you to feature your writing, but possibly looking at an aerialist sponsorship as well.

Please send an email to:
And include the best phone number to reach you.

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Madame Rex said...

Wow the comment fairy really left me a nice one this time!! I will be in touch shortly, thanks so much for reading!

Anonymous said...

Why do you say that you do not need to clean the goo off before retaping? Sources I have read say that removing residue is an important step both so you can properly inspect hoop and so there are not lumps and bumps caused by old residue when you rewrap.

Madame Rex said...

Howdy Anonymous,
The residue should be minimal and has never been an issue either in inspecting the equipment nor presenting a problem underneath the new tape in my experience. I invite you to experiment as you like and choose the method that works best for you!

Kristy N said...

Thank you for this, I'm very happy with my lyra taped like this. How would I use this method if I wanted to tape with 2 colors?

Madame Rex said...

Hi Kristy- do you know, I have no freaking idea. Two-toned lyras always made me feel a bit dizzy so I never pursued them. I can't work out a way in my mind where back curling wouldn't be an I suppose I'll have to say Godspeed good woman and let us know what you discover!

Anonymous said...

Hi Madame Rex,

Don't you think it'd be a better bet to tape one shot from 12 to 12 with no connections?

I fear that the spots where you restart taping, in this case 6, will have their weakness.

Other than that, I wanted to ask you if you suggest me to buy a painted hoop or zync plated.

Thanks a lot for your hints!

Madame Rex said...

Hyello Anonymous,
NO I don't, and please do not tape your hoop from 12 to 12, because then one whole side of it will be taped the wrong way, and it will back curl and make you hate your life. There is no weakness at the 6 o'clock spot. If you stopped retaping at like, the 9 o'clock spot and started again, yeah that would back curl cause your body would be sliding down it all the time. But to start and stop at 6 o'clock is a perfect storm of factors to make.

I'm not sure about this next question, I'd have to know what kind of paint you are talking about. Who is selling painted hoops? I'm intrigued. You can also PM me if you like: madame rex entertainment @ gmail.
thanks for reading!

Christine George said...

Hi, I have a zero point lyra. Should I tape over the weld spot or leave it untaped for the strap?

Madame Rex said...

Christine- taping over the weld spot is fine, just be sure to MARK the 12 o clock spot on the hoop so that you rig from there (ie choke the spanset in that 12 o clock place)! Otherwise all your careful work goes to nothing if it's not rigged from the proper location.

charles blizzard said...

We ( tape like you do as well. Thank you for posting the best way to do it, since many are convinced 5-12 is the best. As far as zero point or tabless lyra, we like to wrap a few times around at the weld point as to "mark it."

SF Pole & Dance Studio said...

Hi Madame Rex,

My lyras are leaving a gooey residue despite chalking them heavily. Do you have a solution that seals the tape? I heard acrylic gloss is good....but like you said, the internet seems to know nothing about this problem. Thoughts?

Love your blog!

Madame Rex said...

Hey Amy!! Love seeing you here!

Unfortunately my only suggestion for this persistent annoyance other than chalk, is to try a different tape. For the usual cloth tape, this is my favorite non-sticky tape:

I found it usable right away! Others have had similar experiences. If longevity is your focus, I love Newbaum's for their cotton milled tape:

just note that if you go the cotton milled route, you'll need a lot of rolls to cover each lyra, and then under no circumstances allow a lotion-up body to get on it! Of course I don't foresee that being a problem with with pole acrobats. :)

Shanaya said...

The entire information is really good and some good insights available. Looking forward to do more clicks.

rebecca rosales said...

Hey there! I've recently been very interested in picking up the "aerial hoop" as a hobby. However, I have no idea where to start. Not to mention, I'm 18 and afraid I might've started to late. Nonetheless, I found your blog and it is just inspiring me to pursue it. Say, do you think making a lyra would be difficult?

Madame Rex said...

Hi Rebecca- Well I started when I was 25, and I know aerialists who started at 40, 50, and older. So you can go ahead and mark "too old" off of your list. :)

It's imperative that you find a teacher- this is non-negotiable and your progress will explode in the best way. Studios have popped up like mushrooms all over the world, a quick Google search should give you some good leads. If you want more help you can message me.

As for making a lyra, unless you are a metal worker who knows how to roll steel and test a piece of equipment to failure, DO NOT attempt to make a lyra. Your life is worth the price of paying a real fabricator to make you a beautiful piece of equipment.

Thanks for reading and I'm very happy you're getting inspired! PM me with questions if you like.