Gravel - Cycle Oregon

Ziptie your tire for better traction

Posted by on January 17th, 2007 at 10:42 pm

[Cheaper and lighter than chains.]
Photo by Todd Boulanger

Having trouble getting a grip on all that compacted snow and ice? Here’s a super-cheap DIY solution sent in by City of Vancouver transportation planner Todd Boulanger (and originally commented on by Ian…thanks guys!):


  • Zip tie every other rim section between spokes (range: 1 per 3 spokes or 1 per 1; depending on ice) on only rear wheel
  • Place and center and tighten zip ties so that tie clasp is facing towards hub (not too tight, just tight enough to keep from moving and not pinching tire) and between spokes
  • Test with 1 tie and spin wheel to check for tolerances with fenders and frame
  • Trim off extra cable on all ties
  • Push clasp to center it on rim facing hub
  • Spin wheel to recheck
  • Work around tire as needed (add more later if needed)


  • 20+ zip ties (6+ inches in length) ~$3
  • Large nail clippers
  • Bike with hub or disk brakes on rear wheel


  • Pedal in low gear smoothly and take shallow turns use only rear brake when possible.

Where would we be without zipties?

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  • Chris Smith January 17, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    Is this for fixies only, or does it work with brakes?

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  • Adam-8 January 17, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    There was also an article about this on the last page of the first section of the Oregonian today, which, I’d like to add, featured one of my favorite people ever, Scotty Whitlake of Rose City Messenger.

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  • Adam-8 January 17, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    Wouldn’t work with a rear rim brake. disc or drum brakes or a fixed gear would be fine.

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  • Gustavo January 17, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    This [b]only[/b] works for fixies or hub/disc brakes. Any calipers would hit the zip ties as they closed on the rims. Not sure what would happen, but probably not good. 🙂

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  • Jonathon Severdia January 18, 2007 at 6:38 am

    I have seen this technique also used as an emergency repair for a blown tire, with a dozen or so zip ties concentrated around the tear to keep the tube from exploding.

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  • BrandonS January 18, 2007 at 6:53 am

    If you have a bike with wide enough tires this really isn’t neccessary to ride today. I got in this AM just fine on a mountain bike with a nobby front tire (to aid in balancing on the slush) and a slick rock rear tire (granted, I did lose traction periodically). I’m on the springwater for most of the ride and conditions are pretty kosher for a good time. On the streets, cars are driving much more cautiously, so I’m actually feeling much safer. So get out there!

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  • beth January 18, 2007 at 9:13 am

    It worked on my bike yesterday. Sort of:

    Problem is that, unless you have either a fixed or coaster rear wheel, you have to forego your rear brake to do this (the zip will hang up on the rear rim brake, so just unhook it and run it wide open, and use only your front brake).

    I got tired of that approach and swapped in a beefier, grippier rear tire so I could have my rear brake back. But it’s still a great idea.

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  • Mark Johnson January 18, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Zipties may be a fine solution for some bike types and the limited amount of snow we get here in Porltand. However if you are serious about riding in wintery weather, check out this report about IceBike at:

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  • bArbaroo January 18, 2007 at 9:20 am

    I visited the icebike website and found a post from this amazing guy in Ottowa – good reading if you have time.

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  • Jordan January 18, 2007 at 9:21 am

    I found that my single speed mountain bike worked great in the snow and ice. Contiental Cross Country 2.0 tires have nice open tread that releases the snow really well.

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  • […] Instead of buying studded tires or taking your neglected car, throw some zipties around your tires for traction on snow. They won’t get the bite you need to ride across an ice rink, but it is a cheap fix for those embarrassing falls downtown, and just stay off the road when it’s this icy. […]

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  • Rocky Thompson January 18, 2007 at 10:44 am

    this is an awesome tip. i made some a long time ago with hex-head screws and lined the inside of my tires with duck tape; it turned out to be way more trouble then it was worth.

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  • Dabby January 18, 2007 at 11:06 am

    The best thing to do is just run the tires you are used to, and deal with it.
    Quick fixes like this and studs are only god while it is still frozen.
    With any of these ideas, the minute you hit a patch of regular cement or pavement, you are probably going to crash.
    Be careful….

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  • Poor man’s tire chains at Commute by Bike January 18, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    […] From BikePortland comes an idea for a cheap substitute for tire chains or studded tires for those of you who don’t normally bike on snowy roads. Use zip ties on your tires for extra traction on snowy roads. These will interfere with the brakes, of course, so it’s suitable only if you have a fixed gear bike or some sort of hub or disk brakes. You’ll also need to check for clearance. […]

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  • […] Here’s directions for better traction using zip ties from […]

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  • Randy January 18, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    A nice elegant solution. It is however plastic and designed to be thrown away. How about bike tire chains the can be used again and again vs. thrown away after a couple of used. Production of plastic products is also a highly toxic.

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  • felix January 18, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    could this not break the nipple off the spoke on the rim?

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  • Tiah January 19, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    I saw the bit in the paper about Scotty
    (I don’t even know him but I love that guy)and remembered a tip that Tad had for wintry riding-put tacks through your tire for an instant diy studded bike tire but Dabby’s warning about the zipties would also hold true for that.You couldn’t ride on the cement that way,too. Well, it wouldn’t be good. Anyhow, I saw lots of peeps out and about with their normal tires, fixie riders included (though one of my favorites tok it on the leg when riding his fixie into work Tuesday morning-he switched to his mtb later on in the day)and I was thrilled to see the comitted riders. For everyone who rides cross and mountain bikes I’m sure getting about in the snow was not only not a problem but also fun. I’m fine with it clearing up, but it was fun while it lasted.

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  • Paul Tay January 19, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    ::sniff:: Only proles bike on ice. I intend to drink myself into STUPOR for the duration. Wake me when it thaws.

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  • […] (then others) posted this MacGyver tip for improving cycling traction in snow and/or ice this winter. As you can see from the photo below the author placed zip ties around the rim and tire about spaced about every 3 spokes. At first blush this seems like a great idea but it is certainly limited to bikes without rim brakes. One commentor mentioned removing her rear brakes to allow the wheel to rotate freely with the zip ties installed but doesn’t this mean you’re riding on snow with just your front brakes attached? Seems a little more dangerous than both brakes in the snow WITHOUT rear traction. What about the old trick of “studding” your tires with wood screws poked through the tire from the inside? I’ve never tried this myself but it seems like a decent solution as well, though clearly not as easy and not really reversible the way zip ties are. The post also mentioned “chains” for bicycle tires but living in the south I’ve never seen these. Anyone ever use bike tire chains? […]

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  • John Lascurettes December 15, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    I bought zip ties at Radio Shack today. I’m MacGuyvering myself some bike snow tires until I put on my studded tires.

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  • […] Putting chains on your wheels can also help improve traction in snow or mud, but beware, because they “give a rough, slow ride on pavement,”AllWeatherSports adds. If you don’t feel like splurging on new equipment, suggests this do-it-yourself solution: zipties . […]

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  • […] bridas de plástico para aportar algo más de agarre al neumático trasero de la bicicleta como propone Jonathan Maus de BikePortland. Bridas de plástico como cadena de nieve para […]

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  • a.O January 6, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I tried this and it didn’t work worth a damn. The zip ties did add some traction, but they slid on the rim even though I pulled them very tight. Several of them ended up jammed against the spokes and against the stem, which could have caused pretty serious damage to the wheel had they been left on. Ultimately, it wasn’t worth the effort.

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  • Zaphod January 6, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    a.O, thank you for your insight. None of my bikes are fully disc so it’s moot for me anyway but I do wonder how well they work and from what you are saying… not too well.

    You could skip the section of rim where the valve is to eliminate that risk. Would have been a total bugger to be replacing a tube in the freezing cold.

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  • a.O January 7, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Zaphod, I can just imagine standing in a huge snow drift, pulling my gloves off, and trying to change a tire while my hands and feet froze! I pulled off the ones next to the valve first to avoid the problem, but I was also afraid for the spokes given how hard they were jammed up against them.

    Also, this is funny to say, but I consider myself a ziptie “expert.” I had a summer job for three years in a row where I ran big cables while building casino ships. I must have installed and removed hundreds of zipties on any given day. One thing I know is how to ziptie things, and it was impossible to put them on tight enough to prevent movement on the wheel.

    Next winter, I’ll buy some studs to go with the ones for my truck.

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  • […] Winter tires? check this out! Blog Archive Ziptie your tire for better traction __________________ " We cannot live through a single day without making an impact on the […]

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  • bill October 19, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Seems to me that if you “studded” tires with wood screws, the instant that you put weight on the bike, the screw would press into the inside the tire and into the tube, probably pinching it and ripping a hole. There’s no possible way it could remain outside the tire.
    Zip ties are definitely not going to stay where you put them, but I don’t see how they could damage spoke nipples. One way of keeping zip ties in place would be put a tie on both sides of a spoke then use another zip tie horizontally and tie those two together. Or use two horizontally, one on each side of each spoke.

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  • Dan Herrick October 29, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    I didn't see this until after I bought my studded snow tires. Wonder if this works well? Anyone tried it?

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  • Jonas Elslander December 22, 2009 at 2:26 am

    @D_tur Of je maakt er zelf…

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  • Jonathan Maus December 29, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Or, if you can't afford studded tires, and you don't have rim brakes, consider using zip-ties

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  • carrie medina December 29, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    RT @BikePortland can't afford studded tires, and you don't have rim brakes, consider using zip-ties

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  • Teresa Boze December 29, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Best tweet of #snowpocalypse09 #PDX genius! RT @BikePortland: Can't afford studs | no rim brakes? consider zip-ties

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  • smileysattva December 29, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    love this DIY approach to snow tires for you bicycle. awesome.

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  • loganenator December 29, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Great idea! RT @BikePortland if you can't afford studded tires, & you don't have rim brakes, consider using zip-ties

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  • Sue Gemmell December 29, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    RT @BikePortland: Or, if you can't afford studded tires, and you don't have rim brakes, consider using zip-ties

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