Join 3,556 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant
December 28, 2010 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Zip Tie Snow Tires: The Cheapest Way To Blizzard-Proof Your Bike [via Lifehacker]

A low-cost solution to keep on biking. One of the cyclists at Dutch Bike Co. was caught without studded tires when it started snowing in Seattle. But there's nothing that a box of zip ties can't fix! MacGyver trick isn't new, but now that winter is here... Fritz Rice, the the DIYer on these photos, says that while the ties look "completely ludicrous", they work "beautifully":
"I can accelerate, brake, and corner with aplomb, even on the vile snowpack/sheet ice mix the plows leave in the bike lanes. The zip ties dig nicely into the hardest packed surfaces, but they're thin enough not to bounce the bike around at low speed or on short pavement sections. "
posted by KokuRyu (53 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huh. I have done entire winters with Hakkapeliittas, and it sucked, because when you don't need them--most of the season--they're a noisy drag.

The zip ties look like they'd work in snow, and certainly be less draggy on pavement. I wonder if they'd do anything on ice, though.
posted by everichon at 12:11 PM on December 28, 2010


I remember seeing this hack a year or so ago and was about to implement it myself

... until I thought about what would happen if I got a flat and needed to change a tire, and realized that I've done seven years of winter commuting on normal tires just fine.
posted by bl1nk at 12:13 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great...unless you've got rim brakes.

D'oh.
posted by mnfn at 12:13 PM on December 28, 2010 [12 favorites]


Also: unless you have disc brakes, this seems like a non-starter.
posted by everichon at 12:15 PM on December 28, 2010


Great...unless you've got rim brakes.

Ah, rats.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:17 PM on December 28, 2010


fixed bikes stop better in the rain/snow anyway... you don't get brake pads slipping on wet rims and in low traction you can spin the wheel in reverse pretty easily
posted by nathancaswell at 12:23 PM on December 28, 2010


unless you have disc brakes, this seems like a non-starter stopper.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:27 PM on December 28, 2010 [16 favorites]


I've got studded tires for my Ute. In the winter, its primary use is hauling groceries, up to 50-60 pounds (in addition to my...svelte 200 pounds). That or going up/down a seriously steep street. Trusting zip-ties seems like a fool's errand. More importantly, good snow tires will be $80-100, and will last what, 10 years without a problem? So that's $8-10 a year for my tires. I'm willing to pay.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:31 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's kind of cool but probably wouldn't work for like, 90% of bikes.
posted by ghharr at 12:38 PM on December 28, 2010


fixed bikes stop better in the rain/snow anyway... you don't get brake pads slipping on wet rims and in low traction you can spin the wheel in reverse pretty easily

So, wait...is that a bug, or a feature? It sounds pretty dangerous to me (See Also: Why anti-lock brakes don't stop your wheels from spinning)

I'm sure there must be some sort of appeal to fixed-gear bikes, but every objective argument that I've seen for them is hilariously weak.

Going up a huge hill? Extreme strength training!
Going down a huge hill? Extreme cardio!
Slippery surface? You can rotate your wheels backward! It's like moonwalking, but on a sweet bike!
posted by schmod at 12:47 PM on December 28, 2010 [12 favorites]


fixed bikes stop better in the rain/snow anyway...

No, they don't.
posted by the painkiller at 1:01 PM on December 28, 2010


hmmm. the shop i worked in in minneapolis had 2 sets of studded tires that hung on the wall. and they hung there and they hung there. all of us at the shop, except the boss, rode fixed gears all winter (all year for most of us) and used road tires. i rode 700x28 conti top touring tires and they did fine.

i really want to ride a pugsley in the snow.
posted by rainperimeter at 1:03 PM on December 28, 2010


The most valid objective argument for fixed-gear bikes, I think, is that they have fewer moving parts and are therefore more durable, or cheaper to fix, or some combination of those two things.
posted by box at 1:04 PM on December 28, 2010


If you're riding in weather like this with rim brakes, the first step should read "Go buy a bike with disc brakes."

I'm sure there must be some sort of appeal to fixed-gear bikes, but every objective argument that I've seen for them is hilariously weak.

For all its disadvantages, it does give you more control over your bike if used in conjunction with brakes. I like to compare it to driving a standard vs. automatic. If you don't get the advantage, give it a try! But you're right: steep hills = no fun.
posted by monkeymike at 1:05 PM on December 28, 2010


box: that argument applies just as well to single gear bikes.
posted by Dmenet at 1:10 PM on December 28, 2010


I would agree (and, personally, I have two singlespeeds and zero fixies), except that a freewheel has a lot more moving parts, and is a lot more subject to breakage, than a cog.
posted by box at 1:21 PM on December 28, 2010


A freewheel ratchet counts as an extra moving part.

I ride a fixed-gear (with cartridge-bearing hubs) in bad weather for just this reason, to save the shifter cables, derailers, sprockets, (non-cartridge) bearings and dynohub on my "nice" commuter.

Yeah, cute hack, but blech, changing a tire with this...
posted by Rat Spatula at 1:24 PM on December 28, 2010


If the roads are that slippy I just can't trust the moronic drivers enough to ride a bike around here.
posted by octothorpe at 1:32 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, they don't.

Than rim brakes? Yes, they do.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:33 PM on December 28, 2010


If you're riding in weather like this with rim brakes, the first step should read "Go buy a bike with disc brakes."

No, it should be get proper tires. I've pedaled up hills past sand trucks that were sliding *backwards* with nothing more than (fat) hybrid tires.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:35 PM on December 28, 2010


Perhaps ironically, the sweltering summer before the great Seattle ice sheet of 2008 saw an excellent discussion posted over on "Mountain Turtle" Kent Peterson's bike blog about why fixed gear bikes are better on ice. Some good arguments are put forward, notably:
"..you have no way of knowing what slip you are getting comes from the pad/rim interface or the tire/road interface. So you think "hmm, I'm not slowing fast enough, maybe I'll squeeze the brakes more. If the slip is in the pad/rim interface, that will slow you more but if the slip is in the tire/road interface, you worsen your skid."
That aforementioned ice-sheetening of Seattle was enough to convince me to pick up a set of Nokian W240's for my Long Haul Trucker. While I found my Pugsley to be quite adept in the powdery snow - I was just about the only thing moving out there aside from cross-country skiers - the huge contact patch still slipped around willy-nilly on the ice sheets. The key element of Seattle freezes isn't really the snow, it's the crusty and rutted sheet ice that shows up at dark. I went tooling around during this year's Snowpocalypse with the local bike+beer club miscreants and still got tossed around despite my aggressive tires.

As far as the zipties go, I've seen folks show up on rides with them but they seemed to just snap once rode on any amount of pavement. I wouldn't see it as a long-term solution (think of how annoying the first flat would be) but certainly serviceable if you're stuck at the bike shop and you need to get home.

I will contend that the most treacherous thing about riding in the snow is the drivers. Just because you have AWD, my fellow Seattle-standard Subaruistas, does not mean you can pretend the ice and snow are bare, dry pavement. It may seem like a good idea when you get going, but the price you pay comes when you try to stop.
posted by lantius at 1:36 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]



I would agree (and, personally, I have two singlespeeds and zero fixies), except that a freewheel has a lot more moving parts, and is a lot more subject to breakage, than a cog.


Oh, nonsense. Single speed freewheels (even multi speed freewheels), while they do have more parts than a fixed cog, simply don't break with any more frequency. It's extremely rare for a freewheel pawl to stop working unless someone decided to do something really foolhardy and take the thing apart for "maintenance".
posted by 2N2222 at 1:37 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fixed gears also offer the rider a direct measure of their available traction, because it isn't being mediated by a free wheel or a chain tensioner.

This zip tie thing is driving me insane. None of the people that have sent it to me have disc brakes. If you do have disc brakes, though, it offers I guess one advantage compared to studded tires, which is that they probably handle pavement better (and if not, who cares if your zip ties get fucked up?). Otherwise, getting a flat is a pain in the ass, moving between snow mode and dry mode is a pain any way you cut it, and you'll probably end up scratching your rims trying to get those bastards off.

There are times when a frugal sense of thrift leads you to a superior solution, but this ain't it.
posted by invitapriore at 1:38 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sure there must be some sort of appeal to fixed-gear bikes, but every objective argument that I've seen for them is hilariously weak.

have you ever ridden one?
posted by nathancaswell at 1:39 PM on December 28, 2010


Oh, please. Put some knobbies on there, and run 'em at about 35 PSI, you frikken posers. I like how they call 1/2 inch of slush "snow".
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:40 PM on December 28, 2010


Slippery surface? You can rotate your wheels backward! It's like moonwalking, but on a sweet bike!

if you were in a car, flying towards a cliff on a slippery surface and could have either

a) neutral with only a brake pedal
b) reverse with only an accelerator

which would you pick?
posted by nathancaswell at 1:45 PM on December 28, 2010


No, they don't.

Than rim brakes? Yes, they do.


I've heard of you! You're the guy who has the reflexes of a precognitive, the thighs of Chris Hoy, and bionic knees! Your talents are wasted here!

For the rest of us mere mortals, there is no way on this planet that one locked up, skidding, or even "moonwaking" rear wheel provides better braking performance in the snow/wet than 2 properly adjusted rim brakes. From my personal firsthand experience, and in terms of pure stopping distance, this is a simple fact, one that I demonstrate every day since I put brakes and wheels with properly machined brake tracks on my former fixie. If it's your personal preference that you choose to ride around without brakes, fine, go nuts. But brakes work better, period.
posted by the painkiller at 1:47 PM on December 28, 2010


Yeah, cute hack, but blech, changing a tire with this...

Two minutes with a large nail clipper would have all of them off. Yeah, it's an extra step, but as someone who uses zip-ties instead of locks in areas I want to keep smart, determined birds out of, I can attest to the easily-temporary nature of them.
posted by quin at 1:47 PM on December 28, 2010


I finally got studded tires for my mountain bike (V brakes, no disc brakes) this year, right after Toronto got a reasonable amount of snow, and they seem to handle all right on the last bits of rutted ice I rode over after finally getting the beasts on. But I'm definitely slower on these 1.9" studs than the 1.4" slicks I was using all year. And now that we have NO snow on the roads at all, I'll be taking my Craigslist hybrid out instead so I can actually get some of my summer speed back.
posted by maudlin at 1:51 PM on December 28, 2010


Pish-tosh. Buy a box of 1/2" Philips screws and make your own snowtires.

It probably costs as much as the number of zip ties you'll need to wrap your wheels.
posted by ardgedee at 1:52 PM on December 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


have you ever ridden [a fixed gear]?

I ride one about half the time. Yeah, I find the arguments in favor of them almost always pitifully weak. It's surprising how infrequent my argument gets mentioned: I just like riding fixed.

Regarding changing a tire with zip ties, sure it will be a hassle. But then again, fixing any flat in the snow is going to be a hassle.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:54 PM on December 28, 2010


if you were in a car, flying towards a cliff on a slippery surface and could have either

a) neutral with only a brake pedal
b) reverse with only an accelerator

which would you pick?


It seems the ability to pump the brakes and even skid (what you would have under scenario a) would beat out the ability to skid (what you would have under scenario b).

Stopping really relies on traction. Skidding is loss of traction.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:58 PM on December 28, 2010


Whatever people want to do is fine by me. When I get on an uphill-bound bus and see a fixie with no brakes and no pedal clips on the bike rack (since, hey, how else do you get your fixie up a fucking hill?), I picture the ensuing descent where the rider's feet slip and they plow into a guard rail at 35 mph. All that's left is a pile of skinny jeans, oversized red glasses, and anodized white aluminum.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:59 PM on December 28, 2010


As for the freewheel argument presented by the fixie crowd, it's a complete load. I've broken 2 frames, 3 forks, one crank , a couple of bottom brackets, and 1/2 dozen front and rear wheels, along with an equal number of rear derailleurs; and precisely zero free-wheels.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:06 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


have you ever ridden one?

I assume you have, and are therefore familiar with the arguments in favor of them. This isn't one.
posted by norm at 2:07 PM on December 28, 2010


if you were in a car, flying towards a cliff on a slippery surface and could have either

a) neutral with only a brake pedal
b) reverse with only an accelerator

which would you pick?


Maybe there's a corner case or two where b) is a better choice, but given the fact that cars have pretty much always come with a brake pedal instead of a reverse+redline pedal, I'm going to say that solution a) is probably the better one for the vast majority of real-life situations you're likely to encounter. At the very least (as far as cars are concerned, we're veering into apples vs. oranges territory here) it's the solution that has withstood many many many tests over the past century or so. I'll grant you that b) might be more fun though (can I have a J-turn+redline pedal instead?), but I doubt it would be as effective.
posted by the painkiller at 2:14 PM on December 28, 2010


fixed bikes stop better in the rain/snow anyway...

Come on.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:15 PM on December 28, 2010


if you were in a car, flying towards a cliff on a slippery surface and could have either

a) neutral with only a brake pedal
b) reverse with only an accelerator

which would you pick?

If your car had brakes, it probably wouldn't be flying toward the brink of a cliff to begin with....
posted by schmod at 2:20 PM on December 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Single speed freewheels (even multi speed freewheels), while they do have more parts than a fixed cog, simply don't break with any more frequency.

Freewheels wear out, and slip, and seize up. Don't get me wrong--freewheels are for the most part very reliable components, and they don't break often (and the teeth will probably wear out before the pawls do). But to say that they're just as reliable as a fixed cog, well, I must respectfully disagree.
posted by box at 2:23 PM on December 28, 2010


I've found fixed cogs do things like strip hub threads more often that freewheels of any kind fail.

To say freewheels are any less reliable than a fixed cog is an academic exercise. Because in real world use, they are not.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:32 PM on December 28, 2010


I'll comment on the zip tie on the tire thing, as this post was originally for:

Riding your bike will quickly break the zip ties, leaving you no better off than before, wasting zip ties and littering plastic everywhere.

Don't do it.
posted by alex_skazat at 2:43 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


My hack was to move someplace where it doesn't snow.
posted by Zed at 4:37 PM on December 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Taking the crappy beater out into the snow and lowering your tire pressure to low, low levels will give you much better handling in packed snow, and you won't need to worry about leaving detritus around you like some Mt. Everest adventurer person.
posted by tmt at 4:47 PM on December 28, 2010


I commute 60-ish miles a week on a fixie. In terms of freewheel vs. fixed, one of the arguments I've seen for fixed is more feel for when the rear wheel is at or near the limit of adhesion, though I have to admit I'm not a good enough rider to really tell the difference. I like fixed because I like the overall feel - there's a sense (especially when I get the chain tension just right) of connectedness to the bike that in my mind equals… precision, for lack of a better word. A sense of the bike as a perfectly engineered extension of myself (in the same way that any excessive noise from lack of lubrication or an out-of-adjustment drivetrain drives me batty) - I agree with 2N2222, the best reason I find for riding a fixie is I love it.

And those of you riding fixed without brakes? Stupid. Even if you have, as the painkiller mocks: "the reflexes of a precognitive, the thighs of Chris Hoy, and bionic knees!", throw or break a chain and your choices are reduced to deciding what solid object you'd like to crash into (assuming the remnants of your chain don't lock the rear wheel and decide for you).
posted by jalexei at 4:47 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


jalexei: Though off-topic as that is, I agree completely. One foot came unclipped whilst I was bombing a big giant hill. No helmet and no brakes culminated in my ramming a curb at high speed and destroying my frame (though my bulletproof wheels barely got a scratch) and breaking my collar bone and giving me a pretty solid concussion. Luck only gets you so far, and I was pretty fucking lucky that when I went over the handlebars I did a somersault into the pile of rocks instead of going face-first. Creeps me out just thinking about it.
posted by tmt at 4:51 PM on December 28, 2010


if you were in a car, flying towards a cliff on a slippery surface and could have either a) neutral with only a brake pedal b) reverse with only an accelerator which would you pick?

If you're on ice who cares? You're going off the cliff either way.

The zip tie thing is cute but the real issue here is people screwing up perfectly good skiing trails with their bikes.
posted by fshgrl at 5:10 PM on December 28, 2010


So far my primary winter biking solution is after the first day I slip on ice, I take the bus for the rest of the season even tho it means leaving 30 minutes earlier for work.
posted by MrBobaFett at 5:12 PM on December 28, 2010


I ride in far NE Oregon, at about 3900 ft. We have had everything this year from freezing fog, to rain on top of 3 inches of ice, to packed snow. The roads here are often not plowed, just driven over until they pack. It thaws in the day time, and at night freezes back into a nice rutted mess. The weather changes constantly, and you often never know what it will be like when you get up in the morning. If you are going to move on a bike here safely after the 1st of November, you will need something other than plain tires.

I haven't seen the zip tie thing up here, but I do have a friend who spent several hours making his own tire cables for his disk-equipped mountain bike. He said the parts cost him about 100.00. I went to the local shop and had them order me a set of Hakkapellita 240's. I get around better than he does, smoother. The alley behind my place runs east to west, gets no sun to speak of, and by this time every year, is barely passable on foot with Yaktraks. I can ride up and down it without really being careful at all. If I get into something loose and slushy, all I do is pedal a little harder and steer through the skid. Frozen ruts don't seem to cause me any trouble at all. I swear by these tires. Best 160.00 I ever spent. I'll take them off each spring and go back to slicks, and if I am careful I should get a few years out of them.
posted by cybrcamper at 8:06 PM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is me wishing I had disk brakes
posted by Blasdelb at 9:41 PM on December 28, 2010


Freewheels wear out, and slip, and seize up. Don't get me wrong--freewheels are for the most part very reliable components, and they don't break often (and the teeth will probably wear out before the pawls do). But to say that they're just as reliable as a fixed cog, well, I must respectfully disagree.
posted by box

So, now that you've demolished this excuse for fixed-hub use all on your own, please explain what advantage is gained from knowing that, "in theory", some rider, somewhere, might, some day, have a problem with their freewheel?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:26 AM on December 29, 2010


"in practice" the freewheel on my fancy Paul hub just got completely trashed or frozen stiff or something. Not that this will make me put on a fixie hub but still...
posted by uandt at 1:33 AM on December 29, 2010


Your hub died?! OMG! I better go disconnect the brakes on my bike then!
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:39 AM on December 29, 2010


oh hai.
posted by fixedgear at 8:32 AM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older An oldie, but a goodie: Michael Lewis goes to Colu...  |  "Sticks and Stones."... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments