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DIY Weekend: Zippy zip-tie bike tire snow chains

To get through a recent snow storm in Seattle, Fritz Rice used zip ties to emulate snow chains on his bike. And it worked.

Ha ha, that looks... OK, that's actually pretty badass. Dutch Bike Co.

There's this notion that it never snows in Seattle. Let me tell you, it does. And the snow in Seattle can be especially treacherous, due to a combination of steep hills, a lack of enough snowplows, and the fact that the snow thaws and refreezes, effectively locking the city under a 2-inch thick sheet of super-slick ice. It can get dangerous.

It's quick and cheap. Dutch Bike Co.

Seattle, like most major cities in the U.S., has a thriving bike community, despite the hills, but the snow renders most non-major streets unrideable for many bikers. So Fritz Rice, who works at Dutch Bike Co., a shop in the Ballard neighborhood, employed a novel way of getting around.

The bike shop doesn't stock studded tires because it really doesn't snow enough in Seattle to warrant them; when it does snow, it's intense and brief, like my relationships. So to get around, Rice installed 62 zip ties (the kind that come 35 to a pack at any drug store) on the rims of his favorite bike. They acted the same way snow chains do, allowing an almost tank-tread-like purchase in the ice and snow.

He told me the first few rides popped a few of the ties. The two packs gave him 70 total, but he only needed 62, so he had some room for error. The trick is to get the tension of the tie to the wheel just right with a little trial and error. Once it's dialed in, it works fine. Sure, it looks kind of silly, but it seems to work. Rice was able to ride, corner, and even brake without slipping into cars.

Rice stressed that he didn't invent this method--he'd seen some fix hipsters employing the same DIY method last year. But he documented it on Dutch Bike's blog, and we're hoping it makes the rounds so people can use it when snow falls where they are.

I wondered about possible damage to the tires or frame, but Rice told me that when the snow melted and he clipped off the ties there was no damage to either. The trick, he said, is taking care not to cut a chunk out of your tires when clipping the ties off.

It's possible this hack has been known to bike culture for a while, but it's news to this geek, and I'm guessing to most of you. Who else has a neat DIY bike (or other) hack they'd like to share? Go ahead and e-mail us at crave at cnet dot com with DIY Weekend in the subject line. We'd love to see what you've got.

snow tires
When clipping the ties off, the trick is not to take a chunk of your tires out, too. Dutch Bike Co.