Sunday, January 4, 2015

Stainless Steel Cable Ties for Bicycle Usage Part 1

Tools for this investigation: steel cable ties, multitool pliers, diagonal cutters. Greenlite tool roll for contrast.

I don't think I've ever heard of stainless steel cable ties until this morning. I'm sure they've been around a long time, and that people who use them for exhausts and actual maintenance tasks are well aware of them, but I had never come across them before, at least not in a way that they registered. But today, while searching for some wider-than-normal "heavy duty" cable ties to fix up my Carradice Bagman rack, I happened to see some photos of stainless steel ones, which naturally infected me with an irresistible urge to try some out.

Close up of the fastening end

I quickly learned that for $6 minus a 20% off coupon plus a quick trip to my neighborhood Harbor Freight store, a back of 25 12" long stainless steel cable ties could be mine. The first question I had was, how do they hold tight? And the second one was, could I tighten and cut them with the multitool that I always carry in my tool roll?

The answer to the first question, I found, is that there's a ball bearing entrapped inside that fastening head which forms a happy little friction and pressure jam alliance with the band as you pull it tight. It says it has 115 lbs working load, and I'd guess that would be the band itself, since that jammed-up ball seems very stubbornly stuck once the band is tightened. Apparently, there's also an alternate type that fastens differently. If I get hold of some of those, I'll include them in part 2 of this topic.

To try them out, I thought I would simulate the field repair I did on my old rear rack when one of the welds broke loose. When it broke during a commute, I wrapped two plastic cable ties around, pulled them tight as I could with the multitool, and they held for a long time. Could I do the same with steel ties?

Simulated field repair of broken rack weld with stainless steel cable ties

The good news is, tightening the straps with the multitool using a method similar to the one shown in this helpful youtube video worked great. You just use a needle nose to wind up the tail end of the band underneath, and tighten it against the fastening end.

The sort of bad news is, cutting the steel with the multitool pliers did not work so well. First try, rather than cutting the steel band, it sort of bent in between the pliers and jammed them shut. Since they bend easily for folding in the opening direction, there was not an easy way to unjam them. I ended up using another needle nose pliers to pry the multitool pliers open, which was not ideal. Out on the road, I think I could have worked them open, but no use banging my knuckles at home when another pliers did the job. The loose end of the cable tie seems to be capable of being wound around something or itself, too, so in the event of a field repair, the unused length doesn't seem like a big deal. It's very flexible, bendable stuff.

Stainless steel pliers jammer upper

So, next question, would the 7" diagonal cutters do the job? Yes! They worked well, with low to moderate effort, cutting right through. Not that I really want to add a 7" diagonal cutters to the tool roll.

These stainless cable ties seem light, strong, and potentially useful in many different scenarios. I'm going to throw some into the bag for future use, and will let you know if/when they come in handy. 

Ever used them for a bicycle, or something else? Perhaps what they're actually intended for?


  1. They also make steel Velcro. We used some to help hold engine insulation blankets on an unspecified aircraft.

    1. Your comment led me to this description: Hi-Garde® Hook and Loop fasteners are corrosion resistant and rated up to 800⁰F). Constructed of 100% Stainless Steel yards and certified to FAR 25.853 and Mil-Spec AA55126 Rev. B. Available only in 1” Steel Grey, it can be attached by sewing, adhesive bonding or spot welding.
      • Low Minimum Quantity: Just 1 reel (75 yards)
      • Low Price Match Guarantee!
      Hi-Garde® Hook Data Sheet
      Hi-Garde® Loop Data Sheet

    2. Unfortunately, unless you NEED the temperature resistance, cloth Velcro is stronger. We used the steel because it was hot in those engine bays.

    3. I wonder if Phoenix just above the pavement in the summertime bicycle temperature would put me close to the range where I need the steel velcro.

  2. I like Harbor Freight too. I use their portable work lights as bike lights and luck out since I hold out for the free no purchase required coupons of that item and any other ones that look good too.

    1. I love hanging out there on a Saturday morning and seeing someone go in for the first time. Sometimes, it's like a kid in a candy store. I saw one guy go totally nuts as he filled up two carts during one of the sidewalk sales.


Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.