While I was assembling a Santa Cruz Tallboy test bike recently, I questioned why we still use plastic zip ties to hold the cables and housing in place on bikes? Not that Zip-ties are bad, but I am tired of seeing them sprouting from every corner of the bike. The idea came to me that I could replace the plastic ties on my bike with aircraft safety wire. Having worked on airplanes for a few decades, I had the tools and the talent, so that's what I did. The result was a bit retro, but it looked pretty sharp, so I continued on and also safety wired my Pivot 5.75. The advantages of safety wire are that one size fits all and that It comes in 25-foot rolls or one-pound cans, so you'll never run out of the stuff. Of course, there is always the factor of NOT
owning a ubiquitous-looking bike - which counts for something.
Safety wire replaced plastic tie-wraps on Pinkbike's iCD test bike. The short loops are used to conceal the sharp ends of the wire. It is worth noting that the cut-ends of plastic Zip-ties can also be dangerously sharp.
Safety wire is normally used to keep bolts and parts from falling off of important things like aircraft engines or racing car suspensions, and it is a required application in many forms of motor competition. The wire is very pliable, which makes it easy to use and also helps it to resist fatigue failure. The special pliers that are used to twist and manipulate the wire are not necessary, but are extremely helpful. A professional safety wire tool costs nearly $100 USD, but cheap Chinese safety wire pliers that retail for 12 to 28 dollars at tool outlets
and online motorcycle stores
will do fine for cycling applications. A small roll of wire runs about $1.25, with a one-pound roll costing around 25 bucks
, so this Tech Tuesday is quite affordable.What you'll need:
• .032 or .041-inch stainless-steel safety wire
• Safety-wire pliers
• Small needle-nose pliers
• Safety glassesWords of caution
Cut wire can be sharp, so anytime you are working with it, you should treat the cut ends as if they were needles or knives. Clipping short strands of steel wire can send bits flying into your eyes or to unknown places where only your mom's new vacuum cleaner or your girlfriend's tender feet will find them. Work where you can easily find and dispose of the cast-off wires and bits, and use safety glasses at all times.
How To Safety Wire Cable Guides
Step One: How safety wire pliers operate. A sliding latch (left) along the center of the pliers engages the handle to lock the jaws. Squeezing the handles together while sliding the latch towards the rear of the pliers latches them, (middle) and squeezing the handles again releases the spring-loaded mech. Pull the knob at the end of the tool and a twisted rod spins the pliers to wind up the wire.
Step Two: Cut about eight inches of wire to make looping it through the guide easier. Feed two loops of wire through the guide and around the housing. Use two pliers and work the loops so they are snug against the housing and tightly spaced. Avoid crossing the wires - it looks better that way.
Step Three: Pull the wires together and swing them towards the inside of the bike. Latch the jaws of the tool over both wires about 3/4 inch (20mm) away from the guide. Release the tool while pulling the shuttle knob to twist the wire (right). Repeat until the wires are snugly wrapped around the housing. Don't overdo it though, about ten twists per inch seems right.
Step Four: Cut the twisted wire 3/4 to 5/8 inches (20 to 16mm) from the guide and, using the small needle-nose pliers, roll the twisted end into a nice looking 'pigtail' loop. Finally, ensure that the pigtail is lined up straight and that the sharp, cut-end of the loop is set flush against the wrapped wires.
Many frames have sets of two or three guides running parallel to each other, so you may want to group them together in one continuous length for a different effect. You can also use this technique to join hoses or housings at specific distances apart to route them cleanly in front of the handlebar, or where they pass to the rear suspension.
Double wrap the guide farthest from you and be sure to begin with enough wire. Next, pull the two wires tightly across to the next guide. Grasp the wires with the tool slightly farther away from the inside edge of the next guide to allow for twisting. Twist the wires until the first guide is snug and then double-wrap the second. Use pliers to snug up the loops towards the inside of the frame and then twist the second guide tight.
Clip the wires and then finish the job with a well-tucked pigtail.
Watch a how to use safety wire pliers video.
Safety wire used to tuck the cable in place on an XTR rear derailleur, and to locate Fox's iCD mode indicator on the shift-cable housing.