Tip of the day: How to easily remove bike zip ties without scratching your bike

Perhaps it’s just me, but I find removing bike accessories secured by zip ties to be fraught with ways to scratch up that perfect paint job on your bike.  And, given there’s a constant flow of new accessories to secure to my bike for testing, there seems to be a constant flow of things to remove.

The challenge with removing zip ties is getting close enough to the bike frame with your weapon of choice to snip it off.  Sure, you can use scissors, but typically the blade will have to slide under the zip tie – potentially (and usually) scratching your frame.  And kid safe scissors that don’t scratch aren’t usually small enough to fit under the tightened zip tie.

Thus, my method: A simple pair of nail clippers.  This allows you to easily snip either the little piece where the zip tie comes together, or simply to snip the entire zip tie without touching the frame.


Now, a word to the guys out there: I know it may be tempting to steal the nail clippers from your girlfriend or wife.  Don’t.  Even if you plan to put it back before they even know it’s gone.  Just don’t.  Somehow, they know.  And then, it’s all over: “You were using my nail clippers on your bike!”.  Further, even if you go to the Dollar Store and get your own pair – be sure to label them permanently as yours. Otherwise, they still somehow become hers.  Consider a permanent marker or something.  Remember my past tip on separation of womanly items and how to label?  Just giving some friendly advice…


Of course, in an ideal world more companies would use the industrial strength rubber band system.  We started seeing this on the Garmin Edge series a few years back with the Edge 500, but now it’s semi-commonplace with many bike accessories across a number of brands and companies.

With that – go forth and remove accessories without scratching your bikes.  Have a great weekend all, and thanks for reading!

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  1. This is similar to what I did when they started warning us not to put locks on checked baggage or it *could* be destroyed. I started securing them with zip ties and put a pair of beat-up old clippers in an exterior pocket. That way if they cut the zip tie, it didn’t matter – and I’d have the clippers to open them if they hadn’t.

    After cutting enough zip ties, they’ll become a little beat up and won’t be much good for precision cutting fingernails anyhow.

    • C Weere

      That is destructive method of dealing with a cable tie.
      Insert the tip of a 2mm screwdriver into the locking mech, lever up the locking pin that prevents the strap from coming out and release the tie. SImple, takes a couple of seconds and you can reuse the tie and no possibility of damage to the item held by the tie.
      No need for cutters, clippers, special tools,

  2. Ian

    Good tip, I can’t remember using anything else. I actually use the big-ass ones (I think they are toenail clippers) since they are a bit sturdier and you get tons of cutting power.

  3. hahaha i like your the one regarding the nail clipper that somehow still become the wife’s

  4. Cable cutters (if available) also work well.
    link to hyperline.com

  5. I cut a lot more cable ties for work than on my bike and I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of that…

  6. Any good tips on keeping the wife from using my Razor to shave her legs and armpits. I have to hide mine to keep it from being dull as a butter knife.

  7. excellent relationship advice. I see a new blog “Dear Ray”

  8. Funny, when the title of this post came up on my news feed I excitedly clicked the link thinking “oooh, you mean there is something better than nail clippers?” Good tip.

  9. @bmatt: ever tried using a straight razor?

  10. Steve H

    Ray, they make a tool to remove cable ties. I work in the electronics systems area, and we are constantly bundling and unbundling cables & wires and have found these cutters are the only tool that will remove the tie without damaging the wire insulation behind it. The tool has a couple of thin hooks that you slide behind the cable tie, then squeeze the handles closed to cut the tie. They aren’t that expensive either, < $20.
    link to techtoolsupply.com

  11. bmatt – you have to be sneaky. I have two razor cartridges on the go. One is the old beat up one that I leave on the razor out in plain sight. When it’s time for me to shave, I swap it for one in the case, then swap it back after. Admittedly, timing can be tricky.

  12. G M

    @bmatt–try growing a beard, worked for me!

  13. As you can see, we depend on China… 😉

  14. inv

    Looks like you are the last one, who do not know about this tool :)

  15. Oh, I know well about cable tie cutters (I use them all the time at work)…but, those are $20…a nail clipper is usually a dollar ($1). :)

  16. Narrow cuticle clippers works even better

  17. Paul

    With a small flat screwdriver and a little patience it’s usually possible to unlock the zip tie. Driver head has to be small enough to fit into the zip tie lock block then gently push between the locking pin and the locked end. Once the driver head drops in, the locking pin disengages and the zip tie slides off Much safer than cutting and the zip tie is re-usable. This might sound like a lot of effort but there’s a lot of plastic junk in this world and there are probably a few hundred million zip ties that get used once then discarded.

  18. Ham-planet

    Alternatively, use re-usable zip-ties.

  19. KP

    If you want to stay well away from your paint, cut through the head to release the pawl. Of course, you’ll probably need something that opens further than nail clippers.

  20. Jan

    I wish I had seen this earlier…