Goatheads: A Thorn in Every Biker’s Ride
Date Posted: May 9th, 2018
For cyclists in the Western United States, the dreaded goathead season has begun. From late spring until around October, goatheads are one of the leading causes of bicycle flat tires on trails and roadways.
Also known as “puncture vine,” or the more ominous “Devil’s thorn,” goathead vines produce little burs or thumbtacks with horns that are sharp enough to puncture tires found on bicycles and wheelbarrows. The worst goathead infestations are found in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Texas.
You might be thinking, “How bad can these little burs really be?” Goathead infestations became so terrible in one town that they issued a bounty for the plant’s arrest. In June 2014, the town of Irrigon, Oregon announced it would pay a bounty of one dollar for each large trash bag of puncture vine that was collected.
So how can you survive a bicycle ride in goathead country? The best solution is to be prepared:
No. 1: Use tire sealant
Bicycle tire sealant (whether for tubes or tubeless tires) can be a life-saver in goathead country. Slime’s prevent and repair tire sealant is designed to stop 1/8 inch punctures for up to 2 years! The best part? It works over and over, regardless of how many thorns you come into contact with.
Time and again, we hear stores from riders in areas like New Mexico who come home from a ride with all these little green spots on their tires where the sealant plugged multiple goathead punctures. Often times, the cyclists never even noticed that they had all those punctures!
No. 2: Install a tire liner
Bicycle tire liners are thick, but lightweight, protectors that provide a physical barrier for your tube, deflecting nails, glass, thorns and other debris to prevent flats. Tire liners install easily between the tube and tire to offer powerful puncture protection.
Many cyclists in goathead country install these liners as additional support when out on the trail.
No. 3: Bring extra air
Goathead thorns can cause your tires to lose a small amount of air every time they puncture your tire. On a long ride, this can slowly decrease the overall pressure of your bicycle tire. But that is an easy fix with a compact CO2 inflation device in your bike bag.
CO2 inflator heads inject carbon dioxide gas (via CO2 cartridges) through your bicycle tire valve stem and into your tire. Offered with a variety of technologies, including push-to-inflate, twist-to-inflate and trigger controlled, CO2 inflators are portable, time-saving and require little effort to get back to full inflation.
For cyclists in Western America, goatheads are an unfortunate part of going for a ride. But if you prepare your tires correctly, you can enjoy miles of roads and trails with no fear of flats. Got any stories or pictures of your bicycle tires after a goathead run-in? Post them in the comments below!