Dealing with Goatheads – How to Avoid Flat Bike Tires

Tips for preventing goathead punctures in your bike tires

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Goathead in a bike tire

How to prevent goathead flatsI was on a streak of eight years. Eight years without a flat tire.

Until yesterday, when I heard the clack, clack, clack of goathead on asphalt. I pulled over, and checked on the state of my tire–one small spike-laden weed wedged into the top of the right sidewall. It didn’t look deep enough to have puntured the tube, so I pulled it out.

HISSSSSSSSSSS. It was totes deep enough.

I quickly shoved the goathead back in the hole–remembering that I had been in such a hurry to get on the road that I’d forgotten to put my flat-fixing kit in my pocket. Becasue hey, I haven’t needed this kit in 8 years. One day without it wouldn’t make any difference, right?

So I did what any desperate cyclist would do miles from home without a patch kit or tube or air. I prayed that the goathead would hold until I got to my friend’s house.

It actually did. And it got me to thinking, is it a good idea to just leave those thorns in? Well, the answer is kind of yes. But only in the extreme situation in which I found myself. The goathead sealed the hole for a while. I’m not thanking the goathead for anything. This was all its fault.

But how do you avoid gettinig goathead flats to begin with? Well here are some tips to keep you rolling flat-free.

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1. Try Out Tubeless

Because tubeless tires run with sealant inherently, they are generally more immune to puncture flats–the sealant will often seal up the hole and keep you rolling with minimal loss in air pressure.

If you’re not sure what a tubeless tire is, no worries at all: here’s an article that tells you all about tubeless tires.

When I ride tubeless, I like Stan’s NoTubes. Easy to use and it works really well.

2. Grab Some GatorSkins

You can also try some super tough tires to get you rolling. I’ve found that GatorSkins keep you flat-free on a number of different terrains without sacrificing a whole lot of ride quality. I’m sure other types of tough-lined tires work just as well, but I’ve only had experience with the still supple GatorSkins. This might also be a good option if you tend to ride on the highway with glass strewn about.

3. Line It

Since I’ve never had much to say about sealant-filled tubes and such, my final recommendation is to grab a tire liner like Mr. Tuffy’s (just make sure you’re getting the right size for your tire). These can seriously reduce your risk of flats by adding a layer of puncture-proof material between tube and tire. But I’d still leave this as something of a last resort–tire liners will definitely reduce your ride quality. But, a rough ride is better than constant flatting, amiright?

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So those are my tips. What are your favorite flat-prevention ideas?

About Bek 301 Articles
SLO Cyclist's former chief editor and recovering road snob, Bek made sure everything ran smoothly around here. She was also the one who reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously--unless it involves black socks. Black socks are always serious.

1 Comment

  1. I live in the Bay Area, the Oakland Hills to be exact. The roads here are rough and poorly maintained, but on the plus side, car traffic is light and the shoulders are well marked and adequately wide. Because they’re never swept, the shoulders accumulate broken glass (ground by cars into minute shards) and, in season, goathead thorns. On at least half my rides I’ll encounter a rider fixing a puncture. Among the ones I talk with, the great majority are using lightweight high-performance clinchers.

    For me, a flat spoils the rhythm of my ride. I hate flats. I’ve tried the spectrum of tires from puncture-resistant performance brands to Continental’s Four Seasons, and over two decades of year-round riding, I’ve settled on Conti’s Gatorskins. They’re heavy and I suppose have more rolling resistance than performance tires, but then it’s hard to top your Strava segment’s best time when you’re in the middle of a tube swap and can’t find your second tire iron.

    For me, tire selection is a no brainer. All my bikes wear Gatorskins, even my 15 lb. Tarmac. They handle well, give good grip in rain or dry, and meet my performance needs, (I’m what you’d call a “senior sport rider.”) And they almost never puncture.

    Case in point: Last fall I experienced a rear blowout ascending a hill on Skyline, the Oakland Hills’ ridge road a couple miles from my home. When I removed the tube I was puzzled to find it had split along the seam. What could have caused that? I checked the Gatorskin’s interior carefully and could detect no separation or sharp-object intrusion. The tire was in its second season and most of the tread was gone but from experience I knew it had plenty of miles left in it. Puzzled, I grabbed one of my two never-used Michelin tubes and installed it. My mini-pump will get up to only about 100 lb. of pressure on a good day, so imagine my surprise when as I was pumping like crazy the new tube exploded. I removed it and discovered that its seam too had separated.

    Then the penny dropped. I grabbed my second spare tube and yanked on it, one hand on each side of the seam. It pulled apart easily. My tubes were so old they were literally decaying. Can you think of better testimony for a flat-resistant tire?

    I had to call for a ride home. Over the next few days I replaced all my tubes. I still carry two spares with me, just because. Chances are, however, I won’t need them, even though I ride some of the most flat-inducing roads in the country. But still they come in handy. On more than one occasion I’ve given one of my spare tubes to a stranded rider whose “race level” clinchers had punctured twice in the same ride.

    So I second your recommendation for Gatorskins as a precaution against goatshead thorns. They’re not a panacea — I’ve experienced sidewall penetration, but only once, and I consider that incident to be an outlier. For those concerned about performance drawbacks, I recommend losing a couple of pounds.

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