Right after I moved from Golden to Denver as I was searching for a good commute I had a major problem with tribulus terrestris or as it is more commonly known around these parts: goatheads. AKA puncture vine.
Before moving to Colorado I had very few flats. In fact, there was only one instance where a flat left me with no option but to walk my bike.
But as I sought a direct and efficient route to work I began getting flats. There was one day at work I arrived with a firm tire and mid-day a co-worker noticed I was flat.
He was also a cyclist and he indicated I probably had a goathead. He turned the bike over, ran his fingers along the tire and found one. He explained that until I got the goathead out of the tire that I would continue to get flats. Made sense.
The pinnacle of my goathead woes occured on a day when I was riding back to Denver from work and heard two firecracker-like pops within a few seconds of each other as my tubes were popped by the offending barbs.
I pulled over as both tires went flat only to discover seven goatheads between both wheels.
I learned to patch tubes. I tried getting a tire liner only to have it rub through my tire where it overlapped. I bought carbon tires for $35.00 each. I also altered my route.
My co-worker had explained that goatheads are like caltrops, with a spine always pointing up. They are tough and sharp enough to go through most bike tires.
He said to avoid tufts of vegetation poking through the pavement or concrete that could catch goatheads blown along the ground by the wind, to ride in the well traveled portion of the bike paths where most of the goatheads would have already been picked up and if I kept getting them on one route to change routes.
He also suggested that it is possible to pick one up, have it break off in the tire, but not puncture the tube. And then later as the tube naturally loses air or if you hit a bump hard the remainder of the thorn can be driven on into the tube.
I believe getting the carbon tires and altering my route were the right combination. I have had very few flats since. My goathead experiences are few and far between these days. I also try to keep an eye out for them before I get a flat. If I see one in the tire I know I'm going to need to pull it out and possibly fix a flat.
The other day after Mandy and I returned from our ride with Lily we had picked up a couple in one of the bike trailer tires. By the time we got back home from picking Boone up at school the tire was flat.
I went out this morning to fix the tire so we could go ride today and I had no trouble figuring out what had happened.
They are nasty little buggers and while I hate picking them up, I have gotten so good at avoiding them and fixing flats that finding one now is almost a novelty. I will admit I'd rather find them at home after a ride than during.