Every cyclist in Boise knows about “goatheads”, also called puncture-vine, an aggressive invasive weed with an abundance of sinister seeds sporting sharp spines on all sides like a mini medieval mace. There’s even a zany weekend long festival in downtown Boise dedicated to Goatheads. Goatheads thrive in disturbed soil in arid conditions and as such are abundant throughout the Treasure Valley – especially in and around the canals and in vacant lots.
If you’re a biker, chances are excellent that you’ve been a victim of flat tire by goathead – it’s just what happens here in Boise. But don’t give away your bike just yet. Read on for solutions to reduce the frequency and even completely eliminate flats.
You heard that right. Slime is a tire sealant to be used inside bicycle tubes. It’s green of course. The premise is when a puncture occurs the air rushes out of the tube and the slime gets sucked in, sealing the hole. Slime lasts about a year before it dries up, so you’ll need to add more to keep it effective. Slime is available in bottles and pre-filled tubes for the DIYer, but your local shop (Spokey Joe’s Bikes & Gear!) can take care of the service for you.
Pros: Inexpensive, easy to install. Moderately effective in preventing punctures.
Cons: Will only seal small punctures. Not so beneficial when you run into a patch of 50 goatheads.
Brands such as Mr. Tuffy and Rhinodillos offer liners in many widths to accommodate most tire sizes. The puncture-proof liner is installed between the tube and the tire to deflect damage to the tube. This option is even more effective when combined with slime.
Pros: Inexpensive, very effective in preventing tread punctures.
Cons: Doesn’t protect from side-wall punctures. Challenging to install. May cause pinch flats from the liner bunching up if ridden with too low pressure.
Puncture Resistant Tires
These tires sport an extra thickness of rubber or some other material such as Kevlar along the tread to create a layer of protection from thorns and other detritus. There are quite a few options out there and they’re all more expensive than standard tires – frequently about double the cost of a similar standard tire. Note: these are not puncture proof as many people seem to think. Some are more effective than others.
Pros: No liners or messy sealants. Moderate to highly effective in preventing tread punctures.
Cons: Expensive, doesn’t necessarily protect from side-wall punctures. Effectiveness is widely variable.
Lightweight foam rubber inserts that protect both the tread and sidewall from puncture. At Spokey Joe’s we love the Tannus brand which is light weight, effective and provides a comfortable ride. The insert sits between the tire and tube and you’ll need to size down one tube size to compensate for the girth of the liner.
Pros: Highly effective in eliminating both tread and sidewall flats. Comfortable ride.
Cons: Expensive, challenging to install, requires smaller tube size.
If you’re finally ready to spend more time on your bike and less time changing flats, come and see us at Spokey Joe’s Bikes & Gear and we can determine the best solution to eliminate flat bicycle tires from your life.
Solid tires do not have tubes so they are pretty much the only 100% guarantee against flats. That being said there are a lot of trade-offs to going solid, so you’ll need to weigh the options. Once again, Tannus is our go to brand. They make an airless tire for many tire sizes with a width of up to 1.75”.
Pros: 100% effective in eliminating flats.
Cons: Most expensive. Difficult to install. Limited tire size and tread options. Can’t adjust air pressure so the ride feel may be harsher than standard pneumatic tires.
Going tubeless is a popular option for mid to high end mountain bikes and some road bikes. Set up requires tubeless compatible rims and tires, a special tape job on the rim, and a tubeless sealant such as Stan’s No Tubes latex sealant. When the tire is punctured, as the air flows out the sealant clogs the hole to seal it back up.
Pros: Very effective at sealing smaller diameter punctures.
Cons: Option is only compatible on higher end equipment. More labor intensive to maintain than non-tubeless tires. Initial set up cost is moderate, but maintenance cost is low.
For more information on the plant behind the mayhem (Tribulus terrestris), check out this informative article from the Idaho Botanical Garden.