Monday, July 2, 2018

Redundancy and Hope

Throughout much of the west goatheads can be a problem.

Though technically Goathead, also called Puncture Vine, is the common name of a broadleafed plant, when talking about goatheads most people are referring to the burrs the plant creates,  (Usually less than kindly!)which, as you can see, look a whole lot like a goat's head.

Unlike the round burrs with fragile, needle-like stickers produced by the imaginatively named burr-weed that many people are used to, especially non-westerners, goatheads have fewer stickers per pod but the ones they do have are shaped like rose-thorns and are just as tough.

While having a goathead in the padding of your pack’s waist-belt, (first photo!) is bad enough, the more serious issue comes about when mixing goatheads and bicycle tires.

Having a good slug of slime in the tube helps, but goathead thorns sometimes break off of the burr and stay in the tire, gnawing at the tube like an angry Tasmanian Devil. And slime really only works on small holes, the smaller the better.

Having used up too many patches and needing to replace at least one of my tubes anyway, I decided to do what security firms call 'layer the defenses'.

Rather than rely solely on new tubes and a fresh batch of slime I decided to add redundancy to the mix by throwing in an armored layer of tire-liner as well. Supposedly these laminated liners, in addition to a soft layer to “protect and cushion” the tube, also have a hard layer that resists sharp things poking through. One even claims to grind thorns into harmless dust.

The downside is that they add weight to the tire. But considering the 61 pound all-up weight of the Quad-B when loaded for serious trail mode, the minor weight of a pair of liners didn’t really concern me.

This time, rather than using the usual green slime, I picked up a couple bottles of stuff sold in a bike shop and “trusted by pro’s worldwide”. It cost about the same as the green stuff so why not. (The kid also tried to sell me a $1000 bike. It was sweet, and I’m sure it would beat the hell out of the Quad-B, but not going to happen. . .)

Despite a barn full of tools, as well as another bag of tools in The Van, I also figured now would be a good time to use nothing but the little tool-kit I carry under the seat of the Quad-B just to make sure I could. (The Schrader valve wrench that also goes in the tool kit didn’t make it into the photo because the photographer is crap at his craft. I guess that's what happens when you allow nepotism to run rampant.)

The first step was to grab a wad of cotton-balls and drag them through the interior of the tire. Any undiscovered thorns would snag the cotton then I could remove them with pliers (Oh crap. Not in the tool kit!)

The next step was to uncoil the tire liner and tuck it into the – well – tire. For my 29” 2.10 tires the purple liner is the right size.

Because the ends of the installed liner overlap and the instructions specifically say do not cut to length, I marked the center of the overlap so I could place the tube’s valve-stem on the opposite side in an attempt to somewhat balance the tire. Though at the sluggish speeds I get up to it really doesn’t make any difference.

The next step was to pull the valve-stem on one of my new tubes, shake the crap out of a bottle of Stan’s Tire Sealer (It says no-tube there but elsewhere on the bottle it says works great in tubes as well) and squeeze the whole bottle into the tube.

After replacing the valve-stem and shooting a couple pounds of air into the tube to give it shape, I tucked the tube into the tire then checked to make sure the tire-liner was sitting in the right place between tube and tire-tread all the way around.

Making sure the tire was facing in the proper direction,

 I finished mounting the tire to the rim and aired it up to 40 pounds. Though at my skill-level I pretty much doubt that I would notice if the slight difference in the directional tread was facing the wrong way

Done with the front tire all I had to do now was rinse and repeat on the rear tire, except that once I had it off the bike I realized that the axle wasn’t turning all that freely, (Is it supposed to make that crunchy noise?!) and I need every bit of help I can get when it comes to the Quad-B moving down the trail! (I also think the axle has a slight bend in it but I’ll just have to live with that.)

The one side, the left side, was easy. Just loosen things up, chase down the balls that fell out, flush the worst of the crap out of the race with a little solvent, tuck all the little balls back where they belong, gluing them in place with a dab of grease, and stuff in some more fresh grease.

Because I don’t have the tools to remove the gear-cluster, the other side was a little more difficult.

No balls fell out of that side but the only way I could get fresh grease in there after flushing the gunk out was to coax it in a little glob at a time with the end of a bamboo skewer.

After putting everything back together again (I briefly considered leaving the kick-stand off to counteract the added weight of the tire-liners but the thought of constantly laying down and picking back up the 36 pound bike with 25 pound pack strapped to the rack nixed that idea) I took a few laps around the property.

Nothing fell off so far, so that's good, and if it wasn't rolling a little more freely, at least it wasn't rolling any worse than before, but only time and a few trails will tell if this setup works any better against goadheads.



  1. You do good work. I have to wonder how all of that would work on a hound paw, if they were to step on a 'goathead' ... bicycle maintenance is always fun.

    1. We once had a little fu-fu dog visit us here at the property and not 15 seconds after her owner put her down she was completely incapacitated by burrs. Since goatheads are worse, in the puncture and penetrate department, I would think most dogs would benefit from booties.

      The thorny little buggers seem to be most prevalent in occasionally mowed areas, such as the very trails dogs, and fools on bikes, are prone to wander.

  2. My off road bike riding got a lot easier when I started using street tread instead of knobbys. I also went to 5x thick tread with the slime in them. My flats went to about 10% of what they had been. Washington state is goathead capitol of the USA and that is where I learned the street tread trick. I found knobbys to only be good on larger rocks like boulder size. For normal rail trails and well used trails the street tread worked much better. Take a look at the Hiawatha Trail in Montana/ Idaho for a great riding trail.

    1. As you can see from the photos, a few more miles on them and my knobbys will be slicks anyway. But to be honest, after another bout of (flat-less thank you very much!) rails-to-trails riding up in Illinois recently (proper post will come along eventually) I'm currently eyeing bikes that might fit my body and riding style a little better so am loath to spend any money on the Quad-B right now.

      I have the Hiawatha Trail on my list but as long as I am making annual reunion trips to Michigan (Mom loves these reunions but at 85 there's no telling which one will be her last so it's hard to justify skipping one) getting as far as Montana/Idaho is seriously stretching the travel budget so it may be a while yet.