This Cycle Oregon we will be out in the great wilderness of Eastern Oregon. The views will be spectacular. Roads will be quiet. Company as always fantastic. There will also be plenty of goat-heads ready to eat your tires for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These tiny thorns are a-plenty in the wide open rural spaces in Oregon. They are waiting for you just off some of the paved trails we will be riding. There, in wait, to wreak havoc and misery on you by testing your mid-day flat repair skills over and over and over.
"Mmmm are those roadie tires I smell for lunch?"
The Goat-head (also called “Tribulus terrestris,” or “Puncture vine,”) is one nasty creation. It is not called a “puncture vine” for nothing. Its little thorns that protrude from its seedy mass (hence the name “goat-head” will go through just about every bike tire you can throw at it and then some. It particularly loves to suck the life out of thin unsuspecting roadie tires. These fragile tires will fall prey to the goat-head, being rapidly penetrated and subsequently deflated while you are traveling at 35 MPH - turning your rock hard 23 mm 700c into one flaccid mess really quick.
"35 MPH to Zero - brought to you by goat-head"
As we will be riding in the land of the goat-head, I have compiled a few tips to help ease the possible down time that these ‘lil nasties can bring upon you:
1. Get a tougher tire. Picking a tire appropriate for a ride like Cycle Oregon is important. You should have NEW tires (or relatively low mileage tires) on all your wheels upon arrival on day 0 that are durable for a 450 mile tour. Run a tire that is known for being more durable than some race type tires and you will likely experience less flats. If you don't want to fit brand new tires, do a REAL good inspection.
2. Pick a friendly tire. Ride tires that are easy to remove and mount from your rim that are as durable as possible. This is a balance act with rule #1. Make sure the tire you decide to run can come off the rim and go back on without bringing you to tears and destroying your fingers. I have had tight fit tires that were next to impossible to get on and off my rims even when sitting in my comfortable living room with a cold beer and the radio playing. They were bringing me to the brink of insanity as tire levers flew across the room breaking left and right. That is a tire you DO NOT want on my rims if you flat on Cycle Oregon when it's 98 degrees out. Or worse raining.
3. Don’t ride off the side of the road. This goes without saying, but at rest stops it can be congested and there is temptation to ride off the road a bit or wheel your bike through the weeds to find a parking space. Be careful doing this - as you might roll your bike through a goat-head suburb. They are in wait like camouflage soldiers of the plains. No amount of patches can save you then.
"Poor cyclist... you will never see me until it's too late..muhaha ha ha!"
4. Check your tires. Before you ride off from the ODS rest stop or that photo opportunity, give your tires a quick spin and visual inspection. Look for any freeloading hitch hikers that are getting fresh with your tires. One may go along for the ride, ready to make a more intimate penetration 1/4 mile down the road. This also applies to downhills. Before you rip down one, STOP at the crest and make sure you don’t have a thorn slowly embedding itself into your tire like a time bomb.
5. Inspect if attacked. If your tires do get attacked by a goat-head(s), take the time when you do the repair to check the tire at the penetration point for any lingering thorn. Sometimes the seed body will pop off, leaving only the pointy end there inside the tire carcass. Inspect inside and out, and then inspect again. If you don’t get it out - you will likely get another flat from the same thorn.
"Ohhhhh Noooooooooesss!" - Hope you brought patch kits (plural)
Taking care to check your tires, using careful parking strategies, fixing flats completely, and running new or newer tires known for good durability from the start of the ride will help minimize your goat-head woes and visits from the puncture fairy.