Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tires, Cycling, and the southwest.

Yesterday's flat was most likely caused by something called a "puncture vine" seed, also known as "Mexican sand bur." It's a noxious week that grows very well all over the place.

These pretty little vines put out little yellow flowers, and then they produce a small fruit. The fruit dries and produces four seeds known around here as "goatheads".

Goatheads have long, stiff thorns heading out in 2 directions, and they lay in a way so that no matter which ways it lands, there's one thorn sticking up. They're about 1/4 inch long. Seeds like this spread by getting caught in the fur of animals and being carried that way. They also blow around pretty well.

They are EVERYWHERE. I walked through the desert in a pair of lower-end sandals the other day, about 700 meters, and by the time I was done the entire bottom of each sandal was completely crusted with them. They covered the entire bottom.

Goatheads are otherwise known as "MOTHERF&$%R!" by the people dumb enough to walk around barefoot, or those who've flatted out for the second or third time when they've ignored the advice of the locals.

You see, the really great thing about living in Albuquerque is that is rarely rains here, so there's lots and lots of time to spend outdoors. We're a mile above sea level, which is good for training, and the humidity is fairly low, usually less than 20% but almost always less than 25%.
Last summer we had an unusual rainy season, and on some of the days the humidity was a whopping 50%. Boy, did we whine! We (meaning denizens of the Burque) walked around saying in our whiniest voices, "Oh, my gosh, it's just so HOT and so STICKY. Oh, my gosh, when will this end?" But anyway, I'm rambling.

Even the insane wind is not al that bad. It's good for training.

The bad thing about Albuquerque is the occasional sand storms and, of course, goatheads.

So we occasionally get people who are new to the area, people who like to run or do triathlon, and we remind them of three things:

1) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate- this IS the desert!

2) you'll need about 500 spf sunscreen, and

3) you'll need some super thorn-resistant setup on your bike.

This usually involves a type of tire with Kevlar in it (Specialized Armadillos or Bontrager Hardcase), sometimes a thorn-proof liner, and some sort of sealant like Stans, that seals punctures and allows you to air up the tire again if it goes flat.

With this setup I've never gotten a flat.

When I bought my new bike, I was talked into getting something called Gatorskins. POP! PSSSSSSSSSSSS, a flat. As well, I didn't have any sealant in them. I did some searching, and read some cycling forums and there's a general consensus that Gatorskins may, indeed, be absolute crap.
So I will endeavor this week to replace the Gatorskins with some decent Kevlar tires.

Anyway, if you ever decide to do a race here, keep this post in mind. You may think you've got evil tire-puncturing things where you live? Well, maybe you do. They grow wild here.
You've been warned!



  1. Goatheads...ahhh. I never knew what they were called other than the moniker I gave them as "little sonuvabitches."

    Fortunately, I haven't found any here in Vegas. Our goatshead is the plethora of construction nails and screws as a result of our rapid growth over the last two decades. These beauties, however, appear to be magnetically attracted to car tires rather than bike tires.

    In L.A....that's a different story. I'm still finding goatsheads in my daughter's bike tire from our ride there earlier in the year. This one street was littered with them. Thousands of these things.

    Evil. Pure evil.


  2. Goatheads are pure evil.

    I learned the hard way last fall when I started biking in earnest. After a few flats per weekend, I totally changed my tire/tube setup. I've been flat free ever since.

    And I'm with you on the spf 500 sunscreen. The sun is evil too.

    Oh, and the wind and those nasty sandstorms. That's a nuisance.

    Other than that, this place ROCKS. I love living here. Honestly. LOVE.IT.

  3. I have taught the girls about goatheads - about picking them up before they step on them.

    luckily, this was not hard. One step was all it took.

    They're not so dumb.

  4. They peek up here in the coastal areas.

    Gatorskins suck monkey balls.

  5. Ok I will be the descenting vote FOR gatorskins. After getting at least 12 flats on my old set-up, I finally settled on gatorskins (kevlar bead), spinskins and sealant. They seem to have held up pretty well for the last couple of rides. Man I hate those flats!! I have, however, gotten pretty fast with the old tire changing here in the beautiful Southwest..

  6. I have to agree with Debi in part...spin skins are supposed to be the cats pajamas. They are made of Kevlar. however, they were recommended to me to use with regular tires, so they're probably the main reason that you aren't getting flats. As long as it works, right?? However, the Gatorskins' website doesn't say anything about Kevlar, they just talk about advanced carbon rubber. Let me know if I'm wrong about this. :-0

  7. Oh that picture of the tyre is enough to make me cry - it's just too mean.

  8. Mesquite thorns make goat heads drool with envy. They don't just get stuck in the soles of your shoes, they pucture through the soles of good shoes and embed themselves into your foot. Fortunately they aren't blown around like goat heads, so you safe if you stay on pavement, but MTB and thin side-wall truck tires beware.

  9. Those things are just WRONG.
    And you have venomous snakes and insects like we do as well, don't you?
    Intrepid, that's you and SB

  10. love the "goatshead" pix....I run tubeless in my mountain bike now....just because of these little suckers!

  11. Not so much the venemous insects. We do have venemous arachnids and snakes, but we don't see too much of them. They're shy.

  12. Funny thing about living in the Southwest. Nearly every "insect" we have can open up a can of whoop ass on you: Black Widows (our streets and garage are full of them), Brown Recluses, scorpions, killer bees, and rattle snakes.

    We have very few friendly bugs here. Hence, my two young daughters are terrified of bugs. When we go back east to visit family, they wig out when a bug comes near them.

    Strange, strange, world.



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