Flat Tires from Sandspurs

The Culprit: Sandspurs

The Southern Sandbur (Cenchrus echinatus), and the Coastal Sandspur (C. spinifex) plant found in SW Florida are weeds whose clusters of thorns are its seeds. It thrives in sandy soil and can survive drought, burning, and repeated mowing. The plant flourishes in the Spring, then its seeds dry in the summer. By the time the tourist-season rolls around in October the thorns are ready to attach themselves to anything they encounter, including your bicycle tires. The grooves in the tread-pattern in many bicycle tires provide a perfect gap for the sand spurs to get stuck in. As the tire rotates the thorns drill through the tire, and eventually puncture the tube. Part of every tire-repair job we perform at Venice Bikes and Trikes includes an exterior and interior inspection and removal of the thorns. However, when we encounter a tire that has dozens of thorns we often recommend that the tire be replaced. We also inspect the tires of our rental bikes as part of our regular maintenance regimen.

How to Minimize Flats Due to Sandspurs

  • Install Tire Liners One way to add some additional resistance to sandspurs is to have us install a tire-liner in each tire. A tire-liner is a harder strip of flat plastic (or rubber) that sits between the outside circumference of the inner-tube, and the inside of the tire itself. The harder material is intended to deflect the point of the thorn. But while thorns cannot easily penetrate the liner, they will not prevent puncture from hard objects like nails or glass. And depending on how much riding you do in the hot Florida climate, your tire liners may only last a couple of years. Like other rubber products, heat from the road surface, and the constant flexing as the wheel rolls around can deteriorate the liners. Typically they will not outlast the tires that they are installed in, but we have occasionally encountered some that could be used in a second set of tires.
  • Install Thorn-Resistant Tubes Another method of protection against sandspurs is to install a thorn-resistant tube. Thorn resistant tubes are far thicker than regular bicycle inner-tubes, but are more expensive. Some thorn resistant tubes also contain a self-sealing liquid that is capable of closing a small puncture. The only downside to using this type of tube is that they are much heavier in weight than regular inner-tubes. The ultimate solution to mitigate sandspurs is to combine both approaches; Install tire liners along with thorn resistant tubes.
  • Stay Off the Grass! And finally, one of the best things you can do to minimize your exposure to sand spurs is to keep your bike off the grass. Our rental bikes are set up for riding on man-made surfaces, such as concrete and asphalt. However, even the sidewalks can harbor sandspurs because of poor grounds-keeping practices. The fact that the sandspurs are growing at all is some evidence of infrequent and poor landscape maintenance. Often grass alongside sidewalks (including any sandspurs present) is blown onto the sidewalk during mowing, and even though some grounds-keepers come back along with blowers to clear off the sidewalks, sandspurs can become temporarily trapped in the expansion-joints of the concrete. Both rain and wind can eventually free the thorn clusters and allow them to be in a position to be picked up in your tires. So please be aware that no matter where you ride, your tires can still pick up sandspurs.
  • Remove Sandspurs Before They Puncture Your Tube Sandspurs can't really puncture your tire instantly in the same way that a nail or piece of glass can. Instead, they become lodged in the tread of your tire, and as your wheel goes around and around, the sandspur drills down into the tire. The best thing you can do to stop this process is to remove the sandspur as soon as possible. When you stop for a rest, examine the surface of your tires for the presence of sand spurs. A paper towel, or even a twig from the side of the road can be used to brush the sand spurs from the tires before they have a chance to drill deep enough to puncture the inner-tube. But don't use your bare hand!

We want you to enjoy cycling while you are on vacation. So when you rent a bicycle in Venice Florida from Venice Bikes and Trikes stick to the bike-trails, bike-lanes, and sidewalks so that the sandspurs don't stick to you! And if you get a flat while riding one of our rental bikes, CALL US (941-412-3821) and we'll rescue you. If you are on one of the bike trails in the area try to get to a spot where it crosses a road so that we can get the rescue vehicle to you. You'll be back to pedaling in no time!

Cluster of sanspurs. Copyright 2016