Flat Karma

tackweed.jpg While entertaining a crew visiting from Bike Freak Magazine, the Chinook Cycling Club took them on various rides and introduced them to the famous tackweed (goathead) and a site dedicated to eradicating it. That reminded me of all the tackweed flats, running Slime, Mr. Tuffy’s, and it was usually better to leave a goathead in the tire until you got home.

In Seattle, most flats are caused by pinches, glass, staples, nails, and it’s much worse in the rainy season. Starting last year, I stopped using Mr. Tuffy, and instead roll the best tires with the most rubber and replace them as soon as they wear. I carry two tubes, and a tire boot for sidewall blow outs. I’ve also got fast patches and regular old Rema Tip Tops.

I also believe in flat karma, where some years you’ll flat all the time, and sometimes almost never. To put positive flat energy into the universe, I always ask a fellow cyclist who’s stopped if they need help and will give up a tube to the needy. I even bought a tire during a ride for a friend once.

What hazards await you on your ride and how do you avoid them? What’s your flat karma?


Having spent years dealing with goatheads, I’ve gotten to the point where I really have no desire to have any flats.  Now I ride through the worst industrial sections of the greater Seattle area, and have to deal with staples, glass, construction screws, metal debris, sharp gravel and broken pavement on a daily basis. 

My usual ride has tires with a layer of Kevlar (which can’t hurt, but barely slows the larger glass shards that are common everywhere on our roads), under which I install tire liners (Mr. Tuffy or equivalent).

The next layer is a dead tube that has had the valve stem removed, slit all the way around the inner diameter.  This adds a layer of rubber that is not under tension, and therefore will not puncture easily, and also helps to prevent pinch flats and abrasion punctures from the liner.

Inside the actual tube is sealant (Slime or equivalent), which is even more effective with the multiple layers.  I do still occaisionally have to stop for tire repair, but I do carry a spare tube (with sealant preinstalled), a patch kit, and several tire boots.  I have had to use them all, at times. 

Goatheads are nothing compared to the nastiness I’ve seen around here, and being able to roll through it unhindered most of the time is a great feeling.


Thanks for that, “industrial” approach. Mine is def the roadie one, where I can’t stand how Mr. Tuffy’s ride and it’s all about the quick change v. the never flat. That’s driven from training rides is 40 degree pouring rains. The motivation is to get the damn ride over. Cargo, long-tail,  totally different thing.


A tech note on Park’s patches—they do not work at all in wet, rainy cold weather. For a quick patch yes, but not long term.

I fully believe in flat karma. 

Did a ride with a friend early this year around the north end of Lake Washington.  He got three flats and I got two.  We went through all our tubes and patch kit.  We had to stop at Gregg’s in Belleview to pick up tubes and a patch kit in order to ensure we made it home with out calling for a shuttle.  Needless to say the ride went about 1.5 hrs longer than expected.  Since that ride I have had a few more flats this year.  Prior to that day I had not had a flat in almost 2 years.  I guess I was due. 

Val’s suggestions sound great and I might just have to try them on my commuter once i finally get it set up.

I ride kevlar lined tires, and have had so few problems it’s laughable. I’ve got a patch kit and pump now mostly for folks I see along the side of the road.

My folder’s got Schwalbe Marathons w/ Kevlar (good thing no flats, these things are a bitch to get on my rims). Old Yeller (mountain bike) got Armadillos.

I’d suspect most of my good luck is due to the relatively wide tires I run. That and the fact that Val’s swept everything up in his amazing rubber laden slime filled never-flats!

That’s right, I did forget to mention the width - 2.35s for super cushion over curbs, boulders, RR tracks, etc.  For a cargo bike with less aerodynamic efficiency than the average brick, it rolls pretty fast: cruising speed is 17-18mph on the flats, and a kick ass training effect.

And I’m riding the Conti Grand Prix 4000 All season.

I gotta give the nod to Ritchey “Fortress” tires.  They aren’t cheap, they aren’t super smooth, and they don’t corner so well, but unless you have a knife…they tend to hold air well.

And I dread getting a flat on the Bettie, so I go with Val’s tips on that.

Advertise here

About this Entry

Ride for Freemont, v 2.0 was the previous entry in this blog.

Bike Mowers is the next one.

Find more recent content on our home page and archives.

About Bike Hugger