We have a lot of goatheads1 in our area, and they have a tendency to do something like this to bike tires:


Unfortunately, I ride a road bike (specifically a Kona Dew), so I have much smaller, thinner road bike tires. Is there any type of tire I can get that is resistant to goathead thorns?

1 aka Tribulus terrestris, puncturevine, caltrop, cathead, yellow vine, goathead, burra gokharu and bindii.

  • Ouch - that IS a lot of goatheads... Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 20:03
  • @geo even though that isn't my own picture, my wife has come back from rides with tires that look like that (she has 26" cruiser tires). The really scary part are the thorns where the body breaks off - you have to pry the rest of the thorn out with the tip of a knife blade. Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 20:05
  • Related: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/5558/… Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 2:39
  • Schwalbe Durano Plus is probably the most puncture resistant road bike tire.
    – Jason S
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 22:29
  • This should be community wiki because it's explicitly a "list good X" question.
    – Móż
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 0:19

13 Answers 13


I switched to using Specialized Armadillo a while ago because of frequent punctures, and I haven't had any since making the switch. I'd highly recommend them.

  • 4
    I put these on, and nothing's worked it's way through yet. Here's hoping! Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 3:28

I haven't tried them specifically with goatheads, but I've run through nails, staples, glass and just about anything else you could find in an urban environment on Schwalbe Marathon Plus ("flat-less") tires.

I have never had a flat over thousands of miles with their Marathon Supremes, either--and they're much lighter and better riding--but they're not as puncture-proof as the Marathon Plus tires.

Neither I, nor anyone in the group of hundreds of cyclists on a local Seattle mailing list have ever seen anything more puncture proof than the Marathon Plus tires.

Marathon Plus on Schwalbe's main site

Product listing from Schwalbe North America (distributor for North America).

They're available in a wide range of sizes.

  • I found the Marathon Plus tires worked very well
    – Ian
    Commented Aug 27, 2010 at 10:37
  • The link in your answer does not work anymore. Additionally, The Nobby Nic double defense (schwalbetires.com/node/2671) also appears to be worth a look. Commented Jan 31, 2011 at 1:58
  • I have had a puncture in a Marathon Plus, but only one in quite a large amount of riding. They're the least puncturable tyre I've used. But punctures do happen!
    – Мסž
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 2:57
  • Marathon plus tyres are amazing. I got one puncture ever (in 10 years) using them and that was when a huge nail managed to puncture through the side of the tyre, thus avoiding the protection.
    – icc97
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 12:45

Just about any tire is going to be vulnerable to punctures especially as they age/wear. I've found the Continental Gatorskin tires to be effective and I match them with Mr. Tuffy tire inserts. As long as I check the tires for embedded thorns/glass every few weeks, I can go a few thousand road miles or more without a flat.

The downside of using inserts and thicker tires is the weight increase. To me, this is negligible and well worth the decrease in flats.

  • This is my exact setup, and althought I don't have problems with goatheads where I live, I haven't had a puncture in over 2 years with this combination.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 1:21

You could also avoid using tubes and switch over to a tubeless system, which some of my friends have had great successes of using, in terms of reducing punctures.

  • It's the sealant in the tubeless tyres that makes it work from what I can tell.
    – Móż
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 0:52
  • +1. I haven't had a single flat since I switched to tubeless on my enduro (Nobby Nic tubeless setup on DT Swiss wheels). Sometimes when cleaning my bike after a ride I notice some green goo on the outside of a tire, i.e. the remains of a sealed up puncture. But while riding I never noticed it once.
    – fgysin
    Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 14:05

You can run Slime in your tubes to seal any punctures from those goat heads as well.

  • 3
    I've had tubes with Slime before and didn't care for it. Spits green goop at you sometimes when pumping in air. Some people say they notice differences in how the tires behave when they have Slime, too.
    – freiheit
    Commented Aug 28, 2010 at 3:47
  • 1
    The tires are heavier for sure with slime.
    – Jay R.
    Commented Oct 1, 2010 at 4:05
  • 1
    The link is very strange... Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 23:16

There are many options available to help reduce the likelihood a chance encounter with goathead thorns will interrupt or end your ride for the day. Not all of these options involve replacing your tires.

This answer is in large part a consolidation and expansion on the existing answers:

  1. Use Puncture Resistant/flat-resistant Clincher Tires such as Specialized Armadillo or Continental X-King ProTection.

    Pros: Widely available, no special tools/equipment/supplies needed to install if using puncture resistant clinchers. Some types of puncture resistant tires have very long wearing treads.

    Cons: Puncture resistant clinchers can be difficult to change when you do get a flat, can have relatively higher tire weights and are sometimes less flexible and/or harder than normal clinchers. Less effective against side-wall penetration than against tread penetration, but usually still better than conventional tires.

  2. Use Tire liners: Either commercially available ones such as mrtuffy or home-made ones such as an old punctured tube or the tread cut from another tire

    Pros: Normally a pretty in-expensive option.

    Cons: Added weight, additional difficulty changing tires, can reduce the flexibility of the tire resulting in a rougher ride. Provides only limited side-wall penetrations.

  3. Run slime, no-stans or other sealants in tubes

    Pros: Can be very good at stopping leaks from simple punctures. Allows the user to use whatever type of tire they wish and doesn't harm the flexibility of the tires like some other options do.

    Cons: You may have to periodically replenish the sealant, it adds weight, some types of sealants form balls of gunk as they dry up, can sometimes gum up the valve, can partially glue the tube to the tire in the event of punctures and if the tube fails for some reason it can create a real mess. Depending on the type of sealant, can be hard to install in tubes without removable cores.

  4. Use tubeless tires

    Pros: Lighter weight (even with sealant) than some of the other options. Depending on the tire selected you can find very flexible/grippy tires. Almost eliminates the likelihood of pinch flats. There are tubeless tires available with addition flat protection that still retain a high degree of flexibility such as the Schwalbe Nobby Nic's Evolution with SnakeSkin or Double Defense.

    Cons: Requires specialized wheel-sets and/or rimstrips and valves. Requires you run sealant. Tires can be hard to mount initially and if not using UST compatible rims and tires an air compressor may even be required to get the tires to seat. Multiple punctures can release enough air before holes seal the tire becomes susceptible to burping. If this happens it can be hard to reseal the tire in the field. If you are on a longer trip you still need to carry spare tubes in the event the tire gets a large cut or burps so much the tire becomes unseated. The sealant can create a mess when you have to install a tube in the field. True tubeless/tubeless ready tires tend to be more expensive than normal clinchers.

  5. Use thorn resistant tubes

    Pros: A relatively inexpensive option. Allows use with any type of clincher tire. Can be combined with sealants for additional protection. Simple installation.

    Cons: very thick, less flexible

  6. Use solid core tires

    Pros: No air to leak out of the tire and cause a flat.

    Cons: less/little flexibility results in less traction and a harsher ride, depending on the exact type, may be more possibility for rim damage when hitting obstructions as the tire is more likely to transmit the shock than absorb it. Are very heavy compared to other options.


I buy the puncture-resistant tubes and don't have any flats. They're the same price as regular tubes and work as well with regular tires as regular tubes with gator skins or the other puncture resistant tires. This is a cheaper, and in my opinion, better way to go. The other advantage with buying a tougher tube vs. a tougher tire is you can still ride a supple tire. The gator skins or armadillos are really hard and don't provide as good a ride.

Here's the link to the tubes: Forté Road Puncture Resistant Presta Tube 700c x 23-26


On my touring bike I have ridden over 25,000 miles of commuting, training, and touring, with seldom a puncture. I have used Continental Top Touring 2000 tyres, and more recently Vittoria Randonneur City tyres, both in 28mm width, and I find their puncture resistance excellent.


We recently had an horrendous experience with goatheads. Naive perhaps but took to a country area that had flooding. The local bike shop installed thorn resistent tubes (yeah think ones) plus some "green slime" that was silsicon based that would autoseal any puctures. Our tyres look exactly as per the image and we needed pliers to remove the thorns. Took the bikes out again in the same area (whole region covered post floods) and was able to remove the goatheads manually from the tyres and the pressue was maintained - even 4 weeks later. Original tubes defalted after one hour of ride. Cost me $25 a tyre including fitting (on holiday so no options). Oh and we had mountain bikes, but the bike shop chap assured me that the "slime" was good for all tyres. You can't prevent the puncture so much as prevent the resultant air leakage.


Solid core tires?

They ride like lower pressure tires, alas. But with thorns like those, best of luck with anything else.

  • And weigh a ton I dare say? Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 20:03
  • I seriously contemplated a pair for a while, but never worked up the courage. I held a pair at a bike show, and would say, not so heavy. But then I weigh a lot, and am not a freak about minimizing weight on the bike.
    – geoffc
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 20:16
  • 1
    I tried some solid core tires years ago and had a problem with them rolling off the rim in turns--it was pretty disconcerting. Is that still a problem or has it been taken care of? Or was I just trying to ride them too aggressively? Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 20:56
  • I've had a pair - and they're horrendous. The problem that they will always have is that, even if they feel as soft as real tyres, the air cannot be displaced to other areas of the tyre and so they don't deform anywhere near as much as even a high pressure tyre. This gives worse traction, a harder ride and more bent rims.
    – Will
    Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 17:40

An alternative that I've found works reasonably well on the cheap is to put the punctured tube inside the tire and then inflate the new tube under that (so you end up with the tire, two layers of thinner rubber from the flat tube, and then the inflated tube, then the rim)

Gives an extra layer of protection stopping the thorn from penetrating the inner tube.

It also happens to be a whole lot cheaper then most other solutions (you've already paid for it) and without the problems of something like gel.

  • 1
    Mr. Tuffy Tire liners do basically the same thing, only provide much better protection, and cost about the same as a couple of tubes. Sure you may have a couple of punctured tubes sitting around, making it essentially free, but tire liners are much easier to get in place. mec.ca/AST/ShopMEC/Cycling/TiresTubesWheels/Tubes/PRD~4001-642/…
    – Kibbee
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 20:53
  • 1
    @Kibbee: That is true, but as I said, it's an "on the cheap" solution using something that you already have if you've hit a patch of those thorns.
    – Trezoid
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 2:37

I rode 5,000+ miles this summer (bike centennial route from VA to OR) with no flats on one pair of Vittoria Randonneur (700 x 28) tires. Very impressed and the front tire still looks brand new. I'll probably replace the rear tire pretty soon, but it was a trooper too (all of the weight for my touring bike was on the rear wheel)!


I rode a bike in Bullhead City, Arizona (named after the tremendous amount of goatheads) for about four and a half months. I pulled at least that many out of my tires every day or every other day. Liquid sealants like Slime or similar were the more affordable, but more tedious, solution. Still, it was a lifesaver when I was miles away from water sources.

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