There is a menace in Southern California, one that imperils every right-standing citizen who chooses an alternative means of transportation. Of course I’m referring to bicycles and the goathead thorn menace.


Its official name is Tribulus terrestris, or puncturevine, making it sound like something out of the Monster Manual. You can find their mat-like vines around Southern California (and indeed, across the Southwest), lurking in fields and tracks.


The seeds are the thorny bits. They attach themselves to tires, both bicycle and car, spreading seeds along the sides of roads. They love bare feet with a passion. They love to take over large swaths, choking other plants out. An apropos Google reveals woeful stories of destruction and pain, particularly for bicyclists, hikers, and animals. Like a lot of things in Southern California, puncturevine is an import, probably hitching a ride from the Mediterranean region in the wool of sheep.

Your faithful author was a recent victim of this creeping menace, failing his saving throw vs. puncturevine at the end of a lengthy cycling adventure, transforming him into a gibbering pedestrian pushing his bike home, trying to compile a list of songs about bicycles.

Puncturevine is just one of the myriad natural hazards living in SoCal. With all the mudslides, forest fires, earthquakes, impending fire ant and killer bee fun…well, some days it’s almost too scary to leave the house.


The author’s bicycle, newly armored with 4.5mm-thick puncture-resistant tires, has sallied forth several times into the dangerously beautiful SoCal spring sunlight, thankful he doesn’t have to deal with other dangers.

(Pix sources: 1, 2.)

7 thoughts on “Puncturevine”

  1. Goatheads! Goatheads! Argh! Fucking hate ’em! They’re in my tires! My shoes! My nightmares! Goatheads’re gonna getcha if you don’t watch out (and even if you do).

  2. As horrible as they are in L.A., I can report that they are even worse in Albuquerque. I’ve lived in both places, and the goatheads in ABQ are huge and everywhere.

  3. They are evil incarnate. The only cure is Mister Toughies (nylon tire liners that block punctures from common road hazards). No damn good for sidewall punctures, but they do cut down on the wear and tear on your tire levers.

  4. Cars, Mountain Lions, Potholes, Buses, No Breaks, Steep Inclines, Steep Declines, Pissed off drivers, Tickets for running Stop Signs, and Red Lights, falling, slipping, loosing control. –Yet my worst fear are Goathead Stickers!!!! Are they more prevailent at a certain time of the year than any other?

  5. Dang, forgot the recent mountain lion attacks. Not to mention packs of rabid dogs, gang violence, other bicyclists, unicyclists (no joke, there are a couple in my neighborhood), motorcyclists, pedestrians (grrrrr), blinding sunlight, headwinds, tailwinds, crosswinds, wet streets, oil patches, etc. It’s like Car Wars out there and I don’t have the ablative armor add-on for my Specialized.

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