Home Japanese warriors Protecting your e-bike from punctures and other thorns (Part 1)

Protecting your e-bike from punctures and other thorns (Part 1)


If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed that we do a lot of e-bike reviews, and I’ve done quite a few. Not only are they great fun to ride, but e-bikes are also one of the most environmentally friendly forms of electric transportation. They’re light, they have small batteries, their tires don’t throw off a bunch of nasty particles, and they don’t contribute much to urban congestion. It’s also a great way to save money if you only own gas-powered cars and can’t afford an electric motorcycle. In other words, there’s a LOT to like. But, there is a problem: “Puncture Vines.”

Puncture Vines: A nasty invasive species

In many places you can just ride with a regular inner tube and tire. Yes, there are thorns almost everywhere, but they tend to be on branches that you can easily spot if they fall on the bike path. Carrying a spare tube or two and a compact air pump works as flats are quite rare. Many e-bikes don’t have a quick-change stem on the rear wheel (the little lever you can use to quickly remove it for a tube change) because it’s not that common to need it. do away from home.

Like normal bicycles, e-bikes suffer from an invasive species problem in warmer climates. Its scientific name, Tribulus Terrestris, is appropriate. Instead of having short, easily breakable thorns like most sticker plants, “Puncture Vine” has relatively long, hard thorns, making them look like small caltrops (multi-way spikes designed to wound feet, hooves and now tires). In fact, caltrops were called “tribulus” by the Romans, who lived in the same region of the world where the cursed plant originated. The idea may have been inspired by nature, as Japanese warriors are known to have once used the larger seeds of another plant as caltrops.

The species has spread globally, inhabiting warmer areas from 35 degrees south to 47 degrees north latitude. So if you live in one of the areas where the species thrives, you are going to have trouble with bicycle tires. Even on trails and paved roads, it’s common for stickers to remain after sticking to people’s shoes and other riders’ tires. Unlike the branches of thorny plants like Mesquite and Holly which sometimes break, Puncture Vine seeds are simply too small to see until you are already in the middle of a large patch of them and you hear them creak and creak on the sidewalk.

I live in an area where there are lots of different thorny plants, some even worse than the common Puncture Vine, so I’ve done a lot of trial and error over the years. I had to do it again with fat tires, as they are a bit more susceptible to deflating from thorns. For the rest of this article, I’m going to share what I’ve learned actually works to keep a tire inflated for months.

Slime vs. Puncture Vine

One of the common solutions to this is the use of Slime, a thick liquid that you can put in your bike’s inner tubes. If you have a bike with Schrader valves, you can use the slime bottle cap to remove the core from the valve stem, then you can pour the slime down the tube. When the wheel turns, the mud spreads inside the tube and is pushed against the sides by centrifugal force. If something small pushes and pushes its way through the tube, the sticky slime gets into the hole and seals it up, keeping the air inside.

Personally, I would recommend using 2-3 times what Slime recommends on the bottle, and for fat tire e-bikes that means 2-3 times the recommended amount for a motorcycle tire. It sounds like a lot of mud, but it takes a lot to cover multiple punctures at once. If you ride a bike with Presta valves, you can’t put slime on, but you can buy tubes for most bikes that come with Slime pre-inserted in the tube from the factory.

The problem with Slime is that it is only a good way to extend the life of the tube and not to prevent punctures. As you accumulate more and more holes you will get to the point where the tire no longer holds air between rides as the mud drips to the bottom of the tube and lets the air escape. This is easily fixed, as you can simply spin the wheel a few times, add air, and then go again. But, as you get more and more holes, you’ll eventually get to the point where you’ll actually see slime leaking and the tube can’t hold air long enough to go all the way around.

So, I would definitely recommend Slime, but I wouldn’t rely on Slime alone.

Thick, self-sealing tubes

While you can’t trade Self-Sealing Bike Tubes for Cardassian Yamok Sauce, you can save on Slime if you use them. Basically, you’re looking to get thick, chunky rubber tubing. Self-sealing tubes are made with special compounds that can usually reseal if a hole is drilled. They can’t handle all punctures and often they don’t seal perfectly. So you will want to put slime in these tubes or order tubes that come with slime already inserted. What the self-sealing tube can’t seal, slime will almost always do.

This still doesn’t completely fix the problem, but it does delay the inevitable longer than Slime alone would. It takes longer to get to the point where your bike is flat between rides and further delays the time you can’t complete a ride. In other words, it’s still not a complete solution, but it’s one you can live with much longer.

I can’t recommend any specific tube brand, as e-bikes come in all shapes and sizes, but it really comes down to getting the thickest self-sealing bike tube you can get in a size that fits to your bike. .

In Part 2, I’ll cover a few other things you can do to postpone tube replacements almost indefinitely, then discuss some things you shouldn’t do.

Featured Image: My 2020 Radrover ST halfway through the thorn protection process.


Do you appreciate the originality of CleanTechnica? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician or Ambassador – or Patreon Patron.



Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise or suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.