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Katy Trail Rock Island Spur Comments

I met some tandem riders a few weeks ago who said they had a couple of flat tires when riding between St Charles and Machens. My son and I rode St Charles-Machens last weekend, and sure enough we each discovered a slow-leaking flat a few days later. There was a small thorn in each.

This is a nice section of trail, and I do not want to discourage anyone from riding it. But if you do, be prepared with spare tubes and a pump or air canisters (as you should always carry anyway, right?).

Happy trails!
posted Apr 8 2012 7:46AM - Ray (webmaster)

Kevlar is a wonderful thing! :)

Thanks for the heads up Ray. Have not done that part of the trail yet, plan to within the next month or so though.

Happy Easter everybody!
posted Apr 8 2012 11:29AM - Darrell, Jeff City, MO.

I heard that another group of riders(5-10) out of St. Charles in early March went to Machens and back and they all got flats(from thorns). I rode that section a few times last summer after it opened(it was closed early spring due to flooding) and did not have any problems.

I probably ride 1,000 miles/year(started in 1995) on the Katy(already did 180 this year), and only have had one flat tire.
posted Apr 8 2012 8:48PM - stevek, saint louis, MO

Let's hope Missouri doesn't have that Texas 'goathead' sandbur like Nebraska has. It loves bicycle tires there. It breaks off the seedhead and looks like a goat head with 3/8 inch thorns. One of my trailer tires had one thorn.
posted Apr 8 2012 11:55PM - Gene, Indiana

Is this something Missouri Parks would try to clear or something we just have to worry about on that end of the trail?
posted Apr 9 2012 7:42AM - Pam O, Independence

I lived in TX for 4 years, the goatheads are bad after the tractors mow along side the highways... Maybe the city is cleaning along side the trails with weed eaters or something? I'll be riding this stretch Sunday, going Machens to Marthasville..
posted Apr 17 2012 8:36PM - Sean Goode, Currently Mascutah Ill

Sean keep us posted of your results.
posted Apr 18 2012 1:46PM - Pam O, Independence

I've been on this stretch of the trail 3 times so far this year and I did get a flat one of the three times. I pulled about an inch long and maybe 1/8 inch thick thorn out of my tire. I was talking to some other bikers and they said the problem seems to be around the Black Walnut section of the trail. Roughly around mile marker 29 or 30 I suppose. Some trees on that stretch are dropping thorns on the trail. My advice would be to either find a detour on roads in the area around that section of the trail in Black Walnut or avoid this section of the trail. It's a shame because this a very tranquil and pleasant area to ride in, but in my opinion it's not worth the risk anymore for me. Even if you ride heavy duty tubes and bring fix a flat etc. that stuff can only do so much and it seems that many riders are catching these thorns in that area. Hopefully there can be some resolution to this problem. If anyone knows the detour route around the thorny section of trail via the local streets, please post that info. It would be greatly appreciated.
posted Apr 20 2012 1:06PM - Joe, MO

i used to live in Near Bochertown and rode this part of the trail a few times. From St Charles city past the underpass is good trail. the problem comes when you go further down the trail.A gentleman I met outside his home in Machens told me that some of the farmers didn't donate their land to the trail. so use CAUTION from the end of the park to Wiedey road it is private property .the only reason there are trails is because the owners ride there four wheelers. that is why the grass is tall and the big gap is unmaintained. From Wiedey road to Machens it is smooth biking.
posted Apr 24 2012 1:53PM - ErickM, Hazelwood, MO

Well, no landowner "donated" their land to the Katy Trail, or the trail would not exist! The land was a right-of-way owned by Union Pacific, which bought the MKT. The rights were donated to the State for use as a trail. If the trail is broken up, the deal is off (hence the big fight about the Boonville bridge). Landowners along the trail were not happy about the donation in 1986. Quite a few were upset and feared damage from trailgoers. It has turned out to be quite the opposite, and few landowners complain now. But since the St. Charles to Machens portion is newly converted, we will hear the same fearful comments that we heard in 1986. And we will hear them again as it makes its way to KC.
posted Apr 24 2012 4:31PM - BikerBoy, Edwardsville, IL

Has anyone been through this area lately (Black Walnut with the thorns)? We are getting ready to do a 50 mile ride with some Boy Scouts and would like to include this stretch, but not interested in changing a bunch of flat tires.
posted Jun 14 2012 11:02AM - Becky, Washington, MO

I live in St. Charles and I've biked to Machens at least once a week since the middle of May and I have never had a flat tire. I love that section! Maybe all of it has been taken care of since April but the views are spectacular and it is very peaceful. So enjoy this section!
posted Jun 15 2012 8:18PM - Seeds, Saint Charles

I rode that section yesterday and it was awful. I got three flats myself. I helped two people who had flats and I saw about four more walking their bikes after riding through there. I used all my patches helping people. It was awful.
posted Aug 12 2012 2:56PM - steelnoles, Ballwin, MO

These things are back from MM36 to Machens. It stranded several riders on Saturday after they ran out of patches. Trail needs to be closed and these Goatheads need to be removed
posted Aug 13 2012 6:38AM - Stag Zombie, St Charles, MO

There is also ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, snakes, dead branches, rocks, mud, humididy, and heat. I say we close the trail until all of this is eradicated. We don't need to be out in nature, we can just ride our bikes in a bubble!
posted Aug 13 2012 8:21AM - MidSouth, Rogersville, MO

I was thinking of St Charles to Machens (and back) ahead of the formal start of our ride-the-trail trip in September. But this thread (and others) have me double guessing myself. We will be on Bike Fridays, and changing the rear tire is sort of fiddly. And our chances of buying spare tubes is probably very limited. Are there other rides we could do as out-and-back from St Charles?
posted Aug 13 2012 8:42AM - Cea, Canada

If Horace Greeley was still alive today and lived in the Saint Charles area I think he would advise "ride west young man".
posted Aug 13 2012 1:30PM - Billy, Mokane

So has anyone identified the source of the thorns? I've seen conjecture that they are tree thorns (locusts, maybe?) or the dreaded goatheads, but if someone can send a picture to the ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov with some indication of where it was taken, Conservation should be able to ID the culprit.
posted Aug 13 2012 1:40PM - kevin, Jeff City

We rode this section in early June and had no flats.
posted Aug 13 2012 2:12PM - Pam O, Independence

Has anyone here contacted the DNR? Or has everyone just gathered here to go on about it? Friendly gossip is okay but will likely not solve the problem.
posted Aug 13 2012 2:14PM - Anonymous

Just to follow up, goathead thorns were positively identified in Machens along Hwy 94 back in 1989. MDC hasn't had any confirmed sightings since then, but that doesn't mean that they aren't there. Sounds like caution is called for.
posted Aug 13 2012 2:53PM - kevin, Jeff City

I just rode that section of the trail yesterday with my son - it was the final leg of our statewide ride, so we couldn't just skip it. And luckily we did not get any flats. The key, I think, was in staying in the clean, "tire wipe" portion of the trail - the part of the trail where most people have ridden, and where there's the least gravel. Also avoiding the sides of the trails where vegetation, especially vines, are creeping out onto the gravel. It sounds obvious, but it took a lot of focus and concentration to keep in that narrow "clean" part of the trail. Can't guarantee it will work for everyone, but it worked for us. And of course, I brought a load of spare tubes and CO2 canisters, just in case.
posted Aug 15 2012 7:27AM - Ray (webmaster)

Talked to some DNR people while riding from JC to St. Charles. They have been clearing thorns from Machens and McKittrick and will continue to do so.

The thorns seem to like dry, sandy soil, so they are having a great year. Apparently they can lay dormant for a while until conditions sprout them.

I met a family in McKittrick that picked up some thorns just riding around the parking lot. I've seen DNR spraying the lots, so that may take care of them.

Follow Ray's advice and avoid riding through weeds and you'll do better.
posted Aug 18 2012 3:23PM - Kevin, Jefferson City

We road from Treloar to McKittrick and back. 3 flat tires this week from thorns, 1 was a Kevlar tire. Had another flat from a thorn last week.
posted Aug 18 2012 8:49PM - Angi H, House Springs

I have ridden the St. Charles-Machens part of the trail several times a week all summer. Early in August I began to get punctures, and I got about seven total. At just about that time I saw a crew of workers pulling up weeds by the side of the trail one hot morning. This morning I looked Goatshead thorns on the internet, and now I can say that there were lots of those plants at that location, and those were the plants I saw the workers pulling up. I write this in response to the folks who wonder if the DNR knows about this problem of if they're doing anything about it.
posted Aug 25 2012 2:29PM - Tim, St. Ann, MO

Just rode thru yesterday and got 3 flats...pulled over a half-dozen thorns out of my rear kevlar tire...I thought they were metal they were so strong! Another biker that passed me while I was under repair mentioned he helped almost another 6 bikers with flats in that area. Most people I talked to decided to turn around. I had only 2 spares with me, but luckily one of my tires was a slime tire that sealed itself and I was able to limp back to Research Park with it. Doubt I'll be riding that part much...
posted Aug 26 2012 6:28PM - Rich, Ballwin

Augusta to St Charles and back this weekend and no flats. Trail is really hard, concrete-y for most of the way.
posted Aug 26 2012 7:19PM - Haank, New Haven MO

I posted a picture on the new facebook page of a thorny plant that punctured my tire at the N. Jefferson Trailhead. It looks like a picture that I saw of the goathead burr. Check it out if you're interested.
posted Aug 28 2012 7:08PM - Buddy, Jefferson City

My son and I started Clinton 12:40 pm on Aug 30, 2012 finished at Machens 11:45 pm Sep 3. First thorn flat 11 miles out of Clinton, second thorn flat 13 miles later. Son made it to McKittrick before first thorn flat. We encountered dozens upon dozens of bikers with thorn flats both sides of Sedalia. But it looks like the recent rains from Issac have washed a lot of the thorns off the trail and perhaps the thorn dropping season is about over. But as we were finishing today we did encounter a biker at Black Walnut with a thorn flat.
posted Sep 3 2012 6:19PM - viktor, St. Louis

I rode the entire trail both ways in fall 2011. Only had two flats. One at Defiance. The other at Black Walnut on the return trip, though not on the outbound leg of the trip.
posted Sep 16 2012 6:09PM - Bruce

Rode the trail all summer without any thorn problems. We rode Rochport to Boonville last weekend, suspecting the New Franklin area, and we pulled about 6-7 thorns out of each tire on 2 bikes, one went flat. All the tires contained slime. Without it, catastrophic walking event would have occured. Even got another flat in the replacement tube. Lovely day on the trail. We enjoy spending our time repairing flat tires out in the middle of nowhere but we will continue to ride the trail, I guess.
posted Oct 5 2012 9:47AM - Dutches, Columbia

Have ridden the Katy many miles without flats. Then, last trip, 6 flats between my wife and me.

So, we now use puncture resistant tubes and tube liners. Look into getting them for your Katy rides and you will be glad you did.
posted Oct 22 2012 10:16AM - Dion, Raymore, MO

I mentioned in the other "thorns on the trail" thread that when my friend and I rode the Clinton-Machens trail a couple weeks ago, we got no flats on what seemed to be the most "dangerous" part (from thorn perspective), around McKittrick area; but that when we arrived in Machens (which was the day after we were in the McKittrick area) I saw a thorn in my front tire. It hadn't penetrated through but it was there; I assume I picked it up somewhere in that final several miles around Machens.
posted Oct 23 2012 6:22AM - Bill P, Ottawa, KS

I rode St. Charles to Machens and back this weekend and thankfully did not encounter any of the deadly thorns. I saw one person nursing a flat around mm 35 but otherwise all was good. I was pleasantly surprised by this stretch, nice variety and loved the wide-open vistas of the eastern end. Haven't heard anything about thorns this season, which is a good thing.
posted Sep 22 2013 8:58PM - Hank

Thanks for the information on this stretch of the trail. I was out riding the trail yesterday, June 14 and stopped and turned around at MM35 and from what I have read it is a good thing I did. Does anyone know if the thorn issue has been resolved? I am wanting to ride this section in the upcoming weeks but don't want to have a flat. If anyone has any updates I would love to hear from you. Thanks. Happy riding!
posted Jun 15 2014 9:01PM - Tim, St. Charles

I completed the Katy on 13 June, and after taking some pictures, my front tire went flat.. =( I had to pump up the tire to meet my wife in Portage de Sioux. Seemed strange, that after 250+ miles, I would get a flat right at the end. I haven't investigated the flat yet, but I would be interested if it was one of those infamous 'goat head' thorns.
posted Jun 17 2014 7:09AM - Marion, St. Louis

My wife, son and I rode St. Charles to Black Walnut on June 8th and all 3 of us ended up with flats. Fortunately, there is a great bike stand / fix-it station in Black Walnut. I was fixing my wife's flat when I realized that I also had a flat. When I got home, my son's Weehoo trailer had a flat. Needless to say, we will not be riding this section of the trail anytime soon.
posted Jun 18 2014 9:20PM - CK, St. Charles

Rode it on June 15 2014....St Charles to Machens....no flats, no problems. Could use better signage as to how to find roads from trail's end and where roads go.
posted Jun 18 2014 11:17PM - Jerry, Maine

This is an old thread.

Goathead thorns generally make their appearance in times of drought. They like hot and dry weather. We had a particularly bad drought in 2012. Since then DNR and Parks has done a good job of mitigation, as far as I can tell.
posted Jun 19 2014 12:13PM - kevin, Jeff City

Any update on this thread? I plan to ride the Machens to St Charles section at dusk. It may be completely dark as I approach St Charles (reason being I am leaving the St Louis Arch around 2:00pm when my train gets in and am biking to Alton and then to Machens). I was wondering if it was better to take Black Walnut road a ways to avoid the trail in that area.
posted Sep 5 2014 9:04AM - Brad Zumwalt, Lincoln, NE

We road that stretch over Memorial Day weekend and had no issues at all. Flats and thorns are just always a risk. Carry a tube or 2 and some kind of inflation device. Have fun!
posted Sep 5 2014 3:42PM - sharonbikes, Kansas City

Just road out and back from St Charles today with no problems. There were many cyclists along this stretch and we only saw one with flat tire. It was a beautiful day and we thought this segment was awesome!
posted Sep 14 2014 5:44PM - Desertpig, Tucson, AZ

We road this section of the trail yesterday...I don't know what everyone is talking about...there are no thorns, nor plants near the trail that could have thorns. We found that section of trail to be smoother, wider and cleaner than any of the other sections. It was lovely, open farmland for most of the 12.6 miles from St. Charles. It's a serene, little used section of trail. We loved it.
posted Oct 2 2014 6:17PM - Anonymous

You have to look at the dates on the previous postings, things changes over the years. Sometimes I go for years without any flats and other years get three or four.
posted Oct 2 2014 7:01PM - Gary, Near Tebbetts

Tags: St Charles, Marthasville, Boonville, Machens, Black Walnut, Trail Conditions, Kansas City, Weather, Bikes and gear, Tires Modify Tags

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