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Open the brake: As soon as you get that "sinking" feeling or hear the hiss of escaping air, let your ride partners know you have a flat (so they won't disappear over the horizon) and stop. If it's a rear flat, shift onto the smallest rear cog. The first step in wheel removal is opening the brake (photos), which makes it easier to get the wheel out.

Open sidepull brakes by fully rotating the little lever on the brake upwards (a).
Open linear-pulls (also called "V-brakes") by lifting the end of the "noodle" out of its holder (b).
Some sidepulls are opened by pressing a button on the lever. Look for this if there's no lever on the brake.
Open cantilever brakes (these feature a cable that runs over the top of the tire) by lifting the cable end on one side out of its holder.

Tips

  • Be safe! Work off the road/trail so a semi doesn't flatten you!
  • While it's possible to get the flat tire through the brake without opening it, it won't be so easy reinstalling the wheel when it's fully inflated. That's why we recommend opening the brake first.
  • If you have disk brakes, there's nothing to open. The wheel will come right out of the brake with no muss, no fuss. Cool.