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  1. #1
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    Looking to switch from Mountain to Road Bike

    Hey folks...I've been commuting off an on using my slightly modified mountain bike (2001 Specialized Rockhopper). My trip is 28 miles round trip and I'm doing it 2-3 times a week. The whole thing is flat/smooth city streets, with the occasional square curb here and there. I'm 6'2 and about 230lbs and am in reasonable shape.

    I've swapped the tires out for the smallest street/city tires I could fit on the thing and that helped a bit...I found I picked up a couple mph, but I'm still feeling like it just takes too much effort to ride this thing at an acceptable speed. Not to mention all the years I abused it as a mountain bike. Lots of squeaks, creaks and groaning coming from this thing. I track my rides and I average about 14.0 - 14.5mph for the trip.

    Barring my own fitness level, would I see an appreciable difference in speed and effort by switching to a road or cyclocross bike? I'd be willing to spend as much as $1200 (which is what I originally spent on the mountain bike back in 2001).

    I can park the bike in my office so theft isn't an issue. I would be using it for primarily for commuting with an occasional paved trail ride once or twice a month. I don't need panniers. I have a seat-post mounted rear rack that I use to carry my stuff and was planning to continue using that.

    Can anybody point me toward a few recommendations?

  2. #2
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    What brands does your Local bike shop sell ?

  3. #3
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    Surly cross check, try some of the commuters from raleigh and bianchi.

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    I'm in Northern California...and although I'm not really familiar with the latest brands the two LBS's I go to sell Specialized, Diamondback, Focus, Cannondale, Bianchi, Trek, Giant, Surly...uhh, that's about all I can think of.

  5. #5
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    A road or cyclocross bike will probably be a few pounds lighter and could give you a better aerodynamic position, depending on how agressively you set it up. If your Rockhopper has a suspension fork with no lock out, that's definitely sapping your power on pavement. It's debatable how much faster a road bike would make you, but it would likely be more comfortable for the same with tires and lack of comfort can wear you down over a 14 mile trip.

    The Kona Jake is my top recommendation. The Cross Check is also nice at about the same price point. The Jamis Nova Race also looks good.

  6. #6
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Is it pretty much open road or do you have a lot of intersections where you have to stop/slow down? The reason I ask is that unless you've got some decent sized stretches where you can just put your head down and go, you're not going to get to and from work much faster, - if that's the goal.

    That being said, streets aren't really the RockHopper's element. A road bike will be more fun (IMO) in those areas where you can open it up, - even if it doesn't make that much difference in overall travel time.

    A Bianchi Volpe might fit your price criteria. It's another cyclocross bike. Note: Cyclocross bikes typically come with cyclocross tires. If speed is a concern, factor replacing those into the cost of the purchase. A good set of road tires with decent flat protection won't be real cheap. Otherwise, there are quite few choices for pure road bikes at 1,200 or less. Just try a bunch and see what you like.

    Edit: When you've got your options narrowed down to a couple bikes, do a search on roadbikereview.com or other cycling review site to see what people say about the stock tires for each bike. Often times the stock tires on road bikes ride nice but are flat prone. You may need to replace them right away. Factor that into the cost so you're not surprised later.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 06-08-11 at 12:16 PM.

  7. #7
    Come here often? <wink> exile's Avatar
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    Ride as many bikes as you can. CX bikes are usually pretty versatile but check out a variety of bikes and see what you like. If you are buying from the same shop that you bought your Rockhopper from they might be able to help you out with the price or accessories.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member SouthFLpix's Avatar
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    I just made the switch from commuting on pretty much a mountain bike with road tires, to a drop bar touring bike. The difference in speed is marginal unless your commute is open road where you can just get in the drops and ride for long distances. If there are a significant number of stop signs or lights, then forget about any real speed gain.

    On the other hand, the road bike will give you more hand positions and will be more comfortable to ride into a headwind because of the aerodynamic advantage. These are the biggest differences by far that you will notice. Basically with a mountain bike a headwind absolutely just saps your energy. With a road bike you get into the drops as low as you can and the wind is much more tolerable. Likewise a mountain bike gets tiring for my hands after about the 10-15 mile mark because you basically leave your hands in the exact same spot. With a road bike you constantly move your hands around while you ride and longer distance rides feel more comfortable as a result.

    Again, the differences are better observed on long rides in open highway at sustained speeds. For commuting a mountain bike does very well because the distances are typically 15 miles or less, and often in situations where you have to stop or maneuver around obstacles, which are situations that a mountain bike excels at.

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    Well, I don't have any delusion of cutting my commute time drastically...maybe a few minutes...but it's more about the quality of the ride and the effort I'm exerting. Currently with the weight, gearing, tires, and sheer age of my bike, I feel like things are dragging a bit...and every once in a while a guy on a road bike just blows past me like I was standing still. Like I said...I'm averaging about 14mph and I'd say top speed I'm able to sustain currently is about 16-17mph on flat ground.

    At least half the ride is open road (through an old Air Force Base, and then a fairly rural area with no stops) where I think if I could tuck in and crank it up I'd be able to take advantage of a road bike. Once I hit the city, it's stoplights, curbs, back alleys, and so forth...but it's only for about the last mile. The bulk of the ride is wide open.

    Anyway, thanks for all of the suggestions. I was looking at the Jake years ago. One thing I notice with many of the cyclocross bikes is that their top gear seems to be fairly low...close to that of my mountain bike (44t on my Rockhopper and 46t of the Surly Cross Check). Are Cyclocross typically geared lower? I was under the impression that they were usually geared like road bikes on the top end?

    I've never owned a road bike, so pardon my ignorance, but with a wide open stretch like I have, wouldn't I want to shoot for something that had a 50+ tooth crankset?
    Last edited by sixdoubleo; 06-08-11 at 01:13 PM.

  10. #10
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    In my opinion, for a 28 miles trip a road bike should, at the least, make the trip less work.

    I can only say from my limited experience, but that's my feeling. The only way to know for sure, unfortunately, is to buy the new bike and ride it for several weeks. 28 miles rounds trip is a noticeable distance, and even small improvements in speed or effort add up, especially when you're doing it several times a week.

    Entry level but decent road bikes start at around $800. The next level up is about $1200, where you get longer lasting components - everything is more refined, but I'm also not sure it makes a "huge" difference. I'm really not sure though...the $1200 bikes "feel" smoother and faster than the $800 bikes, but I'm not sure that it's not just perception.

    Full carbon bikes start around $2,000. Above your price range, but...I really like mine. :-D It's not about lightweight for me as much as it is about improved ride quality. On the other hand...my $800 commuter bike has slightly wider tires than my road bike (only slightly) and ever since I changed my riding style to not death-grip my handlebars they're both pretty comfortable to ride. :-)

    For suggestions I don't own one, but I like the looks of the Specialized Sectuer -
    http://www.eriksbikeshop.com/2010-Se...3C5374/Product

    It's the aluminum version of Specialized's Roubaix, their "endurance" road race bike, so not a super aggressive road bike but also in the "fast road bike" category. It does have rear rack mounts so no problem attaching a rack. If I was buying a commuter bike right now that's what I would be looking at myself. It also has road gearing.

    Since you can mount a rack on both, the one advantage of a cyclocross bike is that it can fit larger tires and it's easier to fit fenders. I don't know what your route is, so I cannot say if this would make a difference for you. I ride my 23c (road size) tires and bike on crushed limestone trails where I live, as long as it's dry, for you don't usually "need" anything wider if you're riding paved stuff.
    Last edited by PaulRivers; 06-08-11 at 01:40 PM.

  11. #11
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Race-oriented CX bikes have a lower top gear just because anything bigger than a 46T ring is essentially useless for most people in a CX race.

    The Kona Jake is a nice option because while it shares many characteristics of its race-oriented brothers, it has a few nods to utility use such as a 50-39-30 crankset. Having said that, I moved the triple from my Jake onto my Cross Check and put a 46-36 double on my Jake for racing last year. This sping, in pure commuter use, I found that the 46T big ring on the Jake was plenty big, but I replaced the 36T small ring with a 34T.

    Note that a 46x12 gear will give you a speed of around 30 mph at 100 rpm. If I'm going faster than that, it's because I'm going down a very steep hill.

  12. #12
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sixdoubleo View Post
    Anyway, thanks for all of the suggestions. I was looking at the Jake years ago. One thing I notice with many of the cyclocross bikes is that their top gear seems to be fairly low...close to that of my mountain bike (44t on my Rockhopper and 46t of the Surly Cross Check). Are Cyclocross typically geared lower? I was under the impression that they were usually geared like road bikes on the top end?

    I've never owned a road bike, so pardon my ignorance, but with a wide open stretch like I have, wouldn't I want to shoot for something that had a 50+ tooth crankset?
    I know a few people who race cross casually and a couple of them have gone to a single chainring that's not all that big. From what I've seen the courses aren't laid out in a way that let's you get up a ton of speed.

    If you get to a point where you're doing group rides you'll probably want something bigger than a 46, but then again you'll be fast going down hills just by virtue of being a big guy. I'm not and I have to pedal to keep up on the downhills.

    Though I don't hit 30 on the flats often, I can do it without too much trouble if I'm blessed with any kind of tailwind so personally I'd want more of top end. Chainrings and cassettes are pretty easy to swap out if you want something different.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 06-08-11 at 02:09 PM.

  13. #13
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    Thanks for everybody's advice.

    After work I went to my LBS and tried out a few bikes...the two that I liked the best, and were within my price range were these...

    Specialized Allez Comp
    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/...01&scname=Road

    Specialized Secteur Elite Apex
    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/...01&scname=Road

    Both have essentially the same components...SRAM Apex. I thought the shifting was extremely smooth and quick. Both bikes were double/compact cranksets. The Allez was a 52/36t with 11-28 and the Secteur was a 50/34t with 11-32.

    Granted I haven't ridden a road bike since I was a teenager (back when they were simply called "ten speeds") so I don't really know what I'm looking for in a test ride...but in general I liked both bikes. I took each bike on about a mile loop through the streets downtown and did not have any problem keeping up with rush hour traffic at about 18-20mph. That would have been difficult to almost impossible on my mountain bike, so I was instantly impressed that I was able to throw a leg over a road bike and instantly see a difference.

    The Allez felt extremely nimble, but a little twitchy and hard for me to keep in a straight line. I assume it is mostly user error/inexperience, but it felt like it always wanted to be laid down into a turn. The Secteur felt a little more stable like it wanted to go in a straight line. As a total noob, I felt much more confident and comfortable on the Secteur.

    Both bikes are on sale this weekend for $1169, and then on top of that Specialized has a deal where they're throwing in a free helmet...not sure which one but it says "a $200 value". Anyway, since I currently only have my mountain bike helmet that would be good.

    So therefore, I'm leaning toward the Secteur. Can anybody offer a reason to consider the Allez over the Secteur?



    ----
    Footnote: I was previously considering a cyclocross, but at this point I think I'm leaning more towards a full-on road bike with endurance/comfort geometry (such as the Secteur). I have no need for fenders, panniers, rain/mud/dirt tires, and my terrain is all smooth road and I can take advantage of higher gearing. Therefore, I just don't see any reason to go with a Cyclocross if I'm just going to turn around and swap out gears, tires, etc turning it BACK into a road bike. Anyway, that was my thinking...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by sixdoubleo View Post
    So therefore, I'm leaning toward the Secteur. Can anybody offer a reason to consider the Allez over the Secteur?

    Did you try the "steel" Allez for $700? If they have one in stock I think it might be worth comparing the feel of an aluminum frame versus a steel. I've always prefered steel myself.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hangtownmatt View Post
    Did you try the "steel" Allez for $700? If they have one in stock I think it might be worth comparing the feel of an aluminum frame versus a steel. I've always prefered steel myself.
    In my opinion, it's not even worth trying because of the downtube shifters. I always hated those things...hate them even more in traffic...

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by sixdoubleo View Post
    The Allez felt extremely nimble, but a little twitchy and hard for me to keep in a straight line. I assume it is mostly user error/inexperience, but it felt like it always wanted to be laid down into a turn. The Secteur felt a little more stable like it wanted to go in a straight line. As a total noob, I felt much more confident and comfortable on the Secteur.
    Yup, that's the general difference between the two geometries. The Allez is more twitchy...I mean, "more responsive", lol. :-)

    More stable handling is also better suited for a bike where you'll be carrying anything on a rear rack, so the Sectuer has an advantage there to. If you put a rack that carries a pair of shoes on an Allez I'm sure it would be fine, but if you have a laptop, lunch, rain gear, something else heavy, it would affect the handling on the Allez more than the handling on the Sectuer.

    Quote Originally Posted by sixdoubleo View Post
    Both bikes are on sale this weekend for $1169, and then on top of that Specialized has a deal where they're throwing in a free helmet...not sure which one but it says "a $200 value". Anyway, since I currently only have my mountain bike helmet that would be good.
    No reason to turn it down, but there's no big difference between mountain and road helmets for your head - either will work about the same.

    Quote Originally Posted by sixdoubleo View Post
    So therefore, I'm leaning toward the Secteur. Can anybody offer a reason to consider the Allez over the Secteur?
    I'm the same guy from earlier, but I would recommend the Sectuer myself, of the two. The advantage of the Allez is that it's more "race" geometry with "more responsive" handling so that when you're bombing down a mountain you can take that turn a little closer, or edge out of the pack to break away slightly faster - neither of which will be helpful for you at all. While it's twitchier handling you might get used to, but why take the risk when the Sectuer already has handling you'd prefer?

    Bottom line is that unless you're racing there's really no advantage to the Allez. It isn't even faster, but more responsive handling.

    Quote Originally Posted by sixdoubleo View Post
    Footnote: I was previously considering a cyclocross, but at this point I think I'm leaning more towards a full-on road bike with endurance/comfort geometry (such as the Secteur). I have no need for fenders, panniers, rain/mud/dirt tires, and my terrain is all smooth road and I can take advantage of higher gearing. Therefore, I just don't see any reason to go with a Cyclocross if I'm just going to turn around and swap out gears, tires, etc turning it BACK into a road bike. Anyway, that was my thinking...
    Overall I personally agree with you. Actually, the page for the Sectuer mentions it having fender mounts so it's possible they have it a little more clearance for those...I really don't know though.

    Bigger tires are useful for potholes. However, if you don't have potholes (or are riding more laid back routes where you can dodge them) it doesn't matter. Another thing bigger tire clearance is useful for is if you live in a state like Minnesota where I am so you can ride studded tires in the winter. Doesn't sound that like would be a thing for you, though.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
    In my opinion, it's not even worth trying because of the downtube shifters. I always hated those things...hate them even more in traffic...
    I was suggesting he compare steel vs. aluminum. The Allez might be the best apples-to-apples comparison someone can get. There are plenty of other bikes to choose from if steel was the preferred frame material.

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    Thanks Paul...oddly it didn't register initially as I was on "model/line/elite/comp/apex/caad/2.1/what-have-you" overload after looking at so many bikes...but when I got home from the LBS and went back over this thread again, I realized the bike you'd recommended in the first place was the one I ultimately ended up liking. Thanks for the comments and essentially validating where I think I'm at with the decision.

    I think the full-road option is the way to go. I'll likely keep my Rockhopper in its current street/hybrid configuration (as I don't really do any serious mountain biking anymore), so I'll have it for situations where I might need something a bit more rugged. Oh, and no studded tires needed out here in (mostly) sunny California.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sixdoubleo View Post
    Oh, and no studded tires needed out here in (mostly) sunny California.
    I hate you.

    I have a Specialized Sequioa - the predecessor to the current Sectuer. If it looks like it's going to rain or it's going to rain I attach clip-on fenders to my bike. The issue isn't getting wet - if it's raining you're going to get wet, and the rear rack generally keeps my back dry if it's not raining. It's more that the wheel kicks up all kinds of crap from the street. It gets kinda gross if you think about the things that animals are doing that end up on the street...on the other hand I haven't bothered trying to put full coverage fenders on or anything, so it's not a huge deal.

    If I was you, and it sounds like you can store your bike inside in an office, I would be seriously tempted to try out the full carbon Roubaix...I just like the ride of full carbon. :-) Certainly not "necessary" though!

    Have fun. :-)

  20. #20
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    I actually have an 01 Rockhopper that I use to commute sometimes.. I put some 26x1.95 slicks on that bad boy and I really enjoy riding it on the streets. I usually use my road bike though, anymore.

    I have an updated drive train on my Rockhopper and I have to say that the wheels, XT hubs and Mavic rims, made a huge difference in how fast it rides. I've thought about putting a rigid fork on it, or one with a lockout, and use it for commuting.. I ride the raod bike instead.

    To make a long story short, I almost prefer commuting on the MTB. It's more fun to ride, It's plusher than the road bike and with the current drivetrain I make pretty good time on the bike, plus I can hop curbs and speed bumps on the MTB.. Not that I can't on the road bike, it's just not as fun. I also have a better seating position to ride in traffic on the MTB, more upright. The slacker head tube angle gives it more stability in traffice as well.

    I'll have to dig through my Garmin logs, but I have averaged about 18-19MPH to work on the MTB and I can be a bit faster than that on the road bike.. It's about a 9.5 mile trip, each direction. The road bike is more efficient for me, but the MTB is more fun. I have also never gotten a flat while commuting on my MTB, but I have gotten them on the road bike. Now that I'm running Gatorskins that should be a thing of the past..
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hangtownmatt View Post
    I was suggesting he compare steel vs. aluminum. The Allez might be the best apples-to-apples comparison someone can get. There are plenty of other bikes to choose from if steel was the preferred frame material.
    Yeah, I figured that was what you meant, Matt. I saw the Steel version on their website. Anyway the LBS didn't have one of those, but I did ride Bianche Volpe, which had a steel frame. I just wasn't as impressed with its overall feel, although that doesn't necessarily say anything about the steel frame. Your comparison would have been a good one since I'd be comparing the same bike, just with differeing frame materials.

    Anyway, in comparison, the Volpe felt like a tank, a lot like my mountain bike, and I just felt sluggish on it. I don't know if it was the seating position, the components, or what...but both of the specialized bikes just had perfect balance and begged to be ridden fast and it felt effortless on them. Riding the Volpe at speed felt like work. Again...as a 230lb noob on a road bike, I'm not quite sure what it is I'm looking for in a test, and I'm sure my skills will develop over time and then I'll better know what to look for...but right off the bat, I felt like I could take that Secteur and just run with it.

    I was planning to hit a different shop today to check out a few more, including a Surly with a steel frame. I'll see how that goes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lunchbox1972 View Post
    I actually have an 01 Rockhopper that I use to commute sometimes.. I put some 26x1.95 slicks on that bad boy and I really enjoy riding it on the streets. I usually use my road bike though, anymore.

    I have an updated drive train on my Rockhopper and I have to say that the wheels, XT hubs and Mavic rims, made a huge difference in how fast it rides. I've thought about putting a rigid fork on it, or one with a lockout, and use it for commuting.. I ride the raod bike instead.

    To make a long story short, I almost prefer commuting on the MTB. It's more fun to ride, It's plusher than the road bike and with the current drivetrain I make pretty good time on the bike, plus I can hop curbs and speed bumps on the MTB.. Not that I can't on the road bike, it's just not as fun. I also have a better seating position to ride in traffic on the MTB, more upright. The slacker head tube angle gives it more stability in traffice as well.

    I'll have to dig through my Garmin logs, but I have averaged about 18-19MPH to work on the MTB and I can be a bit faster than that on the road bike.. It's about a 9.5 mile trip, each direction. The road bike is more efficient for me, but the MTB is more fun. I have also never gotten a flat while commuting on my MTB, but I have gotten them on the road bike. Now that I'm running Gatorskins that should be a thing of the past..
    Nice! For reference mine is the FS A1 Comp with disc brakes and the (crappy) Judy fork. Black with blue and yellow. Here it is prior to commuter-izing it...




    What you have done with yours is pretty much the point I was at with my Rockhopper before deciding to just go with a road bike.... I don't believe mine has the XT gear though. I thought it was all LX stuff. Or are you saying you swapped it out FOR XT components?


    Anyway, I'd love to hear the specifics of what you've done. I'm by no means ditching my Rockhopper and will likely continue to ride it on weekends and maybe use it for commutes where I have more cargo than usual. At this point it's a street/light off-road bike and if I ever do any mountain biking, I'll just get a new bike for that.

  23. #23
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    The Allez is made of a higher grade of aluminum (if I understand Specialized's marketing claims correctly), but that's not nearly enough to justify getting the bike that didn't feel as good to ride. Definitely go with the Secteur.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hangtownmatt View Post
    Did you try the "steel" Allez for $700? If they have one in stock I think it might be worth comparing the feel of an aluminum frame versus a steel. I've always prefered steel myself.
    It is a shame that the Steel Allez isn't available with brifters, or at least bar end shifters. I have the red 2010 Steel Allez, and love it. Its downtube shifters are very easy to shift (for DT shifters) as the indexing works well and they are light to the touch. With that being said, I would prefer to have bar end shifters on there instead of DT shifters. Since I paid $399 on clearance for my bike, I figure that I can handle the DT shifters for a while before switching it over to bar end shifters.

    The Steel Allez is a great riding bike, by the way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
    The Allez is made of a higher grade of aluminum (if I understand Specialized's marketing claims correctly), but that's not nearly enough to justify getting the bike that didn't feel as good to ride. Definitely go with the Secteur.
    I know you can buy an Allez with higher grade aluminum if you buy the really top end model...actually, it looks like this year you can buy the Sectuer with the same stuff. I would bet it's benefit is just a slight decrease in weight, though.

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