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  1. #1
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    LED flashlight as headlight questions

    I plan to start commuting on my bike. I have about an hour ride each way with one way being in the dark most of the year. I live in an urban area, but will be on unlit trails for the majority of my ride.

    After searching around the forums and reading a number of threads, my plan is to have "blinky" head and tail lights to be seen (likely Planet Bike Superflash lights) and an LED flashlight to use as a head light to
    see the road/trail. I have narrowed down the flashlight to either the Romisen RC-N3 CREE Q5 or RC-N3 CREE R4 (from ShiningBeam). Like I said, I have read a number of threads in this forum, but I still had a couple of unanswered questions I was hoping someone out there could answer:

    1. I have seen a number of posts regarding the ShiningBeam RC-N3 CREE Q5 (http://www.shiningbeam.com/servlet/t...CREE-Q5/Detail), but few about the RC-N3 CREE R4 (http://www.shiningbeam.com/servlet/t...CREE-R4/Detail). Anyone have both and care to share?

    2. Both the above flash lights come with single-mode and 2-mode options, based on comments I was planning to go with the single-mode. Anyone with a light with the single-mode option wish they had gone with the 2-mode?

    3. It seems most people recommend the TwoFish Lockblock mount, curious if any has used and would comment on the ShiningBeam mount? (http://www.shiningbeam.com/servlet/t...Bicycle/Detail)

    4. Those of you using AA LED flashlights with rechargeable batteries, what type do you use (NiCd, NiMH, Lithium, etc)? I have seen threads recommending NiMH (and the LaCrosse charger), just wondering how
    much difference in light output since the voltage is lower than alkaline.

    Thanks,
    - Matt

  2. #2
    Fred on Foot dwilbur3's Avatar
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    1) Sorry I can't help on that one, I only have one and I think it's a Q5 (tho it doesn't say).
    2) I have a two mode, but have never used the low mode. YMMV.
    3) I've had both and each has it's advantages. The TwoFish is much quicker on and off, which is important to me. But the light bounces around a lot more with the TwoFish, which took some getting used to. I use the TwoFish only now.
    4) My RC-N3 is just a backup to my P7 so I always have non-rechargeable Lithiums in them. If I was to go with it for my main headlight, I'd switch to rechargeable Lithiums.

  3. #3
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    I don't have either light but the get the R4 since it is more efficient and brighter. The rating of 280 is realistically < 200. I use either my EagleTac T20C2 (300 lumen) or my Nailbender SST-50 module in a Surefire 6P w/ LiIon 18650 (600 lumens). Bothe are OTF (out the front) ratings.

    I use the 2Fish mount and it shakes a bit much for me. The shiningbeam one looks more steady since it clamps down.

    Use 2 x AA Eneloops or "Duraloops". Duraloops are Eneloops w/ Duracell label. You can tell them apart from the other NiMh cells since "Duraloops" are 2000mAh like Eneloops, have white tops and "Made in Japan". Using a LiIon rechargable RCR123 will probably give you a less the 30min runtime. 2 x AA NiMh should give you more than a hour. Avoid the use primary alkalines. The voltage drops off fast and the runtime is not as good as NiMh. My Eneloops/Duraloops are 1.46V off the charger soe you wn't give up much there and gain more runtime.

    Check out the P7 or MCE LED emitters. They put out more light and are more flood in their beam.

    Carry emergency spares like the Energizer Ultimate lithium primaries. They have slightly more power than alkalines and the energy density of NiMh but are expensive.
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  4. #4
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    You want a good brand of NiMH cells. If you want low self-discharge NiMH cells, the Sanyo Eneloops are the standard and my MAHA Immedions have been good. The Enegizer NiMH cells should be avoided; I forget the brands of good, non low self-discharge, NiMH cells, but others surely will tell you. Forget NiCd. The 900 series LaCrosse charger has been good for me for several years now. You want a good charger and use it knowledgeably.

    I use and am quite satisfied with the TwoFish LockBlocks for helmet mounting. Depending upon exactly where the vents in your helmet are located, these may work very well or just average. If you search here, there are several threads detailing how to make your own mount.

    I have not used the lights you mention, so I can not give you an opinion.

  5. #5
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    Disclaimer, I own neither light. There is a review of the older XR-E Q5 based model here which may be of help.

    Due to the price, I did consider picking up some but found decided that price wasn't everything. Of the issues I had with it specifically as it pertains to biking:

    - low mode is too low to be useful for "see where you are going" and probably not even high enough for "be seen by others" while riding

    - performance isn't awe-inspiring. Other single AA lights can put out more output, and most slightly higher budget double AA lights can put out both more output but also do so for longer.

    - the lights are marketed as 'water resistant'. Since it rains an awful lot here, I'd prefer that lights on my bike support IPX8 infiltration standard for that added security.

    - Of lesser import, I prefer lights that have a strobe output as I use that during the day. Most "tactical" flashlights have far too high a strobe frequency to use them in that mode at night.

    If I were to consider a budget light it probably would be the ITP A2, also available from Shiningbeam, for a few dollars more. Here's a technical review of various ITP SA models. Better apparent build quality, better waterproofing, more modes, more output, better regulation. But that's just an on-paper opinion, it would be best to get opinions from someone that has owned either or both.

    Specifically to your questions:

    1. The XP-G (the R4 model) emitter is more efficient than the older XR-E emitter (the Q5 model) so you should expect brighter output and longer runtimes with the XP-G. Do take any claimed output numbers with a grain of salt. There is no way the Romisen is putting out more than 200 lumens on 2xAA NiMH cells.

    2. Based on the review linked above, the two mode Q5 model probably doesn't provide enough output on "low" to be used as a "see the trail" light, but may be entirely acceptable as a "be seen on the road" light. To be honest, I'd rather see higher output even for "be seen on the road". It'd be more useful for biking if a third output level were available - high enough to provide road illumination but lower than the current high to provide more runtime.

    3 - never tried the ShiningBeam mount, but am very tempted to order one as soon as I can find a Shiningbeam light I want to buy for purposes other than cycling. I use the TwoFish every day and find it will certainly hold securely a single AA light such as the ITP SA1 or Fenix LD10 but with longer 2xAA lights there is more forward and aft movement when you hit bumps, particularly if trail riding. If you spent most of your time on roads as I do, it might be fine. Certainly if you do order something from Shiningbeam, spring for their mount and check it out. Little lost if it doesn't work well. You can also find "rubber tube" mounts and instructions on how to make your own on YouTube with a little Google juice.

    4 - Don't use NiCd. Bad for the environment, old technology. NiMH is far better for most use and in particular over NiCd for flashlights. In addition NiMH cells have clear advantages over non-rechargeable alkalines and your lights will run better on them. Many light makers are in fact designing their lights with optimizations for rechargeable NiMH cells, not for alkalines. The voltage difference doesn't matter much - "boost" circuitry in the light takes care of delivering the voltage the LED requires. Where the NiMH shine is delivering high current flow for extended periods of time - they are far better at this than alkalines from the grocery store.

    Many folks like their BC chargers from LaCrosse but I am not impressed with LaCrosse customer service at all -- they've had problems with chargers going 'poof' / melting and how they've handled customers speaks volumes to me about the company. I have the MAHA C9000 (was on sale at HRO - hamradio.com - recently for $35!) -- an excellent charger with a good track record and the company appears to stand behind the product well. Both chargers have differences worth noting but unless you plan on being a battery geek, it doesn't really matter. I think the MAHA is better suited for someone who just wants to slap cells into the thing.

    A workhorse battery -- Sanyo Eneloops or Duracell "Pre-Charged" rechargeable (which are Sanyo Eneloops made on contract for Duracell) are good low self-discharge cells. There are other brands some of which have proven themselves (search around) but the Sanyo/"duraloop" cells have proven to be so consistent over the years they've been out that they can be recommended without any reservation. In a lucky happenstance, Duraloops are available to me on a regular basis on sale at our local drug store for 6.99 a four pack. At about 1.75 per cell that's dirt cheap, especially when you amortize that cost over 300 - 400 recharges even including the meagre amount of electricity needed to charge them.

    Lithiums (primaries, i.e. non-rechargeables) have a place in any cold-weather cyclists kit. They will deliver when it is too cold for NiMH to behave well. Have some in your underseat bag, but if you are a very regular nighttime/dark time cyclist, plan on using NiMH if you want to get the lowest long term output per dollar. They last a long time in storage so make for an ideal backup source of power. That said, I ride all winter here in Vancouver and never have needed to break into my lithium backups.

  6. #6
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    I bought my LaCrosse charger from Thoma Distributing, and was glad I did when I needed to return it. I couldn't get through to LaCrosse customer service, but Thomas took care of me. I've used a variety of NiMH rechargeables, and usually get about 1 hour out of a charge. I usually ride about 30 minutes each way, and recharge when I get home. The Imedions discharge as fast as the rest do, and any NiMIH is going to fade quicker when it gets cold outside. Can't help you with the rest of your questions, but expect you'll be happy with your choices.

    I got some "free" plastic battery holders (for the spares) when I ordered my charger. These work great for carrying the spare batteries you'll be glad you have the first time you run out of juice while riding around.
    Last edited by no motor?; 10-07-10 at 03:14 PM.

  7. #7
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    +1 Thomas Distributing has an excellent reputation for customer service. They don't seem to list any LaCrosse charging products any more on their web site -- I wonder why. They do carry the MAHA C9000 charger ~ 49.00.

    To the OP - there are some simpler and less expensive chargers which can also be used -- just ask around to ensure you don't buy something which will mistreat your new cells. Avoid all 15 minute chargers like the plague.

    I personally like the feedback chargers like the C9000 give you - but you pay for that feature. The Flashlight Electronics, Batteries and Chargers sub-forum on Candlepowerforums.com is a great place to get information on this subject.
    Last edited by mwatkins; 10-07-10 at 03:19 PM. Reason: link to more info

  8. #8
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    I own the Fenix LD20 and Quark AA2.

    Either of these lights will please you.

    Superior flashlights usually require using Lithium Ion cell.

    You get what you pay for.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for all the info. You have me rethinking my light. I hadn't thought of the water-resistant/tested to a standard aspect, and since I live in Seattle, I should have. I done a bit more research on lights with the SSC P7 or the CREE MC-E LEDs, but since they emit more light they also draw more current and looks like they tend to be bigger lights. A 2-AA sized flashlight seems like the upper limit to what I want mounted on my handle bars. Can anyone suggest a specific P7 or MC-E "small-ish" sized flashlight? I have had a Fenix E20 for a few years now that I use around the house and yard. It's a great light and of has a high quality of construction. I don't think I would use as a bike headlight, since the beam is pretty narrow, but it has me considering the LD20. Those of you with a Fenix LD20, what would you recommend as a maximum speed on a paved trail at night with little to no lighting?

    Thanks again,
    - Matt

  10. #10
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    I am big on trying to get people to bite the bullet and move from AA to 18650 lights.. You get more output / longer runtimes and most of the higher end flashlights run on 18650's.. Sure there a little bit of investment in a few cells and charger but you will be better off in the long run and have brighter options..

    two 18650 lights I can recommend in the under 25.00 price range are: Romisen RC-C8 II Q5 and RC-2R4 II R5

    http://www.shiningbeam.com/servlet/t...4-II-R5/Detail

    http://www.shiningbeam.com/servlet/t...8-II-Q5/Detail

    I just bought the R5 light and it is a real gem.. Very bright - 250-300 lumens out the front with 18650 - a little brighter with primary cr123's.. I personally would only run it on 18650's, it get pretty hot with primaries if you run a long time..

    The light is 5.5 ounces with battery,ideal for bar or helmet use.. Works fine with lockblocks on the bars.. Very tight beam with just the right amount of sidespill.. The only knock on many P7 or MC-e lights is that the beam is very wide/floody..

    using UF 3000 mah cells, it ran for 3 hours in high mode and an extra 2 hours in low mode.. It is a 2 mode light and the drop from high to low is about 50% brightness..

    I HIGHLY recommend this new light and it is a bargain at 25.00.. make sure if you buy to use discount code: cpfuser

    the other light linked about is a great choice is you need a flashing mode, the flood to throw option is nice, it just a little lighter at 5.3 ounces with battery.. It is not as bright as R5 above and I would rate output at just under 200 lumens.. The flashing mode is useful because it has a more moderate rate of 120 pulses per minute versus the seizure inducing ones that come with the fenix lights and many others..

  11. #11
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    If the OP wants to consider li-ion powered lights a number of other choices become available. If you can get close to 200 lumens out the front, for 2 hours or more, that's a useful light to a cyclist. The higher voltage available from li-ion cells makes it possible to design a shorter (but slightly thicker) light than a 2xAA light would be and get good output and runtime performance.

    Before heading down that road a prospective buyer needs to know that Li-ion cells are not off-the-shelf consumer items like NiMH cells you can pick up at the grocery or drug store. They aren't a "fire and forget" type solution. Mistreated, they can become dangerous and what sets them apart from other more benign cell chemistries is that mistreatment can be something as simple as discharging them too deeply.

    I definitely don't mean to discourage looking at lights that employ li-ion cells, far from it. The risks can be managed by purchasing known good protected cells and appropriate chargers, knowing what li-ion cells like and dislike, and not charging them unattended and located near sources of kindling. Of course in order to manage risk once needs to first be aware of them and the right time to learn of the potential pitfalls is before spending even a dollar in that direction, in my opinion.

  12. #12
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by socalrider View Post
    I am big on trying to get people to bite the bullet and move from AA to 18650 lights.. You get more output / longer runtimes and most of the higher end flashlights run on 18650's.. Sure there a little bit of investment in a few cells and charger but you will be better off in the long run and have brighter options..

    two 18650 lights I can recommend in the under 25.00 price range are: Romisen RC-C8 II Q5 and RC-2R4 II R5

    http://www.shiningbeam.com/servlet/t...4-II-R5/Detail

    http://www.shiningbeam.com/servlet/t...8-II-Q5/Detail

    I just bought the R5 light and it is a real gem.. Very bright - 250-300 lumens out the front with 18650 - a little brighter with primary cr123's.. I personally would only run it on 18650's, it get pretty hot with primaries if you run a long time..

    The light is 5.5 ounces with battery,ideal for bar or helmet use.. Works fine with lockblocks on the bars.. Very tight beam with just the right amount of sidespill.. The only knock on many P7 or MC-e lights is that the beam is very wide/floody..

    using UF 3000 mah cells, it ran for 3 hours in high mode and an extra 2 hours in low mode.. It is a 2 mode light and the drop from high to low is about 50% brightness..

    I HIGHLY recommend this new light and it is a bargain at 25.00.. make sure if you buy to use discount code: cpfuser

    the other light linked about is a great choice is you need a flashing mode, the flood to throw option is nice, it just a little lighter at 5.3 ounces with battery.. It is not as bright as R5 above and I would rate output at just under 200 lumens.. The flashing mode is useful because it has a more moderate rate of 120 pulses per minute versus the seizure inducing ones that come with the fenix lights and many others..
    A couple of quick questions about that R5 model: 1) How water resistant is it? 2) Any issues with the light "flickering" when bouncing around bumpy roads? I've got a Coleman 3xAAA that flickers when bar mounted, but not so much when on the helmet...

    And a good place to source the cells and charger would be nice. Thought about sharing AA's with the wife, then realized that was just asking for trouble.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    I have owned about 4 lights from SB and never had an issue with using them in the rain.. No flicker at all.. I only have one 2 hour ride with this light, but the beam is ideal for bike riding..

    The UF charger is decent, I would use lighthound for batteries and charger

    http://www.lighthound.com/Ultrafire-...er_p_2279.html

    The AW cells are one of the better ones:

    http://www.lighthound.com/AW-18650-P...ry_p_3125.html
    http://www.lighthound.com/AW-18650-P...ery_p_105.html

    I have had good success with UF 3000 cells.. Be careful many of these sold on ebay are fakes or factory seconds..
    http://www.lighthound.com/Ultrafire-...ry_p_3141.html

    The carry tubes are cheap and work great if you want to carry extra cells: http://www.lighthound.com/Lighthound...es_p_2803.html

    Battery Junction is also a good US Source

    http://www.batteryjunction.com/ultrafire-brc-18650.html
    http://www.batteryjunction.com/ultra...600-18650.html

    DSD Charger is also a decent charger: http://www.batteryjunction.com/tlunlichfor1.html

    The best Li-Ion Charger is the Pila Charger but is much more expensive: http://www.flashlightz.com/product.php?product=171829
    Last edited by socalrider; 10-08-10 at 08:51 PM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    Looks like the light I just reviewed above is gone.. SB has new R5 models..

    http://www.shiningbeam.com/servlet/t...650/Categories

  15. #15
    Senior Member Ziemas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by socalrider View Post
    Looks like the light I just reviewed above is gone.. SB has new R5 models..

    http://www.shiningbeam.com/servlet/t...650/Categories
    Nice! I'm very impressed with the quality of my MG light from Shining Beam. It blows anything from DX out of the water.

  16. #16
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    I think at 465 lumens it will be a good compromise for those looking for longer burn times over P7 or MC-E lights.. At 1400ma, it should give close to 2 hours.. One of the gripes about the new 700-800 lumen lights that SB is currently selling is that the burn time is under an hour at full power..

    In my last email with Bryan he says there is a new L-mini coming out in a few months..

  17. #17
    Senior Member Ziemas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by socalrider View Post
    I think at 465 lumens it will be a good compromise for those looking for longer burn times over P7 or MC-E lights.. At 1400ma, it should give close to 2 hours.. One of the gripes about the new 700-800 lumen lights that SB is currently selling is that the burn time is under an hour at full power..

    In my last email with Bryan he says there is a new L-mini coming out in a few months..
    That seems to be the case for all high powered lights running off a single 18650, be the LED P7, MC-E, or SST-50.

  18. #18
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    Many have said the 700-800 lumen models from SB are getting less runtime that normal.. The OTF lumens is great but the runtime is below standard..

    So I may be getting another R5 from SB, just getting info on best beam pattern of the 4 models.

  19. #19
    I am a caffine girl colleen c's Avatar
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    My runtime of the 800 preminium MG p-rocket and thrower are not too bad at all on High mode. I do get an solid hour from the batteries. Matter of fact, last Friday I did exactly an hour ride with both lights on high. When I got home, I ran them on my bench with a small fan blowing across them to keep it cool. I was curious to see what is my run time. I was able to get over 15 additional minutes on both lights. The light output after the one hour mark was dimmer but still very useable to light up the road. The light did start flashing right before shutting down. I check the voltage of the batteries and the lights shut down at about 3.0 to 3.1 volt. Well above the 2.7 volt protection pcb cuttoff.

    Both light were using brand new AW 18650 2600 MA. I have not did a runtime test with 2500 mah Trustfire. However at the draw current of the SST50 emitter, I won't be surprise if the runtime is very short since Trustfire might not provide enough current for the light. I also got some brand new 2900 mah AW 18650 which I will also test.
    "Difference between a well dressed cyclist riding a two wheeled bicycle and a badly dressed cyclist riding a Recumbent is only a-tire"
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  20. #20
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlitke View Post
    Those of you with a Fenix LD20, what would you recommend as a maximum speed on a paved trail at night with little to no lighting?

    Thanks again,
    - Matt
    I have the Fenix L2D premium (the predecessor to the LD20), and would GUESS 10 - 15 mph would be safe there. I rode home last night using the Fenix and a Terraulx after the Magicshine battery ran out of juice. I missed the Magicshine!

  21. #21
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Really - the thread is an exercise in splitting hairs. If you buy a high quality 200 lumen flash light - you will most likely want to run it at 200. However, I have on occasion turned my LD20 down to 100 lumen just to see how lights "used to be."

    The two biggest points of the thread, you have go Li Ion for more power, there are lots of choices if you put up with short run times.

  22. #22
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    If you want to go full retro, I used one of the back in the 80's for nighttime century, the Wonder light

    Think of a very dim aa maglite, I'm sure the output was around 10-20 lumens.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...=263602_304652

  23. #23
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    Richard - agreed. After reading all the posts (and a number of other light related posts), I have started rethinking my original plan. Here is how my thought process has gone:
    - initially, it seemed to me that LED flashlights, although not perfect make a very reasonable headlights, and spending _much_ more really does not get you very much, and AA type were better since finding rechargeables is easy and you can always use alkalines as a backup
    - then... LED flashlights that use Li-ion batteries is a better choice since you do get much better lighting which makes it safer particularly at higher speeds
    - then... the Magic Shine light is really the best bang for the buck right now, $90 seemed expensive at first until I started figuring in everything I would need with a flashlight solution (flashlight, mount, charger, batteries) it really does not seem any more expensive and based on all the rave reviews appears to be a much better light, especially if I need to go faster then 15mph on occasion

    ... so, thanks to all of you for helping me along the path to finding a light. Currently my plan is to go with the Magic Shine from GeoMan, which I am sure will start another discussion which may change my mind again

    Thanks again to all those that have posted, your posts have been very helpful.

  24. #24
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    That is a good choice..90.00 for the amount of light you get is a bargain.. compare that to retail offering from Niterider and other vendors will cost 3x what you pay for a magicshine..

  25. #25
    Ben totoroben's Avatar
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    go on ebay and look up 7w luxeon flashlight. Organize by price and buy it now. You should be able to buy this LED flashlight with two CR123 batteries and charger for under $30. I have had mine for two years now and it is wonderful. You can also buy a flashlight clamp for $1.50.

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