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Old 07-29-09, 06:59 AM   #1
DESchindel
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Replacing my commuter bike

I've been getting a lot of advice from reading Forum posts and thought I'd join and pose a question:

I belong to both the over 50s (now 58 years old) and Clydesdales (6'3", 235#). I've been commuting to downtown DC from the suburbs since the 80s on a 1983 Raleigh Grand Prix 10-speed - a dear old friend. I used to use the gravel Canal tow path and switched to an asphalt trail (the beautiful Crescent Trail) about 15 years ago. Between my weight, the rough surfaces, and the weight of daughters in the baby seat, I've snapped the front forks and bent the rear stays. Given my history with the bike, I dutifully repair and maintain it.

Last week the top tube snapped just below the head tube. The pictures are too sad to send.

I immediately bought a used Miyata 12-speed steel frame for about $300 so I could continue to ride while I consider my next move. Don't love it, but it gets me to work. I found a welder who will repair the break and I may give the Raleigh a thorough rehab. I could bite my lip and throw it away and ride the Miyata, to which I have no attachment. Or I can think about an upgrade (without going nuts on costs).

As I age my bike commuting has dropped from 4-5 days a week to 2-3, mostly from sore quads and knees. I commute for the exercise and relaxation, which raises the following question. If I get a lighter, more efficient bike will it lower the exercise benefits? Or will it allow me to ride more often, thereby increasing the total benefits?

And for you old-schoolers out there who started on steel frames, how do you feel about upgrading to different frame materials, skinny tires, toe-clips or clipless systems, etc? Have you old dogs learned new tricks?

Thanks -

David
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Old 07-29-09, 07:53 AM   #2
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It sounds like it might be time to bury the old Raleigh. [ strip parts first ] If your present rides are mostly on decent roads/light trails, I would think about a hybrid type bike. I am 60, & those old " skinny-tire " bikes beat me to death.
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Old 07-29-09, 09:43 AM   #3
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It would not only be the lighter bike in comparison to an 83- Components have improved greatly in that time.

Bury the Raleigh with as much dignity as you want to give it- but test ride a few "Modern" bikes. You will not have to go exotic or high class to see that the Raleigh stopped doing you favours a good few years ago.

So what bikes do the local bike shops carry so we can completely get you confused on the merits of one bike over another? Or even offer our advice on known steeds you may consider.
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Old 07-29-09, 12:09 PM   #4
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So what bikes do the local bike shops carry so we can completely get you confused on the merits of one bike over another? Or even offer our advice on known steeds you may consider.[/QUOTE]

I guess it's time to start looking around and test riding. Having never ridden anything but a steel bike, I have no idea what this "stiffer aluminum frame" business really feels like. Transmitting more road roughness up through the forks and seat tube?
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Old 07-29-09, 01:09 PM   #5
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I am 56 years old, 6' 0" 255 lbs and commute 25 miles each way. I do not ride every day and usually ride home one day and in the next. Sometimes I do a round trip in the same day. I have a secure place to keep my bike. I do not carry anything on racks or packs.

My trip is from Northern New Jersey across Manhattan to Brooklyn NY on paved bike paths, roads and city streets.

I ride on a carbon road road bike with those skinny tires and love every minute. I have had few mechanical problems over the last five years - a broken spoke and recently a cracked rim. I do have a spare set of wheels with 28 tires for rainy days. But I hate riding them. I probably should be on a more robust wheelset but I do have a tough climb and prefer the lighter wheels. Of course if you need racks I wouldn't recommend carbon.

If I were you I would also consider new steel or titanium. Also, used steel and titanium bikes can be had for a "reasonable" cost and will work well if you can do your own maintenance. Aluminum has a reputation of being harsh, but with the right frame and tires you may find it acceptable though I rarely ride my old aluminum Klein any more. If you have been happy on a Raleigh Grand Prix you should do some test rides on new equipment before deciding. And ride lots of different kinds of bikes. Not just different brands. For under 2,000 you should be able to find something real nice to meet your needs and wants. If you can't go for that or if you don't think it will be fun shopping for a new ride, fix up the Miyata with modern components and wheels. Keep the Raleigh as a souvenir. It's dead, finish your mourning and move on.

If you have the money and a secure place to keep the bike, upgrade and don't look back.
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Old 07-29-09, 02:31 PM   #6
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Those stiff aluminium frames can give a very harsh ride. But a stiff rear triangle can equate to climbing power. I have a lightweight aluminium framed bike and no way can it be called harsh. And harshness is what you can tolerate. The Klein bikes bikes were stiff and so were the old Cannondales but these were exceptional bikes in their day. Modern technology has made the ride more comfortable but not lost any of the performance.

A Few starter bikes to look at- The Specialised Sequoia and the Specialised Roubaix. I am a Giant man myself and the Alliance frames are Aluminium bonded to C.F. I don't own one of these as I have a full C.F. bike.

How these will compare to a steel bike for riding I don't know but give all the materials a test if you can and hopefully there will be one that will follow you home.

Good tip for Testing bikes- Leave the wallet at home till you have tested a few. The first bike you try may not be the best.
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Old 07-29-09, 02:38 PM   #7
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Ride what you love. Nostalgia is a desirable quality in both bikes and cars. Fix your old bike for weekend enjoyment, but maybe get something stronger as a daily rider. Sore knees sounds like a bike fit issue.

And for you old-schoolers out there who started on steel frames, how do you feel about:

Upgrading to different frame materials
I like aluminum. It's light and doesn't rust.

skinny tires
Not good on storm grates or gratings, have to be pumped up frequently. On the other hand, they cut through wet DC snow. Personally, I don't like anything below maybe 35 mm.

Toe-clips or clipless systems
Too inconvenient. My car lacks foot attachments; why should my bike burden me with them?

Have you old dogs learned new tricks?
Technology has improved immensely in the past 40 years. This is offset by changes in the marketplace -- cycling today is much more about sport and less about transportation, and what is available reflects this. However, I really like modern stuff that increases reliability and convenience, like LED lights, studded winter tires, wide-ratio hub gears, more efficient generators, and brakes that work in the wet.

Paul
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Old 07-29-09, 02:50 PM   #8
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IMHO, most civilians can't tell the difference between frame materials. Varying the saddle, tire width, tire inflation pressure and handlebar tape make a bigger difference in ride feel for all but the most discerning of folks. If you are used to a road bike, you may want to stick with one. Trek and Specialized make road bikes that have a somewhat more upright posture and are easier on us geezers. Otherwise, a hybrid may fill the bill for you. Go test ride some bikes and have fun!

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Old 07-29-09, 03:29 PM   #9
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I can empathize with you comletely. About 10 years ago I crashed my 1972 Peugeot PX-10. It was the bike I raced on as "kid", and my first real bike. I totalled the front wheel, handlebars, both brake levers and one of the shift levers. It didn't do me very much good either. Replacement parts were hard to find and one of my riding partners convinced me that I needed a new bike. It was a good move. While my Peugeot could keep up with the best of them, gearing always seemed limited. I have several sets of different sized freewheels and chainrings, but the wrong ones always seemed to be on the bike. I did manage to get new parts form all over the world (ebay is OK for some things), and got it back together (just recently). It is my "Sunday drive" bike. I believe tha PaulH has the right idea about fixing up your Grand Prix as a project, but the new bikes are really nice. If nothing else, ride several different kinds of bikes to get a feel for something that might meet your needs.

P.S. I crashed when a friend loaned me a pair of Look pedals and shoes ( I used cleats and toe straps up until that time. The first time I used them I was riding down a hill and turned around to look behind me, twisting my foot at the same time. I unclipped and went right over the bars. Toe straps and cleats have a little more play, and there was no "unclipping".
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Old 07-29-09, 04:52 PM   #10
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The top tube snapped? I don't think fixing it is a good idea. If it's fatigued enough to break the top tube, it's fatigued everywhere. Test ride some new bikes and you might be impressed.
As for toe clips, I hated them 25 years go and switched to clipless around 1989.
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Old 07-29-09, 05:38 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulH View Post
...cycling today is much more about sport and less about transportation, and what is available reflects this.
Well...I'd say the selection of practical bikes is better in America today than anytime since the 1950s. Consider the Breezer bikes, Civia Hyland, Dahon MuXL and Ciao P8, Electra Amsterdam Royal 8i, and Townie Euro 8i, Novara Fusion and Transfer, Raleigh Detour Deluxe and Specialized Vienna Deluxe: all these widely available bikes are equipped from the factory with fenders, generator lights and racks.

Best,
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Old 07-29-09, 05:50 PM   #12
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First, don't bother to repair the frame, because something else is bound to break. You just plain wore it out, as I have done to a Nishiki Competition and a Peugeot UO-8. Steel frames outlast all other materials, but even they have a finite lifespan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DESchindel View Post

And for you old-schoolers out there who started on steel frames, how do you feel about upgrading to different frame materials, skinny tires, toe-clips or clipless systems, etc? Have you old dogs learned new tricks?

David
I am the wrong guy to ask, since my mountain bike and my four road bikes all have steel frames, friction shift, 32- or 36-spoke wheels, and old school toeclips. I have 700Cx28 Continental tires, which measure more like 25mm, on the Bianchi and 27x1-1/4" Vittorias on the Peugeot, and I have no desire to go any narrower on today's potholed roads. For transportation cycling and commuting, I frequently use my mountain bike, which provides a good workout and permits me to focus on traffic instead of imperfections in the asphalt.

I like today's brakepad and tire technology, but I still like wheels with lots of spokes, and I still strongly believe a well-made steel frame will outlast almost any aluminum or carbon frame.
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Old 07-29-09, 06:33 PM   #13
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David,

I lived in that area back when there were still farms inside the beltway!
I rode a 1973 Raliegh Grand Prix
I traded it for a Miyata 12 speed in 1984 - I hated it. I almost stopped riding because of it.
I commute most days (but the Raliegh saw the crusher years ago).
I love and charish my current steel bike - but it's not my commuter.

With that said and FWIW here is my advice:
1) Retire the Raliegh don't look back. They were good bikes but it's done.
2) Forget clipless pedals for now - think of toe clips but no straps.
3) With the trails you are riding on consider a aluminum mountian bike (MTB) with street tires. Those who have read my posts will think I just grew a second head - I always suggest a used steel frame build up.

For a commuter, aluminum is the way to go due to road salts and weather. For a big guy with knee problems a MTB is the way to go because of the gearing and geometry and beefy frame. What I am suggesting is exactly what I commute to work on, mine has fenders a rack and paniers. I would suggest a non-suspension front fork (that is the one thing I would change on mine but don't want to spend the $$).
Another option is an Alumnimum cyclocross bike with an MTB drive train. I would stay away from CF forks or stays given how you plan to use the bike.

One thing you will find is that the shifting on the new bikes is spectacular compared to the old stuff.

Hope this helps.
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Old 07-29-09, 06:50 PM   #14
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+1 on the Mtn. Bike as a commuter. Mine's an old steel Trek ('88) with older yet steel fenders (circa '50's) and street tires (studded snows in the winter) and it works great as a commuter. It runs either through or over any and every possible surface and/or obstical that there is in city commuting. I call it "The Beast", a name it has justly earned. I bought it new and have used it ever since...until June 1st of this year when I moved over to the dark side (I went 'bent).

Though I now mostly commute on a recumbent, The Beast is still at the ready for extremely rainy days and winter use.

As far as Steel vs. Aluminum goes, I like both. I enjoy the slightly flex ride of steel but occasionally crave the stiff (to me sporty) ride of Aluminum. I own both materials in road bikes and Mtn. bikes and may someday add an Aluminum recumbent to my modest fleet. I believe that anyone who spends an appreciable ampont of time on a bike will most certainly notice the difference between the two materials.

My opinions, for what they're worth.
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Old 07-29-09, 08:10 PM   #15
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My commuter is a steel-framed Kona Cinder Cone. More comfort than speed, it's dressed up with fenders, lights, and a comfy sprung saddle. I've been craving an old Raleigh roadbike but the more I hang around here, the less likely it's gonna happen.
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Old 07-29-09, 09:28 PM   #16
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I built up a mountain bike for bad-weather commuting last winter and find I don't use it much because the vintage touring bike I use for commuting is lighter/faster and is plenty comfortable.

Some bikes to consider:

Steel touring bikes:
Surly LHT
Jamis Aurora
Jamis Aurora Elite

Steel 'cross bike:
Surly Crosscheck
Bianchi Volpe

Aluminum cross bike:
Kona Jake or Jake the Snake
Specialized Tricross
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Old 07-30-09, 08:01 AM   #17
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The Grand Prix is history. But, maybe nostalgia could be calmed with something like this, even if it is spendy. http://www.raleighusa.com/bikes/road/clubman/ The Tiagra shifters are good, 34-50 chainrings with a 12-26 cluster should give you a nice wide range, and it would still be a steel Raleigh.
Somewhat cheaper would be the Sport and Grand Sport, but the only connection there would be with the Raleigh name. Of course, there is still the possiblility of finding a lightly used Grand Prix of a newer vintage, according to BikePedia there still was a Grand Prix in 2008 so they might still be in stores. Of course Raleigh just released their Ace http://www.raleighusa.com/culture/blog/.

I don't mean to imply that you should have brand loyalty, on the other hand, your old bike was loyal to you, and you clearly loved it. Maybe going the "son of Grand Prix" would appeal to you.
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Old 07-30-09, 08:10 AM   #18
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I've got a foot in both camps.

I have and still use a lot, a 1990 Specialized Sirrus lugged steel road bike, drop bars, down tube shifters, shimano tiagra. Still very nice to ride, and the one I tolerate trusting to airlines for overseas tours. Very nice, but a heavier wheelset which is fine for a tour but a handicap when trying to keep up with the rather keen road cyclists here.

And 2 years ago I treated myself to a new machine that delights me. Still steel front triangle - but very light Columbus alloy (I stuck with steel for no better reason than sentimental nostalgia), Mavic Ksyrium wheels, Ultegra shifters and group, FSA compact double. Carbon forks, seat tube and rear triangle.

Mine was made by Rocky Mountain (Solo 50 ST). Honestly, its every bit as comfortable in ride quality as the older Specialized. I don't think Rocky Mountain make the steel/carbon bike any more, but Lemond make a very similar one.

And I would discount any concern that you won't get the training effect on a lighter new bike. I think you'll be likely to ride to the same level of perceived effort whatever you're riding, but just have a bigger grin at more speed for same effort. If you want a greater level of effort, set the brakes so they rub the wheel or put a couple of bricks in your jersey pockets.

Enjoy your decision making and shopping!
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Old 07-30-09, 09:59 AM   #19
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Some bikes to consider:


Aluminum cross bike:
Kona Jake or Jake the Snake
+1
One of the best deals for a cross bike going. Light enough, tough, quick, and comfortable, If there was a harsh ride from aluminium, the carbon fork and 35mm tires mute it completely. The Mavic wheels and sturdy frame will handle any ride that can get on it.
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Old 07-30-09, 10:40 AM   #20
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The cyclocross suggestion might work pretty well. This is a Bianchi Volpe set up for touring. Just elimainate the front rack and it would make a dandy commuter. We rode our touring bikes (28mm tires) on a 50 mile ride last weekend, and averaged only a 0.5 mph less than we did for some of our daily 20-30mile training rides during the week. The training rides are on very light road bikes! We needed to get some saddle time on the touring bikes for a trip in September. I probably need to say that my wife was training for a triathlon this weekend, and showed me no mercy! Otherwise, we migh have been a whole mile an hour slower
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Old 07-30-09, 10:45 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DESchindel View Post
If I get a lighter, more efficient bike will it lower the exercise benefits? Or will it allow me to ride more often, thereby increasing the total benefits?

And for you old-schoolers out there who started on steel frames, how do you feel about upgrading to different frame materials, skinny tires, toe-clips or clipless systems, etc?
I lighter more efficient bike is unlikely to lower the exercise benefit. I think it was Basso who said something along the lines that cycling never gets easier you just get faster. If you are worried though, you could always get the biggest heaviest tires you can find and run them at about 35 psi.

Frame materials are only really important if you are looking for a specific weight, stiffness and compliance. For the recreational cyclist or commuter frame material equates to cost. What ever price point you are looking at the major brands will probably have a pretty narrow bracket of frame options. Under $2,000 Aluminium, over $2,000 carbon. Steel is nice but good steel will cost as much or more than Aluminium.

New tricks. Try them all, they're not that tricky. Skinny tires, you bet. Get some 25mm. Usually they're priced reasonably. Toe clips, nope, too old. If it were 1986, I'd say go for it, but being that REI or MEC will have clipless SPD pedals and commuter/touring shoes for about a $100 I would say go clipless. Cycling shoe and the clipless pedal combination is one of the best improvements to cycling efficiency. since derailleur and wheels.

Good luck!
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Old 07-30-09, 10:54 AM   #22
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Quote:
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Cycling shoe and the clipless pedal combination is one of the best improvements to cycling efficiency. since derailleur and wheels.
For a commuter, cycling shoes and cleats I find are impracticle - or at best inconvienent. Walking into my office with cycling shoes is not an option, yes I can get spds with MTB shoes where the cleat is recessed into the shoe but I'd prefer not to have to deal with all that on my commute. On my road bikes - it's speedplays and cleats. I do agree that they make all the difference in the world when you want to go fast and long. One other consideration is the "knee problems" mentioned - clipless can sometimes make that worse.
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Old 07-30-09, 11:20 AM   #23
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For a commuter, cycling shoes and cleats I find are impracticle -... One other consideration is the "knee problems" mentioned - clipless can sometimes make that worse.

Individual preference. I think cycling shoes are only impractical if you are planning to work in the same shoes you ride in. I don't, so since I am changing my shoes anyway, I change out of my cycling shoes. My locker at work looks like Imelda Marco's closet anyway. One more pair won't hurt.

I commuted in speedplays for years until there was nothing left of the cleat. I had to use wire snips to cut them off my shoes. Speedplays are awesome and exciting on ceramic floors. SPD's are the way to go for clipless commuting.

I don't believe the knee problem argument. A correct cleat placement and adjustment should eliminate all but the worst chronic knee problems. Again, technology in cleat, float and release tension has improved. A soft sole shoe that isn't clipped or strapped into a pedal must require more force to pedal and since that force is not efficiently transferred to the pedal will require more work from all the joints and muscles involved in pedaling including the knee.

My commute was cut more than in half down to 7km (4mi). I will forgo alot, but not the shoes, gloves and helmet.
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Old 07-30-09, 12:14 PM   #24
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I have a titanium road bike and a steel cyclocross that I use for a commuter and lots of regular rides. I had an aluminum road bike and I did not like the stiffer ride. If you find an LBS you like, ride lots of different bikes and see what you like. If you start looking at steel bikes I would recommend that you pay attention to the material. IMHO there is a lot of difference in the quality of a plain cromoly and the upper versions like the Reynolds 853 or True Temper Ox Platinum. Bengeboy made some good suggestion of bikes in his post. I would add the Lemond Poprad, which is what I have. They quit making them when Lemond and Trek split but you can find them used. Good luck and don't forget to take a picture of whatever you get. And on the subject of your old bike, maybe you could strip it and just hang the frame on the wall. After the top tube breaking I don't think I would trust the rest of it enough to bother with a repair.
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Old 07-30-09, 12:26 PM   #25
Barrettscv 
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Location: Edwardsville, Illinois
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Originally Posted by DESchindel View Post

And for you old-schoolers out there who started on steel frames, how do you feel about upgrading to different frame materials, skinny tires, toe-clips or clipless systems, etc? Have you old dogs learned new tricks?

Thanks -

David
Hi David,

I went from old school;



to new school;



and love it.

Modern bike are smoother, more efficient and can be very comfortable. I would go with an steel frame touring bike from this list: Update 8/8/09: 2009 List of Touring Bikes (excel sheet)

These will be more comfortable than most modern road bikes.

The Clubman looks very good: http://www.raleighusa.com/bikes/road/clubman/
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