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Folding Bikes Discuss the unique features and issues of folding bikes. Also a great place to learn what folding bike will work best for your needs.

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Old 01-13-09, 05:45 AM   #1
eliasson_jonas
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Who buys folding bikes and how are they used?

Hello
my name is Jonas Eliasson, inventor and founder of Cloudbikes.
Cloudbikes is a company dedicated to the development and sale of humanpowered devices- with the deliberate aim to remove the daily need for a car.

Our primary product is a transportation-plugin. an extremely compact and foldable unit that enables the user to travel with the speed and efficiency, while folding in sub 5 seconds to a sleek, clean workcase size package and weighing in at 4-6 kilos.

in difference from the competition in form of folding bikes it is designed for easily bringing luggage, computer case and groceries without the need for accesorier, and for beeing transported with superior simplicity.

I am now in the final design and funraising stage, and I need input!

I want to know
who are using folding bikes
how they are used
who buys them.

I have som data on sales numbers etc- but it seems hard to get an overview of the customers.

extremely happy for your comments!
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Old 01-13-09, 06:27 AM   #2
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"Plugin" means it is powered by electricity?
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Old 01-13-09, 06:46 AM   #3
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I don't own one, but they're popular here in the Netherlands, primarily used in combination with trains as a rush hour commuter. By professionals who reside in a different citiy than where they work.
Full sized bikes aren't allowed on trains during peak periods and cost 6€ for a day pass for use during off peak times of the day and weekend.
Without a folding bike, a train/cycle commuter needs to store a bike in one of the massive bike lots in front of the station at their destination city. Or travel outside of peak times and cough up an extra 30€ per work week for bike transport.

It took me a while here before I figured out what all those seemingly abandoned bikes were for.

I've also seen folding bikes on pleasure boats.

Good luck with your research! It sounds like a noble project.
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Old 01-13-09, 06:46 AM   #4
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Myself...

Airline Pilot, travel about 300 trips a year. About 30 to 40 of which are weekends that I can use my bike.

I like to ride 30 to 60 miles daily on weekend layovers. I have a lot of free time on my hands, might as well spend it on a bike. The more hills, the better.

I want high quality so I invested in a Bike-Friday.

Forgive me, but it sounds as if your bike will be designed for local commutes of no more than 15 miles and not very hilly. Which means it would not suit me.
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Old 01-13-09, 06:53 AM   #5
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1. A folding bike got me back into biking---my old mountain bike sits unused, locked up under my front porch. I store my folding bike in the basement. A folding bike is easy to carry up the front steps, then down the basement stairs and back again each day.

2. It stores in a small space in the basement.

3. It fits in my basement upright shower stall for rinsing off after a muddy ride.

4. I commute with it 1-3 times per week. Only folding bikes are allowed on DC Metro during rush hour. Rush "hour" is SIX HOURS A DAY! That's 6 hours I can bring my bike when a regular bike is not allowed.

5. I take it into my favorite bar instead of having to lock it outside. People will steal any bike or bike part that is not nailed down. My friend locked up his folder outside once, and some jackass stole the luggage rack strap! I don't ever have to worry about that.
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Old 01-13-09, 07:08 AM   #6
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plug-in- means that it is compatible with any transportation means. it is human powered- with a type of pedals

I also use plug-in- since i have not yet foound the right name for the vehicle
it is not a bike, not a scooter- it new kind of personal transporter. I like to think of the device as a sustainable, human powered segway.
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Old 01-13-09, 07:46 AM   #7
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what does it do that a folding bike doesn't ?

my folder is for me because it is small and I don't have much storage; versatile, from local shopping through hilly commute to day tours.

And very good looking.
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Old 01-13-09, 08:29 AM   #8
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I use mine in the manner Metzinger described above, though I should add that leaving a bicycle locked up outside Pennsylvanian Station in NYC is not an option; there is no bicycle parking there. So every day I ride 5 miles to the train station, fold the bike up, ride the train for an hour, then ride another 3 miles to my office.
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Old 01-13-09, 08:57 AM   #9
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The are several varieties of folding bike:

1. Bikes small enough and clean enough when folded to be taken on public transportation and into office buildings. Meant for short rides on smooth road surfaces. Comfort and ruggedness are sacrificed for a tiny folded size and for easy carrying when folded.

2. Bikes that people ride through cities to their place of work, possibly on badly maintained streets, which fold small enough to be allowed into an office building, but not small enough to be conveniently taken onto public transportation during busy times. May have fatter tires and shock absorbers. Usually have a rack and lights and fenders/mudguards. Rider is usually sitting upright for better visibility.

3. Bikes that can readily handle rides of 20-40 kilometers on gradual hills and can also carry touring gear/racks/panniers and can fold small enough to be taken on public transport during off-peak hours or in regions where special cars of a train are devoted to bikes. Their gearing is not as extensive as #4 below. Bikes in this category try to be a jack-of-all-trades but are masters of none.

4. Bikes that can handle longer rides and any kind of terrain and possibly carry touring gear/panniers. They often do not fold very small -- just small enough to fit into a large suitcase or the trunk of a car. You bring them along with you on trips. They seek to emulate the ride characteristics of full-size bikes as much as possible.


It sounds to me as if your human-powered vehicle falls into the first category.

Last edited by timo888; 01-13-09 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 01-13-09, 09:02 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eliasson_jonas View Post
Our primary product is a transportation-plugin. an extremely compact and foldable unit that enables the user to travel with the speed and efficiency, while folding in sub 5 seconds to a sleek, clean workcase size package and weighing in at 4-6 kilos.

in difference from the competition in form of folding bikes it is designed for easily bringing luggage, computer case and groceries without the need for accesorier, and for beeing transported with superior simplicity.
I look forward to seeing your product, but you have some pretty stiff competition (in particular the Pacific Cycles Carry-me, the Sinclair A-bike, and the Mini125 which are all commercially available or the Alessandro Belli prototype).

If you can make an efficient vehicle in a clean workcase size package weighing under 6kg including integrated luggage facilities then more power to you, but I believe the reason most folding bikes on the market prefer to add these features as accessories (such as a bag or cover to make the package clean or add-on racks for luggage or groceries) is because you can't meet the weight specification without sacrificing elsewhere and most users would prefer to reduce the weight and add the side features only when they need them.

Even the Sinclair A-bike (designed and manufactured with the latest technology by the famous inventor of the pocket calculator, Sir Clive Sinclair) is 5.5kg and it forgoes a clean sleek casing, luggage facilities, and (in the opinion of most) speed and efficiency (due to the overly flexible frame, poor pedaling geometry, mechanically inefficient dual drive train, and overly small wheels).

Please don't take this as sarcastic discouragement (I'm an inventor myself and strongly believe in trying to outperform our predecessors), but if you can add a clean sleek casing, luggage facilities, speed, and efficiency for less than 0.5kg, then I suggest that you also make a 13kg velomobile while you're at it. I will be first on the long line to buy both products.

Quote:
Originally Posted by eliasson_jonas View Post
I want to know
who are using folding bikes
how they are used
who buys them.
In a nutshell I think folding bikes are commonly used for the following five reasons (or some combination thereof):
(in order of popularity)
1. Recreationalists who ride at choice destinations away from home and find it more convenient and/or cheaper to pack a folding bike than use a bike rack on an automobile or check a regular bike with an airline.
2. Rail commuters who prefer and/or need to cycle to/from rail stations.
3. Boaters and/or frequent fliers who have no other choice but to bring their own a land vehicle with them as luggage.
4. Utility cyclists who believe that keeping a bike by your side is better than locking it outside (either because they believe locking a bike will lead to theft, they think locks are too heavy or inconvenient, or they simply don't want to leave their bikes out in the elements).
5. Small wheel fanatics who are enamored by the advantages and/or novelty of small wheeled bicycles (of which folders are the most common variety).

I personally mostly use folders for reasons 4 and 5, but I have used them at times for all these reasons except 1.

Last edited by makeinu; 01-13-09 at 12:14 PM.
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Old 01-13-09, 10:47 AM   #11
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Hi Jonas very welcome,

I am on your waiting list (as long as its cute and/or a technical gem). A 4-6kg, sub 5 seconds fold, ultra compact folder, clean and fast... sounds like a dream almost too good to be true. But since Folders are the future, perhaps this future is near?

Quote:
Originally Posted by eliasson_jonas View Post
...
I want to know
who are using folding bikes
how they are used
who buys them...
I think "users" and "buyers" overlap very much, perhaps with the exception of some addicts who buy for his/her partner. So who rides (new!) folding bikes? Well, different people ride different folding bikes. But since folders are very much addictive some people ride different folding bikes which fall into different categories. In general I would say you will find a high percentage of people who:
  • are between 35year-67year old
  • are well off financially, friendly and intelligent
  • live in an urban environment
  • like to surprise and be flexible
  • have an interest in mechanical/technical things and design
  • are not shy but communicative
  • like to stand out or at give a damn if they look uncool to some
  • hang on dear to their belongings, perhaps theft is a concern
  • travel a lot and like to travel individualistic
  • some live car light
  • use the folder for multi mode commuting
  • use the folder for combined train/airplane travel
  • use it as accessory for camper, small yacht, air plane or sportscar
  • use it as training machine during travel

So yes, I think your "plug in" can be a competitor to some folders, like makeinu said, it sounds like a competitor to the Carryme, the A-Bike or perhaps the strida? Some use folders as a method of transportation in daily city life with the aim to live "car light". But, like Timo said, this is only one field. Many other folders are sporty machines for training or for fun. How will your "plug in" perform off-road? How will it perform when ridden together with a crowd of roadies? How will it go when used in long distance travel? These are all fields for folding bikes and reasons why different people by them. Anyway, very curious to see you invention

Last edited by somnatash; 01-13-09 at 10:51 AM.
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Old 01-13-09, 10:58 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eliasson_jonas View Post
I am now in the final design and funraising stage, and I need input!

I want to know
who are using folding bikes
how they are used
who buys them.

I have som data on sales numbers etc- but it seems hard to get an overview of the customers.

extremely happy for your comments!
I use folding bikes exclusively now. While I always used bikes as an adult as transportation, I always faced the real possibility of theft every time I lock the bike up. There are no real safe short or long term storage or serious use for any other vehicle here in Southern California except for 4 wheeled ones that can keep up with the flow of traffic. 5 years ago, I bought my first folder-a Dahon Boardwalk. And I never regretted my decision of entering the World Of Folding Bicycles. My adventures and misadventures are chronicled in that Website series.

My bikes are used in many interesting, yet overlapping ways. I own and use 3 at present. While 2 are not used much anymore as they need more mechanical attention right now than I can give them (been busy & I like to pay full attention to maintenance when I do it), one of them shines out as the best of the bunch. For more information and photos, see below.

Last edited by folder fanatic; 01-13-09 at 11:26 AM.
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Old 01-13-09, 11:20 AM   #13
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Hello Jonas, here are my answers to your questions:

who are using folding bikes - 27 year old engineer
how they are used - to commute to work. My bike is stored folded up in my apartment. Each morning I take it out and cycle 3 miles to the train station. Take the bike onto the train and cycle another half mile at the other end to get to the office. At the office I fold the bike up and store it underneath my desk. The bike doesn't really replace my car. For me, it replaces taking the bus or metro across the city between my house and the train station.

I ended up making a couple small customisations my bike to suit my needs better - off the shelf the bike was OK but not as practical as it could have been:

Two main things I want in my bike are reliability and transportability. By reliability I mean something I can just pick up and use. I'm happy to do a weekly maintenance programme but don't want to have to repair anything out on the road. One thing I did to this end was remove the cassette gears and convert my bike to a single speed. This wasn't a big deal as the area is flat and I don't need to go faster than 15 mph. It simplified the bike and cut out many niggling problems with it.

By transportability I mean something that can be handled easily in crowded places. It has to be light, compact and perhaps most important, clean. I'm not going to carry anything dirty through a crowded train station and risk getting road sludge on anyone else. The fenders that came with the bike worked, but after riding on slushy roads it still got very dirty. I would have to spend 15-20 minutes cleaning off the bike before I could take it into the office. I made some great big mudflaps that reach the ground and that helped immensely. I'd like to add a chainguard too but finding one to fit a 52t chainring is hard. I bought the bright red Dahon slip cover and do use it, but would prefer it in a more muted tone.
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Old 01-13-09, 11:48 AM   #14
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30 yo software engineer, fair weather cyclist...
26km roundtrip to work 3-4 times a week plus some errands.
No mixed-mode commuting, the foldability helps with geting in & out of buildings.
Computer stays on my back, clothes in a seatpost pack.

If you're designing something like an A-bike, I'm definitely not your target market.
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Old 01-13-09, 12:10 PM   #15
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Use my folders more and more. Why use a big one when a small one is doing the job? At the moment I use 20" folders since i use them as utility bikes and for holydays. Like to be able to transport them innside the car (safety + cleaner). To take on a holyday and if I want to ride somewhere and maybe take the bus when going back. Going on a holyday using train, boat and bike).

Prepairing folders for my children to use when students with no car. I remember going to scool in a place with no public transport, 10 km to walk to the bus / train. No car and no money for taxi. A folder would have made a huge difference.

Next folder I buy is going to be 16" wheels, fast and light /small fold to take on and off bus train and ride maximum 10 km. Smaller but then I guess also less comfortable.

I like gadgets- a lot! Restoring /rebuilding two 20" at this moment to be ready for spring / summer.

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Old 01-13-09, 01:18 PM   #16
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I'm 58 soon, and ride one of my folders most days. I don't often need to actually fold them, except the odd trip by train, or more likely to put them in the car boot to go somewhere for a fun ride. I ride them up to a little over ten miles round trip to deal with errands and go places I want to get to without driving.

I like and esteem neat and clever mechanical solutions and enjoy tinkering with them at home, BUT I HATE unreliability or anything that demands a lot of fettling to keep it going.

I like to get good value although I will pay a lot for something special and unique if it satisfies my needs. For workaday stuff, I'm a cheapskate, so both my current folders are knockoffs. I have a brompton copy which cost me 330 and a Strida one which cost only 110 on ebay. I am especially enamoured of the simplicity of design and the perfect functionality of my Strida5 knockoff. It is a real delight. The Brompton knockoff rides faster and is better for a longer trip or a hilly one, but it is NOTHING like as neat and quick to fold up.

The thing I like about both of these bikes is that they beautifully match form and function, and I can easily store them in the house without any fuss. Small is beautiful in simple personal transport. The Brompton copy weighs about 27 pounds and the Strida one about 20.


Oh - I forgot - both have 16 inch wheels which work great on streets and make the fold small.

Last edited by EvilV; 01-13-09 at 01:22 PM.
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Old 01-13-09, 02:18 PM   #17
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I use mine like many others, in conjunction with public transit. I ride to the train station... and then ride from the trainstop to my work. And then I do the reverse. All in all, the bike part of my commute is about 7 miles round trip. If I include the train portion, It's more like 60-70 miles round trip.

I also use my bike for recreation... as it is the only bike I currently own.

--sam
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Old 01-13-09, 02:45 PM   #18
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I use mine while traveling and in conjunction with mass transportation in Japan.

To be quite honest about it as well the most practical use I have for the thing is on Friday night when I hit the local watering hole with a couple buddies. I ride the bike down to the base club here in Okinawa Japan and when I'm done I call a taxi and fold the bike and throw it in the back.

If I can't get a taxi I walk it to the gate and wait at the bus stop. No problems carrying a foldie on a bus here.

Also I'm taking a folding bike to my office on the mainland in a couple of weeks. Very small office with one employee. I'd have bought a bike there a long time ago however I don't want to impose on our guys limited space there. However I will impose on his space with a folding bike which I'll hang in the corner of the room.

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Old 01-13-09, 03:24 PM   #19
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Dear all, thanks for response- keep em comin!

it is great to have feedback from actual users around the globe.
again- it is also great to hear what you are riding today

would like to give some additional info on our product, without being to specific we currently have decided not to go public with our designs, but that will change within a couple of months.

anyway. Our transportation plug-in, is targeted at commuters as of design, and primarily for distances from 0-5 maybe 10 km. it has a 12" non puncture front wheel, rear wheel beeing 8-10". It is pedaled- with a unique transmission system. al moving parts (except wheels) are enclosed.

we are working with a 3 "movements" folding mechanism, with no need for hand contact with potentially dirty parts. if the mobiky genious is foldable under 3 secs- then we will be too.

My aim has been to make the ultimate vehicle for combining with even crammed buses and grumpy morning passengers. no hazzle folding and enjoyable ride. it is not a road racer- but an everyday utility tool, for fetching your kid, doing the shopping , in the bus or train to work, and for short errands during the day.

i found the ultra compact folders to technology packed, and limited in use as in driving ability.

what we are trying now to figure out is how to position the product, who should be our first customers?

Best from me

/jonas

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Old 01-13-09, 03:32 PM   #20
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and thanks for the belli refernce- have seen it, but forgotten it. great design!
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Old 01-13-09, 05:53 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eliasson_jonas View Post
i found the ultra compact folders to technology packed, and limited in use as in driving ability.

what we are trying now to figure out is how to position the product, who should be our first customers?
The A-bike appears to have had some commercial success (at least enough to warrant Mark II). If your product is truly more useful in driving ability while remaining just as light and small then I imagine you'd do well to simply follow the A-bikes lead.

Don't forget to post back when you're ready to unveil so we don't miss it!
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Old 01-13-09, 06:48 PM   #22
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Is there a web site for more info?
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Old 03-12-09, 09:21 AM   #23
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Quote:
Is there a web site for more info?
There will be. I talked to Elias today and he own a site but has not made the content for it yet.

He told me have a prototype but that it needs more finetuning before presenting it in public.

So sooner or later he will show it on its own site.

Thanks to Elias for making the phone call. Much appreciated.

I wish you all luck with this project.

Fred

PS As I get it the reason he has not given us more feedback is due to him 24/7 totally immersed in building the prototype and getting all teh legal stuff going. Many things to work together so the design not get stolen right away. Just my guesses.

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Old 03-12-09, 09:46 AM   #24
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I use my folding bike for mixed-mode train commuting. It also comes in handy where I'm taking a train to somewhere I'll be riding, and don't want the hassle of taking a full-frame bike on the train (even during the hours hours it's allowed, it's still a bit of a pain to have a bike on the trains.) Getting more than a couple of bikes in a car is a pain - unless the bikes fold. You can haul a folding bike in a trailer behind another bike. (Say, to bring a bike to the bike shop for repairs.)

I use my Dahon pretty much like any other bike, but for shorter rides - around 10 miles or less. My bike falls somewhere in between the first and second categories that timo888 mentioned above - at least the way I ride it and how I've equipped it.

When I need to carry anything beyond a change of clothes and my lunch, it's a stretch to take the folder due to the design of the rack. You'll need to decide if the ability to carry stuff is something you want to build in or not. (If you want a small, light vehicle, I'd suggest you go for not.) I'm finding it difficult to envision a Segway with a rack in any case...
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Last edited by neilfein; 02-15-11 at 11:53 AM.
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Old 03-12-09, 11:37 AM   #25
puppypilgrim
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Bikes: Brodie Force w/ Xtracycle, Dahon Helios, Merida Folding, Pacific Carryme, Softride Classic
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I have a Dahon Helios folder and have an attraction to folding bikes in general. My real world use would be to cycle from my home to the light-rapid transit station and back. A distance of perhaps 3-4 kms. Too far to walk in a reasonable amount of time needed for commuting to work.

My second use of a folder would be to transport one or more bicycles to a park by car and explore the park by cycling (a form of urban touring I suppose). For my needs, I prefer the simplicity of a singlespeed for ease of maintenance and reliability. Most folder have low hanging derailleurs which will cause the chain to derail if the derailleur comes in contact with grass or ground.
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