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Old 06-11-09, 08:30 AM   #1
colourmebad
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Brompton gears 3 or 6?

Hi, am new to this forum and the world of folding bikes generally, so you may have to bear with me.

I've recently got a new job which requires a short commute to work, so I've decided on getting a folding bike to get me to the train station and back. Having had a look at a few different folders, I've decided that the Brompton is definitely the one I liked the most, in terms of looks, ride and functionality, so I don't need any advice on that bit.

What I'm not sure about is whether or not to go for the 3 gears or the 6. I live in Bristol UK, which is fairly hilly, but I suspect I'll get used to this either way. Do people here think that there is much benefit to getting 6 over 3? The weight difference is negligible, but I'm thinking that it might also be better to stick with fewer gears as there's less to go wrong.

Evans are doing M6R's at a slight price-cut so it's quite tempting on value alone. But having said that, I've heard that the dynamo system is dreadful, and I don't think I'll have much use for a rear rack, so that's making me think that I should just go for the standard M3L... But is it true that the eazy-wheels only work with the rack model, because they looked rather worth having?

And lastly (I appreciate that this is ultimately not a question that can be answered by anyone but myself) do you think that it's worth waiting the 6-10 weeks so I can a few tweaks and extras, and possibly a slightly snazzier colour, or shall I just go for the standard black? I want the kevlar tyres, brooks saddle, eazy-wheels, and quite fancy a racing green + some other colour option. But I kinda want to make the most of it over the summer and have heard Brompton can take ages to get them built, so am thinking I might just get the shop-standard black. Is it going to be easy enough to add the bits later, and is it going to work out much more expensive if I do it that way? Would it make more sense to get Brompton to do it now? Will I regret not getting exactly what I want now?

Thanks for any help on this!

Last edited by colourmebad; 06-11-09 at 10:01 AM.
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Old 06-11-09, 10:21 AM   #2
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The 6 speed is worth having, I think, although some people don't like having two levers. There is a greater range of gears, and in a hilly place, you'll need them! The derailluer is actually a slightly altered chain tensioner, which all Bromptons have, even 3 speeds. It seems silly not to get the extra functionality if you have to have the thing there anyway. The way it works, it doesn't need adjusting anything like as often as an ordinary derailleur. Try before you buy, if possible - the shop I bought mine from, BikeFix in Edinburgh, was more than happy to let me test ride two different bikes, an S2L and an M6R. I wanted an S6R, but went for an S6L because it was in stock. It is possible to roll the bike even without easy wheels, on a smooth surface. On a less smooth surface, I just unfold - it doesn't take long.

Only you can say if it would be worth waiting 3 months or so for your perfect bike. I wish I'd gone for a rack, for the exra carrying capacity rather than the easy wheels, but this is less of a problem on an M type where you can use the biggest front bags. Having almost the right bike in stock freed me from having to choose the colour, which is a bonus in my book. YMMV.

I don't know about the dynamo, but battery lights work fine. I have a Cateye headlight with two mounts - one for my Brompton, one for my tourer.
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Old 06-11-09, 10:26 AM   #3
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Hmmm let’s see Black or this Raw Lacquer:

This took 11 weeks to arrive, but it was the start of the year and the new 2009 version. I believe the current wait is around 6 weeks.

You may find that your Brompton becomes part of the family, a loyal companion that will last for years..... get a B-spoke, it could save you money and you will get exactly what you really want.
Regarding gears, there is little difference between the 3 and 6 speed gear range, but the 6 speed give more evenly spaced gears.
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Old 06-11-09, 10:42 AM   #4
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I don like chain tensioners, therefore I would go for 6 speed. I never found the 3 well spaced enough. I would go for the b-spoke also ,recommend the self clipping rear frame lock if you go this way( it can always be switched off if you do not like it. It is a bit of a sod to fit and nearly £30 to retro fit, but only around £10 extra.
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Old 06-11-09, 10:47 AM   #5
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6 speed for me too. it's nice having the extra gears. you never know when you will need them. i have a dahon curve D3 and think that it's lacking in speed. the upside is - i like it a lot and would only use this for my daily commute to work. which i think having the 3 speed is sufficient enough. i have a boardwalk 7 speed that i am preeping to become my road warrior bike.....

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Old 06-11-09, 11:39 AM   #6
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i have the bwr the previos hub was nice, it helped we see alot of courtyside hills...... especially as i had to walk up most of them
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Old 06-11-09, 11:59 AM   #7
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Hmmm let’s see Black or this Raw Lacquer:

This took 11 weeks to arrive, but it was the start of the year and the new 2009 version. I believe the current wait is around 6 weeks.

You may find that your Brompton becomes part of the family, a loyal companion that will last for years..... get a B-spoke, it could save you money and you will get exactly what you really want.
Regarding gears, there is little difference between the 3 and 6 speed gear range, but the 6 speed give more evenly spaced gears.

I know that this is probably akin to coming onto the Star Trek forums and announcing that I think Leonard Nimoy is "a bit overrated", as I know there is a lot of love for the 'raw' finish, but I'm really not that sold on it, tbh. I can see what everyone likes about it, but it's just a bit 'showy' for my rather more modest tastes. It does look really pretty though, so I totally 'get' the appeal.

I want to go for one of the more classic (read: "more boring" in most peoples opinion, probably) colours. I really like the red and the racing green myself. And I do like the black, but it does seem to be the colour everyone has.

Re: the gearing. Yes, this is what I had heard, which was what made me think that the 3 gear might be fine - if the range is the same, then I can probably cope with 3. Bit worried that people are saying that they aren't evenly spaced though.
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Old 06-11-09, 12:28 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by colourmebad View Post
Hi, am new to this forum and the world of folding bikes generally, so you may have to bear with me.

I'd say get more gears unless you KNOW for sure you'll never, ever need or want them. Even if you think you won't require more gears on your commute, they will add versatility to the bike for when you might do later for some other use that just hasn't occurred to you yet.

Also I'd say try and wait so that you get what you REALLY WANT in terms of colour and trimmings. I'm a very impatient person myself and faced with a three or four month wait to get ANY Brompton a while back, I bought a clone. I like the clone, but if I had been able to overcome the folder lust I had been seized with, I'd have a Brompton and not a clone. I think if you really do want something else, you'll regret not having it later, and probably end up buying what you wanted in the first place.


EDIT:

I did a mod on my clone which is more or less dimensionally exact copy of a 1990s B. It has two front chain rings now and a front derail thingy (I can never spell derailieur). It adds to the range and was not hard to do. Can be done for about £60 on a three speed B.

Last edited by EvilV; 06-11-09 at 12:32 PM.
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Old 06-11-09, 01:16 PM   #9
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6. black. buy. ride. be happy.
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Old 06-11-09, 02:02 PM   #10
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I don like chain tensioners, therefore I would go for 6 speed. I never found the 3 well spaced enough. I would go for the b-spoke also ,recommend the self clipping rear frame lock if you go this way( it can always be switched off if you do not like it. It is a bit of a sod to fit and nearly £30 to retro fit, but only around £10 extra.
Don't you have chain tensioners on the 6 speed too..? I thought that this was the case.
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Old 06-11-09, 02:10 PM   #11
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I think that I may have decided over the course of the day (pretty much against all of your very good advice, sorry) to just go for the black M3L. The 2 month wait on anything else has put me off, and Evans have run out of all the nicer colours on the 6 gear now. I reckon that the 3 gear will do me ok for now and I actually like black as much as any other colour, it's just not terribly 'individual' I guess. I already have a full-size bike for if I want to go long-distance/off-road.

On a related note, I spoke to a guy in the bike shop today about getting some kevlar tyres put on the shop stock, and he said to go for the Schwalbe Marathons. I said "aren't they a bit slower than the standard Brompton tyres" and he said "no, they're quicker". I'm looking on the site now and it reads "A little heavier than the Brompton tyres and not quite so free-running but with a particularly robust construction - Built-in Kevlar belt - Thicker sidewall to lower the risk of pinch-punctures." So am I to assume he's wrong? Do the tyres make much difference to the ride, and should I go for the Schwalbe's?
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Old 06-11-09, 02:29 PM   #12
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I really like the Schwalbe Kojaks:

Schwalbe Kojaks much better than Marathon Racers
Just fitted a pair of Schwalbe Kojaks to my Brompton

Oh, and I think the Brompton bike cover is well worth having, I use mine all the time.
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Old 06-11-09, 02:49 PM   #13
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i absolutely cannot live with the rear rack!
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Old 06-11-09, 04:27 PM   #14
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I think that I may have decided over the course of the day (pretty much against all of your very good advice, sorry) to just go for the black M3L. The 2 month wait on anything else has put me off, and Evans have run out of all the nicer colours on the 6 gear now. I reckon that the 3 gear will do me ok for now and I actually like black as much as any other colour, it's just not terribly 'individual' I guess. I already have a full-size bike for if I want to go long-distance/off-road.

On a related note, I spoke to a guy in the bike shop today about getting some kevlar tyres put on the shop stock, and he said to go for the Schwalbe Marathons. I said "aren't they a bit slower than the standard Brompton tyres" and he said "no, they're quicker". I'm looking on the site now and it reads "A little heavier than the Brompton tyres and not quite so free-running but with a particularly robust construction - Built-in Kevlar belt - Thicker sidewall to lower the risk of pinch-punctures." So am I to assume he's wrong? Do the tyres make much difference to the ride, and should I go for the Schwalbe's?
The selection of a color scheme is a very personal one that has absolutely no bearing on the bike's performance. Take that from a Brompton owner who chose her's off the rack in a simple red and absolutely no accessories beyond the S-A AW 3 speed hub. When I bought my own Brompton over 3 years ago now, there was no B-Spoke option available yet. The simple no frills C type or Companion one seem to work for me as I did some simple additions of a decent Kool-Stop Brake Pads, a nice saddle that fits me to a "t", plus some other adjustments to make the bike my own. I also made a nice cover for the bike-http://www.flickr.com/photos/world-of-folding-bicycles/3415673813/in/set-72157601331380862/ . The next addition I am planning to add is some rather nice Schwalbe Marathons in the fall as soon as the weekend warriors cyclists go back to work/school. I don't go for performance so much as the extreme protection against flats that they offer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilV View Post
I'd say get more gears unless you KNOW for sure you'll never, ever need or want them. Even if you think you won't require more gears on your commute, they will add versatility to the bike for when you might do later for some other use that just hasn't occurred to you yet.

Also I'd say try and wait so that you get what you REALLY WANT in terms of colour and trimmings. I'm a very impatient person myself and faced with a three or four month wait to get ANY Brompton a while back, I bought a clone. I like the clone, but if I had been able to overcome the folder lust I had been seized with, I'd have a Brompton and not a clone. I think if you really do want something else, you'll regret not having it later, and probably end up buying what you wanted in the first place.

EDIT:

I did a mod on my clone which is more or less dimensionally exact copy of a 1990s B. It has two front chain rings now and a front derail thingy (I can never spell derailieur). It adds to the range and was not hard to do. Can be done for about £60 on a three speed B.
Still do take this advice even as you buy the bike at the shop ready to go. There is no rule or law that I know of that limits you to only one bike-especially a Brompton. If and when you are ready to upgrade to a more advanced model (i.e. 6 speeds, rear rack, etc.) and whatever improvents on Bromptons,upgrades, and accessories that is offered in that future time period, then you know exactly what you want. Keep riding your present Brompton until that one arrives a few month hence. Then you will have 2 bikes to be pround of and you will be able to wait for delivery without going nuts waiting for it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by PDR View Post
I really like the Schwalbe Kojaks:

Schwalbe Kojaks much better than Marathon Racers
Just fitted a pair of Schwalbe Kojaks to my Brompton

Oh, and I think the Brompton bike cover is well worth having, I use mine all the time.
Don't forget to visit my sites (listed below too) and see more of my Brompton and the nice stylish bags & covers I like to sew for it.

Best wishes for enjoyment & many years of happy riding!

Last edited by folder fanatic; 06-11-09 at 04:30 PM.
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Old 06-11-09, 04:27 PM   #15
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I would vote for the 2 speed only version.
The hub gearing eats some efficiency (~5%) and weights ~700g more. And dual lever shifting is slightly cumbersome.
The 2 speed S2L-X is as fast as a multi gear Brompton under most situations.
I also like the fixed gear version of littlepixel BTW which gets rid of the dangling cables.

@PDR: your Brompton is a piece of beauty. Would like to see more pics of it in various situations.
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Old 06-11-09, 05:18 PM   #16
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Regarding gears, there is little difference between the 3 and 6 speed gear range, but the 6 speed give more evenly spaced gears.
Is that still true? I think the older 6 speed had roughly the same range, but the new Brompton Wide Ratio hub has, well, wider ratios. Or are they putting the BWR hub into 3 speed Bromptons? In that case, the gap between the gears will be far too big, and you'll really want a 6 speed.
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Old 06-11-09, 09:00 PM   #17
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Gosh - all the different replies about gears makes me realize you cannot rely on advice from others about gearing because everyone's riding style is so personal. I bought a 6 gear and wish it had more gears. When I ride I shift frequently to maintain a pretty steady, pretty fast cadence with moderate resistance - that's what I'm comfortable with. To me it is a great annoyance to have gears so widely spaced that I am frequently finding one gear too easy but the next too hard. I find the 2008 Brompton's gear spacing just perfect. I cannot imagine having only 3 gears or less - it would drive me crazy, as would gears spaced wider than my 6. In addition to all of this, I like having really low gears. Not only did I add a manually shifted second 28t front chainring to handle really steep hills, but I also switched out the standard 50t chain ring with the Brompton 44t to get just one lower gear on the main chainring - one of the best modifications I've done - added a new level of pleasure to my riding experience.

All of this is to illustrate how different we all are from one another. I'm sure there are many riders for whom my setup would have absolutely no appeal whatsoever, but it's perfect for me (given the B's limitations. I would have preferred an 8 or 9 speed model to begin with!).

So, I guess my advice is for you to consider all the bikes you've owned in the past. How many gears did they have? Did you use most of them? Did you always wish you had more? Fewer? Do you remember ever feeling like you had trouble finding just the right gear - one slighly too low, the next slightly too high? How did the bike's you've owned handle on steep hills? Did you have to get out of the saddle? Do you like getting out of the saddle to get up hills? How old are you? Are you concerned about protecting aging knees? What is the terrain like where you will be riding? Imagine you buy this bike and realize you love riding it so much you want to take it more places (very likely!!!) - places with more hills. Will you wish you had more gears? All of these are questions only you can answer. I will only add that if you are unsure, then why not go with the 6 speed? The price difference is negligible over the life of the bike, and how much heavier could it be? Using the 2 shifters becomes perfectly natural in very short time. Personally I love having the two shifters - one fine tuner, one for bigger jumps - the bigger-jump one so conveniently the hub, making it easy to jump down just before coming to a stop so you'll be in much lower gear to start up again (you can change hub gears while pedaling backwards if you need to!). [Edit: If the 3 gear model covers the same range as the 6 gear, then I guess the questions about hill climbing are irrelevant - but in general gear range is definitely something to think about when purchasing a bike. On the other hand, I suppose the more widely spaced gears are, the more you will probably wind up pushing when riding hilly terrain through 'lack of option' so to speak).

Last edited by Jerrys88; 06-11-09 at 09:18 PM.
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Old 06-11-09, 09:41 PM   #18
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If Brompton had an 8 speed hub or a deraileur I'd have bought one....

CE
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Old 06-12-09, 12:31 AM   #19
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Don't you have chain tensioners on the 6 speed too..? I thought that this was the case.
but the chain tensioner does something to earn its keep on the 6. Its a dérailleur (sort off).
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Old 06-12-09, 12:36 AM   #20
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If Brompton had an 8 speed hub or a deraileur I'd have bought one....

CE
8 speed SA hub fits the brompton, see "stomatash" with pantour hub.This is a none standard mod however.
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Old 06-12-09, 11:54 AM   #21
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Gosh - all the different replies about gears makes me realize you cannot rely on advice from others about gearing because everyone's riding style is so personal. I bought a 6 gear and wish it had more gears. When I ride I shift frequently to maintain a pretty steady, pretty fast cadence with moderate resistance - that's what I'm comfortable with. To me it is a great annoyance to have gears so widely spaced that I am frequently finding one gear too easy but the next too hard. I find the 2008 Brompton's gear spacing just perfect. I cannot imagine having only 3 gears or less - it would drive me crazy, as would gears spaced wider than my 6. In addition to all of this, I like having really low gears. Not only did I add a manually shifted second 28t front chainring to handle really steep hills, but I also switched out the standard 50t chain ring with the Brompton 44t to get just one lower gear on the main chainring - one of the best modifications I've done - added a new level of pleasure to my riding experience.
That is why a good bike maker like Brompton goes heavily for the accessories. Beyond just making the bike look nice, they do add to the bike's performance in various ways depending on what they are intended for. The goal for any cyclist here is to choose the part that will greatly enhance your cycling experience by 1. making the bike fit better, 2. adding to your personal comfort (thereby allowing you to ride farther and faster and lastly 3. Just making the bike mover visually appealing (nothing wrong with that!). My own Brompton came with a 46t chainring and a 13t cog with only 3 speeds. While I can change the cog to a bit larger diameter, I like the set up as is. I can go up 99% of the hills surrounding my house with ease and without leaving the saddle.

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All of this is to illustrate how different we all are from one another. I'm sure there are many riders for whom my setup would have absolutely no appeal whatsoever, but it's perfect for me (given the B's limitations. I would have preferred an 8 or 9 speed model to begin with!).
You have achieve the right balance between comfort and performance while still aware of the Brompton built-in limitations. In my own experience, I have never came across a "perfect" bike from the start. But that did not mean that I had to accept the bike just as it is. There are usually some things that can be added that "customize" the bike for the individual.

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So, I guess my advice is for you to consider all the bikes you've owned in the past. How many gears did they have? Did you use most of them? Did you always wish you had more? Fewer? Do you remember ever feeling like you had trouble finding just the right gear - one slighly too low, the next slightly too high? How did the bike's you've owned handle on steep hills? Did you have to get out of the saddle? Do you like getting out of the saddle to get up hills? How old are you? Are you concerned about protecting aging knees? What is the terrain like where you will be riding? Imagine you buy this bike and realize you love riding it so much you want to take it more places (very likely!!!) - places with more hills. Will you wish you had more gears? All of these are questions only you can answer. I will only add that if you are unsure, then why not go with the 6 speed? The price difference is negligible over the life of the bike, and how much heavier could it be? Using the 2 shifters becomes perfectly natural in very short time. Personally I love having the two shifters - one fine tuner, one for bigger jumps - the bigger-jump one so conveniently the hub, making it easy to jump down just before coming to a stop so you'll be in much lower gear to start up again (you can change hub gears while pedaling backwards if you need to!). [Edit: If the 3 gear model covers the same range as the 6 gear, then I guess the questions about hill climbing are irrelevant - but in general gear range is definitely something to think about when purchasing a bike. On the other hand, I suppose the more widely spaced gears are, the more you will probably wind up pushing when riding hilly terrain through 'lack of option' so to speak).
Very good observations of the 6 speed Brompton vs. the 3 speed or less models.
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Old 06-12-09, 12:45 PM   #22
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The more you are going to use the bike over different terrain, the more likely I would go for the extra gears. The more likely you are going to carry stuff on the bike, the more likely I would go with the extra gears.

You can put roller blade wheels on the bike yourself. Very easy mod. Unless it has changed, I did not need the rear rack for the roller blade wheels.

I thought that the rear rack was not worth its weight relative to the front mount for the giant Brompton bags.

If you really want the different color, I would wait for precisely what you want.
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Old 06-12-09, 04:57 PM   #23
qwer
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Originally Posted by PDR View Post
Regarding gears, there is little difference between the 3 and 6 speed gear range, but the 6 speed give more evenly spaced gears.
I wouldn't call it little:

3-speed 3.79m - 6.76m 178%
6-speed (BWR) 2.63m – 7.94m 302%
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Old 06-13-09, 01:46 PM   #24
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I was comparing the pre 2009 6 & 3 speed gear ratios. I forgot to include the new 2009 BWR.
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