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  1. #1
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    New Touring Bicycle for Trip in Europe & North Africa - Need all the help!

    Hello all,

    I originally had a decent mountain bike which I was using to train but it was stolen! After a long hiatus, I finally want to get back to cycling because I'm going to attempt my first touring experience in Spain, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.



    This touring trip will begin in October until December. It will be the first time that I will tour in another country. In order to be prepared for such a trip, I will be training in the United States by attempting to get around by cycling only. But before I do that, I'm going to need a good touring bicycle.

    So I need all the help from all of you veterans in assembling a good touring bicycle. While I am flexible with how much I can spend on a bicycle, I aim to get the best bang for the buck. My goal is to get the best value for around $1,000 -- give or take. Not every item has to be new. I can try to look for some used parts. I would like to assemble my own bicycle because it helps with understanding how everything works and it also helps with understanding how to fix the bicycle while being on the road.

    Now here are some things to keep in mind: since I will be going in October until December, the weather will be wetter than normal. Basically, it's going to get wet. Thus my bicycle needs to be able to withstand a lot of moisture and also be able to get great traction in the rain. I am not sure if I should powder coat my frames. And since I will be touring, the bicycle will need to support a lot of weight and as well as be comfortable in nearly 6-8 hour daily rides.

    Here are some assembly ideas:

    Surly Long Haul Trucker (new or used) - $430 (new)
    Schwalbe Tires (whatever has the best wet grip and is durable for long trips) - $35 - $70 (x2)
    Brooks B-17 Saddle - $70
    Front and rear racks - $??
    Front and rear fenders (for preventing rain splashing all over) - $??

    Unfortunately... that is just about all I know, lol. I am not a bike expert. I have read a lot about the different parts that make up a bicycle but I do not know why people choose them (i.e. Shimano products).

    Also, what sizes should I get? For stability, I would probably get 700C wheels but what cm size should I get for the frame? I am 5'9". Any suggestions?

    I would appreciate all the help... thanks!

    Jeffrey
    Last edited by yiffzer; 07-13-11 at 05:30 AM.

  2. #2
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    It isn't possible to give advice about sizes over the Internet, because without a deailed breakdown of your measurements and an understanding of what riding position feels most comfortable to you, we'd be guessing.

    Wanting to assemble your own bike is laudable, and there are plenty oF "how to" videos on YouTube, but you don't need to do everything from scratch to be competent to ndertake running repairs on tour. You can't carry spares for everything, so if (worst case scenario) your bottom bracket goes, or you break your front forks, you're going to have to find a bike shop anyway. Focus on understanding how to adjust gears, trim a wheel if you bust a spoke or two, adjust your brakes and gears including replacing a cable, fix a flat and replace a link in a broken chain. That is as much as I would do by the roadside.

    If you buy a decent steel frame it will already be painted and will have been treated internally to resist rust. And obviously corrosion isn't an issue with aluminium. So don't worry about the rain, bikes are meant to be ridden in the wet. Just make sure that whatever panniers you buy to carry your gear are waterproof. I like Vaude panniers, some people swear by Ortlieb, a decent bike shop will show you some. Blackburn make good racks, front and rear. Before buying any, have a look on e-bay, there are often bits and pieces there.

    Your list excludes the most expensive components. Brakes, Derailleurs, shifters, chainrings and rear sprockets, cranks. These are the reason why it is often not much cheaper to go for self-assembly than to buy a complete bike - suppliers do much better deals on the component prices on a complete bike than you can expect when buying separately. So all things considered, in your position I'd identify the best bike shop within easy reach and go to talk to them about your requirements. For a start, they will be able to tell you what size to buy. They may sell used bikes, they may be able to source a reasonable tourer that is new for less than $1000. my advice on that isn't worth much, because I am used to UK prices, but over here I could get you a decent tourer for that money. And if you buy newand still want to learn how to fix it up, all you have to do is take it apart!
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  3. #3
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    Thank you very much for your response. I appreciate it. I was thinking of going to a bike shop but there is only one bike shop around here and I saw that they don't carry certain brands like Schwalbe and Surly. My other issue is that I am tired of people trying to rip me off -- shops tend to put pressure on you to buy something. Even if I came in to ask about measurements and things like that, I feel bad knowing that I may not even buy a bike from them in the end.

    In terms of completes, I saw someone post a complete touring bicycle that's pretty good but it does not use the Surly LHT frame: http://www.raleighusa.com/bikes/steel-road/sojourn-11/

  4. #4
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    Heading to North Africa seems like a case begging for an expedition grade touring bike. 26” tires, although slower on good pavement (IMO) are probably optimal for use in the Third World. A tough frame, strong wheels and racks, low gearing and comfortable are what I would recommend. A LHT frame would probably be fine. There are others as well. You may be light enough that 36 hole wheels would work fine, but I am one of these guys who has had trouble on past trips in pretty benign conditions, so I like 40 hole in 26”. A tough rear rack is the Tubus Cargo. I am not sure what the best front rack is. I have racks from Jack Taylor that I modified, but they aren’t available now.

    Good luck. It sounds like fun.

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    Like he said, for outside North America and definitely for outside the First World, you want 26 inch wheels because it's impossible to find replacement tires or parts for other sizes. Or so I've been told by everyone who've biked in those parts of the world. If your 700c wheels are super, super awesome, and you bring a pair of spare tires, you could never need to replace anything and be fine, but imagine having to decide between ending the trip early and sitting around for who knows how long waiting for some part to be expensively shipped in.

    Your budget, I'd say, is too little. The $430 for an LHT is for the frame only - the complete bike, new, costs around $1200 now I believe. There are cheaper touring bikes, or you can listen to the many people who will post after this recommending building up an old steel mountain bike frame, which is great if you know what you're doing and have the time and know-how to find the best deals on stuff.

    But I don't know of any way you're likely to find everything you need for under a grand, and most seem to agree that, like I said, in most cases it's cheaper to buy a complete bike than build it up yourself with equivalent parts. If you know exactly what parts you want to add to it, great, but you still have to know where and how to find good deals and allow yourself the time it will take for all those deals to appear. The bike itself, for a third-world trip like that, is practically guaranteed to be over that. Expedition-quality racks and panniers add a few hundred more bucks. Camping gear, especially if you pay for durability and light weight, another couple hundred. And so on.

    It's really easy (I know from experience) to underestimate how much stuff is going to add up. Especially when you get an idea of the generalized price range on a certain type of item, and assume you'll spend the bottom price in that range. Then you start looking at things and realize the cheapest ones are all crap, or else won't last long enough for your purposes, or whatever. Worse is to buy the cheap stuff, have it fail, and then have to buy the better stuff anyway. Do lots of research on every item and make sure its quality and durability are well attested in many user reviews based on long experience.

    Is the trip this fall?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by yiffzer View Post
    My goal is to get the best value for around $1,000 -- give or take.
    Jeffrey
    Your best value will be from buying a complete bike that is on sale. Building up a LHT from a new frame is going to cost more than a new bike. While the stock LHT is a good value if you're a particularly heavy person carrying heavy loads I'd look towards getting custom wheels with heavy rims. Get a bike with 26" wheels. If the Novara Safari in 26" wheels fit you that's a good deal.

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    I agree the best value in most cases is the complete bike. That can change fast if you want to make a few substitutions. Some shops are very cooperative, but failing that, you only need to buy a few components twice before the complete deal stops being any better than a full custom build. Another reason to go complete is that while you don't need to be a wrenching wizard to get a bike of a single type together, there can be little pitfalls where a component that sounds good will actually not function on your build for some reason. So if you do custom build look carefully at the complete parts list to get some ideas of the kind of parts that will fit your bike. Brakes in particular can be fluky to get right.

    "Focus on understanding how to adjust gears, trim a wheel if you bust a spoke or two, adjust your brakes and gears including replacing a cable, fix a flat and replace a link in a broken chain. That is as much as I would do by the roadside."

    Good advice. I always say to go over the bike and just look at every part that a tool fits to. Break it down by identifying stuff you can't fix (skill etc...), wouldn't carry the heavy tools or parts to fix, probably will not need to fix or is pretty forgiving to fix with site found stuff. The rest is all you actually need to carry stuff for, and if your parts are carefully chosen, a handful of tools may do.

  8. #8
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    talking about US brands is meaningless if OP is in Spain.

    26" hard tail Rigid fork is a good base , Racks , bags, buy good [Ortlieb/ Tubus]
    first, or buy cheap to start ,
    and replace when ready(or not) to.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 07-15-11 at 12:01 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member skilsaw's Avatar
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    This is an incredibly ambitious FIRST tour! And leaving in October doesn't give you much time to aquire your whole kit and bike, plus do a couple of weekend tours to iron out the problems. However, adventurers have embarked on their expeditions and solved problems as they arise on the road. Having the first 1500 kms in Spain and passing through half a dozen cities will give you ample opportunity to work out your difficulties before crossing to North Africa where services will be less available.

    Crazy guy on a bike ( http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/?o=RrzKj ) is a great touring website with lots of good tips on planning, equipping, training, budgeting, embarking, and any other Bicycle Touring topic that you can imagine.

    You have just 3 months to make your dream a reality. Go for it. Maybe keep us posted as you proceed.
    The one who has the most bikes wins.

  10. #10
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    On the subject of wheels, 700c wheels are everywhere in Europe but possibly less universally available in North Africa.

    As for those saying you need to spend more than $1000, I'm surprised. In the UK you could buy this for much less than that. It's aluminium rather than steel, which some people don't like. However, a friend of mine has one and it's a nice, competent touring bike.
    Last edited by chasm54; 07-14-11 at 01:20 AM.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  11. #11
    Flying and Riding sam21fire's Avatar
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    Looks like there's a lot of great bike/equipment advice here. How about your destination? Tunisia is a really great country to visit and certainly not 'third world'. Algeria would be ok too, but the weather in Libya isn't very healthy right now...lots of lead and hot emotions flying through the air.

  12. #12
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    I've actually toured in Tunisia (but not Algeria or Morocco) and I can vouch for the good quality of the roads in Tunisia. There seems to be an erroneous assumption that if it's not a European/North American, or other prosperous, developed country, that the roads must be lousy. One annoying problem in Tunisia, however, was young boys throwing rocks at us, trying to block us in the road, or trying to pull us down while we were riding. This didn't happen everywhere, but it happened multiple times in various parts of the country.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Lou Skannon's Avatar
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    Looking at your map, I see you are planning on taking in a lot big cities. In my experience, the bigger the city; the bigger the problems. Safety, security,prices, ease of riding, joy of riding and finding a way out of the damn places. To me, small towns and villages offer a much better quality of cycle touring than large urban sprawls. Join up the little dots; not the big ones.
    But good luck with your awesome adventure and keep us posted on your progress, especially North africa.

  14. #14
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    Toured in Andalucia for seven weeks back in '00. Nothing wrong with riding through Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada. In fact, Cordoba has a nice, secure campground only .5 miles from the center of town. There is also a campground right on the eastern edge of Sevilla, next to the airport. A bit noisy when planes are landing, but an easy bus ride to the center of town. And I hear that Sevilla has constructed a lot of new bike trails since I was there.

    I would, however, avoid the cost. I rode between Almeria and a little east of Malaga. The road is not particularly scenic (downright ugly in places) and has heavy traffic in many areas. It used to be one of the most dangerous roads in Europe from a traffic accident perspective. It may still be not withstanding the fact they built a new highway to take pressure off the cost road.

  15. #15
    BeaverTerror Yan's Avatar
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    I was in Morocco, around Marrakesh last December. The temperature was perfect during the day, a little chilly at night (typical desert). Be prepared for some serious switchback climbing and some gravel roads, depending on your route.
    Yan

    2013 True North custom touring; 2010 Novara Randonee; 2009 Unicycle.com Club 24"; 1989 Miele Tivoli; 1979 Colnago Sport

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    Hello again, everyone! First of all, I want to deeply apologize to everyone for not responding earlier. Since the original post, I've been quite busy with going back and forth cities and helping my family. However, during that time, I read all of your comments and I really appreciate them because all of your advice helped me with thinking process of purchasing a touring bicycle. Recently, I bought a new touring bicycle while keeping in mind of all of your advice. Without further ado, here is my new bicycle:



    It is a complete Surly LHT with 26" Continental City Contact tires and MKS pedals. The entire color scheme couldn't be anymore perfect -- black and silver. I've fallen in love with the bike's feel, weight, and styling. I got this touring bicycle from NYC Velo in New York City. The bike shop was full of genuine folks who are willing to help and they don't pressure you into buying anything. Yes, I went over my budget but that budget was more of a ballpark estimate. I spent about $1,300 for the entire thing including some tubes, repair kits, levers, bottle cages, and other things.

    The one downside is that I really wanted Schwalbe tires but they were not willing to swap them out. That's fine -- I'll order them myself. So right now I have to figure out which Schwalbe tires are more appropriate. As one person (Yan) said, there would be some gravel roads. I don't expect the roads to be absolutely perfect all the way so the correct tires would have to be able to handle even some of the roughest terrain.

    I have ridden close to 40 miles or 60 kilometers so far and I have to say that my butt is really hurting. I was offered to buy the Brooks B17 at first but I wanted to see if the saddle would feel okay (and I wanted to save as money as I could). But apparently, I'm going to have to buy that Brooks B17 saddle soon. Then again, I also never wore any bike shorts or anything with extra padding. I read that someone literally wore Maxi Pads under their shorts/pants which gave them extra comfort.

    About the number of holes (I'm assuming this has to do with the spokes in the tires), I am 180 pounds and hopefully I will be losing weight when I ride more (down to 160-170 pounds). I am not sure if I need any more spokes? When I tour, I aim to keep my entire bike's weight about moderate -- not very bare nor very packed -- since I plan to jump into hostels and/or people's homes for a few nights at a time. I intend to bring a tent with me just in case.

    About the fenders and racks -- I'm going to have to call NYC Velo and see their prices for both of them. I believe they were very good and durable racks -- the guy told me that it would be perfect for my long touring expedition. I'll post back here to gather further opinions.

    Now I really need panniers and mounts and things like that -- I saw a guy offer some panniers around here but I am really looking for sturdy and waterproof panniers because I'll be going through some frequent wet weather.

    Also, I'm trying to decide on what helmet is good. There are some helmets at NYC Velo but the styling (yes, style means a lot to me, haha) didn't impress me nor did the quality despite them being $100 dollars. Can anyone recommend a decent helmet that I can get by that'll do a good job? How do you guys manage wearing a helmet during the rain, by the way?

    Have you guys ever used knives as a defense tool? I'm not sure if holding a knife would actually make things worse when it comes to confrontations.

    No, Tunisia is not a third world country. However, Tunisian roads are known to be driven by some of the worst/craziest drivers. I'm not sure how I will survive that. How do you manage to deal with the boys throwing rocks? I know some Arabic so I could try talking to the boys and asking why they even throw rocks. I will be CouchSurfing across the country and meeting people everywhere hopefully.

    Thanks for the suggestion of going through small towns and villages. The urban cities are what I want to visit for the historical attractions and big things but when I ride my bike across the country, I will make sure I go through the isolated landscapes for fun.

    I have two "weekend" tours planned. One will be this: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/570934 and another will be this: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/570939 and these trips will definitely tell me whether something feels right or wrong and will definitely prepare me for the real ride in Spain and North Africa in October. I look forward to it!

    Thanks for all the advice, links, and suggestions for what to focus on when it comes to fixing my bike on the roadside!

    Cheers.

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    Nice bike! I'd recommend going for a B17 - you can probably sell that saddle as almost-new and regain some of the cost. Brooks isn't for everybody, but I think most people have good experiences with it. I did.

    Any 20$ helmet will do you. They all have to meet basic safety regulations (if sold in the US or, I assume, other countries where governments bother to regulate such things) and beyond the basics you're just paying for lightness, aerodynamics and perhaps comfort and style.

    Get some practice camping, there's a lot to learn just from experience. Are you taking a stove and stuff to cook with?

    For racks, panniers, etc, look online for deals. Also, the less stuff you take, the less panniers you can afford to buy.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by yiffzer View Post
    No, Tunisia is not a third world country. However, Tunisian roads are known to be driven by some of the worst/craziest drivers. I'm not sure how I will survive that. How do you manage to deal with the boys throwing rocks? I know some Arabic so I could try talking to the boys and asking why they even throw rocks. I will be CouchSurfing across the country and meeting people everywhere hopefully.
    I didn't find Tunisian drivers to be particularly bad. As for boys throwing rocks or blocking us in the road, sometimes we were able to anticipate their behavior. There was a group of boys in one village who were playing soccer. The moment they saw us they suddenly stopped and came running toward us. When they saw that we saw them, we were able to caution them and they didn't throw the rocks they had picked up. More often, that didn't work. If there was a local adult around, the boys would behave if the adult yelled at them. I speak French and the entire population (including children) is bilingual Arabic/French-speaking, so I was able to communicate without problems.

    In most towns we had no problems at all, but the problem with boys did occur in various parts of the country.

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    @axolotl -- you had a very interesting experience. Thankfully you're okay though.

    @Jude -- My responses below on stuff:

    Brooks B17 -- I can get that from Nashbar.com for only $71 and that includes free shipping!

    Water bottle cages -- I'm also getting some from Nashbar.com for only $10!

    "$20 Helmet" -- I'm looking at a Schwinn Thrasher helmet. I'll be going to K-Mart / Wal-Mart tomorrow to see if they've got it.

    Camping -- I already have a sleeping bag and I'm looking at a $40 tent from Craftsman at a clearance sale. I'm really considering this but I am not sure how it'll hold up (anyone have experience with tents?).

    Racks -- I am at a loss, really. While I want to save as much money as I can, I want a worry-free touring experience where my racks won't just fall apart. I was looking at the Axiom racks but I see mixed reviews where some people say, "It rocks," and others say, "It broke at 15 pounds of load!" At Nashbar, they're offering Blackburn racks which are good but there are four of them and I don't know which one to get! (EX-1 Expedition, EX-1 Disc, Mountain, TR-1 Trail). I would take other suggestions, really.

    Tires -- Schwalbe for sure but there are different kinds and I just don't know which one to get. There's the Marathon Plus Tour and MTB but there's also other kinds too. Since I know I will be switching between paved and unpaved roads, and as well as through wet weather, I'd really like durable tires that have good grip. I just don't know which one fits the bill.

    Panniers -- Apparently, everyone loves the Ortlieb classic panniers. Anyone have other recommendations?

    Fenders -- No idea -- which is best?

    Thanks!

    EDIT: I'm going on my first tour in a week and I really need to order these things in quickly!!

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    I don't know racks but IIRC, Old Man Mountain and Tubus are two (expensive) brands you can't go wrong with.

    Camping, your best bet for a trip to remote areas is probably a foam mat to sleep on instead of an air mattress, which could be prone to be punctures. Get a nice thick foam mat and it won't be too uncomfortable...with tents, think about weight and durability. Tarptents (just google it) are awesome but on the pricy side. You can get a one-man tent for under 200 bucks and it weighs like a pound plus a few more ounces.

    Tires, I dunno, but it strikes me that if the bike shop you went to wasn't willing to swap out tires as part of a $1300 purchase, maybe look for a place that's more appreciative of your business...

  21. #21
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Solid aluminum Rod racks, like Blackburn, Can do the job.
    Though a steel tube rack is stiff and strong and really long term
    investment. .. my Bruce Gordon ChroMoly racks are 25+ years old ,
    have been on a lot of trips, on several bikes .. Made in Oregon..
    Bruce is now in Petaluma Cal .. hand made there..

    Tubus , similar steel , also a very good choice , is popular these days

    Lots more are made, passing from china to germany to the distribution,
    they already have been a lot of miles .. in transit..

  22. #22
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
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    Don't skimp on the rack. My generic rack broke and the pannier was sliding forward and I kept hitting it with my heal. Very annoying, and potentially dangerous. Thankfully I had a bungee that saved the day. I suggest you take a couple with you as well.

    I would also suggest Ortliebs, especially that yo7're going to be riding in wet weather.

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    @Jude, the bike was sold as a complete so they had no reason to take out the tires. They did not carry Schwalbe tires either and they'd have to order it in to which I said no thanks -- I would take care of it myself. The tires that came with the bike are already pretty good and I would find healthy use for it in the United States and as well as Spain until I go into North Africa.

    Weight of the tent isn't a concern since I do not plan to carry a lot of things with me. I do not plan on cooking either so no stove or cooking materials would be with me. Pricing is all I am concerned about. Since there was a really decent Craftsman tent @ my local shop, I think I will give that a test run.

    @fietsbob, I checked out the Bruce Gordon rack -- $189 and $165 which is out of my range. I bet these are amazing though.

    @lucille, I think I'll try aluminum -- Topeak's Super Tourist Tubular Bicycle Trunk Rack DX with Side Bar: http://www.amazon.com/Topeak-Super-T...pr_product_top Because I don't intend on carrying a lot of weight.

    What's the cheapest price that anyone has ever found on a pair of Ortlieb classic back rollers?

  24. #24
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
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    Rack looks good, I like Topeak's products.

    I got my Ortlieb last year from www.wiggle.co.uk Found it was cheaper than ordering from US, and definitely cheaper than buying at home. Have a look, not sure what they charge now. There was a free delivery, and I paid in Canadian dollars avoiding VAT.

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    Thanks. I ordered it @ Nashbar for a huge, huge discount.

    I'm contemplating on a front rack but I will first have a go with the rear rack.

    @ Lucille, did you use PayPal to convert to Canadian dollars?

    PayPal I believe charges 2.5% for the conversion fee. If so, that's actually very decent because Wiggles is selling Ortlieb pairs for £78.75 which converts to $128.36. With the conversion fee, that would mean I would have to pay $131.57. If I use Wiggle's USD value, it would be $136.24. Is it worth the $4.67 savings?

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