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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 03-02-10, 11:22 PM   #1
tjspiel
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Winter 2009-2010: What Worked, What Didn't

Ideas This Year That Didn't Work So Good
  • STI Shifters and Mountain Cranks
  • Switching between two wheelsets/tires - pretty much stuck with the Hakka 240s


On the fence about
  • Magic Shine Light - inexpensive and bright but cable is fraying
  • Pearl Izumi Amfib Bibs - nice, but a little stiff and a lot spendy


Stuff that Worked
  • Nokian Hakka 240s
  • Performance Neoprene Booties
  • Smith Electra Goggles
  • Craft Windfront XC pants
  • Campy Ergo Shifters with Mountain Cranks


Maybe with some different weather and road conditions both the Amfibs and being able to quickly switch wheels might have been more valuable.

What worked for everyone else?
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Old 03-02-10, 11:38 PM   #2
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New stuff that didn't work:
Shimano m454 hub - RIP.

On the fence about:
Wrist warmers
Ergon grips

New stuff that worked:

MEC Pogies
MEC Polartec Powerdry shirt
Smartwool medium weight socks
Magicshine (aside from cable connector annoyances and charge light inaccuracies at cold temperature)
Rotating multiple chains to a cassette.
Homebrew chain lube.
Lighter weight lube in freehub.
MEC Windstopper N2S over-gloves... just get larger ones and slide em on over the regular riding gloves for temps around zero.

Last edited by electrik; 03-04-10 at 06:59 PM.
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Old 03-02-10, 11:45 PM   #3
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Good thread...

Worked:
  • A mirror... I'm not fond of them in general, but it is nice to quickly see what is coming from behind when you don't want to take your eyes off an icy/snowy road.
  • Brake overhaul - several winters of biking have wreaked havoc on my linear-pull brake arms. One side eventually became stuck. And I was still running the same cables/housing throughout all this! So I replaced everything and it is smooth sailing!
  • Chain-L No 5 chain lube... this stuff is supposed to last 1,000+ miles and through hard winters. This winter hasn't been too hard on Milwaukee, but it has performed well. I applied it in early December and it is still performing well. No cleaning, no relubing. In previous winters, I'd relube with Tri-Flow very often, especially on wet days. And full cleaning was an every 2-3 week thing.
  • Bolle Shark Goggles w/ clear lens... paid only $15 from Amazon in September... great deal. Haven't used them much, but they work great.


Hasn't Worked
  • I learned this last winter, but the extra set of wheels to swap between studded and non-studded tires was a flop. I've been keeping the studded tires on consistently through winter for three years now.
  • Handlebar covers (aka pogies, aka ATV mitts from Cabela's) can be a bit *too* warm at times
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Old 03-03-10, 04:40 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
Ideas This Year That Didn't Work So Good
  • STI Shifters and Mountain Cranks
This is because there's a difference in cable pull between Shimano's road and mountain FDs. You can mix-and-match RDs and shifter types to your little heart's content, but FDs work best only with the types of groups they're designed for.
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Old 03-03-10, 05:00 AM   #5
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Didn't work: fancy 'technic' clothing. Ordinary stuff at 20% the price from some chain store works just as well.

Worked:
Snowmobile grease.
Windshield washer liquid, in a spray bottle, to clean the bike before getting it inside to dry.
Getting the bike inside to dry at home and work.
WD-40 to get the water out if there was a risk of seizing by freezing.
Plenty of chain oil. Some more.
Pedaling hard to stay warm.

Next year:
Pogies, pogies, pogies.
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Old 03-03-10, 05:50 AM   #6
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good stuff to remember

studs
fenders
rubber over-boots
wool sock liners
wool socks
chemical toe warmers
cycling rain jacket
reflective tape
snow pants
MagicShine (&water bottle for battery)
shower cap for the helmet
3 hole hunting face mask/balaclava
racquetball glasses with strap with extra vent holes drilled in
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Old 03-03-10, 07:50 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsl View Post
This is because there's a difference in cable pull between Shimano's road and mountain FDs. You can mix-and-match RDs and shifter types to your little heart's content, but FDs work best only with the types of groups they're designed for.
In this case it wasn't a cable pull problem since I was using a road derailleur. It worked OK in the lab

The Sora shifter I had on there had no trim adjustment. The chain rings lacked ramps or pins and the Sora FD just isn't that great. The killer though was that the cage of the FD was actually limiting tire clearance when on the small ring. This was OK for my 40 mm studded tires but wouldn't have been with my summer knobbies.

I could have maybe gotten something to function acceptably with better Shimano shifters/FD/Chainrings but a set of used Campy Ergo shifters made it real simple and cheaper. It helped that Campy 10 speed shifters work well with Shimano 8 speed drive trains without requiring a jtek shiftmate.

Last edited by tjspiel; 03-03-10 at 08:50 AM.
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Old 03-03-10, 08:11 AM   #8
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Ideas This Year That Worked
  • M775 Hydraulic STI Shifters - work way better than the M765s, although there was never a cold enough day for much of a test
  • Switching between two wheelsets/tires - pretty much stuck with the slicks all winter, as it never friggen snowed. Nice to have the option though.
  • The new fullface - It's just so comfy.
  • The MW80s. Provided it doesn't get too cold...which it didn't.


On the fence about
  • MEC Pogies - They are indeed warm. And my hands are indeed affixed to the handlebars...


Stuff that Failed
  • Aerogel Shoe Inserts - I could only find one type, and they were too thick. Into my skates they go.
  • My judgement. More than once.


This list is subject to change at any time without notice.
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Old 03-03-10, 08:45 AM   #9
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Failed
Neoprene booties

Worked
Lake MXZ302's
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Old 03-03-10, 09:30 AM   #10
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Worked:
Underarmor ColdGear (leggings and shirt)
Gore "socks" + toe covers
2 bikes: road bike w/ rack for dry days and hybrid w/ fenders & x35s for wet days
Bike-specific full finger gloves

Didn't work:
Cold feet (pre-Gore socks + toe covers)
Fingerless gloves + ski glove liners on top (too warm on palm, didn't block wind on fingers)
Wind breaker + whatever on dry days (retains sweat)
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Old 03-03-10, 02:10 PM   #11
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Still works: sunglasses w clear or amber lenses, helmet mirror, fenders (Planet Bike), 32mm Vittoria Radoneur tires, 24oz Nissan Thermos for coffee transport (!), Dinotte 200L (on helmet), cross bike, no-name ProBikeKit lined bibs, balaclava, Pearl Izumi AmPhibs shoe covers (RIP after 3 season), rain cover on REI Novara commuting backpack, heavy duty zip lock baggies, shower cap or plastic gorcery bag to (sort) of keep seat dry during the day.

New & Worked: lightweight Endura rain/wind layer jacket, Inova 35mm studded tires (biketiresdirect), Dinotte 600L (on bike) and 140L/li-ion taillight, smartwool socks, underarmour knock-off base layers from Target

Didn't work: Still looking for perfect gloves/mittens/liners combo, studded tires (heck ANY tire) don't work well on refrozen deeply rutted snow. AA NiMH batteries (Dinotte 200L) not holding charge very well this year (I *think* they are new).

Came too late (maybe) to try: Lake MX140 winter cycling shoes (end of season sale). Will try on next cold/wet riding day.

Commute rig: Bianchi Castro Valley, 2x9 compact/wide-range drivetrain, 700x32/or 35mm studded tires, fenders, drop bars, Planet Bike fenders, rack, small pannier (for stuff that stays w bike).
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Old 03-03-10, 02:50 PM   #12
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Based on single digit temps:
LL Bean fleece lined dungarees were great,added rain pants when wet..
LL Bean Wildcat boots. These pull ons worked great with BMX pedals.
Oakley M frame had a good grip on my balaclava. Had 3 lens colors.
No fogging as I didn't use a full face clava.
Chan'l no 5 lube was pretty impressive.
Used liners for my 12 year old gloves.
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Old 03-03-10, 06:20 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
In this case it wasn't a cable pull problem since I was using a road derailleur. It worked OK in the lab
Duh. I should wake up fully before replying to posts. You said cranks, not FD.
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Old 03-03-10, 06:33 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by ghettocruiser View Post

On the fence about
  • MEC Pogies - They are indeed warm. And my hands are indeed affixed to the handlebars...
One annoyance with those pogies are that they are somewhat difficult to get into... if there was a sub-frame inside the pogie it would be better... on the plus side if my hands get too warm since there is no frame i can take my hands out and rest them ontop of the handlebars and still use the brakes. They also get fairly stiff at -20c or so since they are rubberized but they also are virtually water-proof in the cold rain... Plus they are a bit silly looking... but i still liked em.
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Old 03-03-10, 09:54 PM   #15
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Worked:
  • Moustache handlebars. Tried on a bit of a lark, and after more research I don't think that they're the best bars for how I ride, but they're such an improvement over the old flat bars with bar ends. I love having my hands in a strong climbing position while still sitting in the saddle, no more spinning out on hills! And now there's plenty of room on the bars for the 5F and below mittens.
  • Friction shifters. They rock! I'll never go back to indexed shifting.
  • Cascadia Fenders. Especially now that it's above freezing every afternoon when I head home.
  • Merino wool. Because I like to be warm and I hate to do laundry.
  • DiNotte taillight. The PB Superflash really impressed me. The DiNotte blew me away.
  • Black Diamond Mercury Mitts. Overkill above about 5F, but just wonderful below it.
  • Convincing my lady to commute through the winter! Go baby!
Didn't work:
  • Praying to Ullr. It's been a pretty lackluster snow year.
  • Whining that it's been too warm.
  • Using the new bell to scare moose off of the trail. Stinkin' ungulates don't move for nothin' short of a rifle shot.
Always has, always will work:
  • Nokian studded tires.
  • Ski gloves/mittens
  • Insulated, waterproof boots (with a Gore-tex sock vapor barrier below 0F).
  • Respecting other trail users.
  • Situational Awareness.
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Old 03-04-10, 04:59 PM   #16
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My third winter of commuting and I'm still learning.
NEW STUFF THAT WORKED
-NEOS overshoes. The Explorers. I bought these after the two boots I tested failed. These work. Anything below 10f and the toes stay warm on my 55 min commute. Learned this one from folks in Alaska. I switched to homemade powergrips to keep them on the pedals. That worked great.
-Uvex flex seal goggles from Labsafety.com. They didn't fog up with my mouth and nose covered up. But they did make me feel like I was Scuba diving. But I only wore them below 20f. Above that I wear the Visorgogs.
-Wool socks. I found some more comfortable wool socks. LL Bean Boot sock. These feel like little pillows on your feet. And from Bass Pro Shops. Redhead Merino wool hunting sock. I think these are more comfortable than the LL Bean's.
-Loki Mittens. These things sometimes worked too good. They are warm. Somedays I had to open the vent because they got too warm. And it was 22f out. The finger dexterity is great. The gauntlet works great one handed. Durable and worth the money.
-Sporthill XC pants. I bought a second pair. Got them on sale with free shipping at Amazon back in July. These are your top of the line winter cycling pant. I wear these alone down to 18f before I have to add another layer. Simply great.

STUFF I LEARNED
-To avoid the service roads in my neighborhood when they've got 4" or more of mashed potatoes on them. I made better time staying on the main road that was plowed. Last year I used to slog thru that to avoid the traffic. Stupid.
--That three years ago I should have bought the Nokians right off instead of the Schwalbe Snow studs. They sucked. They didn't last two rides in the snow before I bought a Nokian for the front. I have a wheelset with Nokian 294's on them now and I find that switching wheels takes me six minutes.
-That riding a bike in the winter is a piece of cake once you overcome the cold. If I'd known what I've learned from you guys I'd of done this years ago. The snow isn't really a problem if the City gets out there and plows the roads. Ours did a good job this year. Almost every morning it snowed the main roads were plowed at 4am. That helped. Being inconveinienced one or two days a year isn't so bad.
- That after not even three years. My Showers Pass Century jacket is about worn out. I'm having problems with the zipper engaging the teeth. Probably get another one tho. They're too nice.

STUFF THAT DIDN'T WORK
- The North Face Baltoro 400 boots. These had 400 grams of Primaloft insulation. Which is excellent insulation. But the thin material on top made them flunk the 5f test from last year.
- LL Bean Wildcat boot. Another boot with Primaloft but these made my toes feel the same at 15f as my other boot. Which is an LL Bean Snow Sneaker. So I figured they'd flunk the 0f test. I went with the NEOS's after that.
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Old 03-04-10, 09:44 PM   #17
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Worked:

- Wool socks. Wool socks. WOOL SOCKS! WOOL SOOOOOOCKS!!!
- Waterproof "walker" mailman shoes in EEEEEEE width from New Balance (since discontinued).
- Gore-Tex snowmobile gloves from the Job Lot ($5)
- Polar-fleece lined wool hat from the Stop & Shop supermarket on clearance ($3)
- BMX Pedals
- Sigma 3-led headlight, generic 6-led tail-light. Really, really waterproof, by experience.


Sort of Worked:

- Detours Uptown Pannier - More than a match for whatever the weather. Hard-core tuff. Utterly impractical off the bike, and too small.
- Un-labeled fleece-lined, ear-flapped, waxed-canvas lumberjack hat my Mother-in-Law sent me for Crimbo - This is Rhode Island, not North Dakota, so it worked too damn well. I'll wear this if the bay freezes over, and I have a cold. Or if I move to Calgary.

Didn't Work:

- Name-brand canvas work jacket - Great for welding in late-autumn. Sucks for everything else. Not enough insulation on cold days, too much on cold days riding uphill. Drinks in every ounce of rain/snow/sleet, and makes you shiver for it.
- Name-brand "breatheable" rainsuit - Sauna in an overpriced little stuffsack. Don't stop riding, or you'll freeze on the spot in a block of your own sweat.
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Old 03-04-10, 10:18 PM   #18
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Vented windbreaker from Target instead of a Carhart shirt as a shell.
100% wool sweaters for $3 from the Goodwill store.
Chemical warmers in the seat bag for when the toes get cold.
Learned to appreciate my Nokian Mount and Ground tires.

I'm still looking for warm, lightweight foot wear for teens and twenty degree weather. I have Goretex boots that keep me warm but they are too heavy.
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Old 03-05-10, 12:32 AM   #19
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Worked:

Using a $200 used Specialized Mountain bike as a dedicated winter commuter (with studded tires).

Using the regular Novara Buzz on the days with no snow/ice and not having to switch tires.

My Nike Balaclava until I lost it.

My "glittens" fingerless glove w/mitten flap combined with GoreTex mitten shield when needed.

Didn't:

My rain gear and rain pants just aren't holding their own these days. Ordered all new- they're on their way.

My neoprene booties are a pain in the butt. Too tight for my big feet combined with my winter cycling shoe and they're not really "waterproof"
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Old 03-05-10, 08:58 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by electrik View Post
. They also get fairly stiff at -20c or so since they are rubberized but they also are virtually water-proof in the cold rain.
It's been -20C here for about for ten minutes all winter.

I haven't tried them in the rain yet, I'm only using them at -8C or below, so I haven't got much real time on them.
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Old 03-05-10, 11:17 AM   #21
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It all (almost) all worked for me.

Favourite gear:
-Neoprene and fleece half-face mask
-Lake MXZ302s
-Nokian Extreme tires
- MEC pogies (they saw -35C... I didn't notice they got stiff, and they were usually fine to get in/out... I just wish they were bright yellow instead of black).
-Wind pants with articulated knees and zip and velcro to snug down the ankle area.
-Yellow bike-specific wind jacket (MEC Whoosh)
-Plant bike 2 watt LED headlight. Almost bright enough to see with for only $25. Way bright enough to be seen.
-Fenders, that saw their first liquid water last week.

Didn't work:
-Headset overhaul with synthetic Dumond tech lube. It was an improvement, and good enough, but not the magic bullet of low-temp lube I was hoping for. Bike was still noticeably stiff sub -30C.
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Old 03-05-10, 12:21 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by RI_Swamp_Yankee View Post
- Un-labeled fleece-lined, ear-flapped, waxed-canvas lumberjack hat my Mother-in-Law sent me for Crimbo - This is Rhode Island, not North Dakota, so it worked too damn well. I'll wear this if the bay freezes over, and I have a cold. Or if I move to Calgary.
Although your description sounds delightful, I doubt this would go over that well here either.... Personally I stick with the Pearl Izumi Barrier, or a balaclava if it's really cold.

Worked for me:
  • I second the BD Mercury Mitts (with wool glove liners at times). Gloves don't do it for me. Maybe it's that my paws are so far away (37" sleeve) but my damn hands were always cold.
  • Gore-tex socks with midweight wool socks under old hikers.
  • Cheapo Nike Dri-fit longsleeve shirt under Gore BW shell.
  • Marathon Winter studded tires, effective but roll pretty good on pavement.

Did not work well:
  • Shimano indexed shifting. Thinking conversion to single-speed for next winter seeing as how winter and wear will require replacement of BB and entire drive train anyway. Any comments on this idea, by the way?

Last edited by CharlieFree; 03-05-10 at 12:24 PM.
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Old 03-05-10, 01:15 PM   #23
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Did not work well:
  • Shimano indexed shifting. Thinking conversion to single-speed for next winter seeing as how winter and wear will require replacement of BB and entire drive train anyway. Any comments on this idea, by the way?
I wrecked my BB on my first winter commuting. I didn't know anything about bike maintenance, just kept spraying the chain with WD-40 when it got noisy enough to be heard over the studs. After replacement by the LBS, they explained the importance of regular drivetrain care. If you keep it running smooth, you shouldn't have to replace the BB every winter.

I've ridden with Shimano indexed shifting for the entirety of my commuting life. In the winter I found that to keep it shifting reliably, I had to be hyper-anal about keeping the cable housings cleaned and lubed. For the last few seasons I've taken to leaving a daub of grease over the hole opposite the derailleur on the bottom stretch of housing, and seems to go a long way in keeping grit out. But I switched to friction shifting this year and now don't worry so much about housing cleaning, plus I can dump gears fast when I hit variable density snow. I wouldn't entertain the idea of single-speeding though, just because I don't want to give up the ability to shift gears for snow of inconsistent density (it's fluff! now it's plow chunder! now it's fluff again!) and steep, icy hills.

If you're look for less maintenance but don't want to lose variable gears, maybe an internal geared hub would be worth looking into?
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Old 03-05-10, 01:26 PM   #24
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If you're look for less maintenance but don't want to lose variable gears, maybe an internal geared hub would be worth looking into?
Thanks for the tips. I sort of got lazy on the maintenance after realizing I had left it too long in the beginning. My next bike willl be a whole other story. Also it's a low-end mountain bike with entry-level components. Interesting you would mention the IGH - I have been seriously considering it. But they are not cheap for a decent one and I was thinking I could go with a series of "disposable" Craigslist bikes for a similar cost. Still mulling over my winter strategy for next year.

And I agree that gears are very useful, as long as they work.
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Old 03-05-10, 01:52 PM   #25
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Worked well:
-New (to me) winter bike--mid 1990s hybrid, flat bars, rigid front fork.
-Shimano indexed shifting. Triggers work well with ski gloves. The RD cable froze up only once. Starting to get a little sluggish, so I will change the cables this spring.
-MagicShine front light. No problems with mine so far.

On the fence:
-Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires. Great on ice, not stupidly sluggish on dry pavement, but they do have their struggles in the snow. To be fair, I usually keep 'em at 55/60 PSI (they're 700c x 40), and they'd probably do better at lower pressure.

Didn't work:
-Incredibell Micro bell. Rain or accumulated ice tend to silence it, and even when dry it's hard to get a good ring out of it with ski gloves.
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