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One Bike Fits All - CF or Aluminum?

Old 06-18-14, 10:16 AM
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One Bike Fits All - CF or Aluminum?

A little background: 90% of my riding is commuting on flat ground in sunny (sometimes windy) Socal. The rest are rides ranging from 30-100 mi. I want to get into more recreational riding, particularly climbing and group rides

I would like to have one high quality bike that suits my needs, rather than several cheap ones. I rode a classic steel touring bike for a few years, but the comfort was not worth the extra weight. A few months ago I bought an aluminum/carbon fork Fuji. I love the lower weight and upgrade to integrated shifting, but I have grown to dislike how stiff it is. I can feel every piece of gravel in the road.

I also found that it's 2cm too large, so I am in the market for a new bike again. I have test ridden about 15 bikes and my favorites as far as ride quality were CF. I am almost ready to buy an Orbea from CL, but am hesitating because it's a large amount of money for something I've never owned before. Is CF a good choice if I'm only going to have one bike?
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Old 06-18-14, 10:41 AM
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I'm not against carbon fiber but I'm not aware of many CF frames that have rack mounts if that's important for you (like it is for so many of the commutinati). Parlee has a (very pricy) model on their website but I don't see any of their dealers actually selling it. So it might be very hard to do one-bike-does-all with CF unless you like backpacks and minimalistic fenders, which can be fine.

There's lots of very versatile frames in alu, but I wouldn't rule out steel either. 'Classic steel tourer' sounds heavy to me too. I can think of a lot of Surlys that are fine bikes but not exactly sleek and agile. But go look at some of the high-end steel frames available these days. 853 and True Temper OS2 can be stiff, light, and affordable. Some of the really fancy S3 frames are coming in at weights that would make the guys on the weight weenies forum squirm, but they're not cheap. 3 lbs for a typical size? Maybe less?

My point is steel can be a ton lighter than your 'classic steel tourer' if that's what you want and your budget can afford CF. It can be competitive with CF on weight (though it'll never weigh less than a really nice CF frame we're counting grams here).

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Old 06-18-14, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Saving Hawaii View Post
I'm not against carbon fiber but I'm not aware of many CF frames that have rack mounts if that's important for you (like it is for so many of the commutinati). Parlee has a (very pricy) model on their website but I don't see any of their dealers actually selling it. So it might be very hard to do one-bike-does-all with CF unless you like backpacks and minimalistic fenders, which can be fine.

There's lots of very versatile frames in alu, but I wouldn't rule out steel either. 'Classic steel tourer' sounds heavy to me too. I can think of a lot of Surlys that are fine bikes but not exactly sleek and agile. But go look at some of the high-end steel frames available these days. 853 and True Temper OS2 can be stiff, light, and affordable. Some of the really fancy S3 frames are coming in at weights that would make the guys on the weight weenies forum squirm, but they're not cheap. 3 lbs for a typical size? Maybe less?

My point is steel can be a ton lighter than your 'classic steel tourer' if that's what you want and your budget can afford CF. It can be competitive with CF on weight (though it'll never weigh less than a really nice CF frame we're counting grams here).
Thanks for the feedback, my tourer had a rack and my Fuji came without one. I got a frame bag as a replacement and actually prefer it to the rack because the bag doesn't get dirty. I don't use fenders because it hardly ever rains here and all of my commute is pavement. Overall, the normal additions to commuters are superfluous to my needs and I've been very happy on my Fuji without them.

I didn't realize that modern steel could compete with CF in weight. Other than commuter additions, what are the benefits to a steel frame over CF? And are there any particular high end models you would recommend? I prefer buying used to get the most value, and my budget is up to $1500.

Also, this may seem silly, but overall the steel bikes I've seen all have that vintage look. Is that because of the physical properties of steel that require it, or is it just a cosmetic throwback? I don't really like the idea of a modern bike made to look old, especially since I rode an actual 30 year old bike for so long lol.
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Old 06-18-14, 11:13 AM
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I have never been able to adhere to the one bike model. I have steel, aluminum, and CF road bikes. But in Minnie I ride a lot of different surfaces and in sometimes brutal weather year round so I have more variables to deal with than you.

For what you are describing and where you ride, I'd go CF. My CF road bike is dream combination of ligthness, stiffness of power transfer and compliance in the cockpit for all day comfort. I was skeptical before I got it, but it has proven to me that CF does things other materials just can't do.
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Old 06-18-14, 11:24 AM
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I love the Breezer Venturi (below). It is a steel racer that looks like a modern bike. The full bike is more than your budget (~$2300) but it comes with Ultegra components, you could instead get the frame and have it built on SRAM Rival or Shimano 105 for less (how much, I don't know).
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Old 06-18-14, 11:29 AM
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Take a look at Giant's Escape RX Composite. It's basically a CF flat bar road bike with rack mounts. It retails for $1550 but I bought mine at my LBS for $1250.00. There are several threads covering it on the hybrid forum. Take a look.

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Old 06-18-14, 11:35 AM
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If I was only going to have one bike, it would not be CF or Aluminum, it'd be steel or Titanium.
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Old 06-18-14, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by lostarchitect View Post
If I was only going to have one bike, it would not be CF or Aluminum, it'd be steel or Titanium.
Agreed. Neither CF nor Al is as forgiving as steel or Ti. If your bike's gotta work, steel or Ti are much better options.
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Old 06-18-14, 11:48 AM
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CF is fine if you don't plan on bringing lots of stuffs. I have similar ride profile as you (35 mi round trip commutes + 50-100 mi weekend rides) and my Synapse carbon has been serving me well since I bought it 6 months ago. My only reservation is about locking since putting a heavy lock on a CF frame may not be a good idea and it is a waste of the weight saved. It is fine for commutes as I put my bike in my office. It is not an issue for group rides either but I find myself doing less solo long rides since I got my CF bike. Doing it on my mountain bike with a lock is less fun but keep worrying about my CF every time I leave my it for supplies / bathroom breaks.
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Old 06-18-14, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by achoo View Post
Agreed. Neither CF nor Al is as forgiving as steel or Ti. If your bike's gotta work, steel or Ti are much better options.
I don't know much about titanium bikes at all, I've only heard that they're prohibitively expensive. I did find these though... is this the type of Ti that would be good as a commuter? I don't need rack mounts/additions/etc

Litespeed Saber - titanium Dura-Ace (removing the aero bars of course)

Titanium 53cm Litespeed Ultegra Road Bike with Carbon Components
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Old 06-18-14, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by stanleyl View Post
CF is fine if you don't plan on bringing lots of stuffs. I have similar ride profile as you (35 mi round trip commutes + 50-100 mi weekend rides) and my Synapse carbon has been serving me well since I bought it 6 months ago. My only reservation is about locking since putting a heavy lock on a CF frame may not be a good idea and it is a waste of the weight saved. It is fine for commutes as I put my bike in my office. It is not an issue for group rides either but I find myself doing less solo long rides since I got my CF bike. Doing it on my mountain bike with a lock is less fun but keep worrying about my CF every time I leave my it for supplies / bathroom breaks.
This is along the lines of why I thought CF would be good for me. I also store my bike inside at work and prefer to ride without a lock whenever possible. I should also mention that I do still have my steel tourer that I can use when a lock is necessary--however, the bike is much too small for me and I avoid riding it when I can. I also have the same aversion to it because of the extra weight of both the bike and the lock.
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Old 06-18-14, 12:30 PM
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carbon or aluminum if only one bike? aluminum.

i've got 2 aluminum, 2 carbon, 1 ti, and 2 steel. i've got no problem with my aluminum framed, carbon forked bikes.
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Old 06-18-14, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Saving Hawaii View Post
I'm not against carbon fiber but I'm not aware of many CF frames that have rack mounts if that's important for you (like it is for so many of the commutinati). Parlee has a (very pricy) model on their website but I don't see any of their dealers actually selling it. So it might be very hard to do one-bike-does-all with CF unless you like backpacks and minimalistic fenders, which can be fine.

There's lots of very versatile frames in alu, but I wouldn't rule out steel either. 'Classic steel tourer' sounds heavy to me too. I can think of a lot of Surlys that are fine bikes but not exactly sleek and agile. But go look at some of the high-end steel frames available these days. 853 and True Temper OS2 can be stiff, light, and affordable. Some of the really fancy S3 frames are coming in at weights that would make the guys on the weight weenies forum squirm, but they're not cheap. 3 lbs for a typical size? Maybe less?

My point is steel can be a ton lighter than your 'classic steel tourer' if that's what you want and your budget can afford CF. It can be competitive with CF on weight (though it'll never weigh less than a really nice CF frame we're counting grams here).
If you're getting into similar price ranges, a steel frame/CF fork is still going to be have at least a 1-2 lb penalty to a full CF frame and fork. Whether or not you consider that "competitive" depends upon your perspective; for my money, 2 lbs is an awful lot of weight to give away on a single component. That doesn't mean it's not worth it; both of my "nice" bikes are high-end steel, not CF. But they're definitely heavier than a carbon fiber equivalent would be.

I think the challenge with having one bike for everything has very little to do with material and more to do with the variety of things you want to do. If you just want to commute to work and do recreational road riding and don't care about carrying weight, this will be easy. If you want to do the above plus do grocery shopping trips or occasional touring or trail riding or something, one way or another you're going to be giving something up. You do have to make somewhat of a choice between how light and unencumbered you want your bike to feel when you are riding recreationally and how much you can readily carry when it's time for more practical tasks. Likewise, there are tradeoffs between optimizing a bike for fast road riding versus singletrack. Finding a midpoint inevitably means the bike is going to be worse than it could be at both tasks. That might be fine, but like I said, it really depends on what you want to do and what you care about. The main point at which carbon fiber versus other materials comes into it is that you're less likely to find an "all-rounder" frame capable of carry large loads made from CF than from aluminum or steel. On the other hand, if all you really need are some fenders, pretty much any CF road bike and some Crud Road Racer fenders will do the trick.
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Old 06-18-14, 01:13 PM
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Took wheels, fenders & rack off my bike today in prep to stuff it in a car to take to shop. Even somewhat removed of its heavier parts its not nearly as light as a whole carbon bike. That said, I don't have to worry bout scratching it or snapping it on a deep pothole.

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Old 06-18-14, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
Took wheels, fenders & rack off my bike today in prep to stuff it in a car to take to shop. Even somewhat removed of its heavier parts its not nearly as light as a whole carbon bike. That said, I don't have to worry bout scratching it or snapping it on a deep pothole.

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This stuff always has to turn into some kind of materials war. Why?
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Old 06-18-14, 01:48 PM
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Uh, what are you talking about? I simply stated a factual observation (weight) and an opinion.

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Old 06-18-14, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
Took wheels, fenders & rack off my bike today in prep to stuff it in a car to take to shop. Even somewhat removed of its heavier parts its not nearly as light as a whole carbon bike. That said, I don't have to worry bout scratching it or snapping it on a deep pothole.

- Andy
Originally Posted by grolby View Post
This stuff always has to turn into some kind of materials war. Why?
Because it's a forum and people like to argue on forums. So I shall proceed.

I don't have a full carbon bike but I do have a bike with a carbon fork that I've put tons of miles on, - more than any other bike I own. I've hit some potholes in the dark pretty hard with it. Once hard enough to flat a tire, and another time hard enough to bust a spoke. The fork was undamaged. I won't go as far to say that there's no pothole bad enough to ever damage a CF bike, but I will say that all bikes can be be badly damaged during a normal ride if you're unlucky enough.

Case in point. My current fixed gear is a steel bike rebuilt after it's steel fork was destroyed by a small branch that got caught between the spokes of the front wheel. My son was riding it at the time. He was going maybe 12 to 15 mph and down he went in a hurry. Over a year later and he still has a scar on his ankle and another on his shoulder.
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Old 06-18-14, 02:08 PM
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One Bike that Fits All

Folding bikes are only made in one size .. some are in Aluminum Very rare few are Carbon , and Many are steel.
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Old 06-18-14, 02:11 PM
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I see you haven't bought the Orbea yet.

I commute in the same part of the country as you. My daily commute is short and flat and I have been increasingly getting into more and more serious riding (long rides, big climbs). In three years as a commuter I have gone through a few bikes. I have had a couple of fixed gear single speed (one steel , one alum), I had a cheap mountain bike when I started and I got a Surly Cross Check which many people consider the greatest do it all bike ever made but for me it was a frustrating experience because I tried two sizes and tweaked a lot of things and it never was comfortable and it felt heavy and slow and the completes are completely overpriced for what you get.

Now after 3 years of tinkering I have two bikes: a Cannondale CAAD9 and 1989 Centurion Ironman Master. The Cannondale can handle the most aggressive rides I want to do and is also fine for my daily commute. The Centurion is very nice steel that was top of the line in 89 and still pretty nice and light steel frame by today's standards and it servers as a change of pace and back up.

I tried commuting with rack and panniers in the past but I have found for me a messenger bag or backpack works just fine. My commute is short enough that I hardly sweat (especially since I've stepped out my training/recreational riding). My workplace is casual so I can wear moisture wicking clothes and not have to change. But I do have showers if I am sweaty and want to change when I get to work which I would prefer doing over using rack/paniers.

If you are considering aluminum and not wanting to spend the premium for the Orbea I would suggest looking for a Cannondale CAAD. They are plentiful on socal craigslist. A CAAD10 with 105 can be found under $1000 or you could get Ultegra or SRAM for $1500 used. I have a CAAD9 and love it, basically the same bike as the 10. CAAD8 are a little cheaper and slightly less aggressive geometry and I've seen them as low as $500 on CL
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Old 06-18-14, 02:20 PM
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My Domane 2.0 (alum) has fender and rack mounts built in, has a good frame/features for endurance riding (IsoSpeed/carbon forks), etc. I do both with it, commute up to 38 miles a day and rec riding up to 50 miles a trip so far. Its a lower end bike for the brand, but it works.
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Old 06-18-14, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by rms13 View Post
I see you haven't bought the Orbea yet.

I commute in the same part of the country as you. My daily commute is short and flat and I have been increasingly getting into more and more serious riding (long rides, big climbs). In three years as a commuter I have gone through a few bikes. I have had a couple of fixed gear single speed (one steel , one alum), I had a cheap mountain bike when I started and I got a Surly Cross Check which many people consider the greatest do it all bike ever made but for me it was a frustrating experience because I tried two sizes and tweaked a lot of things and it never was comfortable and it felt heavy and slow and the completes are completely overpriced for what you get.

Now after 3 years of tinkering I have two bikes: a Cannondale CAAD9 and 1989 Centurion Ironman Master. The Cannondale can handle the most aggressive rides I want to do and is also fine for my daily commute. The Centurion is very nice steel that was top of the line in 89 and still pretty nice and light steel frame by today's standards and it servers as a change of pace and back up.

I tried commuting with rack and panniers in the past but I have found for me a messenger bag or backpack works just fine. My commute is short enough that I hardly sweat (especially since I've stepped out my training/recreational riding). My workplace is casual so I can wear moisture wicking clothes and not have to change. But I do have showers if I am sweaty and want to change when I get to work which I would prefer doing over using rack/paniers.

If you are considering aluminum and not wanting to spend the premium for the Orbea I would suggest looking for a Cannondale CAAD. They are plentiful on socal craigslist. A CAAD10 with 105 can be found under $1000 or you could get Ultegra or SRAM for $1500 used. I have a CAAD9 and love it, basically the same bike as the 10. CAAD8 are a little cheaper and slightly less aggressive geometry and I've seen them as low as $500 on CL
I offered 1300 for the Orbea, and the woman said she would go as low as 1500. I am getting ready to take her up on that because I loved how it rode, and I'm totally okay with paying that price considering it's the Diva model with DA. I'm just being very cautious this time around because I get very invested in my bikes and I don't want to let this next one go like I have to for my Fuji. I haven't ridden a Cannondale yet, is their alum better ride quality than normal? I rode a lot of alum/carbon fork bikes (trek/jamis/felt/fuji/giant) and they were all roughly similar, and I use "roughly" as a pointed adverb

My main gripes with the Fuji are its size, stiffness, and poor Sora indexed shifting (although it's better than the DT my steel tourer has). I was actually looking at Centurions alongside the Fuji when my budget was a lot lower. They seem like a good alternative to my too-small Univega, as they are from roughly the same time and are made of the same materials from a good manufacturer
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Old 06-18-14, 02:55 PM
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I think the larger issue is that manufacturers don't generally equip their full carbon offerings with mount points for these things vs a alu/carbon debate. If you had say my uptown in carbon & alu, then you could compare apples to apples. Till then, I think most carbon frames you'll find are not commute minded, rather race/fitness minded.

That's my thought on it.

if you do find a carbon bike with mount points, how would it compare spec to spec to an alu equivalent might be the best question.

- Andy
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Old 06-18-14, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
If you're getting into similar price ranges, a steel frame/CF fork is still going to be have at least a 1-2 lb penalty to a full CF frame and fork. Whether or not you consider that "competitive" depends upon your perspective; for my money, 2 lbs is an awful lot of weight to give away on a single component. That doesn't mean it's not worth it; both of my "nice" bikes are high-end steel, not CF. But they're definitely heavier than a carbon fiber equivalent would be.

I think the challenge with having one bike for everything has very little to do with material and more to do with the variety of things you want to do. If you just want to commute to work and do recreational road riding and don't care about carrying weight, this will be easy. If you want to do the above plus do grocery shopping trips or occasional touring or trail riding or something, one way or another you're going to be giving something up. You do have to make somewhat of a choice between how light and unencumbered you want your bike to feel when you are riding recreationally and how much you can readily carry when it's time for more practical tasks. Likewise, there are tradeoffs between optimizing a bike for fast road riding versus singletrack. Finding a midpoint inevitably means the bike is going to be worse than it could be at both tasks. That might be fine, but like I said, it really depends on what you want to do and what you care about. The main point at which carbon fiber versus other materials comes into it is that you're less likely to find an "all-rounder" frame capable of carry large loads made from CF than from aluminum or steel. On the other hand, if all you really need are some fenders, pretty much any CF road bike and some Crud Road Racer fenders will do the trick.
So what you're essentially saying is that, if I plan to do most of my riding unencumbered, CF would be the better option to get the most for my money? I do still have my steel tourer for carrying loads and bad weather, so weight and ride quality are my top two priorities for my new bike.
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Old 06-18-14, 03:12 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by pavemen View Post
My Domane 2.0 (alum) has fender and rack mounts built in, has a good frame/features for endurance riding (IsoSpeed/carbon forks), etc. I do both with it, commute up to 38 miles a day and rec riding up to 50 miles a trip so far. Its a lower end bike for the brand, but it works.
Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
I think the larger issue is that manufacturers don't generally equip their full carbon offerings with mount points for these things vs a alu/carbon debate. If you had say my uptown in carbon & alu, then you could compare apples to apples. Till then, I think most carbon frames you'll find are not commute minded, rather race/fitness minded.

That's my thought on it.

if you do find a carbon bike with mount points, how would it compare spec to spec to an alu equivalent might be the best question.

- Andy
The subject of mounting extras keeps coming up. I don't want racks or fenders, I have used both of them on previous bikes and found them superfluous considering my area's year-round temperate weather and the fact that I don't really need to carry loads. That seems to be the only major argument for steel or aluminum over CF considering my price point.

I have looked at a few Domanes on CL, I can afford a used CF one but the Orbea I'm looking at would get me higher components for the same amount of money. They look like nice bikes though
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Old 06-18-14, 03:27 PM
  #25  
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Perhaps one of these with different tires?

Fuji Bikes | ROAD | CYCLOCROSS SERIES | ALTAMIRA CX 1.5

I'm going to a shop later, I'll pick their brains for you on the issue.

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