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The Neatsfoot Plunge. (B17)

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The Neatsfoot Plunge. (B17)

Old 04-12-11, 07:04 PM
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Aloyzius
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The Neatsfoot Plunge. (B17)

Hi guys, it's been a while.

While the breaking in of a Brooks saddle has been a long boring topic that comes up again and again, I thought my personal experience might be interesting to someone. I got this saddle on one of my bikes last year, and if you're one of those people that can say, "This saddle was comfortable right out of the box," I hate you. It makes me want to say, it's because you're fat. And that's ridiculous and mean.

My B17 feels like masonite. It's had plenty of miles on it. I have the sit bone dimples, and little wrinkles in the finish, as well. I couldn't guess how much I've ridden on it, but my butt hurts right now, just talking about it. I have tried to be a patient puritan, wanting it to break in naturally. I thought Rivendell's suggestion of Obenauf's Leather Crap would be a good compromise between Brooks' own suggestion of Proofide, and St. Sheldon's recommendation of a Neatsfoot oil baptism. The Obenauf's, which is more of a preservative, not a softener, is all I have used thus far.

But, while this may work for most of you. For me, well, my butt is hurting just talking about this experience. I'm at the end of my rope. I'm still hoping for the posterior bliss others have experienced, but I would settle for tolerable. Afterall, a B17 looks cool. The puritans will say, "No! Hang on for just a few more hundred miles," but I no longer have that kind of willpower. So rather than throw that thing away, my saddle and I are, at this moment taking the Neatsfoot Plunge.

I'll let you know how it all turns out. I hope well. Mainly because I also have a Champion Flyer and it too feels like some sort of wooden torture device, only with springs. Flame away, my feelings can not be hurt anymore than they already have by my unfortunate saddle.
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Old 04-12-11, 07:39 PM
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I think the consensus everybody seems to arrive to is.. It either works for you, or it doesn't.. from the box.. Breaking it in makes it only slightly more comfortable.. I haven't heard any "in the middle" brooks stories yet. My Champ Flyer felt great out the box.. Well, actually, it did hurt a little, but in a nice way? Don't know how to explain that without sounding weird.. You feel the pressure on the seat bones, and you know that all the stuff that shouldn't be getting mashed, isn't getting mashed. The saddle is supposed to stay hard. If you get it soft, it will bend out under you, and start applying pressure to your perineum. I'm sorry, but if it doesn't feel comfortable by this point, I don't think there's much you can do other than switch to a different saddle. Over-softening it will not only defeat its purpose, it will also dispense with any resale value it has left, should you decide to pass it along.. That's my opinion, anyway.
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Old 04-12-11, 08:01 PM
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given the plunge is done, hope it helps.
-Im a 140lb tallish fellow (skinny bastard) and my B17 really only took 100miles before it started to be more and more comfortable. Hour long rides were teh most I could do for the first 6 or 7 rides, then simply improved and day rides were ok. I must admit that I was tired of it being sore for my sitbones at that point, and dont think I would have put up with it for as long as you did.

again, post plunge, I guess the only thing to suggest is if you havent tried already, to muck about with position, angle, be sure of your bike fit, reach, all those standard things.

but hell, its only a bike seat, and no use suffering when you want to be enjoying a bike ride. As Chiro fellow said, i hope you dont do it in by making it all softey softey. But if you do, what the heck, just forget it and get a seat that works for you and enjoy the riding season.
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Old 04-12-11, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Aloyzius View Post
if you're one of those people that can say, "This saddle was comfortable right out of the box," I hate you.
You hate me.

I've gotten two Brooks saddles this year, a B17 for the commuter and a B72 for the Raleigh DL-1, and they both feel like Mother Theresa herself is reaching down from heaven and cradling my butt cheeks in her hands. It's hard to image a more comfortable ride. Yes, they're both masonite-hard, to, but hey have enough give under my weight (6-2, 220, okay... kinda fat) that they feel just wonderful.

I hope the neatsfoot oil works for you.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 04-12-11, 08:28 PM
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Thanks guys. So far I can add to my experiment, unless you live in an apartment and don't care about getting your deposit back, wait until you get outside to put your saddle back on. No matter how great you think you are at wiping, that thing is going to drip all over the place. After that, I threw a couple grocery bags over it, to keep from getting oily shorts, and rode. It felt, um, different.

If I destroyed the saddle, it's going to look cool hanging on the wall with some old handlebars, like a hunter's trophy. My regular friends, who don't hang out here will think I'm clever, and not suspect how trite I am. And I'll sell the Champion Flyer.

I'm a skinny bastard too, but I'm starting to suspect my sit bones are wider than average. Should I start over again, with a wider Brooks, I'll buy from Wallbike.com, with their generous return policy.

And thanks again for your observations, which agreed with a lot of my recent observations. This was just a last ditch effort. I would like to like this saddle. But I'm not heartbroken either. There's plenty of fish out there. I'll ride it for a few weeks longer, and throw out a few more longwinded updates.
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Old 04-12-11, 08:33 PM
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Doohickie, I want to be just like you one day.
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Old 04-12-11, 09:06 PM
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I'm another who found the B-17 comfortable, once I got everything adjust right. Saddle height, bar height, stem length, saddle tilt all had be right before I was comfortable.

I even took a wrong turn and replaced the B-17 with a Brooks Professional. It's shaped differently, and hurt to ride more than a few miles. I'm back on a B-17 and happy now.

If the neatsfoot oil makes your saddle sag too much (and it might not, you're not as heavy as I), it'll cradle the wrong part of your anatomy, and you'll start going numb. How do I know? My older B-17 got wet too often. I had to adjust the tension and lace the bottom to fix it, but it's comfortable again.

I can see myself riding on my B-17s for many years.

It's also possible your B-17 will never be comfortable for you. Everybody is shaped differently. Have you your sit-bone width measured?
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Old 04-12-11, 09:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Aloyzius View Post
Doohickie, I want to be just like you one day.
Not sure if you mean that genuinely or are being sarcastic.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 04-12-11, 09:20 PM
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No, I haven't had my sit bones measured. I know most Specialized dealers have the buttometer or something. I'm just so loyal to my LBS I haven't gotten around to it. I'll try it out this weekend.

Doohickie, I will never confirm nor deny sarcasm. But I love ceiling cat, and the vision of Mother Theresa cradling your bum, while Satan shoves splinters in mine made me laugh out loud. And I looked at your stuff and see that you too have an 80's Raleigh Marathon, so you're definitely cool with me.

Last edited by Aloyzius; 04-12-11 at 09:31 PM. Reason: just adding a nice comment.
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Old 04-12-11, 10:14 PM
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We used to treat the Brooks Pros with neatsfoot oil. We'd also take a foot long baseball bat and just thump it lightly a couple of hundred times-- just light taps. I'm not sure where the bat came from, but I suspect that any small club would work. Adding a little heat with a hair dryer also helps. I'd be a little conservative on the oil because it can really soften it up. If you have a light colored saddle, it may also change the color-- darken it.
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Old 04-12-11, 10:15 PM
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If the Neatsfoot still doesn't work, try boiling the saddle in lacquer thinner. Bad joke.

Fourth time out on my new B17 I did a 125 miles and felt no pain. Sorry for rubbing it in even more. I am a fat bastard and think the weight does help break it in faster.

I know this is supposed to damage the leather but nothing breaks in leather faster than wetting it and then weighting it. If you are close to giving up hope, it might be worth a shot. I rode in a heavy rain once and unbeknownst to me my jacket was funneling the water right onto my B17. By the time I realized it, the leather was soaked through. I was in the middle of a tour so couldn't really stop to dry it out. It stretched considerably from this but seemed no worse from it. I continued to use it for years after until I sold it.
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Old 04-12-11, 10:30 PM
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I have a Brooks B17 & a long time ago had a Brooks Pro. Rode the B17 for about 250 miles & it started to break in, but even in the beginning it was pretty comfortable. Only problem was the "skirt" portion that flares out rubbed my thighs (even w/my skinny legs). I'm going to try lacing the skirt so it goes vertical instead of flaring outward. The Brooks Pro I bought was used, it was never comfortable because it had started sagging a bit & the nose compressed the crotch bits. Plus the saddle tension nut was so close to the inside of the nose I couldn't get a wrench to it.

For you I'd guess that if the saddle hurts that much to start, further breaking-in won't solve it. Sure lotsa folks swear by Brooks but everyone is different. Brooks has a wide array of models, only problem is finding the right match. Same goes for any type of saddle. I've read about shops that allow return or exchange of saddles. Only problem is that 30 days might not be enough to fully evaluate the comfort. & if you saturate your Brooks with neatsfoot oil it might be harder to sell it on Ebay.

Right now I'm using a Fiziks (bought it 'cause it was white, heh) & it is comfy except for rides over 3 hours & even then it's not too bad. I used to be a courier & had good luck finding comfy plastic saddles without much effort. As much as folks rave about Brooks their saddles tend to have rather unique shapes. IMO finding the right shape & width is more important than plastic vs leather. After all the pros ride for hours/day on plastic.
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Old 04-13-11, 12:10 AM
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anyone who isn't at their wits end should avoid neats foot like the plague, it will permanently soften the saddle and ruin it. I am not saying every application will do that, but if you use enough to do any good it will likely turn out badly.

One doesn't need a bike shop to measure sit bones. Just sit on two objects like wooden slats, that you can readily feel, and it should be uncomfortably noticeable when they are spread under the sit bones.
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Old 04-13-11, 12:26 AM
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"I am a fat bastard and think the weight does help break it in faster."

Too true. b 17 leather tops don't start out seat shaped. Application of the correct amount of pressure, and moisture, gets the job done. If one is perpertually in pain, one simply hasn't broken the seat in. All it takes is enough pressure, with shoes there are special hydraulic devices designed to stretch out the leather that the foot can't budge. With a brooks I just depress the sit bone spots with a hammer or a golf ball.
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Old 04-13-11, 03:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Aloyzius View Post
if you're one of those people that can say, "This saddle was comfortable right out of the box," I hate you. It makes me want to say, it's because you're fat. And that's ridiculous and mean.
Hmmmmm .... I didn't realise that 125 lbs was fat. That's the weight I was when I broke in my first Brooks B17 after 800 km of cycling. Curiously, I'm a bit heavier than that now, and it took about 1200 kms to break in my new Brooks B17.
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Old 04-13-11, 03:29 AM
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You might be missing a nuance here M. I think it took me 4km to break my last B17 in, and I was certainly a little fat at the time 1200 km is certainly long enough not to qualify. Hides can vary within a certain range in any case, but with those numbers you are certainly thin.
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Old 04-13-11, 05:28 AM
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Leather Honey works better than anything. Its unbelievable. Long time concoction for treating and breaking in horse bridles, reins, saddles, etc. Used now on motorcycle seats and bicycle seats - the owner is a rider and likes to tour.

Amazon sells it and I think there is an online store at leatherhoney.com
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Old 04-13-11, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Aloyzius View Post
I got this saddle on one of my bikes last year, and if you're one of those people that can say, "This saddle was comfortable right out of the box," I hate you. It makes me want to say, it's because you're fat. And that's ridiculous and mean.
My 5 brooks have all been comfortable straight out of the box. My BMI is 18, I bet you're fatter than me But I'm not entirely sure what that has to do with saddle-arse compatibility...

It sounds like the brooks just doesn't work for you. It happens. Did you think all the people saying they were comfortable were just lying?
Too bad you ruined yours, you could have resold it and tried one of the other options (Berthoud or Selle Anatomica, Velo Orange, Ideale, the many other models of Brooks).

Now you're probably stuck with a saddle that doesnt fit you and will result in crotch-oil spots every time you ride...
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Old 04-13-11, 08:39 AM
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My GF and I got a tandem recently with 2 Brooks B17's on it. They were incredibly hard - harder than any previous Brooks I've owned. After a 30km ride she was so pissed off at her Brooks. She felt mine and commented that she was glad my saddle was as uncomfortable as hers. I replied that it felt fine to me and if she didn't want her B17 I'd take it off her hands in exchange for a plastic saddle. I know she hated me in that moment!

I would prefer for the two uber hard B17's to be softer, but I can still ride 100kms without padded bike shorts and not be uncomfortable on them.
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Old 04-13-11, 09:03 AM
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Aloy, reading your first post again, I see that you have only used Obenaufs stuff (up until the oil that is) and never used Proofide. I realize that everyones bum is diff, and it certainly seems that diff Brooks are diff in how they break in depending on leather thickness, rider weight, ambient temperature, amount of sweating etc etc etc--it just seems that there are lots of variables that can factor in.

(oh, before I forget, as you mentioned sitbone width, I have no idea what mine are, but at between 5'10" and 5'11" at 140lbs, with a 31 inch waist, how does that compare to you?)

Going back to break in.
-I first put a really good layer of Proofide all over the bottom of the saddle, maybe even two as the first one got soaked in quite readily (used a hair drier to warm stuff up)
-as per instructions, put a thin layer on top all over.
-I started using my new B17 last summer when it was really hot here in Montreal. 30c at least, humid too--I mention this as I recall being sweaty as heck for all those hour long max "break in" rides. I distinctly recall feeling the leather being more subtle and moving when it was heavily sweated on plus the heat.
-as I got a bit frustrated with my sitbones being sore after an hour of riding, towards the end I did put a little bit of Proofide on the dimple forming areas (maybe a silver dollar size each)--it seemed intuitive to me NOT to soften up the entire saddle, but only to help along the area where my bones were feeling sore, and to quicken up this area to "form" to me.
-from memory it seems that it began to improve after I did this "added bit of proofide to dimple area" thing--was it ready to anyway? was it the extra softening I did in those specific areas? Who knows. but I am sure that hot sweaty rides did help everything along with the leather getting actually dark with sweat (to me, this does support the "put a damp cloth under your sitbone area" while your ride "technique" I have read about.)

Again, even from the start the rest of the saddle area felt relatively fine to me, I instantly loved the feeling of easy movement, without friction on bum parts. But lets face it, you have to get the sitbone area to form to your sitbones so that it will work. Ive put about 1600km on it now (1000 miles) and it certainly is more comfortable than ever.

PS, I bought a used copper riveted B17 in the winter, used it inside on my bike with a trainer. Same thing as my new one, sore after a while on it, so I did again put some Proofide just on the sitbone area, which helped, but I do think I need to put real world hours into it (with bumps etc moving the leather more) for it to get more comfortable like my other one.

**I did notice that this used B17 is slightly narrower than my Honey coloured, steel riveted new one that I bought last summer. I measure width at the widest part of the saddle, at the final rivet. New one I bought is 16.9cm, used one is 15.9cm.
I wonder if the used one is a Pro, which I have read are more narrow.

what is the width of your B17? I just stood over saddle with a tape measure and went from edge to edge of leather (not the rivet in other words)
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Old 04-13-11, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Aloyzius View Post
And I looked at your stuff and see that you too have an 80's Raleigh Marathon, so you're definitely cool with me.
Dang... I wrecked the Marathon.* Does that mean you hate me again? I did replace it with a Super Course of the same year though.

*Just prior to a charity ride, I was slowly riding through the parking lot to drop off my goodie pack in a friend's car. She was on my right and started to turn left. I also started to turn and some bozo who was flying through the parking lot collided with me and we both went down. The result was that my derailleur got tugged to an awkward angle and the dropout opened up about 30 degrees. I still have the frame, and if I can close the dropout without breaking it, I may convert the Marathon to a single speed or fixed gear bike.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 04-13-11, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
If one is perpertually in pain, one simply hasn't broken the seat in.
I don't agree. It might just be that the saddle just doesn't suit them.

Personally the one Brooks that I owned was just OK right out of the box and I hated it when fully broken in. It might be the only saddle that I hated other than a gel monstrosity that I tried once. If the Brooks isn't a magic talisman for you why not use something else. Most other saddles will be a lot lighter, so why force the issue if it doesn't fit you particularly well.

In general I am fine with whatever saddle came on all of my bikes after a few hundred miles of getting used to them. I'd happily take any of my oem saddles on a multi-month tour. I think the fact that I keep my bars 4-5" below the saddle, ride with a nice relaxed upper body, and carry most of my weight on my legs is the key to my comfort on the bike.
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Old 04-13-11, 03:54 PM
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"I don't agree."

Obviously Brooks isn't for everyone. I'm just talking about the problem some people have getitng them broken in. Same thing with shoes sure you can be wearing the wrong shoes, but one can also suffer a while simply because one hasn't broken a pair in. Across the toes is very hard for the foot itself to blow out. Yet a long period of suffering could be avoided with a minor amount of adjustment. Of course bespoke shoes or saddles would be better if one had the dough.
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Old 04-13-11, 04:26 PM
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Might as well ask Aloy these questions:

what sort of bike do you ride?
flat bars, drops? what sort of seat to bar diff is there in height?
when did you buy this saddle? and how long have riding it?
do you ride slowly slowly, in a very sitting up position?
how often do you ride a bike, roughly what sort of mileage do you do each year?
want to take a photo of your bike from the side so we can see how the saddle is positioned?

and to top it off, where exactly does it hurt? and can you compare this to other types of seats you have had.

like the Ntl Enquirer, enquiring minds want to know.
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Old 04-14-11, 05:13 PM
  #25  
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Location: Salt Lake City Utah
Posts: 343

Bikes: Surly Long Haul Trucker, Soma ES, Bianchi Eros, 85 Raleigh Marathon, and a couple clunkers

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First off, thank you for all of your varying and thoughtful opinions, and experiences. I wasn't expecting this kind of response. You've put a lot of time into this. I hope to do a three hour ride or so this weekend, so I have some kind of update. Weird weather, a lame job, and other silliness you don't care about has kept me from riding more than a few miles the last few days. The saddle sure smells nice though.

djb has some really good questions, and I'll do my best to answer them. But again, I will have to post pictures, and measurements this weekend.

I love my LHT so much, I had completely neglected my carbon racer. I ended up ditching it and swapping all the components over to a Soma ES. HA! So yes, I had this B17 on a carbon bike, originally. And I think that, in itself is badass, though you may cringe. Anyway, the Soma. I love this bike. I kept the stem uncut, and have about sixty spacers on there to prove it. The tops of my bars are maybe an inch below my saddle, and I'm thinking about swapping the stem to get it a little higher. I generally ride on the tops, or on the hoods, as I'm a real stroll in the park kind of rider. But it's not uncommon for me to spend the better part of the day riding. I generally ride three to five thousand miles per year, and this year is going to be different and better. Last year I couldn't find my zen on the bike, and barely rode. Personal stuff. Whatever. And now I have a girlfriend that wants to tour with me. But my butt hurts on longer rides. A thirty five mile ride, will make me really sore, right around the sit bones, and I won't ride much the next day. Maybe twenty tops. I just want to be able to ride centuries, without wanting to back my car over my bike the next day.

But I think the real point is, I love riding. So do you guys. And it's fun to share stories and experiences and what works for different people. I'm excited for your ideas, but I'm not desperate for the solution. I'm not registered for the RAAM. I'm not an adventurer like Machka. I'm just a guy that likes to roll around without a map, or a plan, or a watch. I'm finding this experiment really fun, and I hope you do too.
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