Monday, October 15, 2012
Part 1: Visit to the Pulmanologist
Lately, I have been experiencing some tightness in my chest. Ocassionally, I would run out of breath while running or riding a bike.
This doesn't happen to me! My legs give out. But I never run out of breath. I went to see my doctor. He ordered a EKG stress test. The result of the EKG was that my ticker is in great shape.
My doctor then referred my to a Pulmanologist. This took 6 weeks to get into see this lung doctor. I almost canceled my appointment. My lung capacity is really good. I went to see this lung doctor last Thursday. He ordered a lung capacity test. This test determined that I have 150% of normal lung capacity. I have tested at 180% of normal lung capacity in the past. I got a really big boiler room. It is a gift. I rely on my cardio-vascular fitness to ski, bike and run hard! But I have been sucking wind lately.
After an hour long examination, the lung doctor told me I have Asthma that is triggered by allergies. ASTHMA! No way! Unfortunately, his diagnosis made sense. Rats! The lung doctor has ordered additional tests. I have an inhaler and nebulizer to treat the symptoms in the meantime.
I still can't get my brain around this one!
Part 2: Shimano XT Brakes For My Specialized Camber
About a month ago, I got really frustrated with poor drivetrain on my 2012 Specialized Camber Comp. I bought a complete Shimano XT group, sans brakes, for my Camber. The results were dramatic. The bike performed perfectly.
The original Tektro hydraulic brakes were adequate. But I decided to take that last step and get the excellent Shimano XT brakes. I completed installing the new XT brakes today. Little Cam is now an astonishing good performing bike.
I opted for the silver version of the XT brakes. Shimano XT brakes also come in black. I thought the flashier silver XT brakes suited Little Cam better.
The front brake has a 180mm IceTech rotor. The IceTech rotor is a sandwich of stainless steel and aluminum. These rotors dissipate heat very quickly. The cooling fins on the caliper also dissipate a lot of heat. Hot brakes don't work very well.
The back brake has 160mm IceTech rotor. The XT brakes also release completely and don't add any drag.
The big advantage of these XT brakes is that a single finger on the brake lever is all that is all that is usually required. You get to keep four fingers on the hand grip which gives you more control.
If you need to hit the brakes hard, there is room on the levers for two fingers. Shimano XT brakes are so powerful, you don't need to use all your fingers.
Part 3: First Ride with New Brakes
The brakes have made a huge difference in controllabilty. Little Cam is really fast with the new brakes. I took Little Cam to Beaver Ranch for a short trail ride. We covered 8 miles in 30 minutes.
Distance: 8 miles
Time: 30 minutes
Average Speed: 16.1 mph
Fastest Speed: 28.5 mph
I used my nebulizer before the ride and took my inhaler. Little Cam flies now! I think 16.1 mph on rough dirt trails with lots of hills is pretty good for a old guy that can't breath well.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Thursday, October 04, 2012
Part 1: Specialized Camber XT Pro
I got a call from Green Mountain Cyclery yesterday. They had completed installation the installation of the new Shimano XT. I dropped by the shop on the way home from work.
I walked in the door of the shop. One of the bike techs ask, "May I help you ?" I see a pretty white bike hanging from the ceiling by the back wheel with about 30 other bikes. "I am here to pick up my Specialized Camber Comp." The other bikes hanging near Little Cam look drab in comparison. The tech calls out, "Hey Sheldon, the guy is here to pick up the Camber." Evidently, Sheldon was the tech that worked on Little Cam.
Sheldon grabs Little Cam from the rack. He rolls out Little Cam and hands him over to me. He proudly says, "This is one sweet ride. Specialized has had the Camber dialed in for years. You are really gonna like the way it shifts now." Another tech working nearby says, "Yeah, that bike has a great frame and righteous suspension. The XT parts were a great choice. How much does the bike list for?" I answered, "$1,850 but I got it for $1,450. I got about $1,100 in upgrades including, the Mavic wheels, new tires, saddle, grips and the XT group." The tech walks over and looks at the tires. "Where did you get the Velociraptors?" I answer, "Brand new at REI." Sheldon chimes in, "Yeah, those tires have been THE tires for ages."
I realize I am talking to guys that work in a shop that does not sell Specialized bikes, Velociraptor tires, Mavic wheels or the Shimano XT parts. We make small talk for a while. Sheldon brings out a box with all my old parts inside. He rings up the total, "That will be $85." I hand over the cash and ask, "Is that all?" Sheldon says, "You brought all the parts. I just put them on."
I wheeled the bike out the door. Sheldon carried the box of bike parts. We shook hands and he said, "I think you are going to like the way the bike is set up." I thanked him profusely.
Part 2: Serious Bike
Here is a photo of Little Cam before his first serious trail ride on August 5th.
I spent a lot of time during this first ride dialing in the suspension. I didn't take Little Cam on anything too difficult. I had a great time. To my delight, I discovered that Little Cam was a ferocious little beast.
But in my opinion, Little Cam looked like a toy , a really pretty toy, but a toy none-the-less.
This factory photo shows the Camber's great lines and frame geometry. Inside all that cutesy white and red over-decoration beats the heart of a tiger!
Here is what Little Cam looks like today.
The bike is still too pretty but is now armed to the teeth. The "blingy" XT group looks good on the bike. I wanted to take some photos of Little Cam looking good. He is going to be heading into rough country and will be getting some battle scars.
Here is Little Cam in his element. The bike is ready for anything the Colorado back country can dish out.
Just jump on and ride. This photo shows the really short rear chainstay. I added a longer stem and flat handlebars. This makes the riding position more aggressive but has the added benefit of putting more weight on the front wheel. The odd Camber geometry works wonders, however, the front wheel gets very light on a steep ascent. The longer stem helps handling a lot.
This is a shot of the XT shifter for the crank rings. I have decided to replace the Tektro hydraulic brakes with XT IceTech brakes. I need to save up some more coin before I can buy new brakes. For now, the factory Tektro brakes work fine.
When I changed the Stem I bought carbon spacers. These really don't cut any weight. I just like the looks. The original stem was 90mm. The new stem is 110mm. I always felt a little cramped on Little Cam before I made this modification. The reach from seat post to handlebar is now 26.5" on Little Cam. Which, by coincidence is identical to the reach on Ultra Stumpy, Little Stumpy and my Allez road bike. Funny how that works.
Part 3: Test Ride
When I got home from the shop I took Little Cam for a ride. I was apprehensive. I spent a lot of money on the XT upgrades. If the shifting was still balky I was going to be really disappointed. Logically, I knew the shifting had to be better. But was it $734.78 better? Although I got a hefty discount on the XT group by shopping around, I still have a lot of money invested in an "entry-level" bike.
I jumped on the bike and headed up the driveway in way too high a gear. I hit the front shifter to drop it down a ring. *Snick* and it was down a ring instantaneously. The old components would never shift under such a heavy load. I rode Little Cam all over. The shifting was so quick and positive the only way I knew the gears had shifted was the difference in pedaling.
The XT components are magnificent! The upgrade was worth every penny! The bike feels so nice. The tech was close on weight reduction. The XT parts shaved 2.5 pounds off Little Cam. Even with the heavier wheels and tires, Little Cam weighs 28.5 pounds. But the real benefit is the way the bike feels. The bike shifts cleanly and quickly under any load. The XT crank also has lower friction bearings so pedaling is easier.
I am a really happy guy.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
Part 1: Theme Music
My SparkFriend, KA_JUN, often has theme music for his blogs. Here is my theme music for this blog.
Although this song was written and first performed by Bob Dylan, I like the 1967 version by the Byrds.
Part 2: That is Going to Leave a Mark
On July 25th, 2012, I had a really bad mountain bike accident on Bergen Peak. I was seriously injured. Here is a link to my blog regarding my face plant.
This was me shortly after I was glued back together.
The cause of the accident was faulty bike brakes. My Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert ("Ultra Stumpy") came with Formula brakes. The front brake fluid got contaminated with water and locked-up during a fast descent down the Bergen Peak Trail in Evergreen, Colorado.
The bike shop replaced these troublesome Formula brakes with Shimano XT brakes. I did a lot of riding of Ultra Stumpy to make sure the Shimano XT brakes were working well.
Part 3: Return to Bergen Peak
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;" Shakespeare - King Henry V
Ok, quoting The Bard is a little dramatic for a mountain bike ride. But as a pedaled toward Bergen Peak, and almost certain doom, I was a wee bit nervous. In a life filled with hospital stays due to accidents, 100's stitches and many broken bones, I had never felt as much pain as my July 25th bike accident on Bergen Peak.
My helmet saved my life!
I bought a new mountain bike helmet.
I got a Giro Phase helmet. This photo compares my new helmet with the Specialized helmet I destroyed during my accident.
I have been wearing my road bike helmet on my mountain bike, which is fine. However, mountain bike helmets offer more protection from frontal blows. Since I ripped my scalp open during the accident, I had to wait for my noggin to heal before I could be fitted for a new helmet.
Just as a reminder, here is Bergen Peak trail.
Bergen Peak is steep with lots of switchbacks.
Pictures don't do this trail justice. This is rough.
Not all of Bergen Peak Trail is horrible.
Fun boulder to fly over and catch some air!
Piece of cake!
Ultra Stumpy was made for this!
Part 3: Cut to the Chase
I successfully navigated 10 miles of Bergen Peak without a scratch! The new Shimano XT brakes performed flawlessly! Some parts of Bergen Peak have a 30% to 40% grade, which is very steep. You have to use your front brake. I was able to crawl down bad sections with my new brakes.
Here is how I did:
Ascent: 1,834 feet
Elevation: 9,260 feet
Time: 59.5 minutes
Average Speed: 10.2 mph
Maximum Speed: 28.3 mph
Part 4: Little Cam
Currently my Specialized Camber Comp is at Green Mountain Cyclery getting a transplant of the great components he deserves. The pros at Green Mountain Cyclery are installing a new XT Crank, XT Shifters, XT Derailuers, HG93 Chain, and new Jagwire shifting cable housings.
Green Mountain Cyclery has 80% of the floor space dedicated to the repair shop. For all this installation and tuning, the estimate is $85! The bike doc says this lightweight XT stuff will knock over 3 pounds off Little Cam.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Friday, September 28, 2012
Part 1: Bike Jargon on Colorado Public Radio
I was listing to Colorado Public Radio on the way to work. There is a spot on called "Colorado Matters", which covers topics of interest in the State.
The title of the spot was"Sorry, Leadville", and was an interview with M. John Fayhee who was plugging his book Colorado Mountain Companion: A potpourri of useful miscellany from the highest parts of the highest state. Here is the link to a recorded version:
For me, the most interesting part of the spot was the special jargon associated with certain activities like mountain biking and skiing. Mr. Fayhee related that he was sitting in a bar in Leadville and overheard a conversation between two mountain bikers. He said as he listened, he had no idea what information was being relayed between the two bikers. He also noted that the two men were his age and not teenagers. He decided to include in his book a section on the jargon, terms and vocabulary of common high-altitude activities in Colorado.
The interviewer, Zach Barr" decided to test Mr. Fayhee on mountain biking jargon. I listened with trepidation. If you don't know the lingo, then you are a either a poser, cleanie or worse - a fred!
The first question was "to taco?".
Great! I knew that one! I had taco'ed my front wheel on my Stumpjumper hardtail at Buffalo Creek. I was bombing down a gnarly downhill, hit a tank trap, went endo and cheese grated my knees and elbows. The front wheel was wonked-out and I had to do portage of the bike back to the rack.
The second question was "Three Hour Tour?". Ok, that stumped me. The answer is a short ride that turns into a long ride. The reference is from Gilligan's Island. BTW, a "long ride" is often called a "death march".
The third question was "WIld Pigs". I knew that one all too well. "Wild Pigs" are squealing brakes. My Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert (Ultra Stumpy) put me on my face after my squealing brakes overheated and locked-up.
I am sure that every activity has special Jargon. A sewing club probably uses colorful terms. A sewing club member may use derisive language to describe another member, "Mabel is such a pattern-wonk. She can't track a stitch unless it is pinned to paper!" Perhaps Mabel has comments of her own, "Ethel is such a techno-weenie. She's got an Ultra-Stitch 9000 and can't sew a straight line!" (Note: I am making this stuff-up but you get the idea.)
Jargon and slang is: (1) a way to communicate complex ideas very quickly, and; (2) a way to immediately identify someone as belonging to the group. Here is a link to a pretty good cycling glossary:
Quiz: Where would you expect to hear, "My gun time was 26:01, but my chip time was 25:41."
Part 2: Bike Bling
My darling 26" Specialized Camber Comp came from the factory with a great suspension and great frame. The bike fits the way I ride. Here is a cool video of a Specialized Camber 26.
The Camber is a lot of bike for under 20 benjamins. The Camber is quick. However, my Camber Comp would be a lot more suited where I ride with some techno-bling.
I ordered some great bling from on-line cycling stores. I saved a ton of money.
I got this Shimano XT crank for $199. The list is $380. This crank is super light, strong and blingy! High-end parts are pretty parts. This XT crank has 8 machined "short teeth" in the 44T ring, called "shift points". Shifting happens faster that 1/20th of a crank rotation. Sometimes the stock Alivio setup would take several crank rotations to shift.
The XT crank is also very rigid with low- friction bearings to efficiently transmit pedal strokes into motion. This is fast bling!
To help with the shifting chores I bought an XT front derailleur.
This upgraded XT derailleur is more rigid than the stock SLX; and is lighter, has finer adjustments, better spring and more precise motion. And is more blingy!
Of even greater importance is the rear derailleur. I bought a 9-speed XT Shadow rear derailleur.
The XT Shadow is a seriously good piece of bling! The XT components for a 3x9 are silver. The XT components for a 3x10 are black and look pretty cool. I decided to stick with the slightly out-of-date 27 speed. ( Note: 3 rings on the crank times 9 cogs on the rear equals 27 speeds.)
To round out the upgrade I got XT shifters. These shifters don't look very "blingy". However, these units are precise and smooth.
The red pointer shift indicators let you know what gear you are in. Your legs let you know which gear you are in.
I bought an XT Hyper-Glide 93 chain. Even the XT chain has bling.
This is a low friction chain with zinc and chrome plating for corrosion resistance.
I have high school football games to "ref" this weekend and won't be able to install my bling until Sunday. I am thinking of taking the bike down to Green Mountain Cyclery and having them install the bling.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Part 1: I Expect a Lot out of a Bike
On August 3rd 2012 I brought home my new 2012 Specialized Camber Comp 26" full suspension mountain bike. The list price for the Camber Comp was $1,850. I haggled with the nice sales lady and got the price down to $1,450. This bike just happened to be the last 26" Camber Comp in Denver in my size, which is medium (19.5" to 20"). The 2013 bikes were just starting to hit the showrooms and Wheatridge Cyclery was ready to deal.
I wanted a full-suspension bike that was as nimble as my tried-and-true Specialized Stumpjumper Pro hardtail. This is a tall order. Little Stumpy is slashing mean machine on tight and twisting trail.
This photo is of my 2006 Stumpjumper Pro, also known as Little Stumpy.
Little Stumpy has the right stuff. For you techno-geeks here are components that Little Stumpy is packing:
Frame: M4 Aluminum Alloy
Front Fork: Rockshox Recon Silver Air with 100mm , remote lockout & rebound adjustment
Shifters: Shimano XT M770 Rapidfire 9-Speed
Front Derailleur: Shimano XT Top Swing 9 Speed
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT 9 Speed with SGS Long Cage
Crankset: Shimano XT 22/32/44
Cassette: 11-34 Shimano XT 9-Speed
Chain: Shimano XT HG93
Wheels: Tough Mavic EN321 26" with low-resistance Shimano Deore Hubs
Tires: Maxxis Minion DhR 26 x 2.35"
Brakes: Avid Juicy Hydraulic Disc with 160 mm rotors
Little Stumpy is joy to ride. Under all conditions, and any load, shifting is crisp, quick and silent. I could have just said Little Stumpy has a complete Shimano XT group and that would be enough.
The typical list price for an alloy hardtail with the XT group is $3,000 to $3,500. Little Stumpy is a pretty decent XC racing bike and a terror on a smooth single track.
Here is Little Stumpy's element. This is segment 1776 of the Colorado Trail. The surface is decomposed granite "ball bearings". Segment 1776 is typical of trails on the eastern slope of the Colorado Rockies, which tend to be darn slippery.
This is Little Stumpy before a ride in the rain on the Colorado Trail. The aggressive tread on the Maxxis Minion tires give Little Stumpy good traction on loose surfaces. The heavy duty sidewalls resist punctures from sharp rocks, of which are in abundant supply around here.
This is Little Stumpy after his battle with the elements. I did this ride on Little Stumpy on August 2nd, 2012, which was a week after my face had a close encounter with razor sharp rocks on Bergen Peak. Riding in the rain washed the blood off my shoes. I only rode five miles at an easy pace of 8 miles per hour with a maximum speed of 18 mph. I had just got the stitches out of my face and just wanted to take an easy ride. Ultra Stumpy was still in the bike hospital getting a brake-ectomy. I had yet to pick up the Camber, which I had on lay-a-way. I picked-up the Camber and my revived Ultra Stumpy on the same day.
Part 2: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
In my quest for the ultimate in a nimble full suspension mountain bike, I tested bikes from Cannondale, Giant, Trek and Scott trying to find the perfect full-suspension razor-sharp handling ride. When I tested the Specialized Camber I was hooked. The 26 Camber is a wickedly responsive bike.
Here is the factory photo of the 2012 Specialized Camber Comp.
I knew that Specialized was dropping the 26" Camber in 2013. The 2013 Camber models all have twenty-nine inch wheels and are a lot more expensive. The 2013 Camber Comp now lists for $2,600.
Twenty-nine inch wheels are all the rage in the mountain biking community. I have a great 29er. My 29er is a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon, which I call Ultra Stumpy. Ultra Stumpy is an "all mountain" bike with tons of plush suspension travel and slack steering. Ultra Stumpy can be extremely responsive but it requires a lot of work. Ultra Stumpy can take on very rough and rocky terrain with nary a whimper. Ultra Stumpy climbs like a homesick angle and, most importantly, is very fast.
Ultra Stumpy is stable at high speed. My Camber is a bit twitchy at high speed. Little Stumpy is also a bit twitchy at high speed. Here is the deal. All things being equal, you can't have both low speed maneuverability and high-speed stability.
Ultra Stumpy is a heck of a lot more nimble than some of the modestly priced 26" mountain bikes I tested. The reason is that Ultra Stumpy is a great all-around performer is that he is made of carbon and titanium; has a high-tech suspension; and is equipped with very high-end SRAM X0 and XX racing components.
Without going into details, Ultra Stumpy's rear derailleur costs more than the best mountain bike you can buy at a department store. Ultra Stumpy's rear derailleur is made from forged magnesium with titanium springs, ceramic bearings, carbon jockey wheels, and has a carbon fiber pulley cage. Why? This SRAM XX derailleur is a very complex mechanism that shifts faster than lightning - even under extreme pedal load.
All this whiz-bang stuff on my two Stumpjumpers is good. The Stumpy's are light-weight with great suspensions, pedal easily, shift beautifully and are extremely durable.
High performance bikes come with a high price tag. My pretty little Camber Comp did not come with a high price tag.
What is good about my Camber?
Little Cam is light and has a great suspension. The inexpensive Tectro hydraulic brakes work surprisingly well. The Camber is a pretty bike. The frame geometry is fantastic. The Camber is extremely nimble and responsive. Little Cam has a full-suspension and takes on rough terrain far better than Little Stumpy. It is a toss-up whether Little Cam or Little Stumpy is more maneuverable. Little Cam has the edge on Little Stumpy at higher speeds because the full suspension makes Little Cam smoother and more controllable.
What is bad?
Unfortunately, Little Cam has abysmal shifting and some really cheap components. Shimano makes eight component levels which include:
Cross Country/Back Country Components
1. XTR - (10 Speed) Top-End
2. Deore XT (9 and 10 speed)
3. SLX (9 and 10 speed)
4. Deore (9 speed)
5. Alivio (8 and 9 speed)
6. Acera (8 and 9 speed)
7. Altus (8 speed)
8. Tourney (6, 7, 8 speed) Low-end found on department-store bicycles
Components 1 through 4 on this list are found on very good mountain bikes. My Camber came with mixed quality parts:
Good Cross-Country Grade
- Front derailleur: SLX top-swing, bottom-pull
- Rear Derailleur: SLX Shadow 9-speed, SGS long cage
Mediocre Recreational Grade
- Shifters: Alivio 9-speed
- Crankset: Alivio 44/32/22
Crummy Recreational Grade
- Cassette (Rear Cogs): Tourney HG20 9-Speed 11-34T
What other bad stuff came on my Camber?
The original DT Swiss 445D wheels had only 28 spokes and went bye-bye on my second ride. I hit a washout at Lair-of-the-Bear. The front wheel bent into a shape that resembled a potato chip. Not surprisingly, this is called a "potato chipped" wheel.
The 26 x 2.0 Specialized "Captain" tires that came with my Camber were not bad, per se. However, these Captain tires are just next to useless where I ride.
This tire is actually popular with mountain bike riders on the Colorado front range. This tire provides good traction on smooth trails and rolls easily.
The Specialized Captain tires do not have deep enough tread for riding on decomposed granite. Nor do the Captain sidewalls provide enough resistance to punctures.
There are two prevalent types of rocks in this area: Pikes Peak Granite and Granitic Gneiss.
I just walked outside my house and picked up two rocks. The pink rock is Pikes Peak Granite. This pink granite weathers quickly when exposed to the elements. Trails around here are covered with this stuff, which causes tires like the Specialized Captain to slide around like a three legged hippo on mud!
The black rock is Granitic Gneiss. Gneiss is a hard metamorphic rock that typically has razor sharp edges and points. These black rocks are eaters of bike tires. Here is one of my Captain tires that had a close encounter with gneiss.
I am lucky I got to the car before the tire went flat. The tube was still kinda holding air but had sprung a small leak.
Part 3: Improving Little Cam
The lousy Alivio crank lost a tooth. The crank rings are made of cheap stamped steel and really suck. I likely hit a rock with this crank. I have hit many, many rocks with Little Stumpy's XT crank and never broke a tooth.
The Alivio crank goes for about $40 and is not up to snuff for a mean little bike like the Camber. As a stopgap measure I bought a Raceface Ride crank at my LBS for $100. The Raceface crank is made of strong alloy and is half the weigh of the clunky Alivio crank.
I was hopeful that the stronger crank would help the shifting. Unfortunately, the roots of the "bad" shifting are the Alivio shifters and the SLX derailleurs. Don't get me wrong. The Camber shifts pretty well for a modestly priced bike.
There is only one thing to do. Buy a better bike - one part at a time. The following parts will turn Little Cam into a super little machine:
What I already have:
Shimano HG80 Cassette $80
Specialized 110mm Stem $45
Forte Flat Handlebars $30
Carbon Stem Spacers $8
Mavic EN321 Wheels w/ XT Hubs $200
WTB Velociraptor 26x2.1 Tires $80
Specialized Grappler Grips $25
Specialized Henge Pro Saddle $130
XT Shadow Rear Deraliure $95
Shimano PD-530 Pedals $54
On order - expected this week:
XT Front E-Type Deraliure $54
XT Shifters Pods $128
XT 44/32/22 Crank $234
HG93 XT Chain $28
I bought the longer stem and flat handle bars to put a little more weight on the front tire for improved handling. This modification worked like a charm and gives me the more aggressive riding posture that I prefer.
Here is Little Cam so far. He is a work in progress.
The Mavic wheels are bullet proof!
These wheels have 32 heavy-duty spokes and fast rollingShimano XT hubs. These wheels were custom hand made and are absolutely true.
I put WTB Velociraptor tires on Little Cam. The WTB Velociraptor tires are tough and very aggressive.
This is the comparison between the new WTB front tire and the old Captain tire.
This is the comparison between the Captain and the WTB rear tire. The WTB tires have different tread patterns for front and rear.
These new tires are magic. I took Little Cam to Flying J Ranch yesterday. Over some pretty ugly terrain, Little Cam was unstoppable. Over 10 miles, I average 12 mph and climbed 1,500 feet. I hit 22 mph on some pretty trecherous stuff through very close and dense trees.
Now, I gotta get the Camber shifting like my Stumpjumpers. The total price tag for my one-of-kind Camber will be $2,650, which is includes the $1,450 purchase price plus $1,200 in upgrades. I still think this is a bargain.
Thanks for reading my blog.
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