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How to prepare for a long distance bicycle tour.

Old 06-06-17, 03:12 PM
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mymorningjacket
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How to prepare for a long distance bicycle tour.

Took some time off work and I've been preparing by doing some over nighters. Plan on doing 3 or 4 overnighters, some multiple nights.
I'll be biking north from Vancouver through Whistler, Jasper, Banff, then Calgary.
After my first night out I can tell my organization for my panniers is pretty bad. I have too much weight in the back and not in the front, making my riding unstable.
Is keeping my tent in its bag necessary? What I mean is can I roll / fold up the tent and rainfly together and shove it to the bottom of my bag to have the weight lower to the ground? Right now I have it rolled up in the bag and on the side of the bag reaching to the top of the pannier.
What are your techniques when preparing for a long term bike tour.

Also another question to do with bike touring: What sorts of food work well when on the road? Whats easy to prepare and make?
Right now I'm eating oatmeal, granola bars, sandwhiches, and pasta.
Thanks
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Old 06-06-17, 03:15 PM
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I stuff the tent into one of the front panniers.

Tour was 600 miles 11 days

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Old 06-06-17, 03:20 PM
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You're doing the right thing. You've tried a shake down cruise; now you just need to take the feedback from your tour and organize stuff in a way that makes sense and keeps the load balanced.

For food I'd keep it simple just as you are doing as well. Rice (the five minute type) and beans are a good combo as well; I get tired of pasta all the time. Plus I like to stir fry some veggies to go with whatever I'm eating as well.
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Old 06-06-17, 03:34 PM
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Suggest you post a photo of your bike in its current setup. Placement of the tent shouldn't make much difference. Suspect there is another issue.
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Old 06-06-17, 03:56 PM
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Everyone has their own way of doing it. I wouldn't say there's a wrong way. Whatever works best for you. I hadn't touched my bike for 6 months before hitting the road last May and doing a 5,200 mile tour. No test runs etc. I was fine. I ended up mailing stuff home a few times along the way. You'll learn what you can and can't live without pretty quick. I started my tour with ~20lbs of gear and was down to ~10lbs before I reached Maine 3+ months later.

As for food... I bring my JetBoil only when I absolutely have to and survive off of food that require hot water. Top Ramen mainly. It's light and easy. My calorie intake isn't much when I ride. If there's a store along my route (gas stations included) I'd rather not have the weight and eat gas station food. That's not ideal for some people though.

And no, why would you need the bag to your tent? I don't carry mine with me. I fold it up and jam in into a pannier by itself. If it gets really dirty grab a plastic bag from the grocery store and use that.
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Old 06-06-17, 07:04 PM
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I just upgraded my Hubba Hubba to a BA Fly Creek Platinum 1. The weight savings are unbelievable. I'll be using the tent bag. it's weight is nothing compared to the utility and convenience it offers.

My immediate goal for my long tour of the Great Divide next June is to increase my daily miles now, and to condition my shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knees. As a 59 year-old, obviously my conditioning is equally as important as the gear I choose. I'm already well-versed and experienced in wilderness camping and have a load of experience as a GI, bivouacking, so the biggest obstacle to me is finding the very lightest gear... and finding the green in a my wallet to buy it!
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Old 06-06-17, 07:43 PM
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My tent, pair of sandals, quart sized pee bottle (empty when packed in pannier), and my air mattress are in my front right pannier. If I wanted to shift weight from the rear to front, I would likely have either a spare tire (some trips I carry one) or a bag of tools/spares that I would put in the bottom of a front pannier before anything else. The heaviest stuff goes in the bottom.

The tent goes in that pannier last, I shove it in like I am shoving something into a stuff sack. In other words, the tent is not rolled up, just shoved in. Tent pegs in a bag are placed on top so they are less likely to get misplaced. And if I am using a foot print, that is on top too. If I am using a tent with short poles (I cut some new poles last month that are shorter), the poles would also go in there too. In the past the tent poles were in a separate tent pole bag in the back. The tent bag that the tent is normally stored in stays home because I do not use it when shoving the tent into a pannier.

This might make me sound very organized, but I really am not. But, I want my tent in a place where it is easy to get off the bike so I can start setting it up before I do anything else in a campsite because it might be raining when I set up camp. Thus, the tent comes first.

I like my new tent (first photo), Big Agnes Scout Plus, but as you can see in the photo it is a real hassle to set up where I can't pound in stakes because it is not self supporting. In the photo, I had to jab twigs in between the planks to substitute for tent pegs, the wooden platform was really designed for self supporting tents. My tent was designed for backpacking and uses trekking poles instead of dedicated poles, so I cut my own poles instead.

Second photo, my older tent was much heavier, but it also fit in the front right pannier just fine.

There are some easy to make one pot type rice meals, you can add some veggies or a can of chicken or just about anything else to make a good one pot meal. Knorr makes some good rice dishes. But my favorite is pasta which you already mentioned. If you want to carry something to make a one pot meal a bit bigger and more filling, a brick of Ramen noodles will add more bulk and calories to any one pot meal.

ADDENDUM ADDED THE NEXT DAY:

Everything in the same pannier as the tent can get wet, so I do not worry about a wet tent getting other dry stuff wet. Although I want my air mattress to be dry, realistically it will not absorb more than a teaspoon of water if it gets wet so I do not worry about that. If my tools and spares are in that same pannier, they are in a plastic bag to keep the tools drier.
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Old 06-06-17, 07:50 PM
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A lot to learn in two weeks.
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Old 06-06-17, 08:45 PM
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just mess around with putting heavier stuff in all kinds of diff ways in the front panniers, and Ive pretty much always put the tent on the top of the rack, and thats been fine.
Your food ideas are what I have usually eaten also, but Im a simple (minded) sort of guy and dont get sick of oatmeat or pasta. The great thing with pasta is that you can put pretty much anything with it and it will still taste good, especially after riding all day.

improvise with the packing, you'll figure out what works better, and in any case, a loaded bike rides like a laoded bike, so dont expect miracles, you just want it to be fairly stable with no wobbley stuff going on and a bit more weight off the the rear will help it feel a bit more balanced fore/aft.

it aint rocket science, you'll figure it out and see what diff packing helps.
Just plan for short days at first, this helps a lot.
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Old 06-06-17, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
A lot to learn in two weeks.
Thank you
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Old 06-06-17, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
My tent, pair of sandals, quart sized pee bottle (empty when packed in pannier),
I have to ask.... Why? Do you carry it for at night? If so that makes sense. Pebs and I do too.
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Old 06-06-17, 09:07 PM
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Best way is to learn as you go. No one else here has the same gear or storage as you, or the same gear access needs.

I've personally settled on tools/spares/quick access goodies (i.e., hat for off bike) in LF, cook/food in RF, regular clothes in LR, overclothes/raingear in RR, wit sleeping bag in dry bag and tent in its bag strapped on top of rear rack. Handlebar bag with quick release for valuables/snacks/maps.

I'm sure two days into the next actual upcoming tour, all of that will have changed though. I read quite a bit on here before my first trip, thought I had it sorted, and after a day realized I didn't. Had a much better grasp by the end of the trip on what worked.

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Old 06-06-17, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by mymorningjacket View Post
Is keeping my tent in its bag necessary? What I mean is can I roll / fold up the tent and rainfly together and shove it to the bottom of my bag to have the weight lower to the ground? Right now I have it rolled up in the bag and on the side of the bag reaching to the top of the pannier.

Also another question to do with bike touring: What sorts of food work well when on the road? Whats easy to prepare and make?
No, I tried this last trip, using the rear panniers as stuff sacks for footprint, tent and rain fly (left bag) and sleeping bag (right bag). And I do mean stuffing, not bothering to roll the things. I like that it's quick. You can be packed in a relative jiffy by doing this. Tent poles go on top of the rack with the sleeping pad.

I'm a cold food guy; canned beans, sardines, tuna, crackers, Nabs (peanut butter crackers), etc. Don't drink coffee so don't feel the need for it to get going in the morning. Started carrying tea bags for the times when I want it after discovering that the convenience stores that have cups, hot water and sugar frequently do not have tea bags. Hot food is nice on tour but I buy it on the road when I want and get by with cold the rest of the time. Incidentally, on the last tour my bro-in-law started off with a Jet-Boil and sent it home after a few days.

Last edited by thumpism; 06-06-17 at 09:16 PM.
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Old 06-06-17, 11:58 PM
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Originally Posted by mymorningjacket View Post
Is keeping my tent in its bag necessary? What I mean is can I roll / fold up the tent and rainfly together and shove it to the bottom of my bag to have the weight lower to the ground?
If it rains, you probably increase your chances of keeping your stuff dry by packing inside of your tent. Then pack the tent in its stuff sack and put it on a rack. Better than a wet tent in a pannier.

Originally Posted by mymorningjacket View Post
Also another question to do with bike touring: What sorts of food work well when on the road? Whats easy to prepare and make?
Right now I'm eating oatmeal, granola bars, sandwhiches, and pasta.
Thanks
Pasta is great but requires lots of water and fuel, unless you are satisfied with soaked spaghetti. You may want to consider other starches, such as couscous or rice.

GORP is an excellent source of energy.
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Old 06-07-17, 02:31 AM
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Originally Posted by mymorningjacket View Post
Also another question to do with bike touring: What sorts of food work well when on the road? Whats easy to prepare and make?
Right now I'm eating oatmeal, granola bars, sandwhiches, and pasta.
Thanks
We eat whatever happens to be available along the way.
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Old 06-07-17, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by mymorningjacket View Post
Is keeping my tent in its bag necessary? What I mean is can I roll / fold up the tent and rainfly together and shove it to the bottom of my bag to have the weight lower to the ground? Right now I have it rolled up in the bag and on the side of the bag reaching to the top of the pannier.
If your rain fly is wet, and you roll it up with your tent, won't your tent get wet? And how will your rain fly dry?

I don't put my tent in its original bag. It goes in the dry sack for my handlebar harness. The fly, however, goes in it's original bag if it's dry. Otherwise it goes in a mesh bag where it takes up more space, but gets more air to dry.

If you want more weight on the front, look at what's heaviest in your gear, and move it forward. I don't know what tent you use, but it's hard for me to imagine that it's your tent that makes your load rear or top heavy.

When I was using a 4 pannier set up (you don't really mention your set up, either, so I don't know if that applies), I divided my gear up my function, so that I had one pannier for tent and bedding, one for clothes, one for tools, parts, repair items, and electronics, and one for food and cooking. The two heaviest went up front.

I just spent several days on the road with my alcohol stove and cooking set with full intention of cooking a lot of meals. Didn't happen, though. I made several cups of coffee, and had one heat and serve meal. I tended to eat meal bars every now and then, trail mix, fruit cups, and once a day I would stop and have a real meal. Sometimes there would be left overs. I did try and make sure I had something to eat before I went to bed and something before I got back on the road, often a Nutri-Grain bar. Then after pedalling for a while, I'd make sure to eat something more substantial. But how you do it depends largely on what you're willing to eat, how much you're willing to carry, how much time you want to spend cooking, and how far apart resources are.
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Old 06-07-17, 12:52 PM
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grew up in the boy scouts, so camping was what we did, learned bike mechanics to fix my stuff,

Rode my Bike most every where I went..

combined them .. got a Passport , boxed by bike up . bought a paper map when I got there.
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Old 06-07-17, 01:02 PM
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as far as food goes, what with all the convience stores around, carrying food seems foolish to me. although, i'll stuff a candy bar or two, or banana in my top tube bag, to eat while riding. when i stop i pretty much eat whatever i want, nothing special.
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Old 06-07-17, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
If your rain fly is wet, and you roll it up with your tent, won't your tent get wet? And how will your rain fly dry?
Fold the tent body in such a way that the mesh is covered by the solid part of the body. Put the wet fly on top, roll the whole shebang up and put it in the bag. If it's hot enough, the fly will dry at least partially during the ride. No biggie if it doesn't. It's not to grow mildew during the day's ride. If the fly is still wet when you finish, it will dry pretty quickly once you set up the tent. If it's raining then there is no difference.
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Old 06-07-17, 01:56 PM
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often at lunch breaks, i would open up the tent and hang it over a fence or something , and the dew/rain wet would generally dry out quickly. Ive also carried a small chamois cloth or sponge to get a lot of dew drops off before packing, or even to hang over fence or bike in the sun while still gtting ready to leave in the morning, sometimes its all dry before leaving.
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Old 06-08-17, 04:07 PM
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Put your tent and rainfly in a compression sack. Compression sacks also work well for sleeping bags. This will compress them to a smaller size that will provide more packing flexibility.
The blue compression sack holds a 2-person tent and rainfly. The green compression sack holds my sleeping bag.

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Old 06-08-17, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by mymorningjacket View Post
Took some time off work and I've been preparing by doing some over nighters. Plan on doing 3 or 4 overnighters, some multiple nights.
I'll be biking north from Vancouver through Whistler, Jasper, Banff, then Calgary.
After my first night out I can tell my organization for my panniers is pretty bad. I have too much weight in the back and not in the front, making my riding unstable.
Is keeping my tent in its bag necessary? What I mean is can I roll / fold up the tent and rainfly together and shove it to the bottom of my bag to have the weight lower to the ground? Right now I have it rolled up in the bag and on the side of the bag reaching to the top of the pannier.
What are your techniques when preparing for a long term bike tour.
Short trips are actually harder to do than weeks to months long trips. You don't have time to establish any kind of rhythm. About 3 days into a longer trip, you figure out how to do something and can stick with it for the rest of a long trip but short trips just don't allow for that.

There's also the problem of what you carry. On a 3 to 4 day trip, do you really want to do laundry either everyday or on the second or third day? I usually carry enough clothing to get me all the way through the trip rather than mess with washing clothes.

Food is also a problem. I usually carry enough for 3 days because I've found that it can be difficult to find food every day even in areas where there is population. Helmart has cleared out many of the smaller town grocery stores with in about a 40 to 60 mile radius so unless you want to eat grass, you need to carry food. But, on a short trip, do you carry enough for the whole trip or just for a few days and hope to find something?

As to tents and carrying them in a bag, I don't. Panniers are premium space. I have other things I put in my panniers and the tent has its own carrying case. Tent poles seldom fit in the pannier as well so you end up with them on the top of the rack so why not just carry the whole tent there? .

There is also the issue of morning dew. I've had far too many mornings where my tent was soaked on the outside and that not something I want to put in a waterproof pannier...or even a nonwater proof one...with anything else. You end up with is everything in the bag getting damp which is usually not good. My tent, sleeping bag and pad go on the top of the rack. The sleeping bag is in a dry sack with the pad (the pad packs small) and the tent...wet or dry...is in its own bag.

Originally Posted by mymorningjacket View Post
Also another question to do with bike touring: What sorts of food work well when on the road? Whats easy to prepare and make?
Right now I'm eating oatmeal, granola bars, sandwhiches, and pasta.
Thanks
Foodwise, try not to carry things that have water in them. Freeze-dried works but it's expensive and not that good. I usually carry Zatarain's rice dishes and augment them with foil packed chicken or Spam (it's not as bad as it sounds). I'm also a fan of some of the Velvetta Cheesy Skillets. They don't weigh much, the Buffalo Chicken one is pretty good, especially if you can add more Buffalo sauce or hot sauce (look for little packets of the hot sauce at convenience stores).

I save all that for dinner in camp. During the day, I've found that I can't ride and eat food that has too much fat in it. So no burgers, fries, pizza, fried chicken, etc. I've found that pizza can stick with me for 2 days and burping up pizza gets old fast I stick with mostly granola bars and other snacks that I can get at convenience stores. Jerky works and satisfies my salt cravings (and needs).

Unfortunately, that also means that ice cream is off the menu and I really love ice cream...just not enough to get sick over it
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Old 06-08-17, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
quart sized pee bottle (empty when packed in pannier),
But what if you meet Bear Grylls at a campsite and have nothing to share?
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Old 06-08-17, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
...............................Unfortunately, that also means that ice cream is off the menu and I really love ice cream...just not enough to get sick over it
My wife has a different approach to ice cream

Her back fender
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Old 06-08-17, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
There's also the problem of what you carry. On a 3 to 4 day trip, do you really want to do laundry either everyday or on the second or third day? I usually carry enough clothing to get me all the way through the trip rather than mess with washing clothes.
This one, I haven't had to deal with yet on overnighters. Mostly because I usually just wear regular compression shorts with cargo shorts over them. A clean pair of compression shorts and a wicking t-shirt will easily fit in a fairly small Ziploc. OTOH, I may be going back to padded shorts after last night's 20 miler on a route I hadn't tried before; 5 miles of rougher-than-usual chipseal was making me really think about a Brooks saddle and a cruise of the web for some new bike shorts.

Food is also a problem. I usually carry enough for 3 days because I've found that it can be difficult to find food every day even in areas where there is population. Helmart has cleared out many of the smaller town grocery stores with in about a 40 to 60 mile radius so unless you want to eat grass, you need to carry food.
Where are you seeing this? Around here, anything with more than ~3500 people has some sort of IGA or Brookshires, and over 7000 probably has a full size HEB grocery store, possibly a Big Lots too. At any rate, even 60 mile days should have you passing 2-3 places you can stock up on groceries every day unless you're actively avoiding towns. What can be hard to find is a well stocked bike shop.

As to tents and carrying them in a bag, I don't. Panniers are premium space. I have other things I put in my panniers and the tent has its own carrying case. Tent poles seldom fit in the pannier as well so you end up with them on the top of the rack so why not just carry the whole tent there?
Unless I'm going somewhere I know there won't be enough trees, a camping hammock is the way to go; not much bigger packed than a bivy tent and smaller than any but the most cramped two-midget tents, a heck of a lot more comfortable in hot weather, and no poles needed. If it's not dark and raining, (yeah, got to test both last weekend) I can be set up about ten minutes after finding the right tree spacing, and packed in not much more the next morning.

There is also the issue of morning dew. I've had far too many mornings where my tent was soaked on the outside and that not something I want to put in a waterproof pannier...or even a nonwater proof one...with anything else.
Worth adding the lightest rainfly and/or tarp you can find over the regular rainfly (or the tent itself if it doesn't use a separate fly) to keep the dew off. Almost anything will take the dew instead, and the lighter it is, the quicker it dries. Might even be worth experimenting with untreated ultralight nylon; it'll soak up the water, but should dry fast as soon as the sun hits it, or silnylon can be wiped dry easily during takedown if it's set up to form a couple of flat faces.

Foodwise, try not to carry things that have water in them. Freeze-dried works but it's expensive and not that good. I usually carry Zatarain's rice dishes and augment them with foil packed chicken or Spam (it's not as bad as it sounds).
Not sure how I've missed those as a camp food. My cookware usually consists of the Stanley cookpot and maybe a cheap mess kit skillet, but I keep forgetting there are rice dishes that don't involve all the extra hassle of cooking rice over a marginally controlled heat source like a wood stove.

I'm also a fan of some of the Velvetta Cheesy Skillets. They don't weigh much, the Buffalo Chicken one is pretty good, especially if you can add more Buffalo sauce or hot sauce (look for little packets of the hot sauce at convenience stores).
Da Bomb Ground Zero. 230,000 Scoville. Don't bother carrying the whole bottle; one large drop in a regular size can of bland pinto beans will leave me sweating. Decanting some into the tiniest very well sealed bottle you can get your hands on should last you a couple weeks. Maybe check vape shops and ask about buying a few unused dropper-type juice bottles from them. Do handle it like it's the essence of hell, distilled and bottled. Wear gloves while pouring it into smaller containers, and wipe the threads of the bottle with a paper towel before putting the lid back on. Two hand srubbings with Dr Bronner's soap later, it may still burn if you rub your eyes.
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