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Argos

Old 11-20-17, 09:58 PM
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Argos

It all started a couple weeks ago when a non-BF bicycle friend messaged me a link to an eBay auction for a very lovely Cherubim that had a starting bid of $1,100 and a Buy it Now of $1,800. Lovely bicycle, and my size, but out of budget. It did put in my mind the fact that I have made a handful of efforts to procure a proper randoneuse that have not ended properly.

First, it was the Surly LHT that I bought, specced and built up myself that ended up without lights, and weighed roughly the same as a Varsity with a Pletscher rack. It was a stable ride, but not nimble, not exactly a looker, and no fun grinding up hills on. Then it was converting my Fuji Finest, but gearing and spacing were challenges - not to mention how sad it looked with p-clamps. Then, a few years back, I latched onto a refinished Viking Severn Valley. It had been respaced to 130mm in the rear, so I took a shot at it, even though it was a tad too large. It didn't look too bad (Nervex lugs are known for that effect), and it came out a bit lighter and slightly more nimble than the LHT, but it also lacks lighting and rack fittings and bottle bosses. It has been languishing since I moved away from Pennsylvania, and seeing what I was able to do with converting the Giant Iguana to a drop bar 2 x 10 with proper fittings, I got to thinking that with the right platform, I could end up with something to rival the Cherubim.

For a few years, I have coveted a 73-ish Raleigh International. I've seen what nlerner and gugie and Peter Weigle have done with these, and already providing aid and comfort for virtually every other full 531 that Raleigh offered for more than 2 years in the '70's, that seemed to make sense. So, I posted in the ISO/WTB thread and got a couple generous offers, but as I thought them over, I realized that they were the same size as my Viking - which is a bit too large.

Hopeful, I posted on CR as well, and got a couple offers that really didn't match up, but I got one that seemed as if it might have possibilities. It was my size, had adequate clearance, and geometry that matched that of an International (though with a top tube that isn't 57 cm). The finish looked like it was pretty nice (which concerned me, as I was thinking of adding about 10 braze-ons, and who can feel good about doing that when there's a nice original finish?), but the fellow offering it to me said, "it's not like you'd be defacing a Herse". He told me that he bought it recently for the parts, and that the frame (from a maker I was not familiar with, and not much information is readily available about online) was too small for him. He proceeded to offer it to me for a suprisingly low amount. So... I agreed.

The frame and fork arrived Friday, and I was blown away. I cleaned it up, found the serial number (all 4 characters of it), and asked the builder if they could tell me when it was made. I am now the owner of a 1977 Argos that is far too nice to deface. Not the greatest pictures, but here are a few.











So now it looks like I will be sourcing parts for a very nicely made 1977 Argos, and keeping my eye out for that 21-1/2" International with trashed paint. Maybe someone will want to trade it for a 57cm Viking.
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Old 11-21-17, 05:59 PM
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Bumping because I changed the thread title, and because this maker seems to be so far below the radar, it will be almost universally met by "huh?"
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Old 11-21-17, 08:35 PM
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Huh??

Nice bike. Sounds like you totally scored. I brought up Argos a couple months back on another thread to see if anyone remembered them.

I do remember them. A knew 2 or 3 guys that had Argos bikes circa late 70s and early 80s. They must have had a distributor in norcal. They were nice pro level racing bikes and frankly a significant step up from an International in quality -- as much as I like those.
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Old 11-21-17, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
Huh??

Nice bike. Sounds like you totally scored. I brought up Argos a couple months back on another thread to see if anyone remembered them.

I do remember them. A knew 2 or 3 guys that had Argos bikes circa late 70s and early 80s. They must have had a distributor in norcal. They were nice pro level racing bikes and frankly a significant step up from an International in quality -- as much as I like those.
The fellow I got this from purchased it recently from a shop in the Bay area. It has an etched CA bike license number on the BB. Frankly, it completely disrupted my intention from when I started my little shopping adventure. The finish quality is right up there with my 2000 Bob Jackson Arrowhead, and my 1977 Raleigh Team Pro. I expect it will be a blast to ride on days when I feel strong and up to dealing with a 2 x 6.

Frankly it astonishes me that Argos is renowned for their refinishing, but seemingly completely off the radar when it comes to their build quality - which based on a sample of one (admittedly a hazardous thing), seems very top-notch.

At any rate, I am quite pleased to have it - despite the wrench it throws in my intended path. Perhaps a couple other people will appreciate it when I make adjustments in my little fleet and they pick up what gets passed on to make room.
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Old 11-21-17, 10:06 PM
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If you're into British bikes, I think this is a good example of one from a boutique builder. As you can see, the workmanship is first rate. Nice counterpoint to a Team Raleigh or other top end 'factory' bike.

It's funny how dismissive people are, based mostly on fashion and mystique. Though it's a classic 70s road bike rather than a rando, saying it's in the same league as a Herse is not unreasonable. Both small high end shops. Perhaps (american) Masi is a better comparison.
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Old 11-21-17, 10:33 PM
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I'd also call Argos a boutique builder. I saw them commonly the two years I worked in London and they were all fantastic quality. One look at the seat cluster here tells the tale.

Also agree they are much better known for the painting side of the house. Even in '94/'95 it seemed like local bike publications (Cycling Plus, Cycling Weekly) that they were the go-to guys in the UK for refinishing.

You've got an exquisite earlier model. Lucky!

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Old 11-21-17, 11:55 PM
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Thats a nice looking frame. Very attractive paint color, fork crown, stay junctions, and seat cluster.

I'm not familiar with the Argos brand but interested to know more.

Meanwhile, this is Argus:
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Old 11-21-17, 11:57 PM
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I have one (part hear-say) story to recount, but take it with a grain of salt: there were a couple of shops in the bay Area that for unknown reasons stocked and sold Argos frames. One was in my neighborhood (SF City) and another was in the East Bay (there may have been more). A co-worker who later beacme a friend was chatting with me about bikes when we first discovered we had this in common, and at that moment he was considering a number of "upgrades" to his Univega as he had some cash to spend, and he was considering buying an Argos from his East Bay shop. I recognized the brand and suggested he take a look at my 'hood shop as they might have some more choices. He reported back that he had talked for some time with the SF shop owner ( I was not there) and they guy warned him off buying an Argos because he said he had a rash of frame returns all due to similar failures of cracking at the BB shell/down tube or seat tube junctures (I don't remember which or if it was both). Anyhow the shop owner was righteously pissed at the extra work that he had to endure to 'make whole' the handful of Argos frame buyers who all wanted money refunded or free warranty repairs.
Now i'd be much more inclined to give Argos the benefit of some doubt but back then I (and others who heard this story) quickly ran to the conclusion that Argos frames were junk.
My friend scratched his itch with a custom frame built by Bernie Mikkelsen, shortly after he traded up to a custom frame by Ed Litton.
Very "East Bay".
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Old 11-22-17, 03:29 AM
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Argos is top-notch for finishing. Here is an example of it on a 1950s Rotrax frame:



The attention to detail is amazing to behold. I imagine their frame building is equally good; the lug work on your frame looks very nice indeed.

(It's just unfortunate that their name is the same as that of a large catalogue retailer in the UK)

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Old 11-22-17, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by realsteel View Post
Argos is top-notch for finishing. Here is an example of it on a 1950s Rotrax frame:



The attention to detail is amazing to behold. I imagine their frame building is equally good; the lug work on your frame looks very nice indeed.

(It's just unfortunate that their name is the same as that of a large catalogue retailer in the UK)
Wow. They sure did ab outstanding job on that. As for sharing the name with the other company - before I agreed to the deal, my Google was flooded with those responses and I nearly passed on it due to the confusion.
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Old 11-23-17, 09:52 AM
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Yknow, the pclamps that Tubus sells are really nice looking. Just a thought.

Sweet bike. What's the plan for the build up?
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Old 11-23-17, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by unworthy1 View Post
I have one (part hear-say) story to recount, but take it with a grain of salt: there were a couple of shops in the bay Area that for unknown reasons stocked and sold Argos frames. One was in my neighborhood (SF City) and another was in the East Bay (there may have been more). A co-worker who later beacme a friend was chatting with me about bikes when we first discovered we had this in common, and at that moment he was considering a number of "upgrades" to his Univega as he had some cash to spend, and he was considering buying an Argos from his East Bay shop. I recognized the brand and suggested he take a look at my 'hood shop as they might have some more choices. He reported back that he had talked for some time with the SF shop owner ( I was not there) and they guy warned him off buying an Argos because he said he had a rash of frame returns all due to similar failures of cracking at the BB shell/down tube or seat tube junctures (I don't remember which or if it was both). Anyhow the shop owner was righteously pissed at the extra work that he had to endure to 'make whole' the handful of Argos frame buyers who all wanted money refunded or free warranty repairs.
Now i'd be much more inclined to give Argos the benefit of some doubt but back then I (and others who heard this story) quickly ran to the conclusion that Argos frames were junk.
My friend scratched his itch with a custom frame built by Bernie Mikkelsen, shortly after he traded up to a custom frame by Ed Litton.
Very "East Bay".
Very east bay for sure. (i'm from the bay area)

I don't think I'd be too worried about that hearsay. A 'rash' could have been one or two, which would be enough to PO the shop owner. Care to share which shop owner that was? FWIW the people who I knew who had them rode them for many years and zillions of miles.

One possible weak point could be the seat stays. I'd prefer to see a full fillet on the seat stays where they join the cluster. It'd be stronger than just sweating them in. Then again most (lugged) bikes just have a tiny blob of brass in shear holding on the seat stays at the cluster, which is weaker. Wouldn't worry me regardless. It's always a good idea to inspect your frames for cracks periodically no matter how they are made.
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Old 11-23-17, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
Very east bay for sure. (i'm from the bay area)

I don't think I'd be too worried about that hearsay. A 'rash' could have been one or two, which would be enough to PO the shop owner. Care to share which shop owner that was? FWIW the people who I knew who had them rode them for many years and zillions of miles.

One possible weak point could be the seat stays. I'd prefer to see a full fillet on the seat stays where they join the cluster. It'd be stronger than just sweating them in. Then again most (lugged) bikes just have a tiny blob of brass in shear holding on the seat stays at the cluster, which is weaker. Wouldn't worry me regardless. It's always a good idea to inspect your frames for cracks periodically no matter how they are made.
The SF shop is long gone (and too bad I'd say because it was a VERY short walk from where I now live) and I can't even remember the name but it was on Geary around 17th Ave. There was also a Sporting Goods shop in the same block (Family owned, might have been "Sullivan's" or something like it) also long since disappeared. So I'm probably safe from lawsuit for defamation...but if anybody's "defamed" I guess it would be Argos' reputation.

Too many LBS have shuttered in this town over the years: one of the employees at this Geary shop (I think he was named Aldo) later opened his own shop 'way East on Geary at Stanyan, he's also long gone but recall he offered a custom frame program with DeBernardi in Italy and one even could have a stainless-tubed frame (Columbus or perhaps Deda) if you so ordered.
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Old 11-23-17, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Piff View Post
Yknow, the pclamps that Tubus sells are really nice looking. Just a thought.

Sweet bike. What's the plan for the build up?
Nothing especially groundshaking. Hoping to go with Nuovo Record or Super Record components or even C-Record. Might concede to age with an ultra 6 freewheel with a few more teeth than 20 year old me would have considered.

I also have a 1977 Raleigh Team Pro (with evidently 753 tubing) and a 2000 Bob Jackson Arrowhead made of 853, so this sort of makes three bikes that are very nicely built with a relatively similar purpose. That said, those other two both have 2 x 9 brifter shifting. Honestly, I can't claim to be a huge fan of downtube shifting, but I can adapt. I honestly don't see myself attempting to adapt this to an alternate purpose, even though the geometry could possibly work out. Definitely open to p-clamps that are nicer than the rubber ensconced ones that Home Depot carries for other projects.

psst... interested in a 57cm 1959 Viking, Severn Valley? lol
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Old 11-24-17, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by unworthy1 View Post
The SF shop is long gone (and too bad I'd say because it was a VERY short walk from where I now live) and I can't even remember the name but it was on Geary around 17th Ave. There was also a Sporting Goods shop in the same block (Family owned, might have been "Sullivan's" or something like it) also long since disappeared. So I'm probably safe from lawsuit for defamation...but if anybody's "defamed" I guess it would be Argos' reputation.

Too many LBS have shuttered in this town over the years: one of the employees at this Geary shop (I think he was named Aldo) later opened his own shop 'way East on Geary at Stanyan, he's also long gone but recall he offered a custom frame program with DeBernardi in Italy and one even could have a stainless-tubed frame (Columbus or perhaps Deda) if you so ordered.
I can't remember a shop on Geary near 17th, but it may have been before my time. I do remember Seal Rock cycles near Geary and 28th, and I used to buy stuff at Sullivan's sporting goods store. Yep, SF has certainly changed, even in the ~10 years since I moved away. The Stanyan street bike row is almost entirely gone now, as is CALA.
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Old 11-24-17, 11:46 AM
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Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
Nothing especially groundshaking. Hoping to go with Nuovo Record or Super Record components or even C-Record. Might concede to age with an ultra 6 freewheel with a few more teeth than 20 year old me would have considered.

I also have a 1977 Raleigh Team Pro (with evidently 753 tubing) and a 2000 Bob Jackson Arrowhead made of 853, so this sort of makes three bikes that are very nicely built with a relatively similar purpose. That said, those other two both have 2 x 9 brifter shifting. Honestly, I can't claim to be a huge fan of downtube shifting, but I can adapt. I honestly don't see myself attempting to adapt this to an alternate purpose, even though the geometry could possibly work out. Definitely open to p-clamps that are nicer than the rubber ensconced ones that Home Depot carries for other projects.
IIRC, and I'm not sure that I do, the Argos frames were a classic 70s geometry, with relatively long chainstays and 73ish angles. IOW they could be called "endurance road" or audax. I think the Bob Jackson is more of a criterium bike, and to a lesser degree so is the Raleigh. If that is correct it might be less of a duplicate than you think. It's easy enough to measure with a yardstick and a protractor.

FYI, the Nitto P-clips are very deluxe, as far as these things go.
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Old 11-24-17, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
I can't remember a shop on Geary near 17th, but it may have been before my time. I do remember Seal Rock cycles near Geary and 28th, and I used to buy stuff at Sullivan's sporting goods store. Yep, SF has certainly changed, even in the ~10 years since I moved away. The Stanyan street bike row is almost entirely gone now, as is CALA.
I remember Seal Rock (but could not have told you that name even if offered $$$!). I saw some of my first looks at the Bianchi "utility/CX" line that included the Volpe and was seriously considering it but never pulled that trigger. They also sold Giant IIRC and had some of those early all-CF frame bikes for under $1000.
Ah, yes SF is a very different place these days, even the weather!
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Old 11-24-17, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
IIRC, and I'm not sure that I do, the Argos frames were a classic 70s geometry, with relatively long chainstays and 73ish angles. IOW they could be called "endurance road" or audax. I think the Bob Jackson is more of a criterium bike, and to a lesser degree so is the Raleigh. If that is correct it might be less of a duplicate than you think. It's easy enough to measure with a yardstick and a protractor.

FYI, the Nitto P-clips are very deluxe, as far as these things go.
Virtually identical stay length as the Team Pro, and a bit over 1/2" longer than the Bob Jackson. I suspect the overall wheelbase on the Argos is a bit longer than the Team Pro, but until I mount the fork...

How weird would it be to build this up with Alfine hubs 650b, wide tires, fenders. racks and integrated lighting? (that was what I had in mind as set about to acquire the frame) Can probably find a reasonable compromise with 28's or 32's and possibly fenders and get a comfortable all-day rider to go along with the Grand Sport and Competition (will likely sell the Fuji Finest off). Will still leave the serious randoneuse itch unscratched though.
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Old 11-24-17, 02:56 PM
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and because this maker seems to be so far below the radar, it will be almost universally met by "huh?"
Still pretty well known over here in the UK...

lots of people know them for their paintjobs and restoration work, fewer seem to know they are also exceptionally good builders. They don;t turn out that many frames but the ones they do are very very good!

I'd be inclined to take the story with a pinch of salt too, especially as it's possible the imported frames were batch built and not necessarily the same as the custom stuff, as until that anecdote I've never come across an 'off the peg' Argos, they're very much custom builders (normally)

The curious thing I always find with Argos is that they do some very very posh and flaymouyant paintjobs and restorations for people, but almost invariably their own bikes, unless specified by the customer, are very understated, still well executed, but not as 'flashy' if you know what I mean?

There's a few local to me as they're only about 70miles north of where I live, and I normally see at least a couple of most of the local audaxes, just really nice bikes, and they get nicer the closer you look!

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Old 07-02-18, 10:55 AM
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This took way longer than it should have. I attempted to give this one it's first ride on Dale's Inaugural Bourbon and Tobacco Tour, but the fates were against it. Embarrassingly, the pedal mishap turned out to be me rushing the final put-together and not tightening them down all the way. I decided to go out early yesterday to beat the heat, and get a ride in. Still have a stuck link in the chain that needs to get sorted out. It was quite an annoyance throughout the ride, but I went through 35 miles hoping it would eventually free itself up. That turned out to be wishful thinking, but none-the-less, I do think I will enjoy this in its current configuration.

One thing I have noticed though is that it takes a soda can shim to get the 27.2 seat post to stay put. Might this have been built requiring a 27.4 post back in 1977?

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Old 07-02-18, 02:47 PM
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Looks really good. Glad to see you recovered from the pedal incident, that was the first time I'd ever seen that. Were you able to repair the damage or did you just replace? I've had a few mishaps of my own from build errors but I've gotten much better over time. Still, things happen.
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Old 07-02-18, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
This took way longer than it should have. I attempted to give this one it's first ride on Dale's Inaugural Bourbon and Tobacco Tour, but the fates were against it. Embarrassingly, the pedal mishap turned out to be me rushing the final put-together and not tightening them down all the way. I decided to go out early yesterday to beat the heat, and get a ride in. Still have a stuck link in the chain that needs to get sorted out. It was quite an annoyance throughout the ride, but I went through 35 miles hoping it would eventually free itself up. That turned out to be wishful thinking, but none-the-less, I do think I will enjoy this in its current configuration.

One thing I have noticed though is that it takes a soda can shim to get the 27.2 seat post to stay put. Might this have been built requiring a 27.4 post back in 1977?
Your Argos looks very nice, John. The color and finish looks great, glad to hear that you fixed the pedal problem. Hopefully I'll see you and the Argos at the next Tour. Maybe even before that...
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Old 07-02-18, 06:46 PM
  #23  
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Nice to see the Argos back on the road! Thanks for the update. Classic campy drivetrain -- as it should be.

This was the weight weenie era after all, and it is possible that it was made from some extra light gauge tubes and in fact should have a 27.4 post. Sounds like a question for T-mar. The only real way to tell for sure is to test with a 27.4 seatpost, or a real seat post sizing gauge thing.
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Old 07-03-18, 02:53 AM
  #24  
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It’s also worth getting the verniers on your post... I must have about 30+ ‘27.2’ seatposts to hand and running the gamut from £10 cheapies to £100+ Ti jobs, and I can count on one hand how many of them actually measure 27.2, most are very slightly undersized, and likewise a lot of frames are normally reamed just over whatever their nominal ‘size’ should be.

If you have a slightly undersized post, coupled with a slightly over-zealous reaming/cleaning at some point in the frames history it’s entirely possible you could be 0.1-0.2 out of tolerance.

Ive got one the other way, a Worksop built Raleigh that apparently only got reamed to 27.15 at the factory and is consequently a pain to fit posts into. I keep meaning to ream it out but my reamer needs new cutter as totally worn out now after decades of abuse.
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Old 07-03-18, 04:10 AM
  #25  
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Nice looking frame. So now you are officially an Argonut.
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