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Bikepacking vintage bike

Old 03-28-21, 06:52 AM
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j19
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Bikepacking vintage bike

Hi everyone!
I'd like to build a bikepacking bike based on a vintage frame that I could use on a variety of surfaces - mostly roads, but I would like it to handle some light gravel too. I was wondering whether you would recommend choosing a vintage mountain bike frame as a base or to go for a vintage race bike with downtube shifters and try to fit thicker wheels. Furthermore, what kind of wheels/tyres would you recommend?
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Old 03-28-21, 07:19 AM
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I used a more modern drivetrain in the restoration, my Meral camper has/accommodates 32 mm tires which are sweet spot for combined gravel and pavement. You can find older touring bikes built before the art and science of carrying a load on a bicycle was forgotten. It has been rediscovered by millennials who have no interest in things that were perfected before the microchip, so you see modern bikes for camping with frame bags that hinder the rider’s knees and can’t really accommodate anything and gigantic seat bags that look like they were designed for a baguette delivery service....
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Old 03-28-21, 08:47 AM
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There is a lot of room between a vintage mountain bike and a vintage racing bike. Touring bikes and sport touring bikes offer a lot choice. If you are talking mostly road and gravel, a touring bike that can handle 35's -38's would definitely work well.
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Old 03-28-21, 09:21 AM
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Using a vintage bike would be fun. I am partial to Cannondale touring models, but there’s lots of good manufacturers to choose from. Older Miyata 600/610s are quite nice, too. Brand isn’t nearly as important as proper fit. The touring frames are rugged enough for what you’re planning, and make for a comfortable ride. Make sure the frame has cantilever brakes for bigger tire clearance. On my older cannondale touring bike I have sidepull brakes that limit the tire width to 32mm. Fine for gravel, but I wouldn’t take it offroad. I also like either continental touring ride (knobby with a smooth center) for mix of gravel and road, or continental gatorskins if solely on asphalt. Wheels depend on your weight and load, but i have 36 spoke front and 40 in back. I’m also 220 lbs. Good luck.
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Old 03-28-21, 09:23 AM
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In my view, the decision starts with the kind of terrain you hope to explore. If you’re going to be out in single track or really rocky paths, you’re going to want at least 2” wide tires or more. In the vintage world, that likely means a mountain bike of some sort. I did a multi-day bikepacking tour last summer, and my 650b x 48mm tires were definitely not wide enough for the particularly gnarly paths.
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Old 03-28-21, 09:26 AM
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Racing bike no. Touring or sport touring yes. You’ll want braze ons to attach racks in at least the front and rear and ideally low rider racks on the forks as well. Fatter tires is another key. Many tourers from the 80’s can fit up to 38mm/40mm without fenders, 35 with. 32mm will be the minimum you want, but I would go higher. Fenders may also be useful depending on your terrain and climate.

A vintage mountain bike would also be a good choice and If you prefer the feel and look of drop bars you can do that.

I would do a search here for the gigantic show your vintage touring bike and show your vintage sport tourer threads. They will give you inspiration.

Also do a search on Flickr for words like vintage, touring, bikecamping etc. Also do a search for “randonneur”, most of the results will be vintage randonneur bikes and these are often well geared for activities like bike camping. There are also several Flickr groups full of wonderful photos of these types of bikes for inspiration. Many will be vintage or modern classically built bikes. Some of my favorite groups:

- Racks n’ sacks
- Randonneur
- randonneur & touring lightweight steel bicycles
- the Carradice club
- Bikepacking (and ultralight bicycle touring)
- Bike overnights
- Cycle Touring
- Fully Loaded Touring Bicycles
- Touring bicycle

For a lot more money there are still many companies and independent builders making bikes capable of (and often geared towards) bike camping and in the traditional lugged steel diamond frame design. Surly, Rivendell and Velo Orange are three of the big ones. Also check out the “Peregrine” that is about to be released by the company Singular. Stanforth Bikes is another. The bonus to modern iterations of this style of bike is they are all design to fit tires into the 40 and 50mm range, often in 650b. As Neal stated above, the rockier the terrain the wider the tires you’re going to want. 32mm is fine on very light gravel for shorter periods of time.

Good luck and have fun entering this world of beautiful looking bikes that also offer lots of utility.

Last edited by polymorphself; 03-28-21 at 10:01 AM.
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Old 03-28-21, 09:36 AM
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Seconding 35-38mm wide tires for light gravel riding. I'd go as wide as you can fit. You can use a vintage "sport touring" geometry bike, or do a mountain bike conversion with dropped bars. If you go the vintage mountain bike route, you'll easily fit 50+mm wide tires.

For road bikes, a decent rule of thumb is the older the frame, the bigger the tire that will fit. Longer chainstays push the wheel back further away from the bottom bracket where the chainstays narrow down.

Your spelling of the world "tyre" indicates you live within what the British Empire countries. If we knew where you live it would be easier to suggest what to look for - we have members worldwide, and the prevalence of vintage types/makes/models varies based on location. The number of different bikes/wheels/tires that would achieve what you're looking for leaves us with too many degrees of freedom. Posts like this generally attract a lot of different suggestions.

Also, your title states bikepacking. Do you mean carrying a tent, sleeping bag, etc. for camping? Do you expect to ride sometimes in the rain? Room for fenders might be suggested. Is it mountainous where you live/want to ride? This affects gearing selection.
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Old 03-28-21, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by j19 View Post
Hi everyone!
I'd like to build a bikepacking bike based on a vintage frame that I could use on a variety of surfaces - mostly roads, but I would like it to handle some light gravel too. I was wondering whether you would recommend choosing a vintage mountain bike frame as a base or to go for a vintage race bike with downtube shifters and try to fit thicker wheels. Furthermore, what kind of wheels/tyres would you recommend?
I’d say no to the “vintage race bike”. Racing bikes are built for racing. They are light and lightly built. They are short for quick handling. Quick handling and a load are generally not a good combination.

Look for a touring bike. Heavier build, longer wheelbase, more stable handling. Like don_87st, I’m partial to Cannondale for touring bikes. They ride like unloaded trucks in a parking lot but with a touring load, they are wonderfully comfortable. Yes, they are aluminum but there is nothing wrong with aluminum. Touring bike enthusiasts have this fantasy that steel can be easily fixed by the local village smithy in some exotic local while they are being entertained by the smithy’s beautiful daughter but that is just a fantasy. Steel isn’t all that easy to fix for various reasons nor is aluminum all that hard to fix for various reasons.

That said, as to which bike, I’d say both. Get a mountain bike (with at least a suspension fork) and a touring bike. Choose your adventure based on where you want to go and how rugged you want to get. If you want to go wandering for weeks at a time (on pavement as well as smooth trails like railtrails), this bike is just the ticket

2015-05-03 11.38.54 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

But if you want to go wilder, this bike is perfect for getting far from the maddening crowd

2020-01-26 16:51:13 by Stuart Black, on Flickr



How far you get away and how wild is only limited by your imagination...and your legs and lungs
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Old 03-28-21, 10:25 AM
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If you're building a bike..then I'd suggest a (possibly drop bar converted) mountain bike or a hybrid (example Trek 750..it'll fit 38mm tires). You can get nice, fast road tires for either that will also handle light gravel. Racing bike..no, as mentioned above. Touring bike(at least vintage)..maybe, but tire size might be limited. A touring bike with a 650b conversion will get you larger tires though a 650B conversion is a thing onto itself(as a DB conversion can be, but it can also be very simple).
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Old 03-28-21, 02:45 PM
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Thank you everyone for such wonderful replies and helpful recommendations! And of course pictures of your beautiful builds! 😊 I truly love this community! You've given me some great starting points and now it's time I do some homework! Oh, I'm from the Netherlands, so no mountains for me, unfortunately... But I would maybe take it to Germany/Belgium for a few days trip. It would be primarily ridden on the roads, but if I take a shortcut and have to stay on a gravel path for a few kilometers, it should also handle that. I would camp alongside, so I would carry a tent and other camping equipment with me.
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Old 03-28-21, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by j19 View Post
Thank you everyone for such wonderful replies and helpful recommendations! And of course pictures of your beautiful builds! 😊 I truly love this community! You've given me some great starting points and now it's time I do some homework! Oh, I'm from the Netherlands, so no mountains for me, unfortunately... But I would maybe take it to Germany/Belgium for a few days trip. It would be primarily ridden on the roads, but if I take a shortcut and have to stay on a gravel path for a few kilometers, it should also handle that. I would camp alongside, so I would carry a tent and other camping equipment with me.
This is basically my situation and makes all of this easier for you as you don’t need to worry about going higher than ~35mm. But as was said above, for such bikes it is usually best to go as wide as you can. 35mm is great for me on roads and short distances of light gravel.
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Old 03-28-21, 08:59 PM
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Here's a "race bike" conversion, that is perfect for light bikepacking. With 650B wheels, there's plenty of clearance. There's a whole thread on this sort of thing here:
https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-v...nversions.html

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Old 03-28-21, 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by j19 View Post
Thank you everyone for such wonderful replies and helpful recommendations! And of course pictures of your beautiful builds! 😊 I truly love this community! You've given me some great starting points and now it's time I do some homework! Oh, I'm from the Netherlands, so no mountains for me, unfortunately... But I would maybe take it to Germany/Belgium for a few days trip. It would be primarily ridden on the roads, but if I take a shortcut and have to stay on a gravel path for a few kilometers, it should also handle that. I would camp alongside, so I would carry a tent and other camping equipment with me.
You are in NL? I'm so jealous! My family took me on my first bike tour there for 6 weeks when I was 13 years old. Fond memories. There are lots of cool Koga Miyata touring bikes there! I would go for one of those!!

Also, you might want @JaccoW 's input on the vintage touring bike situation in NL.
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Old 03-28-21, 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by j19 View Post
Hi everyone!
I'd like to build a bikepacking bike based on a vintage frame that I could use on a variety of surfaces - mostly roads, but I would like it to handle some light gravel too. I was wondering whether you would recommend choosing a vintage mountain bike frame as a base or to go for a vintage race bike with downtube shifters and try to fit thicker wheels. Furthermore, what kind of wheels/tyres would you recommend?
Bikepacking is touring on mostly unpaved roads and trails with trendy bags thst hang off the bike. Otherwise, it's just touring and any bike can be used that can handle traditional racks, panniers, bags, etc.

I wouldn't want to ride loaded down on unpaved roads and trails with anything less than 40mm tires, and probably closer to 50mm.
So if vintage- then MTB first, early 90s hybrid second, various 80s touring third.

If this is just paved touring with modern bikepacking bags, then you could pick all sorts of different styles and make it work.
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Old 03-29-21, 04:03 AM
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Originally Posted by scarlson View Post
You are in NL? I'm so jealous! My family took me on my first bike tour there for 6 weeks when I was 13 years old. Fond memories. There are lots of cool Koga Miyata touring bikes there! I would go for one of those!!

Also, you might want @JaccoW 's input on the vintage touring bike situation in NL.
And ​​​​@non-fixie , @alexnagui, @Millstone and @Stadjer , to name a few.

If you're only carrying a tent and nothing else (no sleeping bag or matress?) then you could ride virtually anything. Pick something that can fit 37mm tyres or more and you're good.

Touring bikes are a good start but so are 90's hybrids or lightweight MTBs. For most touring in and around the Netherlands they should all be fine. Belgium might get tricky in some off-road parts with its steep hills but don't think you will be riding a loaded tourer up a muddy hill. You will be walking.

Where in the Netherlands are you located? And what size do you need?
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Old 03-29-21, 04:07 AM
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Originally Posted by j19 View Post
Thank you everyone for such wonderful replies and helpful recommendations! And of course pictures of your beautiful builds! 😊 I truly love this community! You've given me some great starting points and now it's time I do some homework! Oh, I'm from the Netherlands, so no mountains for me, unfortunately... But I would maybe take it to Germany/Belgium for a few days trip. It would be primarily ridden on the roads, but if I take a shortcut and have to stay on a gravel path for a few kilometers, it should also handle that. I would camp alongside, so I would carry a tent and other camping equipment with me.
j19 Any idea what the gravel shortcuts you are thinking of look like?

Here's my Trek 720 with 35mm Schwalbe G-One tires, currently set up for 80+ mile day rides on routes that are approx 75% paved and 25% light gravel. But for loaded trips on a classic touring bike along highways with unknown segments, at minimum I'd want a more durable and slightly wider tire such as 38-40mm Schwalbe Marathons.


For anything rougher than this, vintage mtb would certainly fit the bill... maybe like a Trek 830, 850 or 870: https://www.vintage-trek.com/images/t...ll-Terrain.pdf

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Old 03-29-21, 04:08 AM
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Lots of good advice here. If I were doing this, I'd opt for a drop bar mountain bike or a 650b conversion on a road bike. The mountain bike is likely the cheaper of the two since the existing parts (assuming you start with a complete bike) will work nicely. All you need do is figure out the bar stem combo and buy shifters and brake levers.

I used to do a lot of riding in the Veluwe.

This is the bike I fixed up recently for all roads type riding:

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Old 03-29-21, 05:01 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Lots of good advice here. If I were doing this, I'd opt for a drop bar mountain bike or a 650b conversion on a road bike. The mountain bike is likely the cheaper of the two since the existing parts (assuming you start with a complete bike) will work nicely. All you need do is figure out the bar stem combo and buy shifters and brake levers.

I used to do a lot of riding in the Veluwe.

This is the bike I fixed up recently for all roads type riding:
I recently read about older 27inch wheeled road bikes being a perfect fit for 650B rim brake conversion. 630mm to 584mm is a good drop.
From what I have seen though those are mostly a USA thing. Not sure if I have ever seen bikes in that wheel size around here but I could well be wrong.
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Old 03-29-21, 05:18 AM
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Originally Posted by JaccoW View Post
I recently read about older 27inch wheeled road bikes being a perfect fit for 650B rim brake conversion. 630mm to 584mm is a good drop.
From what I have seen though those are mostly a USA thing. Not sure if I have ever seen bikes in that wheel size around here but I could well be wrong.
Older British bikes? But yeah, 700c was the norm on the continent.

This is useful, https://www.bikeman.com/bikeman-blog...sion-guidlines
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Old 03-29-21, 05:44 AM
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Originally Posted by El Chaba View Post
I used a more modern drivetrain in the restoration, my Meral camper has/accommodates 32 mm tires which are sweet spot for combined gravel and pavement. You can find older touring bikes built before the art and science of carrying a load on a bicycle was forgotten. It has been rediscovered by millennials who have no interest in things that were perfected before the microchip, so you see modern bikes for camping with frame bags that hinder the rider’s knees and can’t really accommodate anything and gigantic seat bags that look like they were designed for a baguette delivery service....
I am one of those millenials and can appreciate both.
And even most of the C&V crowd don't ride bikes from before the microchip, seeing as how those were invented back in 1958.

The reason why many people prefer wider tyres nowadays is because they take their bikes to places where there were no trails 40 years ago.
Technology has improved greatly in the meantime and people just convert those cheap bikes which are available. In this case 80's/90's mountainbikes for most people.

And be glad the millenial crowd is around, they and their use of the internet are the main reason why many of those older bikes are viable again. Without it a resurgence of 650B and similar standards would have been very unlikely, especially in the high level of quality we see nowadays.
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Old 03-29-21, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by El Chaba View Post
I used a more modern drivetrain in the restoration, my Meral camper has/accommodates 32 mm tires which are sweet spot for combined gravel and pavement. You can find older touring bikes built before the art and science of carrying a load on a bicycle was forgotten. It has been rediscovered by millennials who have no interest in things that were perfected before the microchip, so you see modern bikes for camping with frame bags that hinder the rider’s knees and can’t really accommodate anything and gigantic seat bags that look like they were designed for a baguette delivery service....
You mean like this?

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Old 03-29-21, 09:03 AM
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There are lots of good suggestions here, and since you're in the Netherlands, you ought to be able to get whatever you decide you want. As for how to decide, here are some questions:

1. How mechanically inclined are you, and do you want to do all your own mechanical work? If you're willing to do your own DIY conversions, you could get exactly what you want fairly cheaply -- but it'd mean that the bike might be harder to get fixed in a hurry at some small-town bike shop in the middle of nowhere.

2. How much do you want to spend on it? Everybody's suggesting 650B conversions, but by the time you buy new wheels, new tires, and (probably) new brakes, that cheap old bike won't be so cheap anymore.

3. What kinds of "gravel shortcuts," really, are we talking about? In my experience, on fairly flat ground, really fat tires aren't necessary -- unless you'll be riding in soft sand (say, near the beach). If you're talking about gravel country roads and no mountains, 35mm ought to be fine.

4. Taking it all together, my recommendation would be a late-'80s touring bike -- something like this: https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-v...ta-1000-a.html Defining features: cantilever brakes, triple chainwheel. Most will take 35mm tires without fenders.
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Old 03-29-21, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by brianinc-ville View Post
There are lots of good suggestions here, and since you're in the Netherlands, you ought to be able to get whatever you decide you want. As for how to decide, here are some questions:

1. How mechanically inclined are you, and do you want to do all your own mechanical work? If you're willing to do your own DIY conversions, you could get exactly what you want fairly cheaply -- but it'd mean that the bike might be harder to get fixed in a hurry at some small-town bike shop in the middle of nowhere.

2. How much do you want to spend on it? Everybody's suggesting 650B conversions, but by the time you buy new wheels, new tires, and (probably) new brakes, that cheap old bike won't be so cheap anymore.

3. What kinds of "gravel shortcuts," really, are we talking about? In my experience, on fairly flat ground, really fat tires aren't necessary -- unless you'll be riding in soft sand (say, near the beach). If you're talking about gravel country roads and no mountains, 35mm ought to be fine.

4. Taking it all together, my recommendation would be a late-'80s touring bike -- something like this: https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-v...ta-1000-a.html Defining features: cantilever brakes, triple chainwheel. Most will take 35mm tires without fenders.
I concur with the above, especially point #3. I've done a lot of true MTB riding on 1" Paselas measuring only 26+mm wide and had no problems.
So I think that 35mm tires are plenty wide for all but deep, soft sand or mud. Obviously bigger/softer tires will improve the off-roading part if dirt surfaces predominate.

And I would choose a sport-touring bike, assuming lightly loaded, or a similar old-school "standard" road frame having fairly relaxed geometry and reasonably long wheelbase.
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Old 03-29-21, 10:10 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by JaccoW View Post
And even most of the C&V crowd don't ride bikes from before the microchip, seeing as how those were invented back in 1958.
Damn, my 1959 Jack Taylor tandem just misses qualifying! Another good reason that I bought that '46-7 Herse!
I am a millennial too.
I also favor panniers and handlebar bags over the overgrown seatpacks and triangle frame bags that seem to be synonymous with the term "bikepacking" but I have noticed that this term is often overused by the general public, because backpacking is a more accessible, well-known, and popular sport. "Touring" may be a more appropriate descriptor, but its meaning is less self-evident and therefore less accessible.
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Old 03-29-21, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by scarlson View Post
Damn, my 1959 Jack Taylor tandem just misses qualifying! Another good reason that I bought that '46-7 Herse!
I am a millennial too.
I also favor panniers and handlebar bags over the overgrown seatpacks and triangle frame bags that seem to be synonymous with the term "bikepacking" but I have noticed that this term is often overused by the general public, because backpacking is a more accessible, well-known, and popular sport. "Touring" may be a more appropriate descriptor, but its meaning is less self-evident and therefore less accessible.
Well there is ass-rockets in the form of bikepacking saddlebags and then there is Carradice style saddlebags. I prefer the latter but certainly wouldn't mind trying the former. Most bikepacking people seem to use the Carradice-style saddlebags mounted to their handlebars nowadays.
Fair is fair though, 26L is a lot of bag to put on the rear.


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