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Survival Lesson

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The double throw down, jump back, five speed, positronic quick turn and why you need it.

 

Can you steer your bike as quickly as you can a car? What does quick turning your bike have to do with your safety? How quick can it be done? Where can you practice it?

 

Let's take up question number one first. Can you steer your bike as fast as your car? If your answer is "no", my next questions are: What business do you have riding in traffic with cars that can out-maneuver you?, and, Ain't that dangerous? The answers, not pleasant ones to swallow, are: none and yes. You lose.

 

There are several ways to view this. One is that bikes are much narrower than a car and that gives you an advantage right off, because a little steering input goes a long way in changing your position in space, e.g., to avoid a lawn chair that just fell off a pickup truck , you can move your entire machine one bike width, or about three feet, to the right or left to be out of harms way; a car would have to move much further due to its greater width to avoid hitting it?great, that's one for the bikes.

 

Because of its greater width, a car driver must be able to swerve up to 4 times quicker to avoid you on a motorcycle; many drivers can but often don't because they panic and freeze.

 

Your task is even more daunting when confronted with a car's greater dimensions. Your ability to change position in space must be even quicker to avoid the beast which just pulled out on you; especially if you look at the broadside dimension of a car, the one usually offered at an intersection confrontation, which is 5 to 8 times greater than your frontal silhouette. That looks like one for the cars.

 

Logically, your steering should be at least three times as effective (the ability to reposition your bike quicker and farther to the right or left) as an automobile driver's. Now that's the rub: you've got a basically more maneuverable machine with thread-the-needle dimensions and (according to statistics) you aren't willing or able to use it in a pinch. That's one for the statistics book. What's wrong with this picture?

 

The truth is: if you can't quick turn your motorcycle, you won't even try. There are no instances on record where a motorcycle rider suddenly acquired the skill and guts to overcome their reluctance to execute a quick turning maneuver if they didn't already possess it: flashes of inspiration in this area appear to be in short supply, especially when most needed.

 

Even the thought of making quick steering changes on a motorcycle is enough to raise goosebumps the size of eggs on most riders and the commonly cited reason for them is the seemingly very real sense that the front or rear or both wheels will wash out. In some cases that could be true, e.g., turning on wet or otherwise slippery surfaces. Riders are keenly aware of this and generally avoid it when possible.

 

Another and very real concern is: an aggressive direction change with the front or rear or both brakes applied, something that often accompanies a panic situation. You can ask the front tire to take a substantial cornering load or a fistful of front brake but you may not ask it to do them both at the same time; them's the rules of rubber. That's one for Physics.

 

Survival Potential

 

Take a moment to evaluate how quickly you are willing to turn your bike. If there were a scale from 1 to 10, where would you be. After twenty years of intense observation, I place the average motorcycle rider at around 4 on that scale. Is fear of falling a reason? Yes. Not practiced at the art of quick turns? Yes. Very few ever take the time to hone their skill up to the standard of effectiveness needed for the street.

 

At the Superbike Schools, we treat the quick-turn idea as a must have, fundamental skill; and provide riders with plenty of incentive to bring their own level of mastery of it up to the point it can be practiced on a day to day basis. This can even out the score.

 

Practice The Act

It does seem a bit outlandish to ride along and "flick" your bike from side to side and it would be easy to become self conscious about doing it on a routine basis: you might even get a ticket for reckless driving, it's possible. But that doesn't alter the facts of auto vs. motorcycle maneuverability stated above, they are real. Let me state this again: "If you can't turn your bike quickly you won't even try". That is not my opinion, that is an overwhelmingly obvious statistic from motorcycle accident research.

 

So what are we talking about here, weaving some cones in the parking lot at 7 MPH? No, we are talking about the average speed of an auto / motorcycle accident, our worst enemy, and that is 28 MPH. We're talking about a disembodied car muffler turning lazy circles in your lane or a truck tire tread flipped into the air or the refrigerator that just fell off a pickup truck, a car, a kid, a ball, a dog, a traffic cone... , anything where a faint hearted attempt simply won't cut it. And the usual result? ? Cream the brakes, and that's nothing more than panic reactions winning. That's one for the obstacle, zero for you.

 

The ability to quick turn your bike is valuable and must be practiced and kept in fine tune. Even that is no guarantee you'll perform when the moment of truth arrives but it's the best you can, or should strive to, achieve. Watching a professional racer perform a quick-turn maneuver through an S bend is valuable. A pro, accomplishing three or four times the steering action of a lazy rider, should be viewed as a potential goal for anyone who rides. Having this ability is just about right for adding two or three more points onto a rider's score card.

 

Quick-Turn Equipment

The point is, it can be done, in fact it is becoming easier and easier with companies like Dunlop applying their racing tire technology to street rubber; making the street executed quick-turn even more possible by compounding stickier rubber along with increased load capacity and longer wear.

 

There is a basic steering drill I do to observe and correct riders' ability to get their bikes turned quick. The drill works so well that I have seen (on a stock ZX 6R fitted with Dunlop 207 ZR Sport Max Radials, with four hard track days on them, cold, on dusty asphalt, at 30 MPH and a 68 degree day) serious quick flicks (the bike actually sanpped over to respectable lean angles) done by riders who have taken the time to perfect this drill. Perhaps even more amazing is that I've also seen it done on a Softail Springer Harley!

 

Buying a tire the consistency of a bowling ball for touring and long life is no longer necessary. In combination with more compliant suspensions, a key part of quick-turns, everyday technology has placed riders on a far more level playing field with cars. The technology is there, but so are the panic reactions which prevent riders from using it. Refining your quck turn abilities isn't simply another good idea, it is somehting that should and can be practiced each time you ride. Even up the score?learn to turn.

 

Keith Code copyright 2002, Keith Code, all rights reserved. Permission granted for reprint to CSS, Inc. web site, 2002

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Guest gerry

Keith.......If you were to describe what you actually do when initiating a quick turn, what are the actual steps??Such as avoiding a big chunk of glass in your path.

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Guest Guest

It's interesting that a reply to this article came today, two years after it was first posted. In Minnesota, it is not riding season right now, but I was sitting at an intersection today with a concrete divider that made a right turn very tight. I was thinking that this turn would be a challenge to get through quickly on a bike . I looked through the turn and figured how I would do it, but it still had me asking myself if I could get through as quickly as a car.

 

For myself, to effect a quick emergency turn (or swerve), I move my upper body in the direction of the turn as I put pressure on the outside peg to use as an anchor to push hard on the inside bar. It is one quick motion. The key is to look around the object not at it. I find that if I stare at the object I am trying to avoid I either don't avoid it or I don't get as far from it as I should. For objects moving down the road, I wait. I wait until the object has decided what random path it is going to take and then react.

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Gerry,

 

If I think I have to turn quickly (like at an intersetion, someone looks like they might not see me), I get a little lower on the bike to have better leverage on the bars. Keeping a stable platform to steer from is key, so I try and cut down eliminate any body movement (same at the track). Pushing on the outside peg, that's a good idea! We work on these skills pretty thoroughly at the school.

 

Best,

Cobie

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Guest gerry

Gerry,

 

If I think I have to turn quickly (like at an intersetion, someone looks like they might not see me), I get a little lower on the bike to have better leverage on the bars. Keeping a stable platform to steer from is key, so I try and cut down eliminate any body movement (same at the track). Pushing on the outside peg, that's a good idea! We work on these skills pretty thoroughly at the school.

 

Best,

Cobie

Thats a good start, but would you describe it as a quick push ,pull, push, pull of the handle bars??at the same time shifting weight to the outside peg....keeping the body relatively quiet????? Gerry

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Gerrry,

 

Some riders push, some push and pull with the other hand also. I push and pull, and I checked with one of my coaches, he does also. A quick side question--have you done our school? I'm not trying to sell you a school, I simply want to know what of our skills you might have been exposed to.

 

In a real full-on emergency steering situation, I might not get any weight on the outside peg at all. Stable platform is key for me, so I don't move the body at all when steering agressively.

 

CF

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Guest gerry

Gerrry,

 

Some riders push, some push and pull with the other hand also. I push and pull, and I checked with one of my coaches, he does also. A quick side question--have you done our school? I'm not trying to sell you a school, I simply want to know what of our skills you might have been exposed to.

 

In a real full-on emergency steering situation, I might not get any weight on the outside peg at all. Stable platform is key for me, so I don't move the body at all when steering agressively.

 

CF

I live in Michigan...Battle Creek, I am just deciding which location to go to, probably mid ohio to do level 1

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OK, no sweat, it doesn't really matter where you do it, and Mid-Ohio is very challenging, one of my favorites.

 

One thing that we are going to do with you on your level 1 day is what we call the Steering Exercise. What we have found is that many riders (vast majority, including racers), are not steering the motorcycle as well and efficiently as they could, or are creating some additional input to the bike (which upsets it), or are creating additional lean angle that is not needed.

 

Interestingly enough, this is quite a skill, and also quite a skill to learn how to train on others (one of the hardest skills the riding coaches have to get good at).

 

Michigan eh? Bet you have some cold weather up there about now, not real conducive to riding!

 

CF

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Guest Guest

OK, no sweat, it doesn't really matter where you do it, and Mid-Ohio is very challenging, one of my favorites.

 

One thing that we are going to do with you on your level 1 day is what we call the Steering Exercise. What we have found is that many riders (vast majority, including racers), are not steering the motorcycle as well and efficiently as they could, or are creating some additional input to the bike (which upsets it), or are creating additional lean angle that is not needed.

 

Interestingly enough, this is quite a skill, and also quite a skill to learn how to train on others (one of the hardest skills the riding coaches have to get good at).

 

Michigan eh? Bet you have some cold weather up there about now, not real conducive to riding!

 

CF

6" of snow today, 25 deg.........................get your snowmobile out!!!!!!

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I've gotten spoiled--65 degrees, and sun!

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Guest Jeff

So in the absence of a track day or school, what would be the recommended regimen to practice the quick turn in the real world?

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OK, there are excellent chapters in Twist 2 on steering. Have a look at those. Then, if the pavement is dry/not slippery, and you can warm the tires (by cornering, genlty at first) you can work on turning the bike quicker. Those are the only 2 provisos--warm the tires, and make sure the surface is not slippery.

 

If those can't be done...well might have to wait for better weather!

 

I practice this skill just about every time I ride.

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Read the books and take the California Superbike School, at least Level 1, at a track near you. I took Level 1 at the last Road America date. I camped nearby on my BMW R11GS and rode Keith's Kawi 600, stayed for the weekend of AMA Superbikes. ( Dang that Flea was a cutey!) Later that summer it saved my ass.

 

I was touring out West in Montana/Utah/Colorado, on my way to the Top O the Rockies Rally in Paonia Colorado. The end of a long day in the saddle nearly ended about 10 pm in western Colorado. Even with my high beams and monstrous 6" PIAA 520s, it was hard to visually differentiate the cardboard box that laid across my lane of travel from the rest of the night. I don't know if that box was full or empty, but I did not hit it as a result of lots of counter steering practice. Thanks Keith.

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I love hearing stories like that!

 

There was this little guy that rode a big Harley a few years back. He just came up to one of my coaches, and told him how he'd been saved by knowing more (and having practiced) of his steering. I keep it in the column of "things to practice regularly".

 

CF

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Guest Terri Reid

"So what are we talking about here, weaving some cones in the parking lot at 7 MPH? No, we are talking about the average speed of an auto / motorcycle accident, our worst enemy, and that is 28 MPH. We're talking about a disembodied car muffler turning lazy circles in your lane or a truck tire tread flipped into the air or the refrigerator that just fell off a pickup truck, a car, a kid, a ball, a dog, a traffic cone... , anything where a faint hearted attempt simply won't cut it. And the usual result? ? Cream the brakes, and that's nothing more than panic reactions winning. That's one for the obstacle, zero for you."

 

Very interesting article, and very good to live (long) by, however, In defense of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation curriculum, I must say that we do more than just weave cones at 7 mph. We teach foundations of technique that are carried over into the real world. There is much experience to be had indeed, but the foundations must be solid.

 

The Experienced Rider Course (ERC) exercise #8, Hazard Avoidance: Swerving and Stopping Quickly. The students approach the barrier at 15-20 in 2nd gear, swerve between the gate cones and the obstacle in the given direction, downshift to first and stop after straightening. The cue cones are 17' from the barrier and 3' apart. The barrier represents a stopped truck.

 

The points that we look for are keeping head and eyes up, speed control, separate braking from swerving, and keeping the upper body calm - independent of motorcycle lean.

 

We want them to live long enough to come and see you...

 

Terri Reid

Naval Base Ventura County

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For all of you,

 

This is an interesting topic.

Maybe the following will be of interest to you.

 

I have been a motor instructor for more then a decade and am currently working as an examinator in Holland.

 

So when people are taking a test drive to get their driving license they have to show me their ability.

 

One of the manoeuvers the kandidate has to execute is swerving and avoiding an obstacle.

They must approach a gate of 1meter wide ( 2 cones )with a speed of 50 km/h and then swerve left around the obstacle ( 4 cones ) wich is placed at a distance of 15 meters from the gate and 2 meters to the left of the left hand cone of the gate.

After swerving around the obstacle they must get back in to their original riding line within 18 meters of the obstacle.( 1 cone )

The kandidate is only allowed to shut down the throttle and steer when his bike is in the gate.

He/she is not allowed to brake or downshift.

 

Properly executing this excercise means quick steering, there's no other way to do this.

We find this to be a fantastic excercise wich gives the new motorcycle rider a lot of ability and control in a variety of situations.

 

The key things in a proper execution are: ( as far as we're concerned )

1 A firm grip of the tank with your knees. ( try to get a dent in the tank )

2 As many contactpatches between the bike and your legs.

3 Shoulder and arms not tightened but relaxed.

4 The bike should move beneath you, the upper body stays almost upright.

5 A firm but short steering input of the handlebar.

6 And most important of all, where you look is where you go, so look around the obstacle, not towards it.

 

Now all you need is a piece of quiet asphalt and 7 cones, or beercans or whatever you can use to practice the excercise.

Sorry but you have to convert the metrics to your system.

 

P.s. If you're going to practice; start at slower speeds first. Work your way up from about 30 km/h

 

Would love to hear any comment on this.

 

Mike Kromjong

Holland

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I wish we had a test like that here!

 

:)

 

CF

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Cobie,

 

To draw you a complete picture of what a would be motorcyclist has to show during his testdrives, yes we have two seperate ones. I'll sum it up for you.

 

Test 1 ( special maneouvers ):

 

1 emergency stop at 50 km/h ( thei're allowed to lock up both wheels but can't lose control or fall and need

come to a complete stop within 10 to 12 meters. Must use clutch at beginning of braking )

2 forcefull technically sound stop at 50 again. ( complete stop within 10 - 14 meters. they have to use both

brakes at same time and must build up brakingforce gradually. Must have it in 1st gear when stopped but

can't shift

sooner then within the last 3 meters or so. )

3 precision stop at 50 again. ( Must use both brakes at same time and come to a complete stop at precisely

17 meters from starting point. Braking force must be applied evenly througout. Corrections must be so

small that i can't see them. )

 

 

 

4 slow slalom ( 6 cones in a straight line and 3 meters apart )

using gas, a slipping clutch and rear brake in order to keep the drive train tensioned thus giving stability

they must go in and out the cones without tipping one over.

 

5 straight line at walking pace for 20 meters, again using gas, clutch and rear brake as described earlier.

they have to ride in a straight line and must show good stability.

 

6 U-turn right ( within a space of 6 meters wide created with cones they must make a u-turn using same

7 U-turn left technique as slow slalom. They must have a pulling engine at all times and may not may not

shut of the gas and make the turn on rest energy )

 

8 making an imaginary 8 within a space of 12 by 6 meters. First cornering left then through the middle

of the space and then cornering right and leaving the excercise in the same line as they went in.

Again using the same technique as in the U-turn.

 

 

9 Swerving ( as described a few days ago )

 

10 fast slalom ( 6 cones in a straight line and 8 meters apart )

They have to ride towards this excercise in a straight line and keep a speed of 30 km/h minimum

and then go in and out of the cones keeping the same speed and not using the brakes at any time.

Essential is that they use the same steering technique as described with swerving.

 

11 accelaration/decelaration test ( 2 gates of 1 meter wide and 55 meters apart followed by a slalom of 3

cones at 20 meters from the second gate. )

The rider must start at gate 1 from a stand still and then accelerate to 50 km/h and 3rd gear.

At second gate he/she must brake and shift to second and reach a speed of 30 km/h at wich speed they

have to go in and out of the cones again. It is essential that the engine is pulling again not idling at the

first cone of the slalom.

 

12 Walking and parking

They have to walk in a straight line for 10 meters and then reverse in to a parking area of 4 by 2

meters and then pull the bike on its middle standard or put it on the jiffy. The choice is ours.

Then get it of the standard/jiffy and walk out of the parking area.

 

 

After succesfully completing this test the can apply for the actuall driving test.

 

In this test the instructor and i are following the applicant in a car and communicating through a walkie talkie

with the applicant. ( Unfortunately my boss still does'nt agree with me that it's better to follow on a bike )This testdrive takes about 40 to 45 minutes actually driving through traffic. At my notice the instructor will tell the rider where to turn left or right or to follow road signs.

Such a ride will take us through avarage 90 degree turns within urban areas. Some of them real tight and

with no visability through the turn, some wider and with perfect view. We'll make sure there are a lot of crossings with a lot of other traffic coming on and crossings with different visability and priority.

We always ride a few kilometers on the highways with them and let them overtake at their own initiative and change lanes whenever the situation demands that.

And we always try to give them a few bends/corners at higher speeds, some preferably with a decreasing radius.

 

What we want to see in a ride like this is,.....................................

- that the rider is able to controle the bike at all times.

- That he/she is able to quickly and safely find a solution when in conflict with other traffic.

- That he/she is constantly aware of his surroundings and looking far enough ahead to avoid being surprised

by either traffic or situations.

- And that they do all that by riding at maximum allowed speed wherever possible and/or sensible.

( couse that's what they're gonna do when they get their license )

 

Hope this gives you a proper idea of what the testdrive in Holland looks like

 

Best

Mike

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Wow! is all I have to say. The test here in the US is nothing like that. Many even get their test passed if they sucessfully comlete a basic riding course.

 

I wonder what kind of riding statistics Holland has compared to the the US--in terms of crashes. I'll bet percentage-wise your's are lower.

 

Best,

CF

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Cobie,

 

That's probably true.

 

Altough these figures will be infuenced by several other factors as well.

 

A few examples.

 

- It's my understanding that traffic in the states is much more diciplined then over here. For instance due to

your 'keep your lane' system.

 

- I guess that in the warmer more southern states, just as in europe's mediterranian countries, a lot

of motorriders are'nt wearing leathers or other protective clothing.

Whereas in our climat riders are more used to wear protective gear.

 

- Something that also helps is that since last year applicants for the driving tests are obligated to wear

full protective gear during the test. i.e. boots, gloves, pants, jacket and of course a helmet.

 

Off course the latest two remarks are'nt really crash related, but they will deminish injury's.

 

Best

Mike

 

 

 

 

Cobie ( and others reading this tread ),

 

Although i'm trying my best, i'm sure my spelling will leave something to be desired.

Don't hesitate to improve me !

Thanks.

 

Mike

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If anyone comes up with some comparable crash stats, I'd be interested to see them!

 

CF

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Cobie,

 

We have an institute for all kinds of statistics over here. Give me some time and i'll try to get our statistics.

I'm sure you'll be able to do the same at your end. And maybe they'll compare.

 

Mike

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Cobie,

 

Have got some crash stats. Hope you have comparable stats at your end. Here they come.

 

year Motor all motorised vehicules

1986 120.997 5.154.024

1987 123.006 5.247.041

1988 126.997 5.419.009 These figures show the spectacular growth in

1989 131.981 5.612.002 numbers of registered motorbikes compared to all of

1990 143.000 5.800.034 the registered motorised vehicules together.

1991 159.013 5.929.096

1992 190.009 6.027.027 These figures relate to a population of about

1993 234.005 6.206.113 14 million in 1986 to up about

1994 270.016 6.378.013 15.5 million in 2005.

1995 293.993 6.529.087

1996 315.002 6.644.911

1997 354.053 6.859.086

1998 373.435 7.042.600

1999 392.459 7.318.515

2000 413.989 7.640.887

2001 437.798 7.927.246

2002 460.822 8.168.393

2003 494.450 8.387.766

2004 516.567 8.495.255

2005 536.934 8.627.207

 

 

 

 

crash-victims per billion traveller-kilometers (risk-analysis)

 

year Motor

1995 2425,77

1996 2463,02

1997 2161,82

1998 1669,07

1999 2691,46

2000 2232,38

2001 2018,51

2002 2162,65

2003 1827,31

 

 

Number of motorcasualties

Year Dead Hospitalized first- slightly

aid injured

 

1988 62 693 897 378

1989 64 668 997 491

1990 72 749 996 678

1991 88 741 1.009 679

1992 91 830 1.052 947

1993 104 887 979 926

1994 112 974 957 1.096

1995 90 886 954 1.179

1996 91 949 819 1.047

1997 92 880 858 1.000

1998 76 740 692 816

1999 75 795 685 944

2000 89 749 610 839

2001 76 776 593 818

2002 93 821 598 782

2003 95 778 481 879

2004 83 653 10 12

 

The significant drop in 2004 for first-aid and slight injury may be explaned by the fact that this is the

year that we implemented the clothing-rule for test-drive candidates.

 

After all the group of new riders are always more accident-prone then the more experienced riders.

And they were then used to and in possesion of proper leathers or other protective gear.

This is however only my personal logic at work, it's not a researched fact.

 

Hope you can do something with this.

 

Best

Mike

 

 

 

 

 

Cobie,

 

Sorry that the figures come out a bit garbled.

 

The last columns should be read as follows.

 

first colum is year

second is - Dead

third is - Hospitalized

fourth is - first-aid necessery

fifth is - slightly injured

 

Mike

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:unsure: Cobie,

 

About the crash stats.

 

Since i could'nt really believe the numbers for first-aid and slightly injured for 2004, i contacted the statistics guy again.

Apparently the numbers for 2004 that he send me were incomplete.

So forget about these numbers and about my far-fetched explanation as to how/why this drop in numbers could have occurred.

 

Best,

Mike

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Mike,

 

OK, but thanks for looking at that. I didn't have a chance to look over on this end, we are pretty busy getting ready for the first part of our season (already started in fact).

 

Best,

CF

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