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Absolute Newbie W/ Newbie Questions


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Hello all,

 

I've been having a great time lurking and searching here the past couple of days. So much to learn. I've ordered Twist II and a couple of other books from amazon and look forward to reading.

 

I am from the Bay Area Northern California and am an absolute newbie to motorcycle riding in my early 30's. In fact, I have never sat on a motorcycle before. Whenever I start into something new, particularly the kinds of things that can kill you if you point 'em in the wrong direction and twitch, I try to account for proper, guided training on the front end as a must! So, it's probably not surprising that the internet landed me here, and being as I have no experience, I thought it best to find and heed some good advise.

 

Here's what I'm thinking I need to do based on solid, infallible internet advise :)

 

1. Go and take an MSF class with my wife (we like to do these sorts of learning expeditions together) and obtain M1 license.

 

2. Then, I need to get my hands on some safety gear and some kind of 2 wheeled motor thingy that goes. . . preferably one that I don't have to wrench on too much and one that won't launch me into oblivion and beyond.

 

3. Ride the thing until I'm comfortable going at freeway speeds and have somewhat of a subconscious intuition of how the controls work. . . hopefully without getting hurt in the process.

 

4. Get out to 2 days of CSS school. We've found that we learn best by taking some time particularly when starting out to get a little bit of immersion to allow some baseline foundational elements to click. . . hopefully some initial barriers are overcome and a solid sense of how much we really don't know and "what the questions are" starts to develop. So, we'd love to do 4 days like we did for firearms, but the budget doesn't look like it'll support that kind of investment, so I'm shooting for 2 days.

 

I'd love to head out to class early enough that we're still largely new and don't have too many ingrained bad habits to un-learn, but not so new that we can't access what is being taught. I really don't see training as an option in my mind. It's something I want to access as soon as I can because I feel not knowing your limitations is dangerous and finding your limitations on the street is even more dangerous. .. and there's all kinds of people who have spent hours thinking about how to teach people this stuff :)

 

This being the case, I have some newbie questions.

 

What is the difference between the single day format and the 2 day Camp format? This is largely a budget related question for me because I'm looking at a total of $2600 for 2 days of individual class for 2 people. .. . and $4400 for the Camp format. In the end, I want to shoot for the best option (might take longer to save the $$). We live about 40 min. away from Infineon and 1.5 hours away from Laguna Seca. Both well within reach. . . Willow is also completely doable. To come to think of it. . .it's really not a bad spot to live for bike culture, eh?

 

What is a good route to take in terms of bike purchase? I'm 155 lbs. 6' 0". . . my wife is ~5'3" 120 lbs. The options I'm considering and keeping an eye out for are new-ish Ninja 250R (seems most folks think it's a good starter bike but I feel the prices right now are out of line) or a used low-milage SV650 of some type, or a really low-cost beater that just putts me around but is low cost. The reason I ask is this. . . most people on the internet say that an SV650 is too much bike for a beginner, but most people are not shooting for or investing in training at an early stage in riding. I noticed that your schools use pretty darn fast 600cc bikes for everyone, so my assumption is that novice riders given the proper guided environment can be taught to safely handle the power and that it does not significantly hinder the upward path of skills development to be on a medium-displacement machine. But, we have to survive the space between MSF class and CSS on the bike we purchase.

 

What skills do I need to have in order to take a class? My whole family is and always has been stick-driving, so the concept of clutch is not new. I don't know if there's a motorcycle equivalent of double-clutching/heel-toe while downshifting, but do I need to know this prior to class? or will it be taught?

 

I guess a lot of these answers will come when I read the books I have coming in the mail. I will go back now to utilizing the search function. I appreciate the community here for putting up a great resource. Everyone seems very inviting, and I look forward to hopefully taking the plunge into riding wherever that takes me.

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Hi Chunger,

 

I don't have time this am to get into a detailed reply to all of your questions, but, I will try to touch on a couple points that stand out for me.

 

Having four-wheeled manual transmission experience is good, but, remember that the controls are opposite: shift with feet, gas/clutch with hand. This and other not so minor details lead me to recommend most people do not learn the basics of operating a motorcycle on the street. I, and most everyone I know, began off-road, or at least off public road/highway, on some kind of basic trail bike. (Not motocross.) That isn't to say that a 250 Ninja and a parking lot won't suffice, just that there may be another option better suited to learning this skill.

 

MSF is good place to start, but, CSS is not for beginners learning to operate a motorcycle. As such, making a savings plan/budget is a good thing, but, honestly, it's a little early to be booking a 2-day camp or single day classes until you have some seat time. Probably six months to a year minimum, in my opinion. That said, I'll let someone else extol the virtues of a 2 day camp vs the single day schools. I think there are already several threads devoted to this topic already.

 

Good luck,

 

racer

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3. Ride the thing until I'm comfortable going at freeway speeds and have somewhat of a subconscious intuition of how the controls work. . . hopefully without getting hurt in the process.

Chunger;

 

Of all of your comments and questions, this one jumped out at me as it did with Racer. You do need to have your control inputs developed to be almost second nature if you want to maximize your investment with the School. Your intuitions are spot on when it comes to the concept of minimizing the development of bad habits and your decision to take the MSF course is an excellent place to start; getting the fundamentals of operating a motorcycle established up front. Once you are comfortable with the basics (which is more than just riding at freeway speed) then and only then would I sign up for the School.

 

After that, there is no better place to learn how to corner a motorcycle at speed than the Superbike School IMHO. As for which format, I have done both more than once and the two day camp does offer more no question. It has (by design) a smaller class, it has only two groups instead of three so you are on track more than a conventional one day School. The student/track coach ratio is lower so you get more personalized attention at the two day camp and I believe there is more video shot there as well but it may be affected by which Level you are attending. The two day camp requires that you are in good physical shape because you will ride a lot and you will be tired at the end of each day.

 

As for which bike or type, I will leave that alone except to say that you confirmed how rational you are approaching this by not including a litre bike in your choices.

 

As for which track to attend the School, you can't go wrong with any of your choices but having been on The Streets and Laguna Seca, The Streets is a shorter and more technical track so you will have more repetitions there than the other two...but again you can't go wrong with any of these.

 

Good luck with your journey.

 

Kevin

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Once you are comfortable with the basics (which is more than just riding at freeway speed) then and only then would I sign up for the School.

 

After that, there is no better place to learn how to corner a motorcycle at speed than the Superbike School IMHO.

 

Kevin

 

 

Please define if you can in very specific terms what the basics are which i need to have a firm grasp on prior to moving to the track. What I am hearing is that this is absolutely not a novice sort of undertaking.

 

The parallel in my mind in shooting with my wife is broadly "the ability to safely run the gun" but that can be broken down into particular basics: muzzle awareness, trigger discipline, safe draw out of holster, reloading, malfunction clearing, ability to guarantee hits at reasonable range. Prior to solidly possessing these skills, we did not sign up for any courses involving dynamic movement or team interaction (intermediate level class).

 

I'd like to know what the specific skills are that I need to possess in order to access the information taught at CSS. I need have "the ability to safely handle the bike" which can be broken down into specifics. What are those specifics? Once specifically identified, I can go about acquiring these necessary skills be it in a deserted parking lot, in the dirt, in another more basic class, or on the street.

 

Thanks,

'Chung

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Please define if you can in very specific terms what the basics are which i need to have a firm grasp on prior to moving to the track. What I am hearing is that this is absolutely not a novice sort of undertaking.

Chung;

 

That's tough to answer but I will try. You need to be able to use the controls of the motorcycle to place it where you want it when you want it without "thinking" about how that's accomplished. I can't use your analogy to firearms training because I am unfamiliar with it but the MSF course and your follow up street riding will get you to that level of proficiency.

 

You are correct that this is not a novice undertaking but you don't need to have a white number plate to enroll either.

 

I would expect that you will know when you feel comfortable.

 

Kevin

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think of your car, can you just jump in your car and drive somewhere without really thinking about it? when you can do that on a bike then you are ready! In that I mean pull away from junctions, changing gear, breaking for red lights or traffic, generally to be in control of the bike without fumbling the controls!

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I would add that a good book to read as an introduction is "Motorcycling Excellence" (2nd edition) which the MSF publishes. It covers all the basics and has lots of good photos and drawings to illustrate the concepts described in the text. Read it and understand everything in it thoroughly- think of it as Level 0.

 

I bought a sportbike about 2 years ago; I had a small cruiser type before that (about 10 years) so I had not ridden a motorcycle in a long time. I did what you described, just riding carefully to get the hang of it until I was comfortable being on public roadways. In the spring, after having the bike for about 6 months, I went riding on some twisties with guys I work with- that was a stretch, but a lot of fun. Then I did a track day. I was probably the slowest one out there, but you learn a lot in a controlled environment like that. Then a few months after that I went to the Level I school. I was glad I had the track day under my belt before the school just so that not everything was new- then I could concentrate on what they were teaching me.

 

One thing I did which I think in hindsight was a good decision for me was to buy a used bike. That left enough funds to buy really good gear, books, track days, education, etc. I hear about people spending all their money on a spiffy new bike and then complaining they can't afford even a proper jacket. My advice would be to spend your money on YOU to make YOU a better and safe rider. (That sounds like what you were thinking, but I just wanted to reinforce it.)

 

Enjoy it- it's a LOT of fun!

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Hi Chung,

 

I'm just now in the office. Interestingly enough, shooting is a hobby of mine, I know what you mean about getting trained in it.

 

Overall your approach seems pretty good, but I'd mention another few options.

 

1. Dirt riding is fun, and the controls are all the same. There are classes taught there, just get/use good safety gear (all of it as falling will happen).

2. Get Keith's first book, Twist 1 pretty early on. There are some things (like using the back brake a lot, to the point of locking it up and holding it on) that are not correct in the MSF program.

 

If you'd like to talk with me, I'm in the office most any day, happy to go over the approach with you.

 

Best,

Cobie Fair

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  • 3 months later...

Made some slow progress. . . bought a "pre-crashed-low-mileage" '06 SV650s, took the MSF course (felt grossly unprepared for the streets after the class even though I passed w/ only 1 point deduction), got my M license, bought basic gear, fixed the bike, and have been commuting to work every day rain or shine (and enjoying the free parking). It's a very short ride only 2 exits or local, and I'm getting more comfortable just putzing around on the bike. . . not particularly interested in pushing any sorts of limits on the street. I'm working on getting from A-->B right now.

 

I hop on the bike every chance I get even to do small errands, and have discovered that about 80% of my riding experience is getting in and out of gear :) I've been trying to get some basic skills settled like braking and downshifting simultaneously, etc. Yesterday, I added the bike to our Fastrack account and ventured out over the Bay Bridge. Thinking about doing March at Infineon, but not sure yet. I'll just keep riding and see. I've only logged 400 miles so far.

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Made some slow progress. . . bought a "pre-crashed-low-mileage" '06 SV650s, took the MSF course (felt grossly unprepared for the streets after the class even though I passed w/ only 1 point deduction), got my M license, bought basic gear, fixed the bike, and have been commuting to work every day rain or shine (and enjoying the free parking). It's a very short ride only 2 exits or local, and I'm getting more comfortable just putzing around on the bike. . . not particularly interested in pushing any sorts of limits on the street. I'm working on getting from A-->B right now.

 

I hop on the bike every chance I get even to do small errands, and have discovered that about 80% of my riding experience is getting in and out of gear :) I've been trying to get some basic skills settled like braking and downshifting simultaneously, etc. Yesterday, I added the bike to our Fastrack account and ventured out over the Bay Bridge. Thinking about doing March at Infineon, but not sure yet. I'll just keep riding and see. I've only logged 400 miles so far.

Chunger;

Keep at it and welcome to the Forum. Maybe you can add in some longer weekend rides up north to expand your confidence and familiarity with different road types and once you feel ready - sign up!

 

Kevin

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Liked your comment about getting in and out of gear. Some bikes can be a pain to find neutral and if your referring to your riding gear I've always thought of it as putting on my suit of armour so the cagers can't do me as much harm!

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Liked your comment about getting in and out of gear. Some bikes can be a pain to find neutral and if your referring to your riding gear I've always thought of it as putting on my suit of armour so the cagers can't do me as much harm!

 

I was referring to the riding gear. . . 5 minutes to get into gear, 5 minute ride, 5 minutes to get out of gear :)

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Oh yes, climbing in and out of your gear sometimes for the short rides almost seems like a waste. But trust me on this one, it is worth every second. I have been a firefighter/paramedic for 10 years now and the majority of wrecks happen within 5-10 minutes of home either coming or going. Gear is the difference between some bruises and pain and scars for life in those rare occasions u put it to the test. Congrats by the way on getting some mileage under your belt. I agree with Kevin, that if you get the chance you should hit some longer rides bit by bit with some variety in road types to help your comfort.

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Oh yes, climbing in and out of your gear sometimes for the short rides almost seems like a waste. But trust me on this one, it is worth every second. I have been a firefighter/paramedic for 10 years now and the majority of wrecks happen within 5-10 minutes of home either coming or going. Gear is the difference between some bruises and pain and scars for life in those rare occasions u put it to the test. Congrats by the way on getting some mileage under your belt. I agree with Kevin, that if you get the chance you should hit some longer rides bit by bit with some variety in road types to help your comfort.

 

Normally hate synthetic clothing, but inner liners (like Kushitani or Taichi) make slipping in and out a breeze. For colder weather, Under Armnour type long sleeve and long underwear make that easy.

 

C

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  • 4 weeks later...

More progress. . . I've been riding now for about 600 miles. Still very new to this, but I make my short commute to work rain or shine and hop on the bike to go wherever and whenever I need to go somewhere. I've been taking it easy and leaving a very safe buffer between myself and all other obstacles moving and non-moving. I've not attempted to "take" any corners or do anything remotely testing of the bike's traction capabilities. Just safely moving from here to there.

 

I'm wondering if I'm at a point where I can gain benefit from a class and start to absorb some of the curriculum or if I need to log some more miles and wait for the next round. I don't think the budget will allow for a 2 day camp at this point. Maybe in 6 months or so, but 1 or 2 days of classes is within comfortable reach.

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More progress. . . I've been riding now for about 600 miles. Still very new to this, but I make my short commute to work rain or shine and hop on the bike to go wherever and whenever I need to go somewhere. I've been taking it easy and leaving a very safe buffer between myself and all other obstacles moving and non-moving. I've not attempted to "take" any corners or do anything remotely testing of the bike's traction capabilities. Just safely moving from here to there.

 

I'm wondering if I'm at a point where I can gain benefit from a class and start to absorb some of the curriculum or if I need to log some more miles and wait for the next round. I don't think the budget will allow for a 2 day camp at this point. Maybe in 6 months or so, but 1 or 2 days of classes is within comfortable reach.

 

I just re-read your original post too, excellent approach you have.

 

Here is what we look for: are you comfortable with the control actions of shifting, braking, throttle, steering--if you can do that comfortably, you can come to the school, we'll work on your cornering skills :)

 

2-day camp is great, but if you can afford 2 single days back to back, that's the best 2nd choice. Riding your bike or ours, shouldn't be an issue, whatever works out easier.

 

What bike did you end up getting BTW?

 

Best,

Cobie

 

ps--call the office if you'd like, I'm in most days, happy to chat with you about it. Whitney is my wife, and she rides too, so if I'm not in, ask for her.

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Hi Cobie,

 

Thanks for the continued input on forum. I ended up getting a salvaged '06 SV650s w/ 3600 miles on it. I figured pre-crashed was the way to go because I won't feel so bad if I drop it (most people say newbs inevitably will). . . low miles meant I wouldn't have to spend endless hours wrenching on it. After some minor initial fixing (radiator hose, brake pedal, chain cleaning, oil change), it's mechanically treated me quite well and I haven't had any worries just hopping on and going.

 

I'll use the school's bike. I don't want to have to worry about the machine and want to eliminate that as a variable. Plus, all my other (cage) racing friends always say the best kind of car to race is someone else's car :) And, I hear the stock SV650's suspension is a bit lacking on the track. Knowing what a correctly set up bike feels like will help me in my later tinkering, but I feel the most benefit will be had investing in the rider for a good while before the bike starts to limits me.

 

Are the classes at Infineon filled up 3/16 and 3/17? What happens if it rains? I know you just go out and have class anyways, but for a newb, is it too scary, cold, and distracting?

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Hi Cobie,

 

Thanks for the continued input on forum. I ended up getting a salvaged '06 SV650s w/ 3600 miles on it. I figured pre-crashed was the way to go because I won't feel so bad if I drop it (most people say newbs inevitably will). . . low miles meant I wouldn't have to spend endless hours wrenching on it. After some minor initial fixing (radiator hose, brake pedal, chain cleaning, oil change), it's mechanically treated me quite well and I haven't had any worries just hopping on and going.

 

I'll use the school's bike. I don't want to have to worry about the machine and want to eliminate that as a variable. Plus, all my other (cage) racing friends always say the best kind of car to race is someone else's car :) And, I hear the stock SV650's suspension is a bit lacking on the track. Knowing what a correctly set up bike feels like will help me in my later tinkering, but I feel the most benefit will be had investing in the rider for a good while before the bike starts to limits me.

 

Are the classes at Infineon filled up 3/16 and 3/17? What happens if it rains? I know you just go out and have class anyways, but for a newb, is it too scary, cold, and distracting?

 

Good bike to start with, that all looks good. Keep up on the maintenance, it's easy to do, but we've found many don't stay after it (loose or tight chains is one example) but tires is the biggest. Most put way too much air in the tires, citing what the sidewall says, or the manual. Those numbers are to cover their ____. 36-42 is way off the mark for a single riders, average size, on a sport bike (big Harleys are different) Usually 30-32 front, and 30 rear is pretty close, we run 30 front, 28 rear on our Dunlop Qualifiers on the track. Also, keep the tires in good condition.

 

Infineon is not yet full, but fairly close (3/4's?). We got a lot of signups overall this last week. Quickest way to find out is call the office: 800-530-3350, or e-mail registration@superbikeschool.com Whitney or anyone esle can help.

 

Rain: usually not a big issue. We do run rain/shine, and not that often does it rain all day even. One of the biggest rain issues is inconsistent traction. Also, right after it rains is the worst/slipperiest time (oil and water mixing). After its rained a bit, that gets cleaned off.

 

For sure investing in the rider (but of course I'm biased) is the way to go. The guys that have plenty of money to buy a slip on, Power Commanders, paint their bikes, etc., but don't put too much money into rider...I don't quite get it. Again, I'm biased.

 

Let us know if you have any questions. If you are near us, welcome to swing by, we had a guy that just got an SV for his son drop by for a simple tech inspection.

 

Best,

CF

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  • 2 weeks later...
For sure investing in the rider (but of course I'm biased) is the way to go. The guys that have plenty of money to buy a slip on, Power Commanders, paint their bikes, etc., but don't put too much money into rider...I don't quite get it. Again, I'm biased.

 

Hi Coby,

 

It's going to be tight w/ property taxes, but I sold off a whole bunch of stuff while cleaning out the garage and signed up for 3/16 and 3/17 at Infineon using school bike. I also ordered a custom made-to-size -straight-from-pakistan super suit just in case I need to get to track day by myself to practice later on. Plus, I'm sure the school has the process all sorted out, but the idea of getting into someone else's suit didn't really appeal to me for some reason. Also picked up a couple sets of nike dri-fit stuff to wear under a suit (didn't feel like paying for the whiz-bang moto specific stuff if this will work 80% as good and I can have a spare).

 

I think my priorities are straight. If I spend $1000 on bike parts, I'd still be just as bobbly and scared going around corners, but at this stage (zero knowledge), getting some training and direction can probably easily yield tens of seconds at least and a lot more confidence.

 

Well, another newb for you guys to babysit at infineon :) I'm gonna go ride more in the coming several weeks and read the book again. Very exciting. . .

 

Back to craigslist for me to keep liquidating Porsche parts from my garage. . .

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Hi Coby,

signed up for 3/16 and 3/17 at Infineon using school bike...I think my priorities are straight. If I spend $1000 on bike parts, I'd still be just as bobbly and scared going around corners, but at this stage (zero knowledge), getting some training and direction can probably easily yield tens of seconds at least and a lot more confidence.

Hey Chunger, I totally agree with your logic...we'll see you there.

 

Kevin

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Hi Coby,

signed up for 3/16 and 3/17 at Infineon using school bike...I think my priorities are straight. If I spend $1000 on bike parts, I'd still be just as bobbly and scared going around corners, but at this stage (zero knowledge), getting some training and direction can probably easily yield tens of seconds at least and a lot more confidence.

Hey Chunger, I totally agree with your logic...we'll see you there.

 

Kevin

 

Hey Chunger,

 

Got to come and say hello in the am, come and get Kevin too--he is doing a guest appearance there. If you find me, I can find Kevin.

 

Best,

Cobie

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  • 2 weeks later...

looks like rain tomorrow. . . i went ahead and rented a suit from the nice guy at Helimot since mine was not going to be ready in time. I probably could have just used the school's but it was going to be $95 for 5 days from Helimot and $75 per day @ CSS, so I figured I'd just do the Helimot thing. Rain shouldn't be heavy, but should I go get something just in case? Some frog toggs or something that can go over leather?

 

Also don't have any winter gloves. I've been using latex gloves under summer gloves for my short commutes and that keeps me ok for ~30 minutes on the freeway before I freeze through. I guess if track sessions are 20 minutes, I should be able to make it w/o warm gloves.

 

A bit nervous, but this should be fun.

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looks like rain tomorrow. . . i went ahead and rented a suit from the nice guy at Helimot since mine was not going to be ready in time. I probably could have just used the school's but it was going to be $95 for 5 days from Helimot and $75 per day @ CSS, so I figured I'd just do the Helimot thing. Rain shouldn't be heavy, but should I go get something just in case? Some frog toggs or something that can go over leather?

 

Also don't have any winter gloves. I've been using latex gloves under summer gloves for my short commutes and that keeps me ok for ~30 minutes on the freeway before I freeze through. I guess if track sessions are 20 minutes, I should be able to make it w/o warm gloves.

 

A bit nervous, but this should be fun.

Man, you learn fast! Your first post was 6 months ago. Hope to see you on the forum more.

 

Latex gloves can be an issue. It closes your pores and could possibly cause sweating issues, leading to blisters or worse -- loss of control manipulation.

 

My preference in cold is to not wear my summer gloves (with ram air venting) or to not ride if it's too cold. My first really cold ride, I was at grandma's and it was time to go home. The temp had dropped and I had to travel over water (bridge). I had a 35 minute ride and wanted to get home. My whole body was shaking and it was affecting my control. The faster I went, the worse it was but the slower I went the longer it took. I just had to suck it up.

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