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Cobie Fair

Thinking Vs Doing

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Very interesting discussion.

 

What amazes me the most is how much good riders can do with very little equipment. My bike has to have sufficient fork/shock damping, steering damper has to be firm, TC on a low level but still turned ON... Then you have a rider like Mike Jones who has a better feeling or understanding of the technology and limits of a bike to be able to set lap records on a street bike.

 

Going back to hierarchy... I find that Reference Points (not just Turn Points) is what is most important TO ME in order to have the confidence to quick turn and apply the throttle rule through a corner.

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Bashir, interesting that you said that, it was one of items that was critical to Mike when he set that lap record, that he had his reference points sorted. Really, a Turn Point is just a kind of reference point in fact.

 

OK, next part of this: For the sake of this discussion, lets define "thinking" as reasoning, working something out, looking at the different pieces of a subject, learning new concepts--let's loosely define that as "thinking".

 

We have often seen riders at the school thinking too much while they are riding. Part of that problem is thinking is way too slow for a high speed activity. One reason that during training, where riders are trying new things on, they have to go a little slower, work it out, do a little thinking/observing. But when it comes crunch time, when they are "going for real" like in a race, then there isn't tons of thinking going on, it's way too slow.

 

Example: as a young man I was in a small twin engine airplane, flying out of Aspen (Colorado). The plane was climbing at 500 feet per minute, all good, going to clear the upcoming 12,000 foot pass. Then the pilot noticed there was no climbing and the plane stall warning went off--we were in a downdraft. The pilot rolled the plane over on it's right side, and the plane fell, skimming the trees as it picked up speed and he regained enough airflow to control the plane again--he had lost airflow over the wings after he rolled it, the controls were useless.

 

Many years later the pilot flatly admitted he had gotten cocky with the twin engine (he normally flew singles) and he'd almost killed us.

 

The point is the pilot reacted correctly, based on years of training and flying, in the exact correct way. There was no time to think.

 

Somewhat dramatic, but still making sense?

 

CF

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How about coming into a corner fast and hitting a false neutral? That puts you into a situation where there really isn't time to think; all of a sudden you have a later turn point and higher entry speed and you certainly don't have time to contemplate how to steer the bike, understanding steering and having practiced quick turn kept me upright and on the track more than once in THAT situation.

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Hotfoot--good example.

 

So we have looked briefly at the emergency response to a situation, and how in a high-speed activity there is not enough time to sit and think about the reaction. There is a lot more we can get into on that subject (emergency response), but let's leave that for another time. Let's back off this one step of intensity, not to an emergency, but say riding at a spirited pace, whatever that is for a person.

 

How about just observing and then doing, with little "thinking" happening?

 

Rider comes up to a turn, has chosen a turn point, notices that he's a little fast at that turn point ((rider already knows that the apex won't be possible at the too high speed) and so just delays for a moment his roll on of the throttle so he doesn't exacerbate the problem (and run really wide at the exit). Then the same thing happens the next lap, rider ends up too fast at the turn point. Just files that information for the moment, as it's his last lap in that session.

 

Rider goes into the pits, sits down and reviews what happened. Arrived at turn 3 repeatedly too fast to turn it accurately, and make the apex.

 

Now is when the thinking/reasoning starts. Rider realizes he's exiting the previous turn with more speed, and now his braking reference is too late (plus getting a little narrowing of his attention on his braking reference). His new plan is to adjust his braking reference in the next session, make it a little earlier. As part of his plan he is going to try it too early and too late to really get an idea of where his braking reference should be.

 

Still making sense, or gibberish?

 

CF

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Makes total sense. When at the School some of the most beneficial drills for me have been ones where we did them as "Brackets" as you are mentioning. Having a specific Plan to do "X" Activity (regardless of what it is) a little earlier or later frees up the Mental space or allows you to dedicate plenty of your $10 of attention on observing the products you are creating. When in the moment and at speed one has a limited amount of attention bucks left, if any, so you end up with a product but missing info on how you got it. Goes for both good and bad results.

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Here is another bit (hopefully not too random): In talking with some of the coaches at the school that have raced, we've discussed what if any changes they would make to the bike between the last practice and a race. I didn't survey a number of them, but from the guys I talked with, the impression was similar to what i was thinking...very little/minor or no changes to the bike, and to the overall plan, from last practice to the race.

 

Would you rather have a not-perfect-handling bike, that you KNEW what it was going to do, how it would react, as opposed to maybe a better handling bike--but unknown--and in fact, it might be a worse handling bike, due to some change made right before the race? And as JS mentions above, what about your $10 worth of attention in this case...some thinking will happen if the bike is not working as you were accustomed--at least it would for me.

 

Hey Hotfoot, you have done more racing than I recently, how would you look at this--or any other racers up here.

 

CF

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I agree that I wouldn't want to change anything before a race if it can possibly be avoided - I don't want to be distracted by anything at all and thinking/worrying about "what the bike might do" with a different set up would commandeer some of my attention, and that kind of distraction can lead to errors and would almost certainly affect my riding pace. Riding consistently and without errors is one of my biggest strengths as a racer, and not getting distracted (by worrying about something, for example) is a big part of that.

 

I would be hesitant to change anything AT ALL, even with my gear - like different gloves or different earplugs. I definitely wouldn't change anything significant on the bike, unless I was having a huge problem in practice that was preventing me from being competitive and was forced to fix it.

 

I WOULD, however, possibly change something in "my overall plan" (as you mentioned above) between practice and the race, or even during the race, depending on what the competition turned out to be like. If I did a good job finding good reference points and had done a change lines drill, this would be possible without having to give it a lot of attention - I could easily adjust my line to deal with passing (or holding off a pass from a competitor) or adjust to changing conditions (like a new patch of oil-dry or other debris on the track, which happens a lot) without having to give it a lot of thought/attention. The outcome of the start of the race can affect this - if I get a great start and can run out front, I can ride my preferred line but if I end up mid-pack I can be regularly forced off my line and have to deal with that without getting rattled or slowed down. Good reference points create so much certainty that there is no concern or distraction created by having to make changes on the fly, no need to re-evaluate everything every time.

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Not to throw this conversation on it's head or anything but there is a bit of thinking involved in both of those scenarios. The false neutral and the stall in the aircraft. You have to identify the problem in order to take the right course of action. In a plane not thinking at all would involve a pilot pulling back on the yoke to counteract the quickly approaching ground which is the exact OPPOSITE of what you want to do with a stalled airfoil. :)

 

These problems involve a trained response but they still require some thinking in order to identify which response to use. Granted this is easy and not very taxing thinking but there's thinking involved otherwise there would be no response or a random one that would likely not resolve the issue.

 

A comment about the 4 day format of the school. This is somewhat interesting. It gives the learner the opportunity to "digest" the information and practice again. I find that after a day or so to digest information it becomes a lot more natural to me but then the delay between that full grasp of the material and my next time at the track often is long enough to lose some of it at the same time. Something that might work with a school is to give students the opportunity to ride the first and the last day of a 4 day school stint. Of course that often ends up with a 4 day hotel stay or additional travel costs for students that don't live nearby the track.

 

Something that is easy to forget at your advanced level of riding. Not everyone who takes the school is interested in racing. You can present the same information in two ways and totally lose some of your audience or engage others in your audience further depending on their interests. Someone interested in racing is going to be listening a lot closer to things presented as making them faster and giving them an edge over the competition while someone not interested in having an edge over "competition" is going to not be as engaged. Someone not interested in racing may pay more attention to things that would prevent a crash and make them safer than someone who can't wait to get yellow plates on the front of their bike. I find that the entire industry is tilted towards appealing to the group that wants to go racing and I often have to sift through what's presented and pick things that I think actually apply to my purpose. I have frequently missed great stuff because of the way it was originally presented. It took someone who presented body position in a different manner for me to start focusing on using my body to minimize my lean angle and increase my safety. The information can be the same of course but keeping in mind your audience and their interests will drastically affect how interested your audience is in what you have to say. Unfortunately this is human nature. I have tried really hard to have a completely open mind yet find my attention focuses on things presented in a way that's readily useful to my purpose. :)

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........For the sake of this discussion, lets define "thinking" as reasoning, working something out, looking at the different pieces of a subject, learning new concepts--let's loosely define that as "thinking".

 

We have often seen riders at the school thinking too much while they are riding. Part of that problem is thinking is way too slow for a high speed activity. One reason that during training, where riders are trying new things on, they have to go a little slower, work it out, do a little thinking/observing. But when it comes crunch time, when they are "going for real" like in a race, then there isn't tons of thinking going on, it's way too slow.

 

The point is the pilot reacted correctly, based on years of training and flying, in the exact correct way. There was no time to think.

 

 

During the process of training or learning, the time that is dedicated to thinking and practicing is the key, in my opinion.

Besides being dangerous, fast riding is not a natural thing; it must be learned while fighting our natural survival reactions.

 

Any riding school, book, track day, etc. presents a set of rules, theories, best practices, tips, etc. that needs time to be understood.

Some learn faster than others, but all need time to understand that set of ideas.

Then, the practical part follows, during which the student tries to make sense or to match that set of ideas with a set of non-natural feelings, sensations, forces, etc. while fighting the fear of falling or crashing or simply being inadequate.

 

Increased speeds reduce the available space and time to react, which makes those fears greater.

Some feel less fear than others, but all need time to test their own mental limits while practicing and thinking about what is practiced.

 

Unfortunately and due to practical reasons, time is not abundant during riding schools, track days, courses, etc.

The student must use much of his own time out of the school to practice and to understand his riding, deeper and deeper.

 

Besides having a clear mind and a correct attitude at that moment, the pilot reacted correctly because he had had years of thinking about and of actual flying.

Same happens with practitioners of martial arts, they can react without thinking, because they have used much time to understand the theories behind a move and to make the proper reaction automatic, non-conscious.

Both, the pilot and the martial artist have over-passed the point at which they were afraid of the unknown; they both had couches that showed that what it seemed to be dangerous or impossible, could not only be understood, but mastered.

 

Copied from this article written by Keith:

http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/blogs/embracing-mysterious-limits-riding-flinch-code-break

 

"One of the primary purposes of training is to help a rider ramp up acceptance of the unknown. Any breakthrough in riding has some physical sensation attached to it. It’s the delicious price we pay to approach the unknown.

..........

When you see a rider falter, you are witnessing in him the fear of the unknown. You see him flinch. Anticipation of some imagined bad result keeps us from moving forward into that uncharted territory of new sensations. When we flinch, we waver from our purpose to execute the control inputs necessary to achieve the intended result.

..........

More often than not, the flinch can be overcome once it is identified. No one likes to waver, to give up or feel confused about something. Making leaps of faith into the unknown by hoping the bike will do your biding often finds riders biting off more than they can chew. Training lets you elevate your acceptance of that next level of rider confidence, speed and skill, cut down on the stress and increase your ability to get what you want out of riding. By finding limits and embracing the sensations that go along with them, you can exceed your current ideas of what you can do."

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Great post, Llnewqban.

 

"Anticipation of some imagined bad result" is the EXACT THING that I don't want to deal with when riding on the track, and THAT is the type of thinking I don't want to be doing during ANY kind of riding. That is where the education, understanding, training and practice come together for me.

 

If, for example, my bike suddenly starts making a weird noise or vibration, I start thinking of possibilities of what could be wrong and how that could create a bad result. (Is the engine going to quit? Will the rear wheel lock up? Is something dragging? Can I still lean it over as far? Do I have a tire failing? Is the transmission losing a gear?) and THAT will slow me down and create anxiety. That sort of anxiety ruins my riding and my fun and as far as I'm concerned has no useful purpose; there are an infinite set of possibilities you can IMAGINE going wrong, after all. :) I am better off to get off the track, figure it out/ fix it, then get back to riding.

 

Trying to practice a technique that I do not understand or believe in can create a similar feeling, unless I see an immediate benefit, when I try it, that proves it to me. If I don't see an immediate benefit, and I don't understand the purpose, I just ride around and worry about it and about my lack of understanding, and how I must be doing it wrong, and whether it will cause me to ride worse, and whether other people understand it, and maybe there is some OTHER reason is isn't working for me like maybe it is not suitable for my type of riding or its the wrong type of bike or tires or suspension setup, maybe I am just being dense, blah blah blah, see the problem? :) How much attention can you devote to observation of traction, lean angle, speed, etc. (or even the results of trying the drill!) when you are so inwardly focused?

 

On the other hand, if I know where I am and what I am doing, and something changes (like a false neutral) I can observe that and make a fast, trained, confident decision; it's a very quick thought process without a lot of questions or thinking through a lot of possible scenarios and imagined bad results. It's still thinking (per RChase's post), but much quicker than if you had no information, understanding and/or experience to work with. At the school we sometimes refer to it as "thinking with" the information - you understand it well enough, you can apply it quickly and with certainty, instead of worrying or dithering.

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Great post, Llnewqban.

 

"Anticipation of some imagined bad result" is the EXACT THING that I don't want to deal with when riding on the track, and THAT is the type of thinking I don't want to be doing during ANY kind of riding. That is where the education, understanding, training and practice come together for me.

 

If, for example, my bike suddenly starts making a weird noise or vibration, I start thinking of possibilities of what could be wrong and how that could create a bad result. (Is the engine going to quit? Will the rear wheel lock up? Is something dragging? Can I still lean it over as far? Do I have a tire failing? Is the transmission losing a gear?) and THAT will slow me down and create anxiety. That sort of anxiety ruins my riding and my fun and as far as I'm concerned has no useful purpose; there are an infinite set of possibilities you can IMAGINE going wrong, after all. :) I am better off to get off the track, figure it out/ fix it, then get back to riding.

 

Trying to practice a technique that I do not understand or believe in can create a similar feeling, unless I see an immediate benefit, when I try it, that proves it to me. If I don't see an immediate benefit, and I don't understand the purpose, I just ride around and worry about it and about my lack of understanding, and how I must be doing it wrong, and whether it will cause me to ride worse, and whether other people understand it, and maybe there is some OTHER reason is isn't working for me like maybe it is not suitable for my type of riding or its the wrong type of bike or tires or suspension setup, maybe I am just being dense, blah blah blah, see the problem? :) How much attention can you devote to observation of traction, lean angle, speed, etc. (or even the results of trying the drill!) when you are so inwardly focused?

 

On the other hand, if I know where I am and what I am doing, and something changes (like a false neutral) I can observe that and make a fast, trained, confident decision; it's a very quick thought process without a lot of questions or thinking through a lot of possible scenarios and imagined bad results. It's still thinking (per RChase's post), but much quicker than if you had no information, understanding and/or experience to work with. At the school we sometimes refer to it as "thinking with" the information - you understand it well enough, you can apply it quickly and with certainty, instead of worrying or dithering.

I vote this as post of the year!

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Glad you liked that, Jaybird. :) If you ever experience that feeling at a CSS school, mention it to your coach right away, the coaches have a WHOLE VARIETY of ways to fix it. It's like magic, and it is an enormous relief to go from that frustrated state back to the happy experience of riding well and having fun.

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Good stuff all.

 

A few comments:

 

RC: good points on the way the material is presented. We do try and cover both aspects/arenas of riding (racing and not) but it is a good reminder you made.

 

On the other point, I was purposefully working to show the difference between the kind of thinking that happens in the pits at home, in the off-season (reasoning, working things out, clearing concepts up that aren't completely clear, etc.), and what has to be done immediately/instantly, like what JayB mentions with the martial artist.

 

Had a chance to finally watch the movie SULLY over the break...wow, impressive display of command of key fundamentals. How both pilot and co-pilot worked flawlessly and salvaged what could have been a catastrophic accident.

Edited by Cobie Fair
for clarification and typos

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Here's something that will really bake your noodle.

 

Things you can't practice yet get right. I have slid more times than I have ever wanted to on a bike yet somehow managed to not crash. I have had blow outs in cars at high speed yet remained composed and got the car onto the side of the road without issues.

 

While you can practice sliding on a school bike (I never have) you can't exactly practice emergency situations like a tire blowing out and even some of the practice you do is "simulated" rather than a real life situation. The simulation is a lot less terrifying than the actual event. Ask me about the Cessna I rented that suffered a real engine failure on my first cross country solo. :)

 

How do we "somehow" make these situations work out in our favor? In most cases without the ability to think about it?

 

How do you react to these situations? Do you panic? Or do you do the best with what you have to work with?

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I read something about some people being naturally composed under pressure and others simply saying "Jesus take the wheel". I've heard of both in aviation too. The key is to know which one you are and go from there. Kudos on the forced landing.

 

Worse I've ever had as a pilot was an electrical outage that I thought was the start of a fire as a 1month PPL and later, VFR into inadvertent IMC with my family aboard.

 

I've heard that your response type doesn't change and I hope that's true through ones lifetime. I would probably quit life if I became a screamer.

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JB,

 

I actually hadn't attention to your personal description/avatar? (I don't know the correct term for that description), and aviation is right there! I didn't plan that out when I put my flight example up. A long line of pilots in the family, but I didn't follow in the family tradition at all.

 

And Rchase, engine failure on first cross country, whoa! Still with us, so all turned out well there too, good job.

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It's quite interesting some of the common interests that many people have to be quite honest. I know a lot of people who like to ride at the track who also like to shoot who also like flying and other "high risk" activities.

 

Training can only get you so far with emergency situations. The simulations in a lot of cases are a lot different than reality. A CFI pulling your throttle when they have a safe landing place in mind and can take over right away is a lot less scary than an engine stumbling and complaining for 10 minutes and finally quitting when you are flying over a bunch of trees in the middle of nowhere at only 4000 ft. The same is true with simulations like the slide bike. Expecting some sliding with big outriggers to catch you is a lot less scary than experiencing it randomly when you weren't expecting it. In both situations the element of surprise and the reality of the consequences tends to change the overall experience.

 

Some people handle the element of surprise well and some don't. Personally I get a strange sense of quiet and calm where things go into slow motion when surprises happen. Somehow out of nowhere I'm able to deal with the situation and move on only to later get stressed out about what "could have" happened. Of course I have had situations where I was not able to handle the situation either from a lack of options on the table or just from panic. I consider myself really lucky that in most cases the only damage has been a bit of bruised ego. :)

 

Something truly amazing to me is how people who race can deal with situations like this and keep going without really being affected. Whenever something bad happens to me my concentration is frequently ruined and I need a break. I do a bit of pit crewing for a friend who races AHRMA. At Barber Vintage Fest his boot slipped off of his rearset during a highside recovery and his foot was pulled into the rear wheel and spat out under the tail section because of a rear shock that was beyond it's limits (only shock available for a bike not intended for track use). He still finished the race even though the surprise and recovery cost him a position or two. He was even laughing about the tire marks on his own boot from his own tire in the pit and got right back on the bike for the next races without missing a beat.

 

So here's an interesting question. What do you think is the source of that almost superhuman ability many racers possess? Is it experience? Or is something fundamentally broken in the minds of people who aren't really affected with the possibility of catastrophic injury or death? Talent or Insanity? Or a little bit of both. :)

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This is good stuff. I'm trying to follow it as best as possible. It seems to bring up similarities in some recent topics I have had an interest in studying.

 

There's a ton of good info out there for athletes when it comes to how to stop "overthinking" which slows down our reactions, and getting back into the "Zone" where things just WORK. I read about the left brain being the area in which you need to use to learn the processes and understand the concepts. You need the left brain in order to learn and train. When you have trained enough to a point that your processes are more automatic, you should then be performing using more of your right brain. The area of the brain that is more instinctual, it acts and reacts without "thinking".

 

So with that said, I find it very interesting reading this. I believe that we can train our reaction skills. I believe that understanding the science behind how a motorcycle acts and reacts, and understanding how we react, can lead us to retrain our reaction skills.

 

I'm not sure if I am totally on topic here, but the concept of left/right brain, thinking vs reacting, and training ourselves to understand how our minds work is very fascinating to me and I thought I'd share my thoughts.

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Logical mind and somatic mind. I hadn't thought of it that way. Thanks!

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Good comments all.

 

Rchase: good questions your last ones. A whole part of that could lead into the mental (maybe even spiritual) arena, which I don't completely understand, so I'll not venture there.

What could be commented on is the solid understanding of the key fundamentals, whether the person knows it (consciously) or not. I think this a key component of any top rider that has had a long career at the top. Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, Mick Doohan, Valentino, Casey, Jorge, Marquez, etc.

 

Example: Casey Stoner before retiring, was leading a race (don't recall which track) but was 5+ seconds in the lead. He lost the front in a medium fast turn (120mph?), and it was plain to see it tuck. The announcers were right on it, and about half a lap later went back to the footage, where they had a camera looking back at his hand. As the front tucked, he let go of the handlebar! Amazing! His understanding of relaxing on the bars when the bike is sliding was perfect.

 

While not the whole picture (as Rchase brings up) rock solid understanding of they key fundamentals seems thematic in the very best of the best.

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I watched an interview yesterday with John Hopkins where he was saying that's the difference between Bridgestone and Dunlop. In a Dunlop a front slide can be saved, but in a Bridgestone the edge is so fine that 'there's no saving it'. Cobie's comment above is anecdotal proof of that.

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Right but this is the guy that had blisters on his hands from holding onto the bars so tightly!

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I recognize that I’m almost exactly 3 years late to this party, but the past three weeks I’ve been using the forum search function and scrolling through pages of posts on a tire heat/traction research assignment from Cobie, and this thread is definitely the best I’ve come across yet.

Cobie, you’ve done a great job of engaging and drawing participants out; there’s been a symbiotic contribution-response at almost every point along the way.

The only thing I can add is an over-simplification of the topic, but based on the posts, I believe we all understand it:

’Train until you get it right,

Practice until you can’t get it wrong”

This encompasses the training of a new technique, and the refinement of that technique into a solid repeatable action (perhaps unthought).

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Practice till you can't get it wrong, I'd just heard this in another arena (pistol shooting), but like the idea!

 

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Interesting topic. Three things that came to mind while reading through the posts:

1. Many moons ago, Roberts sr had trouble going fast enough around Suzuka. Instead of continue circulating, he went back to the hotel and had a think. A few hours later he returned to the track and said he had found 2 seconds. Hei proved it by going 2 seconds faster. 

2. Darren Binder, Moto3, says he has no braking points, he brakes when those around him does. He's fast, but cause a lot of havoc and crash frequently. 

3. Rossi, and others, often try a fully new and untested setup before races when they haven't found a competitive setup during practice. At least in the case of Rossi, it seems to pay off more often than not.

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