How is Your Roadcraft?

I watched this video today, narrated by Mick Doohan, multiple MotoGP world champion, and a few things struck me:

  • This is so very relevant to the crash I commented on yesterday.
  • This was filmed on the exact roads we ride many weekends (up to O’Reilly’s; Wyaralong Dam Road; Lions Road – just to mention a few)
  • Aren’t our Queensland road surfaces shocking!

Anyway, here’s the video

And here’s a transcript of the video:

When you’re riding a bike on the open road, you’re about as vulnerable as it gets.

That’s why you need to raise your awareness of everything around you to a higher level, and get in touch with your inner biking jedi.

Roadcraft is a vital part of your skill set and fundamental to developing your sixth sense.

Put simply, roadcraft is observation, speed management, road positioning and attitude.

Observing what’s happening around you can buy you precious time to react. And that means riding at a pace where your reaction time and riding ability fits within your range of vision.

A good rule of thumb is to ride 3 seconds behind the vehicle in front and try to be able to see 6 seconds ahead down the road.

You need to be constantly scanning for anything that could take you down, a concealed driveway, rain or oil on the road, gravel or leaves in a corner.

If you find you’re constantly making last second corrections, you probably need to manage your speed better.

Back off the throttle a little bit and give yourself more time to observe and react.

And never forget, weather conditions and debris on the road can play a big part in both your response times and the bike’s braking performance.

So give yourself even more time in the wet – set off earlier and take it easier on the ride. Or choose not to hit the road at all, that works every time.

Managing your speed is easier when you’re in a good road position to begin with.

Basically, the more space you can give yourself, the more time you’ve got to see what’s going on around you.

And the more chance other drivers have of seeing you.

Generally, the right hand side of the lane gives you good line of sight ahead, to the sides and behind.

But if your vision is limited, like in some corners or when you’re following a bus or truck, you need to anticipate oncoming traffic and actively manage your position to create space from other vehicles or hazards.

Anticipating road conditions is one thing, anticipating what other road users are going to do is a whole different ball game.

Drivers are unpredictable and easily distracted, so you need to be thinking several steps ahead.

They’ll turn first – and say, “Sorry mate, didn’t see you there.

This is where having a finely tuned sixth sense can make all the difference. Look for subtle signs that they’re going to make a turn or change lane – look at the car’s wheels not the car, they’ll give you the first clue of movement.

Check the driver’s head position, it will usually turn in the direction they’re intending to go.

Is the car ahead wandering around in its lane?

Maybe the driver is about to make a move.

Don’t just rely on the car’s indicators, some drivers leave it to the last second to switch them on.

And try to learn as much as you can about blind spots and how to stay out of them.

Basically, if you can see the driver’s eyes in their mirrors, they can see you.

Roadcraft isn’t just about riding skills, it’s also about attitude.

When your head’s in the right place, your bike is more likely to be in the right place too.

So if you’re tired, take a break and rehydrate.

If you’re angry or frustrated, take time out to cool down and refocus.

And if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs just forget about getting on the bike at all.

That’s why I’m a great believer in knowing your own ability and finding the training and help that can take your roadcraft to the next level of skill and experience.

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Learning Lessons From a Sad Day

Over the weekend we had sirens head past our house, and later that afternoon this came up in the updated police reports:

“Police are investigating a fatal traffic crash in Nerang this afternoon.

Initial investigations indicate that around 12.44pm police were called to a car and motorcycle crash on Mount Nathan Road.

The rider, a 46-year-old Waterford man, was pronounced deceased at the scene.

No one else was injured during the crash.

Mount Nathan Road was closed for several hours, but has since reopened.

The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.”

The crash was just 5 km (3 miles) from home, and as with all local motorcycle crash scenes I went to have a look a day later to see what lessons I can learn that might make me a better rider.

The facts look simple from the road markings left by the Forensic Crash Unit.  The motorcycle was in a left hand bend (the inside of the corner, as we ride on the left in Australia), ran wide/crossed the centreline and then skidded in a gentle curve hitting the car coming the other way on its front drivers quarter.  The car skid marks show that it turned away from the oncoming motorcycle, then deviated at about 45 degrees at impact.  It came to stop very soon after the impact.

So what is there to learn?  First, some confirmation of the obvious:

  • On the wrong side of the road it’s dangerous, and you can get killed.
  • It a crash between a motorcycle and a car, the motorcycle comes off worst.
  • Then some speculation on why the motorcycle was on the wrong side of the road:
  • He may have run wide as he perceived he was riding too fast to take the corner.  The road has a speed limit of 80 kph – 50 mph; and I easily take this curve at that speed.  My estimate is that with no traffic, in an unrestricted situation, that curve, and the others before and after, could comfortably be taken at 110+ kph – 70 mph.
  • He may have been distracted by something in the road and ran wide to avoid it (kangaroo, dog…).
  • He may have entered the corner planning to be wide because of an observed hazard (cyclist, ??) and miscalculated space, speed and situation.
  • He may have observed the oncoming car, and become target-fixated – riding where he was looking.
  • He may have been overtaking on a solid white line on a blind corner, and that’s why he was on the wrong side of the road.

We can probably speculate a whole lot more, but that will do us no, or very little, good, unless we apply some learning.

So here are my takeaway lessons:

  • If the situation suddenly changes, stay on your side of the road.  Running into the back of a vehicle at 60 kph is a lot less damaging than hitting an oncoming vehicle at a closing speed of 120 kph (for the techie people out there, ‘energy’ is proportional to the ‘square of the speed’.  An impact at 120kph has 4 times the energy of an impact at 60 kph.  Simply put, your body is subject to four times the force).
  • If you have to change your line, turn away from oncoming traffic.  If traffic is on your left, change your line to the right, and vice versa.  Above all – don’t run wide into oncoming traffic.  Across the centreline is enemy territory and you can more easily die there.
  • Know how to tighten your line through a corner through countersteering.  If you are unsure of this, get some advanced riding lessons.
  • Practice for the unknown before you need to use it in real life.  When last did you change line to avoid an imaginary obstacle?  When last did you practice an emergency stop?  Build you muscle memory in these key areas.
  • Brush up on your situational awareness when riding.  By being aware of potential hazards you increase the time you have to react, and your chances of avoiding real hazards increases.
  • Learn how to use Target-fixation to your benefit – always look at the gap you want to ride through, and not at the hazard.

Keith Code on Countersteering:

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Getting back into the swing of things

I recently was given a Sony FDR-X 1000V Action Cam by my lovely wife, and I’ve been having some fun with it.

One of the many features it has is the ability to ‘flip’ the video being recorded, so if you have the camera mounted upside down you can still film the right way up.  The flipside of this (see what I did there)  is that if you forget to switch it back you end up with a days filming all upside down.

This upside-down video has it’s uses, however, as you can use that video to show everyone in the northern hemisphere the challenges we have riding here in the southern hemisphere.  Our tyres/tires have to be extra sticky to stop our motorcycle falling off the earth, and we have to hold on real tight so that we don’t part company with the bike.

This video will give you an idea of the challenges we face:


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Back Again

Yep, I’m back again.  Not that I’ve been far away, I’ve just been away from the keyboard over here.

In the last few years updating through Facebook has become a lot easier, and I, like many others, started using that method of sharing.  It’s time to change back, however, as the problem with Facebook is that stuff disappears from view and can be very hard to find again.

So I’ll just ease back in by sharing a video of a recent Saturday Morning Ride…

Another Saturday Morning Breakfast Ride in SE Qld

Watch the video here

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What Goes Up Must Come Down

After heading up and accross Beartooth Pass, guess what we did next?  Yep, you got it, we rode down the other side, and it was just as awesome as going up.

I do prefer riding up on a heavily laden bike, as the weight works with you in uphill corners; whereas coming down I am putting a lot of breaking pressure on the front end (tyre and suspension) heading into steep downhill corners.  But the road is well engineered, and the surface was very trustworthy, so all was great.

Enjoy the video before we get back to the ride reporting.

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Some video links

About time I got the next few instalments written.  Before I post them, here are links to two videos so far:

In September 2012 we rode Beartooth Pass for the first time – what an awesome experience. Great road – it deserves it’s status as an All American Road. We were up front on our FJR1300 followed by Dave & Lin (who did the camera work). We were heading west to east, starting at approx 7,500 ft (2,286 m) and stopped momentarily near the top – altitude was 10,947 ft (approx 3,340 meters)

Part 2 of our September 2012 ride over the top of Beartooth Pass was just as awesome. Again we were up front on our FJR1300 followed by Dave & Lin for the 1st minute, then we waved them through to get piccies of them. You’ll see us in the mirror on left handers.

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Day 4 – A break after the scenic overload?

Cold early morning in Big Timber as we packed up and headed north.  I even considered wearing my heated glove liners for the first time, but decided not to.  Today is a transit day from the scenery and beauty of Yellowstone and Bearstooth Pass to the anticipated scenery and beauty of Glacier National Park.  Not forgetting the technical enjoyment of the roads, of course.

Montana - Big Sky Country

Montana – Big Sky Country

Soon we realize just why Montana is nicknamed ‘Big Sky Country’ – the 4th largest state in the union, but 7th least populated has far horizons and plenty of open space.  The panoramic vistas were huge, and the blue of the sky offset the golden fields.  This piccie was taken ‘blind’ by Zea over her shoulder – excellent, I reckon.

Tearing Along the Dotted line

Tearing Along the Dotted line

With the wide open spaces it was also an opportunity to let the FJR do another thing it does so well – head to the far horizon with a minimum of time wasted on the way.  In some ways we were looking forward to this transit day after the sensory overload of the last few days, but we found this to be only partly true.

The beauty was just different – rolling wheat fields with mountains in the background;

Red Farmhouse

A splash of red in the gold

quintessential American barns and farmhouse scenes; the scourge of bike riders – deer on the roadside; straight road disappearing into the distance.


Not too far into our day and we can across road works with a 15 to 30 minute wait, and a warning to motorcyclists to be extremely cautious.  Yesterday at roadworks we had the experience of the stop/go man calling us motorcyclists to the front, and today he came down and suggested that as there was still a 15 to 20 minute wait, we might like to consider an alternate route to White Sulphur Springs.  He must know we motorcyclists don’t like sitting in the sun.  A quick U-turn and off we went, following his excellent directions.

Golden Fields

Golden Fields

I had decided this morning that my rear tire (tyre) wasn’t going to make it to Calgary, and so we stopped at the first bike shop we saw on the way into Grand Falls.  What a good choice it turned out to be in many ways.  Steve’s Sports Centre at 4900 – 9th Ave South could not have been more helpful.

It may have been because Zea went in first and asked if they could help, but soon two people followed her out and took me across to the service dept.  The mechanic was about to go to lunch but he kindly stayed back and did the tire change.  They only had Metzler M3 Sportec in our size and it’s not an ideal choice for a heavily laden sports-tourer, but they had me out of there within 45 minutes and a very interesting chat with Steve Kaste.  He showed my piccies of Nick Sanders rear tire that they changed a few years back.  It had cords showing around the whole circumference plus on the sides – ours wasn’t nearly so bad.  (Nick Sanders has motorcycled around the world 7 times and up and down the Americas 7 times to make him the most experienced solo motorcycle adventurer in the world. Nick holds the record for riding around the world in 19 days and also the double transit of the Americas in 46 days.)

Steve was delightful to talk to, and I think he would have enjoyed chatting even more, but I had lunch to eat a destination to ride to.

Making Friends in Montana

Making Friends in Montana

While I was having the tire changed David, Linley and Zea were having lunch, and making new friends.  How can a state with a population of less than 1 million people have so many law-enforcement officers?

On yesterdays advice from Ken C we had changed our plans of staying at Browning, and instead headed on to Cut Bank.  This added 30 miles to our day’s total, but turned out to be an excellent choice for an unrelated reason.

Today’s 391 Miles (629 km) was the biggest day in distance so far, but while it was scenic, it wasn’t technically very challenging.

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Day 3 – and just what came to (the) pass?

We are not quite in the daily packing and loading routine yet, but we still beat the busload of tourists to breakfast – thank goodness.  Chirpy, chattery and a different sense of personal space to ours. 

 We headed east, back into Yellowstone, to traverse it from west to east. 

Early Morning and the Steaming Ground

Early Morning and the Steaming Ground

It was an eye-opener to see just have widespread the geothermal activity is in Yellowstone.  It gave the morning a lovely eerie feeling – riding through the rising steam and misty valleys.

It wasn’t long before our ‘sightseeing’ was rewarded with a selection of wildlife – mainly big animals with long hair! 

Deer, oh Deer

Deer, oh Deer

Give me any African mammal and I’ll identify it pretty quickly, but I still have to get to know the difference between a Mule Deer, a White Tailed Deer and a regular Deer (maybe they are the same thing?) and a Pronghorn at a distance and at 60 mph; Moose/s (or is it Meeses); a Musk Ox and other Big Hairy Things; a Bison and other Big Hairy/Scary Things – but I think we saw them all and have piccies of most.

Are You looking at Me?

Are You looking at Me?

We left the park by the north-east gate, heading for a ‘must ride’ road – the Beartooth Highway (and Beartooth Pass), which is described as ‘an All-American Road” – one of only 31 in the USA.   Once again we stopped for an early lunch, this time at the Log Cabin Café in Silver Gate.  I think that the other 3 were starting to realize that if they didn’t show signs of hunger or discomfort I would just keep riding, and you can’t rely on my bladder to signal the need for a comfort stop, so grab the chance for a tea/coffee/lunch when you can.

Lunch at Silver Gate

Lunch at Silver Gate

There was another bike at the cafe, and as we stopped the rider came out with a crushed can for Dave’s sidestand – he knew the gravel was treacherous.  I spotted his ‘Iron Butt Association’ licence plate back, and soon he had his well-worn maps out and was sharing his extensive local knowledge on roads, including a particular corner to be aware of.  Thank’s Ken C – your company and advice were both greatly appreciated.  Ken was staying nearby for 3 days, just riding the scenic roads and talking to people passing through.  Tough, tough, life.

Bring out the maps!

Bring out the maps!

The Beartooth Highway is a 68-mile (110 km) travel corridor.  In the west it starts at Silver Gate (where we we had lunch) at an elevation of 7,500 ft (2,290 m) and ending in the east just south of Red Lodge, Montana at an elevation of 6,400 ft (1,950 m). In between those two elevations, the road rises to 10,947 ft (3,340 m) at Beartooth Pass in Wyoming. Each year the road closes from mid-October through to May due to heavy snow.  We were early enough to avoid the first snowfalls this season, but not by much.

And what a road it is – a motorcyclists dream.

Beartooth Pass - heading up from the West

Beartooth Pass – heading up from the West

Excellent road surface, well engineered, no sudden unpleasant surprises, and super scenic.  This is where having a pillion with a camera is a must.  As a rider your focus must be on the road, on the upcoming corner, the possibility of gravel left by an errant RV – as there are very few barriers to spoil the view (and to stop you becoming airborne should you run wide and fly off the edge); and the road just says to you: “keep going, don’t stop, don’t spoil our rhythm, keep going, don’t stop, don’t spoil our rhythm.  You can look at the piccies later to see the scenery, but right now you are a rider, a rider, a rider!”

No Barriers - they just spoil the view

No Barriers – they just spoil the view

2nd gear, power out, pull 3rd, maybe 4th, down to 2nd, tip in hard right, power out, pull 3rd, down to 2nd, tip in hard left.  Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.  That ache in your jaw should be from the permanent smile.  If it’s from clenched teeth you are doing it wrong, so slow down. 

Because we’re heavy I manage to mostly ‘ride the pace’ up the pass – use gears only, no brakes.  Going down it’s the opposite story – the weight is working against us now, and the challenge is to brake hard, then get off the front brakes just before tipping in, give them time to cool before the ‘rinse and repeat’.  Back brakes are only to settle the suspension as I select the line.

10,950 ft - in Australia you need oxygen at this altitude!

10,950 ft – in Australia you need oxygen at this altitude!

Ideally you should do what Ken C was doing – ride it once for the scenery; ride it a second time for fun; then ride it a third time even harder for more fun!

After reaching the eastern end of the Beartooth Highway we headed north to Columbus and our overnight stop at Big Timber, Montana.  It had been a full day – only 251 miles (just over 400 km) covered, but much of the morning at slow pace in traffic in the park, then the heavy concentration of technical riding. 

Zea's afternoon nap

Zea’s afternoon nap

Zea deserved her short nap before we stop at Big Timber, a small, sleepy city of approx 1,600 people (700+ households, 430 families) just off Interstate 90.  Unpacking the bikes in the hotel parking lot I get talking to a cigar-smoking gentleman from (I forget – somewhere out east).  He and his wife have just come down by car from where we are headed tomorrow, albeit at a far slower pace than I suspect ours will be.

2 Happy Riders at the end of a great day!

2 Happy Riders at the end of a great day!

Dinner is in a small restaurant almost adjoining the Motel, and we inadvertently break the local rules by buying our beer and wine for the ‘supermarket’ (attached to the restaurant) as opposed to the ‘casino bar’ that is also attached to the restaurant.  The local young waitress copped a little flak from the restaurant manageress, but the generous tip helped ease the pain, I’m sure.  And we parted with smiles and thanks all round when the restaurant manageress heard our accents and realized it was a genuine error.

I think we all fell asleep ‘changing down and tipping in’.

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Day 2 – the Real Ride Starts Here

Great breakfast (prepared by Rick, with help from Lin & Zea – the two David’s stayed well away); all packed, and roll out of Rick’s driveway around 8 complete with new top case rack and bag (thanks Rick).  We turn right to US89 heading to Jackson, and wonder if later that morning Rick will decide to take early retirement and also turn right.  Unhappy RickProbably not – wife and extremely bad motorcycle habit to support, so he’ll head left back to SLC and the office. 

Unhappy Rick

Maybe next time… In fact, his face said it all (or maybe he had some gifters-remorse after looking at his bike without a rack, and mine with a newly-installed rack).

 At first it feels strange heading north with the sun on our backs, but this is soon forgotten as we settle into the rhythm of the ride.  Refuel at Montpelier and point our front wheels towards Jackson.  There are rain showers ahead, but somehow we miss them all, even though we are riding on wet roads a lot of the time. 

Riding through rolling hills

Riding through rolling hills

After leaving Bear Lake and Utah we’re into rolling hills of Idaho and Wyoming, and flat wheat fields mostly on the way to Jackson.

 We stopped for an early lunch in Jackson and followed the advice of a local – eat at Betty Rock  No sign of Rick, so I guess his well developed sense of responsibility did cause him to head back to SLC (and the office).

 Heading up out of Jackson we are now in grasslands, but soon we see the Grand Tetons, and those Tetons sure looked Grand in every sense of the word – towering mountains behind beautiful lakes, and a great road. 

Grand Tetons Ahead

Grand Tetons Ahead

There is something about Grand Tetons standing proudly in the sun that turns a man’s thoughts to dreams of … well, Tetons, I guess.


Grand Tetons - Mountains and Lakes
Grand Tetons – Mountains and Lakes

Soon we were at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park (believed to be the first proclaimed park in the world), and the helpful park attendant saves us $90 by advising that both motorcycles can be covered by one annual pass, as long as 1 person from each party signs the pass. 

Yellowstone turns out not to be quite as spectacular on the surface as we were expecting.  Some of its unique features are under the ground, as Yellowstone itself contains/sits in the Caldera of a Supervolcano.  The highest peak in Yellowstone is Eagle Peak, at 11,358 ft (3,462 m) – I like that name.  Parts of the park still show the scars left by devastating fires in 1988 that burned 36% of the park; although these a natural and a part of the bigger cycle of life.  I think there must have been some more recent fires too, as some fire damage looked quite recent.

The park is known for its geothermal activity, and is synonymous with ‘Old Faithful’, although there is must geothermal activity over a widespread are in the park. 

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

It’s claimed that over 60% of the words geysers and 50% of the words geothermal features are in Yellowstone.


Enough of that – we always knew that riding through the park was going to be slow, and sightseeing, rather than rollicking riding for the pure pleasure of pace.  And so it was, but the sightseeing was excellent.  We had a strange event when we returned to our bikes at the Old Faithful car park – Linley’s iPhone was lying on the ground, and the zips of our bags were pulled open.  Someone stopped and told us they saw crows attacking our bags – they have learned how to open zips, and steal anything shiny (like a foil pack of nuts, or chocolates, or a pink iPhone).  The story was consistent with the birdsh*t on David and Lin’s bike.

Accommodation in the park is booked out months in advance, and we stayed this night at West Yellowstone.  The motel, Yellowstone Country Inn, was second rate, the service was worse, and the whole place seems to trade on the fact that they are assured of bookings from the park overflow.  A poor experience, but hey, we were only sleeping there for one night.  Our motel was kind of spread out, and adjoined another across a small lane.  Zea took our keys, and walked about 150 yards to the other motel and found the key to room 204 didn’t fit.  Fortunately we all helped her out after a quiet laugh – not good to laugh out loud at someone after a 290 mile (470 km) day that has ended with unhelpful motel staff.

The walk to dinner was good, the beers were cold, the food was good, and the inconvenience of the motel was put in its rightful (insignificant) place over recapping a great day.

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Day 1 and The Weekend


Lin & Zea with their do-rags
Lin & Zea with their do-rags

 Early September Saturday morning in SLC; it’s bright and sunny for Day 1 of riding.  Today was a short haul of 165 miles (266 km)up to Bear Lake, where we spent the weekend at Rick’s place, together with his ‘lake and mountain toys’.  Obviously we didn’t go there by the shortest route, but by the twistiest and most scenic, as was to become the norm for the next 4 weeks.

On the road

On the road


Rick was juggling being ‘on duty’ and ‘away from the office’, fielding phone calls as needed, but doing it seamlessly – like pretending he needed fuel and the girls needed peaches.Zea & Lin - delicious peaches

After lunch we were let loose on Bear Lake in Ricks 5-seater Sea-Doo.  The lake has a very gentle slope from the shore, no concrete boat ramp, and is shallow for a long way out, so Rick was using his Kawasaki ATV to push the trailer/boat into the water.  Traction was limited, and he ended up spinning the wheels and digging two large holes and nearly sinking the thing.  He is good like that, having previously sunk the whole boat a few weeks ago.

Ricks involuntary baptism

Ricks involuntary baptism


A couple of Good Samaritans waded over to help, and in pushing the boat off the trailer Rick stepped in one of the underwater holes he had just dug and almost disappeared underwater.  Showing his gratitude to the Good Samaritan for the assistance, Rick grabbed on to him and almost baptized him too!  I know why I prefer motorcycles to boats, although boats and their owners give me many great laughs.

Dinner was to our hosts’ high and delicious standard, and after swapping riding stories and anecdotes we all slept like the satisfied and exhausted travelers we were.

Sunday and Rick had another treat lined up – head up the mountains on dirt bikes (Dave and Rick); ATV (Rick’s wife) and the Yamaha Rhino (Me, Zea and Linley).  There is much to be said about being out in God’s country, in the fresh air, and appreciating all it offers.

Negotiating the track

Negotiating the track


This was planned as our relaxing weekend before the real riding started, but we were already doing so much and having so much fun it felt like we had been on holiday for weeks.  We got home dusty and smiling, and grateful for warm showers.

The Group

The Group


Although we had packed the bikes at SLC, this was our last chance to review what we needed or what was excess.  We were tight for space, and somehow the conversation got around to how useful a rack would be for the Givi top case.  Where do you get a rack at Bear Lake at 6 pm on a Sunday – off Rick’s bike, of course!  Then he produces a great bag to go on the rack, and after pointless protestation from me he also produces cinch-straps, and in no time Zea has an extra 20 liters or so of packing space!  My concerns about it making the bike top-heavy proved to be totally unfounded, and it made the trip so much easier.

Another full and exhausting day, ending with a great feed of Halibut (did I tell you Rick can cook too) and we all went to sleep with our own dreams of what the morning would bring on our first big day of riding.

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