Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM
REVIEW | EDITORIAL

Soma Dream Handlebar Collaboration

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Feb 25, 2019

When is a handlebar more than a handlebar? Sure the 25° backsweep is massive and anything outside the regular 7-9° range is automatically interesting if only because it's different. The 50mm rise is massive but it seems these days every third rider is on a Chromag FU40 with a couple headset spacers underneath so that might just be perfect. For those that like to experiment, 50 USD isn't a huge outlay to try something different and that in itself is interesting as normally niche products come with a niche price tag.

No, I think what makes the Soma Dream bar interesting is the fact it's a collaboration between Soma Fabrications and a local bike shop, Vancouver's Dream Cycle, to bring to market a product they felt was missing from riders' options. In an industry of largely piffling improvements, I truly hope it's a harbinger of more manufacturers mining for products - big and small - that could make a difference for enough riders to matter instead of offering another limited colourway.

Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

The Dream bar is a collaboration between Vancouver's Dream Cycle and San Fransisco-based Soma Fabrications.

Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

Despite being a niche product, the bars stay relatively affordable thanks to the choice of 6061 aluminum and basic black or silver finish.

Going way back to the year 5 BC* or so I sort of knew a couple of guys who worked at FSA in Washington State named Chris and Sam. They were into rickshaws and tall-bike jousting and backroom-brazing their own geometry experiments. In a word: interesting. And most interesting, to me, was that they were into modifying existing parts to work better for them.

Whether it was micro-cutting crown races into split races so they could be installed without tools or filing horizontal dropouts to shorten wheelbases it inspired me to cut, grind, file, and thread my own ideas - one of my favourite hobbies to this day. It also made me acute to the plethora of fantastic bike hacks and interesting ideas floating around our little human-powered bicycle world.

*BC = Before Clutch (Derailleur)

Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

My regular setup with a 50mm Chromag stem and a 16° SQlab bar vs. the 25° Dream bar which is shown here mounted on a 70mm NSB stem.

As the bike industry matures there continues to be evolution when it comes to both design and componentry but by a large measure this progress is revisionary. Increasing stiffness, adding a cog, bumping up reach until it's necessary to reduce offset, etc.

There are exceptions. Riders were coming up with various ways to jury-rig handlebar extenders long before FSA started manufacturing the Gravity Light 800mm in 2007. I know plenty of folks who were riding 1x drivetrains on their trail bikes before SRAM released their first 10-42t cassettes. But for every crazy idea like HammerSchmidt or the Wolftooth Tanpan or even the Wheels Manufacturing Emergency Hanger* that are dreamed up and then produced, how many never make it past the bullshitting over a beer phase?

*These were awesome when most bikes had 10mm QR rear ends and hangers were all made of cheese. I was regularly lending mine out.

Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

I tried both the 90mm Ranger shown here and a 100mm stem on the Santa Cruz Chameleon.

Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

There's no direct translation between 'normal' 7-9° bars and more backswept options when it comes to stem length.

Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

The 50mm rise is more than I usually run but I've been seeing a lot of 40mm+ risers bars in the wild lately.

Now back to what you're thinking. Yes, this is just a bloody handlebar, not something innovative like an affordable -2° angleset. Is it a wide, 780mm, cruiser bar or a massively swept back regular width mountain bike bar? Both. According to the folks at Dream Cycle, it's modeled after mountain bike bars in the 1980s and intended for the same purpose as those bikes - comfortably getting off the pavement and seeing things under your own power.

These days it's called bike packing, touring, and sometimes gravel grinding* and I'm sure many other nuanced categories of riding.

*The steel bike full-dangle DSLR in the bar-bag kind - not the Rapha kit and 30mm travel Lauf fork kind.

Shopping

I've appreciated Dream Cycle's bicycle philosophy since the shop opened on Commerical Drive in 2006. They know what they do* and for almost 13 years they've been doing it. Take a quality steel frame - road, commuter, mountain, cruiser, fat bike, etc - and then min-max the part spec so it's pumped up where a rider will really notice it over the life of the bike and budget where they won't.

When Darren et. al, are not pumping out repairs they build everything from commuter bikes on a budget to full custom dream machines - from the frame up.

*It's been said that the secret of success in business is knowing what you don't do.


Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

There are a plethora of companies making bespoke bars from titanium or steel, like this Gucci Moonmen bar on Darren's IF Cruiser.

Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

Trying to get a better idea of bar geometry, don't have the budget for an Oddity bar, or simply prefer to use a 31.8mm stem sans shims? The Soma is a bargain at 50 USD.

Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

Classic Chris King hubs that roll so smooth, Campy brakes and flat pedals, and actually just packed with nice details. I included a photo of Darren's IF cruiser just because.

I mention it because, despite being a small shop, building bike spec custom from the ground up gives Dream outsized pull with manufacturers they've supported long term who are looking to make aftermarket sales and I think there are a number of shops specializing in frame-up custom mountain bike builds who could be doing the same - not to mention manufacturers that could really use some fresh products.

Just this week I overheard a conversation about trying to build a bike for a customer who's bought into the industry drive to stick the shortest riders on long travel 29" bikes. Where are the negative rise handlebars, aside from boutique Syntace options, to deal with massive minimum stack heights? Where are the dropper posts that also move the saddle forward to allow for tire-saddle clearance with dropper posts longer than 100mm?

Soma Dream Bar

More than all that, where are all the companies making 12°, 14°, 16°, and 18° backsweep bars in mountain bike widths? Yeah, most riders will probably stick with 7-9° but guess what - they're covered with infinite options. At this point, I'm happy to have one great option for the 16° | 780mm bar my wrists and elbows prefer.

How much backsweep is too much? I tried a number of different stems with the Soma Dream Bar. There's no direct translation of bar sweep and stem length, something I discovered dialing in the SQLab 16°, but I was generally happiest with +40mm over a 9° bar and +30mm over my 16° bar.

The climbing position is a surprisingly awesome combination of comfort and power and I could sit longer on my single speed and happily move a higher ratio with gears. It was even great on steep single track climbs like No Quarter. The 25° back | 5° up combo is comfortable with a higher position and on gravel paths and tamer trails, the long stem puts enough weight over the front end to maintain descending capabilities.

Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

This 70mm NSB proved comfortable but I had a better experience descending with an 80mm and 90mm stem on my Walt.

Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

That is until sh*t gets real. Fast or slow, handling gets too vague when trails get steep. Bridle Path was fun. Lower Crippler and Ned's were a bit terrifying.

Soma Dream Collaboration Handlebar AndrewM

I'd ride this bar every day on my city, commuter, gravel, trailer-puller and general get-around bike. I'm back to 16° on my personal mountain bikes.

Once trails get steep and technical I was quickly out of my element on the Soma Dream. I found the handling vague when rolling into steeps, and both bikes I used it on became a handful to control at speed in rock gardens or any situations with a loose surface. It's the perfect ultra-comfy bar for the bike I ride everywhere other than the trails I regularly ride.

So yeah, it's a brilliant piece of kit. It's not something-for-everyone, but I'm positive that the unique combination of dimensions and price will make for no shortage of Dream Bar sales. More importantly, I hope it stokes Soma, and other manufacturers, to go out and look for the other bar dimensions that would be in demand if they existed. And from there - what other non belly button products are missing?

The Dream Bar sells for 50 USD at Soma or any Soma Dealer near you. It comes in a polished black or silver finish and has 25° backsweep, 5° upsweep, and a 50mm rise in a 780mm length. And it fits a 31.8mm stem clamp.

Trending on NSMB

Comments

grimwood
+1 Andrew Major
grimwood  - Feb. 25, 2019, 7:34 p.m.

Andrew, interesting review. I don't know if this is on my short list for off road bars, but looks really cool for my commuter. Price looks decent too. I have a question about the larger sweep bars. I bought one of those SQLab 12 degree sweep bars. I only rode it a couple times when I was having problems with my wrist. The wrist definitely felt better, but my shoulder kinda hurt after. It could have be due to something else; did you have an adjustment period with your shoulders (or other bits)? I kinda feel like that was due to the effective reach being reduced on a bike that was already shorter than I had been riding.

One more question. Do you normally increase your stem length with increased sweep bars? To try to get the grips in the same position?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Andrew Major  - Feb. 25, 2019, 7:48 p.m.

Thanks! It's a handlebar review that isn't. For me (on our terrain) it's not something I was comfortable with when things got steep and hairy. The bar was super comfy on the road, gravel, and light trails and it is definitely something I'd run on the right commuter. Absent the limits of space I'd have a modern cruiser, like a Humu 29", with this bar for sure. 

I don't have a hard and fast rule for stem length with more sweep because the different hand positions change weight distribution as it is, but, for both the 12° and 16° I found myself running an extra 1cm of stem length on most bikes. The 12° was immediately natural with a +1cm stem (my Honzo at the time was the first gen and was likewise shorter in effective reach than any other bikes I was riding) where the 16° took a few rides to dial in. 

The 12° made a big difference to my wrist and elbow pain on rides under a couple hours where after I got used to the 16° it resolved those issues outright (and I don't find any negatives with it at all - shoulders etc). One of the bikes I'm currently testing isn't compatible with more than 9° of backsweep and I notice the difference going from 16° to 9° within 30-minutes of riding (there are some other factors there too).

---

I get a fair amount of correspondence about SQLab bars to this day and I will say the majority of riders I talk to are happy with their grips in a similar position to where they were before changing. That's usually a 10-15mm increase in stem length.  

I think it's fair to say the two big exceptions are folks that didn't have a good fit on their bike to begin with (buying a bar to solve something that's a bigger issue - like the wrong frame size) AND in one case a guy who bought a bike with a relatively old school (read - 2018) geometry where the company had spec'd a trendy shorter offset fork rather than try to explain to customers why 51mm would work better with the package. In that case, going longer than a 50mm stem made the handling wonky but <50mm made the bike not fit with the 16° bar. I actually am not sure what the outcome was. 

Hope that's helpful!

Reply

Lynx
+1 Andrew Major
MountainBikeBarbados .  - Feb. 27, 2019, 4:31 a.m.

Another great piece by Andrew about a product on the fringe, that maybe shouldn't be so fringe ;-)

I'm one of the people who got an SQ Lab bar because of Andrews review of them, but first I tried a Salsa 11 degree bar and didn't find it much different to my regular 9 degree, so got the 16* SQ bar and now need to replace the bars on other bikes because I just don't want to ride a bike that doesn't have one.

As far as adjustment time, it took no time at all. First ride I rushed to install them and tried them as close to the rec setup, but it felt weird, and that was on a friends "skill park", so then I fiddled with them and ended up rotating them back a good bit further that spec and have been loving them ever since. Ride them on a rigid 29+ Unit, ride everything I would ride on my FS, don't ever even think about the bars, except how good they feel if I hop on someone elses bikes for some reason.

I went 10mm longer in the stem initially, but have since gone back to my original stem and it's OK, think 5mm would work perfectly, can definitely feel the difference in steering speed between the 50mm and 60mm stem when I first was sawpping, but now being back on the 50mm I've gotten accustomed to the bit faster response and have no issues, better for more technical riding and sitting more upright isn't an issue because of the position the bar naturally outs you in that lends itself to a more upright seated position.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 27, 2019, 11:19 a.m.

Thank you MBB - #noboringbikes! (or gear)

I know how you feel re. wanting to run 16 on everything. I still regularly ride 7-9 bars and I’m fine but I have 16* on my personal bikes including my FS and commuter.

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mark.burgener@sks-usa.com
+1 Andrew Major
mark.burgener@sks-usa.com  - Feb. 27, 2019, 10:47 a.m.

Hey Grimwood, I'm the SQlab Manager in the USA.  We're stoked you have a better ride with our bars!   I read Andrew Major's reply to you and must say he nails it on the fit information.  Good job Andrew!  Geometry and riding style is super custom for each individual, but when you find the sweet-spot you know it.    When you talk about shoulder issues it is a bit more open on potential solutions, and will likely take some experimenting with stem height, length, saddle height, bar width etc.  It gives you more credibility as a bike geek... the more stuff you have to make your ride awesome.  :)  Thanks again for stoking the SQlab flame!  Happy trails.

Reply

earleb
+2 Pete Roggeman Andrew Major
earle.b  - Feb. 25, 2019, 10:37 p.m.

I have designed my kid hauler commuter ebike contraption around this bar. 

Last year I switched to an 11° bar on my mountain bike and really like the extra sweep over the previous 7° I had been running.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 25, 2019, 10:54 p.m.

I would have run this bar on the Ute without a second thought. It would have been awesome.

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earleb
+2 Mammal Andrew Major
earle.b  - Feb. 26, 2019, 9:24 a.m.

I am kinda mixing in old cruiser geo with long-ish reach, 30mm stem, these bars. One kiddo sits in front on kiddo sits in back. With the e-assist I don't need as efficient pedaling so laid back seat angle and a saddle height where I should be able to sit flat footed when I roll to a stop. Rear end length more like a Minute vs the Ute.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 26, 2019, 9:40 a.m.

Damn! Sounds wicked. ETA?!

Reply

earleb
+1 Andrew Major
earle.b  - Feb. 26, 2019, 10:46 a.m.

Not soon enough. Most of the front end tubes are mitered, some of the rear end stuff is under way. Damn cold weather needs to take off back to the north so it's a bit more productive in the unheated shop.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 26, 2019, 11:27 a.m.

I think that’s called suffering for your art?!

Excited to see it.

rigidjunkie
+1 Andrew Major
Allen Lloyd  - Feb. 26, 2019, 7:22 a.m.

I run an FU2 bar on my commuter / gravel bike and really like it.  The only thing that really stood out was my pectoral muscles hurt after rides with lots of climbing.  The sweep engages those muscles more when climbing over a more traditional bar.  

For a while I tried the bar on my old full suspension bike and it was a total hot mess that never felt right climbing or descending.  

I may try one of these on my Nimble 9 as the FU2 bar is too narrow and needs some rise to be comfortable.

Reply

IslandLife
+2 Tjaard Breeuwer Andrew Major
IslandLife  - Feb. 26, 2019, 3:53 p.m.

Good article/review!  Not so much into the bar, but more interested in the garage / skunkworks projects that turn into real life products.

Few people out there right now hacking together cassettes with big range and few speeds... and I can hardly wait for the day when I can cheaply shed some weight by swapping a 12 speed cassette for something that only has 7 or 6... or even 5 speeds, weighs less yet still has something close to 500% range....

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fartymarty
+1 Andrew Major
fartymarty  - Feb. 26, 2019, 11:47 p.m.

I'm also looking to make a wide(ish) range 5 speed cassette - 11-36 (with 30t up front to keep same lower gear as 32/42) based on a 10 speed cassette.  From memory sram cassettes are fully bolted together and you can then remove the cogs you don't want.

I'm not looking for a massive range on the cassette as I'm currently on single speed and that does me for most of my riding.  Just something with a few necessary gears that isn't heavy or expensive.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 27, 2019, 7:12 a.m.

I had one of these moded M770 cassettes from Walt (http://waltworks.com/2010/05/xt-cassette-mods/) and while it wasn’t a 500% range by optimizing the front ring I had a good range, it worked to deliver 5-speeds on a King SS hub and all the cogs were on a carrier so no freehub damage = awesome.

Also important, a Shimano shadow derailleur would shift up to the 34. The problem with building a wide range low-cog-count cassette is that the modern Shimano and SRAM derailleurs can only shift a big cog inboard - at which point you might as well have 11x of them?!

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fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Feb. 27, 2019, 7:56 a.m.

Sounds like my cup of tea.  Only postage to and from North America is going to be silly.

Reply

damientheo
+1 Andrew Major
damientheo  - March 1, 2019, 11:14 a.m.

can be easily made with a dremel cutting wheel and file. have done so for years . I think companies could have done 1x8-10 with wide steps instead of smooshing 11 and 12  (13 soon?) onto a cassette, but more of anything sounds better to marketing

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 1, 2019, 11:20 a.m.

I think the most challenging part of the mod is re-sizing the one large tab to fit on a King SS hub - or can you pull that off with the cutting wheel?

I get the smoother jumps for road riding, XC racing, and honestly in the stand and on a brief test ride where these purchasing/selling decisions are made the smaller jumps make more unique gears seem better for the same range. 

I think a large percentage of MTB'ers would be down with a 500% 1x8 if they were to get offroad time on it.

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - March 2, 2019, 12:13 a.m.

I would settle on a lightish weight 8 speed 11-36 which you could run with a 30t up front to keep a similar ratio to the 32/42 I'm currently running.

Tjaardbreeuwer
+1 Andrew Major
Tjaard Breeuwer  - March 21, 2019, 7:41 a.m.

Absolutely agree!

The other point I’d like to make, which relates both to the handle bar and to the cassettes mentioned in this comment, is what i think you were saying in the main article:

Why do we have 1 million variations of the same product, even though we (should) know, everyone’s needs are different and no solution is best for everyone.

Personally, I ride my MTB exclusively on Singletrack, so the grade varies so rapidly, that there is no sense in trying to get the ideal gearing, since it will be off in 10 meters anyway. Easier to just adjust my speed or cadence for a bit. So light weight, robust spacing and quick changes are most important to me.

But for people who (competively) ride up long fire roads, having a just the right gear can be a huge benefit.

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 21, 2019, 8:57 a.m.

Yeah, solid summation.

Many brands have a half dozen+ bars with the same geometry or a half dozen+ different stems that jump in 10mm+ increments.

I’d love to see more 45mm and 55mm stems and more bar options that get outside 7-9*.

The drivetrain stuff is a much bigger leap of faith but alloy bars and stems are easy.

(While I’m shovelingtoonies into the wishing well, if those new bars could be 31.8 instead of 35 I’d be ever grateful).

fartymarty
+3 Aleksander Pusz Tjaard Breeuwer Andrew Major
fartymarty  - Feb. 27, 2019, 2:45 a.m.

One real plus about these bars is you can pick up unfashionably longer stems up quite cheaply.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Andrew Major  - Feb. 27, 2019, 7:02 a.m.

Like my old limited edition anodized brown Chromag Ranger? 

Any excuse to ride that thing.

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r1Gel
0
r1Gel  - April 19, 2019, 1:03 p.m.

How do I get myself one of those Dream bars here in Toronto?

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - April 21, 2019, 8:49 p.m.

You can order them direct from Soma or any Soma dealer in Toronto can bring them in. I know for sure that The Urbane Cyclist brings in their stuff, but I'd be surprised if there was a commuter or road shop anywhere in the GTA that didn't have a Soma account.

Reply

Eneen
0
Aleksander Pusz  - Aug. 13, 2019, 7:29 a.m.

There's no golden rule to match stem length as @Andrew Major said. Best possible solution is to CAD your cockpit from side. I'm taking dimensions from pictures (this has its problems) and trying to figure out X and Y distance from center of bar to 65mm from end (center of grips). SQlab 16-h has 51/47 and this soma bar most probably 87/66. So if you want to get same position as with SQlab 16-h and 50mm/0deg stem you need 75mm/0deg stem that is 30mm lower or 80mm/17deg stem that is about 5mm lower. To match SQlab 16-m it will be 70mm/0deg 45mm lower or 70mm/17deg 20mm lower. I'm using 65deg headtube angle.

This is quite possible to do. But take a look @ new ritchey kyote: https://bikerumor.com/2019/04/05/ritchey-twists-new-mtb-drop-bars-aero-stem-break-away-refresh-more/ Forward sweep is so big, that to get proper headtube-grips alignment on longer frame you will require (currently) non-existent 20mm stem. And this is before shortening.

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Eneen
0
Aleksander Pusz  - Aug. 26, 2019, 7:47 a.m.

@Andrew Major

Do you feel any instability with shorter stem? I mean when grips are between rider and steering axis?

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 26, 2019, 10:45 p.m.

It really depends on the bike. The long wheelbase, slack headangle, and centered rider weight balance of my Walt made fitting the Dream much simpler than trying to run in on the Chameleon - where I used the longest stem I own and would have tried longer.

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Eneen
0
Aleksander Pusz  - Aug. 27, 2019, 1:03 a.m.

What stem length do you have on Walt?

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 27, 2019, 5:42 p.m.

With the 16° SQLab bar I run a 50mm. With a 'normal' bar I run a 40mm. With the Dream bar I ran a 70mm and 90mm but if I had an 80mm that would have been best.

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Eneen
0
Aleksander Pusz  - Aug. 29, 2019, 12:29 a.m.

Yep, grip-axis distance of soma is really big on pictures and my CAD mockups match what you say here. I also use 50mm for sqlab and will most probably buy 70mm for soma when it arrives. It will go into progressive touring bike build for wife. She needs bit shorter reach and backward rotation due to lower height. 5 deg rotation and 70mm stem will make about 15mm shorter reach compared to sqlab. I only hope that pictures at soma website match real bar.

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Eneen
0
Aleksander Pusz  - Oct. 28, 2019, 12:52 a.m.

@Andrew Major, do you ride Soma bar factory upwards (5 deg), leveled or bit downwards?

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AndrewMajor
+1 Aleksander Pusz
Andrew Major  - Oct. 28, 2019, 7:54 a.m.

On my rigid bike I ride it slightly downwards from flat. The hardtails I road it on I ended up around flat @ 20-25% sag depending on the bike.

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Eneen
0
Aleksander Pusz  - Oct. 28, 2019, 8:41 a.m.

Ok, this means that it requires 90 or even 100mm stem. Otherwise grips will end up in front of steering axis, but maybe it doesn't matter at all...

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 28, 2019, 9:10 a.m.

Yeah, the latter I think. We’ll see - my next rigid mountain bike will put my hands behind the steering axis and I’m not worried at all about it not being awesome.

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