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Ride better and find new routes and cafes with your local club

Springwood Cycling Club (CC BY-SA 2.0 Blue Mountains City Library)

Clubs are the backbone of the cycling scene and community, and an invaluable source of knowledge and advice that can help you improve as a bike rider.

You don't have to sign up and join a club straight away to ride with one. Most clubs will let you come on a ride or two before requiring you to join, so you can find out of you enjoy their company. Contact the club secretary to find out exactly how this works for any particular club.

When you turn up, be prepared just as you would for a solo ride, with water, food, spare tubes and tools, and follow instructions from the rider leaders. 

Here’s why you should club together.

Meet like-minded riders

VC Walcot hill climb.jpg

VC Walcot hill climb.jpg

VC Walcot hill climb.jpg, by (CC BY-NC 2.0 Anthony Grimley)

Clubs have personalities so finding one that matches your interests is a great way to meet like-minded riders. Some clubs are just about riding; the Sunday club ride is the focus of the club’s activities. Others are centred on racing, while your local CTC group will likely be dedicated to pootling around the most obscure lanes the ride leader can find to connect pubs and cafes.

The larger the club, the more varied its activities are likely to be. For example, Chippenham Wheelers, one of the UK’s largest clubs, has five clubruns each weekend for different fitness levels, a Wednesday evening time trial every week during the summer, audax rides, training sessions at Castle Combe circuit and lots more.

New roads and routes

Fed up of repeating the same old rides every time? There are plenty of Google Maps-based routing sites and apps that can help you find a new ride, but that can be a bit hit-and-miss — I once ended up on a byway following a route generated by CycleStreets. That was kinda fun, but the 23mm tyres I was on weren’t really suitable for trail riding.

Club ride leaders are expected to keep a ride on suitable roads, which means knowing the back lanes and quieter B roads, so a clubrun is a great way to add to your repertoire of rides and get a feel for an area.

Cafe expertise

Every good clubrun includes a cafe stop. That makes social club rides a great way to find out who does the best lemon drizzle cake among the cafes within riding range.

Racing

Sure you can join British Cycling as a private member and rock up to the start of a Cat 4 race, but if you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll almost certainly get blown out the back of the group quickly. If you do manage to hang on you’ll likely be a danger to yourself and others if you don’t know how to ride in a high-speed group.

A racing-orientated club will have coaches and training sessions that will help you get fit enough you don’t get spat off the back of every race, and build the skills to handle a bike and position yourself safely even though you’re almost touching shoulders with other riders.

Companionship

Winter group cycling CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 reid.neureiter https://www.flickr.com/photos/21085902@N08/

Winter group cycling CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 reid.neureiter https://www.flickr.com/photos/21085902@N08/

When the weather turns cold, having clubmates to ride with can help maintain your motivation (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 reid.neureiter (link is external) (link is external) (link is external) (link is external) (link is external) (link is external))

You might like riding alone, and that’s fine, but club rides give you the chance to chat while you whizz along, and they’re one of those rare social situations where you won’t be considered odd for wittering on about bikes.

Being in a group is also invaluable if things go wrong. You should have spares, tools, food and drink with you anyway, but if you suffer a significant mechanical the chances are there’ll be someone in the group to fix it.

A well-run clubrun will usually have a ‘no rider left behind’ policy. Fitter riders might get a bit frisky on hills, but they’ll wait for the group to reassemble at the top. If you’ve over-reached a bit, and the ride turns out to be further than you can manage comfortably, you’ll get help in the form of a wheel to follow or even a helping hand up hills.

This usually doesn’t apply to chaingangs, though, but the incentive of not getting dropped is a great inspiration to dig deep into your reserves.

Training

Track riding.jpg

Track riding.jpg

As mentioned above many clubs run training sessions. These can be a high-speed on-road ‘chain gang’; more structured sessions on an off-highway circuit; or a room full of turbo trainers at a gym or community centre.

Being able to tap into coaching expertise is a big advantage of a club, whether your aim is to get into racing, take it more seriously or just to move up from Silver to Gold standard in your favourite sportive.

Skill building

Riding with a club is a good way to learn useful road skills. It’s a bit circular, as they’re mostly the skills you need to ride in a group, such as warning of hazards and following a wheel, but anything that teaches you finer bike control is a good thing.

Discounts

Many bike shops offer discounts either to members of associated clubs or to members of the CTC or British Cycling, organisations that many club members also join. On line, Chain Reaction gives 10 percent off to British cycling members and Cotswold Outdoor has 15 percent off for CTC members.

Cycling clubs and riding groups

British Cycling lists its 1,700 affiliated clubs in its Club Finder.

CTC also has a comprehensive listing of affiliated clubs and local groups

If you want something more informal than traditional cycling clubs, there are lots of cycling groups on MeetUp and of course you can also join Team road.cc, road.cc's very own cycling club which offers a full range of member benefits, discounts plus events.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

54 comments

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Danger Dicko [280 posts] 1 year ago
8 likes

Every club has its twat though, the guy who turns up on the intro/leisure ride and moans at it going 13mph average and only 30 miles.

 

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HalfWheeler [613 posts] 1 year ago
13 likes
Danger Dicko wrote:

Every club has its twat though, the guy who turns up on the intro/leisure ride and moans at it going 13mph average and only 30 miles.

 

 

Wonderful contribution.

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Awavey [303 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes
HalfWheeler wrote:
Danger Dicko wrote:

Every club has its twat though, the guy who turns up on the intro/leisure ride and moans at it going 13mph average and only 30 miles.

 

 

Wonderful contribution.

its a fair point IMO...if they are going to do 8 reasons to join a club, there are at least 8 reasons not to join a club as well, and that would have been reason #1 on my not joining list  1

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Martyn_K [211 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Awavey wrote:
HalfWheeler wrote:
Danger Dicko wrote:

Every club has its twat though, the guy who turns up on the intro/leisure ride and moans at it going 13mph average and only 30 miles.

 

 

Wonderful contribution.

its a fair point IMO...if they are going to do 8 reasons to join a club, there are at least 8 reasons not to join a club as well, and that would have been reason #1 on my not joining list  1

 

Therefore it is up to the senior members of the club to acknowledge a new rider, introduce themselves and assess the ability of the rider. This will enable either the new rider or the senior member to place them in the correct ride level. The result, stable groups, happy riders.

On the flip side it also stops new rider who thinks they are excellent at cycling jumping on to a fast group and then having to be carried for the majority of the ride.  As with all things cycling, communication is the key. A simple introduction and pre ride conversation can often alleviate potential issues.

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Simon E [3040 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Awavey wrote:

.if they are going to do 8 reasons to join a club, there are at least 8 reasons not to join a club as well, and that would have been reason #1 on my not joining list  1

There are idiots everywhere. Joining a cycling club doesn't mean you have to ride with one any more than if you don't. I suggest you trade in your tired old stereotype for a more modern one.

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WolfieSmith [1380 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

I just rode with mates for 15 years but when I moved back up North I joined a club. All the points mentioned were valid.

There is often an awful lot of politics and power struggles going on in many clubs. After 6 years I left the club along with most of it's members.  I joined another to be part of a club for racing. 

My advice if you choose to join a club is to keep your head down,  benefit from the teaching, make some good training mates and try and avoid any committee meetings!

 

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34285011 [21 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

If being a cycling club member makes you as happy looking as the bunch in the black and white photo, I think maybe I'll give it a miss.yes

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finkcreative [41 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Quote:

Every club has its twat though

 

definitely.

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CygnusX1 [453 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
34285011 wrote:

If being a cycling club member makes you as happy looking as the bunch in the black and white photo, I think maybe I'll give it a miss.yes

That's because its a fixie club (judging by the bikes). And check out the seat position on the bike on the right.

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Kapelmuur [378 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Each time I've taken up a new sport or activity I've joined the relevant club or society and I had every intention of joining a cycling club after I bought my first road bike.

That was before I'd been out solo on Sundays and experienced at first hand the arrogant and selfish way club groups rode.   I then looked at the newsletter of my local club online and found a plea from their Chairman for members to try to treat each other with respect.   He cited instances of inappropriate and dangerous racing in the town centre resulting in crashes and slower riders being left behind on 'social' rides.

I do know a couple of club members who won't join these groups but only ride with a handful of friends and in TTs, so it's not only me who is put off.

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ridein [173 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I moved to the Woodlands area in Texas a few years ago. The local club has not been a positive fun experience. They did the same routes over and over again, so I became frustrated and bored. I volunteered that they could have different ride leaders on a revolving basis to keep things fresh and interesting, but that idea was ignored. The regular Saturday ride leader also didn't hide her racist beliefs. The last time I rode with them was when I heard some snippets of trash talking about my unique bike. 

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Awavey [303 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Simon E wrote:

There are idiots everywhere. Joining a cycling club doesn't mean you have to ride with one any more than if you don't. I suggest you trade in your tired old stereotype for a more modern one.

it doesn feel like an old stereotype when I see them out on their club runs and Ill see the main group pass at rapid pace, and then a little later the small splits of people in shiny new gear desperately trying to keep up with the group following on, and most of them look thoroughly fed up and disheartened by the experience.

whether the group leader loses control,or its a test of mettle as one of my friends on her 1st club social run was told when she was deliberately dropped, or something else I dont know.

maybe Im just unlucky all the clubs round me are populated by the idiots, but enough people from all kinds of diverse geographic areas often feedback similar tales.

I get that some people are over ambitious and may end up picking the wrong groups to ride in, but the solution for clubs isnt then to run them as closed shops only open to pro level fitness/speed riders.

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MercianPro [4 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Surprised at how negative many of the comments have been. My own experience to date as a Sportif/touring cyclist has been entirely positive. New routes, coffee stops and friends; plenty of encouragement, advice and banter, and, best of all, a real incentive to get out on the road when the weather is less than perfect. Comparing this winter to last, I have clocked up 400-500km each month as against 120km between November 2014 and the end of January 2015. 

The only slight negative is the disinclination to head out solo as riding in a well organised group is so much more fun. 

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SteppenHerring [338 posts] 1 year ago
8 likes

The main advantage of joining a club is having another, nearby club to disparage - with comments about their racing prowess, their manners, their event organising. Having another group to dislike is really popular - see the rise of ISIS as an example.

Wolfie's point above is a good one. I'm one of those people daft enough to put my hand up for jobs when nobody else will. If I spent as much time on the bike as I do on club admin, then I'd be thinner. And faster. And happier.

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blinddrew [45 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

There's a couple of good clubs round my way but they all start their rides early on sunday mornings. Weekends don't start until the clock's on double digits! Fortunately I have enough cycling mates who will drag me out of my duvet :¬)

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wycombewheeler [1087 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
blinddrew wrote:

 Weekends don't start until the clock's on double digits! 

I want at least 60km on the clock by the time 10am rolls around. gpo out early home by noon, still have the best part of the day for other stuff.

although this is probably easier on a saturday morning than a sunday.

Any club who drop new members on a ride doesn't deserve new members. Dropping riders is  not acceptable. (except for the fastest group. Our club has a number of groups riding different routes at different speeds to meet at the same coffee stop. There should be a group for any speed, anyone attempting to ride with the fast group should be sure of their ability and also self sufficient enough if they find they have over stretched themselves.)

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jonnycondor [12 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

THe reality is that for every good club that has a solid and responsive board/committee, a mix of rider abilities and enough numbers to safely lead rides for all abilities and even more importantly a commitment to helping people improve at all levels there will be a club that has none of this and give clubs in general a bad name.

Interestingly in my area, the introduction of a club that set out and achieved all the fist set of points I make made at least one other "old school" club have to up its game and become more inclusive as everyone started leaving......

Join a club. If it doesnt work, no harm done what have you lost (most clubs will let you try before you buy.

If you are in Oxfordshire, I suggest my club www.condors.cc 

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Leviathan [2623 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
CygnusX1 wrote:
34285011 wrote:

If being a cycling club member makes you as happy looking as the bunch in the black and white photo, I think maybe I'll give it a miss.yes

That's because its a fixie club (judging by the bikes). And check out the seat position on the bike on the right.

 

More importantly, who has been beating up that kid holding it? Is cycling still an extreme sport? His mother should be told this club has no helmet policy.

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willythepimp [115 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes

My club are all a good mix and a good laugh. Of course, I could be the dick.

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rjfrussell [384 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Danger Dicko wrote:

Every club has its twat though....

 

 

They say in poker that there is a sucker at everytable, and if you can't identify him, it means it's you.

 

Does the same apply here?  If you can't identify the club twat, then... ?

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davidpggarrett [6 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Joining my first ever cycling club after moving from the UK to Florence Italy and buying my first road bike has been a really good experience. It's helped me meet new people, both Italians and others, and be part of something where I would otherwise be much more of a tourist, plus practice the language a bit.

I've done quite a few granfondos/mediofondos already and have become quite a good climber on intermediate hills and learning how to tackle mountains too.

It's inspired me to start planning a guided ride company too to take tourists out of the city into Chianti and the Apennines.

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matthewn5 [1026 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I went out with the other half on a CTC so-called 1 star friendly ride. It included a number of short stiff climbs that were too much for her, which the ride leaders sprinted up. But they did wait at the top.  So far so good.

Then at the end they told her that the ride wasn't really for cyclists like her. We never went on a CTC group ride again.

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J90 [401 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
WolfieSmith wrote:

There is often an awful lot of politics and power struggles going on in many clubs.

So fucking true. TTs are the way forward.

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CXR94Di2 [1643 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes
matthewn5 wrote:

I went out with the other half on a CTC so-called 1 star friendly ride. It included a number of short stiff climbs that were too much for her, which the ride leaders sprinted up. But they did wait at the top.  So far so good.

Then at the end they told her that the ride wasn't really for cyclists like her. We never went on a CTC group ride again.

That is terrible, good job you didn't go back
My own club has grown from 50 rider members upto over 100 in a little over a year. We have 3 groups rides, juniors, intermediate and seniors

The lower two groups do not drop anyone and wait for those who struggle, the faster riders in each bunch can sprint off for a little detour and rejoin.
The senior group, you're expected to be of a certain fitness. You don't get dropped on the way out to the cafe break. The pace on the way back gets faster and faster until the pack explodes with the front runners sprinting up hills and the likes of me dropping off. Make your way home. 75 fast miles done  1

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antonio [1162 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Quote ,'While tour local CTC group will likely be dedicated to pootling the most obscure lanes the lead rider can find to connect pubs and cafes'

I find this most deprecating and visualise a good many CTC groups and individuals frothing at the mouth, likewise cyclists and groups under the National Clarion ubrella. Many of todays top cyclists began at a lowly level in clubs that embrace the social and competitive element, look no further than the Yates twins for instance, nurtured in a well established clarion section, namely Bury Clarion. Blackburn CTC is another grass roots section to have made an impact competitive wise locally while maintaining a social ethos. I enjoy the rise in cycling participation but deplore the media's (magazines) total immersion in sportive events and marketing, there is still a place for grass roots cycling which will, against the odds, produce future champions. 

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zanf [921 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Awavey wrote:
HalfWheeler wrote:
Danger Dicko wrote:

Every club has its twat though, the guy who turns up on the intro/leisure ride and moans at it going 13mph average and only 30 miles.

Wonderful contribution.

its a fair point IMO...if they are going to do 8 reasons to join a club, there are at least 8 reasons not to join a club as well, and that would have been reason #1 on my not joining list  1

Unfortunately this is what happened last week at my clubs 'noobie' ride. What was meant to be a steady ride ended up at intermidiate speeds and kept dropping 4 riders off the back. I was one of those as I was recovering from an injury and a chest infection, another was also club member who was on his first time out after a broken collarbone and the other two were new.

What added to it was as soon as the four of us caught up at stop points, the guy leading would want to roll out immediately, not allowing us time to recover or feed.

I ended up dropping off the group and taking a different route back and will email the secretary the complain about the guy.

If I was a new person, I definitely wouldnt go back, and ironically, I spoke with some of the new riders about why they had chosen to ride with us, their replies were that they had emailed other clubs and the attitude was "be able to ride at this speed or we'll drop you".

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TimC340 [76 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Every club has its own culture, and sometimes it's not particularly conducive to bringing on new people.

In my area there are three cycling clubs I could regard as local, plus a couple of triathlon clubs that naturally include cycling. One of the cycle clubs is essentially about racing and Audax, another about sportives and Mamil-style rides, and the third is more about its local community and getting people together.

There's quite a lot of movement between these three, as people find their preferences - whether permanently or temporarily. Each wants to gather new riders, and ostensibly offers newcomer-friendly rides, but the actuality is often rather different. Of the three, the Mamil club is actually the most welcoming and responsive to the needs of new, adult, riders, with a variety of rides each weekend which cater for the slowest to medium-fast riders. The racing club obviously has a chaingang which does what it says on the tin, but its weekend rides tend to be longer and faster than most newcomers would wish to tackle. The community club is great for familes, and particularly children, but for anything more advanced it relies on sub-groups within the club to organise their own stuff.

I haven't experienced the triathlon clubs, but their cycling tends to be fast and individual, for obvious reasons. They do have good reputations as friendly clubs, though (which would accord with my experience of triathlon generally).

Most of the members of all of the cycling clubs are generous in their support of the others, but there are those - and they tend to be fairly prominent - who will denigrate the other clubs, and, more importantly, the style of rider they encourage. When the denigration is of those who are slower, less fit, older, younger, the wrong sex, riding the 'wrong 'bike, etc. etc., it gets pretty discouraging. Yet those doing the denigrating see themselves as 'protecting the ethos and purity' of cycling the old way.

It's become pretty obvious that some clubs have really got it right and have grown exponentially over the last few years, and some have stagnated or died (and been proud of their failure to 'give in' while doing so!). Sadly, for me the one club in my area that has 'got it right' I can't rejoin because my ex is a committe member and would hate me being in it!!

Even the best has their downside.

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HalfWheeler [613 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Not being able to keep up has never stopped me from joining a cycling club. Yes, there is an expectation that you should be able to keep up during club runs (rather than training runs or chain gangs), but the alternative is pretty chaotic. 

I can only speak for myself but when I was a kid, and later in my 30s when I got back into the sport, I knew what cycling clubs were like and what I could expect; a month or so of solid pastings before I could keep up. Now I'm dropping the same people on chain gangs as soon as we hit the hills (and I'm not special let me tell you). 

It's not instant, it takes a bit of perseverance and suffering but it's worth it in the end. You'll be faster and stronger but that's only part of it. Clubs, any clubs, are social. Joining a cycling club means you can get out on your bike with like minded people and laugh your ass off in the process. Going out with the bunch is great fun, a laugh a minute, that's the real reason for me joining a club.   

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imajez [93 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
antonio wrote:

Quote ,'While tour local CTC group will likely be dedicated to pootling the most obscure lanes the lead rider can find to connect pubs and cafes'

I find this most deprecating and visualise a good many CTC groups and individuals frothing at the mouth, likewise cyclists and groups under the National Clarion ubrella. 

Not sure why you think that's a negative comment. Sounds like quite a good idea to me. Obsure lanes mean less idiots in cars to contend with.
I recently went with a ride with some folk who also do CTC routes and they got ribbed about doing exactly that and were fine with it.

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wycombewheeler [1087 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
zanf wrote:
Awavey wrote:
HalfWheeler wrote:
Danger Dicko wrote:

Every club has its twat though, the guy who turns up on the intro/leisure ride and moans at it going 13mph average and only 30 miles.

Wonderful contribution.

its a fair point IMO...if they are going to do 8 reasons to join a club, there are at least 8 reasons not to join a club as well, and that would have been reason #1 on my not joining list  1

Unfortunately this is what happened last week at my clubs 'noobie' ride. What was meant to be a steady ride ended up at intermidiate speeds and kept dropping 4 riders off the back. I was one of those as I was recovering from an injury and a chest infection, another was also club member who was on his first time out after a broken collarbone and the other two were new.

What added to it was as soon as the four of us caught up at stop points, the guy leading would want to roll out immediately, not allowing us time to recover or feed.

I ended up dropping off the group and taking a different route back and will email the secretary the complain about the guy.

If I was a new person, I definitely wouldnt go back, and ironically, I spoke with some of the new riders about why they had chosen to ride with us, their replies were that they had emailed other clubs and the attitude was "be able to ride at this speed or we'll drop you".

Seems like you and the other recovering club rider could have made the decision to split your group of 4 and ride back together at your own pace.

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