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  1. #1
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    What happened to "light"?

    I started mountain biking in the late 80s, when steel frames, rigid forks, and toe clips were the norm. I was an early adopter of Rapidfire shifting, suspension forks, 21 speeds, and clipless pedals (may my Onza elastomer pedals rest in peace!).

    The main reason AGAINST these new technologies was simply weight. Few mountain bikers at that time were willing to add the small additional weight to their bikes that these early technologies represented.

    Back then, mountain biking primarily consisted of XC style riding and racing so while roadies and tri-geeks obsessed over aerodynamics, mountain bikers obsessed over weight. Sub-25 lbs. mountain bikes were common.

    As technology improved, most was not widely adopted until other technologies (aluminum, carbon fiber, CNC machining, etc.) could allow the total bike weight to stay under that 25 lbs. threshold. Change a fork from rigid to a RockShox Mag21 and gain a pound and a half. But replace your bolts with titanium and switch to an aluminum frame and you're back under 25 lbs.

    I quit riding for a decade and then came back to find things have changed dramatically. The trails I'm riding today haven't changed much, if at all. But the bikes have changed and it seems bike weight is irrelevant. I see guys riding the same trails I rode in the 80s on bikes that are a full 10 lbs. heavier.

    How did bike weight go from being the most important bike spec to nearly ignored? Even my beloved Yeti is making heavier and heavier bikes. My ASR-5 is right at 25 lbs. but Yeti discontinued that bike for newer and heavier models. 7 pound frames? 30 lbs. trail bikes?

    Is the lift-served market bleeding into the "climb what you descend" market? Are riders just so strong now that riding a 35 lbs. all-mountain bike on a XC trail is effortless? Are trails so rough that 7" of suspension is needed for every root and rock?

    The massive wheel-size debate is the best example of this. Proponents have spent thousands convincing people of the advantage of slightly better rolling while ignoring the fact that they added significant weight to the absolute worst place on a vehicle to add weight.

    When did weight stop mattering?

  2. #2
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    What happened to "light"?

    I don't agree that it stopped mattering. I think the change vector is in the other direction, in fact.

    I think you have to compare like to like. I don't know what my 1987 Ascent EX weighed, but it wasn't light. And a XC hardtail would be much lighter these days. What you are getting is more and more capability for less weight.

    I don't think many people enjoy riding 35-lb AM bike around on XC trails. I don't, and would like a lighter XC bike for those duties.
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  3. #3
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    What happened to "light"?

    I would add that some people care about it more than others. I value durability more, for example. And then there's the weight weenies forum, where some people take obsessing about weight to extremes.

    Currently, some people argue against things like dropper posts because of the added weight. And reduced weight is one of the benefits of 1x drivetrains.

    I was riding back then too, and I don't remember weight being the primary argument against new technologies, any more than it is today (e.g. dropper posts). Like dropper posts, many arguments against were the same then as now: cost, complexity, reliability, "I don't need it / what I have works fine."
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

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  4. #4
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    My guess is that those guys are riding more bike than the trail calls for, but it's super cool to have as much suspension as possible. I think the additional weight is the linkages and shocks associated with down hill, freeride or all mountain (to an extent) disciplines. Those bikes probably should not be used for XC, but if you can afford one bike and you want it to be as badass as possible, most go for the FS with a dropper post. It's a guy a thing and no man wants to be associated with spandex or be called a weenie. That said there are plenty of frames and components made with materials, notably carbon fiber, that hope to be the lightest and greatest possible. So, weight does matter, but it depends on the discipline one chooses to follow. Who cares how heavy the bike is if you ride the lift to the top? As far as the wheel size debate, it seems we are still arguing and the jury is out. I think you find a bike that fits, regardless of wheel size, and go ride it.
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

  5. #5
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    I have a 2010 Turner 5.Spot that's built to about 26 pounds. It has a 6" travel fork in the front with 5.5 inches in the rear. Ten years ago I'd bet this bike would weigh at least 35 pounds. So lighter does matter. Personally I would not have bought it if it were that heavy. My previous bike, a 2003 Turner Burner - 4" fork, 3.9" rear wheel travel, was 29 pounds. 3 pounds heavier with not just less travel, but poorer quality travel as well.

    I also have an 18 pound cross bike that I frequently ride on trails that I also ride the 5.spot on. The difference is that I can ride about 10X faster and can hit jumps, take drops and do all kinds of stuff I am unable to do on the cross bike.
    I like to ride bikes.

  6. #6
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    Sorry I disagree, maybe you were involved in the racing crowd, which was more concerned with weight. However, what I saw in the 90's were people wanting to bling out their bike with flashy parts, which addeded weight. Then once full suspension caught on more people were willing to sacrifice weight for the benefit of having a full suspension bike. While I loved my first generation Heckler, it was far from light.

    Just recently I had a 2004 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR which was great for XC riding and was a blast to ride. However, last year I purchased a Pivot Mach 5.7, with Pike, dropper seatpost, and Flow wheels. My Pivot handles everything my Stumpjumper did and more, without feeling like I added any weight. The amount of bike you can get for the same weight has dramatically increased.

    Just look at the forums today and you will see people are very much concerned and wonder if the additional travel/part, etc is worth the penalty. Just look at all the threads dedicated to buying a bike, such as Bronson vs 5010, Anthem vs Trance, weight weenies forum, etc. Back then you had riders that wanted the lightest bike possible, and others that were willing to have a heavier bike.

    In Salt Lake the majority of riders are still on light weight XC bikes, and it isn't the norm to see people on heavier bikes. It seems that you are just focusing on the all mountain/enduro or whatever you want to call it aspect of the sport thinking everyone is doing that. But there is still the opposite end of the sport which is very well alive and kicking. The problem is that manufacturers are marketing biking that way and makes people think everyone is extreme and riding those types of bikes.

  7. #7
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    18lb XC? Sheesh.....my epic is 27lbs. not sure what would happen to my riding at 18lbs but no doubt i'd be fast.

  8. #8
    Robtre
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlockie View Post
    18lb XC? Sheesh.....my epic is 27lbs. not sure what would happen to my riding at 18lbs but no doubt i'd be fast.
    He said 18lb cross bike or CX bike which is fairly common.
    -rides bikes for fun.

  9. #9
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    What happened to "light"?

    There is a weight weenies forum right here on this very interwebsite with 11K + topics. So "light" just got its own category, thats all.

  10. #10
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    I definitely like a light bike.


    SPP
    Rigid.

  11. #11
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    I think you have had an influx of riders who are not racers, like me. Weight is a factor, but definitely not #1 in my viewpoint.

    This happens when a sport becomes popular or more accessible, it changes. Technology changes.

    You can be as "old school, we used to do it this way" as you want. There's plenty of room for everybody. Nobody is doing it wrong.
    How can anyone who's been riding as long as I have, be so slow???

  12. #12
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    I remember looking at the 1st rockshox forks at the 1990 Durango World championships and saying, that will never catch on.... to heavy. i dont think i have been that wrong on anything as that.

  13. #13
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    Back in the day, I rode a Specialized Hardrock and a Giant Cadence with Carbon frame. Both were *fully rigid* and around 27 lbs with mid-range components. Now I ride a Santa Cruz Superlight 29er with 4+ inches of travel at both ends, disc brakes, etc. With mid-range components this weighs in at about 28.5 lbs. I ride rockier trails now than I did back then, at greater speed and with greater comfort. Seems like progress to me.

    I think the profusion of heavier bikes is driven by media showing lots of hucking and jumps. If you ride that stuff on your local trails, you probably want a beefier bike. If you race then you probably want the lightest bike you can afford. Most of us are probably somewhere in between.

  14. #14
    The White Jeff W
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    Re: What happened to "light"?

    I'm 6'3" and weigh between 195 and 205 depending on the time of year. I really couldn't care less whether my bike weighs 28lbs or 30lbs. I do weigh them because I like to know and people ask, but after a few years of building 5 or 6 bikes I've come to the conclusion that I like a stout build over a lightweight noodle
    No moss...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    ...
    Back then, mountain biking primarily consisted of XC style riding and racing ...

    ... I see guys riding the same trails I rode in the 80s on bikes that are a full 10 lbs. heavier.

    How did bike weight go from being the most important bike spec to nearly ignored? [/I].

    When did weight stop mattering?
    IMO, you answered the question yourself. XC riding and racing were important, so weight was usually important. Now, I suspect, the majority of people ride for fun, which is clearly different than racing. So there are different aspects of the bike that are important, which may not necessarily be weight.
    I for one am not caught up in the weight game, and I ride in an area that arguably has some of the hardest climbs in the country. If I climb slower than others because of the weight of my bike, I still have fun, I still get exercise and I still get the same paycheck ... every week.
    I guess I am on the other side of the fence than you. Within reason, I really don't care about the weight of the bike at all.
    Craig, Durango CO
    "Lighten up PAL" ... King Cage

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbrossman View Post
    IMO, you answered the question yourself. XC riding and racing were important, so weight was usually important. Now, I suspect, the majority of people ride for fun, which is clearly different than racing.

    I have always been an xc kind of guy and it has never been about anything else but fun.

    Weight is still important or we would all be riding 45 pound sleds. A 28 pound full suspension bike with 5 inches of travel is no big deal today, 20 years ago?

  17. #17
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    Go to the weight weenies sub forum and tell me no one cares about weight...

  18. #18
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    Re: What happened to "light"?

    Weight hasn't been forgotten, it's just one of many factors, and three are more factors now than ever.

    Back in the day, how many brake choices did you have? Rear suspension designs? Fork travel? Drivetrains? Materials?

    When we have to choose rim vs. Disk vs. Hydro, the weight savings aren't worth the performance loss. When you have to choose between 9 grand for carbon, or 6 grand for alloy, the extra cash isn't worth the pound or two you save (to most of us anyway). When you have to choose between a light rigid fork and a Pike that weighs five times as much, you already know what's going in the head tube.

    Weight still matters, there is just more to consider.

  19. #19
    Te mortuo heres tibi sim?
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    My heaviest two bikes (a fat bike and a 7" travel big bike) are *slightly* heavier than my first all steel, rigid, 7-speed MTB - a mid-range model from 1991.

    Those two bikes, and the other two (a 5.5" forked hardtail and a 5" travel trail bike) which are both considerably lighter than that first bike - spank the **** out of it in pretty much every way.

    C'est la vie.

    Yeah, light weight is nice, but good geometry and pedaling/suspension characteristics trump that IMO. If it doesn't suit my riding and fit preferences, or pedals and handles like crap, well, I don't care how light it is.

    Point being: I'm riding way more difficult trails, riding them faster, and in an entirely different way than when I got that first MTB back in 1991...
    Florence Nightingale's Stormtrooper

  20. #20
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    I think this is a healthy thing: people are more focused on capability, reliability (yep, that AMP B5 sure was light...), comfort and fun instead of trying to save a few meaningless pounds. And if you think a pound or two makes a significant difference, you don't understand math.

    It's kind of funny that the road world is also getting the message, but very slowly: slightly fatter tires and higher bars are becoming a bit more accepted, which happened years ago in the mtb world.

  21. #21
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    Been mtnbiking for 23yrs and have never exceeded 4" of travel or 30lbs on any bike. lol

    Had a blast on all of them but today's technology and the increased use of CF keeps me smiling and feeling less OLD.

    All things equal.....less weight pedals easier. Right ?

  22. #22
    The White Jeff W
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    I lost 4 pounds during a 2.5 hour ride today. My bike was harder to pedal the lighter I got. Whats up with that?

    Seriously though, seems like the industry is trending towards a 'bigger is better' mentality. More travel, tapered headtubes, bigger stanchions on the forks, 15 and 20 mm axles up front, 142x12 out back, wide rims, wide bars, big brakes, fat bikes, 29er, 27.5 and on & on. Im guessing that it will eventually trend back the other way as people get tired of moving all that weight around, or jump on the next big thing bandwagon.
    No moss...

  23. #23
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    Re: What happened to "light"?

    Yes, all things equal, lighter does pedal better. Problem is, lighter equipment is not equal to heavier equipment.

    Whether it's lighter (and flexier) rims, lighter (and less aggressive/durable) tires, lighter and less comfortable saddles, or a lighter and more expensive carbon part. There is always a trade off.

    There are a lot of times where a 28lb 5" trail bike will be faster and more fun than a 18lb weight weenie ridgid, and vice versa.

  24. #24
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    I like this. Got back into riding after almost 10 years out of the loop. I see many guys at my local trails who carpool to the top of runs, with masive FS bikes (heavy), who look pretty out of shape, and ride down, then carpool back up. Not my style, but I'm not really that into style (maybe a little). I think the cutting edge stuff just drives people who have to get the latest and greatest. My new Marin HT is 28 lbs (after replacing tires, tubes and handle bars). If I upgrade the fork I can get it down to 26'ish. My old Marin (12 years old) was only like 24 lbs. I can feel the difference, but it's what I could aford. Ride on!

    Quote Originally Posted by jeffw-13 View Post
    I lost 4 pounds during a 2.5 hour ride today. My bike was harder to pedal the lighter I got. Whats up with that?

    Seriously though, seems like the industry is trending towards a 'bigger is better' mentality. More travel, tapered headtubes, bigger stanchions on the forks, 15 and 20 mm axles up front, 142x12 out back, wide rims, wide bars, big brakes, fat bikes, 29er, 27.5 and on & on. Im guessing that it will eventually trend back the other way as people get tired of moving all that weight around, or jump on the next big thing bandwagon.

  25. #25
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    My back thanks me for using 6" of travel. At 235lbs, my bike is 14% of my body weight. I also like my parts to last, as I favor strength and durability. I ride small, big and giant rocks, sometimes all jumbled together. Good luck with your rigid carbon fiber ride, YRMV.

  26. #26
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    The big push in the industry is Enduro right now. Which means 140-170mm travel bikes with dropper posts that can handle terrain that downhill bikes 10 years ago would struggle on.
    If you want to do XC racing you can still buy/build a sub 20lb hardtail pretty cheaply.

    Hell you can buy a 20lb FS bike from most of the main manf if you have the cash to do it.

    Crazy thing now is DH bikes are getting lighter. The new boxxer fork came in at 5.7 lbs and that is with 200mm of travel and 35mm stanchions!
    '14 Marin Attack Trail C-XT9
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  27. #27
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    My FS 29" weighs 23 lbs and is durable for the 200lb hack on top of it.

    Good enough...

  28. #28
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    20lb FS XC bike will cost you $8,000 =/

    The Specialized 2014 S-Works Epic ships at 21.5lbs I believe - retail $10k. That is so sick! Especially cause it looks so beefy

    If was going to go the way of weight weenie for XC I'd go hard tail

  29. #29
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    What happened to "light"?

    For me it's a matter of fun. I can way more fun on my Santa Cruz nomad than I can on my Ti hard tail for my riding style.
    Whiskey

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    Are riders just so strong now that riding a 35 lbs. all-mountain bike on a XC trail is effortless? Are trails so rough that 7" of suspension is needed for every root and rock?
    I think 7" is exaggeration. People have some travel on their bikes and accept the weight penalty, because it makes riding easier. It's a trade-off. Sure, you can ride a fully rigid bike (I do) and you don't need any suspension, but if the trails are any rough, a bike with suspension - even if it's a bit heavier - will be faster.

    Same thing with gears: you can ride a singlespeed (I do) and you don't need gears, but they are worth their weight on the bike to racers.

    If weight is all you care about, you can build a fully rigid carbon 26" SS bike with cantilever brakes and make it light, but you'll be slower on that thing compared to something with a bit more features (and weight).

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    The massive wheel-size debate is the best example of this. Proponents have spent thousands convincing people of the advantage of slightly better rolling while ignoring the fact that they added significant weight to the absolute worst place on a vehicle to add weight.
    Yeah, it does look bad when you read the figures on the scale. But the 29er-jockeys are the ones who win races, so what can you do?

  31. #31
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    IMO the OPs comments are way off the mark. I have been riding MTBs since the mid 80's and frame and component technology has improved dramatically. If you really want to do a fair comparison you need to focus only on XC hard tails. Including Enduro, DH and All Mountain rigs is not valid given they are specific to riding disciplines that did not exist in the 80's. I would also argue that XC full squish rigs should be excluded from the comparison given they are ideally suited for rooty / rocky XC courses / trails and although slightly heavier they can be faster for this specific application. My personal experience is as follows:

    - 1st MTB mid 80's vintage - rigid Bridgestone MB 2 straight gauge CrMo frame - don't have the <b>exact weight but definitely over 30lbs </b>. Shimano componentry, cantilever brakes and although the componentry was good for the day it is absolutely terrible by current standards.

    - 2nd MTB 94 ish vintage - Fat Chance quad butted CrMo Yo Eddy with Rock Shox Mag 21 fork, all other componentry Shimano XT (rapid fire shifters, V brakes, hubs, crankset etc.). Bike was close to state of the art for it's time. <b>Again I don't have the exact weight but was in the 25 lbs. neighborhood </b>.

    - 3rd and 4th MTBs were Merlin 26er Ti frames with either Shimano XT or XTR componentry, Shimano Rock Shox SID forks and disc brakes. Weight was similar to the Yo Eddy.

    - Current Ti hardtail 29er. Sram XX1 drivetrain, Shimano XTR brakes, Rock Shox Sid XX fork. <b> 22lbs </b>. Hands down the fastest hardtail I have ever owned.

    One final point. A decent 29er wheelset is lighter than the high end rim brake wheelsets from the late 80s (rotational weight has gone down). Rim, spoke, hub and tire technology have vastly improved over the past 25 years. In addition, other rotational weight in cranksets and drivetrains have dropped significantly. Move into CF frames and wheelsets and things get even lighter.

  32. #32
    dru
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    I agree with this last post. I had a 92 carbon fiber Miyata Elevation 10,000 with a rigid steel fork and Simano DX gruppo and the bike weighed 30 lbs. I can recall quite a few XC hard tails of friends in the mid 90's that were 24ish for quite a lot of money. No one was riding around on 20 lb hard tails.

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    There is a dude on this board with a 13 lb rigid SS that he hucks stuff on...

    All that has happened is new styles of riding have developed out of the ability to have a large amount of suspension travel at a semi reasonable weight that you can actually pedal up a hill. That didn't exist before the tech was there to support it. The XC, light bike, go fast uphill crowd is all still here. Drop by any XC race and you will see some bikes that make your 25 lb hardtail from days of old look down right obese.
    "...when I stand to climb I'm like the Hulk rowing the USS Badass up the Kickass River."
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    I think things are getting lighter. I had a custom chromoly hard tail that was built in 1997 with v brakes, xt/xtr and light for the day wheel set came in right at 24 pounds. My 29er full squish with xt and fox suspension weighs in at 24 pounds.

  35. #35
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    Rough un-scientific numbers:

    Top of the line Stumpjumper ridged 1989: $950 otd (25lbs)
    Top of the line Stumpjumper HT 2014: $8400 otd (16lbs ridged)

    Increase in price: 888% over 24 years (37% increase/year)

    Decrease in weight: 36% over 24 years (1.5% reduction/year)
    Santa Fe, NM

  36. #36
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    1 way to say it is simply we grew up and realized that weight wasn't the only thing that mattered, and that the 30-35# bikes of today are faster than the 25# full rigid bikes of yesteryear.

    Another way is that back in 1990 in the days of full rigid steel bikes, weight was the only difference between one bike and the next. I know that weight was the main argument against suspension, clipless pedals, wider tires... etc, and you know in every single case the "weight" argument lost - people adopted the new tech that was heavier. Doesn't that tell you something?

  37. #37
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    So our wallets are getting lighter faster than our bikes are!
    It's a balance between capability, intended purpose and cost. I think you buck up for the most bike you can afford that covers off most of what you want to do. No point in buying a Whistler bike if you only go there once a year. As a rule Young guys rides heavier bikes and they huck much larger stuff than Old guys do. Even if they wanted light bikes for the most part young guys can't afford them.
    I ride a Remedy 9 and my buddy has a Pivot 5.7. He is much faster going up hill and I don't care. I like the Remedy going down hill

  38. #38
    Anytime. Anywhere.
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    My 1989 Stumpjumper Team was 28 lbs. Full XT, fully ridged with 2.1 tires. A great bike in it's day. My 2011 Turner 5 Spot with a Float 36, XT discs, Stans Flow EX rims and 800 gram 2.4 tires is 30 lbs. I could easily get it down to 28 lbs with a new fork and a few parts. It is 10 X more capable than the old stumpy. If I was into XC racing I would have a much lighter bike for the same $$ but nowadays I climb to descend. I climb for fitness and descend for joy.
    I got some bad ideas in my head.

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