Why do Americans and British use opposite brake levers?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Why do Americans and British use opposite brake levers?

    I heard that the British drive on the "other" side of the road because back in the Middle Ages, the knights would ride to the left of the oncoming so they would have easy access to their sword/weapon (because the majority of humans (then and now) are right-handed). It just stuck to modern times. Makes sense...?

    I can't figure out why we Americans typically use the right-hand lever for our rear brakes, and British use the left-hand lever. Any insight to this conundrum?

    Am I wrong in assuming that most British use a right-hand lever for their front brakes? I'm only basing this on my eBay browsing. It seems most brakes for sale from the UK use "opposite" levers than us Americans.

  2. #2
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    Most people tend to use the RH front in Australia, don't know why, and I find that good on the MTB, but my roadie I use RH rear, go figure???

  3. #3
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    Here's what wikipedia has to say (not sure I take it as the final word though):
    It is customary to place the front brake lever on the left in right-side-driving countries, and vice versa,[37] because the hand on the side nearer the centre of the road is more commonly used for hand signals, and the rear brake can not pitch the bicyclist forward. However, a skilful bicyclist does better with the front brake on the side that is less often used for hand signals. In an emergency situation, operation of the brake has to be second nature; an unskilled bicyclist could find reversed brake levers confusing. Fortunately, it is usually easy to switch brake cables. The standard motorcycle configuration has the right-hand lever operating the front brake, and the left-hand lever operating the clutch. The levers are generally not easily reversed, leading to difficulties for a person who has learned on a bicycle with the front brake lever on the left.
    edit: apparently part of the source for that section of the article is Sheldon Brown's page on brake cables here

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    people run RH front brake because that's how it is on motorcycles, and some people who own mountain bikes also own motorcycles.

    all modern motorcycles run RH front brake, rear is RF pedal. that's been the way it is for about 30 or 40 years on motorcycles, of all nationalities.
    personally, riding a mountain bike for me is so different to riding a motorcycle that there's no mental crossover. I also never feel myself kicking my left pedal down to try and shift the gears on my mountain bike... though i MAY have hit the turnsignal once or twice trying to shift my motrocycle.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by byknuts

    people run RH front brake because that's how it is on motorcycles, and some people who own mountain bikes also own motorcycles.

    all modern motorcycles run RH front brake, rear is RF pedal. that's been the way it is for about 30 or 40 years on motorcycles, of all nationalities.
    personally, riding a mountain bike for me is so different to riding a motorcycle that there's no mental crossover. I also never feel myself kicking my left pedal down to try and shift the gears on my mountain bike... though i MAY have hit the turnsignal once or twice trying to shift my motrocycle.
    bicycles have been around a lot longer than motorcycles and ridden by a lot more people, so why would you motorcycle guys be the reason for our bike traditions?

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    Quote Originally Posted by boomn
    bicycles have been around a lot longer than motorcycles and ridden by a lot more people, so why would you motorcycle guys be the reason for our bike traditions?
    because he has the typical "holier than thou" motorcyclist mentality.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by byknuts

    people run RH front brake because that's how it is on motorcycles, and some people who own mountain bikes also own motorcycles.

    all modern motorcycles run RH front brake, rear is RF pedal. that's been the way it is for about 30 or 40 years on motorcycles, of all nationalities.
    personally, riding a mountain bike for me is so different to riding a motorcycle that there's no mental crossover. I also never feel myself kicking my left pedal down to try and shift the gears on my mountain bike... though i MAY have hit the turnsignal once or twice trying to shift my motrocycle.

    Your "theory" doesn't explain why nearly ALL Americans use a LH front lever on their bicycles. Are you implying that Americans don't ride motorcycles?

  8. #8
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    How about the rest of the world? Which way do they hang?

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    I dunno anyone that rides with the levers swapped. The only time i'ive ever seen swapped levers was on a cycle cross bike.

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    I have never had much actual crossover between the two, but I learned to ride a bike with right hand rear deal... and then motorcycle with right hand front deal... and now I started biking again but had to sell my motorcycle a while back. I have never really confused the two... on a motorcycle its very very different from a bike, I dont think your brain crosses over much at all. However, I plan to get back in to bikes (the ones with motors), including racing, and if I ever start to get confused I won't hesitate to swap the MTB levers.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexrex20
    Your "theory" doesn't explain why nearly ALL Americans use a LH front lever on their bicycles. Are you implying that Americans don't ride motorcycles?
    I think somehow the right side / rear brake situation in America is due to an unwritten but somehow well followed "standard". I've read explanations that suggest if people brake with their "dominant" (usually right) hand, they will "go over the bars". Maybe that's why bikes sold in the US market come set-up that way, I really don't know.

    Personally all my bikes are set-up "moto" style (right lever operates the front brake) including my road bike. I like it this way because of the motorcycle connection. The front brakes get priority, just like on motorcycles and cars.

    When I let people ride my bikes, I always warn them that my brakes are "backwards" (it's backwards to me the OTHER way!)
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Why do Americans and British use opposite brake levers?-motostyle.jpg  

    Why do Americans and British use opposite brake levers?-moto26.jpg  

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  12. #12
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    British people are weird
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  13. #13
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    I'm right hand to the front brake because of motorcycling and signaling.

  14. #14
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    my right hand is reserved to scratch my nards.
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  15. #15
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    I run all my bike brakes moto (front right).

    Got road bicycles and mountain bicycles.

    Got street motorcycle and off-road motorcycle.

    Only a fool would set the front brakes up differently from one to the next. To do so would be asking for trouble. VOE.

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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by marks_bike
    I dunno anyone that rides with the levers swapped. The only time i'ive ever seen swapped levers was on a cycle cross bike.

    Well you're from South Jersey, so you wouldn't. This thread is discussing why the British often have their levers in opposite orientation from ours. British people live in another country, you know.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexrex20
    Well you're from South Jersey, so you wouldn't. This thread is discussing why the British often have their levers in opposite orientation from ours. British people live in another country, you know.
    Lots of people in the States swap them to the correct way, too.

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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexrex20
    because he has the typical "holier than thou" motorcyclist mentality.
    Because if you've ridden a motorcycle, you'd understand that it is impossible to have a usable twist throttle and clutch on the same side. The brake then has to be on the throttle side. Now don't ask why they just didn't put the throttle on the left side and left the brake over there...that's probably the hand signal aspect.


    I ride moto and bikes and I tried switching to moto style on my bikes but couldn't take it. I'm back to regular on bikes, and moto on moto. ;-)

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus
    Lots of people in the States swap them to the correct way, too.

    --Sparty

    When did I say they did not? Quit putting words in my mouth.

    Of all the people that actually own bicycles (including mom and pop and grandma and little 5yr Billy, etc.), I bet it's less than 1% that actually swaps their levers. I wouldn't call that "lots of people."

  20. #20
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    because they are from walmart.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by rensho
    Because if you've ridden a motorcycle, you'd understand that it is impossible to have a usable twist throttle and clutch on the same side. The brake then has to be on the throttle side. Now don't ask why they just didn't put the throttle on the left side and left the brake over there...that's probably the hand signal aspect.


    I ride moto and bikes and I tried switching to moto style on my bikes but couldn't take it. I'm back to regular on bikes, and moto on moto. ;-)

    I've ridden motorcycles for years (and still do) and I've never had an issue where I forgot where the front brake was, when switching between pedal and gas power. I've just now switched to "Brit levers" on one of my bicycles and it only took about 2min for me to get used to it. That's why I was wondering the different approach among different countries.

    It's a trivial difference that one can easily accommodate, I just wonder why a stark and well-defined difference.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishcreek
    because they are from walmart.

    what's your point? walmart or not, the vast majority of American bicycles still use the same lever orientation. do you even know what you're arguing about?

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    Quote Originally Posted by alexrex20
    because he has the typical "holier than thou" motorcyclist mentality.
    I wonder what side his clutch is on on his MTB
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  24. #24
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    I've never owned a moto, but all of my bikes have reversed levers. I find that I have better power and control by having my front brake on my dominant hand. I can easily brake with one finger on each lever now, with no skidding. If I were left-handed, they would be better in the "normal" American setup. YMMV
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  25. #25
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    thats kinda like asking how a posi-trac rear end works, it just does.....or why the last Indiana Jones movie sucked
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    as a mechanic...

    the real question is why is this thread in SS forum?



    All I know is moto brakes make it annoying to work on the bike in the stand.
    You can't switch your shifters really (unless friction) so if right hand controls REAR der it should control REAR brake right? and left hand FRONT der so left hand FRONT brake.
    cmon people...

    ..sorry for mentioning shifters... please don't ban me
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10speedbiopacefreewheel
    All I know is moto brakes make it annoying to work on the bike in the stand.
    You can't switch your shifters really (unless friction) so if right hand controls REAR der it should control REAR brake right? and left hand FRONT der so left hand FRONT brake.
    cmon people...

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexrex20
    what's your point? walmart or not, the vast majority of American bicycles still use the same lever orientation. do you even know what you're arguing about?
    90% of the bikes you see on the road are built at the department store and bike shops, the rest is custom built by yourself, either american, chinese or from zimbabwe. the norm is right hand rear. unless you switch it, its merely just user preference. so what's your point? what's your argument?
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  29. #29
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    I stand corrected on my earlier post, I run the brakes swapped on my fixie (well only have a front brake).


  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexrex20
    I heard that the British drive on the "other" side of the road because back in the Middle Ages, the knights would ride to the left of the oncoming so they would have easy access to their sword/weapon (because the majority of humans (then and now) are right-handed). It just stuck to modern times. Makes sense...?

    I can't figure out why we Americans typically use the right-hand lever for our rear brakes, and British use the left-hand lever. Any insight to this conundrum?

    Am I wrong in assuming that most British use a right-hand lever for their front brakes? I'm only basing this on my eBay browsing. It seems most brakes for sale from the UK use "opposite" levers than us Americans.
    the CPSC specifies that all rear brakes are on the right hand side when sold. the customer can change that if they choose

    http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/regsumbicycles.pdf


    what's your point? walmart or not, the vast majority of American bicycles still use the same lever orientation. do you even know what you're arguing about?
    oh BTW you suck dude, in a major way. slamming people trying to answer your question is dumb, and so are you.
    what would rainbow unicorn do?

  31. #31
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    In the revolutionary war the americans switched so the brits couldn't steal their bikes.

    BTW during the revolutionary war the americans reduce the size of their gallon so the could rip off natives and west indians, better than the brits.

    In the revolutionary war the americans switched to the maritime red right returning rule for bouys to try to **** up the brits...

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    Quote Originally Posted by ferday
    oh BTW you suck dude, in a major way. slamming people trying to answer your question is dumb, and so are you.

    he did not answer my question. and neither did you.

    fishcreek still missed the original question of this thread: Why do Americans and British use opposite lever orientations?

    and he never even attempted to answer my question; all they did was point out the obvious that the American norm is RH rear. no ****, that's exactly why this thread exists - to find out why that is.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexrex20
    he did not answer my question. and neither did you.

    fishcreek still missed the original question of this thread: Why do Americans and British use opposite lever orientations?

    and he never even attempted to answer my question; all they did was point out the obvious that the American norm is RH rear. no ****, that's exactly why this thread exists - to find out why that is.

    PAY ATTENTION

    In the revolutionary war the americans switched so the brits couldn't steal their bikes.

    BTW during the revolutionary war the americans reduce the size of their gallon so the could rip off natives and west indians, better than the brits.

    In the revolutionary war the americans switched to the maritime red right returning rule for bouys to try to **** up the brits...

    Basically Americans are arseholes...

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexrex20
    he did not answer my question. and neither did you.

    fishcreek still missed the original question of this thread: Why do Americans and British use opposite lever orientations?

    and he never even attempted to answer my question; all they did was point out the obvious that the American norm is RH rear. no ****, that's exactly why this thread exists - to find out why that is.

    Australian regulation specify rear brake left side (and their reasoning behind it)

    http://www.bv.com.au/bikes-&-riding/11156/

    if you are looking for the history behind the regulations, good luck. no one really knows the answer. one of the more supported theories is the original boneshakers (penny farthings) had an emergency spoon brake for the front wheel. when the safety bike was introduced (which had front and rear brakes) they simply just kept the front on the right side.
    what would rainbow unicorn do?

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexrex20
    When did I say they did not? Quit putting words in my mouth.

    Of all the people that actually own bicycles (including mom and pop and grandma and little 5yr Billy, etc.), I bet it's less than 1% that actually swaps their levers. I wouldn't call that "lots of people."
    I didn't say you said they did not. Didn't even imply it. Wasn't even remotely referring to you. Stop putting words in my mouth.

    1% of a big number can still be a lot.

    Calm down.

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  36. #36
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    I use my brakes Euro style. Makes sense to me. When I used shifters, I had my rear shifter mated with the front brake, and vice versa. Made sense, and I loved riding like that.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexrex20
    Your "theory" doesn't explain why nearly ALL Americans use a LH front lever on their bicycles. Are you implying that Americans don't ride motorcycles?
    no, i'm answering why some people on both sides of the pond choose to run RH front brake.
    most mountain bikes sold in the US as well as the UK run LH front brake as stock. only people I've met who choose to run RH fronts did so by changing the brake over themselves. (it's actually a reason cited by certain manufacturers for their "modular" levers that can be easily flipped side to side)

    has nothing to do with UK vs US, that's your theory.

    and as to my "holier than thou motorcyclist mentatlity"?
    you've decided that UK riders run RH front, I've met plenty who don't, majority of the people I've met who run RH front brake were citing "because I ride a motorcycle and I don't like to adapt" regardless of which country they were in when I met them.
    you seem to think it's a UK thing, I don't think it is.

    want a succinct answer?
    you're wrong, no such thing as "left only right only" based on country, the geographic location is not the determining factor, personal preference is.



    EDIT: just realized you posted this question in brake time as well, you're obviously trolling and yelling at everyone who calls you on it.
    grow up.
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  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by byknuts
    no, i'm answering why some people on both sides of the pond choose to run RH front brake.
    most mountain bikes sold in the US as well as the UK run LH front brake as stock. only people I've met who choose to run RH fronts did so by changing the brake over themselves. (it's actually a reason cited by certain manufacturers for their "modular" levers that can be easily flipped side to side)

    has nothing to do with UK vs US, that's your theory.

    and as to my "holier than thou motorcyclist mentatlity"?
    you've decided that UK riders run RH front, I've met plenty who don't, majority of the people I've met who run RH front brake were citing "because I ride a motorcycle and I don't like to adapt" regardless of which country they were in when I met them.
    you seem to think it's a UK thing, I don't think it is.

    want a succinct answer?
    you're wrong, no such thing as "left only right only" based on country, the geographic location is not the determining factor, personal preference is.



    EDIT: just realized you posted this question in brake time as well, you're obviously trolling and yelling at everyone who calls you on it.
    grow up.

    trolling? is that what you incorrectly inferred from my cross-posting it between 2 forums? i ride single speed, so i posted it here. it's also relevant to brakes, so i posted it in Brake Time.

    i'm sorry that you confused my desire for exposure as an attempt to troll the forums. i'm sorry that you confused my intolerance for ignorance and arrogance as an attempt to troll.

    i am not wrong in asserting that the vast majority of Americans use LH front levers, and British use RH front levers. if you argue otherwise, you're an idiot, for no better choice of word.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffscott
    PAY ATTENTION

    In the revolutionary war the americans switched so the brits couldn't steal their bikes.

    BTW during the revolutionary war the americans reduce the size of their gallon so the could rip off natives and west indians, better than the brits.

    In the revolutionary war the americans switched to the maritime red right returning rule for bouys to try to **** up the brits...

    Basically Americans are arseholes...

    ahh, i must've missed this post. it all makes sense now!

    and yes we are all *******s* - me especially.

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10speedbiopacefreewheel
    the real question is why is this thread in SS forum?



    All I know is moto brakes make it annoying to work on the bike in the stand.
    You can't switch your shifters really (unless friction) so if right hand controls REAR der it should control REAR brake right? and left hand FRONT der so left hand FRONT brake.
    cmon people...

    ..sorry for mentioning shifters... please don't ban me
    you have a ten speed biospace freewheel? BURN THE WITCH!!!
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  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10speedbiopacefreewheel
    the real question is why is this thread in SS forum?



    All I know is moto brakes make it annoying to work on the bike in the stand.
    You can't switch your shifters really (unless friction) so if right hand controls REAR der it should control REAR brake right? and left hand FRONT der so left hand FRONT brake.
    cmon people...

    ..sorry for mentioning shifters... please don't ban me
    It doesn't really make any sense, at least not to me. I run my front brake in my right hand for two reasons: 1) Holier than thou motorcycle attitude, and 2) it makes sense to me that my front brake, which has the majority of stopping power, should be in my right hand. I leave my shifters right rear (and would even if I could switch) because I do the majority of my shifting in the rear. Once again, dominant hand.

    David B.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbeinct
    It doesn't really make any sense, at least not to me. I run my front brake in my right hand for two reasons: 1) Holier than thou motorcycle attitude, and 2) it makes sense to me that my front brake, which has the majority of stopping power, should be in my right hand. I leave my shifters right rear (and would even if I could switch) because I do the majority of my shifting in the rear. Once again, dominant hand.

    David B.
    ^^^ this.

    Regardless of whether or not David B.'s points are tangential.

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  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mighty Matt
    British people are weird
    I told you people why!
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  44. #44
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    Still saying this is not a SS related question

    threads like this one show what a black hole internet forums are.
    No one has answers.
    No one is really passionate about the discussion.
    No one has anything better to do at work.

    But I love it.
    no chain no gain.

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mighty Matt
    I told you people why!
    whats with these people quoting them selfs?
    Ride & Smile

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by boomn
    whats with these people quoting them selfs?
    I know, it makes no sense at all

  47. #47
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    wow what an exciting post! i have noticed that many trials riders run
    moto brakes. I wonder if that might shed some light or not.

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