Jones Plus SWB Complete Review: Jones Magic for Less $
Once the domain of the fully-fledged bike geek, Jones’ Plus SWB Complete has opened up a very distinctive, capable, and comfortable bike to a far broader audience. After spending half a year riding one, read Cass Gilbert’s in-depth review, along with SWB and LWB comparisons…
August 2021 update: an updated version of Jones’s Plus SWB and LWB has now been released, which can read about here.
For the longest time, Jeff Jones’s distinctive titanium bikes – noted for their eye catching truss fork and curvy spaceframes – have been largely sidelined to the domain of the well versed ‘bike nerd’. Jones enthusiasts have always waxed lyrical about these odd looking machines and their uncanny ability to float over jumbles of rocks without the need for a suspension fork, whilst Jeff Jones himself has long promised a ride that elevates the potential of the humble, fully rigid mountain bike. But at a time when most riders have switched to full-suspension rigs for their mountain biking needs, a Jones bike always came at a price so high that only those who truly resonate with the company’s rhetoric have been prepared to experiment. With few bikes available to demo, investing in one always felt like a leap of faith.
- Angles (LG): 69° Head tube, 72° Seat tube
- Chainstay: 449mm
- Bottom Bracket: 68mm BSA threaded
- Hub specs: 15 x 150mm front / 12 x 148mm rear
- Seatpost Diameter: 27.2mm
- Max tire size: 27.5 x 3″ or 29 x 2.3-2.8″ tires
- Price (complete): $1,799
More recently, these idiosyncratic bikes have steadily become accessible to a wider audience, thanks to a shift from US-made titanium tubing to manufacturing steel frames in Taiwan. And whilst the secret sauce – Jones’ trend-bucking geometry – has remained largely the same, the bikes themselves have become more conventional looking, too. This includes the introduction of a more affordable diamond frame option and recently, unicrown forks to match. Two years ago, I reviewed the Jones Plus (since renamed Jones Plus Long Wheel Base) and I absolutely loved it. I’d never ridden such a capable yet comfortable fully rigid bike – be it on my local trails or for long distance bikepacking. Big, long, and unconventional looking, somehow the LWB just works. Yet, whilst these Taiwan-made Chromoly frames certainly piqued the interest of a broader audience, their price point remained high enough to maintain a reputation of relative outliers.
Jones doesn’t list full geometry charts for the SWB Complete, probably due to its very unconventional numbers – for instance its ‘reach’, one of the data points used to size a bike, is considerably shorter than other brands. Instead, there are three height recommendations for the Jones Plus SWB Complete, with accompanying standover clearances. If in doubt, give Jones a ring them to discuss the finer details.
Small: Ride height 5’–5’8″ (152cm-173cm). Standover at center of top tube is 29″ (74cm).
Medium: Rider height 5’7″–6’2″ (170cm-188cm). Standover at center of top tube is 30.5″ (77.5cm).
Large: Rider height 6′–6’6″ (183cm-198cm). Standover at center of top tube is 32″ (81cm).
If you’re between two sizes, I’d be inclined to suggest sizing up for bikepacking, where a larger framebag size is preferable.
All sizes of the Jones Plus SWB have a 69° head tube angle, and a 72° effective seat tube angle. The chainstays are 17.68″ (449mm) from bb to axle center. Here are the various wheelbases for the SWB:
Small: 41.9″ (1066mm)
Medium: 42.98″ (1091.72mm)
Large: 44.05″ (1118.95mm)
At $1800, the SWB Complete hopes to change all this by positioning it within the sights of bikes from brands like Surly, opening it up to a completely new market. To help cut costs over the standard $1450+ frame and truss fork only option, the Complete sports a diamond frame and a unicrown fork that are a little different in their manufacturing process and finishing details, combined with a carefully selected but more humble build kit than most Jones customers would previously have considered.
Potted history lesson over! Despite a recent naming refresh, the Jones world and the options available within it remain complicated (just try navigating the site), even if they’ve now been more standardised in terms of sizing, of which there are three available for the SWB. Briefly, the Jones Plus Short Wheel Base Complete is only available with a diamond frame and unicrown fork, but it’s also available as frameset with a steel truss fork ($1350). There’s also an aftermarket unicrown fork that’s manufactured different to the one found on the Complete – but it’s a very costly $350 and you’ll need to buy it in addition to the frameset, rather than a substitution. The unicrown forks include triple mount eyelets for Anything-style Cages. Cleverly, the lowest eyelet also doubles up for a Tubus Duo low rider front rack, whilst running water bottles too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have on the fork crown to mount Surly’s basket-friendly 8-Pack rack. Note that the unicrown fork is considerably easier to remove than the prettier truss alternative, which can be very useful when boxing or bagging the bike.
There are also some more subtle differences between the frameset-only option and the Complete. Both have the same provision for a rear rack and adjustability in what model you use, though the complete SWB has a simpler dropout, which is a little heavier. The tubing isn’t heat-treated, which also comes at a small weight penalty. Perhaps most importantly, it lacks the frameset’s eccentric bottom bracket, a device that allows the chain to be tensioned without a derailleur, or the bottom bracket height to be adjusted. This means the Complete can’t be set up easily as a singlespeed – occasionally, a useful fix in the backcountry – nor can it accommodate a Rohloff hub without a derailleur to tension the chain. Additionally, the pedal height can’t be tweaked depending on tire size and riding style – road riding and rocky singletrack being the two extremes where you might want to make changes. In terms of overall weight, the two frames are likely similar, the heavier dropout and tubing offset by the lack of EBB.
Aside from this, both are largely the same and hard to tell apart, colors aside. Certainly, they’re identical in the all-important Jeff Jones geometry numbers, hence sharing the same name – SWB – which also happens to be something of a misnomer. After all, ‘Short Wheel Base’ is very much relative because, at 449mm in chainstay length, the SWB is still relatively long by most standards, and longer than the original Jones 29er on which it’s based. By way of example, a Surly ECR has similar length chainstays and a Karate Monkey is 26mm less. It is, however, some 30mm shorter than its big brother, the 29+ LWB, and noticeably shorter in overall wheelbase.
Like other Joneses, the SWB’s distinctive geometry is really what sets this bike apart from almost any other bike out there. There are a whole host of differences, some subtle and some more apparent. One of the most obvious examples to quote, for those who like to get granular with their numbers, is the 55mm rake of its fork. Reach is also noticeably less as the frame also sports a shorter-than-normal top tube, compared to similarly-sized bikes. The bottom bracket drop is a whole 76mm (offset in part by 170mm cranks) and a discussed, the chainstays are relatively long. By themselves, the numbers don’t necessarily make much sense and are even rather confusing, being very much at odds with modern trends. Put them together and a certain Jones magic reveals itself, especially when teamed with the bike’s handlebars, which sport a very generous 45-degree backsweep and extra long grips. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what’s happening, but in my mind, the low trail lends the bike a very precise feeling in the way it steers, while the long wheelbase and low bottom bracket give it a real sense of stability – especially on rough, chunky descents. The long wheelbase, short cockpit, and shape of the handlebar also mean you can shift your body position around the bike, fore and aft, without the front wheel popping up, or the rear wheel slipping out. On the SWB, I found myself cleaning technical climbs that might otherwise have defeated me.
Importantly, a short cockpit encourages riders to make the most of all the hand positions afforded by these peculiar-looking bars. Whilst their backsweep serves to reduce pressure on the wrists and place hands in a very natural position, the real benefit to these bars is the variety of useable positions they offer – when combined with the bike’s short reach and upright geometry. In fact, I’d consider them on par with a drop handlebar setup in this regard, but without the compromised braking. For example, scoot forward and you’re naturally in a better position for a more aero, efficient body shape, to the point you can even lay your arms across them (though it’s not something I generally do). Place your hands mid-length down the grips and you’ll find a nice, general riding position for trail riding. Slide back and technical descents become less daunting. These distinct positions are, to me, the core of the Jones genius formula. And, whilst you can try and replicate this feeling by fitting the Jones bars to other bikes, it won’t be quite the same because the bars are specifically designed to work in conjunction with the geometry of the frame and fork. It’s for this reason that the SWB bike comes with the brakes levers positioned butted up at the join; place them anywhere else and you’re be denying yourself the full potential of the handlebars, which often happens when fitting these bars to bikes with ‘standard’ top tube lengths.
Which brings us onto the ride! Similar to the LWB review, the SWB’s upright riding position is likely the most noticeable difference to anyone hopping on the bike for the first time. It is very upright, to the point that my racy friends even laughed at me! To Jeff Jones, comfort and performance have always been considered on par, rather than sacrificing one for the other. It’s a view I subscribe to as well – because a comfortable bike helps you ride longer and most likely puts you in a better mood too!
The next surprise follows shortly after. For such a comfortable bike, the SWB has an unexpectedly fast, precise, and intuitive feel to its steering. This bike is a delight to ride on twisty woodland trails, that’s for sure. Head for the hills and another layer to its riding character reveals itself. Thanks to a low bottom bracket, a ‘long’ wheelbase, and a geometry dedicated around a fully rigid bike (it’s not suspension compatible), the front end stays tacked to the ground on steep climbs – with rarely a loss of grip on the back tyre either. I found I was able to stay seated for longer, without needing to lower my chin to the bars, making inclines much more controlled. Point it downhill and the SWB feels planted and stable, thanks to the bike’s large volume, low-pressure tires and its long wheelbase and extra fork offset. This really reduces the feeling that you might tip over the handlebars.
Over the last six months, I’ve used this bike in every way I believe a typical SWB Complete customer would likely do: as a mountain bike for cross country trails, on dirt road overnighters, and for commuting. I’ve ridden a 700km gravel tour in Spain, a sizeable chunk of which was paved. I’ve taken it on local, desert trails in New Mexico. I’ve raced around rooty, woodland trails in Bristol, UK, where the addition of a dropper post (a budget Brand-X offering from Chain Reaction Cycles) helped me keep pace with my fast local friends on their mid-travel hardtails. Most recently, it was the bike I chose for a family tour through France and the Basque Country, where I hauled gear for multi-day bikepacking rides with my 6-year-old son.
This bike excels at all of the above, to the point that I can’t really see a way to improve it. Bar one downside, perhaps. Given that I have a preference for wide, downhill-style flat pedals, I did find ground clearance noticeably low across terrain that was either very rocky or rooty. It was something I was able to adapt to, mostly. But if 3.0″ tyres fall out of favour in the future, I expect it might be too low for mountain biking with 27.5×2.8s or less. Luckily the frame has clearances for ‘wide trail’ 29 x 2.6″ tyres, which would bump it back up again. That’s a path I’d like to investigate further.
I’ll run through the parts of the rest of the bike, though bear in mind that at $1800, there’s nothing that really stands out. I’ve tried Tektro’s barebones MD-M300 mechanicals on several cheaper Surly models and whilst they’re not as refined as more expensive brakes like Sram’s BB7s, they stop the bike well. I do, however, have a couple of niggly issues with them. Whilst the inside pad can be easily adjusted with an Allen key, the outside pad relies on the brake barrel itself. This means that you’ll have to loosen off the cable bolt to pull in any slack, which frays the cable ends over time. The brakes also come without rubber ‘boots’ to protect them from water ingress. Over the winter, the rear – positioned along the chainstay – seized in sub-freezing temperatures (Tip: run brake cable housing with Tri-Flow). The SWB Complete comes with larger than standard 200/180mm rotors, front and rear. This offers improved braking, but I also found them more prone to bending during transit. Make sure you remove them if you’re flying with the bike.
Compared to the competition, the 10-speed drivetrain feels dated, even if shifting itself has been very reliable and rarely needs adjusting. However, the range (22.1″ to 84.1″), just isn’t enough for bikepacking in mountains. It’s definitely too high for a route like the Colorado Trail for instance, and I struggled with it on family touring trips too, where I was heavily laden. The easiest fix is to replace the 11-42T Sunrace cassette with an 11-46T version, though 10-speed options are limited. Luckily, Sunrace’s excellent MX3 should work without needing to replace the rear derailleur.
Durability wise, the bottom bracket is still going strong after several months of use over the winter, spring, and into summer. Due to the 104 BCD crank spec, you won’t be able to run a chainring that’s smaller than a 30T, and in the interests of versatility, you probably won’t want to either, as you’ll be spinning out on the road. Related, here’s another observation: the positioning of the eyelets under the downtube and the 32T chainring means there’s only just clearance for Ron King’s excellent Manything Cages and a 1.9l Klean Canteen. Lining them up a touch higher would have been better, as this particular combination rules out a 34T chainring. Whilst we’re on the subject of H2O hauling, there are no water bottle eyelets on the seat tube, so a partial framebag setup won’t work unless it runs the length of the top tube.
I should, however, come clean and admit the Jones Plus Complete SWB seen in many of these photos has a significant upgrade – beyond the saddle and seat post change. Halfway through the testing period, I was sent a set of Carbon C-Rims laced around DT hubs, shod with Schwalbe 2.8 G-One tires. Up until this time, I have to admit that whilst I recognised the bike’s versatility, I simply didn’t see it as a viable fast gravel or all-road bike. It lacked the punchy feel on pavement that I enjoy. But after my first ride, I had to eat my words! This wheelset completely transformed the SWB, to the point that my desire to own a gravel bike for winter desert riding largely dissipated. Combined with the variety of hand positions and how easy to it to slip into an aero tuck, the SWB felt incredibly fast and sure-footed on open roads. Yes, there’s no denying it’s still heavy in comparison to a gravel bike. But the wheel change made a significant 1150g (3.4lbs) rotational weight saving over the stock wheels, helping make up the weight difference in the place that matters most. Combined with-rolling DT 350 hubs, I felt like I was flying.
Now, I’m not unaware of the irony of fitting a $2000+ wheelset to an $1800 dollar bike. Still, considering a fairly large proportion of the weight saving is in the tires alone, I think you’d get a good way there by simply swapping out the original Maxxis Chronicles for G-Ones. In fact, I ended up keeping them on the bike for some time, as I found them adequate for light mountain biking duties and excellent for almost everything else, serving to transform the SWB into a very capable commuting bike too – fearless of tramlines, gutters, and potholes. This has been my very first experience of carbon rims and I’ll review them separately, as a deep discussion is outside the confines of this post – suffice to say they remain completely blemish or ding free and I’ve now updated my ideas of a dream bike build.
But I digress. The double-walled stock wheelset that comes with the SWB are very similar, visually, to WTB’s excellent Scrapers. I didn’t find them nearly as easy to set up tubeless, though perhaps it was the tire combinations I was trying them with. On a similar note, the Complete’s Maxxis Chronicles – good tires in themselves – are non-tubeless ready. Potential punctures aside, riders will be forced to run them with higher air pressures and lose some of the benefits of a plus-size tire. For day to day riding, I found myself running them at around 12 psi and that’s not something I’m comfortable doing with tubes. I’d far prefer to pay the extra cost up front than having to change them straight away, which is exactly what I had to do for riding in goathead-mined New Mexico. It’s for this reason that my review features the bike with various other tires – I’ve included a Jones studio photo below as a reference point for what it looks like out of the box, in the size I tested.
Tyre choice is always tricky, especially on a bike that’s so versatile. I’d still recommend Maxxis’s Chronicle as a good all-rounder, though I’d favour setting it up with two more distinct alternatives – like Schwalbe’s 27.5 x 3.0″ Nobby Nics for mountain biking and 27.5 x 2.8″ G-Ones for dirt touring and commuting – to reap the most benefit of the bike’s true potential. Changing tubeless tires is a bit of a pain, so you could buy a second wheelset – don’t forget the 150mm front end though. It’s chosen for the resulting wheel strength and the ability to run a ‘fat front’, but it also rules out any cheap, off-the-peg Boost wheelset options. Bear in mind that it also means you’ll need to invest in a more specialist dynamo hub and a replacement will be harder to source in the (unlikely) event of a front hub failure on a long distance tour.
As mentioned previously, this isn’t a light bike – it comes in at over 15kg. I don’t want to seem like a weight weenie but everything adds up. The H-loop handlebar is the heavier straight gauge version and not the more expensive butted one (side note: if you’re feeling fancy, fit a carbon bar and EVA foam grips, and you’ll immediately save yourself almost 600g/1.3lb). But I’m not complaining too loudly, given the price of the bike and the frame material.
Jones SWB vs. LWB
We’re spoilt for choice these days, even within a brand, which can make figuring out the ‘right’ bike a confusing process. For those considering a Jones, the question will revolve around whether to opt for the SWB – the Short Wheel Base – or the LWB – the Long Wheel Base – given ways in which they overlap.
After riding both back to back and for extended periods of time, it’s apparent that whilst there are more similarities than differences, each does in fact have a pronounced identity, reflecting their different geometry and the relative merits of their wheel sizes.
Whilst both are extremely comfortable bikes as a baseline, with similarly upright and commanding riding positions, the LWB simply can’t be matched for its smooth ride over rough terrain. Conversely, whilst both bikes are quick handling and the LWB somehow defies its size when riding trails, the SWB does feel a little more dextrous. I noticed this most when I hit tight and twisty singletrack, and in how easy it is to loft the front wheel.
Overall though, I prefer the LWB as a mountain bike, because I think it’s truer to Jeff Jones’ ultimate goal to create the best mountain bike he can. Its longer wheelbase, greater fork offset, and larger wheels serve to both smooth out of the ride and kick the front tyre so far in front of you that it never feels like you’ll go over the handlebars, even on the steepest terrain. It also feels like a more capable climber, with less chance of the front wheel popping up on steep inclines and more balanced traction across both wheels.
And yet, having had access to both bikes, I’ve found myself gravitating towards the SWB more for day to day riding – especially when shod with Schwalbe’s excellent 27.5 x 2.8in G-One Allrounds – as well as on overseas trips. It’s certainly easier to fit into the boot of a car, to box for a flight, or bag for a bus or train – the LWB may not ride like a big bike but physically it is one. The SWB fits both 27.5+ or 29er tyres of almost all sizes (right up to a 2.6), so choice abounds both now and in the future. Smaller riders may also find 29+ wheels limiting for running seatpack and need to run a rear rack on the LWB.
In terms of sizing, I’d comment that while I’m on the cusp between a medium and large LWB, the large is the right size for me on the SWB. Even if the riding position can be set up to be very similar, it feels a touch more compact. Note too that Jones recommends an inline post for the LWB and a set pack post for the SWB.
But perhaps what I like most about the Complete SWB is that it’s a ‘complete’ bike in every sense of the word. Not just in the ‘out of the box and ready to ride’ sense, but in the way that it’s been considered as a whole entity, rather than a sum of separate parts. This is a recurrent Jones theme. Even if there are different materials and designs to choose from across the Jones range, everything is designed to play together perfectly. If that way jives with how you like to ride, chances are your days of fettling and modifying a bike are largely over…
There’s a flat shopping rate of $95 within the US – which actually works out cheaper than paying your state’s sales tax. Contact Jones for details on overseas shipping and Biff for ideas on acquiring one in Europe.
- Frame Jones Plus SWB, All 4130 chromoly steel with butted tubing
- Fork Jones LWB Unicrown fork, Thru axle dropouts with 150mm x 15mm spacing
- Headset Jones Sealed Cartridge H-Set
- Crankset2-piece aluminum Boost, 24mm chromoly spindle, 104BCD, 165mm (S), 170mm (M/L)
- Chainring32t Machined narrow-wide
- Bottom BracketSealed Cartridge External Bearing, threaded
- CassetteSunrace CSMS2; 11-42t, 10-speed, steel, ED black coating
- Rear Derailleur10 speed Shimano Deore RD-M6000-GS Shadow RD+
- ShifterShimano Deore SL-M6000, 10 Speed
- ChainKMC X10, with MissingLink, 10 speed
- Front Hub Jones Spec. 150x15mm Thru-Axle hub with Sealed Cartridge Bearings
- Rear HubJones 32 hole, 148x12mm Boost hub with Sealed Cartridge Bearings, Shimano Driver
- Spokes14 gauge stainless steel, black
- Spoke NipplesChromed brass
- RimsShining DB-X50 50mm wide double wall anodized black 6061-T6 Aluminum
- TiresMaxxis Chronicle 27.5 x 3″, 60 TPI(non tubeless)
- Brake CalipersTektro MD-M300
- RotorsTektro 200mm front and 180mm rear, 6 bolt
- Brake LeversTektro MT 2.1
- Brake CablesJagwire Elite Ultra-Slick
- Brake Cable Housing Jagwire Pro Compressionless brake housing
- Shifter CableJagwire Elite Ultra-Slick
- Stem 31.8mm clamp. 60mm small, 80mm medium, and 90mm large, 17 degrees of rise
- HandlebarJones SG Aluminum Loop H-Bar. 710mm, straight gauge
- GripsJones H-Grip for 710mm H-Bars
- Bar TapeJones H-Bar Tape on the rear crossbar
- SeatpostJones Spec 400mm, 27.2mm
- Seatpost clampZoom Alloy Quick Release with Brass Bushing, 31.8mm
- SaddleJones, black with black steel rails
- Incredibly well-rounded bike that excels on both cross country trails and gravel
- It’s a real ‘complete’ bike in that it’s all designed to work as a whole
- Excellent for climbing thanks to Jones geometry
- Supremely comfortable
- Generous clearances all round
- Low BB give lots of stability, with shorter than expected cranks to help offset low ground clearance
- Affordable for a Jones
- Solid, no nonsense built kit, for the most part
- Unicrown fork is very versatile and more practical than the classic truss fork, with similar clearances for a 27.5”x3.8” fat front
- Non tubeless ready tyres mean an immediate upgrade needed for those who want the best from large volume rubber
- Gearing is limited for heavily laden touring or mountainous bikepacking
- No eccentric bottom bracket means no pedal height adjustability or singlespeed/Rohloff setup
- Somewhat heavy out of the box
- Finishing kit isn’t a match for other bikes at the same price point
- Lack of front suspension (and the potential for it) means slower descents in some situations – low pressure, large volume tires can only do so much
- 150mm TA spacing at the front means you’ll need to go custom for a second wheelset and buy a more specialist dynamo, though it certainly makes for a strong wheel
- Size Tested L
- Sizes Available S, M, L
- Weight (as tested) 34.2lbs/15.5kg
- Price $1800
- Place of Manufature Taiwan
- Manufacturer’s Details Jones Bikes
- Recommended Uses Bikepacking, trail riding, touring, commuting
As much as I’ve enjoyed riding the Jones SWB Complete, this hasn’t been an easy review to write. I could have just said: “If you like the idea of an affordable, extremely comfortable, and low maintenance bicycle, and want a truly versatile machine for both cross country trails and off-road touring, buy this bike!” But in needing to qualify this, the act of dissecting a Jones has sent me down a typically deep rabbit hole.
So, I’ll attempt to sum it up for those who haven’t waded their way through the opus above. Whilst I won’t claim that the Jones Complete SWB can do everything (clearly, it’s not a long-travel full-suspension rig), I’ve been surprised by how little it can’t. And whilst many jack-of-all-trades bikes can feel lacklustre, it’s never felt less than engaging to ride. I say this for the simple reason that whether I was mountain biking, long-distance bikepacking, commuting, or gravel riding, I rarely wished I was riding anything else, which says more to me than anything else. While certain bikes do hold advantages in their specialist disciplines, I didn’t find them significant enough to leave me wanting, particularly as a cross country mountain biker and a ‘non-racer’.
However, putting together such an unconventional bike for $1800 has meant some compromises. Unlike the frameset-only option, there’s no eccentric bottom bracket, which I’ve enjoyed fine tuning in the past depending on tyres and wheel choice. The spec list is also debatable – notably, the supplied tyres aren’t tubeless, the gear range is limiting for bikepacking across mountainous terrain, and the brakes could be improved. The overall weight is relatively high and I’d add too that the 150m TA fork means picking up a second wheelset will be a more costly affair.
In fact, I like the Jones geometry enough that in some ways, I’d be tempted to bite the bullet and buy a ‘custom’ steel build, setting it up exactly the way I wanted it. I’d even consider the carbon rims! But if you are on a tighter budget, rest assured that any upgrades you may make to the Jones Complete time will be worth it, because the SWB is a genuine Bike For Life. By shirking industry trends and striking its own path, it feels genuinely timeless. If you love riding the SWB now, as I think you will, I have little hesitation to say you’ll love riding it twenty years down the line.
I’ve been embarking regularly on two-wheeled explorations for the last 18 years. Most recently, I explored the Republic of Georgia on dirt roads, rode the Colorado Trail, traversed Bolivia’s Cordillera Real, and followed the Trans Alps. Given my love for mountain biking and backcountry touring, my ideal journey fuses the two, keeping to quiet dirt roads and singletrack where possible.
Height: 6’05” (184.5cm)
Weight: 165 lbs (75kg)
Inseam (PBH): 91.4cm
Have you ridden the Jones Plus SWB or the SWB Complete? Let us know your impressions below!
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