Reverence: DeFeet Un-D-Shurt and Un-D-Lite

Reverence: DeFeet Un-D-Shurt and Un-D-Lite

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As indispensable and overlooked as the gilet, the undervest is the only piece of cycling kit that comes with me on every single ride, year round, in hot, in cold, in wet, or in dry. While one could be forgiven for assuming an undervest lives out its life as an insulation layer, the undervest serves a critical, more fundamental purpose: as a wicking layer.

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of carrying a gallon jug of water, you will have noticed that water is not particularly light, nor particularly dry. If you’ve suffered the further indignation of having said gallon jug of water poured over your head after making a pithy remark, you will have noticed that the introduction of water to your clothing makes them both heavier and less warm. As cyclists, these characteristics don’t do much for us in the way of making our sport easier from the perspective that sweat is made up largely of water and thus has a tendency to make the clothing we’re wearing both wet and heavy. Enter the base layer, whose specialty is not so much in keeping us warm, but keeping us dry.

If I’ve understood physics correctly, these magical fabrics are designed to maximize the capillary action of fluids by sucking the water in our sweat away from the skin and towards the outside of the fabric where it can either evaporate or at least stop touching us. Even though the fabrics in our jerseys and bibs are heralded as being able to perform this task on their own, they are busy doing other things as well, and I find that using a layer dedicated to this purpose improves the effect greatly.

To be fair, though, the thought of wearing an undervest – or any additional thread of clothing for that matter – is far from inviting when kitting up in the middle of Summer. This is where DeFeet really shines with their multiple weights of undershirts, each targeted at a different temperature range. From the cooler months of September, through Winter and on into Spring, the Un-D-Shurt tank base layer is my go-to garment, keeping me dry but also adding a bit of warmth to stave off the cool air around Puget Sound. Once the mercury starts rising, however, I switch to the Un-D-Lite, which is much more lightweight and purpose-driven towards wicking rather than also insulating.

With both of these pieces, they are so stretchy, soft, comfortable, and good at keeping your skin dry, I never even notice I’m wearing them. I’d like to meet whomever figured out how to make this stuff; their brains must be so big, I bet you can spot it when you look in their ear.

// Accessories and Gear // Reverence

  1. Don’t have much experience with cold-weather undershirts, but I found my undershirts to be indispensable in hot weather. I ride with Craft’s and Assos’ sleeveless pieces, but all of them are pretty much the same – they keep the sticky stuff from evaporating on your body, and move it to do so just next to your body. At the end of a soggy, humid, 35c ride (Mediterranean seaside city), the difference between the undershirt-covered torso and the bare arms is unbelievable – the former is nearly fresh-feeling, while the other’s sticky enough to glue with. As a plus, it’s allows me to use the cheaper jerseys on occasion (such as on memorial rides and events) without the associated itching, and protects the nipples from rubbing on imperfect bibstraps.

    I’ve been thinking it through for ages, and it seems to me as if a wicking layer makes sense all the time, even when hot and humid, simply because it’s more efficient than our skin by offering a bigger surface area. We feel “stuffy” in it, but it’s mostly psychological – much like the way amateur runners often run shirtless in the summer, despite the fact that the direct sunshine and decreased sweat-wicking makes their situation worse.

  2. @frank

    @ChrisO

    @Marko

    I’ve been riding the UNDshirt and UNDREcycle. The UNDRecycle is incredibly comfortable as well. A great piece. As far as the discussion on whether or not to wear a base layer in high temps I’d add that while temps are a consideration, humidity is a bigger concern. If the relative humidity is high I find base layers to be stifling. My skin wants to breath and the best way to do that when the temp and dew point are both close to each other and high would be to ride naked. Since that’s not legal or Rule compliant I opt out of the base layer. However, when the air is dry and/or cool the base layer is the way to wick. Plus it’s oh so pro.

    Agree with that – summer here is when the humidity gets very high, so maybe that’s what makes the base layers less comfortable.

    On a ride the other week we were sweating so much we had prune-fingers after the first hour.

    You might be on to something – based on the way I understand capillary action works, humidity would impact that effect because it would be more wet everywhere, which would reduce the ability to wick the moisture away from your skin.

    Humidity reduces the effect, sure – but it also slows down evaporation on your skin. I find that the base-layer still does the job better than our human skin (which is also why I wear baselayers at work in the summer). On a dry, 45c desert blast, the effect is amazing – but even when it’s humid, there’s a benefit.

  3. @Ron

    The white one is like a Craft one that I have that I have never been able to find again – a fine, gauzy, mesh-y style as opposed to the little “cells” of some undervests.

    I have the craft one, too, its been laying in a heap in the corner ever since I got the DeFeet last fall.

    @Nof Landrien

    De Feet generally freakin’ awesome. Best arm warmers and knee warmers in the universe ever. The UNDshirt is also geat. And their merino gloves are the bomb. Did I mention that their arm warmers (arm skins) are amazing and their knee warmers (kneekers) are similarly the best thing since sliced bread.

    You’re gonna love the stuff we’re (slowly) working towards having them make for us. Socks, wool arm warmers, and kneekers.  DeFeet loves them some hardman gear.

    @Chris

    @frank as Velominati Official Thermal Regulation (OTR) partners, will we be seeing some nice V-Cogged base layers, woollen Kneekers, Armskins and the like?

    Yes!

  4. @frank Awesome. Although I do seriously question the need for a long sleeve jersey (V-Kit or otherwise) for all but the absolutely most freezing weather. The combination of woolen arm skins, merino base layer, SS jersey and a gillet or parts thereof is so much more versatile.

  5. @tessar

    I’ve been thinking it through for ages, and it seems to me as if a wicking layer makes sense all the time, even when hot and humid, simply because it’s more efficient than our skin by offering a bigger surface area. We feel “stuffy” in it, but it’s mostly psychological – much like the way amateur runners often run shirtless in the summer, despite the fact that the direct sunshine and decreased sweat-wicking makes their situation worse.

    I’ve found the same situation, though the above observations about humidity give me pause. But in general, I’ve found the same thing you have; even in cases when the jersey is good at wicking, it has too many other jobs to do as compared to a base layer devoted to the function.

    That said, a wool base layer in summer is not the way to go; you need a good, lightweight version which does no insulating and focusses purely on evaporation. Even in the baking heat on Maui, the base layer is indispensable.

  6. Good article, Frank. I’ve been wearing my Un-D-Wool for a while and love it. It’s replaced my Descente base layers. Granted, I don’t regularly wear a base layer unless the mercury drops below 50F…

  7. @Chris

    @frank Awesome. Although I do seriously question the need for a long sleeve jersey (V-Kit or otherwise) for all but the absolutely most freezing weather. The combination of woolen arm skins, merino base layer, SS jersey and a gillet or parts thereof is so much more versatile.

    I agree; that is the config I wear for the most part all the way down to 0C, after which the LS Jersey comes out…But I prefer a layered approach to a ride over going with thick gear. The -5C to 0C window is very frustrating for this reason because I generally need the LS Jersey in that range, but its overkill with a gilet. That said, I’ll throw the LS Jersey on sooner if the ride is a mellow one.

    I also always dress to be cold the first 15 minutes of a ride; if I feel comfortable when leaving the house, I’m overdressed. Once the blood starts flowing, your temperature rises and you’ll be shedding layers which you’ll then carry around the rest of the ride.

  8. @Cyclops

    DeFeet UnD Ice is the cooling shirt I was talking about.  Sounds interesting in that they don’t want you to wear if the temps are BELOW 80F.

    Hmmm, that sounded intriguing but I’m not totally convinced… not enough to shell out 60 quid on a base layer anyway.

    Slightly concerned that they don’t appear to have done any actual studies to back up this claim, just relying on what people say. (And also that their website confuses the word effect for affect, but that probably says more about me…)

    Apart from that, the claimed effect on the affected areas is achieved when used with an unzipped jersey because it requires wind to cool it, which then has me wondering why it should be a base layer rather than a jersey. Particularly as they claim the material is more abrasion resistant than kevlar.

    That means they could make a long-sleeve jersey which was cooler than anything else, won’t tear and will prevent road-rash… but they haven’t.

    I’m perfectly willing to test one out for them. They can even stick a thermometer up my arse if they promise to get a professional to write their web copy.

  9. @ChrisO

    I hear you there. I’ve been testing out the UnD Ice here on Maui. It’s a pretty constant 55-60% humidity and 20-25C in the shade. I’m not a dedicated user of base layers in hot weather like Frank is. In general, when climbing in the heat, one layer is hot enough, two seems crazy. This is when you really need to be cool, when climbing, when generating all the excess heat. When you are sweating you now have two wet layers of clothing on.

    Once riding at speed or descending all that wet clothing does cool the body, but is it better than one light jersey layer? In the low humidity western USA it might work better.

    I’m still testing the UnD Ice against my Craft and Santini italian stallion net base layer and will come up with a more definitive review. For now I remain unconvinced any base layer cools during climbing in humid weather.

  10. @ChrisO the contention that there is an affected area necessarily infers that that there is at least some effect which does go some way to the argument as to their efficacy, no?

  11. excellent and TIMELY advice..i am all over this

    will buy and try, as its been a record year for heat out here, >100 for over 20 days, the record hottest year in the dust bowl years of 34 was 22 days…so, go figure…and we are just hitting august heat now

    its been so hot, i didn’t think i could dress for it, but perhaps i can

    thanks

  12. Every one seems to be overlooking the most important aspect of wearing a base layer under one’s jersey: it just looks so f*ing pro!

    Pro

  13. @frank

    @Ron

    The white one is like a Craft one that I have that I have never been able to find again – a fine, gauzy, mesh-y style as opposed to the little “cells” of some undervests.

    I have the craft one, too, its been laying in a heap in the corner ever since I got the DeFeet last fall.

    @Nof Landrien

    De Feet generally freakin’ awesome. Best arm warmers and knee warmers in the universe ever. The UNDshirt is also geat. And their merino gloves are the bomb. Did I mention that their arm warmers (arm skins) are amazing and their knee warmers (kneekers) are similarly the best thing since sliced bread.

    You’re gonna love the stuff we’re (slowly) working towards having them make for us. Socks, wool arm warmers, and kneekers.  DeFeet loves them some hardman gear.

    @Chris

    @frank as Velominati Official Thermal Regulation (OTR) partners, will we be seeing some nice V-Cogged base layers, woollen Kneekers, Armskins and the like?

    Yes!

    @frank

    @Chris

    @frank Awesome. Although I do seriously question the need for a long sleeve jersey (V-Kit or otherwise) for all but the absolutely most freezing weather. The combination of woolen arm skins, merino base layer, SS jersey and a gillet or parts thereof is so much more versatile.

    I agree; that is the config I wear for the most part all the way down to 0C, after which the LS Jersey comes out…But I prefer a layered approach to a ride over going with thick gear. The -5C to 0C window is very frustrating for this reason because I generally need the LS Jersey in that range, but its overkill with a gilet. That said, I’ll throw the LS Jersey on sooner if the ride is a mellow one.

    I also always dress to be cold the first 15 minutes of a ride; if I feel comfortable when leaving the house, I’m overdressed. Once the blood starts flowing, your temperature rises and you’ll be shedding layers which you’ll then carry around the rest of the ride.

    On Frank’s recommendation last winter I got a set of merino armskins and kneekers.  They are indeed the business.  I was good down to 0C, and only my hands were the real problem below that.  DeFeet also makes some pretty nice oversock things.  Will have to try their wool gloves, how low temp-wise would those who have used them say they go, and do they layer well?

  14. @CanuckChuck

    I’m with you and quite frankly a little shocked I didn’t lead with that. Here’s my original leading photo, but my neck looks just a bit too pasty and my right shoulder too washed out.

  15. @DerHoggz

    Because I can’t resist the urge to post this pic of me on the Kapelmuur, you’ll see I’ve got the DeFeet arm skins on as well as their overshoes and their thin wool gloves (even though I slipped my road gloves on over them.) I also have their thicker weight gloves but haven’t really used them enough to know who cold they stay awesome to.

  16. @DerHoggz

    @frank

    I’ve used the DeFeet gloves the last two winters. They are OK down to ~0ish, depending on what you think “cold” is. I’ve thought about pairing them with those super-thin glove liners for a bit of extra protection. They may not the be warmest, but I don’t like the bulk of those winter riding gloves that look more like snowboarding gloves. My hands are never what bother me, though… it’s always my feet and ears that seem to suffer the most during the winter.

    I have the non-wool ones, which aren’t as great when they get wet obviously. I’m planning on picking up the wool ones this winter.

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    @DerHoggz

    Because I can’t resist the urge to post this pic of me on the Kapelmuur, you’ll see I’ve got the DeFeet arm skins on as well as their overshoes and their thin wool gloves (even though I slipped my road gloves on over them.) I also have their thicker weight gloves but haven’t really used them enough to know who cold they stay awesome to.

    Burton TouchScreen (thin) snowboard liners under cycling gloves.

  18. @mxlmax – Ooooh, those look good. I’ll have to find a pair for this coming winter…

  19. Re: gloves… This winter all I’ve worn are the Wool Duraskins, and they are mighty impressive for such a minimal glove. I thought they’d be underpowered against the Welli wind and cold, but damn they actually work! I’ve tried all sorts of WindTex gloves, so thick and lined that you could hardly shift or brake, but the DeFeets are nice and thin and non-restrictive. Did I mention they are really warm? I’ve also got some regular Duraskins for when the seasons change, and it’s too warm for wool and too cold for fingerless (or none as I prefer in summer).

  20. This is timely reverence. I’ve been wanting to experiment with base layers more. I use underarmour cold gear in the fall/winter/spring, but I’m not thrilled with its performance in wicking. Cold rides are OK, but cold wet rides suck. I’m really not sure there is a good solution yet.

    But I wanted to try to summer base layer, and now I have a recommendation. I stopped in the LBS today, and found a craft tank layer. They wanted $50 for it! (For you euros, thats like 130 metric dollars.) Seemed a little unreasonable?

  21. I sweat so much that words like “wicking” and “dry” don’t really mean much. I use Nike DryFlo sleeveless compression style tops as a base layer in summer to keep the bibs and jersey off my skin and Helly Hansen base layers in winter. Anything more would just be a waste on me.

    From many long days in the hills its radiating heat that’s the problem rather than being wet. GoreTex is a giant conspiracy – it just doesn’t work for me – in fact no “breathable” fabric works – so I just accept I’m going to get wet and make the best of it.

    Avoid abrasion in warm weather – keep the wind off in cold.

  22. @mxlmax

    Burton TouchScreen (thin) snowboard liners under cycling gloves.

    I have the same glove from The North Face, but they are worse than useless when wet. The only thing that will stay awesome when wet is wool, I’m afraid.

  23. @Gianni

    This is when you really need to be cool, when climbing, when generating all the excess heat. When you are sweating you now have two wet layers of clothing on.

    So long as we agree that the second layer doesn’t make you sweat more (which I’m not sure we do agree on), then having two layers of wet is the same additional weight as one (same amount of water, just spread across two garments.

    This got me thinking during my unseasonably hot ride today in Seattle in my UnDLite – which truly did feel cool to me – is that I think regardless of the jersey, the base layer, if well designed, is always better at moving it away from the body than a jersey can be; and with two layers, you spread the moisture out more and that means it evaporates faster. Seems like it will always be better than just a jersey.

    But enough of us theorizing; in January, when I do Haleakala again, you’ll just have to join me in my attempt and then we’ll see which one of us is the hotter, more angry man.

  24. @the Engine

    From many long days in the hills its radiating heat that’s the problem rather than being wet. GoreTex is a giant conspiracy – it just doesn’t work for me – in fact no “breathable” fabric works – so I just accept I’m going to get wet and make the best of it.

    GoreTex is amazing at keeping water off you. And keeping sweat in. This is why I never, unless its a massive downpour, wear a rain cape. Unless its a hard, steady rain, a rain coat will just wind up keeping you wetter. In the end, what makes you cold is the rain, so just keep the wind off the chest; a gilet does find for me in the rain all winter in Seattle.

  25. This is timely, I was just shopping the DeFeet website and debating have my LBS order me some arm skins and kneekers.  Then was trying to decide on whether to try thier base layers, as well.  I wasn’t sure if it they were any good and was going to poke around here for info, lo and behold this post.

     @Frank you, sir, are psychic.

  26. Totally inappropriate but too funny not to post. The headline Borat 3 Poms 0 in the Melbourne paper in reference to The Glorious Khazak nation having 3 golds and the Old country yet to break the duck. Here is the accompanying photo.

  27. @frank

    But enough of us theorizing; in January, when I do Haleakala again, you’ll just have to join me in my attempt and then we’ll see which one of us is the hotter, more angry man.

    Hum. Haleakala in January. Hum. Maybe want some company?

  28. @frank

    I’ve found the same situation, though the above observations about humidity give me pause. But in general, I’ve found the same thing you have; even in cases when the jersey is good at wicking, it has too many other jobs to do as compared to a base layer devoted to the function.

    That said, a wool base layer in summer is not the way to go; you need a good, lightweight version which does no insulating and focusses purely on evaporation. Even in the baking heat on Maui, the base layer is indispensable.

    Of course, it has to be a summer-weight layer. I’ve been generally happy with Craft’s and Assos’ sleeveless. Sometimes, just putting it on at home has a nicer feeling (compared to ye ‘ole Au Naturel) when the ventilator blows a light breeze. Certain super-thin socks have that same effect too – RH+ and Assos summer socks are the ones I’ve tried.

    I’ve had the pleasure of seeing next-year’s new Assos base layers – the designs are completely seamless, and woven like a sock – meaning the thickness of the fabric can be varied according to need. If the samples were Small rather than Mediums, I would’ve figured a way to sneak them out – amazing stuff, despite the cost. If it seems ludicrous for a student Velominatus to wear such expensive stuff – Assos is actually priced lower here than in the US/Europe, not more expensive than Nalini and Castelli’s offerings. That plus employee discounts equals the cheapest, highest-quality gear around. Full Uno kit, or a Flandrian Best set, for $80? Oh yeah.

  29. @graham d.m.

    @Frank you, sir, are psycho.

    Fixed your post.

  30. @eightzero

    @frank

    But enough of us theorizing; in January, when I do Haleakala again, you’ll just have to join me in my attempt and then we’ll see which one of us is the hotter, more angry man.

    Hum. Haleakala in January. Hum. Maybe want some company?

    As the dates firm up, stand by for announcement of a Cogal. Obvs Gianni will be DS’ing the Haleakala ride, with the VMH on bidon/camera/mocking detail.

    Cogal will likely be the East Maui Loop (that might not be the route exactly but its close), which I hear tell has been recently repaved so won’t require special wheels. New Years Dayish.

  31. Alright, I was convinced to order the UnD Lite.  Looking forward to comparing it to other base layers I’ve used.  But their shipping costs are a bit ridic.  Of course I ordered some socks, too, but  crikey…  $13 to mail a 50-gram piece of fabric within the continental US?  

    I’m sure I’ll forget all about the shipping costs when I’m grinding my arthritic knees and inhaling wasps up Mt. Baker next month and staying fresh as a daisy.

  32. @frank – Ya know, I might even make a point to try this… If you don’t mind a straggler who’ll take 12 hours to climb the damn thing. ;-)

  33. Ohhh man, that East Maui loop looks super sweet. When I visit Hawaii in 2014 I may force Gianni to ride it with me.

  34. @frank

    Cogal will likely be the East Maui Loop (that might not be the route exactly but its close), which I hear tell has been recently repaved so won’t require special wheels. New Years Dayish.

    Rumors of repaving have been overstated. Still a few miles of Maui cobbles, dirt roads and generally terrible surfaced crap. Nothing a little deflating and re-inflating of tires won’t fix.

    Frank, I think we sweat at different rates. Meaning I sweat like a huge puffy bastard and you don’t. NASA is still working on a baselayer that works for me when I’m going uphill.

  35. @mcsqueak

    Bring it, son! As long as you are ready for an O-dark:thirty departure and mass quantities of Big Swell IPA as recovery beverage. It gets hot fast out here so getting the first climb going early is a must for Mr Big.

  36. I was just in Maui last week. Rented bike at South Maui Bikes (Madone) and did the Haleakala climb. Awesome. 5 hours up. 1.5 hours down. Would have liked to do West Maui but not enough time – had to choose one.


  37. @eightzero

    As the dates firm up, stand by for announcement of a Cogal. Obvs Gianni will be DS’ing the Haleakala ride, with the VMH on bidon/camera/mocking detail.

    Cogal will likely be the East Maui Loop (that might not be the route exactly but its close), which I hear tell has been recently repaved so won’t require special wheels. New Years Dayish.

    I’ve caught the Cogal bug.  Airline tickets go down a few hundred bucks right after NYE/D.  And we all know where that extra money will go, straight to the recovery drink fund.  Looks like I need to find a bicycle transport case majig.

  38. I’m an obvious master of the internet, and quoting.

  39. @Gianni

    Frank, I think we sweat at different rates. Meaning I sweat like a huge puffy bastard and you don’t. NASA is still working on a baselayer that works for me when I’m going uphill.

    Do the prototypes involve a composite of helium, Spanish Beef, and diuretic?

    @roger

    Awesome!

  40. @frank

    @Gianni

    Frank, I think we sweat at different rates. Meaning I sweat like a huge puffy bastard and you don’t. NASA is still working on a baselayer that works for me when I’m going uphill.

    Do the prototypes involve a composite of helium, Spanish Beef, and diuretic?

    @roger

    Awesome!

    more like Krypton, Spam and cat adrenal gland.

  41. @Gianni

    @mcsqueak

    Bring it, son! As long as you are ready for an O-dark:thirty departure and mass quantities of Big Swell IPA as recovery beverage. It gets hot fast out here so getting the first climb going early is a must for Mr Big.

    Thanks to the magic of time zones (and science!), on previous trips I’ve learned that getting up early in Hawaii is no problem since I’m going back a few zones.

    I’ll keep you posted as, uh… 20-freakin-14 (ugh, sooo far) draws closer.

  42. @drsims

    I was just in Maui last week. Rented bike at South Maui Bikes (Madone) and did the Haleakala climb. Awesome. 5 hours up. 1.5 hours down. Would have liked to do West Maui but not enough time – had to choose one.

    You chose the tough one without the brew pub enroute. Nice work though, up and down is quite a ride.

  43. @Gianni

    Found their Coconut Porter on tap at a local pub a few months back. Had it from a can previously, and the coconut could hardly be tasted. But it came out very well in the draft version… very tasty.

  44. @drsims

    I was just in Maui last week. Rented bike at South Maui Bikes (Madone) and did the Haleakala climb. Awesome. 5 hours up. 1.5 hours down. Would have liked to do West Maui but not enough time – had to choose one.

    was this Maui Cycling? Can you provide a link to their website?

  45. @frank

    @graham d.m.

    @Frank you, sir, are psycho.

    Fixed your post.

    well played! But a psycho in the best way possible. This whole lot of people here are psycho’s to regular folk: love climbing, love suffering…..welcome to the looney bin that is the Velominati.  I love it!

  46. @frank

    This got me thinking during my unseasonably hot ride today in Seattle in my UnDLite – which truly did feel cool to me – is that I think regardless of the jersey, the base layer, if well designed, is always better at moving it away from the body than a jersey can be; and with two layers, you spread the moisture out more and that means it evaporates faster. Seems like it will always be better than just a jersey.

    But enough of us theorizing; in January, when I do Haleakala again, you’ll just have to join me in my attempt and then we’ll see which one of us is the hotter, more angry man.

    Frank, did you wind up using a DeFeet base layer on your climb the other month?

    If so, did you like it, and do recall what the temps were that day?

    Now that spring has returned and my ride to the office this morning was a considerably-warm 13 C, I’m thinking more about base layer options as things warm up in the coming months. The base layers I have now are cheap and too hot to wear much past this temperature.

  47. Still snow, cold  and crappy roads in WI so getting out requires layers.  Thinking about the days when it’s gillet, jersey and arm warmers.  Can anyone compare/contrast the DeFeet wool armskins vs the woolie boolie arm warmers?  Also thinking that the UndD Wool might be a nice addition to my kit — who’s wearing it?

  48. @teleguy57 Hey teleguy, where in WI are you? Oracle and me are just north of Mke. I’ll likely put a Cogal together again this year so keep in touch.

  49. I’m in Appleton; one of my sons is in Cedarburg.  Had a great solo ride from home to his place through the Kettle Moraine last season — love that part of the state.

    I’ll watch here to see what you put together, but I’m way more than 2 months from peaking, and way too fat to climb

  50. Genuinely no matter if someone doesn’t be aware of
    then its up to other users that they will help, so here it takes place.

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