What Is The Best Fat Bike Under $2000 In 2020?

TL;DR – In a hurry and just want to know what is the best fat bike under 2000 Dollars? The best fat bikes at that price point available are (in my opinion):

  • Best Men’s Fat Bike Under $2000: Salsa Mukluk SX Eagle
  • Best Women’s Fat Bike Under $2000: Specialized Hellga Comp
  • Best Kids Fat Bike Under $2000: 9:Zero:7 Squall NX
  • Best Value Fat Bike Under $2000: Norco Bigfoot 2
  • Best Fat Bike For Just Over $2000: Giant Yukon 1

Fat bikes are a relatively recent invention. The first commercially produced fat bike, the Surly Pugsley, hit the market in 2005. By 2010 Minneapolis-based sibling companies Surly and Salsa were turning out fully evolved fat bike builds, and the fat-tired phenomenon was taking off across the country. Originally developed for riding on snow and soft sand, fat bikes proved adaptable to multiple surfaces. The aesthetics of the fat bike horrified some purists but entranced many other riders and fat bikes have carved out a large and growing segment of the mountain bike market.

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What is a Fat Bike?

Any bicycle designed to accommodate tires of 3.8” width or above is considered a fat bike. That single distinction requires a number of other changes in the bike’s design. Fat bikes use extremely wide rims and their frames and forks have to provide clearance for those enormous tires. Fat bike designers have to assure that the extra width needed for tire clearance doesn’t interfere with pedals or drivetrain components. 

Most conventional mountain bikes use either 29” or 27,5” wheels, but most fat bike manufacturers have retained the old 26” standard. That doesn’t necessarily mean the wheels feel smaller. Wheel diameters are measured from the hub axis to the rim, without a tire. Once you add those distinctive giant tires to a fat bike wheel, the total working diameter is likely to be equivalent to that of a larger conventional mountain bike tire.

For many riders suspension is the defining feature of the modern mountain bike: a mountain bike is either a hardtail, with a suspension fork and a rigid frame, or a full-suspension bike with both front and rear shock absorbers. Fat bikes have rewritten that rule. Most fat bike frames are fully rigid, relying on the tires to soak up bumps. Suspension makers have developed suspension forks for fat bikes, notably the Rock Shox Bluto and the Manitou Mastodon, and some manufacturers have even brought out full-suspension fat bikes, but rigid frames remain the fat bike standard, especially at the middle and lower price ranges.

Why Go Fat?

The overgrown tires that define the fat bike provide are not just about looks. They provide specific ride characteristics that many riders find extremely appealing. The rising popularity of fat bikes is driven by several distinct features.

  • Traction – Fat bikes run very large tires at relatively low air pressures, often from 5 to 10psi, compared to the 25-30psi often used in conventional mountain bike tires. That allows the tires to grip the terrain in a way that no conventional tire can match. If you’re riding on soft or loose surfaces or you just want the security of maximum traction, the fat bike will deliver.
  • Stability – The combination of extreme traction and the wide footprint of a fat bike tire produces an overwhelming sensation of solidity. That sensation has immediate appeal to new riders, but it’s also much appreciated by veterans, especially in tricky trail conditions.
  • Value – Suspension components account for a significant part of the cost of a conventional mountain bike. By using rigid forks and frames and relying on oversized tires to cushion the ride, fat bike makers avoid that cost. That means they can often use higher quality drivetrain parts, brakes, and other components than a conventional mountain bike at the same price point could offer.
  • That floating feeling – The shock-absorbing capacity of large, low-pressure tires produces a different type of ride from that of conventional suspension. First-time fat bike riders often describe it as a sensation of floating over obstacles. Not everyone likes the feeling, but many riders love it.

Every bicycle is a compromise. The same features that produce the distinctive fat bike ride also impose limitations. If you turn to a fat bike you’ll also face features that some riders could fond problematic.

  • Weight – A large part of the weight of any bike is concentrated in the wheels: rubber is heavy. Fat bikes use a lot of rubber and that pushes their weight up. High-end fat bikes may offset that weight to some extent with carbon frames, tubeless wheels, and high-end components but at any given price point a fat bike is likely to be substantially heavier than a conventional mountain bike.
  • Speed – Weight slows a bike down. So does tire drag: the friction between a tire and the surface it touches. There’s a reason why racers use tiny tires! Fat bikes are secure and stable and provide massive traction, but they are not built for speed. A capable rider can ride fast on any bike, but if riding fast is a priority a fat bike may not be your first choice.
  • Agility – It would be an overstatement to say that a fat bike is clumsy, but if the terrain you ride requires precise handling and the ability to flick your bike onto different lines you could be better off with a conventional mountain bike. Fat bikes excel at plowing over obstacles, not dodging around them.
  • Component availability – The ease of online ordering has largely negated this problem, but if fat bikes aren’t common in your area you may find a limited (or absent) selection of appropriate parts in your local bike shop.
  • Tire pressure sensitivity – Even small variations in tire pressure can dramatically alter the ride of a fat bike. Get the tire pressure right and you’re floating on a cloud. A little too soft or a little too hard and you may be coming down to earth. Be prepared to carry a tire pressure gauge and a pump.

No bike is right for everyone. If you’re looking for a fast, nimble ride, if you often ride on cement, or if you just don’t like the look of those giant tires, fat may not be for you. If you’re looking for a solid, stable platform that leaves you feeling secure on just about any surface, fat may be just what you need.

The $2000 Price Point – What to Expect

If you’ve decided on a fat bike and you have $2000 to spend you’ll have many great options to choose from. You won’t be looking at top of the line bikes, but you’ll be buying a high-quality bike that will bring you through any conditions and that you can ride with pride in any company.

Here’s a look at what you can expect to find for $2000 in today’s fat bike market.

  • Aluminum frames – Higher-end fat bike frames and forks are often made of carbon, reducing their weight, and low-end frames are often steel. While a few manufacturers stick with steel through their entire range and a few also spec carbon forks on bikes under $2000, the sub-$2000 price point will be dominated by aluminum frames and forks. There’s nothing wrong with that: aluminum is a solid, reliable, and entirely proven material.
  • Mid-range drivetrains – Most bikes in this price range will carry the Deore or SLX drivetrain parts from Shimao or the equivalent SX, NX, SX Eagle or NX Eagle parts from SRAM (SRAM’s “Eagle” designation indicates a 12-speed drivetrain). Again, this is not a problem. These parts may be a little heavier than their monumentally expensive premium counterparts, but they are solid and reliable. They will deliver years of smooth, precise shifting if they are used and maintained correctly.
  • Hydraulic disc brakes – Entry-level fat bikes may carry old school V-brakes or cable-actuated mechanical disc brakes. In the $2000 range, you can expect hydraulic disc brakes, which deliver stopping power with less effort and more control. SRAM and Shimano are the preferred brands, but Tektro, once known only for entry-level parts, is also in the market in this range with entirely serviceable hydraulic disc brakes.
  • No suspension – Some higher-end fat bikes sport suspension forks or even full suspension, but most fatties in the $2000 range use rigid frames and forks and rely on those huge tires to soak up bumps. If you do see suspension on a fat bike in the $2000 and under range, check the rest of the specs carefully. The manufacturer may be cutting corners elsewhere to accommodate the cost of suspension. You any consider upgrading to a suspension fork in the future, but if you’re looking in that direction make sure your frame is compatible with your preferred fork before purchasing!
  • Fixed seatposts – Dropper seatposts let you adjust the height of your saddle on the fly, so you can ride rolling terrain without stopping to set your seat for climbing or descending. They’re a great innovation, but they add substantially to the cost of a build and you generally won’t find them on bikes at this price point. They make a great upgrade, though!
  • Nice bikes – You won’t get bling components on a $2000 fat bike, but you can expect a well-designed bike with a careful selection of quality components. You’ll be riding away on a good bike from a reputable manufacturer. You can expect your bike to put a smile on your face and keep it there for years to come.

The Best Fat Bike Under $2000

Now that we know what to expect, let’s look closely at the best fat bikes under $2000.

Best Men’s Fat Bike Under $2000: Salsa Mukluk SX Eagle

Specs

  • Frame material: Aluminum
  • Fork: Salsa Bearpaw Carbon 
  • Drivetrain: SRAM SX Eagle, 1×12
  • Brakes: SRAM Level Hydraulic Disc, 160 mm rotors
  • Seatpost: Salsa Guide Rigid (with internal cable routing for dropper post)
  • Saddle: WTB Volt
  • Wheels: SUNringle Mulefut, 80mm rims
  • Tires: 45NRTH Dillinger 5, 4.6”
  • Maximum tire clearance: 5”
  • Weight: 32 lbs 7 oz (large)

Web Link

You can view the official product page for the Salsa Mukluk SX Eagle here.

Why Buy It?

Salsa was one of the first companies to put significant effort into developing a line of fat bikes, and that experience shows in every fat bike they make. The company is known for all carbon fat bikes sporting high-end components and price tags to match. The aluminum-frame Mukluk SX Eagle contains much of the technology that makes Salsa’s bikes such sought-after commodities in the fat bike market and delivers it at an SRP of exactly $2000.

The Mukluk SX Eagle is a mid-priced fat bike that’s ready to take on anything, anywhere. You don’t need to be riding a top-of-the-line machine to take on rough trails and messy surfaces: if you can ride it on anything you can ride it on the Mukluk. The geometry of the aluminum frame is based on the shape of Salsa’s renowned high-end bikes and the carbon fork is a sweet addition that helps the Mukluk achieve a weight that wouldn’t be out of place on a conventional trail bike. 

The Mukluk SX Eagle sports a well-planned component spec that maintains quality without sacrificing affordability. The 12-speed SX Eagle drivetrain and the SRAM level brakes deliver all the performance you’ll need, with a WTB Volt saddle and Salsa’s proprietary cockpit parts to keep you comfortable on the trail. Minneapolis-based 45NRTH contributes the mammoth 4.6” Dillinger 5 tires, which will grip anything that can be gripped. If you catch the upgrade bug, you’ll find the bike prepared with internal routing for dropper post cables, clearance for tires up to 5” wide, and compatibility with the Manitou Mastodon suspension fork.

This is a mid-priced fat bike that delivers high-end performance. If you’re looking to ride the gnarliest trails and the softest, slickest surfaces out there and you want to do it with a bike costing $2000 or less, this bike will do the job with room to spare. 

Why You Might Not Buy It

This is a full-on beast of a fat bike, and I handed it the #1 slot on the assumption that you’re looking for exactly that. If you’re not planning to use your bike in extreme conditions, it might be more bike than you need. It would still be a great bike, but it might not be the best choice for you! The Mukluk SX Eagle is relatively light for a fat bike, but the 4.6” tires are at the wide end of even the fat bike spectrum, and this bike is not going to be a nimble speedster. 

The Runner Up

There’s a wide range of very good fat bikes available in this price range, and this wasn’t an easy choice. One particular standout is the Surly Ice Cream Truck, a versatile fat bike that is also ready for anything you’re likely to throw at it. The Mukluk SX Eagle got the nod for its lower weight and marginally better brakes, but if you get a good deal on an Ice Cream Truck – or a similarly priced model from another major manufacturer – you won’t be giving much up. 

Best Women’s Fat Bike Under $2000: Specialized Hellga Comp

Specs

  • Frame material: Aluminum
  • Fork: Specialized FACT Carbon 
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X7 2×10
  • Brakes: Tektro Gemini Hydraulic Disc
  • Seatpost: Specialized rigid
  • Saddle: Women’s Body Geometry Myth
  • Wheels: Specialized Stout XC, 90mm rim
  • Tires: Ground Control Fat 4.6”
  • Maximum tire clearance: Not Specified
  • Weight: Under 34 lb

Web Link

You can view the official product page for the Specialized Hellga Comp here.

Why Buy It?

Unlike the Men’s category, this was an easy choice: there are a limited number of female-specific fat bikes on the market. That’s not because women don’t ride fat bikes. Many women simply make do with men’s models, some of which are conveniently branded “unisex”. The differences aren’t enormous, but they are there, and many female riders will appreciate what Hellga brings to the table: very low standover height, a women-specific saddle, narrower bars, thinner grips, and a generally more compact cockpit than many conventional fat bikes.

Specialized’s Hellga comes in three models. The base model uses an aluminum fork, mechanical disc brakes, and an entry-level drivetrain, and costs around $1450. The Hellga Comp offers a carbon fork, an upgraded drivetrain, and hydraulic disc brakes, boosting the price to $1950. The Hellga Expert moves up to premium drivetrain components and Shimano XT hydraulic brakes, placing it well out of our target price range. Specialized doesn’t cite weights, but a review placed the base model Hellga medium at 34 lbs. The carbon fork and drivetrain upgrades should bring the Hellga Comp in at a significantly lower weight.

The shortage of women-specific fat bikes leaves the female rider looking for a sub-$2000 fattie with two real options. One is to look for a men’s or “unisex” model with a relatively low standover height and consider adding a women-specific saddle and a shorter stem and handlebar. The other is to buy a Hellga Comp. The Hellga Comp is the only fat bike in its class that’s specifically designed for women.

Being the only choice doesn’t make the Hellga Comp a bad choice. Specialized makes intelligently designed bikes with quality components, and the Hellga Comp is no exception. Reviews from female riders report that the bike performs admirably in a wide variety of conditions and is particularly well suited to winter riding in snowy or icy conditions. It’s even described as nimble, for a fat bike at least. Reviewers reported that the women-specific features made a real difference and were not just for show. If you’re looking for a women-specific fat bike in this price range, the Hellga Comp or even the Hellga base model will deliver the goods.

Why You Might Not Buy It

Possibly because of the lack of competition in the niche, Specialized has not updated the component spec on the Hellga models for some time. The SRAM X7 drivetrain parts and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes are of good quality and will do the job, but they are not the latest components. Both front and rear wheels have no through axles, which could make the bike feel flexy, especially for heavier riders. Bikes in this price range in the more competitive men’s or “unisex” niches are likely to offer slightly more modern components and specifications.

Your choice will depend on your priorities. If you’re looking for a bike with the best components your money can buy, you might want to look for the best-fitting men’s or “unisex” model you can find in this price range. If you prefer a bike with geometry and components specifically designed for women and you’re willing to sacrifice a few bling points to get it, the Hellga will serve your needs admirably.

The Runner Up

The Specialized Hellga Comp may be the only women-specific fat bike in its price range, but it’s not the only one out there. Framed, a company well known for its presence in the lower-priced fat bike market, makes a number of fat bikes designed for women. Framed has traditionally offered its Wolftrax and Minnesota models in a variety of builds ranging from $700 to $1200 as you’d expect, these lower-priced entries don’t have the same component quality that you’d find on the higher-priced Hellga, but if you’re looking for a women-specific fattie at a lower price point, keep an eye on Framed. Many of the bikes are currently difficult to find, probably due to COVID-19-driven supply issues, but they should be back.

As of this writing, Framed is offering its top-of-the line Alaskan Carbon 27.5” women’s build, a $2600 value, at just over $2000. The bike features SRAM NX Eagle or Shimano Deore components, a carbon frame and fork, and other high-end features. I have no idea how long these bikes will be available at this price, but it’s worth checking the Framed site to find out!

Best Kids Fat Bike Under $2000: 9:Zero:7 Squall NX

Specs

  • Frame material: Aluminum
  • Fork: Carbon 
  • Drivetrain: SRAM NX 1×11
  • Brakes: Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc
  • Seatpost: Aluminum rigid
  • Saddle: MTB Spec Youth Specific
  • Wheels: 9:Zero:7 24”, with 15mm front through axle, 12mm rear
  • Tires: Chao Yang 24” x 4”
  • Maximum tire clearance: Not Specified
  • Weight: Not Specified

Web Link

You can view the official product page for the 9:Zero:7 Squall NX here.

Why Buy It?

Kids love fat bikes: what child wouldn’t want their own personal two-wheeled monster truck? If you’re riding fat they’ll want to look like you; if you’re not they may make you wish you were!

If you’re not familiar with the fat bike scene you’ve probably never heard of 9:Zero:7 bikes. If you do follow fat bikes, you’ll know that the Alaska-based company is well known for building some of the best snow rides – and some of the best all-around fat bikes – on the market. If you’re looking for a full-featured fat bike with 24” wheels, the size usually recommended for 8 to 12 year olds from 4 to 5 feet tall, the 9:Zero:7 Squall NX is a clear standout. 

Most companies assume that parents will be reluctant to spend adult-bike money on a bicycle that a child will inevitably outgrow. They respond to that assumption by building bikes with relatively low-range components and aiming at a budget-friendly price point. 9:Zero:7 tosses that assumption out the window and decks the Squall NX out with components that any adult bike maker would be happy to list. The 1×11 SRAM NX drivetrain will introduce your young one to the world of adult-level shifting. The Avid BB7 brakes are mechanical discs, not hydraulics, but they are among the mechanical disc brakes ever made: smooth, estable, and capable of delivering all the stopping anyone needs. The carbon fork keeps the weight down. Overall it’s a package prepared to ride in any company.

The Squall NX isn’t just a showcase for high-quality parts. The Alaska-based designers at 9:Zero:7 know what fat bikes are for and their bikes are built for riding. The Squall NX is ready for anything a young shredder can throw it at, and will deliver stable performance and absolute traction on any surface. It’s not a cheap bike at  $1699, but if you’re looking for a full-featured child-sized fat bike, nothing comes close.

Why You Might Not Buy It

I can think of three reasons not to choose the Squall NX as your child’s fat bike.

  • Your child is too small. The 24”-wheeled Squall NX is designed for kids 4 to 5 feet tall, the ones who are just a little too small for a small or extra small adult model. If your child is younger and needs a 20” bike, the Squall won’t do.
  • You can’t find one. 9:Zero:7 is a small company with a limited dealer network. Unless you have access to one of those dealers you may need to order online and there may be a waiting period. These bikes are in demand.
  • It’s just too expensive. The Squall NX is a great bike that will probably last longer than it takes for its rider to outgrow it. If you have more little ones coming along it’s a great investment, but if you don’t it might seem like too much to spend for a bike your child may only use for a few years.

If you’re in one of these categories, you might want to pass on the 9:Zero:7 Squall NX. If you’re not, you’re likely to have a very happy child once you make your choice!

The Runner Up

If the Squall NX is too big for your child or its price tag is too big for your budget, take a look at the Specialized Fatboy 20” and 24” models. The 20” Fatboy will fit kids too small for the Squall NX. The Fatboys retail at around $800, and while they don’t deliver the high level components that set the Squall NX apart, they are fully rideable fat bikes that will serve any young rider well.

Best Value Fat Bike Under $2000: Norco Bigfoot 2

Specs

  • Frame material: Aluminum
  • Fork: Norco Aluminum Fat Fork
  • Drivetrain: SRAM SX Eagle 1×12
  • Brakes: SRAM Level Hydraulic Disc
  • Seatpost: TranzX YSP 18JL Stealth Dropper, 130mm Travel
  • Saddle: Norco XC
  • Wheels: 15mm through axle front, 10mm QR Rear, Sun Mulefut rims
  • Tires: Terrene Cake Eater 26×4.6, tubeless ready
  • Maximum tire clearance: 5”
  • Weight: Not Specified

Web Link

You can view the official product page for the Norco Bigfoot 2 here.

Why Buy It?

I have a confession to make. When I first looked at the components on this bike and the price of this bike, my first thought was “where’s the catch?” There had to be one. You don’t stick a SRAM NX drivetrain, SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes, Truvativ X1 Eagle Crank, a dropper post and everything else this build offers on a bike and sell it for under US$1600. That just doesn’t happen.

Except that apparently it does happen. If there is a catch, I can’t find it. Ok, the aluminum fork might be a half-pound heavier than a carbon equivalent, and the hubs aren’t from big-name brands. No big deal there. It’s not likely that there’s anything wrong with the frame: Norco is a respected British Columbia builder that’s been producing frames since before many of today’s riders were born. They know how to put a frame together and they have a long history of building capable, rider-friendly fat bikes. Rider reviews are consistently good across the Bigfoot series. 

The bottom line: unless these bikes emerge from the factory possessed by demons, they are simply an astonishing bargain and possibly the best value in the fat bike market today. If you’re looking for even higher spec, checkout the Bigfoot 1 in both its carbon-fork and suspension-fork incarnations. They’re more expensive, but they are still astonishingly cheap for what they offer.

Why You Might Not Buy It

Unless you really don’t like bargains, or unless you think that this price to spec ratio could only be achieved in a bike that’s possessed by demons, I can’t think of any good reason not to buy this bike.

The Runner Up

There are several outstanding values in the sub-$2000 fat bike market, and there are several bikes that could easily have taken the value title if the Bigfoot 2 wasn’t such an outrageously good deal. Take a look at the Kona Wo, a stylish fat bike with a very solid set of components for under $1600, or at the KHS 4 season 1000, which offers aluminum fork, carbon fork, and even front suspension options with very credible builds, all well under $2000.

Best Fat Bike For Just Over $2000: Giant Yukon 1

Specs

  • Frame material: Aluminum
  • Fork: Rigid Composite
  • Drivetrain: SRAM NX Eagle 1×12
  • Brakes: SRAM Level Hydraulic Disc
  • Seatpost: Giant Switch Dropper
  • Saddle: Giant Contact
  • Wheels: Giant Sealed Bearing, 15mm front through axle, tubeless ready
  • Tires: Maxxis Colossus 27.5×4.5
  • Maximum tire clearance: Not Specified
  • Weight: 32 lbs 2 oz without pedals

Web Link

You can view the official product page for the Giant Yukon 1 here.

Why Buy It?

If you’re looking for a fat bike, your budget is $2000, but you’re willing to stretch that budget just a bit to get just the right bike, take a close look at the Giant Yukon 1, which sits at an SRP of $2100. Giant is one of the world’s largest bike manufacturers, but they took their time entering the fat bike market: the Yukon fat bike didn’t appear until 2019, and it made quite a splash when it did. You don’t often hear the word “sleek” used to describe a fat bike, but the word appears repeatedly in discussions of the Yukon’s elegant frame and artfully concealed internal cable and hose routing. The frame also gets high marks for its color, which Giant calls “wine red” but reviewers describe as a very cool sparkly purple.

Good looks aren’t all the Yukon has to offer. The bike rides on 27.5” wheels, making it easier to retain momentum and roll  over obstacles. The Maxxis Colossus 2.5” tires are the outcome of a collaboration between Maxxis and Giant – when you’re one of the biggest bike makers on earth you can get things made for you – and are found on few other bikes. Maxxis makes some of the best mountain bike tires around, and reviewers had nothing but praise for the combination of grip, smooth ride, and low resistance (for a fat bike) the tires offered. 

Giant used SRAM’s NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain and SRAM Level T brakes at the core of the component spec, and filled out the bike with proprietary Giant parts, another advantage of being a big player. Particularly noteworthy is Giant’s proprietary Switch dropper seatpost, noted for its smooth, reliable operation.

The Yukon 1 is a beautiful bike with an impressive range of components, but the ride is what you want, and the Yukon delivers. Test riders described the Yukon 1 as fast, agile, versatile, and just plain fun, across a wide variety of trail conditions. If you’re looking for an all-around fat bike for riding on both hardcore trails and lighter-duty excursions the Yukon 1 could eassily be a better pick than a dedicated trail beast like the Salsa Mukluk. The sustained momentum of the 27.5” wheels will make a real difference for bikepacking and other extended rides.

If you’re for a fast, light, versatile and stylish fat bike and you’re willing to lay one more bill on top of the pile you’re already going to spend, the Yukon 1 will be a top contender.

Why You Might Not Buy It

There’s not much you can say about the Yukon 1 that isn’t good. If you want to pick nits, one reviewer mentioned that tubeless setup is a bit complicated, and of course it costs a shade more than the other bikes described here. If you’re after a pure trail beast or you have a strong preference for 26” wheels, you might look elsewhere. Other than that, if your budget accommodates it the Yukon 1 is likely to make you a very happy fat bike rider.

The Runner Up

The price is a little too far out of the “just above $2000” bracket to hand it first place in this category, but if you want to step up to the high end without completely shattering the budget, the Norco Bigfoot 1 Suspension model deserves a special mention. It’ll set you back $2599, but the specs are solid, there’s a Manitou Mastodon suspension fork up front, and you’ll have a premium ride at something well under a full premium price.

The Bottom Line

The sub $2000 range is a bit of a fat bike sweet spot. You won’t be looking at really high end bikes, but you’ll have a huge number of options coming from reputable manufacturers, most of them with very decent components and solid performance. Remember that there is no one “best bike”, just a best bike for you. Consider your specific riding needs and the conditions you’ll be riding in, and select the fat bike that best meets your needs!

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