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Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool (Product Review and Giveaway)

I’ve never kept count, but I imagine that in the past 10 years I’ve purchased at least 20 different compact multi-tools for my bikes. Like the Cynic philosopher Diogenes who spent his time looking for an honest man, I spend my time looking for great bicycle products. A few weeks ago the folks at Serfas sent me one of their new products for review, the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool, and it has a few features that ought to be of interest to any cyclist. As an added bonus, I’ve not seen this product reviewed anywhere else yet—and I am always delighted when I can share new products with my readers.

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Here is a breakdown of the seventeen tools in the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool: Eight Allen keys (8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.5, 2, and 1.5mm), one 10m open wrench, four spoke wrenches (3.23, 3.3, 3.45, 3.96mm), a chain break tool with two chain retainers, two Torx drivers (T25, T30), CO² Inflator head, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. This tool has a full metal body and is 2.75″ long, 1.5″ wide, and .75″ tall. This products weighs an even 4.0 ounces (114g).

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Spoke Wrench and Chain Break Handle

The Torx drivers are mainly needed to tighten the bolts on disc brakes (usually found on mountain bikes). In case you are wondering—Torx bolt heads resist slipping better than Philips head bolts, and there is less chance of stripping a Torx head bolt.

Chain Break Tool on the Serfas ST-17

Chain Break Tool on the Serfas ST-17

The chain tool on the Serfas ST-17i is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a cycling multi-tool. I never throw my old bicycle chains away—I keep them so I can test chain break tools! When I put a short length of chain on the Serfas ST-17i I was surprised to find out it had a self-centering head since it’s not mentioned on the package. The self-centering head means that your chain will not slip as you are working on it. Even if you keep your bicycle chain clean and well lubricated it is going to wear out. While it is always best to replace your chain before it wears out, some cyclists (maybe most) just don’t check very often to see how much their chain has stretched. If your chain should snap when you are out on a ride you will need this tool to remove the damaged link and put the chain back together. If you are not sure how to use a chain tool there are several good videos on YouTube.com that can show you how they work (most of these tools work the same way).

CO² inflator Head on the Serfas ST-17i

CO² inflator Head on the Serfas ST-17i

The biggest selling point for the Serfas ST-17i is the CO² inflator head (Presta valve only) that is built into the mini-tool. It seems like nearly every time I get a flat tire it is during a rain storm (this past Saturday it was during a snow, sleet and slush storm). The small CO² inflator heads that most cyclists carry are easy to drop (especially when wet), but since the CO² inflator head is built into the body of the Serfas ST-17i it is very easy to handle and even easier to use.

There are two items lacking from this tool: a tire lever and a carrying case. You always need to have a pair of tire levers with you when riding, so make sure you pick up a set before you head out. The lack of a carrying case is no big deal since most of the ones that come with cycling multi-tools just take up space in your saddlebag anyway. However, loose items in a saddlebag will make enough noise to drive you crazy on a long ride. A great way to prevent the noise is to put loose items in a short length of on old inner tube and seal up one end with the glue from your tire patch kit. By the way, I also keep my spare CO² cartridges in shorts lengths of inner tubes as well.

The Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool retails for $45 and can be ordered from the Serfas Website or from almost any bike shop in America. If you like this tool but have no need of the chain break or Torx wrenches you should check out the Serfas ST-13i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool (it retails for $36). One step above the Serfas ST-13i is the Serfas ST-15i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool. The Serfas ST-15i comes with two tire levers and glueless patches (it retails for $40).

As some of my regular readers know, I seldom keep the products that are sent to me for review—most of the time I give the products to random visitors who comment on this blog. However, I’ve decided to hold a contest for this beautiful Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool. To enter the contest all you have to do is pick a number between 200 and 500 and enter it in the comment section below (you don’t actually have to make a comment). The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, January 11, 2013. After the contest closes I will use a random number generator to pick the winning number. If no one has the exact number the person with the number closest to, but not over, the winning number will get the Serfas ST-17i I reviewed today. In case two or more people chose the same number the first person to pick the number will be the winner. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. When the contest is over I will publish the results in the comments section of this article. I will mail this product to the winner via Priority Mail at my expense.

 
 

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Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Snow Tires

I bought my first pair of steel studded bicycle tires about nine years ago and used them until they dry-rotted. Two years ago I bought a pair of Innova steel studded tires and was happy with them (even though they are very heavy), but decided that this year I wanted to experiment with a different brand for one of my other bikes (I have studded tires on three of my bikes). I ordered a pair of the “new” 45NRTH Arcwelder tires, but returned them to the bike shop right after I got home when I saw that these “new” tires were the same as my old Innova tires (but with a 45NRTH logo). I finally decided to go with a top-of-the-line tire, the Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires—and I am now one happy winter cyclist.

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Snow Tires

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Snow Tires

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires are made with a special winter rubber (durometer 58A) and are intended for extreme winter riding. This tire has large knobs for great grip in mud and snow, along with 304 studs to keep you steady on the ice. The studs are made of aluminum and have sharp carbide pins—these pins should last for the life of the tire (or longer). Each tire weighs 750g (25.45 ounces). I bought a pair of 26″x2.2″ tires, but similar tires are available in other sizes. The recommended tire pressure is 29 to 65 psi. I keep mine at around 40 psi for winter riding.

These tires are extremely easy to install, but before you take them out in the snow for the first time you need to break them in by riding on hard pavement for at least 30 miles. The pavement helps seat the studs properly into the tires and roughens up the tips a bit for a better grip on the ice. The large tread pattern (knobs) on this tire provide wonderful traction in mud and snow, but they do require some extra effort on pavement because of their high rolling resistance.

304 Sharp Carbide Pins On Each Tire

304 Sharp Carbide Pins On Each Tire

One thing that all studded bicycle tires have in common is that they are loud. While I don’t carry a sound level meter with on bike rides, these tires did seem to be much louder than the other snow tires I’ve used in the past. How loud? Let me put it this way: You better hope that when the Zombie Apocalypse occurs that it happens in the summer, because if these tires are on your bike when it hits you are going to attract the attention of every walker and biter within 30 miles (it is a well-known fact that Zombies are attracted to loud noises).

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires retail for $120 each at your local bike shop. They are also available from the REI Website and in some of their retail stores. I will only be using these tires when the snow just an inch or two deep—anything more than that and I’ll be riding my Surly Necromancer Pugsley (with 4″ wide steel studded snow tires).

Now for the confusing part: Nokian Tyres PCL is headquartered in Finland and is known throughout the world for their fine car and truck tires—they operate the world’s only permanent winter tire testing facility. At one time Nokian Tyres PCL manufactured bicycle tires, but not anymore. Today they license the Nokian name to Suomi Tyres LTD (another Finnish company). The Nokian Hakka WXC 300 tires are actually manufactured in Taiwan and are distributed in North America through Quality Bike Products (QPB).

One warning: When I installed these tires I noticed that the front tire wobbled a lot—it had at least 1″ of lateral movement. I took the tire (and rim) off the bike and but it on my Park Tool Truing Stand and found that the rim was in perfect shape—the tire itself was the problem. I then deflated, removed and then reinstalled the tire, but that only made the problem worse. I took the mounted tire to the local bike shop to have the professionals tell me what I did wrong. Turns out it was just a defective tire, so they got a new one for me. I have never been impressed by any tire made in Taiwan because of quality control issues. However, if you can get a good snow tire you are going to have a blast playing in the snow!

 

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Surly Rolling Darryl Rims (Putting My Surly Pugsley Fat Bike On A Diet)

Question: How long does it take to finish building a Fat Bike? Answer: The world may never know! I’ve never met any Fat Bike owner who has actually finished tinkering with their creation—there is always a “little upgrade” or “tweak or two” in the works. Fat Bikes, like my Surly Necromancer Pugsley, are among the most versatile and customizable bicycles in the world and every time you think the bike is finished you find something else you would like to do with it. My wife has never understood why I need to keep buying upgrades for my Pugsley, but then again, I’ve never figured out why she needs 200 pairs of shoes (that number might be slightly exaggerated). Last week the guys at the local bike shop (Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois) made a few upgrades to my Pugsley, or, to put it another way, they helped me put my Fat Bike on a diet.

Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike

Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike

My Surly Necromancer (AKA, Surly Black Ops Pugs, Surly Neck Romancer) weighed an incredible 41 pounds the day I brought it home from the shop—this is about six pounds over factory weight because I had a Shimano Alfine 8 Internal Geared Hub installed, along several other upgrades. The bike came with 82mm wide Surly Rolling Darryl rims that weigh 1030 grams each (33.3 ounces). Last week we swapped out those rims for Rolling Darryl rims with cutouts and that took off six ounces per rim. These cutouts now only reduce the weight of the rim, but they also allow you to install a colored rim strip. I used the Surly PVC RIm Strip—they call the color red, but it is actually burgundy. To add a little more color to the rims I had them install red anodized spoke nipples.

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

My Pugsley came with rather heavy 1.3mm inner tubes that weigh about one pound each, so we switched these out for lighter 1.0 mm tubes (Surly Toobs). In the summer I use Slime in my Fat Bike tires and this adds eight ounces to each tire, but have finally decided that this is not necessary when riding in the snow (I hope).

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Thanks to the incredible effort of the owner of the local bike shop I was finally able to get a pair of 45NRTH Dillinger winter tires, the first-ever studded Fat Bike tire. These tires have an aggressive tread pattern and 240 lightweight aluminum-carbide studs. I haven’t had a chance to use them in the snow yet, but I can tell you that they have an amazing grip in the mud. Due to their business practices 45NRTH is one of my least favorite companies in the world, but this tire looks and feels great (I will publish a full review after Chicago gets some snow this year).

45NRTH Dillinger Fat bike Snow Tire

45NRTH Dillinger Snow Tire

This trip to the bike shop helped my Pugsley shed 3.5 pounds—that doesn’t sound like a lot, but you can really tell the difference when climbing a hill. As I said in an article last year, once you start customizing a bike it is hard to stop until you run out of cash. When the guys at the bike shop were ringing up my sale I asked them how much their average new bike sells for at the shop—well, I topped that number by about $40 with just this upgrade. Therefore, I am officially finished customizing my Pugsley—at least for today.

 
35 Comments

Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Fat Bikes, Product Reviews

 

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Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool

In the past ten years I’ve probably bought over 20 different cycling-specific multi-tools. I have five bikes and carry a multi-tool in the seat bag of each one. It seems like every time I find a multi-tool with a new feature I have to buy it (I am an impulse buyer). There is one feature on the Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool that made me want it instantly, i.e., the pad spreader for disc brakes. If you have a mountain bike (or even a road bike) with hydraulic disc brakes you probably already know that if you accidentally squeeze the brake lever while changing a tire the brake pads will close and are nearly impossible to open again without a special tool. One time I made this mistake and had to use a knife to trim down a credit card to pry the pads open (then I had to order a replacement card once I got home).

Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool

Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool

Here is a breakdown of the hardened steel tools in the Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool: Allen Wrenches (2, 2-L, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10mm), two spoke wrenches (15 and 14g), chain tool, T25 Torx bit, chain pin breaker, bottle opener, pad spreader for disc brakes, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. This multi-tool also has an anodized aluminum tire lever—please note that this particular lever is designed for emergency use only. And, like most of the other Topeak multi-tools, it comes with a Neoprene storage bag. This product weights 6.5 ounces (185 g).

A couple of notes about two of the tools: The chain tool in the Mini 18+ works well, but I would rather use a full size chain tool when possible—but certainly would never carry the big one with me due to the weight. The T25 Torx bit will easily adjust mechanical disc brakes—if you have disc brakes on your bike you really need to carry a T25 Torx bit with you.

The Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool retails for around $33 and is available at any well-stocked bike shop. This product comes with a 2-year warranty (see Topeak’s Website for complete details). You can find this tool at a lower price on Amazon.com, but do yourself a favor and support your local bike shop.

If the Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool does not suit your needs, Topeak has many other tools to choose from. Here are a few links to some of their other multi-tools I’ve reviewed: The Topeak Mini 9 Pro Multi-tool has all the Allen wrenches you will need for most modern road bikes (2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 mm), along with two tire levers. The Topeak Hexus II Multi-tool has 16 well designed hardened steel tools and it fits into an easy-to-hold composite body. The Topeak Alien II is the “mother of all multi-tools” and includes 26 tools, including eight Allen wrenches (2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8/10mm), box wrenches (two each of 8/9/10mm), a T25 Torx wrench, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, two spoke wrenches, two tire levers, mini pedal wrench, stainless steel knife, bottle opener, a cast Cromoly steel chain tool and a steel wire chain hook.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Bicycle Repair, Product Reviews

 

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Columbia Sportswear Bugaboot Plus Cold Weather Boot

If you are one of those timid folks who rides your bike on a trainer in the basement on snowy days you are welcome to skip this article—but please come in a couple of days for other product reviews. However, if you look forward to riding your fat bike in the snow like a little kid waiting for Santa Claus, then grab a cup of coffee and let’s talk about winter footwear.

Columbia Sportswear Bugaboot Plus Cold Weather Boot

Columbia Sportswear Bugaboot Plus Cold Weather Boot

I live between Chicago and Milwaukee and during most of the winter I wear Lake MXZ302 Winter Cycling Boots—these shoes are SPD-compatible and keep my feet warm down to around 10 degrees Fahrenheit. There are a few other companies that make winter cycling boots, but Lake is the only one that makes a wide boot (and I have wide feet). 45NRTH allegedly has a new winter boot, the Wölvhammer. 45NRTH is a new company that wants to specialize in products for cold weather cyclists, but they have quickly become my least-favorite cycling company in the world. A lot of their products are like leprechauns—I would like to believe they exist, some people say they have actually seen them, but I can’t find anyone who has actually been able to get their hands on one. If you would like to buy a pair of the Wölvhammer winter boots you are out of luck—they are already “sold out for 2013.” I had the same problem with the 45NRTH Dillinger studded fat-bike tire—a few of them made it into the warehouse but immediately they were sold out (probably inside sales to the guys at Quality Bike Products) and the next availability date is next summer.

When the temperature drops below 10 degrees Fahrenheit I wear the Columbia Sportswear Men’s Bugaboot Plus Cold Weather Boot. Since this boot is not SPD-compatible I use a wide flat pedal with metal pins for a good grip. Last year I used the Odyssey JCPC Pedal, but this year I am using the Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals (one of 45NRTH’s products that actually made it into bike shops).

Thanks to Columbia’s exclusive Omni-Heat thermal reflective technology, the Bugaboot is rated for temperatures down to -25 degrees—while I’ve not had a chance to use them in temperatures that low, I have no doubt that they would hold up well in that temperature. This waterproof boot has 200 grams of insulation (Thinsulate) and they have kept my feet warm and dry every time I’ve worn them—these are the best pair of winter boots I’ve ever owned. My size 12 Bugaboot measures 10 inches tall and weight a bit over three pounds (for the pair). This boot appears to be true-to-size.

The standard width Bugaboot is available in three color combinations: Grill/Sanguine, Black/Gunmetal, and Dune/Bombay Brown. The wide Bugaboot only comes in two color combinations: Black/Gunmetal and Turkish Coffee/Golden Glow (see photo above). Color selection also varies depending on the size of boot you wear. I would have liked a solid black boot, but the only Bugaboot the store I went to could get their hands on was the Turkish Coffee.

The Columbia Sportswear Bugaboot Plus Cold Weather Boot retails for $120, but Amazon.com has it for as low as $73 (depending on color and size). I bought my Bugaboots from a brick-and-motor Rogan’s Shoes store, but they are also available at sporting goods stores like Gander Mountain. These boots are also available in sizes and styles for both women and children.

 

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45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals

If you own a Fat Bike one of the decisions you have to make before riding in the winter is whether or not to use clipless pedals, like Crank Brothers Egg Beater Pedals. While Eggbeater pedals shed snow very well, they are not so great when it comes to shedding ice. If you have to get off your bike and walk in slush for very long there is a good chance the cleats on your shoes are going to clog up with solid ice, and I’ve found that very difficult to get rid of. Last year I put a pair of Odyssey JC PC Pedals on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley and was fairly satisfied. The only drawback with the JC PC Pedals was the weight—since it is rotational weight you can really feel it as you ride! A few weeks ago I bought a pair of the new 45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals and they made a world of difference.

45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals

45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals

Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals are made by 45NRTH, a fairly new company that specializes in gear for cold weather cycling. This year they have brought a lot of exciting new cycling products to the market, including winter tires, chains, boots, pedals and balaclavas.

45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals

45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals

The Heiruspecs is a wide flat pedal that has 16 replaceable alloy pins per pedal for an amazing grip. The CNC-extruded body is made of aluminum and weights only 358 grams per pair. The pedal itself is black and comes with orange pins, but replacement pin kits are available so you have your pins match your bike. Replacement pins are available in several colors, including red, blue, green, orange, silver, black, and pewter.

While I’ve not had a chance (yet) to ride with these pedals in the snow, I have used them in the mud. They offer an incredible grip, even when standing out of the saddle on a climb. In fact, the grip was so good I forgot that I was even using a regular pedal.

45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals

45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals

As when installing any brand of pedal, you need to apply a thin layer of an anti-seize compound to the threads before installation. I use the Park Tool Anti-Seize Compound—it forms a protective barrier around small parts to protect them from rust and corrosion (this product is safe for use on steel, aluminum, and Titanium).

The 45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals retail for $99 a pair and if your local bike shop does not have them in stock they can easily order them for you. These pedals are also available from several online retailers, but the discount they offer is usually not enough to offset the cost of shipping.

45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals

Side View Of The 45NRTH Heiruspecs Winter Grip Pedals

45NRTH also has another pair of winter pedals, known as the Helva, and they weigh 308 grams per pair. These pedals are considerably more expensive than the Heiruspecs, but I have not had the opportunity to try them out yet (but am thinking about getting them for one of my other winter bikes).

 
 

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JetFlow Hydration System

One of the first purchases I made after I took up cycling was a Camelbak Hydration Pack. At the time I was mainly riding on off-road trails and water was hard to find. A few weeks after buying the Camelbak I had to go back to the sporting goods store to buy a cleaning brush kit and some cleaning tablets. Then I had to go back to buy a reservoir dryer—a plastic device allows you to hang the bladder of the Camelbak upside down so it will dry faster. After a year of messing around with two different Camelbak Hydration Packs I finally gave up on them and just started carrying my drinks in the water bottle cages on my bike. A few weeks ago the folks at JetFlow Hydration Systems sent me one of their new Tomahawk Hydration Packs to try. If you are tired of messing around with Camelbak packs, but still need a way to keep yourself hydrated, then the JetFlow products are going to be of great interest to you! This product is not only for cyclists—runners and hikers will also find it to be a great addition to their normal gear.

JetFlow Hydration System

JetFlow Hydration System

JetFlow’s Tomahawk Hydration Pack is similar in shape and function to Camelbak products, but in terms of functionality there is no comparison. Instead of relying on an internal bladder (water reservoir) like the Camelbak, JetFlow allows you to use almost any plastic bottle instead. JetFlow has a complete list of compatible bottles on their Website, but the list includes almost everything you will find at a convenience store from a 16-ounce bottle of Pepsi to a 24-ounce bottle of Aquafina or Dasani water, or even a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew! The advantage is that you never have to worry about a moldy bladder or bad tasting water again!

JetFlow Hydration System

Use your favorite bottle instead of a moldy bladder!

If you’ve ever used a Camelbak Hydration Pack before you are familiar with the two major parts: an expanding bladder holds the liquid inside the pack and a long hose leads out of it and ends with a bite valve (the business end of the system). JetFlow eliminates the hydration bladder and lets you use disposable water bottles (or Gatorade bottles, soft drink bottles, etc.). When you get home from your run, bike ride or hike you can simply throw the disposable bottles away. Since the JetFlow system also works with many insulated bottles or Nalgene bottles you can just put these items in your dishwasher for easy cleanup.

JetFlow Hydration System

A thermos bottle connected to the JetFlow manifold

You attach a bottle to the JetFlow system using what they call a manifold—a piece of plastic where the water hose and bottle adapter meet. The manifold also has a second hose that lets air into your bottle to release vacuum pressure. The manifold is built to accept a standard 16 to 24-ounce water bottles—if the bottle you want to use has a larger opening (like a Gatorade bottle) you can use one of the two included adapters to connect the bottle to the manifold. Once connected to the manifold you just place the bottle upside down in the backpack and you’re good to go. I tested the JetFlow Hydration System on several occasions. The first time was with a 24-ounce Aquafina bottle, then I switched to a 20-ounce thermos bottle I had. The water delivery was smooth and the product never leaked.

JetFlow Hydration System

Two adapters for different size bottles

JetFlow makes several different hydration packs. The Drone can hold one bottle up to 1.5 liter bottles (48 oz.) and has 250 cubic inches of storage space. The Tomahawk (featured in this review) has a maximum capacity of two 1.0 liter bottles with 250 cubic inches of storage space. The Raptor has a maximum capacity of two 1.5 liter bottles with 600 cubic inches of gear storage. The Warthog is the biggest pack they offer—it has a maximum capacity of two 1.5 liter bottles with a whopping 1350 cubic inches of storage space and 14 organizational pockets.

JetFlow Hydration System

Earphone / headphone port on the backpack

The important thing to remember when looking at these hydration packs is not the design of the pack, but the way the water is stored inside the pack! This product has two big (and very important) selling points: ease of use and ease of cleanup. However, I do want to mention a couple of things about the backpacks anyway. These packs all come with an earphone / headphone access port on the top of the pack. You can keep your iPhone or MP3 player inside the pack and still listen to your tunes. All of these packs also have active harness suspension, an adjustable sternum strap, and reflective piping.

JetFlow hydration system products are new to the market, so they are not yet available at your local bike shop. The Tomahawk retails for around $55. The best way to buy these products is from the JetFlow Online Store. You can also find their products on Amazon.com and at your local Cabela’s store (but not their online store).

 
30 Comments

Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Product Reviews

 

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