anyone go custom if stock fits fine?
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  1. #1
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    anyone go custom if stock fits fine?

    anyone out there (who is not either tiny or big/powerful) fit just fine on stock bikes but went with custom anyway? I am 5ft 11 inch and weigh circa 165 most of the time.
    I love bikes, have many, but will be consolidating--so am considering custom. If i remove the handbuilt, rarity, or hand cut lug appeal, has anyone out there found the ride to be different than what they can achieve on a good quality stock bike?

    I commute on a road bike, i ride hard, but don't do crits. i do big event rides--100+ miles. I have a tom kellog designed/inspired pre-litespeed merlin. It is my 3rd ti bike, and has the most steel-like ride of the 3 (litespeed, colnago titanio, merlin). I have ridden a waterford R33 and would say it had the most ti-like feel of any steel bike i've ridden.

    just wondering since my fit/handling feels good on stock if the manipulation/combining of various tubesets a custom builder can do makes a noticable difference in the ride feel?

    I don't want to spend the money on a Sachs or such simply because they are beautiful--which they are, but I find many, many bikes appealing. I keep them mainly for how they feel/perform. So i am just curious if someone can provide feedback apart from the artistry and aesthetics if the ride is really different.
    many thanks
    jim

  2. #2
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    YES.
    If you have time to test ride lots of bikes for the road feel you want and will be happy with the paint scheme they offer then stock may be just as good as custom. I like working with a local builder to get a custom.

  3. #3
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    For the early part of my bike buying career, I went with unusual frames built by me or by internet sellers.

    Then I discovered custom. You get the precise bike you want, with the color scheme you're dreaming about, more times than not for far less money than anything you're going to buy in a store or on-line. Especially if you're shopping in steel or aluminum. 10 times the coolness factor for 1/2-3/4 the price, assuming you could even get a bike that looked like the one you spec'd.

    I'm exactly like you in dimensions, and I can pretty much ride anyone's 56-57-58, but why bother, unless a rack bike really grabs you. And it's going to have to be a super-sexy rack to grab me from here on out.

    Ride-wise - I'm in the Philistine camp. I think just about every well-designed, well-built bike is going to offer a satisfactory ride. Some of my customs are exceptional in little ways, mainly because of the tubing choices. And they are not duplicated in rack bikes, so "yes", custom can offer some advantage.

    But the real deal is in aesthetics.
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  4. #4
    MB1
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    I never thought custom would be worth it untill I got one.

    MB1
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    Quote Originally Posted by the_dude
    these are better than i was expecting, and my expectations were already rather high.

  5. #5
    Windrider (Stubborn)
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    Custom is about more than fit.......

    Color
    Tubeset
    Design for purpose
    Pump peg/eyelets/# of W/B cages
    Fillet Brazed/Lugged/Tig
    BB Drop
    HT Length
    etc
    etc

    Len



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  6. #6
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    thanks guys, few questions

    Terry B: I do of course like the looks of certain bikes--for instance growing up in georgia i remember being 3 yrs old and my dad putting me in the little seat and cyling off to get an "orange creamie" ice cream treat at the local 7/11 type place. so i'd love an orange with white panels bike--but i could take a bike i like and sent it to hot tubes or scuh for $300-400. so aesthetics aside, if i look at nice steel with a custom blend of tubing, it is not any cheaper at all--IF, serotta, etc they are expensive frames

    MB1--you ride ALOT, so aside from aesthetics, what is your impression on the ride feel performance you got from custom. I don't do any touring o ranything--just me, a few gu gels and 2 water bottles--no packs or bags.

    thanks again
    jim

  7. #7
    Windrider (Stubborn)
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    Here is the thing.....

    Quote Originally Posted by jimcav
    Terry B: I do of course like the looks of certain bikes--for instance growing up in georgia i remember being 3 yrs old and my dad putting me in the little seat and cyling off to get an "orange creamie" ice cream treat at the local 7/11 type place. so i'd love an orange with white panels bike--but i could take a bike i like and sent it to hot tubes or scuh for $300-400. so aesthetics aside, if i look at nice steel with a custom blend of tubing, it is not any cheaper at all--IF, serotta, etc they are expensive frames

    MB1--you ride ALOT, so aside from aesthetics, what is your impression on the ride feel performance you got from custom. I don't do any touring o ranything--just me, a few gu gels and 2 water bottles--no packs or bags.

    thanks again
    jim
    tell a custom builder how you want the bike to ride....and it will ride that way.
    Couple that with all the small things you want and the color and the entire package is exactly what you want in a bike.

    Get it?

    len



    "Evil....is the complete lack of Empathy!"

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimcav
    Terry B: I do of course like the looks of certain bikes--for instance growing up in georgia i remember being 3 yrs old and my dad putting me in the little seat and cyling off to get an "orange creamie" ice cream treat at the local 7/11 type place. so i'd love an orange with white panels bike--but i could take a bike i like and sent it to hot tubes or scuh for $300-400. so aesthetics aside, if i look at nice steel with a custom blend of tubing, it is not any cheaper at all--IF, serotta, etc they are expensive frames

    MB1--you ride ALOT, so aside from aesthetics, what is your impression on the ride feel
    In terms of custom steel, IF and Serotta are expensive bikes, IF especially. But there are dozens of other builders who will build you a steel bike for far less money. Ti appears to be Ti when it comes to price, regardless of it being rack or custom. Moots, IF, Serotta and Litespeed are all close in price. In which case, why not custom for the same money?

    If you want an orange and white panel bike, why would you pick some steel bike (let's say Gunnar for the sake of argument), buy it and then ship it off to be repainted when you could instead get a custom steel bike built by Strong or deSalvo with the paint you want in the first place? Why would you spend $2000+ on a Litespeed and then have it painted when you could do the same with Strong or deSalvo? The economics don't make sense.

    And the simple economics argument doesn't even bring into consideration that you could have ride tuning that no rack bike can guarantee.

    Honestly, custom is far less work and less expensive. I can't imagine buying some standard bike and then having it repainted.
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  9. #9
    MB1
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    Don't forget it can be Pimping as all heck!

    Quote Originally Posted by Len J
    Custom is about more than fit.......Color Tubeset Design for purpose
    Pump peg/eyelets/# of W/B cages Fillet Brazed/Lugged/Tig BB Drop HT Length etc etc
    Len
    Post a few pix of your new custom Waterford and bigrider will ruin another keyboard.

    The real reason that custom works for me is that after all these years and miles I want a frame built for the way I want to ride rather than adapting a race bike for touring or a touring bike for performance. Our style is a bit of both, race bikes are uncomfortable to me now and not anywhere near durable enough, touring bikes have too many features I don't want or need since I will never load down a bike again.

    IME Top end custom really doesn't cost any more than top end production and I get exactly what I want.

    That plus they can sure look sweet.......
    Quote Originally Posted by the_dude
    these are better than i was expecting, and my expectations were already rather high.

  10. #10
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    Having just made the change, thanks everyone who sent me in the right direction (Strong). If you can swing the minimal difference in price, if any, usually they're less, go custom. (Strong) and enjoy. I've had two bikes in my life disappear under me when riding. The 92' Paramount mountain bike and my Strong. Call a builder and get exactly what you want...
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  11. #11
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    Also if budget is an issue, there are custom builders around that are pretty resonable. Curtlo comes to mind. I don't own one but have heard good things and you can get a full custom S3 steel frame for around $1k. Nice curved seat stays and all. Lesser tubing for even cheaper.

    The worst part to me seems to be the wait....But I also enjoy the spec process and in the end it will be *my* bike...100%.

    /waiting

  12. #12
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    I know this is probably way too broad a question, but what's the low range for a steel custom?
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by MB1
    I never thought custom would be worth it untill I got one.

    MB1
    Customer
    Speaking of custom bikes... MB1 hasn't posted photos of a new custom bike in MONTHS! Not even a new custom paint job on an old bike! What gives?!

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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Len J
    tell a custom builder how you want the bike to ride....and it will ride that way.
    Couple that with all the small things you want and the color and the entire package is exactly what you want in a bike.

    Get it?

    len

    Len hasn't mentioned it yet, but look at Dave Kirk frames. He makes custom frames with beautifully curved seatstays and Orange Creamsicle is a color he offers.
    Retired sailor

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by iherald
    I know this is probably way too broad a question, but what's the low range for a steel custom?
    Allan Wanta, http://www.wanta.homestead.com, will build you a straightforward custom steel frame and fork (I think the fork is included...) for ~$800. Note the GOOD LOOKIN' huge green and silver frame at the bottom of the page. It's mine, and I love it. Frame and fork cost me $900, but I had him do lots of crazy custom stuff.

    Curtlo, http://www.curtlo.com/, will build you a frame and fork for a couple hundred dollars more. From what I have seen, the quality on Curtlos is a bit better than on Wantas. He does a fine job for a very reasonable price.

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  16. #16
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    thanks guys--obviously it is hard to get a description

    of the custom ride feel. I don't have any unusual desires for pump pegs, chain holders, extra bottle bosses, fenders, etc. I have several bikes that I can ride for 5-6 hours and they feel great to me (ride time limited by the saddle only), so was curious about what was beyond great. thought maybe there were those out there who had a bike that was smooth, stable, handled, etc, but when they went custom without "needing" custom, they were amazed to find a new level of ride quality.

    I do "get" custom means you can have it anyway you want it. what i am not sure of is, apart from the obvious beauty, how the ride changes. maybe i just am not asking the question right.

    If i find nothing lacking in a stock frame, but then got a custom frame, what would i notice in the ride? forget the price of the stock frame--say it's a gift, or i got it on ebay for $200. say it is a waterford 2200 (or someone pick a bike they like/love) I like, it seems perfect to me. I decide to have it painted in creamsicle orange for $400. now i next pick a custom builder and pay 1000 (curtlo) to 2500 (kirk) and paint it the same--if anyone has done something along these lines what was the difference in the ride?

  17. #17
    cmg
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    "I know this is probably way too broad a question, but what's the low range for a steel custom?"
    I spent some time researching el cheapo high value steel frames before christmas. results are................

    Rock Lobster, tig welded w/steel fork $1150 powder coat +clearcoat

    Teesdale, reynolds 853, columbus focus $929+ $125 steel fork, base coat+clearcoat, shipping from australia, not sure where shop is.

    Gunnar roadie, OS2 true temper, $1075 custom +$250 steel fork, urethane finish +clearcoat

    Curtlo road, $970-$1155 w/stl fork single powdercoat, tig welded true temper

    Sadilah, Lugged frame and matching steel fork $1200, one color
    Last edited by cmg; 02-06-2007 at 09:22 PM.

  18. #18
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    Take a look at Jeremy and Jay Sycip for new and exciting bikes out of steel. They won an award at the North American Handmade Bike show last year and are going strong. I have a custom Al Cross bike on the way and am considering a steel Hardtail Mtn bike nightly in my dreams. Here is the web site. www.sycip.com

  19. #19
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    I think the lack of answer, might just be your answer.

    Two things can really 'matter' in custom - geometry and tubing choices.

    Re: Geometry, if I go custom it will be to get slightly longer chainstays and a slightly taller headtube than the race-inspired marketplace has, without getting the weight and BB drop of a touring bike. There is an ideal bike for the riding I like to do (think credit-card touring, centuries, and all-day country jaunts) that isn't well served by the stock manufacturers. I can be comfortable and happy on any number of stock rides, but custom is about avoiding compromise. If you can identify parts of the geometry of your current bikes that isn't just right, custom makes sense. If you can't, then either things are good as is, or you aren't finicky enough for it to be of value to you.

    As for tubing choices - and a lot will disagree with me on this - I don't think it matters quite as much as we often like to imagine. It's definitely an issue for folks out at the far tails of the human bell curve, be that for weight, size, or power. And folks with certain specific needs (say, an aero TT bike, an extraordinarily stiff sprinter, a weight-obsessed climber) can benefit there as well. But for folks in the meaty part of the bell curve, there's only so much improvement available, and that would be overshadowed by the other choices in the build. It's a lot like the 'materials' question we so often fight over 'round here.

    The answer must ultimately be yours. The marketplace for off-the-rack bikes is broad. Pick your favorite current bike. What's wrong with it? Can that be fixed off-the-rack? If the answer is 'yes', then no need for custom. If 'no', then still no need for custom, because you are looking for something that doesn't exist. If 'yes, but not without changing something that I don't want changed', then custom is the right answer. If 'I don't know,' then you might not have enough 'princess and the pea' in you for custom to be a worthwhile investment. There's certainly nothing wrong with that.
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  20. #20
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    Maybe yes, maybe no.....

    Quote Originally Posted by danl1
    I think the lack of answer, might just be your answer.

    The lack of answer is because he has already been answered several times.......after a while people give up.
    Two things can really 'matter' in custom - geometry and tubing choices.

    Totally ignoring look, paint, optional braze on's for purpose.
    Re: Geometry, if I go custom it will be to get slightly longer chainstays and a slightly taller headtube than the race-inspired marketplace has, without getting the weight and BB drop of a touring bike. There is an ideal bike for the riding I like to do (think credit-card touring, centuries, and all-day country jaunts) that isn't well served by the stock manufacturers. I can be comfortable and happy on any number of stock rides, but custom is about avoiding compromise.
    I agree 100%
    If you can identify parts of the geometry of your current bikes that isn't just right, custom makes sense. If you can't, then either things are good as is, or you aren't finicky enough for it to be of value to you.

    As for tubing choices - and a lot will disagree with me on this - I don't think it matters quite as much as we often like to imagine. It's definitely an issue for folks out at the far tails of the human bell curve, be that for weight, size, or power. And folks with certain specific needs (say, an aero TT bike, an extraordinarily stiff sprinter, a weight-obsessed climber) can benefit there as well. But for folks in the meaty part of the bell curve, there's only so much improvement available, and that would be overshadowed by the other choices in the build. It's a lot like the 'materials' question we so often fight over 'round here.

    Here I disagree with you. so the colnago Master X fits you perfectly...it's a great geo for you but you really want a bike in that new Stainless steel tubing......custom is the only way. Tubing matters. or, you really like the geo of that Trek (You know something with a weird geometry), but it's way too stiff for you....& oh yea, you don;t want carbon....OK give me the same geometry with a stiffer tube set in steel. Can you get that off the rack? I don;t think so. You might be right if you happen to find an off the rack bike in the exact material you want with the exact geometry......but finding that with the right road feel might be a little more difficult.....finding it with the right road feel and the right handling can get near impossible.
    The answer must ultimately be yours. The marketplace for off-the-rack bikes is broad. Pick your favorite current bike. What's wrong with it? Can that be fixed off-the-rack? If the answer is 'yes', then no need for custom. If 'no', then still no need for custom, because you are looking for something that doesn't exist.
    I don't understand this comment....WTF? it makes no sense to me
    If 'yes, but not without changing something that I don't want changed', then custom is the right answer.
    Again, makes no sense.......
    If 'I don't know,' then you might not have enough 'princess and the pea' in you for custom to be a worthwhile investment. There's certainly nothing wrong with that.
    What if your current bike is great except the handling is a little twitchy.......and oh yea, you'd like to get away with a few less spacers, or it's perfect, except you's like a little less stiffness in the BB & a little more in the HT/TT junction? But you want it in the pegoretti geometry?

    I don't get the seeming bias against custom bikes. As you say, it's about getting exactly what you want, with all the characteristics you want...no comprimises......and you can get it at or below the costs of the High end off the rack bikes that are usually nothing but comprimises of something.

    The only legitimate arguments for off the rack that I've heard are:

    1.) I don't want to/have the time to wait.
    2.) I don't really know what I want. I'm afraid I won't like the bike.
    3.) This off the rack bike is everything I desire in a bike...it has no comprimises for me.
    4.) I can't afford the $2,000 minimum entry point for a built up bike.
    5.) I want the exact bike the pros use.

    My personal experience is that #1, 2 & 5 are the predominate reasons for people going stock. NTTAWWT.

    It's great to have choices. Both avenues, under the right circumstances, yeild great riding experiences. But to say tubes don't matter is bordering on absurd. YMMV

    Len



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  21. #21
    eminence grease
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    Quote Originally Posted by Len J
    I don't get the seeming bias against custom bikes.
    I know in my case, I was convinced it was a far more expensive approach, and I never did the math to validate that position. Once I took pencil to paper it became obvious that if you're shopping in the $3000 range, custom offers far more bang for the buck.

    I remember my original thought process around this. Was trying to decide between a very well appointed Pinarello Opera and a bike by Carl. Without even doing the analysis, I convinced myself it was cheaper to go with the Pina. A year later I was looking at something else and decided it was time to just pick up the phone, and I did so. Now, I actually look forward to initiating the relationship and jawing about the design approach.

    The other thing I think is simple fear of the unknown. It's pretty easy to call R&A in NY or Competitive in AR and say "send me that Colnago." It's a bit tougher to do the same with a real-live person who is going to ask you a bunch of technical questions. I'm sure that's a daunting task for people, based on personal experience. One thing that could certainly mediate that inertia is starting out with a custom through an LBS, like Serotta or Seven. An approach where you're dealing with real people face to face who are acting in your interest in obtaining a bike that can be tuned to your needs and whims. Once through that, commissioning your next custom should be a breeze.

    I think the old "custom is not for everyone" red herring is deserving of being planted once and for all. It is for everyone who's willing to invest some time and conversation with the intention of receiving a bike that you dreamed up. What could be better than that?
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  22. #22
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    thanks to all, esp. danl1, terry b, and len j

    for trying to give thoughtful replies. I understand the points made by Len, but Danl1 has me pretty much nailed my indecision. For example--i had a stock calfee tetra, i liked everything about it except the BB stiffness. So i sold it and got a crumpton (this was used so can't call it custom--it was custom but not for me). It could be lighter I guess, which may be why I bought a look 585 when i happended to see one in a shop at 15% off (really i just thought it looked great, had heard great things, and felt like celebrating since i had just got my master's).
    and as terry B mentioned a pinarello opera--i had a pinarello opera--great bike--only thing i disliked was the way the monostay was carbon and just stuck into the seat tube junction--felt it was an ugly aesthetic. So I guess i could indeed have someone build me an eom 16.5 like the opera but without the carbon stays...but then again I can ride the stock IF crown jewel in 56 that feels great.

    so for me, based on the feedback i got from people who have ridden many, many bikes, of all sorts of materials both custom and stock, the only thing I would really want different is the paint scheme--because i don't feel that anyone has described really singinficant ride quality differences for how i'd use the bike--the trail and stiffness i like seem to be fine with the stock bikes i have.

    if i thought i was going to stay here on the puget sound, i think i would indeed get a custom 953, but since i know the navy will move us...

    so right now, i think i will just consolidate and not go custom...for now... but whoever put the kirk dreamsicle terraplane in my head--you are messing with my 3 month olds college fund!

    jim

  23. #23
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    I have absolutely no bias against custom. It's terrific if it's needed to get a combination you can't otherwise get. At the same time, there's nothing at all wrong with "rack" frames, if they happen to suit your needs. OP says he fits stock fine and doesn't want/need 'extras.' There are as many rack-bike ride qualities available as the breadth of custom builders can provide. To believe otherwise is to believe in fairy dust.

    There is NOTHING in terms of ride quality available in a custom bike that is not also available off the rack. If you can't get a particular something from a stock bike, you can't get it from a custom, either. Physics and engineering define the outside parameters, the rest is choice. The only question is if the particular combination of qualities and fit one wants happens to be available in one place.

    I didn't say that tubes didn't matter. I said that once a certain set of parameters are met and if we're in the middle of the curve, it doesn't matter much. The OP says he's happy with stock geos. There are hundreds of bikes with indistinguishably different geometry with a broad range of stiffnesses and ride qualities. If you "must" have a particular tubeset or material that's fine, but it's important to recognize that it's a decision based on something other than performance.

    If you're going to toss $3K+ after a frame and have sufficient patience, custom is absolutely the way to go. In that space, a builder is adding value where a manufacturer is adding decals. If value is part of the equation, the answer isn't so simple. At a $2K and south price point, there's a limit to what a custom builder will do that isn't also available off the rack (In terms of the ride and assuming fit.) It makes no sense to get a custom bike that has stock fit and a stock tubeset. There are a few builders that do exotic work at bargain prices, but in my experience that's not the best allocation of funds.

    Custom paint and chain hangers are great stuff, but aren't the question that was asked.
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  24. #24
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    Lol

    Quote Originally Posted by danl1
    There is NOTHING in terms of ride quality available in a custom bike that is not also available off the rack. If you can't get a particular something from a stock bike, you can't get it from a custom, either. Physics and engineering define the outside parameters, the rest is choice. The only question is if the particular combination of qualities and fit one wants happens to be available in one place.
    This is a pretty funny statement......ever ride a Kirk Terraplane, as an example......give me that ride in a stock bike.

    Sure I can get this particular attribute from stock bike 1, and this one from stock bike 2, and this from 3....but if I want all of them on the same bike, it gets a little harder to get it from a stock bike.

    As to your price point......$2,000 will get you just about whatever you want custom.....Can you say the same for stock?

    $3,000 will almost guartee it....can you say the same for stock.

    You have nothing against sustom except the fact that you believe that it doesn't add much.......that's funny to me.

    Len



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    ""We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. " Aristotle

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