Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dirty day out

At last a weekend where it was not thunderstorms. About time the weather came good and today it brought everyone out for a ride.

Had no real plan and decided to retrace some of my last ride that I had to abort due to rain. Over Currumbin and zig zag around via North Arm to avoid Murwillumbah, then went to see how the view was from Baker Road on such a clear morning.  And I was not disappointed. Good view all the way to Springbrook which you can make out in the photo below on the right of me.


And another shot looking towards Tyalgum from Baker road to show it wasn’t a fluke with the Micro 4/3rds 45mm f1.8 (90mm full frame equivalent). Tough lens to get something from!


I continued riding with no plan. That’s the great thing about the border ranges tweed area. There is so many options once you are there. I skipped Stokers siding but rode over Burrinbah range and along Tweed Valley way then at Billinudgel had a crazy idea to ride over to Uki via Mt Jerusalem.

I had always wanted to take a look at the village of Main Arm and Chowan creek road east of Uki so spur of the moment, today was the day. In hind sight I perhaps should have just ridden the loop from Billinudgel to The Pocket and Main Arm then back to Mullumbimby because the unsealed Manns Road (that joins the sealed Main Arm road and Rowlands creek road) was very dry and very dusty. The bike is now covered in layer of fine dust.

But least my curiosity has been satisfied.



The dirt is quite bumpy and loose on the corners. Perhaps not a good road if you have not ridden away from the tar before. But if you have some dirt experience then a few interesting sights on way to Main Arm and different view of Mt Warning if you take the journey.

Lunch at Uki Pub after seeing the Uki cafe I posted about not long back has already closed it’s doors. What a shame, as the Uki pub food as dropped a notch. However the location with all tables out front to watch the bikes go by still make it a good place to rest up.

Smooth run back over Numinbah and Hinze raceway.

Nice day out.

(todays route)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spring colours

I went for a 1/2 day ride over the border ranges today to do some thinking and again noted Saturday to be a more relaxed ride without the usual Sunday distractions.


Now is a great time to visit this area as there is still many trees in Spring colours. (as at date of this post) Always a scenic ride it is made even better when all the Jacaranda trees create a purple roadside carpet.


The morning was superb but for once as predicted the weather changed by lunch to heavy clouds and strong gusts of wind.  The roads were filled with leaves and small twigs blown about onto the road and you could sense rain was on the way. I cut my ride short and just retraced my path through Numinbah and enjoyed Hinze raceway Nerang-Murwillumbah Rd entirely to myself!


First day to wear my full summer mesh jacket and I really need to update it. Despite buying the Cortech summer jacket a few years back I rarely wear it and revert to my old Dryrider mesh jacket which is very old and already past it’s prime. The Cortech is a summer jacket which does flow air when you are moving but the design is so bulky and heavy that it’s ability to keep you cool is lessened. Given the large amount of time per year I am in a summer jacket I may opt to spend a bit more and get something better next time. Sounds like a possible review soon doesn’t it Smile

Hope you get some rides in before the extreme heat arrives downunder.


Sunday, October 07, 2012

BMW City Pants 2


My original pair of BMW City pants have proven themselves to be really versatile and I have just grown out of them size wise so when looking around for a new pair of riding pants I decided to go again with the BMW City Pants, this time version 2.

I used to ride in Draggin Jeans but after I had the fall on the ice in Japan the idea of not having knee and hip armor seems unacceptable to me. That fall was in Alpinestar pants but the armor in those pants I think was the reason I was not more badly hurt. And I know you can get armor for jeans but the pants and armour need to stay in place to work which does not seem the case with the riding jeans that I have tried on. The BMW armor is large and wraps around the knee and extends down the shin.

I have worn the City Pants version 1 in a wide range of temperatures. Not a winter pant but acceptable in cool mornings and hotter than light weight jeans in summer but I managed with them in California at 44 degrees. If you can wear shorty boots in summer then that will allow much more air to come up from below and alternatively on cool mornings when wearing your regular boots and long socks the pants adapt fairly well.

I’ve not crash tested them however there is ample accounts that can be read on the forums to suggest they work fine in this department. The differences in the versions are to the pocket design, both of which work ok for me. My first pair have faded and I hope the colour of the V2 is longer lasting. Lastly the included belt has double D buckle now whereas V1 had a clip in buckle.

Fit, finish, build quality is all very good and while more expensive than riding jeans they are a great all rounder.

A Saturday Ride

I think I may try alternating between riding on Sunday to riding on Saturdays. I went for a Saturday ride for a change and experienced a better ride than I do on most Sundays due to far less traffic. 

While tempted to go to my favourite northern NSW area I thought maybe the north might be quieter on a Saturday and worth trying instead. I rarely go north as I find the roads south much better however when I do go north I always encounter very heavy motorcycle traffic and more than one police trap. But Saturday and it is much quieter and more enjoyable. I was even able to use the Bruce highway to come home quickly which I would not attempt on a Sunday afternoon.


I tried a couple of different (to my usual) cafes today. First a coffee at Woodford Cafe Cabaret, nice spot to sit and watch the bikes roll by, even has a lounge chair out front on the footpath.


Had lunch at Sweethearts cafes at Eudlo and the coffee was good, focaccia was ordinary.


Spoiled for choice where to stop riding north. I was too late for coffee too early for lunch in either Maleny or Kenilworth but still there seems to be cafes at almost every turn between Dayboro and Mapelton.

I am still missing the cruise control from the BMW in North America. Had a bit of wrist cramp setting in on the way.I am tempted to drag out the Vista throttle lock device from retirement and fit it to the CB… but throttle lock devices only provide a few moments rest as the bikes never seem to sit at a constant speed for long, either slowly decelerating or slowly gaining speed. I have a couple of throttle wrist rest devices too but found they do not work well either. Shame, I do not want a tourer but would like some of their features. What I am going to get is one of the higher seats that are available for the CB in Japan as the extra leg room will give me a good boost in comfort. If it is suitably cushioned then I may be able to remove the Air Hawk as well. Looks wise it does not bother me just would enjoy having more seat to move about on.


Todays route here.

Jupiter’s Travels

Finally got around to reading this famous motorcycle travel book. I have been going to order it from Amazon for years and then saw it on the shelf the other day of my local book shop. Of course I paid twice the online price as is everything retail in this country but personal travel was happening so timing came into play.

Ted Simon rides around the world covering 101,000km over four years through 54 countries on a old Triumph. It’s the most amazing adventure and there has been so many things written about the book that you probably already know I am going to say it is a very good read. I will add that despite all the time that has passed since he completed the journey it is still an inspiration and thought provoking read however the world is a very different place now and some elements were not so easy to relate to.

I wish he had written more about the second half of the trip as the detail was lost for large sections of that however I enjoyed it all enough to consider reading his follow up journey made more recently.



Riding Cebu

A while back I wrote about riding in the Philippines. I received quite a few emails asking for info and so I want to tempt you with some more off the beaten track riding.

Cebu is one of the 7000 islands that make up the Philippines and features narrow coastlines with rugged mountains traversing the island with steep climbs up to 1000m from the sea. In other words some nice riding roads! Cebu City is not a pleasant place to ride with heavy traffic and too many jeepneys belching out diesel soot however you can depart to the west and in a very short distance be commencing a climb out of the city to a place called “tops” and from here on you will experience some excellent mountain riding.


View from “Tops” over part of Cebu City and Lapu Lapu island


Riding a loop west and to the north you drop down to the ocean on the other side and enjoy some superb views. The road north whilst never far from the ocean does not provide many scenic areas however crossing back to the east coast at Tuburan the road is excellent corners all the way over. The road then follows the coast again and at times offers some beach views but gets very busy as you come closer to Cebu City.

There is another road that crosses over to the west coast just a little south of Cebu city heart and this is interesting. At first nice corners the road deteriorates sharply as you climb and at times is unsealed and very narrow where it is more a track around the original road which has suffered from landslides. Along here are many shanty houses built on the roadside sitting precariously on the edge of a high drop which surely will fall to the valley floor the next time there is a earthquake.



Once at the top of the climb the road improves and you ride a through a beautiful rainforest and some scenic small towns before lots of good sweepers descending to Toledo city. Yu can turn north before Toledo city on a poorly signposted intersection but it is adjacent to the Gaisono Mall which cannot be missed and probably is a good 1/2 way spot to cool down and have lunch.

If you are not sure where to stop for a break in Philippines then you will always find a bakery in a small town (and often not much more) and in a large town there will be a mall which is your best bet to score some air conditioning and food.

The road to Balamban is nothing special but once there you commence the superb mountain road back to Tops, west to east and in this direction it rides even better, just wonderful riding and great views all the way.



Did I mention the riding was good…

For motorcycle rentals in Cebu you have a couple of options that you can find easy on the internet or just ask your hotel who may be able to arrange something for you. As well as scooters there are lots of these small Honda semi-clutchless motorcycles around. They are a 4 speed 110cc and have a reverse pattern shift which leads to plenty of wrong gears and compression lockups. A bit more involving to ride than a scooter but not as fast as the modern 125 injected scooters which easy exceed the speed possible on most of these roads whereas these older Hondas need to be worked hard all the time. But there is satisfaction in doing that.


As I have thought for some time, it is little to do with the bike that makes the riding fun. Any thing is good to ride with right attitude and good road to explore.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Police state

What to do first weekend back from an epic ride OS. Go for a ride of course!


Beautiful spring weather here now, perfect day for riding even though the police of this state tried to ruin it.

Lots of police on Advancetown road with some sort of concealed trap targeting motorcycles. Next what appeared at first like a RBT at Canungra was actually a roadblock for only motorcycles. What follows is a ID check, vehicle defect check and if they remember a breath test. No cars were stopped. Another “RBT” at Beaudesert on my way home. Well to Queensland police I say if think you will break the spirit of riders in this state by intimidation– you’re wrong. What a disgrace you are.

Anyway I did not let this ruin my day out in the countryside and while riding I did some comparisons with my CB1100 and riding here to my recent mount the BMW R1200RT and riding in North America.

The CB1100 is not a light bike but it felt like a featherweight this morning after riding the BMW. In the hills the CB was so much easier to handle. However the wind pressure on me was a shock after having full fairing and large screen it took me all day to adjust to the force of the wind with the naked bike. I missed the electronic cruise control very much and the extra legroom and even by days end part of me wanted the windscreen…

I missed the 500km range of the BMW but more so being able to pay at the pump with my helmet on was is the case in North American. We started to see this in petrol stations briefly. Mobil had it but I think they want you to enter the shop and be tempted to buy something else so they removed it. But most of all today it jumped out at me just how conservative our speed limits are. I am sure readers know this already but we have really become a nanny state as has the rest of the country.

Headed west to Mt Lindsey and had lunch at Woodenbong Pub, they have expanded their menu and are also doing pizza’s which look pretty good. There is a 24 hr servo next to pub now (not used it myself but new signs up – might be card pay at pump)

Well that’s all for this ride report, hope you got out for a ride but were not tangled up in all that crap on the southern roads.

Todays route.


Sunday, September 02, 2012

USA and Canada motorcycle tour

Update – apologies for the small photo thumbnails. The site was in the old blogger format at the time I wrote this, I will update older posts as time permits but until then you can click on any photo to see larger version.

I have had a wonderful time touring North America, the roads were superb and the riding exceeded my expectations by a long margin.

I started in San Francisco, renting a BMW R1200RT from Eagle Rider. The rental process was smooth and having stayed nearby I simply walked to the shop signed the papers and loaded my gear onto bike and was riding away about 15 minutes later. I left my suitcase with Eagle Rider and had booked a pickup with UPS to take it to the shop where I was dropping the rental off but UPS turned out to be a bad choice – more on this later.

I wanted to start the tour with a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge but alas the fog that blankets the bay and shore line all day was ever present so it was not to be but you can navigate the city easy by motorcycle and there is many guides on the net so I will stick to talking about the tour.


Riding south along the highway one which has a number of names and numbers the fog persisted with small windows where the Pacific ocean was revealed. Following morning the fog was again in force but I managed to take in some nice vistas from time to time while riding highway one. This road is rated by many as their favourite and it is a very enjoyable ride offering a bit of everything. After originally thinking to ride just to Nacimiento Fergussen road then go inland I rode on to Cambria and was so glad I did as this later part was by far the best.


Above and below Pacific coast, California.



The change in temperatures that exist in the US western states caught me by surprise. From a cool 16 degrees (Celsius) on the coast the temperature rose sharply after I had lunch in Cambria. A steep narrow climb on a back road to ascend the mountains that hug the coast had me changing to summer gloves and unzipping vents on jacket then riding down the other side the heat soared and it was like riding into a oven as the temperature hit 44 degrees! It was a dry heat not like the humid tropical heat of my home which would have been unbearable but none the less uncomfortable to ride in and needing me to rest and rehydrate every hour.

My GPS was taking me on some real backroads which at one point turned to unsealed loose gravel on the final mountain climb and I wondered if I had managed to take the wrong way but anyway the R1200 rode on the dirt ok once I stood up on the pegs and when I crested the road became a narrow winding descent with some amazing views.


Riding more backroads in mostly farming area made for easy miles to cover and this helped me in the heat which started to ease a touch. By mid afternoon I was exhausted and finding a motorcycle dealer at Madera I purchased a open mesh jacket from the nice people at Madera Honda Suzuki. From there the road weaved it’s way through some stark sun bleached countryside not dissimilar to some of northern NSW tablelands districts. Mostly good road with plenty of curves, I stopped to have a drink and when the wind blew the yellow fields of grass I was reminded of those mesmerising scenes in the movie Once upon a time in Anatolia.



Entering Yosemite National Park the scenery changed quite dramatically. I was on the road early to avoid the heat and this also turned out to be a good move for avoiding the heavy traffic tourist places there attract. Unlike a hot summer day in the tropics where you will raise a sweat at 7.00am just standing still, here I still had to don my leather jacket all zipped up and mid weight gloves in the morning then slowly transform to vented then change to mesh gear later such is the change in temperatures.


Riding Yosemite was like a dream, amazing views and a surface so smooth you could have played billiards on it and with so much grip the motorcycle was like magnetised to the road. Truly one of the most amazing rides I have ever had.


Above and below Yosemite National park, California.



While mostly the tour focused on riding I did do a couple of tourist things, one of which was visit Bodie Ghost town. On the day I arrived it was packed being the friends of Bodie day when people dress up in period costumes which was great.


Above and below, Bodie Ghost town, California.


The road to Bodie has some gravel so only two motorcycles in the car park but it was not so hard to ride, just dusty and the rest of the road there was superb hotmix that twisted it’s way through some scenic rocky outcrops.


I got caught in a storm after leaving Bodie, I saw it brewing and so left and tried to out run it which to some extent I succeeded. Leaving the beautiful valley to the north I encountered just the edge of it with some heavy rain and small hail stones while climbing another excellent mountain road and had about 15 minutes of slippery wet roads before I descending the other side where I returned to riding excellent sweeping curve roads the remainder of afternoon. That was going to be the only wet weather I encountered the whole tour.

Leaving the Tahoe National forest I was riding next the Lassen National forest however there was a forest fire and the park was closed. I had another couple of routes for this day but I unfortunately had the wrong one in my GPS so ended up going further north before riding west to try get away from the fires. The roads were still excellent, lovely sweepers in the forest, some straight stuff but not boring. I ended up cutting across to Trinity National forest by days end, I had a bit of a head cold today and was feeling poor so did not take so many photos as well the traffic was heavy in places being a Sunday and I would in future make Sunday a rest day as really every national park scenic area was clogged with day trippers.




Still in California heading north I rode the Six Rivers national forest and Klamath forest. Some superb riding on beautiful surveyed roads but in the middle the road all but disappeared to a narrow track.



Amazing thing, I stopped in the middle of nowhere to have a drink and take a few photos of the gorge below the road (which did not come out well) and as I looked down I saw what appeared to be a US $20 bill in the grass but I thought it must be something else but anyway after I had rest decided to go and pick it up and yes it was a $20 bill just sitting there next to motorcycle (in photo above)


After a great week of riding I left California but not before encountering another serious forest fire. At one point the visibility was reduced to a very short distance and every 2nd vehicle seemed to be an emergency services truck and I was wondering if the road may get closed but I was able to exit the area and enter Oregon to enjoy some more roads with great curves to Klamath Falls.


Weird scene of 10’s of thousands of small moths in vertical spirals?


Just to talk about a couple of non motorcycle observations for a mid post break. Outside of the capital cities the US reminded me a bit of rural Japan with businesses abandoned. There was so much of this on my travels which really stood out to me.

And after another hotel ’continental breakfast’ offering of inedible crap in cellophane bags I lowered my hotel breakfast expectations to zero. It’s peculiar how some countries have superb breakfasts included with hotel stay, Germany and Japan offer a full buffet, yet other places offer nothing much yet the room prices in USA, Australia and New Zealand are twice the price.

I moved to buying some things from the supermarket night before to have for breakfast so I need not have to waste time looking for a diner and then reluctantly eating fatty fried food and that drip filter (“brewed”) coffee. I guess it is all what you are accustomed to. If you only know that then it is all good but being used to European and Asian food I could not adapt.

Anyway back to the ride, I zig-zagged from Klamath Falls to Baker City and was not expecting the days riding to throw a lot of curves at me however yet again the riding ended up being better than I expected. First was some straight stuff but quite dramatic landscapes that were never boring and in the afternoon some superb twisty roads in a mountain range south of Baker city.




From Baker city I rode Hells Canyon and this was a real highlight with just superb roads, the sort you could ride all day and not get bored. I wish I had allowed more time for it as I met some riders who explained the canyon was deeper than the more famous Grand Canyon and they were going to ride to the end and go by jet boat along the river which sounded great but my draft plan was to move on that day so I continued to Lewiston riding some very dramatic canyon roads.






Above is descent to valley floor of what I think is called Joseph canyon. Below is after ascent on other side looking back to where I took first photo.


Heading north east next to Missoula I rode through Clearwater national forest on highway 12 which is a beautiful two lane road that sweeps it’s way along following the banks of the river and natural curves of the valley. My flu had finally lifted so I was feeling in great spirits today.



Riding next on the roads in Montana near Flathead lake to Columbia Falls it was very scenic with some gentle curves and bit of traffic in places but still quite enjoyable.


The next day was a major focus of the tour riding the Going to the Sun road and I was one again greeted with fine weather – so lucky. Another dramatic change in temperatures lay in store for me starting with 4 degrees in the shade at 8.30am on the Going to the sun road and warming to mid 30’s later in the day elsewhere. Good thing I was on the road early as I had a mostly good ride up and over. There was road works with one lane and the delay there on my way up was only 10 minutes and I had only needed to pass a few cars to have a good run. By the time I returned from other side the traffic had grown to gridlock proportions and it was a huge wait to come down followed by slow ride out as the oncoming traffic was so much there was not a single moment to pass the slower cars. Beautiful scenery but not a riders road as such.



Above and below Going to the Sun road, Montana.


And it got it’s name from …



After visiting Glacier National park I went on some backroads via Yaak River to Bonners Ferry. Had a couple of scares with Deer on the road or crossing the road which really spooked me for rest of the day until I got out of the wilderness and back onto main roads. In Australia the kangaroos rest during the day and you can ride until dusk without much risk but that seems not the case with Deer.



Plenty of wildlife.



I crossed over in Canada with total ease. Rode up to totally empty border check point presented my passport and was stamped and on my way within 30 seconds, never had to even remove my helmet.

A modest state motto… (click to enlarge)


The roads along the shore of the Kooteney lake were more beautiful riding. I was having such a good time I arrived at the ferry to Balfour forgetting I had no Canadian money on me. Fortunately it is free but I could have done with a coffee as I had over an hour to wait having just missed one departure but no means to buy one. On the other side I tried an ATM and it rejected all 3 types of cards I had but the shop keeper took pity on me and ran a purchase through as a cash out on his till so I could buy some lunch and something to drink. I need not have worried riding north to Kaslo I found a bank where the ATM worked fine and should have held off to just have lunch there but all good. The road again followed the lake and offered some grand vistas and nice sweeping curves.


Above and below Kooteney lake, British Columbia.



Very different feeling to the riding with some scenes reminding me a lot of my European riding along the lakes in the Italian alps border region.


I stumbled on what must be the local sports bike motorcycle road when leaving Kaslo and riding to Nelson, the road was thick with bikes and none were following the sign…


The riding continued to be both scenic and enjoyable all day with some straight sections but also plenty of curves as I rode over to Vernon via another ferry crossing.


From Vernon I rode to Lillooet via Merritt. Still plenty of curves to enjoy but some very different scenery riding through Indian reserves where the rivers were busy carving canyons into the barren landscape. 


For some reason I love the detail on that sign.

Today I managed to do what I had wanted for many days and that was have a picnic lunch by the road – it was great!



Next I was able to ride a road I had wanted to revisit for many years having driven highway 99 Lillooet to Whistler 10 years ago I had always thought about one day returning on a motorcycle. I stopped to take a photo at Duffey lake the same location I had stopped a decade before and thinking then I would love to ride this road and it felt great to have achieved this dream. 



Above and below highway 99 Lillooet to Whistler



Riding the Sea to Sky highway from Squamish to Vancouver the weather turned a bit dull and I was not able to capture much of the beauty but fortunately it did not rain and I had a blast on this superb road not having to concern myself with the 80kph speed limit that seems to blanket British Columbia.


Getting back into the USA took some time, I was in the traffic queue for 40 minutes and but the check point itself was speedy.


Next on my list was to ride Mt Baker in Washington state. The weather looked damp as I approached but yet again I was lucky having missed some rain and was able to ride at a decent pace up the mostly dry road. Mt Baker turned out to be a real suprise package the roads offered a bit of everything, sweepers and more technical corners and even a few very tight switchbacks with sheer drops at the very top. I was not able to see the full views but it was rather good all the same and yet another dramatic temperature change for me.


Above and below Mt Baker, Washington.



I was planning to ride all back roads to Seattle and indeed started out on state route 9 with a bunch of other bikers which confirmed I had chosen well however there was a lot of road works and I was wanting to get the bike to the rental shop that afternoon and not ride in the afternoon peak hour traffic so after a bit I jumped on the interstate for the last miles. Even this was slow going with terrible traffic jams despite 12 lanes and still pre peak hour! As someone who works in rail industry all I can say is you simply can never build enough roads if you do not have mass transit rail.

The guys from Eagle rider Seattle looked after me and took me to my hotel and I would not hesitate to rent from them again as was a smooth no hassle experience.

The BMW R1200RT was very good. Electronic cruise control was bliss and made doing the tour so much easier, in fact those 3 days I had the flu were tiring but without cruise would have been near impossible. Same for the electric windscreen, this allowed me to control heat or cold and noise and buffeting, just superb. The 3 way electronic suspension really did work well, you could feel the difference considerably between comfort, normal and sport – the latter when chosen allowed me to push the bike through tight corners far quicker than a machine of this size and weight should rightly be ridden. Very impressive stuff. The engine perhaps could have lost some horsepower and gained more toque. I have ridden the older boxer engine in the R1150R in Japan and this newer bike seemed to have had it’s power moved up the rev range a bit too far for this type of bike – but that’s just me. The BMW luggage is so heavy compared to Givi cases but no doubt it is quality stuff. Fuel range is huge, over 500km, I could ride all day not needing to refuel and this was handy as some roads did not have fuel and if I had been on my CB I would have probably run out a couple of times. Not sure I would own one but great motorcycle for this type of thing.

Remember UPS who I paid to pick up my suitcase in San Francisco and deliver it to Seattle? Well they did not pick it up because something with the label was not to their liking despite many calls and being told yes we have picked up your bag. Then at the last moment they email to say my bag was not picked up and now it is too late to get it to Seattle unless I pay express rate which is far more than the suitcase is worth and no refund for services not rendered. So I went to the mall near Seattle airport (which is a Westfield mall <from Australia>) and purchased a new one. UPS are the worst customer service I have experienced in some time.

Overall I can sum up that this tour exceeded my riding expectations every day. The roads were superb, wonderful consistent surveying, smooth excellent surfaces – the roads that were being resurfaced in California were already better quality than any of our roads in Australia. Naturally the corners are always a strong focus and these were just great. Not a lot of tight technical stuff but nice sweepers where you can enjoy leaning the bike and feeing the hang time – I loved it. In many ways it is a ride that anyone could do with ease. Nothing more challenging to overcome than remembering that unique to North America practice called tipping. To me, coming from outside North America where most people see tipping as offensive and demeaning naturally I struggled at times. It seems a sad social injustice but people there have grown up knowing nothing else. I had a app on my phone and used it to tell me what to add to bills and tried view it all as a sales tax that had to be applied to each bill.     

I will return again to North America to ride some more, maybe next year or one after.


Read more about planning this ride here

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