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Mini Velos, revisited

February 25th, 2016 [print] 1 comment

Way back in 2009, I posted about mini velos which, at the time, were new to me. Unlike Japan and much of Europe, the 20" wheel size is pretty uncommon in the U.S., so you don’t really encounter them much–if ever–over here.  However, there’s still a market over here, and a lot has changed in the past few years, so I figured an update was in order.

First and foremost, BikesDirect has their steel framed Mercier Nano up for sale again. It’s currently in pre-order status, but ships next June. If you want one, I’d suggest jumping on it right now, as they don’t seem to offer them every year, and they sell out fast.

It’s a pretty simple bike, with 20" (406 not 451 wheels), 2×8 drivetrain with downtube shifters, and the old 1" threaded fork standard. Starting price is extremely affordable at $300, with lots of upgrade potential, and it comes in two sizes.

Mercier Nano

If you don’t need full gearing, Respect Cycles Urban Velo is one of the only readily available mini velos for the U.S. market. Starting price is $350-370, and it’s available as a singlespeed or fixed gear, with a flip-flop rear hub. It’s currently at v2.1, and comes in only one size, with a steel frame and fork. The upside is, it uses a more modern 1 1/8" fork, so you have some upgrade potential there, since eBay is flooded with carbon forks from China that would fit. It can also fit a 2" wide tire.

Respect Cycles Urban Velo

Cannondale seems to be the only major manufacturer to offer a mini, which they call the Hooligan. It comes with a flat bar, disc brakes, and a Lefty fork. It’s about 3x the price of the other two above, but you can pick it up at any local Cannondale dealer. It comes with a 3-speed internally gear rear hub, which will work for flatter cities, but may not be a good choice for everyone.

Cannondale Hooligan

Unfortunately, that’s about it, as far as minis that can be easily acquired without turning to eBay, having a custom frame builder hook you up, or finding an off-shore retailer who will ship to the U.S. If you know of any others, please leave a comment below.

Categories: Cycling Tags:

EighthInch Scrambler Updates

September 17th, 2011 [print] No comments

I love my Scrambler V2, but as I’ve said in the past, the OEM paint job was pretty bad.  Even if it didn’t flake off in small pieces, the matte black still isn’t very attractive.  So, I’ve begun the process of re-painting it.

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Since I no longer have the use of a media blaster, I went the chemical route and used paint stripper.  It’s incredibly nasty stuff, and burns like hell if you get it on you (trust me), but it does the job incredibly fast.  Tip:  forgo the "environmentally safe" crap, which states that it may take up to 24 hours to work (and then never actually does), and get the hardcore stuff, instead.  Literally as I was painting this stuff on, I could already hear the paint bubbling up.  Scraping it off was then effortless.

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Beautiful, raw steel…

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Of course, stripping paint is the easy part; the hard part is re-painting.  At this point, I have it primered, and have spent quite a few hours wet sanding (and then re-priming spots I messed up, and sanding them again).

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I started out with 400-grit to take the roughness off the surface of the primer, then finished up with 800-grit, to get it as smooth as possible.  I’m going with a high-gloss finish, and don’t want any rough spots under the paint.

Speaking of paint, it took a long time to settle on colors, since I like so many different things.  In the end, though, I decided to somewhat mimic the well-known Ritte paint scheme, for a couple of reasons:  I like it; and it matches the Scrambler V3 sticker pack that EighthInch sent me.

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I was able to use FixieStudio and Photoshop to mock up something pretty similar to the finished product, to get an idea of how I wanted to do the colors.  It’s not perfect, but it’s close enough to give you an idea of what I’m shooting for.

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Because I already have black carbon fiber cranks, stem and fork (more on the fork in a minute), I wanted them to blend into the rest of the paint job.  That meant I couldn’t go with some other colors that I like even more, because they’d look better with polished components.  My seatpost is also carbon, but it’s going to be painted to match the blue on the frame.  The same goes for the seatpost clamp.

However, I’m not done desecrating the brand name of the bike just yet.  The name EighthInch is based on the classic chain size, which is still used on most fixed gear and singlespeed bikes.  About a year ago, I did the unthinkable and put a 3/32" chain on the bike, forever destroying its good name.  But it’ll soon get much worse… not only will it not be an 1/8", it won’t even be a singlespeed.

Back in 2008, a member of MTBR.com posted about a bike he’d just built around a Paul Components Melvin chain tensioner.  Basically, he wanted the simplicity of a singlespeed mountain bike, but with the option of an extra climbing gear.  With a 1-speed drivetrain, you have to find a balance between a gear that doesn’t result in you having to coast all over the place, but which will allow you to climb hills with some bit of ease.  On a road bike, it’s difficult enough, but due to off-road terrain being so completely random, it’s even harder to figure out a good ratio.  By using the Melvin in place of a typical chain tensioner, he’s able to have dual chainrings, while running only one cog.  That means you can go with whatever chainring feels best for the flats and downhills, but still have an awesome climbing gear when you need it.  The bike remains lighter and simpler than one with full gearing, without losing most of the simplicity of a singlespeed.

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I’ve always thought it was an awesome idea, but my frame posed a problem:  there’s no place to hang a rear derailer or tensioner.  That is, until I discovered these DMR chain tugs with a derailer hanger built in:

DMR chain tugs w/ derailer hanger

I already wanted a set of chain tugs to being with, and now I’ll have the ability to add a Melvin (or derailer) to my frame without having to find somebody to weld a hanger on.  This opened up the possibility to adding a second chainring, but I still had an issue with clearance for a small ring on a frame that’s designed for only one.  Since I’ve already been using a double crankset with the small ring removed, I simply bolted the 39T back on and did a test fit.  There’s not a huge amount of clearance, but there’s certainly enough that it will work.  In the process, I also made sure my 3/32" freewheel works with a 10sp chain, so I don’t run into any issues there.

Other upgrades include a front derailer, obviously, as well as a set of drop bars and brake levers (the left lever will also be a shifter for the front derailer).  I also bought a new fork with clearance for 32c tires–which also fit the frame; I checked–and some medium-reach brakes to clear the larger tires.  Once I’m finished, the bike will primarily be a rail-trail bike, but the smaller chainring will assure I can take it for some light singletrack riding should the opportunity present itself.  It’s also a 30-minute swap of parts to get the bike set up back how it used to be: a SS roadie on skinny tires, or even a fixed-gear track bike.

But that’s not all...  White Industries makes a dual-cog freewheel, called the DOS ENO, with 16 & 18 tooth cogs on it.  I’m playing with the idea of adding a shirt cage derailer and Shimano downtube friction shifter, which could give the bike 4 speeds.  I don’t know how well that’d work, nor do I know if I want to go through the extra hassle, but it’s certainly a possibility.  It’d also give the bike an extremely unique drivetrain.

More photos later as the project rolls on…

Edit:

I was looking around today, and found this other bike that’s set up how I plan to do mine.  The owner is lucky to have a derailer hanger on his frame to make things easier, but otherwise this gives a really good idea of how mine should end up if I just go 2×1.

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Metric Century & Goodbye 2010

January 1st, 2011 [print] No comments

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2010 was certainly my most memorable year of cycling since I began back in 1998.  All told, I rode a personal record of 4,103.25 miles, 3,580.50 on my singlespeed road bike, and 522.75 on my mountain bike.

I also rode my first century, after a decade of telling myself that this year would be the year that I’d do it… each and every year.  My first was last May, over Memorial Day weekend, on my singlespeed.  Then I backed it up with two more on my MTB, riding on the MKT/Katy trail.  One was impulsive, the other a trip halfway across the state of Missouri.

To wrap up the year–and to make up for a pretty pathetic number of miles over November and December–I rode a somewhat impulsive metric century (100km, or 62mi+), on New Year’s Eve.  My idea was to get up to 4,100mi, just to hit a nice, round number.  But as the ride went on, I convinced myself that I might as well go a little further than the 59.5mi I needed, and do a metric century.  The day began nice, with temps in the low 60s, plenty of sunshine, and a moderate breeze.  Once the sun began to set, however, the temps dropped rapidly, the wind picked up–twice it nearly knocked me off my bike–and I had to struggle to finish.

With about 5 miles left, I was back on my end of town, and decided to stop by my house for a minute to grab a jacket and gloves.  The windchill was 32°, and my hands were so numb, I was having trouble grabbing my brakes.  I didn’t want to end the year by getting smacked by a car at a 4-way stop, so I used better judgment for once and bundled up.  By the end of the ride, my feet were numb and my legs (I was wearing shorts) were bright red, but my upper body was once again able to function.  It made for a great end to the year, so it was definitely worth the effort.

One of my resolutions from last New Year’s was to get started on brazing a steel bike frame, but I never got around to it.  Between work and wanting to ride, I didn’t have much time left as each day passed.  I also didn’t end up racing, but the weather was to blame for that; I was more than prepared, and all pumped up for it when a huge storm rolled in the night before the race, and park officials closed the trails to cyclists.

In 2011, I’m going to make time to work on a frame, even if that means a little less time spent riding.  As much as I love my singlespeed, I know that I can get faster on a geared bike, but I promised myself if I have a geared bike, I’ll be building–not buying–the frame for it.  I’d like to have it done before mid-summer, so we’ll see how that goes.  As for racing, I can take it or leave it.  I really wanted to do it last July, but I’m not particularly wanting to at this time.  Maybe I’ll change my mind when summer hits, but I’m not a very competitive rider.  If it strikes me to race, I’ll race; if not, then I just won’t bother, and I won’t feel bad about it.

I’m also not done with the Katy Trail:  once the weather is warm, my wife has agreed to drive me to the western-most end of the trail, drop me off, and let me find my way home.  It’ll be 120mi+, longer than the trip to St. Charles.

Another of last year’s resolutions was to get out of my city more, since I log most of my miles here.  I hit Jefferson City, St. Charles, and New York City (plus a little on the Jersey side).  I hope to do even more riding in new cities this year, and I already have plans to head back to NYC in the Spring.  Memphis would also be a blast, so I’ll see if I can work that in.

I wouldn’t mind beating my mileage record, but I really think quality counts over quantity, so that’ll be my focus for 2011.

Categories: Cycling Tags:

What Counts as a Century?

September 17th, 2010 [print] No comments

Photo Credit - fekimshura

I guess I hadn’t put too much thought into it before, but RoadBikeReview user Grumparoo brought up an interesting question in this thread:  What counts as a century?

If you don’t feel like clicking, he basically rode 100mi+ in a single day, but broke it up between three unrelated rides.  Typically, a century consists of one ride of 100 miles, with the occasional short break thrown in wherever you think you need it.  BUT, what counts as a break?  Obviously, there are no set rules, which makes categorizing a century that much more difficult.  So, let’s consider a few things:

Does a single ride mean you don’t return "home"?  Home, being wherever you’re staying, be it your actual home, a hotel, a bike shop where you and your group began, your parked car, etc.

What constitutes a break?  Is a 20-minute stop to pee and eat okay?  If so, how about 3 hours?  Maybe you have mechanical issues and have to wait for someone to bring you spare parts and/or tools, and it takes a couple hours before you’re back on your bike…

Does it all count so long as it happens on a single day/date?  And if that’s the case, what if you were to start after dark and ride into the next morning?

What if you did stop by home, even took 5 minutes to take a shower, ate a quick snack, and were back on the road in under 15 minutes?

Can you nap on your break?  If so, how long is too long?  I mean, what if you were to stop, nap on a park bench for 10 minutes, then finish the ride?

Does it count so long as it’s done within a 24-hour period, nothing else taken into consideration?  That seems fair, until you consider one could ride half the miles one afternoon, go home, eat, shower, sleep, then wake up the next day, go to the grocery store, stop by Home Depot, work on the deck/mow the lawn, and finish up before the exact hour they started the day before.  At that point, you’re within 24 hours, but it’s clearly two different days.

Can you ride half on a road bike, then swap to a trail bike and do half off-road?

So, if we say it has to be done in one ride, what constitutes a single ride?  How long can breaks be, and how many can you take?

If we say it counts so long as you don’t return "home", is that fair if you just stop home only to refill your water and grab a Clif Bar before you head out again?

Do we go by the "no sleeping" rule?  In other words, so long as you accomplish all 100 miles between waking and going back to sleep, is that good enough?  And if so, what if one were remain awake for 48 hours?

Or, do we go by the 24-hour rule, when that means you can break the ride up over two days?  That doesn’t really seem fair.

So far, I’ve ridden two centuries.  The first one, I left the house and didn’t return until I was finished.  The second, I locked my car and didn’t return until I was finished.  On both, I had minimal breaks, and I kept break times short, just long enough to eat a PowerBar or guzzle a sports drink.  To me, those were both classic examples of centuries, but because of infinite situations for every rider, at what point do we call it two (or more) decent rides, but definitely not a century?

One thing is for sure:  a "metric century" doesn’t count as anything but a cop-out.

Categories: Cycling, Miscellaneous Tags:

Prepping for a Century

September 7th, 2010 [print] No comments

As far as I’m concerned, my Katy Tail Century is a go.  But, being a bike weight-obsessed dipshit, my first thought was, how do I get my bike to its lightest before the ride?  Fortunately, I have years worth of experience in this sort of dipshittery, so I’m hard at work making my wife question marrying me eliminating weight from my Fisher Wahoo before the big day.

Getting my bike under 18.5lbs is actually easier than it sounds, since many of the parts currently on it were initially bought with light weight in mind.  Still I had to swap a few things…

My SR Suntour Epicon RLD fork weighs just shy of 4lbs, so I replaced it with the Carbon Cycles eXotic rigid fork I took off last fall.  That’s a savings of roughly 1.9lbs, and I don’t really need suspension for a flat trail anyway.

Next up, and even more importantly, was to get rid of rolling weight.  I swapped to a set of Kenda Klimax Lite tires which, together, weigh about the same as just one of my more aggressive tires alone (649g/pr).  I put in some Forte LunarLite tubes, as well.

Since I already run 1×9 gears, I decided to swap the Shimano XT 11-32 cassette for a Sram PG-970 11-23 9-speed road cassette, shaving off close to another quarter-pound.  The close gear ratios will also help keep my cadence steady as I spin my cranks for 7-8 hours.

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Finally, I pulled an old Easton CT2 carbon handlebar out of my parts bin.  It’s been chopped down to 20.5" and weighs 119g with end plugs, 28g less than my Titec Ti 118 bar (I told you I was being ridiculous).  I actually prefer the narrower width of the Easton bar on the long flats I’ll be riding, so it wasn’t all about taking off weight with this piece.  I normally don’t trust carbon bars for XC riding, but on the Katy, you could just about ride a bar made out of straw and not worry about overloading it.

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I didn’t have any foam grips laying around (I swapped back to rubber grips after having the foamies come loose a couple times), so I used some Easton road bar tape instead.  I’ve been wanting to try this out to see how it feels on a trail bike, so I figured this was a good excuse.

All told, the bike is now at 18.33lbs.  I have a Selle Italia Signo T1 triathlon saddle on the way ($26 on eBay–woot!), so that’ll add 30g back on, but it’ll be worth it to have the additional padding since I never have reason to stand up while pedaling on the Katy.

I’m also re-thinking my food and water situation for the trip.  I had planned on 100oz of water in my CamelBak, plus two 33oz bottles on the bike with Gatorade in them.  Since I’m passing through 22 towns along the way, I may take a 70oz bladder of water, and stick to just one bottle, refilling them along the way when needed.

Less weight means an easier bike to push for all those miles, and I see no sense in making it anymore difficult than it needs to be.  Colin Chapman would be so proud.

OTB Friday

August 7th, 2010 [print] No comments

One thing I’d prefer not to get in the habit of each week:  flying over my handlebars.  As much fun as it sounds, what with the flying part and everything, it’s actually much more painful in the long run.  The problem may be that I wasn’t in the air long enough to become distracted, thereby forgetting that I was flying, missing the ground completely, and continuing to stay airborne (props if you get the reference).  As it turns out, I was very aware of my impending doom, and had little time–about .5sec–to think of anything else.

With August finally bringing some dry weather, I decided to head out to Rock Bridge State Park for a long ride after work.  I had the whole ride mapped out:  basically, taking the SMSG race course, but veering off at the top of Sinkhole trail, which I would take counter-clockwise in a complete loop back to the Boy Scout connector.  Then, at the intersection of Spring Brook and the White Connector, I’d hang a right (instead of going straight), take the cliff–side section down to the parking lot, head over Highway 163, and loop around the extended section of High Ridge Trail, in a sort of figure eight.  Back over the highway, I’d head up the nearly impossible rock garden climb section of Spring Brook, hop back on the White Connector, and finish the race course.

If you’re not familiar with Sinkhole trail, coming counter-clockwise from the top is some of the cleanest singletrack in the entire park.  It’s slightly wider than everywhere else, and since it’s up high, it’s usually dry.  It’s also slightly downhill most of the way–eventually leading to a steeper downhill section before a sharp left turn–and just windy enough to be fun, but not so much so that you have to brake for the turns.  After the sharp left-hander, you’re no longer on dirt.  The trail turns into an old, dried-out creek bed/rock garden, again on a slight downhill slope.  It’s made of larger, chunky rocks, most of which move as you roll over them, with larger, flat rocks firmly attached to the ground, sometimes covered in moss, and usually slippery.

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Read more…

Categories: Cycling, MTB Tags: ,

Show-Me State Games MTB Race Canceled

July 24th, 2010 [print] No comments

Canceled

We got hit with rain the night before the mountain bike race, so park officials have canceled the race.  It sucks for me, since I’ve been planning to have this be my first race for an entire year now.  But, it also sucks for all the racers who traveled to Columbia, MO from around the state, only to have to drive back tomorrow without having had a fun race.  I guess I’ll see you all out there next year, and maybe the weather will be a little more cooperative.

I headed out there tonight–the night before the event–to see how well the trail had been cleaned up over the previous week.  The park crew did an excellent job re-routing parts of Deer Run trail that had been damaged due to fallen trees, as well as a swelling creek that has come a little too close to the edge of the trail.  I was really impressed with the effort, since they’ve apparently worked O.T. just to get everything in order; even more so considering we’ve had triple-digit heat indexes over the same time period every single day.

In the middle of my ride, I came up on the Walt’s crew as they marked the race course, and Sarah–the race commissioner–said she hoped she wasn’t putting the markers up in vain.  Twenty minutes later, the trail went extremely dark, thunder picked up in the near distance, and an out-of-town racer and I left the rest of the crew to head to our cars.  I hopped in mine literally the second a monsoon hit, flipped on the A/C, dried off, and waited for the rain to back off enough that I could see past the nose of my car.  I finally drove home at half the posted speed limit, barely able to make out the roads, disappointed that I missed what would have been my first race, but glad that I had a thrilling final practice ride.

Categories: Cycling, Missouri, MTB, News Tags: ,

SMSG MTB Race Hanging By A Thread

July 21st, 2010 [print] No comments

Per my previous post, there’s a chance the 2010 Show-Me State Games mountain bike race won’t happen if the rain doesn’t stop.  I emailed an event organizer yesterday about whether the race might be canceled or postponed, and here’s the response she gave me:

"The park folks are supposed to let me know on Sat afternoon if they are going to cancel the race.  They are a bit more lenient because they really don’t want to have to cancel it.  If it is wet there isn’t a rain date for the race, so there just won’t be a race this year. "

Mid-Missouri was hit with a huge storm on Sunday, and then another on Monday night, into Tuesday morning.  More is expected for the weekend.  I’ve been planning this race for a year, so this pretty much sucks.

Categories: Cycling, Missouri, MTB Tags: , ,

Racing, Rain and Tires

July 19th, 2010 [print] No comments

BAH!

That’s what I have to say about Missouri’s increasingly wetter July’s.  We had a nice, dry run through the latter parts of June and early July, but now the storms are here again.  Normally, I’d just be annoyed, but this time I’m getting pissed.

The Show-Me State Games MTB race is less than a week away, and the forecast is grim for race day, with a good chance of showers.  However, if it’s dry enough to race, I doubt it’ll be called off.  What this means for me is, my proven fastest tire choice has to be tossed out, and I have to prepare for sloppy conditions.

I discovered last Fall that my fastest tire set-up happened to be a skinny 1.8" Kenda Klimax Lite in the rear, with a 2.1" Nevegal up front.  The rear spins up quickly for sprints, while the front adds extra suspension (at 25psi) and better braking.  So long as I keep my ass planted in the saddle, the rear’s excellent L3R compound gives it plenty of grip, despite a lack of tread.  However, that only helps if it’s dry… which it most likely won’t be.

My options are this:  keep the current tire set-up, have less weight in the back, but less grip and braking in the mud.  Or, put on a heavier tire, lose some speed in the flat areas due to weight, but have ridiculous climbing grip.  Light weight is worthless if I’m just spinning my tire, so I’ve gone the heavier route.

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Enter, my new set-up:  the 2.1" Nevegal in the rear, with an old and proven 2.35" Kinetics Stick-E up front.  In the past, I’ve run a pair of Kinetics Stick-Es, and nothing has ever come close to the grip they offer in slick stuff, which Rock Bridge park is full of.  The braking grip of the front tire–even with my antiquated rim brakes–will just about pop your eye sockets out.  I’ve never run the Nevegal in the rear, but it seems to have performance matching the Kinetics, only at a lighter weight.  Since I have no time to order something else, this is going to have to do.

In the mean time, I’m going to pine for the old days of dry, horribly hot Missouri summers, where we’d go for weeks without rain at times.  It makes the trails more predictable, and for my first race, I could really use that.

Categories: Cycling, Missouri, MTB Tags: , , ,

8 Days ‘Til Race Day

July 17th, 2010 [print] No comments

Show-Me State Games

The 2010 Show-Me State Games mountain bike race is next Sunday on the 25th.  I told myself last summer that I’d race this year, and now it’s getting close.

I checked out the condition of the race course a couple weeks back, and it was in really bad shape.  I think I had to dismount and climb over 5-6 trees, and there’s a really deep gully where there used to be only a small, very shallow ditch; it’s deep, and I can see riders going over their bars if they’re unprepared for it.  It’s basically hidden around a corner, and you don’t know it’s there until you’re right on top of it.  Also, where Deer Run trail runs along a creek, the trail is dangerously close to the edge in a couple spots.  Normally, people like to point at bikers for trail destruction, but this is entirely weather related.

Over the last two years, mid-Missouri has been hit with one rain storm after another, especially in Spring and Fall.  The creek is continuing to widen as the dirt gets loose, and massive trees are falling into it.

Open on Flickr Open on Flickr

In two places where the trail used to come within a couple feet of the edge, it’s now literally on the very edge, and it doesn’t help that in both spots, the trail is curved.  Racers unfamiliar with the trail could easily over-cook it and head right over the edge, which is about a 10ft drop into the creek.  To make matters worse, the hardpack top soil is gone, replaced by 2" deep sand.

I went back out this week, and noticed a lot of the fallen trees have been removed, but there’s still one that forces a dismount.  I had my loppers with me and cut off all the eye-gouging branches that jut out from it, but the tree was too large for me to remove.  There’s another broken tree on the newer trail that the Boy Scouts made back in ’08, with a huge, pointed section of tree that you have to lean sideways as you pass to avoid getting hit in the face.

Assuming the course stays relatively dry, and the hazards are cleaned up in time, I’ll be out there next Sunday ready to race.  It’s my first race, so I’ll be in the 30-39 Beginner class.  I’d like to win, but it’s really about getting over my first race that I’m focused on.  After this one, I’ll probably join the Sport class next year, and finish mid-pack or lower.  I won’t be too concerned with it, I just want to finish well this time around.  Wish me luck.

SMSG.org

Categories: Cycling, Missouri Tags: ,