Ridden and Reviewed: Ridley Fenix

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The Ridley Fenix was built to tame the cobbled roads of Flanders

The Belgian Swiss Army Knife

A few months ago when Ridley invited us to come to Belgium to learn more about their brand, we were pretty excited. When Ridley told us were going to be testing their bikes on cobbles, we were a little less thrilled. We’ve ridden cobbles before, and if you’ve ever wanted to know what’s like to ride a bike inside of a paint mixer, taking a spin down a Belgian lane is a pretty good approximation. We knew that Ridley makes some tough bikes though, so we figured this would be the ultimate test of a bike’s durability.

The Ridley Fenix is what Ridley describes as their “Swiss Army knife” bike. The bike was designed at the behest of the riders of Ridley’s pro-tour teams, who needed a bike that could conquer the long, brutal spring classics races in Italy, Belgium and France. Looking at lessons learned from the Damocles and the Excalibur, two of Ridley’s most successful bikes ever, Ridley’s designers came up with the Fenix. Built with a more “endurance” tuned geometry for improved comfort over long distances, flattened seat stays for improved compliance on the terrible cobbles, and diamond-shaped tubes for incredible durability and strength, the Fenix is one of the toughest, most versatile bikes ever.

The Performance-exclusive Ridley Fenix CR1 is built around the same frame the pro's ride

The Performance-exclusive Ridley Fenix CR1 is built around the same frame the pro’s ride

About The Ride

Because Ridley had a lot of journalists and vendors visiting the week we were there (during that Tour of Flanders), the bike we ended up with wasn’t exactly spec’ed the same as the Performance-exclusive CR1 model (different crank, handlebars and saddle), but it was close enough to give us a general feel for the bike. And wow, were we impressed.

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The Fenix more than lives up to its reputation. From the minute we first put a leg over the bike, it felt like it came alive. The handling was snappy, and the bike felt responsive from the first pedal stroke. On the pavement it handles like one of the finest race steeds we’ve ever encountered (in fact the bike more than held it’s own when we took it to the brutally fast Wednesday night ride at the famed Zolder Circuit), but where the bike really came to life was on the cobbles.

We’re not going to say that it made the cobbles smooth like butter–there’s only so much a bike can do, but the Fenix certainly made the ride less jarring than we remembered. Turning onto our first cobbled section at speed, we braced for the first bike impacts and tried to prepare for the bone shaking hits. We didn’t really need to though, since the Fenix definitely took some of the sting out of the cobbles. It was especially apparent in the saddle, where the flat-section seat stays made a noticeable difference and transmitted much less vibration and absorbed the worst of the hits.

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Even these cobbles were smoothed out some by the frame’s flattened seatstays

The bike also held it’s line and tracked far better in the rough stuff than we were expecting. Even our lighter weight tester, who normally gets bounced off the cobbles pretty well and ends up all over the road, was able to find a line and hold it on the Fenix over some of the worst cobbles we encountered. On the one occasion when we did crash, the bike was just fine—thanks to the diamond shaped tubing that gives it a higher strength and makes the tubes more resistant to side impacts. After a few kilometers (sorry, we were in Europe), we could definitely see why the Lotto-Belisol guys love the Fenix.

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The Fenix handles rough roads well, with a stable handling feel that helps you hold your line

About The Bike

After our experience testing the bike, we had a chance to talk with Joachim Aerts, founder of Ridley, and Dirk, the lead product developer, about what went into the bike. It turns out that the inspiration for the Fenix came not only from the shapes found in nature, but also from real world riding. Both of them grew up in Belgium, riding on the cobbled roads, and thought about the kind of bike they would want to ride on those roads. After getting more input from pro riders, they turned to the Lotto-Belisol mechanics, and asked for their opinions about the bike. Would it be easy to work on? Could it survive a crash? Did the internal cable routing make sense from a practical stand point? Once all these questions were answered and problems solved, and only then, did the bike move into production.

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The carbon fiber frame found on this test bike, as well as the Performance-exclusive CR1 and CR2 are the same as the ones ridden by the pro’s from the Lotto Belisol team

Ridley, and the Lotto-Belisol team, were so thrilled with the final product that they didn’t even make a special version for the pro team, which is fairly unusual in the bike industry. The pro riders literally get off-the-shelf Ridley Fenix bikes, painted in the team colors, and built up with their pro livery parts.

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Jurgan Roelandts of Lotto-Belisol chose to ride the Fenix (outfitted with team-issue Campagnolo Super Record 11 EPS and Bora Ultra wheels) in the Tour of Flanders

Overall, we’d say that the Fenix is one of the best all-around bikes we’ve ever ridden. Stiff enough to hold it’s own on one of the fastest group rides we’ve ever done, comfortable enough to ride all day on some of the roughest cobbles in the world, and tough enough to survive a fairly gnarly crash. If you want a bike for riding a charity ride, a gran fondo, and even racing, then this is definitely the bike for you. This bike not only gets our seal of approval, but the seal of Belgian approval as well.

Introducing the Garmin Edge 1000 GPS

Garmin has stepped up their GPS game with the brand new Edge 1000 GPS. The color touchscreen Edge 1000 GPS bike computer puts in-ride challenges, via Garmin Connect segments with real-time results, and bike-specific navigation at your fingertips – all on a rugged, dual-orientation display with a large, high resolution 3.0″ full-color screen that is optimized for use with gloves and in the rain.

Garmin Edge 1000 GPS

Garmin Edge 1000 GPS has a bright 3.0″ display

Packed with lots of new features, the Edge 1000 GPS bike computer is still easy to use, and even adjusts the display automatically for low light areas, like shady spots and tunnels. You can transform your ride into a race by competing on Garmin Connect segments and view real-time results, including alerts for segment start and finish, and leaderboard rankings. Navigate the best cycling roads and explore new on-road and off-road routes with the preloaded Garmin Cycling Map and RoundTrip Routing function. Enter routes to specific Points of Interest, like your favorite restaurants, or just plug in a distance and let the Edge 1000 GPS pick a route for you!

Garmin Edge 1000 out-front mount

New out-front mount is included with the Garmin Edge 1000

The Edge 1000 GPS has connected features, like incoming calls, emails and text alerts from your iPhone 4S or later, social media sharing, sending/receiving courses, live tracking, and wireless uploads to Garmin Connect. It also provides advanced performance analysis, including integration with compatible Shimano Di2 electronic shifting systems. Pair your Edge 1000 GPS with an ANT+ heart rate monitor, speed sensor, cadence sensor or compatible power meter for a finely tuned analysis of your ride.

Order your Garmin Edge 1000 GPS today – either the Garmin Edge 1000 GPS or the Garmin Edge 100 GPS Bundle, which includes a heart rate monitor strap and speed/cadence sensor.

Introducing Ridley Bikes at Performance Bicycle

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If you know nothing else about Belgium, you should know that the roads are cobbled and the weather is, well, we’ll be polite and call it changeable. If your bicycle is anything less than the toughest thing around, you won’t be owning that bike for very long. Which is why if you ever go to Belgium you’ll notice that most people ride Ridley bikes—because they’re made in Belgium, for Belgian roads.

When your roads look like this, your bikes better be as tough as the riders

When your roads look like this, your bikes better be as tough as the riders

Ridley Bikes was founded with the design philosophy of “tough enough to ride, fast enough to win, tested in every day life”. The company was started in Hasselt, Belgium in 1990 by Joachim Aerts, a former juniors racer. Originally founded as a bicycle paint shop in his father’s garage, Ridley has since evolved into one of the most innovative and dependable bike brands in cycling.

Joachim got his start by offering both custom frames, and later custom paint for pro and amateur riders. At the time, during the age of steel bikes, most professional would have their bikes built by the favorite custom frame builder (usually someone local who knew the rider well), but would have them painted to match their sponsor and team colors. When riders switched to aluminum bikes however, entirely new construction techniques became possible and Joachim used his experience as a juniors racer to begin designing a  new generation of bikes that were tougher, stronger, and faster than anything available before.

Ridley's facilities remain in Hasselt, where most of the bikes are still finished and assembled

Ridley’s facilities remain in Beringen, where many of the bikes are still finished and assembled

The evolution only continued with carbon fiber, and Ridley now makes bikes that are shaped to be strong, engineered to be fast, and ones so light they practically float up the hills.

The Ridley line-up consists of four basic models:

The Ridley Fenix was engineered for cycling’s “Spring Classics” races. It features a more relaxed geometry than their other road bikes, and Ridley’s innovative diamond-shaped tubing shapes for superior strength. The Fenix is available in 4 models, in both carbon fiber and aluminum, exclusively at Performance Bicycle.

The Ridley Fenix is one of toughest bikes around –  perfect for racing, gran fondos, and every day riding.

The Ridley Noah was designed with input from famed sprinter Andre Greipel, and is designed solely for speed. With water-droplet shaped tubes and the F-Split fork to knife through the wind. The Noah is available with a Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed groupset, exclusively at Performance Bicycle.

With it’s aero tube shapes, F-Surface treatment and revolutionary F-Split fork, the Ridley Noah is one of the fastest bikes in the world.

The Ridley Helium was designed for climbers, with circle shaped tubes that offer the best strength-to-weight ratio possible, allowing Ridley to shave off every possible gram. The Helium is available with a Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed group set, exclusively at Performance Bicycle.

The circle shaped tubing offers the best strength-to-weight ratio possible, which allowed Ridley’s engineers to make the Helium as light as possible.

The Ridley Liz is a women’s specific bike, and was designed for the ultimate in fit, performance and comfort without compromise. The Liz is available in two carbon fiber models, with either Shimano Ultegra 6800 or Shimano 105, and as a carbon fiber frameset.

To get the best mix of performance, comfort, and fit, Ridley worked with several pro women’s teams to find the best geometry for the Liz.

Today, Ridley is one of the most recognizable bikes in cycling. Famed for their toughness, and for their race-winning performance under the riders of the UCI World Tour Pro team Lotto-Belisol, Ridley’s penchant for innovation has made them one of the most imitated and watched brands in the industry, but the only one with the heritage and hard-earned reputation to be able to say “We Are Belgium”.

Diamondback Interval Carbon Flat Bar Road Bike

It’s not everyday that the most exciting bike in our offices turns out to be a flatbar road bike. Now, we don’t mean any disrespect…flatbar road bikes are fun to ride, comfortable and offer plenty of advantages… but they usually aren’t the bikes that everyone in the office crowds around to see. That is until the Diamondback Interval Carbon Flat Bar road bike showed up.

Diamondback Interval Carbon Flat Bar Road Bike

Diamondback Interval Carbon Flat Bar Road Bike

First off, lets start with that paint job. Wow. Between the amazing job they did on the Podium series and now this, we’d say that Diamondback’s graphics department is knocking it out of the park right now. With the subtle, nuanced paint job, pops of color, and thoughtfully designed graphics, this is a bike that will definitely turn heads out on the road. Or outside your garage. Or parked outside the coffee shop. Pretty much anywhere. And that frame isn’t all just pretty paint either. With the Interval Carbon, the true beauty lies in the details. The Interval Carbon is built around a high performance, full carbon frame with a nice, relaxed sloping geometry that’s easy on the shoulders and back, but is definitely stiff and responsive enough to have some get up and go if you’re so inclined. But take a look at the frame around the stem…see the top tube junction scoops down into the head tube? That’s a feature normally found on high-end time trial and aero road bikes to decrease the aerodynamic profile of the bike. And lets look at that fork, it looks shockingly like a time trial fork. With it’s narrow profile and a sculpted fairing that helps eliminate drag space with the down tube. But it also includes disc mounts. And fender braze-ons. The bike also has internal cable routing, and is compatible with both mechanical and electronic groupsets.

One of the most distinctive elements of the frame is the recessed head tube area

One of the most distinctive elements of the frame is the recessed head tube area

This is a bike that truly marries performance and comfort in the best possible way. Out of the box it’s equipped with a set of flat handlebars, Shimano Tiagra 10-speed trigger shifters and derailleurs and a set of hydraulic disc brakes. This gives you plenty of gearing and powerful stopping power to get around on any roads. Nice, big tire clearance lets you run some fairly large volume tires, and still gives you room for fenders. There is also a set of rack mounts in the back, if you’re the type that prefers to put your stuff on the bike instead of your back. The really intriguing thing to us though is how versatile this bike is. We took it out for a quick spin around the parking lot, and were really surprised at not only how fun it was ride, but also how responsive and lively it felt. This is a bike that responds to rider input, both in the pedals and the handlebars.

With a little bit of technical know-how, a rider could easily have multiple road bikes in the Diamondback Interval Carbon. Want to do a charity ride or just get out for some exercise on the weekend? Roll it out of the garage and you’ll have a comfortable bike that will go as fast as you want it to. Commuting or cruising around town? Throw a rack on it, some fenders and you have a super comfortable, practical bike for getting around. Doing a fast ride or even racing? Replace the flat bar and trigger shifters with some drop bars and Shimano STI levers, and you would have one sweet carbon fiber disc-brake road bike. If you’re looking for a bike that delivers the very best of all worlds, with unmatched performance, versatility, and flexibility, we would definitely recommend the Diamondback Interval Carbon flatbar road bike.

Our Favorite Youtube Videos

Have you checked out the Performance Bicycle Youtube channel lately? If not, it’s definitely worth a peek. It’s packed full of Product Reviews, Buyer’s Guides, Riding Tips, How To Guides, and more to help you find the products you want, stay up to date, and help you get more out of your bike and gear.

Of the hundreds of videos we have, here are some of our favorites:

 

 Riding Tips

Ever wondered what the best way to clear that log in your path was? Learn how in our How To Jump A Log video:

 

How To Guides

Adjusting your front derailleur is more art than science. To get the hang of it, check out our How To Adjust Your Front Derailleur video:

 

Buyer’s Guides

Shopping around for a new indoor trainer? We break down the different types to choose from in our Guide To Indoor Trainers video:

 

Product Reviews

Looking for a great pair of all-around wheels? Check out our product review of the Zipp 202 Firecrest wheels.

What Would You Do With a $4000 Shopping Spree at Performance Bicycle?

If you are anything like us, then you can’t stop daydreaming about what you’d get if someone gave you a blank check to update your cycling gear. If you win the $4000 Shopping Spree at Performance you’ll get your chance! One lucky winner will get $4000 in Performance Gift Cards to spend on whatever they would like from PerformanceBike.com or one of our local stores. To get you started with some ideas for what to get if you win, we surveyed a few coworkers here at our home office for what they would get if they won.

Mark – one of our product developers:

Mark's $4000 mountain bike selections

Mark’s $4000 all-mountain selections

Mark wanted to upgrade his all-mountain ride, so he went with a Devinci mountain bike along with a few select upgrades to round out the package: Devinci Troy XP 27.5″ Mountain Bike – 2014Thomson Elite Dropper SeatpostRace Face SixC Carbon Riser HandlebarGiro Gauge MTB ShoesSmith Pivlock Overdrive Multi-Lens Eyewear 2014.

Eddie – analyst on our Marketing team:

Eddie's ultimate mountain bike upgrade selections

Eddie’s ultimate mountain bike upgrade selections

Eddie wants to update his mountain bike into the ultimate race-ready rocket, so he picked a sweet upgrade kit: SRAM XX1 Mountain 11-Speed Mountain Bike KitSRAM XX Front Disc BrakeSRAM XX Rear Disc BrakeSRAM 29″ Rise 60 Carbon Mountain Bike Front WheelSRAM 29″ Rise 60 Mountain Bike Rear Wheel – XD Driver

Eric – Merchant Assistant:

Eric's road bike-centric selections

Eric’s road bike-centric selections

Eric is all about going fast on his road bike, so he picked a selection of aero & power upgrades: PowerTap G3 SES 3.4 Carbon Tubular Shimano Wheelset, a pair of Vittoria Corsa CX III OE Tubular Road TiresGarmin Edge 510 GPS BundleLouis Garneau Course Road HelmetThera-Roll Textured Therapy Foam Roller, and a Luxe Bamboo Go! Towel.

Alicia – Clothing Product Developer:

Alicia's mountain bike, home shop & road training upgrades

Alicia’s mountain bike, home shop & road training upgrades

Alicia wanted to upgrade her mountain bike & the gear to go with it, outfit her dream home workshop, plus get a road bike for training: Park Tool PK-65 Professional Tool KitPark Tool PRS-25 Team Issue Work StandFox 34 Float 29 140 FIT CTD Suspension Fork with Trail Adjust 2014Mavic Crossroc 29 WTS Mountain WheelsetGiro Xar MTB HelmetSidi Women’s Dominator Fit MTB ShoesDakine Women’s Siren ShortsDakine Women’s Juniper Short Sleeve JerseyDakine Women’s Sentinel Gloves, and a Schwinn Fastback 3 Women’s Road Bike – 2014.

Just remember that you can’t win if you don’t ENTER NOW on our Facebook page – contest ends on 5/4/14.

Product Profile: Nuun Active Hydration

nuun active hydration

You may have seen one of the tubes of Nuun active hydration (pronounced “Noon”) in one of our local Performance Bicycle stores and wondered what was up with these tiny tabs that you drop into your water bottle. Nuun was originally the brainchild of a professor from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. An avid cyclist, he longed for a lightweight, easy to use hydration method that didn’t involve a sticky high-calorie mess. His research led to the creation of the sugarless, dissolvable, and portable tablet called Nuun – separating electrolyte replacement from carbohydrates. You get the electrolytes your body needs during a hard ride, without the sugars or carbohydrates that can cause stomach upset or inhibit absorption.

Nuun Active Hydration

Nuun Active Hydration Drink Tablets

Nuun Active Hydration Drink Tablets

The original Nuun Active Hydration drink tabs are portable, taste great and deliver a fast-absorbing electrolyte blend without the sugar or waste of bottled sport drinks. Just pop out a Nuun tablet from the tube, drop it in your water bottle, toss the tube in your jersey pocket and you’re ready to go. It also contains 4 essential electrolytes that when combined with water, give you optimal and balanced hydration — sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Plus the refreshing flavor with a bit of fizz reminds you to keep drinking.

Nuun All Day Hydration

Nuun All Day Natural Hydration Drink Tablets

Nuun All Day Natural Hydration Drink Tablets

Nuun All Day Hydration drink tablets are a vitamin enhanced formula to help you stay hydrated throughout the day. They’ll keep you healthy, energized and focused, with a crisp, refreshing flavor that goes down easy. With zero sugar, all natural ingredients, and under 8 calories per serving, you can add more water to your daily routine with Nuun All Day.

Nuun Energy

Nuun Energy

New Nuun Energy tablets

The newest member of the Nuun family is Nuun Energy drink tablets. Nuun Energy takes their essential electrolyte mix and elevates it with a caffeine boost, and energizing B Vitamins. There is still no sugar, just the same light and refreshing Nuun flavors with the electrolytes you need to make the most of your water, but enhanced with B Vitamins to turn carbohydrates into accessible fuel and caffeine to energize your mind and body without the crash.

You can buy Nuun online at PerformanceBike.com and in your local Performance Bicycle store.

 

Check out our Learning Center for more info from our Advanced Guide to Hydration.

The Fuji Altamira SL

The Fuji Altamira SL is one amazing bike

The Fuji Altamira SL is one amazing bike

We’ve always really liked the Fuji Altamira. The blend of race-winning performance, high tech construction, and a geometry that you can ride all day have made it a staple for road riders around the office.

We were really excited though when we learned that our friend and coworker Jeff decided to get the Fuji Altamira SL. While all of the Altamira’s are fine bikes, the engineers at Fuji made the SL their special project—and pulled out all the stops to make it as light as they possibly could. When Jeff unboxed his bike and threw it on the scale, it turned out to be so light that it was not UCI/USCF legal to race. His size large bike, fully built up, weighed in at an astonishing 13.6 pounds—about 2 full pounds lighter than any of the other carbon-everything super steeds around the office.

When we picked it up to check it out, we almost felt like we were going to accidentally throw the thing through the ceiling.

So how did they get there? The Fuji Altamira SL is built around the same High Modulus, High Compaction C15 carbon fiber frame as the other high-end Altamiras, but where things get interesting is in the component choices. Full carbon fiber Oval Concepts handlebars, stem, and seatpost offer some serious weight savings over traditional alloy components, while the SRAM Red 22 groupset is the lightest component set available, saving over 200 grams versus Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 and about 110 grams over Campagnolo Super Record Titanium. But what really helps this bike fly up the hills are the Oval Concepts 970 full carbon fiber tubular wheels. Weighing in at only about 1100 grams, these wheels are almost a full pound lighter than a pair of carbon clincher wheels.

Jeff customized his build with a Fizik Antares saddle (the shape of the included Oval 970 full carbon saddle just didn’t work for him, but it’s a fine saddle in and of itself) and a set of Speedplay pedals.

This is one sweet ride, and we’re insanely jealous of his beautiful, welter-weight bike. If you’re looking for a machine that can get you up and over just about any sized hill in your path, then the Fuji Altamira SL is for you, and available at Performancebike.com.

To learn more about the Fuji Altamira line of bikes, check out our article.

 

To see more detailed pictures, check out the gallery below.

Fat Bikes, Gravel Bikes and More from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show 2014

Since the 2014 edition of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show was right down the road from our home office, as it was held only a few hours away in Charlotte, NC, we couldn’t miss out on the chance to see what this creative array of small and custom bike builders have been dreaming up. While many of their designs aren’t for everyone, that’s precisely the point! Having a small and nimble design and build team (of sometimes just one person) means that they can cater to niche markets and often anticipate new trends in the cycling industry.

So what did we notice while we perused the convention hall – well, quite a bit of creativity! But one of the big trends (pardon the pun) was the growing number of fat bikes on display, in a wide array of sizes, colors, suspension and utility:

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Gravel bikes were also on display from many builders, again in a variety of shapes and sizes. The line gets kind of fuzzy between gravel and cyclocross bikes, but the idea for a gravel bike is one that you can ride any where – on road, off road, and everything in between. Wide tires, lots of clearance, and disc brakes were common factors on these do-anything “road” bikes.

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But a lot of the fun of the Handmade Bicycle Show is just taking a look at the creative and sometimes wacky designs on display – all a direct reflection of the builder and the person that the bike was designed for.

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And finally, while we didn’t catch them all, we also loved checking out the headbadges that each bike builder used on their bikes – one last bit of personality to finish off a frame!

Diamondback Podium Optum Pro Cycling Team Edition Road Bike

Painted in team livery colors, hung with SRAM Red 22 and rolling on HED wheels, this is one serious machine

Painted in team livery colors, hung with SRAM Red 22 and rolling on HED wheels, this is one serious machine

It’s not often that most of us get to ride the exact same machines that the pro’s do. While we can buy team replica frames, most often they don’t come with the same parts that the pro’s actually ride. Sure you may end up with a bike that may have the same color scheme, and some of the components may look almost right, but when you see a close-up of the pro’s equipment you realize that what you ended up with is indeed just a replica. It’s not the same race-ready gear that is built to hold up to the rigors of the upper echelon of pro cycling.

But Diamondback set out to change all of that in 2014 when they announced that the Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies team was going to ride Diamondback Podium bikes. The Podium is one of the finest bikes we’ve ever had the opportunity to ride. Stiff, fast, responsive, and drop-dead gorgeous, these are bikes that can help Optum, and you, take the win. And this is no “team replica” bike either. The light Continuous Fiber Technology frameset is painted up in team livery colors, hung with pro-level SRAM Red 22 components, and rolling on stiff HED carbon tubulars – in short it’s the exact same bike the Optum pro’s will be riding in the Tour of California and other top races in North America and Europe. And the best news is, it’s now available at Performance Bicycle.

To see more, check out the gallery below.

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