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Old 26th February 2013, 21:46   #1
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Default Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report

Hi everyone. This review has been coming since almost a month now, but I finally manage to pen my thoughts and commentary of this beautiful piece of machine that has now been my metal friend from the last 20 days.

The decision:
Why the Thunderbird? I'll start with a little bit in the history of the Thunderbird. A bike that is the only ‘different’ bike to come out of the RE stable and probably had a big role to play in reviving RE’s fortunes in the last decade (and of course the classic – which is.. what else.. a ‘Classic’). I was always fascinated with the looks of the Thunderbird as the closest that came to an Indian manufactured cruiser. As a medical student in the early 2000’s it was beyond budget for me to own one, but I had my heart set on it. As time passed, over the next few years my work ensured that there was no particular need to own a motorcycle and four wheels plus occasional rides on regular 100-150 cc bikes did suffice. Meanwhile the TB got upgrades - an AVL, a twinspark and then the UCE.

Sometime in late 2010, the ‘keeda’ in me to own the cruiser was revived. While the urge wasn’t too strong, I started looking out for reviews of owners of the TBTS, to gauge the response and overall feedback on the bike. All I read kept reinforcing the heart to go out and get one. Sometime during that time, a visit to the showroom and a big waiting period acted as a dampener on me. There was yet no specific need to own the bike. The dilemma continued..

In the middle of 2011, I had a chance to ride a friend’s Classic 500. Now this was a spanner in the works on my TBTS plans. The power on the Classic was too good to resist and my dilemma was now three pronged including should I buy? and if yes, which one? I actually wished for a Thunderbird with the 500 engine..

I should have wished for world peace because soon I started reading about RE’s plans for a TB 500 and felt it was better to wait, assuming patience to have its own virtues. Come Jan 2012 and the TB 500 at the Delhi expo was the first thing that got my attention. The looks and revamped design absolutely floored me. The digital console and LED lights was a welcome change and knowing that RE is serious to launch it within the year was a major boost. This had to be it.. A decision was made and I had at least 10-12 months (knowing RE’s time frame – they had announced a tentative launch of June 2012) in my hand to plan and save.

Booking:
When the TB was launched on Oct 12th 2012, I was out of the country for professional reasons and missed the launch announcements. It was only on the 20th that I realized it’s been launched (through the TBHP thread). 24th being Dasshera, I and my wife (Important to note that she’s financed 50% of the bill – so lucky me) went to the showroom – Soniya motors in Bhandup, Mumbai. Another surprise awaited me as I saw a revamped TB350 available with almost the same features (except of course the EFI). This put me in another dilemma –of looking to save around 40k by going for the 350) assuming I would also save with a better mileage).. But as they say, RE’s make a connection with you.. A TR of the 500 made that connection.. What power! What torque!! and what a feeling (all this in less than 2 km of TR). The mind suddenly justified the extra 40k. After all, I do intend to own it for life and maybe pass it on to my son if he grows up to love machines. So with all due respects to the 350, I chose the 500 to be my running mate and the beauty was booked. A waiting period of 3 months was just acceptable at that moment.

From Oct 2012 to Jan 2013
I wait… search on forums… read reviews by Rajneeesh, Shan and Insearch on tBHP..wait some more..

Last week Jan 2013
I keep following up with the dealer and get a standard reply that the stock usually comes around 25th of the month. Calling them on 28th, I get a response that my choice of color (Flicker) is not available and I’ll have to wait until the next stock arrives. Alternatively I can opt for the twilight color and can take delivery in 10 days. I refuse and ask to wait until next stock comes. Meanwhile I write a mail to the RE customer-care asking for reasons of non-availability of a newly launched bike. Magic happens overnight; I get a call from the dealer that a flicker TB500 has arrived and I can visit and complete formalities. I presume, the dealer probably knew I had funds ready and wanted to hand over an extra twilight he had. So I go over on 30th and hand over the cheque and other documents as required. Now I need to wait for another 8-10 days for delivery…

Wait got over on Feb 5th as the dealership called asking me to come for delivery next day. Due to preoccupation, I tell them that I’ll take delivery on 7th (A mistake, as I realised later..)

The D-day:
On 7th April, armed with a PDI list (Thanks to Randhawa’s thread and those provided by Insearch) we go to take delivery of my beauty. Exhilaration - is how I can summarize when I saw the beast in the showroom. Did a PDI as per my list and found the bike to be satisfactory. But just when I took the key, saw something that was upsetting. The Odometer read 91 kilometers. On asking about it, I got vague and out rightly stupid answers right from – ‘bike was taken to the RTO’; to ‘all bikes are tested for that many kms’. None of the other bikes in the showroom were driven that much (@30kms all). I had to raise my voice over this. I later took this issue with the Territory manager of RE and it was found that one guy in the showroom had taken it for a spin (the one day that I had told them I wouldn’t be taking delivery). I lodged a formal complaint on this with the showroom and RE and received feedback that action has been taken against that particular free loader. But I still want to warn others on the forum to be careful about this (Especially with Soniya motors). I agreed to take delivery only because the bike was running smooth and there were absolutely no scratch or spill on it. It looked absolutely immaculate except for the odo running. I would not have had a problem had the guys at the dealer accepted that they took the bike for a spin. I know they always do after removing the odo cable in all bikes. Here’s a snap taken at delivery.

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Anyways, I was also apprehensive of all other problems I have read on tBHP forums that have cropped up at PDI of RE bikes, thankfully this bike did not show any major issues (I have read about broken nuts, loose wires and even bend forks). There was no rusting (thankfully) anywhere. But, RE being RE, I have had my share of amusing QC errors. Two major ones are as follows –

The right side RVM was badly scratched (see picture). Had to ask twice to replace it. They did it after i insisted on replacement. Had a new one installed immediately.
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Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report-2.5.jpg
The next one is a howler! Just see the picture to realise how I got a unique manufacturer. This is on the right side fuel tank. (the missing D in Enfield)
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On asking about it, there were sheepish expressions all around. They did not have an extra sticker at the time. Replacement of a new sticker took around 8 days and I had to call to follow up. Got a new one replaced exactly 8 days later.
Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report-3.5.jpg

Some more pics of the beast –
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Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report-6.jpg

Add ons:
Not one for many fancy add-ons. I have stuck to some basic requirements.
  1. Polish: Got Teflon polishing done after delivery. Makes the shiny flicker black color look even better.
  2. Protection: Got a FOX riding jacket, arm/elbow and shin guards and a pair of Pro-Biker riding gloves along with my existing Vega full face helmet. The wifey has her own helmet and I got a smaller one for my kid too. We ride with the ATGATT rule.
  3. Leg guard: Definitely needed a crash guard. From personal experiences working in emergency departments I wanted one in the bike. Have currently installed the air-fly guard as the diamond guard touches the feet on the TB500. I found that a little dangerous and uncomfortable for myself.
  4. A side bag: A must for regular commute, helps keep documents and sundry stuff safe. Don’t want to ride with a backpack etc. I struggled to find a good one before finalizing on this one.. Seems a perfect match for the color, chrome and looks.
    Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report-7.jpg
  5. A bike cover: None available could fit well. This bike is big. I had to search pretty well for an extra-large one. Got one finally in a local shop – its apparently called jumbo cover and not easily available. This guy had just one. Covers the bike completely. Would be handy when parking in rains.
    Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report-8.1.jpg
  6. Seat covers: This was a trouble as no shop had covers specifically designed for the new TB. A couple of the big shops even refused when I asked for a customised cover. But God exists in small things.. I found a seat cover tailor near my home who had one look at the seats and asked me if the seats come off (Of course they do!). For INR 200 the guy did splendid job of stitching 2 perfect fit, double stitched, washable seat covers (See pic below). Relieves me of the occasional scratchers and pranksters in parking lots.
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Here are the seats with the new covers
Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report-10.jpg

7. Safety locks: Cable locks for securing helmet and other stuff. Also act as a wheel lock if parking in unfamiliar places. Got ones that are number coded to avoid carrying many keys.

The running:
The running has literally been nirvana for me. The beast is indeed a well behaved beast. Runs smooth, is peppy even in the busy city roads and feels absolutely made for the highway. Riding it under 50 is the real challenge. Why? Because it does not want to. Even with a very minute opening of the throttle, it wants to run. However I kept it strictly under 50 for the first 500 kms and took engine breaks for 5 min every 40-45 minutes of riding.

Some observations: -
  • In the last 20 days of owning it, I have not had any problems regarding any leaks, misfiring or quality issues. No rusting or loosening of any parts. No oil residue after overnight parking.
  • I strictly idle the engine for around 2 minutes every morning and then for 30 seconds if starting after few hours before riding. This is to ensure proper oil flow and seems to be working well.
  • For my height and built (5’8” – 74 kgs) the Seat, handlebar & foot peg positions are very spot on. Even longish rides (50 kms) have not caused fatigue (Do note that 50 km took me 1.5 hours at average speed of 40-50 kmph)
  • It stays easy and nice from 1000 rpm to 4000 rpm in each gear. The muted thump sounds music to the ears but can be a bit louder.
  • RVMs are good on the highways as well. I may consider switching to chrome plated ones (Like the ones on avenger), just for the aesthetic appeal it’ll add on to the TB.
  • Digital console is comfortable to read while riding. The fuel indicator is a bit moody. Twice it showed 2 bars on ending a ride and shows 3 bars after resting the bike for some hours. No complains though.
  • The day riding light is a beautiful addition and a head turner. The projector lamps give superb visibility and a lot of confidence driving at night.
  • Good economy. Expecting 30; I got about 32-35 kmpl on my first 500 kms – a mix of highway and city riding (70:30 ratio).

What could be better:
  • The pillion back support – I find the one in earlier TB better. RE could have kept a higher back support in this one as well. And why not one for the rider too. Any ideas for custom made ones?
  • The silencer – It’s not bad, but a better design would have suited the machine well. I may consider (only if it does not affect performance) fitting an after sales silencer that gives slightly better thump. But this after at least 10k on the odo with the factory fitted one.

The first servicing:
The TB went for its first servicing at exact 500 kms on the odo. No major problems to report except that the air filter to throttle rubber hose was torn from the junction of its attachment. It was replaced within warranty. I sat through the entire servicing and ensured that oil and filter are changed. Fork oil was topped and chain tension was checked. The bike was washed at the end of the service. All took around 2 hours 15 minutes.
Here's the bike being serviced -
Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report-11.jpg

Something peculiar happened after this. The EFI-MIL does not go out i.e. it continues to glow albeit a little less in intensity (typically how lamps would glow if the battery is draining out) after initial glow of high intensity. The clock too was erroneous and kept flickering. On pointing this out, the service personnel (3 of them) uniformly inform me that this is due to water in some circuit and should go away after sometime. I am not hassled as I had read someone reporting something similar in Randhawa’s thread and so drive out.. But the moment I try to apply the brakes, the rear doesn’t seem to exist. Before the servicing the rear brake was very sensitive and stopped the bike with a minor press. Not now, in fact I drove into the A.S.S with the rear brake fully pressed and the bike moving easily. This again was attributed to water in the disk and they assured me it will go away in a few hours.

The rear disk seemed to get some bite on the way back.. Thankfully after around 4-5 hours, both the MIL and rear brake issues no longer exist. I am relieved. But seriously, will be worried when it rains.

Post servicing, the gear shifting is smoother. The bike runs butter smooth as before and keeps turning heads everywhere I ride it.

The way ahead:
Intend to extend the ‘running in’ and increase speeds gradually up to 60 then 70 and then 80 until 2000K.

Epilogue
In the short time I have had along with the TB 500, this beautiful machine makes me look forward to ride it every day. Every ride has been comfortable and a pleasure. This included 2 good 30 km rides with just me and my 4 year old son, who now has already started showing signs of wanting to inherit it. The TB500 has already become a part of my discussions at home and outside.

With all pointers looking good, my heart says I’ll cherish riding it for years to come..

Thanks for reading this far. Will keep you all posted on my journey with the bird.

Last edited by sam_b : 27th February 2013 at 17:28.
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Old 28th February 2013, 19:17   #2
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Default Re: Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Motorbikes Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 28th February 2013, 19:37   #3
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Default Re: Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report

Congratulations on your new purchase sam_b!

TB being a bike you had your eyes on for a while and getting the top end version of it too, must be something very special and this bike should make you feel the same too!

I had test driven one few months back since I had serious thoughts of selling off my Electra CI and STD500 for the TB500. The first thing that hit me was the way it took off during accelration which was nothing like the other Enfields. Felt totally different. After much thought, decided not to part with my Cast Iron studs for a while more.
Yes, the exhaust needs to be changed. I hated the looks of it more than the sound. They could have may as well retained the old TB design muffler which suits the bike better.

Wishing you many happy and enjoyable rides.
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Old 28th February 2013, 20:32   #4
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Default Re: Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report

Congratulations sam_b.
A great review of initial impressions. Wish you very many happy miles with this beast.
Btw, were those seat covers fitted on top of the existing ones?
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Old 28th February 2013, 22:18   #5
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Default Re: Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report

Very good write up. Your patience with the dealership is exemplary. I guess you have to have such an even state of mind, being in the medical profession.
Please do get the hub checked and the spokes tightened, during your next service. My friend's hub broke and I have had a wobble in the rear. The good part is it does not cost much or take too long to rectify.
The sound or the thump will open up slowly, giving the bike more character.
Congratulations and wishing you many many happy moments together.
Regards.
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Old 1st March 2013, 09:15   #6
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Default Re: Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report

Congratulations and best wishes, sam_b. Thanks a lot for a good review of your RE TB500.
Quote:
Originally Posted by sam_b View Post
The EFI-MIL does not go out
This and the rear brake issue were due to washing with too much pressure at the service station, no doubt about it. I did not see this happening in any of the 4 free services that my son's RE Classic 500 had so far.
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Old 1st March 2013, 16:29   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sam_b View Post
With all pointers looking good, my heart says I’ll cherish riding it for years to come..

Thanks for reading this far. Will keep you all posted on my journey with the bird.
Congratulations on a lovely buy!
Could we have some more pictures please? Specially of the front & rear lamps, instrument cluster, switchgear etc.

How would you rate the Classic 500 vis-a-vis the TB500 in terms of acceleration, handling, braking & ride comfort?
Other than due to the water & fuel gauge reading episodes, have you had any other problems with the instrument cluster?

Wish you a lot of happy & safe miles on the black beast.

Cheers & ride safe.
Sam
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Old 1st March 2013, 18:00   #8
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Default Re: Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report

Quote:
Originally Posted by sam_b View Post
  • Digital console is comfortable to read while riding. The fuel indicator is a bit moody. Twice it showed 2 bars on ending a ride and shows 3 bars after resting the bike for some hours. No complains though.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful story! And needless to say your ride looks fantastic. I think changing the RVMs to chrome is a good idea, try getting metal ones and not plastic coated with chrome. The Royal Bird deserves the best!

About your concern with the fuel indicator misbehaving, nothing to worry. This is normal behavior. When you ride the bike for a long time, little amounts of fuel evaporate and is in vapor state in the tank, causing the effective fuel level to be a notch lower. Once the bike (and hence the fuel tank) cools, the vapor condenses back to liquid and hence the level goes up again.

Hope it helps! Happy Thumping!
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Old 2nd March 2013, 13:18   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tharian View Post
Congratulations on your new purchase sam_b!

TB being a bike you had your eyes on for a while and getting the top end version of it too, must be something very special and this bike should make you feel the same too!
Thanks a lot Tharian. Yes, you said it..

Quote:
Originally Posted by ventoman View Post
Congratulations sam_b. Btw, were those seat covers fitted on top of the existing ones?
Thanks Ventoman! Your review pushed me to find time and write mine. Yes, the covers are fitted on the existing ones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Insearch View Post
Very good write up.
Please do get the hub checked and the spokes tightened, during your next service. My friend's hub broke and I have had a wobble in the rear. The good part is it does not cost much or take too long to rectify.
Thanks Insearch. Inspired (and touched) by your review to begin with..
Would surely keep in mind your suggestion for the hub and spokes next time around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by J.Ravi View Post
Congratulations and best wishes, sam_b. Thanks a lot for a good review of your RE TB500.

This and the rear brake issue were due to washing with too much pressure at the service station, no doubt about it. I did not see this happening in any of the 4 free services that my son's RE Classic 500 had so far.
Thanks. Yes, its probably the pressure washing that caused the issue. While i did read a few similar comments of some owners in the classic 500 thread, it is good that your son's RE does not show similar issues. Careful during washing perhaps!
I also see you have booked a TB500. For yourself?

Quote:
Originally Posted by samarth.bhatia View Post
Congratulations on a lovely buy!
Could we have some more pictures please? Specially of the front & rear lamps, instrument cluster, switchgear etc.

How would you rate the Classic 500 vis-a-vis the TB500 in terms of acceleration, handling, braking & ride comfort?
Other than due to the water & fuel gauge reading episodes, have you had any other problems with the instrument cluster?

Wish you a lot of happy & safe miles on the black beast.

Cheers & ride safe.
Sam
From one Sam to another - Thanks! I'll be happy to add more pics, just did not focus too much on the instrument cluster and lamps as other owners have already posted great images. Nevertheless, mine coming up soon.

As for the rating vs Classic; IMHO, i find the TB500 better in all the aspects mentioned by you - better acceleration (Better pick up - though i have not crossed 60 until now; yet this was corroborated by another friend owning the Classic) better handling (specially cornering - which is also better than the older TB), better braking (2 discs!) and of course the ride comfort is the forte of the entire TB range.

No problems with the Instrument clusters until now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by motofreak View Post
Thanks for sharing your wonderful story! I think changing the RVMs to chrome is a good idea, try getting metal ones and not plastic coated with chrome. The Royal Bird deserves the best!

When you ride the bike for a long time, little amounts of fuel evaporate and is in vapor state in the tank, causing the effective fuel level to be a notch lower. Once the bike (and hence the fuel tank) cools, the vapor condenses back to liquid and hence the level goes up again.
Thanks motofreak! Your explanation made me realize the fuel gauge is not so 'moody' after all. And of course, point noted for chrome RVMs.

Last edited by sam_b : 2nd March 2013 at 13:43.
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Old 2nd March 2013, 18:23   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sam_b View Post
I also see you have booked a TB500. For yourself?
Yeah, I booked after seeing the performance of my son's Classic 500 for more than 8 months. My TB500 is expected by next month.
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Old 3rd March 2013, 11:41   #11
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Default Re: Thumping all the way - My Thunderbird 500 Ownership Report

I booked mine on 19th Dec 2012. Still no sign of my bull.

I've been told it might be delivered by end of March 2013. Fingers crossed. The wait is really frustrating.

Last edited by aah78 : 4th March 2013 at 06:57. Reason: Please limit smiley to 2/post. Thanks!
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Old 3rd March 2013, 16:36   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.Ravi View Post
Yeah, I booked after seeing the performance of my son's Classic 500 for more than 8 months. My TB500 is expected by next month.
Thats cool! Welcome to the club

Quote:
Originally Posted by marinegopi View Post
I've been told it might be delivered by end of March 2013. Fingers crossed. The wait is really frustrating.
Hi marinegopi, i can understand the frustration. I can assure you it will be worth the wait. You may want to keep following up with the dealer on the delivery though.
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Old 4th March 2013, 06:38   #13
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Quote:
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Thats cool! Welcome to the club



Hi marinegopi, i can understand the frustration. I can assure you it will be worth the wait. You may want to keep following up with the dealer on the delivery though.
Ya right but the problem is there's no dealer in Andaman islands. Just ordered it through another person who sources RE bullets for anyone interested in these islands.

He gets it from Kolkata. Anyways lets hope I get it soon.
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Old 4th March 2013, 17:04   #14
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Ya right but the problem is there's no dealer in Andaman islands.
WOW! You are in the Andaman's! I read your location as Navi Mumbai. Hope you get it soon bro. Do let us know, and i guess you may also tell others how to get a bullet in the Andaman's
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Old 4th March 2013, 19:20   #15
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WOW! You are in the Andaman's! I read your location as Navi Mumbai. Hope you get it soon bro. Do let us know, and i guess you may also tell others how to get a bullet in the Andaman's
Sorry bro about the location. I corrected it. I lived in Navi Mumbai for 3 years, thats when I joined this forum. But born,brought up and now settled in these islands. The Yamaha dealer in these islands also has another shop and procures cars and bikes of any brand which do not have a dealer in Port Blair.

Car or bike....is loaded into a container and comes by ship either from Chennai of Calcutta.

Last edited by marinegopi : 4th March 2013 at 19:23. Reason: typo error
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