by Micah Ling
Every superhero needs proper attire. And above all, it’s got to fit right.
It’s not that Clara Brown and Noah Middlestaedt are all that different from anyone else. In fact, that’s the point. We’re all different; we’re all the same. Most people fall somewhere between sizes. Or wear one size on the top and a different size on the bottom. But more than most people, Clara and Noah really need cycling apparel that’s doing its job. Staying in place — not chafing or causing them to really think about what they’re wearing at all.
They’re both cyclists for Team USA, and are both hoping to compete in the Paralympics in Tokyo in August. There are, of course, many unknowns, but the couple is training to compete.
What Clara and Noah have realized, and what they want others to know, is that small tweaks and modifications go a long way. Things that seemed impossible at one time — or at least wildly uncomfortable — are now non-issues. Modifying a bike, in a variety of ways, is actually quite easy these days. “A couple of small tweaks made all the difference in the world,” Clara says. To an untrained eye, her bike looks no different than others, but for Clara, being able to control all braking and shifting on one side, was a game changer. Both Clara and Noah also run very short cranks. “On my left side, I don’t have a lot of ankle mobility,” Noah says. “But that’s what makes the bike so cool — it’s such an adaptable piece of equipment. And people from all different backgrounds and all different situations can enjoy it, and gain freedom from it.”
Clothing makes just as much difference. “Noah and I sought Velocio out because we both have asymmetrical bodies,” Clara says. “We’ve dealt with a lot of size discrepancy, and we found their bibs the most comfortable because of the paneling and compression.” When it comes to bodies, they’re all different, and clothing might not seem like it would change an entire experience, but for Clara and Noah, it’s made a huge improvement to training and riding. “Things I’ve run into with a lot of [cycling clothing] companies is that the fit of the bibs, especially through the hips, is very uneven,” Noah says. But that’s not true with his Velocio bibs — they’re all he wears now.
Between my two quads, I have about a 5-centimeter circumference discrepancy. So what would fit my right quad, wouldn’t even compress on the left. There would just be a lot of extra fabric moving around. A lot of chafing issues and saddle discomfort. The Velocio bibs are absolutely necessary for me now. They make days in the saddle so much more manageable.
Clara has had the same experience with jerseys, and arm discrepancy. “For a long time I always had jerseys that were riding up or sitting awkwardly and flapping on the right side.” Both Clara and Noah agree that quality, well-fitting bike apparel goes a long way. “There are a lot of people who think of their world as so much more limited than it has to be,” Noah says. The things that have made the difference have been things that people might not even consider being life-changing — like a shorter crank, and the right clothing.
Clara and Noah live and train in Montana, not far from Glacier National Park. And while they spend plenty of time in curated training conditions — on the trainer or specific stretches of flat road — they’re also up for adventure. In fact, in the months after the Paralympics, they have specific goals to adventure as much as possible.
When they travel for racing, they don’t very often get to really experience the places as much as they’d like. So this fall, no matter what the year brings, they’re looking forward to exploring and trying new things. “For us, we just love riding our bikes, even more than racing or training,” Noah says. “What draws us to these places [where we ride for adventure,] is the ability to see so much in 4 or 5 hours. The bike has been able to transport us to cool places, and also given us the experience of the unknown — what will we see around the next corner? What will the weather do? How will we react? Will we take a wrong turn and have to go up a 20% gradient road?” The couple is excited to find out — they’re excited to keep pushing the boundaries of cycling and adventure, and encouraging others to do the same.