|Santa Catarina. Photo by Paul Calver|
To many, Brazil is little more than an amalgamation of images that they've come across in popular culture. There are beaches of Rio de Janeiro, their famed World Cup-winning teams, the favelas in São Paulo, and perhaps the most stereotypically Brazilian event of all: Carnival. Needless to say, this view of such a populous country is myopic at best, since fails to take into account numerous others aspects that make Brazil a beautiful and fascinating country.
One such aspect is the rise in cycling's popularity in Brazil. Though unable to claim the kind of cycling history that South American powerhouses like Colombia and Venezuela have, Brazilians are falling in love withe the sport, as riders like Murilo Fischer (Garmin-Barracuda) are beginning to show the European peloton that perhaps not all great South American riders must come from Spanish-speaking countries.
I spoke with Isaque Kirschner, from Kirschner Cycling Clothing, to discuss riding in Brazil, particularly in his home state of Santa Catarina, as well as the rising interest in the sport throughout the country. Although Santa Catarina is best known for its surfing culture, and many know Brazil simply for its Carnival, perhaps soon enough cycling will come to mind when people speak about this vast South American country.
What’s the current state of road cycling in Brazil?
Here, road cycling is seen as an intimidating professional sport. Unlike soccer and volleyball, that are easy to get involved with, cycling can be hard. It has little exposure and we do not have many big cycling names, other than Mauro Ribeiro (Tour de France stage winner in 1991), Marcio May (Pan American medalist) and Murilo Fisher (currently with Garmin-Barracuda). In the last couple of years the Tour de France and the Giro have been shown on Brazilian TV, and more riders are challenging themselves on the Brazilian roads. However, they are not yet safe or as good for cycling as in Europe.
Why did you want to start a cycling clothing company?
The more I’ve learn about road cycling, its long heritage, the legends and their stories, the more I became frustrated by cycling clothing in Brazil. The lack of uniqueness frustrated me. From a rider’s point of view, most Brazilian companies have no style and poor quality manufacturing. With very few exceptions they are copies of professional teams, or bad graphics in bright colors.
With Kirschner, we wanted to offer a technical product we would recommend for hard cycling, coupled with the aesthetics of something we wanted to wear. Quality, function and thoughtful design. Plus we’ve started to produce cycling-related content, and will run cycling events that we believe will separate us from the other companies.
What products does your line include?
As we launch, we will be offering two short-sleeved jerseys celebrating our home state of Santa Catarina, and a long sleeve jersey called Serra that celebrates the mountain ranges of Brazil. Over time we will be adding arm warmers, jackets and shorts. We will also be launching with a casual T-shirt with our signature mountain graphic. The soft fabric, the angled pockets and the design reflect our understated style and attention to detail. Our hope is to create better products for the Brazilian market; we see a lot of room for improvement.
|Photo by Paul Calver|
Will your products be available internationally through retail stores or online?
Initially we will sell in Brazil; we plan a slow, limited roll-out in countries like England and the US.
Where is the clothing made and designed?
As far as is possible, our clothing is made in Brazil. But, our designs have been developed in the UK through our collaboration with Six [a creative consultancy studio based in central England] and Darren Firth.
Is there a substantial market for higher-end cycling goods in Brazil?
The Brazilian market is growing in all aspects, especially in the production of better quality goods. This combined with investments in metropolitan cities like São Paulo, Curitiba, Florianopolis and Porto Alegre, among others, to improve them for the World Cup and Olympics, are planting the seeds for new cyclists to begin riding. Some of these people are liberal professionals, lawyers, dentists and entrepreneurs that see cycling as a means to enjoy themselves, relieve their stress and push themselves. These are the people Kirschner is aiming to inspire. We are on a crusade to show how this sport can thrive in our country.
|Photo by Paul Calver|
Brazil, like other South American countries, is often known by many for only a handful of things (which are sometimes negative). What do you wish people would know about Brazil and its people?
Brazil has a lot more history and culture than most people are aware of. Each part of the country was colonized by different immigrants. Santa Catarina, for example, has a lot of people of German and Polish origin, and Rio Grande do Sul state has many Italians and Germans. The weather, food, natural landscapes and the spirited people who are always ready to enjoy themselves, set Brazil apart.
|Photo by Paul Calver|
What do you think are the greatest obstacles that Brazilian cycling faces?
Brazil is one of the largest and diverse countries in the world. The mountain, forest and ocean roads are stunning, but the Government doesn't have cycling as a priority so roads are not as good as they could be. I would put safety and bad roads as great obstacles. But we are optimistic: we want to help people find good routes, new roads and enjoy the amazing scenery and challenges the Brazilian countryside can offer.
You are based in São Bento do Sul , in the state of Santa Catarina. How’s the riding there? That part of Brazil is mostly known for its surfing.
Cycling is especially good in Santa Catarina because of the varied natural landscape: you can be ride during the week into some nice rolling hills, and in the weekend ride down the mountains and push yourself in an all-day ride. The headwind on the flat road from São Bento do Sul to the beach can be punishing, but the final view or the sea is rewarding. Florianopolis Island and the famous Rastro climb are other great rides, though the drive to get there from São Bento can be dull.
|Photo by Paul Calver|
Aside from those routes, where else would you recommend that visitors ride if they find themselves in Brazil?
Kirschner's intention is to ride and document the best roads in Brazil. We have begun riding in the southern states and would recommend:
The epic Rastro climb (13.5 miles). The route is from Lauro Muller to Bom Jardim
Serra Dna Francisca climb: from São Bento do Sul to the Pirabeiraba / Br101
and back (69 miles, 8.6 miles of climbing)
São Bento do Sul to Barra Velha beach: Few hills and flat highway (75 miles)
In the State of Paraná there is a great cobblestoned descent called Serra da
Graciosa that is amazing on a mountain bike
In the State of São Paulo, Campos de Jordão climb (23 miles, with 8.5 miles of hard climbing)
In the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Serra de Gramado climb - From Três
Coroas to Gramado (17 miles)
If we speak again a year from now, what do you hope we’d talk about in regards
to the company?
We want to excite people, inspire them to ride and discover our great country and the beautiful sport of cycling. We will be producing even more products to make riding comfortable and stylish, and we will be creating content and events to inspire people to ride more. ▇
This interview was first published in Road Magazine
Kirschner's primary offerings are jerseys, which are made through dye sublimation, but use an unusually soft fabric. The sizing runs small, by about one size, so order up if you're considering a jersey.
Would you like to listen to the Vuelta A Colombia on the radio? You should, since you'll get a good sense for what cycling broadcasts on the radio have sounded like going back to the early 1980s. To put it simply, it's absolute insanity. Musical jingles, the commercials, the commentary, it's all slightly surreal and highly comical. Some of the voices are still the same that I listened to as a kid during the Tour de France, and what's more, they still use an unbelievable amount of reverb for the entire broadcast, including live reports from cars and motorcycles. Thanks to my brother (who wrote a guide to this year's race) for passing this link along. From what I can tell, broadcasts begin at 11am (EST). Listen here, there's a quick video advertisement, but then it goes to live coverage.