Meet Bear Team Director Chris Burnham

Chris Burnham has been the Bear Development Team Performance Director since our initial season in 2012.  This year he moves into the role of Road Team Director as well.  Chris is one of the brightest, most knowledgeable, best communicating, best listening, most experienced coaches we’ve ever met.  He is able to keep it fun while developing riders who continue to improve year after year.  His work with Bear Team Riders Bryan Duke and Tim Aiken has been nothing short of awesome.  These two continue to blow the doors off of what we thought was possible.  We are stoked to have Chris as a member of the Bear family and are looking forward to seeing him grow both the performance level and the stoke level on the road team this season.

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What are your basic stats: hometown, job, family, etc?
I live in Monterey CA, am a full time coach and bike fit practioner, husband, and father to an awesome 5 year old girl.

What is the Bear Development Team, to you?
Bear Development represents a chance to give back to a sport that has given me so much, as well as have an impact on future generations of cyclists and cycling culture. Creating a fun team atmosphere with a focus on confidence,team work, and professionalism helps these kids build good character that not only makes them good cyclists, but also good people. If we create athletes with strong character and ethics, than we can affect much more than the riders that are on our team. We can make a change in the sport itself.

How did you come to be involved with Bear?
I have coached Bryan Duke (one of the original riders with Bear Development) for several years before he started riding with Bear. Once Bryan was on the team I met Stu Bone who gave me the opportunity to be more involved with the program. I officially started working with the team at the Cascade Classic in 2012.

What do you like about the program?
We keep things fun. Everyone involved in the program is 100% professional and committed to athlete development, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun activities and make long lasting friendships at the same time.

How would you characterize Bear’s philosophies in terms of rider development?
Instill confidence, work ethic, and professionalism in their training and racing while keeping the sport fun. The reality is that not all of these cyclists are going to become Professional cyclists, but they can grow as people through this sport. I think we can make a positive impact on whatever they decide to do in life.

How would you characterize Bear’s philosophies in terms of helping young riders develop in other areas of their lives, away from the bike?
Bear has a strong history of helping our athletes get over the awkwardness of talking to girls through the development of games like heat seeker, a game where riders have to say hi to person of the opposite sex. I am pretty sure that Tim Aiken is the reining Heat Seeker champion after our trip to Nationals in Madison Wisconsin.

What is your background in the sport?
I began mountain bike racing at 18 years old and raced up to the elite level on the road and mountain bike for next 15 years. After racing for close to ten years, I started coaching a few athletes on the team I was racing for. I really enjoyed the process, and what originally started as helping a few friends become more of a passion. Slowly my racing started taking a back seat to coaching and working with athletes until I became a full time coach over 10 years ago. This year will be my 15th year coaching and 11th full time.

How would you characterize your fitness coaching and race day coaching philosophies with development riders?
My philosophy with coaching development riders is that effective coaching is a combination of exercise prescription based science to meet their unique goals and physiology, and a continuous conversation between athlete and coach that addresses all aspects of fitness. I make myself very accessible to my riders to make sure they are getting the information and guidance they need to excel.

With all your experience helping to develop and coach some really strong riders, what would you like to all tell young, developing riders?
Be patient! Not every rider develops along the same pathway and there isn’t a set timeline that athletes need to follow to get to the top of the sport. Trust in the process, stay committed to your goals, and put in the work. You can achieve more than you think.

What are your goals for the Bear Team in the years to come?
I would love to see the program continue to grow and be able to offer amazing experiences and challenges to these junior athletes. Even more so, I would like to see the philosophy of the Bear Development Team continue to grow to give as many young cyclists as possible the same opportunities to grow as athletes and people as our riders.

You generously give a massive amount of time and energy to the help these kids. What are you trying to accomplish through your involvement with the Bear Team?
To give back to the sport, and give awesome kids the support that I wish I had when I was racing at their age.