Introducing Shaun Pettigrew

Posted by on


In Navajo culture we have four sacred mountains, we rise toward the morning sun, and drink the water of life. When I ride I enjoy the challenge of the mountain peaks, the sun warms my body, and water refreshes my soul.


I live in Southwest USA, the Four Corners region where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado meet. To be more exact I live in Kirtland, New Mexico. I have lived her for 9 years, before that I was living in Shiprock, New Mexico on the Navajo reservation. You may have seen the iconic Shiprock aka Tsè Bit A’í (Rock with wings) in movies such as Transformers and Jumanji the next level.


Before I discovered cycling in 2013 I was 205-210 lbs, enjoying the night life, drinking a lot, and being lazy. I had no interest in the outdoors, my idea of an adventure was going to a big city for the night life. My spouse was always trying to get me outdoors, but I would only go outside to work on vehicles, but all that soon changed and now she cannot get me to sit down. Maybe she regrets wanting me to go outside now, but my life is forever changed!!

How did I get into cycling:

The fall of 2013 I seen a flyer for a horror film festival in a nearby mountain town, it was a surprise trip for the weekend (which has become our annual tradition). We enjoyed the town, I noticed all the outdoor stuff there was to do, we had an idea to go for a hike, not the best idea at my weight and at 9k elevation. So we found an “easy” hike, parked the vehicle, started our adventure, soon I was falling behind, then I was tired out at less than a mile into our hike. Back in town, I was a little disappointed with myself, I did not like the idea of running, we walked into a store, they sold bikes (which were way out of my budget) but that got the wheels in my head spinning.

 Back home I started going to the local bike shops, checking out bikes, comparing prices, and asking questions. Of course some of these shops didn’t really give me the attention, an over weight native guy looking at bikes (discrimination still exist). I picked out a bike in my price range (1k), then one for my spouse, because it’s more “fun” when not alone. First bike ride was in Durango, CO at horse gulch trail, I asked the bike shop what is an easy trail and this is where they sent us. Quick bike check, the start of first bike ride, well atleast until the hill, here I was walking my new bike uphill, watching everyone pedaling up, come to find out there is more to biking then buying a bike. I had no idea about shifting, gear selection, now that I look back I was in the big ring up front and small in the rear (no wonder I couldn’t pedal uphill).  Months have passed by, found a local bike event on social media “The Chuska Challenge”, it was definitely a challenge, a lot of walking and breaks, but I finished and it hurt, although it wasn’t a race at the time I was still happy to finish. Next up was the iconic Road Apple Rally, I registered for the 30 miler (go big or go home) it took me almost 4 hours to finish, I was 2-3 from last. I officially caught the racing bug, even though I was far from fast…

What races I do:

I started out mostly racing xc (cross county) mountain bike, fun local races to big Epic Rides races- Whisky off-road and Grand Junction off-road, then local duathlon (run-bike-run). I would search online to find races that I could afford but, Epic rides events were pricey but it was an experience. After getting to know the scene and meeting new people I found more and more races that were closer and less expensive. 

I raced the local cyclocross series which was fun, did 1 season on my mountain bike and the next season I bought a cross bike. 

I became interested in triathlons as well, a few sprints in the pool (400-600m swim, 12 mile bike, 5k run), then I got the idea to do IronMan 70.3 (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) it took me two attempts to complete it. The first time I missed the swim cutoff by minutes and received a DNF, but I went back the next year after training longer and harder.

 After that I decided to switch my focus back to racing mountain bikes, doing marathon and  longer endurance races like 12 & 24 hour. For 2018 and 2019 I decided I needed a new change, I now race single speed mountain bikes. 

What inspires me:

Inspiration for me comes within myself, being able to do things I never thought possible, challenge myself to reach new goals. I never thought I would ride my bike 100+ miles, ride my bike up two mountain passes (cinnamon and engineer at Alpine loop), or do 70.3 miles in one event.

 Growing up I was never great at sports, I was able to make the teams but I rarely played, I did a lot of practicing. Now I am able to be in a sport where everyone plays, nobody sits on the bench, nobody isn’t too big or slow, all that matters is you have fun on the bike. Now I am in a position to inspire others, my kids, my friends, people that start off as strangers but become my adventure family. Knowing that I can influence one person to get out of their comfort zone inspires me.

Community efforts:

My longest running tradition is “Holiday cheer” helping families in need with Thanksgiving meals, Christmas meals, and Christmas gifts for kids. 2020 would be the 14th year I have been doing this for my community, 2018 was my biggest year with the help of one my sponsors we helped out 30 families, feed over 100 people. I hope to continue this tradition as long as I can get support, funding, donations, and social media shares.

I also look for good deals on used bikes that I can afford in good structural condition, clean them up, make repairs, and find new homes for them. 

I do motivational speaking at events, mostly on the Navajo reservation. Topics range from my journey to a health lifestyle fighting diabetes, to drug & alcohol abuse, bullying, and suicide. These events have given me the opportunity to mentor and be a role model for many youth and also give adults an opportunity to share their storied & experiences.

In 2019 I built a bike from the frame up with new & used parts as a fundraiser to support four NICA teams with Native American student athletes. Once the build was complete I sold raffle tickets and raised over $1000 divided between the teams for entry fees. 

With the help of my sponsors with donated items I have been able to give back to many children in my community. 


What I think biking means to the Navajo community:

In Navajo culture we have four sacred mountains, we rise toward the morning sun, and drink the water of life. When I ride I enjoy the challenge of the mountain peaks, the sun warms my body, and water refreshes my soul.

I refer to my biking friends as my cycling family, never before have I had true friends, people that cared, support, and cheer each other on. Cycling has been a bonding experience, I has become deeply rooted in my personal life &  family life. When I was traveling a lot for races I would travel with one of my brothers, it reminded me of stories about my  grandfather, dad, uncles, and cousins; these stories are of their rodeo days. Navajo community has been big in rodeo way of life, the family, the competition, the challenges of making it to the next big ride. Long drives in the vehicle, food to go, coffee, sleeping in vehicles, all to ride your bike (horse, steer, bull), sometimes you get bucked off (crash) but you get back on, you have scars that tell a story, you win belt buckles (might not be rodeo buckles) but the ride is much longer than 8 seconds. These races are my rodeos, I tell my dad. It is bond with nature, being out in the sun, wind in your face, and sometimes under the moonlight & stars. 

2020 goals:

My overall goal is to continue to lead the way for others, set the example, be the role model for native athletes; when I first started this journey I was one of few native cyclist to line up at the starting line. Now more and more native athletes are joining the movement, running has always been popular but with social media I am reaching others and spreading the passion for  sport.

I have running and cycling goals spread throughout the year, several big events I will be training to reach these goals. Running races I want to keep a consistent pace, not drop speed too much, and finish injury free. All my cycling races with the exception of Leadville I have the goal of winning in single speed category. 

Running  goals include my first 30k in Moab, UT and Shiprock marathon (26.2 miles), I am not a strong runner but I will be doing my best to prepare for these distances.

Cycling goals revolve around a few big races, most notable is Leadville 100 mtb race; last year I received entry at Barn Burner in Flagstaff, AZ.  USA cycling Nationals in xc at Winter Park, CO and marathon Palo Duro Canyon, Texas. Arizona state MTB championship in Prescott, AZ and Dawn to Dusk AZ at McDowell mtn Park. 

Check out more of what Shaun's up too at:

Adventure Ambassador community Gravel mountain bike Navajo Nation New Mexico racing Southwest trails WTB

← Older Post Newer Post →