Shawn Hayden MO Switch

“Peddling Super Hard Because I Don’t Want to Die”

 An interview with cyclist and MO Switch co-founder, Shawn Hayden

Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Z. Gasa

Shawn Hayden sure has a lot under his belt, but you’ll never hear him boast about it. An avid cyclist, race director for the Kuat road cycling team, and co-founder of the nonprofit Missouri Southwest Initiative to Change Health (or MO Switch for short), the guy may have some bragging rights in the biking community, but his humility always keeps him grounded and focused on his mission: cycling and improving the health of his city.

As the latest guest on the Life in Motion podcast, Jeremy Lux chats with Hayden about MO Switch, how cycling changed his life, getting hit by cars, and how not to text your wife immediately after a death-defying accident. It’s as hilarious and candid of a talk as you can image.

A very humble guy, Hayden will be the first to tell you that he isn’t a gifted athlete despite competing in various races. “As a kid, I had zero athletic prowess,” he admits, “I tried every sport in the world and I was not good at any of them.” Hayden describes the time he tried playing baseball and immediately got smacked in the head on his first pitch.

So how does an admittedly bad but determined athlete suddenly get into cycling? Well, for Hayden all it took was getting a job in college at the local health food store, Mama Jeans. Long story short, but Hayden lived downtown, and the store was an easy commute by bike. “I just started riding my bike everywhere and that kind of segued me into becoming a healthy person at the age of 22,” he explains.

Though he’s moved on towards greater things, Hayden never forgets his roots. “Shout out to Mama Jeans! They employed me through grad school even though I consider myself one of the worst employees they’ve ever had,” he jokes.

Shawn Hayden Kuat Cycling Team

From there, cycling became not only a way to get around but a lifestyle, social activity, and so much more for Hayden. Though he hasn’t been as active in the racing community due to Covid, Hayden’s love for the sport shows no signs of stopping soon. Except maybe the time, he got hit by a car in August of 2020. Though there is no good way to collide with a vehicle, Hayden leaves fellow cyclists with a couple pieces of advice:

  1. “Don’t get hit by a car and destroy your bike during a global pandemic while there is also a global bike shortage.”
  2. “If you get hit by a car and your wife has called you because she just got home from work and is wondering where you are, please don’t simply respond with ‘Got hit by a car, call in a second,’ then refuse to elaborate…and do not tell her that she can just ‘pick me up whatever food you want to get.’”

Wise words!

Despite colliding with a full-size Nissan Armada, Hayden walked away without any major injuries or fractures, though he says his hips are still a little crooked from the spill. Things could’ve been much worse, but he sums it up nicely when he candidly says, “Yeah, that whole thing just sucked.”

Though cycling is great for your health, Hayden also realizes how dangerous and risky the sport can be. He boils down his sport to this: “Two 25-centimeter tires going 30 miles an hour, while wearing stupid underwear, and a funny Styrofoam hat. That’s what I’m doing.”

When you put it that way, yes biking does sound a little crazy, but the streets would certainly be safer for everybody if it weren’t for distracted drivers. Hayden admits that most drivers, especially Missouri drivers, are “pretty bad.” His prognosis? He says that people not only treat every street like a highway, but they don’t pay attention to the road or simply don’t care to.

Shawn Hayden

In a country built around the automobile, it’s difficult to make people empathize with who they’re sharing the road with. Hayden served on the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation to improve conditions but like most things in America progress is slow. For now, his solution is simply “peddling super hard because I don’t want to die.”

But when he isn’t busy dodging cars in traffic, Hayden can be found working to improve his community’s health as a co-founder of MO Switch. While similar orgs focus solely on fitness and exercise, MO Switch targets the source of health disparities like food insecurity and equal care through programs like Medicaid expansion. 

MO Switch holds fundraisers to provide meals to kids in low-income areas and even feeds them through the summer via food trucks. On top of that, the org donates money to area schools to pay for extra lunches for students. “All we do is pick up the bill,” Hayden says.

It’s one thing to promote fitness and health, but it’s a solution to try and fix the problem from the source. But per usual, Hayden excuses himself of any credit on the project.

Shawn Hayden MO Switch

“That was not our idea,” he says, “My partner, Alex and I, took the idea from a conference we were attending and she kind of just looked at me and said, ‘That’s a great idea, we’re stealing that.’”

Regardless of who thought of it, Hayden and his org will continue to provide kids with meals this year as well. And even if the model was somebody else’s idea, it still delivered amazing results for southwest Missouri. Such is the story of Shawn Hayden; a guy with great stories, a good heart, and loads of humility.

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Shawn Hayden can be found on Instagram and Facebook. You can also connect with with MO Switch on their website www.moswitch.net for fundraising news and updates. Lastly, you can get the full scoop on Hayden, from the time he almost got struck by lightning, to having one of his crashes go viral on YouTube, by tuning in to the Life in Motion podcast with Jeremy Lux on Apple Podcast and Spotify.