The McGoo Interview
McGoo, sometimes called Harold McGruther is an outside of the box thinker. Working in the bicycle industry for some time he was part of the force behind the Downhill BMX you used to see at the X Games as well as running the Snafu bike parts company. Although mainly known for BMX products, Snafu now also makes parts for the Freeriders out there. In between gathering a world record for air miles to Taiwan, the one they call McGoo gave us some insight…
Photo credit: Bart De Jong/Fatbmx
Where did you come up with the idea to take BMX racing and add a Downhill element?
McGoo: The idea to add downhill to modern BMX wasn’t unique—The most legendary BMX tracks of the ’70s and early ’80’s both in America and abroad were downhill. When BMX was taken indoors in the early 80’s to give track operators year ’round racing without problems from weather, the age of the downhill BMX track ended. When my group pitched “downhill BMX” to executives at ESPN in 1999, they were riding a high on NASCAR and Freestyle. I simply told them that downhill BMX would be like NASCAR on BMX bikes, and they bit.
Downhill BMX used to be part of the X Games roster didn’t it?
McGoo: Downhill BMX was an X Games medal sport for three years from 2001 to 2003. The costs involved with building a track, finding a host venue, doing off-site TV production, running 32 athletes through the system, media research, etc. for a 6-minute TV spot were simply too prohibitive for ESPN to continue supporting the sport. In 2001 ESPN hired the man who produced the Superbowl to do the X Games DHBMX. He told me he used 15 cameras to cover the football game. We used 21 cameras to produce our first DHBMX. With these kinds of costs, it was a miracle we got ESPN to sign a 3-year deal!
Whatever became of the sport?
McGoo: See above
I have to ask…about that cover for the Mongoose catalog that got you in hot water. What was the deal with that?
McGoo: Ancient history… Long story short: Brad McDonald gave me a photo of a black transvestite and I put it on the cover of the 1991 Mongoose BMX catalog. Ownership didn’t like it, so they had to put 150,000 stickers on the covers of the catalog to avoid potentially pissing people off. After the big trade show that year, they fired me. Interestingly, no one ever complained.
You are a busy guy. How many projects are you involved in at one time?
McGoo: Bill Bryant and I are partners at Revolution, a small advertising, design and business-planning agency that caters to the action sports industries. Revolution has three full-time clients for web design and IT advertising services. My responsibilities to those clients include account management, copy writing/editing, marketing consultation and ad concepting; Bill manages one account and does all graphic design and art direction for every project that comes through our door. Additionally, I manage product development, teams and marketing for SNAFU BMX. This constitutes all the bike-related work I do on a daily basis. Three years ago BIll and I launched another company called Biltwell Inc. Biltwell caters to the hard-core chopper market, and has been in business a little over three years. I’ve been building custom motorcycles as a hobby since 2005, and I enjoy it immensely. One of my bikes was featured in a chopper magazine, which was a real honor. My responsibilities at Biltwell include product development, but not design—I leave that up to Bill and our Biltwell brand manager Chris Collins. I also do copy writing and general business management for Biltwell and SNAFU. It’s a full day, but I love close to work and I love what I do, so it’s a living.
How would you market our site NSRMTB.co.za?
McGoo: I love NSRMTB, and I’ll tell you why: you guys do product features and reviews. With few exceptions (America’s Mountain Bike Action magazine comes to mind), the trend in BMX and MTB media has always been to do the sweeping road trip/lifestyle story, or the mind-numbing 12-page interview with a single rider. I find both styles of story entertaining, but tedious. The web is a perfect medium for quality product reviews, because you can search products and brands to find a broad range of opinions and information. If you guys are managing your metadata on product reviews to keep them coming up high on Google searches, this will prove to be a great service to readers long-term.
Regarding ways to market your website, all I can recommend is the same thing that has worked well for us: share links with other like-minded websites, and cross-pollinate your blog and news feeds with stories from other media. Doing so will give your site a broader range of perspective, more constant news updating, and over the long haul, it will engender support from other webmasters. RSS feeds are also a big help, and you guys offer them.
If you’re asking for ways to increase support from advertisers, have you considered offering a 12 months for the price of 9 program to key influential advertisers? We know of online media that have done the same thing to spark interest in their sites, with good return. Don’t offer this to everyone: just brands that are influential in your market. I’d choose an apparel company, a bike brand, a shoe company, and a parts brand.
Run their ads for free for 90 days, then give each company the right to back out of the contract when payment is due beginning month four. Sure, certain companies will take advantage of your generosity, but it’s your job during the 90 days when all these cool companies are on your site to get other companies to step up during that window. It’s a roll of the dice, but right now it doesn’t look like you have much to lose. Not a lot of paying advertisers on the site.
What is the best bike product you have seen to date?
McGoo: On my personal bikes, I’m partial to parts that can be serviced, and parts that are interchangeable and functional with other brands of components, and parts that can be serviced instead of merely tossed in the bin when the wear out. Best bike part of all time: ’70s era Campy Super Record road group. NO carbon, Ti in all the right places, and the most beautiful forged alloy crank arms, brake calipers, and hubs you’ve ever seen.
Among modern parts, people seem really psyched with our Mayweather tubular chromoly cranks. I also love everything Thompson makes. S&M BMX frames are practically perfect in every way. Turner full suspension MTB frames. I love bicycles, so the list is endless.
Why are so many bike parts made in Taiwan specifically?
McGoo: The short answer to that question used to be, “Because it’s cheap,” but Taiwan stopped being the least expensive place to build bicycls many years ago. The answer to that question today is, “Because Taiwan offers the best combination of skilled labor, high-tech manufacturing infrastructure, low-cost sub-contractors and management experience.” Remember: Taiwan has built bikes for their domestic market for 75 years, and for the global market since for over 40.
Snafu is a bit ahead of the curve by being a BMX company and also making freeride MTB parts. What do you guys offer for the big wheeled bikes?
McGoo: Our growth into the big bike categories (MTB and 700c) has been slow and organic. We don’t have the human or financial resources to attack the 700c fixie market or the Urban Dirt Jumping MTB scene full stop, but riders in certain markets have always supported our brand. We want to give something back by offering BMX-based parts that older BMXers who have turned into adult MTB riders can relate to and believe in. Same thing for the fixie scene—you can’t ride a BMX bike to the bar, not if it’s got a 2″ seatpost!
There are some risque names for your tires. Picture a BMX/MTB Mom going into the local store and asking for a “rim job because my boy wore his current one down”. I got one for you…why not make some new grips and call them “hand jobs”?
McGoo: Somebody beat us to it!
What are some websites that you hit up daily?
NYTimes.com for news
HuffingtonPost.com for opinion
JockeyJournal.com for chopper tech assistance
VeloNews.com for road cycling updates
Jalopnik.com for automotive industry news and opinion
I don’t inhabit any social networks (myspace, facebook, etc.) Once in a while I’ll spend some time in the message boards at PinkBike.com, but I don’t have much time or patience for the online expert shit-throwing that seems to dominate most blog aggregates and message boards. Life’s too short…