Countdown with McGoo

Whether you know his history, or you have heard his stories, McGoo is a familiar name throughout the world of BMX and motorcycles.

From building bicycles in the 70’s, to building brands, motorcycles, websites, or building a legacy of laughter, and long term friendships, Harold Mcgruther is man few can compare resumes with. He’s the founding partner at Revolution Advertising, and a co-founder of SNAFU, Biltwell, and Chop Cult, to name a few.

Through brutal tenacity, endurance, sharp wit and talent, McGoo has done more in his tenure than many have the imagination for. We caught up with him with a few brief questions going into 2011, here is what he had to say…

10 awesome places you have been this year-

  1. Slab City near Salton Sea, CA: This post-apocalyptic waste dump is where the flotsam and jetsam of humanity go to dry up and blow away. We hosted our Slab City Riot motorcycle hoedown here in 2009 and 2010, and the venue has helped our event grow to one of the largest motorcycle campouts and live music gatherings in today’s underground chopper scene
  2. Bad Salzuflen, Germany: This town looks like a picture postcard made of gingerbread houses. It’s quite a striking contrast to the European motorcycle show it hosts every year
  3. Wurzburg, Germany: The home of W&W Cycles, one of Europe’s oldest and largest motorcycle parts and accessory importers. Walking through this company’s warehouse provided a glimpse into how real medium-sized businesses should be run. Typical German organization and precision
  4. Brugges, Belgium: My mother and I took a day trip to this moated castle community on the the shores of The North Sea last spring. The place has the look and feel of a 16th century feudal fortress, which is exactly what it was.
  5. London, England: Mom and I finished our European holiday last spring in a country that invented the English language. Wrapping up a trip across five countries in 11 days in a place that shares your language is a great way to decompress from two weeks on the road
  6. The London Library: The Magna Carta of 1215, Shakespeare’s love sonnets and a couple hand-written Beatles songs were on display at this otherwise conventional public library. History like that puts America’s own short time on the global stage into perspective.
  7. Foundry Moto in Phoenix, AZ: A construction worker named Chris has built this shrine to custom motorcycles in an old barn on the northwest side of Phoenix. Its walls are covered with all kinds of cool chopper parts and memorabilia, and the secret underground tunnel is home to an alligator
  8. Sir Frances Drake Hotel on Union Square in San Francisco, CA: This colorful, Louis XIV style boutique hotel has been my base camp during the San Francisco Supercross for seven years. San Francisco’s Union Square is surrounded by great restaurants, bars and shopping, and the I’ve come to enjoy this place for the cool-down it provides after the busy holiday season. I’m switching my program in 2011 by visiting NYC on my 49th birthday.
  9. San Felipe, Mexico: After a two-year sabbatical we decided to resurrect the El Diablo Run for chopper guys next year. We visited San Felipe last summer on an EDR dry run, and the place is exactly like we left it in 2008: dusty, slow and very friendly. 
  10. Key Circle in Temecula, CA: February last year I moved into a new home. Features of the house I’m watching for a friend—I could never afford this place personally—include a gourmet style kitchen, a swimming pool with jacuzzi and a three-car garage. I was out of town on business 160 days in 2010, so it was nice to come home to a place like this

9 obscure facts about Harold McGruther-

  1. I’m more generous than people who don’t know me assume for no good reason
  2. I battle with my weight
  3. I’ve got a sweet tooth that makes #2 difficult to win
  4. My first car—a 1971 Cutlass—had electric windows. My most recent car—a 2010 Dodge Dakota truck—has roll-up windows
  5. I paid $200 for a lifetime membership in the NRA when I was 18
  6. I’m an only child
  7. I’m was the only boy in my immediate family until my oldest cousin had a son, and I think he might be gay
  8. My first job in the bike industry was mechanic at a bike shop in 1977
  9. My last job in the bike industry was copy writer and founding partner at Revolution, the agency I started in 1991

8 things you can’t do online-

  1. Cook
  2. Clean
  3. Sleep
  4. Weld
  5. Grind
  6. Think
  7. Walk my dog
  8. Ride my bike

7 brands you have worked with, that you are proud of-

  1. Mirraco, because their business model and Jim Ford’s style of leadership is practically perfect in every way
  2. S&M, because Chris Moeller is one of my best friends
  3. Schwinn, when the brand still mattered in the mid-’90s
  4. GT, when the brand still had passion in the mid-’80s
  5. Huffy, because we proved you could indeed polish a turd
  6. SNAFU, because going to Taiwan and making bike parts is still really fun
  7. CW Freestyle, because Dizz and Ceppie were truly original

6 events you helped organize-

  1. Vans Triple Crown of BMX (2000): I pitched downhill BMX to ESPN executives as “NASCAR in BMX bikes,” and they bought it
  2. DHBMX on The X Games (2001-2003): After witnessing the excitement of high-speed BMX racing on crazy dirt tracks, ESPN included our pumped-up version of the sport on the X Games for three years. It took another decade for the International Olympic Committee to follow with something equally exciting, and network producers treated the sport like a retarded step-child. Thank goodness for the people behind Crankworx in Whistler, Canada. I wish there was an event like this for BMXers, but nobody seems capable of creating it, me included.
  3. The El Diablo Run (2006-2008): Our lowbrow, no-frills chopper ride into Baja, Mexico, helped galvanize a community of new-school motorcycle builders and bikeriders like few other events in the scene’s history. We’re doing the EDR again in 2011, and my guess is 300 people will descend on San Felipe and Ensenada for a weekend of bike riding, beer drinking and good times. It doesn’t get more fun than that.
  4. CW Extended Remix Tour and Back to School Bash (1986): Dizz, Ceppie and Gary Pollack did 85 shows in 135 days on two circumnavigations of the continental United States that year, and it was my job to sell the shows and run the entire program. We suffered only two cancellations due to inferior touring equipment (our team’s sponsor was notoriously cheap.) 25 years later I still meet fans of CW, many of whom introduce themselves to me at chopper events.
  5. The Stonehenge Jam in Huntington Beach (1988): A couple weeks after some GT employees and I invented the box jump quite by accident, we dragged our contraption to an empty lot on the corner of PCH and Main Street in Huntington Beach, CA. Hundreds of freestylers, racers and trail riders crashed our party and the free street jam was born. No rules, judges and no contest: just a bunch of guys riding their bikes. That impromptu event signaled the end of the AFA era and paved the way for Ron Wilkerson’s Meet the Street Contests and Matt Hoffman’s BS Series seven years before ESPN picked up the ball with their X Games.
  6. Senior Skip Day, Lake Worth High School class of 1980: When I was high school senior, the drinking age in Florida was 18. This made it easy to throw some epic parties for my drunk friends. Coincidentally, I didn’t drink booze on US soil until I was 30.

5 moments on BMX history that stand out-

  1. My first race: February ’74, on a track we built in an vacant lot. I was 12
  2. My last race: October ’82, on a downhill track at SoCal’s Magic Mountain theme park. I was 20
  3. My first trip to Taiwan in ’85. It started my love affair with high-volume manufacturing I still enjoy today
  4. Seeing my first pair of Shimano DX pedals and cranks on Mark Pippin’s Schwinn in ’78. I was familiar with Shimano’s contributions to the adult bicycle market, so I considered their first serious foray into BMX significant. Gimmicky and over-engineered, but significant.
  5. The NBL War of The Stars II, summer of ’79: I spent two months on the road with NBL #1 pro Greg Esser in my Olds Cutlass. I met Greg Hill and Eric Rupe on this summer tour, and we are still friends

4 people that have influenced you-

  1. Bob Margevicius, President of Mongoose Bicycles, 1989: My mentor on the supply side of the bicycle business. Bob taught me how to deal with Taiwan vendors (always in writing, and face to face), and he was the first person to give me enough rope to hang myself. I hung myself in 1990, and it was the best mistake I ever made.
  2. My Uncle Greg Scott: The only father figure I ever had shared lessons about tools, guns, machinery, business and personal planning that shaped my life from the very beginning.
  3. My Mother: A highly verbal and brainy woman with no advanced education and more than a passing fancy for alcohol, she taught me how to fend for myself from a very early age
  4. Bill Bryant, my business partner and best friend for 20 years: Bill is the only guy I know who worked his way up from a background similar to my own. His passions were surfing and desert racing, and our eclectic combination of dreams, inspirations, ideology and experiences have forged a rock-solid work and social bond between us.

3 motorcycles you have built-

  1. Harley Evo-powered Flyrite kit bike. My first was far from my best, but it whetted my appetite for making something from nothing with my own hands.
  2. ’99 Sportster rigid. My third Harley in three years was my guinea pig for learning how to weld. None of my welds were pretty, but they didn’t break.
  3. The CB450 Street tracker.  cool little Honda that I’ve had a hell of a time keeping on the road in light of all my recent travels. I have been promising myself to get this one running for months, but so far it hasn’t happened. Maybe in February… 

2 reasons to keep pushing forward-

  1. It’s what I do
  2. It’s all I know

1 thing you are looking forward to in the new year-

  1. I am really looking forward to riding to Sturgis, South Dakota with about a dozen of my SoCal-based chopper friends. Motorcycle rides in my forties feel like BMX road trips in my teens: so liberating and free. I started feeling too old for BMX the same year I started feeling too young for choppers, so my timing has been perfect. I turn 49 this month, and I feel just about perfect. 20 pounds overweight, but everything else feels pretty damned good.

Steve Crandall

Coffee sipping pilot of a red FBM frame and a Nikon camera.