In an interview with Claims Journal, Mark Hoedel, an experienced motorcycle racer, explains how he merged his hobby and experience into a position as a motorcycle claims examiner at Markel for the past 12 years.
“Well, actually, as far as my background goes, I started riding when I was 11 years old…which led to various forms of racing. But then on the professional end, I parlayed my life’s experiences into being a claims examiner, starting out first in the aerospace forging industry, working in a metallurgical lab. Eventually moving into the power sports industry itself, first as a mechanic restoring vintage motorcycles, then moved onto the dealership end of it as a mechanic service writer, service manager and then as a general manager,” Hoedel said.
Riding recreationally since he was a teen, the seasoned examiner decided to try motocross racing at age 18 against his parents’ better judgment.
“I actually rode and observed trials for 15 years competitively then moved on to hare scrambles in enduros. And then, eventually, road racing,” he said.
Now a member of the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA), Hoedel participates in racing, vintage trials, competitions and motocross. He rides pre 1982 cycles divided into different classes. He competed in 40 races in 2012 alone.
“I…first started AHRMA competition as a trials rider, now with the road racing, I’m racing a 1974 Honda CB350 four cylinder, in production lightweight. And then the GP200 bike was based off a 1972 Honda CB175 that is fully GP kitted. You can take both motorcycles just about as far as a racing form as you can,” Hoedel said.
Markel got involved when he alerted the company about a Milwaukee-based high school program he was involved in that taught students about motorcycles. The company began sponsoring Hoedel during competitions.
“It was called BUILD, where we were taking high school students and teaching them. Well, first, we were teaching them how to build a GP200 road racer out of this little vintage motorcycle. But the big thing about the program was we were trying to get kids interested in working with their hands again, getting their hands dirty. We’re losing our youth to the trades, and we’re seeing all the kids, they’re really good on keyboards and with joysticks and things of that nature and not really getting interested in the mechanics,” he explained.
Markel’s motorcycle claims unit handles claims nationally and Hoedel admits his experience with motorcycles and racing has impacted his claims handling.
“Yeah, I think it does. I’ve got a better handle for understanding the claim when I’m listening to an insured explain what’s happened. I’ve had several claims where…. their description is they went into a corner, they lost control and drove into a ditch, which actually also led up to them not really taking responsibility for their actions,” he said.
Sometimes an insured will lean at a manufacturer defect angle despite facts that speak otherwise, according to Hoedel.
“I know just from listening to the description that the insured went into the corner too fast, they panicked, and one of our survival reactions is to tighten up or grab the brakes, and the motorcycle stands straight up, and goes off the road, and then there’s the subsequent damage to the motorcycle and the injury,” he explained.
The experienced motorcycle adjusters trains new customer service representatives and examiners on motorcycle insurability and the dynamics involved in motorcycle, ATV, small craft and yacht accidents.
Hooked on the sport, Hoedel has no plans to quit racing.
“I just picked up another bike this last Friday that’s good for another class, and then I have my eyes set on another one. So no, it’s something that I plan on doing for a long period of time, hopefully.”