Karel Pavich: racer turned motorcycle safety champion
Bikes are still at the forefront of Karel Pavich' s life, as any peek inside her South Auckland garage will confirm.
There's the Yamaha TZ350 grand prix bike that replaced the TZ250 that she won the 2006 New Zealand 250cc Road-Racing Championship with, a Harley-Davidson XR1200, a perfectly restored Honda CBX 1000, a Kawasaki KLX450 trail bike, and the Kawasaki Z1000 that is now her "work bike": plastered with the logos of her motorcycle training company instead of those of racing sponsors.
Absent during my visit were her beautiful Tamburini-designed MV-Agusta 750 F4, and the fleet of humble Suzuki GN125s that are often the first introduction to two wheels for many of her company's learner customers.
Between them, Karel and business/romance partner, Howard Mansell, own no less than 19 motorcycles. They're probably some of the best paying customers of the Accident Competition Corporation levy attached to motorcycle registrations, given that the majority of these bikes see regular road use.
In turn, the ACC is one of the biggest supporters of Pavich's and Mansell's business, Pro Rider Motorcycle Training and Coaching, via the Ride Forever programme that the corporation kick-started in 2012. Ride Forever offers subsidised professional motorcycle training in four levels – urban/scooter, bronze, silver, and gold; using experienced training organisations like Pro Rider, which provides the training in the Northland, Auckland, Waikato, and the Bay of Plenty regions.
"An eight-hour course that would normally cost several hundreds of dollars costs just $20 or $50 (depending on level) as the ACC pays the balance."
Among the 15 instructors employed by Pavich and Mansell are the former CEO of Motorcycling New Zealand and multiple national road-racing title holder, Paul Pavletich, and former Bike Rider magazine editor, Kevin Kinghan. ACC recently announced that it aims to have 10,000 riders upskilling themselves through the Ride Forever programme annually.
"There wasn't an approved nation-wide motorcycle training syllabus in New Zealand before Ride Forever," says Pavich.
Her own journey into motorcycle training began back in 2009 with a company she named Pro Rider Ltd, which offered a three-tiered programme – Safe Rider, Smart Rider, Skilled Rider. She felt inspired to get into training motorcyclists through her shared ownership of a Nelson motorcycle dealership.
"Our customers would often ask if we could help them get a motorcycle licence, so I began training them.
"Smart rider was on-road training, while the other two were conducted off-road. The courses became so popular we were soon conducting track-based training all over the country."
Mansell, a long-time motorcycle safety advocate, was the vice-president of the Ulysses Motorcycle Club, and was part of a mentoring scheme for training club members.
"I was doing weekly coaching sessions, unpaid, and by advertising on social media, we were getting reasonable numbers coming along to them.".
"I saw Karels's business model of using volunteer coaches on her training days and thought that was a great way for me to get more experience with training and perhaps one day become a professional instructor. That's how we met."
Pavich was working a lot with Ulysses at branch level, and Mansell was keen to support it nationally.
However, some of the Ulysses executive weren't so keen when Mansell first bought up the subject of Pavich holding national training courses for club members
"They called her 'that b….. woman with her knee down' (a reference to her racing past, and her slogan – Ride like a Champion).
Mansell became an instructor in 2014 and joined Pavich in Pro Rider as a partner. So far, Pro Rider has helped more than 7000 riders increase their skills. Karel says there's a lot more to riding a bike than there is to driving a car.
"There are 23 core skills that need to be developed, five times as many as required to drive a car properly."
She also says that it's younger riders who can most recognise the value of doing a Ride Forever course.
"Quantity doesn't make quality, and riding for 45 years doesn't make you a good rider. A lot of people have never had their riding critiqued by a professional instructor, so why not get a 'health check' on your riding if you've been riding a while."
THE BLAME GAME
Been in a motorcycle accident that involved another vehicle? Pavich says there are three questions that should be considered before any rider can claim to be totally not at fault for the accident:
-What was the speed I was travelling at?
-Was my attention fully on the task of riding?
-Was I positioned on the road so I could see and be seen?
"If the answers to these questions confirm that you've done it all right, then the other vehicle is at fault.
"Riders need to identify hazards and respond to them before they get taken out. It's all about making good decisions. We call it TUG - Take, Use and Give information."