If you’re an experienced cyclist, then you’ve probably owned multiple bikes, each progressively better and more expensive than the last. Whether you’re a commuter, a roadie, a mountain biker or a leisurely rider, you also know the importance of purchasing a bike that has a reputation of being resilient, reliable, and safe. Since the invention, bicycles have been undergoing continuous and steady improvements, becoming faster, safer, and more fun to ride. As materials advance, tolerances increase, and bikes get better overall, they also get more expensive.
To those unfamiliar with cycling, the idea that a bicycle could cost as much as a used car is incomprehensible. As a cyclist, when you spend a substantial amount of money on your first or fifth high-end bike, bring it home and admire it up close or from a distance, marveling at its mechanical elegance, the possibility of crash-related damage or a loss due to theft will inevitably crawl into your head. Most choose not to dwell on it much and dismiss it almost immediately, by either outright refusing to consider such an event or falsely assuming that the homeowners, renters or even auto insurance would cover such loss. Unfortunately, it is only when faced with a loss that the hopelessness of the situation often comes to light.
There is a general misconception that bikes are covered by homeowners or renters policies. While there might be limited coverage against a small set of losses, the reality is home insurance policies will not cover most risks associated with riding a bike. In fact, until recently, there wasn’t a comprehensive way of protecting a bike from the unexpected.
Why do I need bicycle insurance?
No one anticipates for things to “go wrong.” A sad reality of bicycle riding is that accidents can and will happen. You might be one of the most careful cyclists out there, but unfortunately, you are sharing your riding path with other cyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, scooter riders, and motor vehicles. You are also living among thieves who don’t care about the sacrifices you had to make in order to purchase your dream bike.
Here are some tips when insuring your beloved bicycle:
1. Check your personal home or renters insurance policy to determine coverage.
There’s a general belief that a bicycle is covered by homeowners or renters insurance. This may be true to a certain extent, subject to the insurance company’s definition of “covered.” Many policies will cover bicycle theft if it occurs at your place of residence, but deny coverage if it’s stolen away from home, such as when it’s locked to a public bike rack. Other policies may cover it away from home, but only for the actual cash value and at a hefty deductible, all of which could mean that you might be unable to buy a comparable replacement bike with the payout of your claim.
Home insurance policies vary significantly and it’s extremely important what coverage is actually available on your exact policy. Even if your policy provides adequate coverage, it is important to understand whether filing a claim for a stolen bike against your home insurance is a good idea. In general, such insurance is reserved for catastrophic situations, such as a burglary or a fire where total losses are significantly higher than the value of a bicycle. Insurance companies care little about the value of the claim but rather the frequency of claims; to them a stolen bike is barely different than kitchen fire. In the unfortunate situation where your bike is stolen and your house requires major repairs due to an unforeseen event, you might find yourself non-renewed by your insurance company and denied coverage by others.
2. Always insure your bike for its actual replacement value.
It might seem logical to insure your bike for the 20% off sale price that you paid, but that’s really not the way to go. If your bike ended up lost or stolen, what would it cost to replace it with the same bike? If your bike is damaged in a crash or during an attempted theft and requires significant repairs, the insurer might compare it’s declared value to the cost of repairs and choose to “total” it, taking possession of it in the process. You will have little say in the matter as you will be selling your bike to the insurance company at a significant discount.
If you made any upgrades to your bike, such as replacing the stock wheels with high-end carbon hoops or adding a power meter, make sure to account for these when specifying the value of your bike. It is often after a claim that insurance companies start scrutinizing the price of the bike. Having receipts for the bike and all the upgraded components will greatly speed up the claim process.
3. Always disclose the nature of your riding.
Not all bike riding is the same. A weekend warrior mountain biker, a commuter on an e-bike, and a bike messenger on a fixie ride their respective bikes in significantly different environments and subject themselves to a set of very specific risks: a commuter is unlikely to hit a tree while a mountain biker stands a lesser chance of hitting a pedestrian or getting hit by a car. Insurance companies understand the nuances and risks associated with specific use cases and price them accordingly. The premium you pay for your policy is directly related to the likelihood of an accident, theft, or other losses that may occur to your bike. A casual fitness rider will pay a lot less for bicycle insurance than a professional athlete.
When you purchase a bicycle insurance policy, you’re effectively entering into an agreement in which the insurance company promises to accept and cover the risks described by the policy, as long as you promise to adhere to the terms of the policy, including using the bicycle in the way that you originally described. If you tell the insurer that you are a casual fitness rider, but later crash the bike in a race, your claim will be rightfully denied.
If the cycling bug bites you and you progress from a casual to a competitive rider, make sure to notify your insurance provider, even if it’s a day before your first race.
4. Make sure your bike is covered for travelling.
Cycling has been giving riders a sense of freedom for over 200 years. While many people start out riding for fun or exercise, many fall so deeply in love with the riding high that they set out on journeys and adventures that take them away from home. There are various destination rides, epics, gran fondos, tours, and festivals that take place all over the world, so if you’ve got an itch to venture far from home, or even abroad, you and your trusty steed should certainly pursue your dreams!
As you’re diligently packing your bike into its travel case, you should know that a disproportionately large number of bikes get damaged in transit, especially by airlines and logistics operators. Most people falsely assume that when they pay a bike fee at the baggage check they are somehow buying insurance for the bike, while in fact they are paying a shipping fee and agreeing to hold the airline unaccountable for any damage caused to the bike.
Even if the airline's negligence is obvious, it is unlikely that will you collect an amount even remotely close to the value of the bike. Damage caused by airlines is subject to the liability limits determined by law, specifically by the U.S. Department of Transportation and international treaties. The actual amount that the airline may pay is likely going to be lower than this limit, determined by the depreciated value of the bike, which may be merely a fraction of the original price.
To ensure that your trip or vacation is not ruined by forces outside of your control, make sure that your bicycle insurance covers your bike in transit, be that an airline, FedEx or UPS, or even your car’s bike rack.
5. Make sure your gear and accessories are covered.
Your riding gear and accessories can be damaged, lost, or stolen just as easily as your bicycle. Cycling apparel, while seemingly light and simple, tends to be expensive. Once you add up the cost of your helmet, glasses, shoes, and gloves, you’re looking at a hefty chunk of money.
If your bike has been upgraded with aftermarket permanently affixed accessories, such as a power meter or racks, make sure the policy explicitly covers those.
6. Consider additional offerings and benefits.
While bicycle insurance presents obvious benefits, there are also other offerings and perks that you might not think of when considering it.
- Liability Protection
If you use your bike to commute or ride shared trails, you surely have already had close calls with fellow riders or pedestrians. With our world full of distractions and external stimuli, it only takes a momentary lapse in judgement for a pedestrian to step in the way of a bike. In the vast majority of bicycle vs. pedestrian accidents, the initial blame is placed on the cyclist. In unfortunate situations like this, personal liability coverage would act as a legal defense fund to protect you from various claims that may be placed against you.
- Medical Payments Coverage
A crash is rarely something you think about before getting on a bike, yet as an avid rider you know that it’s not a matter of “if” but rather a matter of “when.” Most crashes aren’t serious, resulting in some scuffs, bruises, or road rash. However, once in a while, there’s a crash that might require a hospital visit. An emergency room is not the place for surprises and you don’t ever want to be left holding a substantial bill after your primary insurance has fulfilled its obligations. To avoid unexpected bills, check with your health insurance for your annual out of pocket and the emergency room deductibles and purchase medical payments coverage equal to the greater of the two amounts. Considering its low cost, medical payments coverage is a solid value to protect you from a known financial risk.
- Vehicle Contact ProtectionIf you commute by bike on public roads, you expose yourself to a greater risk of getting hit by a car. The thought is scary enough as-is, but if you consider all the possible outcomes, things get worse. If you get hurt in a collision with a car, you might not get away with a quick visit to the emergency room. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may miss work and even have to undergo physical therapy. If the driver is at fault and is responsible for your injuries, these costs normally would be covered up to the liability limit on the driver’s policy. But what if the driver has low liability limit or doesn’t have coverage at all? In this case your only option is to proceed with the help of an attorney and attempt to collect the costs in court. Alas, even if the judge grants a judgement, collecting on it is your job. Since it’s highly unlikely that the driver is going to strike you a check for your expenses, you will probably need to involve a collections agency, with little to no guarantee of success. In the world of auto insurance, you can protect yourself from such catastrophic financial burden by purchasing Uninsured/underinsured Motorist Coverage (UMC), which protects you in an accident with an at-fault driver who has limited or no liability insurance. To gain the same level of protection while riding your bike, consider adding Vehicle Contact Protection to your bicycle insurance policy.
- Stranded Cyclist Coverage
The adventurous nature of cyclists eventually gets the best of them and they inadvertently get themselves into trouble. The unstoppable drive to discover new roads or trails, find a longer way home, or do a double-century "just because," will eventually culminate in a day ending badly. A broken chain, a double-flat, a broken pedal, and possibly a broken spirit. When you’re ready to throw in the towel on the day, it helps to have someone to get you home. When having a friend pick you up from the middle-of-nowhere seems like too much of a favor to call in, and expecting Uber to have a bike rack is unreasonable, you will wish that there was a service that would come to your rescue. Luckily, this is a thing: you can purchase Stranded Cyclist Coverage and as long as you have cell phone coverage in the mess you got yourself into, and you are on a paved road, you can get a ride home.
- Worldwide Coverage
If adventures take you to a foreign destination, make sure that your policy covers you there. While most policies provide coverage only in the US, an endorsement can be added to the policy to extend its coverage worldwide. This change is usually inexpensive but can save you thousands.
While insurance isn’t going to solve all of the problems life may throw your way, it will provide a peace of mind that in case something unexpected happens on a ride, you will be protected against a significant financial loss. Before purchasing a policy, have a clear idea of the risks you’re trying to manage and customize it to cover those risks. Read the policy document, especially the exclusions section, to understand its conditions.
Bicycle insurance from Velosurance was created to address the specific needs of cyclists. Our policy covers the risks that apply to people who "live to ride and ride to live." As fellow cyclists, we recognize that your bike is not a toy, but an essential part of your lifestyle. When the unexpected happens, we work our hardest to get you back in the saddle as quickly as possible. If you have questions or want to understand how to protect your ride and possibly yourself from life's unfortunate events, give us a call. We enjoy chatting with riders from all disciplines and walks of life. Until then, keep it rubber side down!