The complete cycling insurance guide: at home, abroad and racing
I recently received a question about cycling insurance from long time VeloNomad reader Alex M from South Australia:
“Timbo, what does one do for one day of insurance for Etape du Tour?”
(Good question, Alex, and one we might extend to all Gran Fondos, like Marmotte, Haute Route and beyond. It also gave me cause for thinking about travel and bike insurance more broadly.)
This is a good question because if there's one truth in insurance, it's bloody confusing (as confusing as trying to understand why the Melbourne Football Club has not won an AFL premiership since 1964).
So, here are two questions.
- If you hit an Audi whilst out riding, would you be covered for any damage to the car?
- If you crashed whilst riding in Etape du Tour, would damage to your bike be covered?
If you don't know the answers to these questions (or had never thought about these situations), you're not alone.
Here's a poll I ran.
Truth is, cycling insurance is an utter shambles, with exclusions and caveats causing us a high degree of complexity.
And frankly, it's complexity we can do without.
I hate insurance. I hate paying it. I hate organising it. But it's a necessary evil. And I sadly know more about it than I care to, as I spend nearly $6,000 a year insuring our farm, house, contents, bike, cars and personal road liability insurance (you Victorians and Queenslanders ought to be glad about the TAC/QMR liability insurance). I also love a good deal (and putting one over insurance companies) so I spend an inordinate amount of time cost comparing a couple of times a year.
So let's take a deepish dive into Cycling Insurance, to see if we can demystify a few things.
As a cyclist, you need different cycling insurance (for your bike and others' property) for a range of circumstances, including:
- Insurance at home: fire, theft, damage etc
- Domestic insurance away from home: damage whilst transporting by car, theft from the car, loss/fire
- Domestic racing and event insurance
- Domestic third party insurance
- General cycling insurance whilst abroad (loss, theft, damage)
- Insurance whilst racing or doing a sportive
- Third party insurance
- Injury to yourself and others when home and abroad (damage to others' person and property)
First up, let's look at travel insurance.
Cycling travel insurance case study
It's not uncommon to see the following situation.
Case study: Steve is going overseas for a 1 day sportive and isn't sure whether:
- His bike is covered for damage or theft when overseas or in transit
- Whether his bike is covered for damage whilst doing a Gran Fondo
- Whether he is covered for damage to third party property or person whilst doing a Gran Fondo
Steve's case study shows us we need to carefully consider our insurance options and coverage.
You need cover for damage to your bike under all circumstances, yourself and others.
It's a mess and it pays to be informed, because no one wants this happening to them:
Overseas Bike Insurance
If you are Taking Your Bike Overseas, you need to be aware an airline is limited in liability by the 1999 Montreal Convention1.
(For those interested, the liability value is around 1131 SDRs. An SDR, or Special Drawing Right, is an international currency equivalent managed by the IMF. For the Aussies, at the time of publishing, this was about $1600 of cover.)
Now the problem here is that the airline only has an obligation to cover the depreciated value of your item. So if you have a 3 year old, $4000 bike, the airline might assert that it's only worth $1600.
So plainly, extra travel insurance for your bike is pretty much mandatory.
For travel insurance, you have two options:
- Extra insurance with specific cover for the bike
- Credit card insurance: only applies if the airfares are paid for on the credit card.
Things to watch out for:
- If you are relying on credit card insurance, make sure sure it covers the full replacement value of your bike.
- Make sure you are covered for all events (loss, theft, fire etc) overseas.
- Make sure you are covered when participating in sportives, for damage to you, your bike and others.
That last point is particularly important, and leads to our next section.
For events like Etape, you need insurance that covers damage to yourself, a third party and to your bike.
Many travel insurers will specifically exclude damage and injury for these events.
Yes you can get Etape insurance through the ASO, but as reader Alex M (thanks Alex!) said in an email:
“The Etape does offer insurance for the event, but it is limited to 2500E of medical cover, which I'm not sure is enough. It also provides Death and Permanent Disability insurance, but we already have that as part of our super fund. Also, the insurance is provided by a French company – it can be hard to argue with an English speaking insurance company – I don't know how hard it might be to actually claim the insurance from a French company if something happens!”
Alex and I had a bit of back and forth about insurance. I mentioned that I thought my previous credit card insurance (Westpac Platinum card, using Zurich insurance) and Vero Gold domestic contents policy would cover my bike. For damage overseas my contents insurance would have covered my bike except for damage during Etape.
Alex did some legwork and found out Zurich would not have covered me for bike damage or personal injury. Ooops.
He also found out the companies below did not cover (this information is for the Aussies more than anyone else):
- Defence Health
- Zurich (who are the insurer for our BankWest Platinum Mastercard)
- Travel Insurance Direct
- CycleCover travel insurance
Whilst CycleCover's travel insurance didn't cover you for damage and injury incurred during Etape (and events like it), their home and contents policy did, with an overseas add-on. However it excludes personal injury.
Alex found another company that specifically covered you when doing events like Etape: WorldNomads. However, they specifically exclude damage to your bike.
CONFUSED YET? (Good, me too.)
To further confuse things Velosure in conjunction with Cycling Australia (Australia) provide travel insurance that will cover you and provide personal liability, even when participating in a sportive. However, as soon as you include cover for a sportive, it excludes the bike (this seems completely ridiculous to me, but that's insurance for you). However, they do have domestic insurance that covers you overseas for up to 90 days a year.
What this all means
What this all means is that regardless of where you live, you pretty much need 2 lots of insurance:
- Domestic bike cover that covers you when overseas (e.g. Velosure bicycle insurance)
- Travel insurance that covers you and others (personal liability) for the trip, including when participating in events
Here's a list of companies that will provide cover for your bike, yourself and provide third party liability when travelling, including when doing events like Etape. Don't forget to ensure your bike is included.
- Velosure (Australia)
- Cyclecover (Australia)
- World Nomads (residents of about 140 countries, coverage varies country to country)
- Cycleplan (UK)
Domestic cycling insurance
Domestic cycling insurance is pretty straightforward and consists of cover for:
- Damage, theft, loss at home
- Damage, theft and loss away from the home (including mounted on, or in, your car, or whilst travelling domestically)
- Race insurance
- Event insurance (gran fondos like Three Peaks, Dragon Ride etc)
- Third party damage to person and property
These are all pretty straightforward to acquire.
For the Aussies, I can recommend:
- Vero Gold: very good bike cover for expensive bikes included free, but excludes racing.
- Cyclecover: very good combined house and contents or contents only cover, includes racing, but quite expensive. We used to use this but consolidated our insurance elsewhere (more cost effective as we are on a 10 acre farm and only a limited range of insurers cover us).
- Velosure Bike Insurance on top of your home/contents cover, includes race cover and 90 days of overseas bike cover. (This is who I use now.)
- Your state cycling organisation, Velosure or Cycling Australia for third party damage and liability.
For those outside Australia, I would love to hear who you use to cover you.
One Last Thing
When you're taking your bike overseas, Proper Packing & Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Make sure you get a decent bike bag and pack it properly.
If you're doing Etape or another sportive, make sure you have reasonable bike handling skills—particularly on descents—and keep alert.
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Velonomad Cycling Insurance Guide
1: 1999 Montreal Convention
More reading: Travel Insider Lost Baggage Rights
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Thanks Tim, just what I thought. Travel insurance is a joke, especially taking note that I’m planning on riding in L E Tape Du france in July, travelling with my wife on a one way trip to work in london. I just better hope I don’t break another collar bone in France