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Travelling abroad with your bike

Donna McConnell
Written by  Donna McConnell
Alicia Hempsted
Reviewed by  Alicia Hempsted
6 min read
Updated: 07 May 2024

Are you a keen cyclist or triathlete who takes part in sporting events abroad? Cyclist and personal finance journalist Donna McConnell shares all you need to know about insurance for travelling with your bike. 

With over 7 million people in the UK participating in cycling, it’s become quite a popular sport. Riding a bike is not just a great way to get some exercise but if you enjoy taking part in cycling sportives abroad – such as the annual Mallorca 312, a cycling sportive, or triathlon competitions such as Challenge Roth or Ironman – it’s a great way of seeing the world. And if you’re travelling abroad, you’ll want to make sure your beloved bike is covered just as comprehensively as it would be at home.

Typically, basic travel insurance won’t cover you if cycling is the main purpose of your trip, or if you're taking part in timed events such as a sportive or triathlon. And a Global Health Insurance Card or GHIC is not designed to replace travel insurance and shouldn’t be the sole safety net for riding abroad.

So, you will need to purchase specialist bike insurance cover. 

How do you travel with a bike?

Some cyclists use a simple cardboard box to transport their bicycle – like the one a new bike is packed into. While there isn't any issue transporting your bike this way, and insurers don't usually specify how the bike should be packed, there's no denying that it's not the safest way to get your bike from A to B.

The best way to protect your bike while you travel is to hire or buy a hard or soft bike travel case or bike box. Bike boxes are specifically designed to transport and offer a high level of protection for your bike.

Also, many cyclists now place an Apple AirTag – or similar tracking device – into the bike frame or case so they can keep track of their precious cargo as it makes its way to its destination.

As well as a good case, you’ll also probably need bike insurance that covers you for a timed event or where cycling is the primary purpose of the trip. Most travel insurance excludes anything other than leisure riding and usually won’t cover cycling if that’s the primary reason for your trip.

Not all insurers are featured on comparison websites, but those that offer certain features in their standard policy are often highlighted. It's worth researching specialist bike insurers to find a policy that best suits your needs.

bicycle

So what kind of insurance will you need?

If you have a road bike, which can range in cost from £500 for an entry-level model and up to £13,000 for a high-end racing machine, adding an expensive bike to your home contents insurance is likely to exceed the single-item limit and you're unlikely to get the kind of cover you need. Claiming on your home insurance can also come with a hefty excess, impact your no-claims bonus, or increase your premiums.

For those with expensive road or time trial bikes, the better option would probably be to look at specialist bike insurers that cover a wider range of scenarios, worldwide travel, and can tailor the policy to your specific requirements, ensuring any accessories and upgrades, are covered.

What should be covered?

Think about the type of events you’ll be doing before choosing an insurance policy with event/racing cover. The premium for a policy tailored to cover every single type of racing will be costlier than one that covers just sportives.

As well as being covered for medical costs, theft and damage outside of your home when travelling abroad, you should check if they include cover for “transition” areas. 

At an Ironman triathlon event, you have to “rack”, drop off your bike, and leave it overnight in the bike’s transition area – where you’ll collect and return the bike, after completing the cycle leg of your triathlon. 

Most specialist bike insurers will cover cyclists for theft anywhere in the world (usually specifying gold or diamond standard sold secure locks), as well as in transit, and transition areas and includes travel days abroad with no exclusions.

You’ll want to check that your insurance will cover your travel costs and entry fees if you’re doing a tour, training or sportive abroad if you have to cancel your trip.

A higher single-item limit is important to consider if you have an expensive bike to cover it against theft for use at home and away, including loss in transit. You should also be covered for crash and accidental damage to protect you and your bike in the event of an accident or if your gear is broken by someone. Bear in mind, though, that specialist bike insurance often excludes accidental damage that occurs during a professional race.

Finally, you should look at coverage for legal costs for pursuing a personal injury case after an accident that wasn’t your fault when cycling and cover for third-party liability if you cause an accident.

What happens if my bike is damaged or stolen at an event?

Road bikes can be costly to replace if you have a crash or if they’re damaged, lost or stolen while in transit or transition. If you have the right cover, you should be able to make a claim for repairs or a replacement bike. Some insurers will also cover your bike box.

It’s important you insure your bike for the right amount, taking into account accessories, upgrades and depreciation. Any omission will leave a huge hole in your pocket when it comes to replacing it. For example, if your bike is insured for £3,000 but that model is now only available to buy today for £5,000, the payout would still be just £3,000.

What to do if you’re involved in a bike crash

Contact your cycling insurance provider to report the incident and initiate a claim. Provide them with all the relevant information, including the police report if applicable, and follow their instructions for filing a claim.

Make sure you take pictures of any damage to your bike and yourself, note down details of what happened, and keep all documentation related to the incident, including photos, police reports, correspondence with event organisers and insurance companies, and receipts for any repairs or replacement parts.

Check the coverage of your third-party liability

Third-party liability covers any damage or injury you may cause to others or their property while riding your bike abroad. Without it, you would be left to settle any claims out of your own pocket.

Do check the reach of your third-party liability cover, as with some insurers there may be restrictions to cover worldwide and in north America.

Travelling with your bike is not as difficult as it may at first sound. Once you’ve learned how to pack it, and you have the right coverage to protect your precious cargo and yourself, you can relax knowing any mishaps will be taken care of.