Last updated onwith updated links to some of the currently suggested insurance providers.
This is a detailed post about understanding and choosing insurance for cycle touring and bikepacking trips, both short-term and long-term.
Because I get a lot of questions on the topic of insurance for cycle tours, this article is my attempt to answer all of them in one thoroughly researched post. And I’ve written it for anyone planning a cycle tour or bikepacking trip, whatever length, duration or destination you have in mind, and whether it’s your first ever bike trip or you’re just looking for up-to-date information about insurers who cover cycle touring as an activity while travelling.
Later on I’ll make introductions to some of the recommended insurance providers people are using right now for cycle touring and bikepacking trips. There may be a slight bias towards UK-based insurers, as this is where most of my readers call home, but many of the same companies will insure residents of almost any country, so keep reading.
The 2 Different Things People Mean When They Talk About Cycle Touring & Bikepacking Insurance
We all see cycle touring and bikepacking through slightly different lenses. Which lens usually depends on where we came to cycle touring from – usually either a predominantly cycling background, or a predominantly travelling background. This affects how we think about the intersection of cycling, travel, and insurance.
Cyclists tend to think about policies that’ll cover damage to or theft of their bicycles while they’re travelling with them.
Travellers tend to think about policies that’ll insure a range of travel, medical and personal expenses while they’re riding a bike.
This is relevant because these are two totally different insurance products.
One is a special type of bicycle insurance policy.
The other is a special type of travel insurance policy.
Some bicycle insurance policies will also insure a rider for overseas medical expenses. And some travel insurance policies will also insure an expensive bicycle for damage or theft.
But in general, if you want to be covered for accidents and medical emergencies and your very expensive touring bike covered for damage or theft at the same time, you may have to buy two separate insurance policies.
And if you’re looking to cover a long-term, multi-year worldwide bike trips, the unfortunate truth is that such policies are extremely hard to find.
Hard… but not impossible. Read on…
Bicycle Insurance Covering Overseas Travel
If you’re looking to get your bicycle itself insured against theft or damage abroad, what you will quickly find is that some such policies do exist — but that:
- they are limited to trips of a couple of months at most,
- they depend upon you using the same kind of security precautions as you would at home (namely locking the bike with a certified lock to an immovable object), and
- they’re expensive.
Given that, if you are looking for bicycle insurance for overseas tours of up to two or three months in duration, there are a couple of such options available to UK residents:
1. ETA offer an annual cycle insurance policy that covers bikes and accessories for up to 90 days abroad, up to a value of £5,000, including a new-for-old replacement policy and emergency cycle hire, leaving you free to arrange your personal travel insurance separately. In Europe, personal accident cover is also included (but not liability). Read the full details on their website.
2. Yellow Jersey is a provider of specialist bicycle and travel insurance, with cycle travel policy options covering loss, theft and damage of bicycles, luggage and accessories, medical costs, and other costs in the context of overseas travel with a bicycle. More details in a new tab.
Travel Insurance Covering Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
If you’re looking to travel for longer than a month or so, you’re willing to rely on your wits to keep your expensive bike safe, and/or your bike is worthless and not worth insuring anyway, you’ll be looking primarily at travel insurance policies that cover cycle touring (aka: bikepacking).
At which point you must understand that (in insurance-policy-style bullet points):
- most so-called ‘annual’ travel insurance policies actually only cover individual trips of up to 30–90 days within that year,
- many long-term travel insurance policies (aka: ‘backpacker’ policies) do not explicitly cover cycle touring and bikepacking, only cycling that is ‘incidental’ to the trip,
- most long-term travel insurance policies that do cover cycle touring and bikepacking still exclude intercontinental trips, and
- even the best and most comprehensive of these are unlikely to cover the loss, theft or damage of an expensive touring bike or bikepacking rig.
Cycle touring and bikepacking is considered by many insurers to be a ‘hazardous activity’ or ‘extreme sport’, involving increased risk and thus either incurring an additional premium or being excluded from the list of activities covered. Expensive touring bicycles and bikepacking bikes are also considered to be extremely steal-able things. Which they are.
Yes. This sucks. But at least it narrows the field when it comes to choosing from the few travel insurance policies that explicitly do cover cycle touring and bikepacking.
Cycle Touring & Bikepacking Insurance Providers
The following insurance providers I’ve either used myself or been recommended by veteran cyclists on all manner of global bicycle journeys. Each cover cycle touring (whose definition includes bikepacking) as an activity or will do so on request, but won’t insure the bicycle itself unless I’ve mentioned otherwise.
I’ve listed them in ascending order of the prices I was quoted when I last updated this post, but you should of course request your own quotes before making any decisions.
1. Insure And Go have grown into one of the UK’s biggest ‘basic’ travel insurance providers, and all of their policies (including backpacker policies) explicitly cover cycle touring, though it’s worth mentioning that personal accident and personal liability are excluded. Which, in simple English, means that there’s no financial compensation for getting hurt or hurting someone else while on your bike. Starting cover is basic, but aspects (including valuables cover) can be upgraded. Visit insureandgo.com.
2. Adventures Insurance specialise in — you’ve guessed it — bespoke insurance for more adventurous pursuits, and cycle touring can be specified as an activity. They’ll allow for individual items of equipment up to £600 in value to be covered. Quotes for long-term cover may require a phone call. Visit quote.adventurescover.co.uk.
3. WorldNomads’ backpacker-oriented policy is available to residents of 130+ countries, can be taken out when you’re already abroad, can be extended online, and covers a vast range of activities. You’ll need to add Level 2 activities cover for independent cycle touring, for which personal liability cover is excluded. ‘Intercontinental’ touring is also not covered, but it does make WorldNomads a good choice for a tour of any length that’ll be taking place on a single continent. Visit worldnomads.com*.
4. Campbell Irvine are often recommended for professional expeditions. They specialise in adventure travel, covering a vast range of activities, with the ability to extend a long-term single trip policy over the phone. It covers volunteering but not employment. While ‘cycling’ is covered, the policy wording is not explicit about cycle touring; however a quick phone call confirmed that it is indeed covered in a leisure (ie: non-professional) capacity. Visit campbellirvinedirect.com*.
5. SafetyWing, based in the US but available worldwide, specialises in travel and medical insurance for full-time travellers. You can buy and renew the Nomad Insurance policy while already travelling, and – unusually – you can visit your home country without your trip being considered ‘finished’, and all forms of cycle touring and bikepacking are covered in a non-professional or non-competitive capacity. Their Remote Health policy also covers treatment in your home country and does not exclude pandemics such as COVID-19. Visit safetywing.com*.
6. The BMC (British Mountaineering Council), who I used for some of my earliest trips, offer cycle touring cover for up to 12 months at a time. You’ll need the ‘Trek’ policy for cycle touring to be covered as an activity, and while you get plenty of mountain activities and BMC membership benefits thrown in, the cover isn’t cheap. Visit thebmc.com.
Don’t Forget These Key Things About Buying Cycle Touring Insurance
Remember that these companies are operating in a highly competitive and lucrative field, and that negotiation over what’s covered and for how much is perfectly possible – over the phone.
Indeed, calling a potential insurer direct is my top tip to make sure you get the cover you need at a decent price.
It’s also worth mentioning that, in the event of a medical emergency abroad, the claims agent’s job is to manage your case in a way that also minimises the cost to the insurer.
Unless you’re too incapacitated to fly, this often means you’ll be advised to return to your country of residence as soon as possible. Why? Because your insurance cover can then be considered terminated: you’ve curtailed your trip, your domestic healthcare system takes over, and the exposure to your insurer is limited to the cost of a one-way economy flight, plus any curtailment benefit you may be due. (Depending on your country of residence, this may have implications regarding domestic health insurance too.)
Finally, whether or not you insure your trip, it’s common sense to ensure your safety in the first place by cultivating a healthy attitude to safety and security. My bet is that doing so will have a much greater effect on whether or not you still have your body and belongings intact at the end of your trip.
And that, I think, is a topic for a future article.