There are more than a million motorcyclists on Britain’s roads.
Accident rates have reduced vastly since helmets were made compulsory in 1973, as well as other contributing factors such as better bikes, training and protective riding gear. Department for Transport figures indicate the number of people killed or seriously injured in motorcycle accidents fell by 1% in the year April 2015 to March 2016, when compared with the previous 12 months.
But with a total of 36.7 million vehicles on the road, it’s never been more important to take safety and protection seriously.
Why is motorbike insurance necessary?
Bike insurance is required by law for anyone riding a motorcycle on the road.
It protects you against liability if your vehicle is involved in an accident and damages another vehicle or causes an injury to someone else.
Insurance can also provide financial compensation if your bike is stolen, vandalised or destroyed by fire.
The only instance in which you don’t need it is if your vehicle has been declared off the road through a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) from the DVLA.
What if I’m not insured?
Riding without motorbike insurance is illegal. If you’re caught riding without it, you could be fined or even disqualified from riding. Even if the bike itself is insured, if you’re not correctly insured to ride it, you could get penalised.
The maximum fine is £300, plus you’ll receive at least six penalty points on your licence. If the case was to go to court, you could receive an unlimited fine and be disqualified from driving.
The police also have the power to seize and destroy any vehicle being driven without insurance.
Types of bike insurance
There are three levels of cover you can choose from - third party; third party, fire and theft; and comprehensive.
Third party - This is the minimum required by law, but isn’t always the cheapest. It covers injury or damage to other people but not yourself.
Third party, fire and theft - This is the same as third party but also covers the cost of repairing or replacing your bike if it is stolen or damaged by fire.
Comprehensive - This is the highest level of cover you can get. It has all the features of third party cover but protects against damage to your own bike as well as accidents involving other people, payment for a replacement bike if yours is written off following an accident and cover for injuries you suffer in an accident.
Cover for riding other motorbikes won’t necessarily be included in your policy, and you may not be covered for carrying passengers, so check your details carefully.
What affects my premium?
How much you pay for your motorbike insurance depends on a number of factors; including your age, address, occupation, the specifications of your bike and any security measures you have in place such as an immobiliser or an alarm.
Young riders on powerful vehicles are considered to be particularly high risk.
The value of your bike is also important, as expensive bikes can be more attractive to thieves.
Many insurers will offer a discount to riders who complete the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s enhanced rider scheme and gain a DSA certificate of competence.
You will also get a no claims discount for every year you’ve gone without making a claim. Subject to each insurers maximum no claims discount allowance.
Although motorcycle laws are similar to those governing cars, there are some differences.
The rules for learning to ride a motorcycle changed in 2013. There are now four categories of licence:-
AM -This is for mopeds with a speed range of 15.5 to 28 mph. You can hold this licence from the age of 16.
A1 - This is for 17-year-olds or older, and restricts you to 125cc, without L-plates.
A2 – This is for 19-year-olds and older, and restricts you to motorcycles of up to 35kW (47bhp). You must take your test on a bike of more than 20kW (27bhp).
A - This is a full motorcycle licence, and is only available to riders who:
are aged 21 or over and have held an A2 licence for at least 2 years; or
are aged 24 and over who have completed a CBT and practical test.
Before taking a test, you must have a Compulsory Basic Training Certificate (CBT), which shows you can perform basic manoeuvres.
It is a legal requirement for motorcyclists and pillion passengers to wear a protective helmet, which must be fastened securely. Before each journey, you should always check that your visor is clean.
The Highway Code also advises you to wear eye protection. Scratched or poorly fitting protectors can limit your view when riding, particularly in bright sunshine and at night.
You’re not allowed to carry more than one pillion passenger.
If you do plan to carry a passenger your motorcycle must have a pillion seat and footrests that your passenger can reach. The person you’re carrying must be able to sit astride the machine and hold on to the rider or pillion bar.
You can carry a child as a passenger, as long as the legal requirements are met.
It’s always a good idea to wear strong boots, gloves and suitably protective clothing when you’re out on the roads as they may help to protect you if you’re involved in a collision - but this isn’t yet a legal requirement.
When riding at night, it’s sensible to wear reflective clothing or strips to make you more visible to other drivers.
For riding during the day, you should also make yourself as visible as possible. You can do this by wearing a bright helmet and fluorescent clothing.
Dipped headlights, even in good conditions, will also increase your visibility.