British cycling is in rude health. When we recently looked at our customer data, we saw that the past three years has seen the number of bikes being declared by our customers increasing steadily, while British Cycling recently found that a staggering two million Britons rode a bike at least once a week. The value of the nation's bikes is also increasing. We have also been seeing a steady rise in premium bike brands on our books while, Halfords, who are responsible for one in three bikes sold in the UK, recently reported an 11% boom in sales, with a 25% increase in premium bikes.

Cycling is certainly a good way to get around. Substituting four wheels is both a good way to stay healthy and much better for the planet than taking your car all the time. But riding a bike can also be hazardous, both to your health and to your finances. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reported over 20,000 cycling accidents last year, with over 3,000 fatalities. Moreover, recent data from the National Crime agency recorded over 376,000 bicycles stolen last year that's one every 90 seconds.

For such a risky pastime, cyclists have some of the lowest rates of insurance of any vehicle owner. We recently looked at all the bikes declared on our books, and found that while the number of premium bikes is increasing, the number of cyclists insured is fairly small. In fact, when we overlaid the number of people who declare a bicycle on their content insurance over the number of cyclists on the road; we estimate that only 5% of cyclists are covered.

Crime and Location

One of the most striking things we discovered when we delved into our own data is that cycle crime and levels of insurance do not necessarily align with each other. We found that the areas with the worst bike crime were also the places least likely to declare a bike on their insurance.

When we compared the bicycles on our books to regional levels of bike crime, we found that the places with the most insurance are, in fact, the places with the lowest number of stolen bikes. Surrey seemed particularly well protected. Our data suggests that 19% of cyclists are insured in the county, despite having one of the lowest bicycle-related crime rates in the country.

On the flipside, we found that Berkshire has the highest percentage of bike crime per cyclist; yet it's only tenth when we looked at how many cyclists were insured. In fact, out of the top ten worst crime hotspots in the country, only West Yorkshire comes in our top ten of cyclists insured.

Bike crime by county

Safest counties
Most bike crime
Most insured cyclists
Insured Cyclists
Bike Crime Rate per Cyclist

Does locking your bike help?

How it was stolen
Locked vs Unlocked

Fields grouped by locked vs unlocked
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
All
Each dot represents 1% of bikes stolen in London

As the number of premium bikes increases, so does the number of bike crimes. When we looked at our data, well-known brands Specialized, Giant, Trek and Carrera came top of the most common bike brands on our books. This makes sense, as in 2016, the national cycle database BikeRegister reported that these were the bikes most targeted in Britain by thieves.

When it comes to where bikes are stolen, recent Home Office data suggests that almost half of all UK cycle thefts take place in and around the victim's home. Most stolen bikes were taken either from gardens, passageways, between houses or from garages and other outside buildings.

While we always recommend locking your bike, it's not a cast iron guarantee that your bike won't get nicked. Locks might deter the opportunist thief but the increase of premium bikes on the road has led to a new breed of more determined thieves. Moreover, criminals are coming up with ever more ingenious ways to defeat bike locks, from pre-sawing bike racks to freezing the locks. The same Home Office data reported that between the years 2011 and 2016, 39% of all stolen bicycles were locked when they were stolen. The study also showed that 14% of thefts happened in a place the victim thought was safe whilst a further 9% saw their bicycle stolen from a locked building.

Our Advice

Always lock your bike to a solid object in a well-lit area, make sure your bike can't be lifted over it, and use two locks. That should put off even the most determined thief.

Make sure one of the locks is certified Gold Standard. No lock is impenetrable but heavy duty gold standard locks really put thieves off.

Should cyclists get insurance?

Well, it depends on who you talk to. While motorist groups are calling for bike riders to have similar insurance to other road users (one petition to Parliament has gained over 32,000 signatures), cycling groups are unsure. On their website, CycleNation, the federation of British cycling campaigns, points out that in most collisions involving a cyclist and another road vehicle it is the cyclist who comes off worst. It's therefore up to them to decide whether they should take out insurance, not the state.

Many cyclists have insurance that they might not know about. Members of cyclist groups like CTC are often automatically covered, but in many cases a bike is covered by your contents insurance. HomeProtect will cover bike theft of any value providing you declare the bike in advance as part of your contents insurance policy. Theft is covered inside and outside the home, as well as globally, providing the bike is locked to an immovable object or inside a locked building. Additionally, if your pre-specified bicycle is stolen and it was locked up properly to an immovable object then we'll pay out on a claim with no excess charged.

So, if there is one takeaway from all of this; it's that you really should declare your bike to your insurer.

Bikes stolen since you've been reading this article:

A bike in the UK is stolen every 90 seconds