If you are anything like me, the Trans Euro Trail is a massive draw. I have done the Finnish, Swedish and Portuguese TETs in their entirety, and I have done big chunks of the French and Spanish – which get ever longer, and more expansive. Not that I am complaining! But if I were to come to grief on my bike, would standard travel insurance cover me? Almost certainly not.
First things first – an EHIC card, despite Brexit, is still largely valid. Check out the UK Government’s website on https://www.gov.uk/giudance/uk-residents-visiting-the-eueea-and-switzerland-healthcare, which in turn takes you to the EU page for the relevant country. As a pretty good rule of thumb, your EHIC or its replacement, the GHIC, will cover you for state provision of emergency healthcare. Get one. Not getting one is just foolish.
Before you rely on any travel policy, check out the “restricted activities”. This can be a massive pain in the backside… I have tried to find the restricted activities for a couple of well-known travel policies online and I know most of them contain specific exclusions for motorcycles. Sadly, these are not readily available. In my opinion, the most dangerous travel policy to buy is the cheapest one from a comparison website. The cheaper the policy the harsher the terms and, as a general rule of thumb, the wrigglier the insurer when you come to claim.
The usual exclusion for a powered two-wheeler is no claim at all if injured; a very limited capacity machine might also be covered. Some policies have cover for an injury arising out of a hire bike but not your own. Others have cover if you set off and return on the same motorcycle (and they will want a ticket for your bike for the ferry) but will not have cover if the bike goes out in the back of a van. Added to which you would also have all the fun of getting a bike in a van through the Russian roulette of French customs without a carnet. Only one chamber has a round in it, but if you are the poor bugger who French customs decides is importing a motorcycle into the EU, your holiday has become a lot less fun. For others, an arbitrary capacity cap is applied.
You need to read your “excluded activities” very carefully. They are not written in complex language but you will need to wade through quite a lot to get to the relevant sections. Pretty well all competitive use of a motorcycle is excluded on every policy. Some of the big bike brokers offer motorcycle specific, short trip or annual coverage policies. The specialist policies are clear. You are covered for injuries arising from a motorcycle collision or accident. All those I have seen require the use of an approved helmet. One policy requires the use of “suitable clothing” but does not define it. None that I have seen exclude use of untarmacked roads.
When my whole family was insured I used one policy for us all and the insurer gave me specific authority to use a motorcycle of less than 1,000 cc, which was my own machine. This was a clause specific to me, redacting the use of a motorcycle from excluded activities. The insurer insisted I wore a helmet and had a ferry ticket for my bike. Bearing in mind I won’t ride any motorcycle without at least protective boots, gloves and a jacket, this was no hardship.
Now my kids are eventually getting off the payroll, I buy one-off cover for any overseas bike trip I do. I am specifically forbidden from recommending any cover under my professional rules, so I am limited to general pointers. As already advised, do not get your policy from a comparison site. It will probably exclude the use of any middleweight or larger motorcycle. Go to a specialist motorcycle broker for their travel policy – unless you want to spend hours reading through excluded activities and finding out you are not covered for a motorcycle.
Check the feedback and the forums to see how people have had their claims dealt with. Go for a name you recognise and a policy underwritten in the UK. If you already have a travel policy, your underwriter may well remove motorcycling from the list of excluded activities. Mine did, without fee or fuss.
Ensure you answer every question put to you honestly. Insurers love excluding liability on the grounds of a reckless misstatement or a misleading answer. So, If you are on statins, and you are asked If you are on medication, say so. If you have had a history of depression, say so. Listen carefully to any question. Answer it truthfully and overshare rather than understate. Check that the answers on the proposal are correct and make sure to keep a copy.
To finish on a positive note, my experience in dealing with dozens of cases of injured British motorcyclists is that travel insurers really do try to help and are a lot less tricky than the regular Insurers. I am pleased to say I have no horror stories to share.
Trail Riders Fellowship Member Magazine Spring 2022