I scoped out a price from my insurers, who refused to quote on the basis that this bike was ‘uninsurable’ but the forums seem to think that this was a non-notifiable modification. Who is right?


The insurers are right: the forum sages are wrong. The law is absolutely clear. The contract of insurance which you purchase as a consumer is one which relies on you giving your insurers truthful and careful answers to their questions. The question would be; “is your motorcycle modified” and the answer must be “yes” if the ABS system has been removed and it is a substantial modification.

When the insurer knows what the modification is, they can either quote you or decline to insure you. Some providers would be content to insure you without ABS, others may have underwriting criteria that excludes a perceived safety critical modification, or indeed any modification that they don’t want to insure.

You can also have insurers point-blank refuse to insure a particular class of bike. There are some insurers who will not offer cover on bikes which are predominantly used off-road; there are some which do not like insuring born-again bikers on very powerful bikes.

A friend of mine, who changed his motorcycle from a 110bhp bike to a 160bhp bike after the age of 60, was told that his insurers did not wish to insure older riders on very powerful machines, and they are entirely entitled to decline. They have their commercial underwriting criteria.

If you chose to answer “no” to the question “is your motorcycle modified” on the wisdom of forum sages, then this would be a dishonest answer and your insurance would be invalidated for any fully comprehensive or theft claim. The underwriter insures your bike for all insured risk, so that includes crashes, theft and third-party risks.

If your stationary motorcycle is knocked over, the ABS removal would make absolutely no difference to the occurrence of the accident but the insurers would still be able to refuse the claim on the basis that the risk they insured was all risks. They would not have taken on the risk of insuring a non-ABS bike, no matter how a claim came into being.

If you were to have a claim where you, for example, injured another person, your insurers would pay out the third-party claim (as they are obliged to under road-traffic law) but they would be entitled to – and would – seek to get the money back from you personally.

Your insurers who describe the bike as ‘uninsurable’ are overstating the position. They don’t want to insure it but other insurers would. I wouldn’t check this on comparison sites though – comparison-site algorithms almost always rely on standard machines. As a result, you could wind up inputting information an awful lot of times, and as soon as the insurer has contacted you, and you told them of this modification, a good many will decline to insure.

Insurers who take on this risk are not easy to find on the internet, so (despite my misgivings about forum wiseacres giving legal advice) putting the question out on forums will help.

Andrew DaltonRiDE Magazine July 2023