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Commuting by bicycle – saves you money, keeps you fit – and even provides tax breaks!

Commuting to work by bicycle has boomed in popularity over the last decade, with congested roads and rising fares for packed trains being some of the reasons people opt to take to their bikes. Plus the fact you get to work out at the start and finish of your day. So if you want to use pedal power, here are a few tips.

Choosing your bike

Go to an expert retailer. Racing road bikes, tourers, hybrids and folding bikes are amongst the most popular types of bikes for commuters.

If you own a mountain bike, it can easily be made commute-friendly with the addition of some slick tyres and mudguards – voila!

Technology has even allowed for 'electric-assist' bikes, which are becoming more and more popular and are excellent if you have a medical condition or wish to arrive at work feeling a little fresher.

Fixed gear bikes have been all the rage for some time now, but beware as they can be harder to ride and are not recommended for those new to cycling.

Some extras you can buy

You will need lights if riding in winter – there are some amazing LED lights on the market now and these are competitively prices.

You will have to have a helmet – and gloves are a must, too.

Heavy duty commuting tyres and anti-puncture systems are available, but many add weight to the wheels which makes the bike heavier to use. Try riding with normal tyres and tubes to start.

Mudguards are pretty essential – take the advice of your local bike shop.

Safety tips

Try and get some training if you are not a competent rider, you need to be aware of the road from a different perspective when riding.

You will also have to think about other cyclists on the road – be sure to treat them courteously, and don't push past them at traffic lights in case you find yourself holding them up further down the road!

Use cycle lanes, but beware of pedestrians straying into them, and also cars being parked in them! Keep your head up and look ahead up the road, not down at the tarmac.

You can try taking your bike on the train one way and cycling the other – this saves on time and money and you can build up your stamina to be able to do the whole round trip.

Security

The best option is to have secure storage at your workplace, although this is not always possible. Even if you have somewhere within the office car park to put the bike, do make sure it is chained up.

A tatty bike is less likely to be stolen than a posh looking one!

When buying a lock for your bike, check it has a Solid Secure Rating (gold, silver or bronze) and go for something which is chunky and looks robust.

Replace quick release bolts for a nut or security key version – and run a coil lock through the wheels and saddle rails as well as the frame.

Tax break

Find out if your company offers tax relief on a new bike via the Bike to Work Scheme, which allows for a bike to be paid for from your salary before tax – and your employer can reclaim the VAT. This can save you 40% on the cost of a bike and those taking part are generally allowed to spend up to £1,000 on a cycle and accessories. The scheme is quite complicated, so speak with your company's HR department or accounts department and they should be able to advise you.

Insurance

As a road user, you have no road tax to pay – but you DO need to consider insurance.

Public Liability Insurance

Accidents DO happen and you do need Public Liability insurance, which is designed to cover you for any third party claims – this includes damage for which you are held liable. In other words, Public Liability insurance provides cover for third party compensation and claimant's costs as well as your own legal costs and expenses paid, with the insurer's written permission, in connection with defending a claim against you for accidental injury to any person and/or loss of or damage to property which arises from your use of, or ownership of, your insured bicycle.

For example, you could accidentally hit and injure another person when you are riding your bike, or damage another vehicle whilst you are cycling and will need to cover the cost of repairing the damage, or legal expenses incurred in defending the case. The limit for Public Liability differs between insurers and you need to shop around.

Public Liability insurance will NOT cover if you cause damage to your own property or property in your care. You will not be covered if you injure a member of your own family, an employee – or indeed damage their property. Cover generally excludes any person under the age of 16 and over the age of 85. There is generally an Excess on each claim arising from damage to third party property and for each claim arising from third party injury.

Home Insurance

This often covers bicycles. Research shows that in the last eight years more than two thirds of bikes stolen have been from in or around the victim's home. What the research doesn't show is that bicycles are also taken from outside shops, schools, train stations, off roof racks, from inside city centres – and places of work. Your home insurance will cover your bicycle if it is inside your property or secured in inclusive outbuildings such as a locked garage or shed, but it is unlikely your bike will be covered if you are out and about.

If you do want to add bicycle insurance to your home insurance, there will usually be an additional charge for cover outside of the home – and your premium will increase accordingly. In addition to this, be prepared to consider your no claims bonus, because if you have to make a claim for a stolen or damaged bicycle, it could affect your no claims discount and so increase the cost of your household insurance policy: this may make you think about considering using a specialist bicycle insurance provider instead.

If in doubt, take professional advice. Westhill Insurance Services has a friendly and knowledgeable team of professional staff who will listen to what you require, and then find you the policy to suit you. As an independent insurance company, Westhill Insurance Services will shop around to find the best policy at the best possible price. By finding out where you are going to be using your bike, the type of journeys you will be undertaking and their length, Westhill Insurance Services can make certain you are covered every inch of the way. They can also look at your current policies and explain how they work with regard to your bicycle and advise on any improvements – or not – you may need to make.

So next time someone tells you to 'get on your bike', you can take to the freedom of the open road safe in the knowledge that you and your bike are properly insured from the perils you are likely to encounter!

Contact Westhill Insurance Services, today.

Posted on 24th May, 2012