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Poor bike cover can put a spoke in your wheel

Cycling has never been so high profile, but with Bradley Wiggins's Tour de France win and the Olympics road race comes a dark side – cycle theft.

Halifax has told The Independent on Sunday that it has seen an 8 per cent rise in bike theft claims on its home insurance policies during July, at an average cost of £300 to replace a bike.

Research from Santander Insurance found that one in 10 bike owners has had a bike stolen in the past five years but half of them (57 per cent) were unable to claim on their insurance. To ensure you are not among those victims, your first port of call should be to check your home insurance policy.

Most policies will cover all cycles at home as standard, although some may specify limits ranging from £250 to £10,000, or will apply a single item limit for each bicycle covered.

"Bikes left in the open within the boundaries of the home are usually subject to separate limits, with cover available for 'contents in the open' ranging from £250 to £6,000," says Mike Powell from analysts Defaqto.

You should also look at the cover for bikes kept in outbuildings as some policies provide specific limits, with cover ranging from £500 to £10,000. Some may not offer cover for this at all. Halifax's Home Solutions policy does provide unlimited bike cover as standard within the home, but will not cover claims if the bike is stolen from your shed, garage or other outbuilding. But you can add cover outside the home, which covers up to £500 a cycle and £1,000 in total a year.

Santander's Peace of Mind Plus home insurance policy does include cover for bikes in the home, garages and outbuildings, with optional personal possession cover to protect your cycle away from the home. However, if it's worth more than £300 you need to specify it on the policy.

Tricky exclusions are common, the insurer may stipulate that bikes are not covered if they are stolen overnight and you are likely to need to use an approved D-lock. Others will only accept claims if you have locked your bike to a fixed point such as bike rack or lamp post.

If you're a serious or competitive cyclist it is worth looking at specialist policies. Providers include Cycleguard, Cyclecover, E & L Insurance, Endsleigh and Protectyourbubble.com. These may be more expensive than a home insurance add-on but offer a more comprehensive policy. The best policies include liability insurance to cover legal costs if you damage a person or vehicle on your bike. Many have high limits on the bike's value and you may also be covered for events.

"Cyclists need to ensure cover includes theft, damage and vandalism to the bike and its accessories, as well as liabilities that can arise in an accident," says Sara Newell from Endsleigh Insurance.

For a smooth claims process, keep the receipt when you buy your bike, note the serial number, and take photographs of it. You will also need a crime reference number, so report the theft to the police as soon as possible. You can also register and mark your bike with a security initiative such as bikeregister.com.