BEFORE hitting the roads, it's important to ensure both you and your bike have suitable cover. By Vicky Shaw.

For many, the warmer weather means it's time to dust down those bikes and get out and about on two wheels.

But whether you're jumping on your bicycle to enjoy the countryside, as part of a new health-kick, or just looking to cut the cost of your daily commute, it's worth making sure you're properly covered, in case something goes wrong and you're left with a hefty bill.

Bike theft is the obvious risk, but there's also damage and repair costs to consider - plus the potential costs that can arise from personal injuries from cycling, should you have an accident and need treatment or time off work, perhaps. Specialist insurance is available for cyclists and can potentially cover far more than just replacing a stolen bike.

Here's what cyclists need to know about insurance...

Why it pays to be insured

Bikes can be very expensive, and so losing them - perhaps because they've been stolen - can be very costly. And the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says cyclists who are involved in a collision with a pedestrian or another road user could find themselves potentially liable to pay damages to the injured other person, where they can be shown to be totally or partially at fault.

Malcolm Tarling, a spokesman for the ABI, says: "Cycles can easily cost hundreds even thousands of pounds, and being an obvious target for thieves, it makes sense to have them insured. Also, if involved in an incident as a cyclist you could face a potentially expensive bill for damages."

How you could be covered

You may want to shop around for a specialist cycle policy - particularly if your bike is high value. However, cycles may be included in your home contents insurance, so check the policy.

Tarling suggests finding out if there's any cover for your legal liabilities in your home contents insurance. If there is legal expenses cover, then this may cover your pursuing a claim for damage to your cycle or personal injury.

Insurance can provide benefits such as lump sum payments for serious injuries, cash payments if you are hospitalised, or emergency access to dentists and physiotherapists following an accident while riding a bike. But the exact terms will vary, so check the details.

Why it may be worth taking out added cover

Even though cycles may be covered by an existing insurance policy, a fixed monetary limit may apply. If your cycle is worth more than any monetary limit, Tarling suggests seeing if it can be insured separately under your home insurance. If this isn't possible then you may want to consider taking out a separate cycle insurance policy.

A standalone policy may also cover you for any legal liabilities, and give you personal accident benefits. Shop around by going online or using an insurance broker.

The potential pitfalls to watch out for

It's important to understand what you might - and might not - be covered for, as this could really boost your chances of making a successful claim. If you're taking your bike abroad on a cycling trip, check you'll still be covered.

Also, Brian Brown, from Defaqto, which analyses financial products, cautions that payments may be declined if you cause an accident because of your own recklessness, or an illegal act. And bear in mind any excess - the agreed amount of money you will be expected to pay towards a claim.

Brown says that for personal injury claims, some bike insurers will want consumers to pay an excess towards the claim - potentially £100-£500. Some contents policies may have exclusions for bike thefts from outbuildings, particularly if these are unlocked or not secure.

Brown says: "Most home insurance policies will probably not cover accidental damage to cycles caused whilst in use - so things like buckling a wheel would probably not be covered under a home policy.

"Both home and cycle policies will have strict security conditions for when the bike is left unattended away from home - usually requiring significant locks to be used, and the bike to be fixed to an immovable object."

So what should cyclists bear in mind when weighing up insurance policies

Generally speaking, says Brown, pedal cycle insurance policies may provide a wide amount of cover - for example, damage to cycle clothing and accessories including helmets, as well as personal accident cover and cover for the hire of a replacement cycle during a claim for loss or theft.

They may also give cover during sporting events such as triathlons and races, which would often be excluded by home insurance policies.

"Any cyclist who does not have home contents insurance should seriously consider buying it, or getting a pedal cycle insurance policy which provides personal liability cover," Brown urges. "Those with high-value bikes, or who compete in cycling events, should also consider pedal bike insurance rather than relying on their home insurer to cover their bike."