Sportbikes shafted

Ken Simmons
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A friend is miffed. That's a polite word for it, but you get the idea.
A life-long motorcyclist, he recently decided to bring his venerable and well-used Ninja back to the road, for old time's sake.
It's an '84, a 900 cc bike he bought new, and one that has covered more than 400,000 km. His insurance company refused to put it on his spotless existing policy, referring him instead to Facility Association. Not familiar? Let's just say it's the company of last resort for drunk drivers whose suspensions have expired, for problem drivers who may have racked up a collection of damaging incidents, the young, the foolish and - apparently - sportbike riders.


In their own words, FA covers "such owners or drivers (who) are unable to obtain automobile insurance through the voluntary insurance market."

Voluntary. You've got to like that.

Anyway, I tried to look into it. The local insurance brokers association president graciously replied to me via email from his vacation. He referred me to the policyholders, in this case the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

According to their director of media and digital communications, Steve Kee, as far as he knows, the "sole rating factor for the bike is engine size." OK, that's what you say, but that's not my friend's experience.

For reference, the displacement cutoff for insurance purposes in Newfoundland and Labrador is 750 cc. That does vary between provinces.

Perhaps if I went straight to the source. I tried to get a couple of quotes, based on my own bike, but short of a blood sample, it's a significant matter just to get a quote. One agent did let slip that some insurers may add a premium for sportbikes.

This, said my friend, is discrimination. I can't disagree. He's a mature, experienced rider. Why should his insurance cost more, or effectively be declined, because he wants to ride a particular style of motorcycle?

He and his "lean-over" buddies take the point a bit further. A sportbike is arguably more stable, easier to handle and, therefore, likely much safer to ride than a similarly sized cruiser. Any statistics that suggest differently should take the experience and age of the rider into account.

But that is not how it's done.

It is a classic insurance runaround and it works, at its core, to the benefit of the companies, not the clients.

It must be said that motorcycle insurance in this province is about the most sensibly priced insurance in the country. Where some riders may pay as little as $200 a year here, bike coverage in Ontario can run more than $1,000, and it's even steeper in Saskatchewan or British Columbia.

Cold comfort? Maybe. But riders here are used to the cold.

Ken Simmons, The Telegram's new media editor, breathes exhaust and exhales clean, fresh air. Twitter @Ken_Simmons_NL/Tumblr


Organizations: Insurance Bureau of Canada.According, The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Saskatchewan

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