Q: I have just purchased a Mercury E Bike (an electric pedal bike). I have tried to get it insured, but failed because of my age (88) can you help me? All I get from insurance agents is, ?insurance not required?.

William A. Phillips, Avon

A: It took a while to check out the various insurance companies, but eventually we discovered that Butterworths of Liverpool, which handles insurance for CTC members, will provide insurance to cover electric-powered bikes of low power rating.

First, let us clarify what an electric-powered cycle is.

The insurance agents who advised that insurance is not required were almost certainly referring to vehicle tax. And in this they are right, for this particular type of machine.

The Mercury E Bike, and others of this type, are exempt from vehicle tax insurance because their low power rating means they cannot be classed a motor vehicle. The electric power is there primarily to take the hard work out of riding, such as getting away from traffic lights and riding uphill or into a headwind, while still allowing the rider to benefit from the exercise.

The Europa Group, which offers Cycling Weekly readers special offers, could not provide cover for Mr Phillips because of his age. Neither could British Cycling?s insurer, E&L, which considered electric-powered bikes to be a huge grey area. Besides, age was also a barrier. Its cut-off age is 75. Cycleguard offered Mr Phillips a quotation and then withdrew it on account of his age ? it doesn?t cover people under 16 or over 85. When CW pointed out that Mr Phillips was not seeking personal insurance for himself, but for his bike, the Cycleguard spokesman ventured to say that their underwriters may consider those outside their age range an unsafe risk.

A spokesman for Lloyds TSB household insurance got off to good start. No age barrier there. But when told it was an electric-powered bike, he said: ?Ah. Er. No.? Finally, there was the solicitor who acts for another manufacturer of electric bikes. He suggested that because these machines are desirable items ? like quad bikes, and therefore likely to be nicked ? they are probably uninsurable.

Go then, to Butterworths, which has no such qualms. 0870 873 0067.

Keith Bingham

(Chief CW newshound. The most respected and experienced cycling reporter has covered the lot, from Le Tour to grass-roots issues)