Watching his Bikesure baby grow has been a labour of love in more ways than one for Rob Balls.
When the motorbike insurance broker launched in November 1990, he was part of the initial three-man team that worked out of a small Downham Market office in Norfolk. Now, having been there every step of the way, Mr Balls can celebrate Bikesure turning 30 alongside more than 160 colleagues – many of whom work out of a dedicated office in North Lynn.
But it’s not just the growth of the company – part of the Adrian Flux Insurance Group – that has filled the father-of-one’s heart with joy. He met his long-term partner at work and has also fallen head over heels with motorbikes thanks to his involvement with the growing specialist insurer.
“I had no interest in bikes at all,” said Bikesure’s general manager, who formed the brand’s first team with Carl Pickett and Pat Wharf.
“What would happen is when you were talking to bikers on the phone, sometimes the question would be asked of me; ‘Well what do you ride?’ And I’d have to tell them I wasn’t a biker and what they needed was an expert in motorbike insurance, not motorcycling, and that’s what I am. That was my get around if you like. But it just got to a point where I got fed up with saying that to customers and I thought I really needed to get under the skin of motorbikes if I wanted to help take Bikesure forward.
“So, I took my test and once I started to learn to ride I wondered why I didn’t do it years ago? It’s such an amazing thing to do I wish I’d have done it sooner, although I probably did it at a time in my life where I was a bit more sensible so I’m still here to talk about it.”
“Absolutely amazing” Himalayas trip
The 49-year-old’s first bike was a Honda CBR 600. His second purchase was a Yamaha FZS 1000 Fazer before he gradually moved away from sports bikes to naked bikes. A Kawasaki Z750, Triumph Speed Triple – his favourite set of wheels – Triumph Scrambler and Triumph Tiger 800 followed.
An “absolutely amazing” three-week trip around the Himalayas, touring around Europe and a track day with Bikesure’s brand ambassador since 2012, Carl Fogarty, remain some of his highlights since learning to ride.
Mr Balls joined Adrian Flux – now one of the UK’s largest specialist motor insurance brokers – in 1989. Within a year an increasing number of enquiries around motorcycle and trike insurance saw the need for a specialist motorcycle department, named Bikesure, to be formed.
Within 10 years a series of new types of cover were launched which helped secure more than 10,000 live motorcycle policies and a second office switch, this time to a larger premises at East Winch.
More than 200,000 live policies
Twenty years on, Bikesure now mainly operates out of its North Lynn base and has more than 200,000 live policies. The award-winning insurer has formed a host of partnerships across the industry as well as sponsoring headline events such as Motorcycle Live, hosted online in 2020 thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Being a broker, we work with insurance companies as partners and the great thing is that nearly all the bike specialists are themselves bikers,” added Mr Balls.
“We’ve got together and done events like a track day. We have a shared passion and enthusiasm for motorcycles. This is at company level and it’s not about numbers. It’s about being part of the motorcycle family.
“Bikesure has been successful because of the focus on our customers and understanding the needs of bikers. We have continued to develop and innovate with the changing markets and environment. We are a broker and maintaining relationships, even friendships, with our insurance partners – who are also bikers – over such a long period of time has enabled us to achieve success and grow. Working so closely together has also enabled us to create class-leading products for bikers.
“The aim now is to become number one and the UK’s biggest motorcycle insurance broker. That’s our ambition and I don’t think it will take another 30 years of hard work for that to happen. We want to remain at the cutting edge of motorcycling by working with bikers, our insurers, manufacturers and continuing to do what we’ve done for the last 30 years.”
30 years of Bikesure
1990 – Bikesure formed in Downham Market
1991 – Custom bike and trike policies launched
1992 – Multi-bike policy launched
1992 – Agreed value classic bike schemes go live
1994 – Growth of team requires move to King’s Lynn head office
1996 – Specialist cruiser schemes launched
1999 – Quad insurance schemes launched
2000 – 10,000 live motorcycle policies
2000 – Move to larger premises at East Winch
2005 – 30,000 live motorcycle policies
2007 – One2Five and Scooter schemes launched
2008 – Launches, and sells, first policies on aggregators
2008 – 50,000 live motorcycle live policies
2013 – Partners with the British Motorcycle Federation and the Motorcycle Action Group
2013 – Cadwell Track Day for customers and partners with Carl Fogarty
2014 – 100,00 live motorcycle policies
2015 – Headline sponsor for Dirt Quake Show
2017 – Voted Insurance Provider of the year for third successive year by motorcycle dealers in Bike Trader Magazine
2017 – Move to dedicated Bikesure office in North Lynn for 125 members of staff
2019 – Headline sponsor for the Motorcycle Live show at the NEC
2020 – Team grows to over 160 members of staff
2020 – 200,000 live motorcycle policiesInsurance, Motorbikes