Technical: SVA
Single Vehicle Approval
The spectre of TuV has been hanging over Europe for a generation now. When
we were first concerned about it, custom accessories catalogues were
relatively small and back street workshops were busy. We were told that the
German TuV test required that anything produced had to be produced in
triplicate: one that could be a library copy, one that could be tested to
destruction as well as the one that you actually wanted to fit to your bike. It
was a terrifying prospect for the custom industry and provided the backdrop
for any future euro-legislation.
immensely competent engineers on the one
hand producing pieces of mechanical genius,
and back street bodgers on the other, knocking
together seminal works with jubilee clips, bits of
string and the occasional piece of Meccano, with
each group defending the other’s freedom of
expression, and the concept of a custom bike
that was built from a book was anathema. No
two bikes were the same and many, many pieces
of tortured tin were lovingly worked into shape
by the leading exponents of the craft.
Then something changed.
Custom bikes, and especially custom
Harleys became big business. The big name
builders became brands, and the broader
aftermarket catalogues used their kudos to
create bigger and bigger ranges of accessories
to such an extent that, with notable exceptions,
an awful lot of custom bikes today are built up
using pre-manufactured bits and pieces.
As the custom industry grew, the TuV
spectre came back to haunt all those who
wanted to sell their products in Germany,
which has lead to an increasing number of
parts bearing a TuV marking and it’s perhaps
worth spending a couple of lines here
explaining TuV, and also CE markings because
they’ll crop up time and again.
TuV (Technische Uberwachungs-Verein – or
Technical Surveillance Association) is actually
a voluntary standard in most areas of life, and
anything stamped with a TuV GS mark has
undergone independent testing in the
proscribed form and passed. It applies only to
the part that has passed, and not parts derived
from the tested parts. It is also subject to
continuous product and production
surveillance by independent third parties for
the lifetime of the license granted – as can its
production process. Tough, but reassuring. If a
frame, for example, has been stamped with a
TuV mark, it is deemed to be safe and needs
no further testing.
CE (Conformité Europeenne) markings are
a different kettle of fish entirely, and are a
requirement of anything sold in the EU –
which means that anything that does not carry
the CE mark could be restricted, prohibited or
forced to withdraw from the EU. Draconian
measures, but odd in that the CE mark isn’t
actually a guarantee of an item passing any
sort of testing. It is a manufacturer’s selfdeclaration of conformity, which means
they’ve put their head on the block in saying it
is suitable for the purpose – so you’ve got
someone to point at if it doesn’t – and any
manufacturer who applies the CE mark to
goods offered for sale can be held responsible
for damages or injury.
This is generally “a good thing” as the bits that
go to make up a bike that are on the market are
generally safer and significantly more highly
developed. But while components had generally
fallen in line with requirement, it didn’t account
for what happens when you bolt all your TuV
tested and CE stamped bits together. And that’s
where our story proper starts.
Mass manufacturers have long been
regulated to make sure their machines –
whether two wheeled or four – conformed to
another couple of standards that send shivers
down the spines of right-thinking folk: Type
Approval (TA) and Construction and Use
(C&U). If you want to know why the new
Road King Custom has the full-on mudguard
trim compared to the sleek, minimal image in
the brochure, look no further: it fell foul of
one, other or both of those – probably because
the mudguard doesn’t have a rolled edge, and
the metal isn’t thick enough to give a 2mm
radius to the leading edge.
European officials and departments of
transport have been busying themselves
arriving at a single standard for all new models
of vehicles that are to be sold for use in
Europe, and this came into force on 17th June
1999. It was called the ECWVTA, or European
Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval,
and as of the 17th June 2003 all motorcycles
must be approved to either ECWVTA or the
national requirements of the member states.
No approval, no registration. No exceptions.
The interesting phrase in that last sentence
is “national requirements of member states”. In
the UK a consultation process began with a
view to working out what that might mean for
us, and thankfully the motorcycle lobby was
well represented within the department that
was set up to sort things out.
The alternatives were to do nothing, which
would have meant that any ground-up build
of a new motorcycle would be subject to
ECWVTA; or else operate a single vehicle
approval system to cover the relatively small
numbers of such one-off builds; or else
operate an enhanced version of single vehicle
approval to accommodate the commercial
interests of grey/parallel importers, because
their failure to comply with C&U regulations
extend far beyond a speedo calibrated in km/h.
A technical consultation was held in Spring
2003 to canvas the opinions of those who
would be most affected by it and, taking onboard a number of concerns from that
meeting, the Motorcycle Single Vehicle
Approval (MSVA) scheme was set up and was
implemented on the 8th August 2003. From
that date onwards, any brand new one-off
motorcycle will have had to pass MSVA to get
a registration document.
Had you heard of it? You weren’t alone.
In early December, alarmed by the general
lack of knowledge of the test within the
custom building industry despite the earlier
technical consultation, Simon Letts of
Motorcycle Storehouse, organised a seminar to
let the team at the Department for Transport’s
Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA)
put their case forwards, and to go through the
test in detail to an audience of the great and
the good from the UK custom bike industry.
So. What is affected by MSVA?
New motorcycles – which is to say a
motorcycle made from new parts. This
includes build-your-own kits unless those kits
have been subjected to ECWVTA, which
would be unlikely.
Not existing motorcycles that have been
modified, unless the modifications go so far as
to require re-registration such as using a new
custom frame and selling the old one with its
VIN number and documents. The actual
wording is that a motorcycle that has been
“substantially rebuilt” must use an
“Unmodified Frame (original or new) And
two other major components from the original
vehicle” if it is to retain the original
registration mark, and it offers forks, wheels
and engine/gearbox as the pick and mix
components – a doddle with a Harley, because
they’ll have probably fitted every combination
to everything by now.
Not motorcycles made more than ten years
ago that are being imported or reimported to
the UK and require registration – and that is a
rolling ten years, so import a chopped 1993 bike
not a 1995 one if you want to by-pass the hassle.
Are there exceptions?
There are always exceptions, but nothing that
we’re especially interested in here: vehicles that
cannot exceed 6km/h, pedestrian-controlled
vehicles, vehicles exclusively intended for use
in competitions, agricultural tractors and
machines, off-road ATVs and electric, pedal
assisted vehicles. A couple we are more
interested in are vehicles for use by the
physically handicapped – who are defined in
section 1 of the Disability Discrimination Act
– and when that vehicle is adapted or
constructed to enable them to travel in or on
as a rider or passenger in safety and comfort.
And then there are the aforementioned
vehicles that are more than ten years old.
What is MSVA?
A test on the design and construction of a
vehicle, much like an engineer’s report, unlike
an MoT which is a test of roadworthyness.
It is a test at one of a selected few testing
stations, made by officials of VOSA who have
an engineering background and training. They
will closely scrutinise the vehicle being tested
to ensure that it meets the required standard,
and that it is likely to hold together in use.
What are they looking for?
Anything that is dangerous for you or other
road users. That includes a number of things
you are not likely to consider as safety features
but the truth is that it doesn’t matter especially
what your thoughts are in such matters: a line
has been drawn.
Quality of build
A large number of components will now be
stamped with the E, GS (TuV) or BSI
standard. “E” marked items will be deemed as
being built to an adequate standard already,
and therefore won’t need further testing, BSI
will be useful on exhaust system, but TuV
approval actually makes little difference in
spite of its testing, as it cannot easily be
qualified at the time of testing. Anything that
isn’t stamped will be subject to a visual
There are other stamps that are accepted,
notably manufacturer’s stamps because they
will be deemed to have accepted liability
already, but that’s not what they’re looking for.
The examiner will be on the lookout for poor
quality welding, cracked filler disguising poor
quality welding. In short, in terms of build
quality, they’ll be looking for the sort of stuff
that you really shouldn’t have accepted
yourself … and if you did accept it happily,
you need protecting from yourself.
Specific safety issues
A little more complicated. No, significantly
more complicated, and a tad contentious in
areas. This is stuff that is laid down in law that
we got away with for years and a few new bits,
but we’ll get there in a moment.
How do you apply?
By filling in an application to pre-book a test.
A number of things will be required on the
application and I’m going to start breaking it
down into bullet points because this is stuff
you need to know.
VIN – if you’re using an existing frame
that’s not been registered, you’ll already have
one of these, if not you’ll still need one – it’s a
legal requirement and strictly-speaking a 17digit VIN is supplied by the DVLA in the event
of your not having one. Exactly what
constitutes not having one is a moot point,
and there must be thousands of bikes out there
with VIN numbers dreamt up by their
builders, and more than a handful that
inherited numbers from frames that were
scrapped, to save on paper work.
Make – if it’s a Harley, call it a Harley, but if
it’s a one-off feel free to be creative. Recently
Harley have taken a dim view of the number
of so-called Harleys on the road that have
never seen Milwaukee.
Model – again, poetic licence might be
called for.
Type – bicycle, or tricycle – you’ll be
delighted to know that Morgan-style trikes are
now collectively known as carcycles.
Date of manufacture of motor – not
necessarily the absolute time and date, but be
sensible. They appreciate that the engine might
have been built in May 2003, was sold in
October 2003 and the bike won’t see the road
until March 2004.
Engine type and capacity – hardly rocket
Power output – maximum power and the
speed at which it is generated. They’re not
going to ask you to prove it, but you can be
expected to know roughly what you’re putting
out, and it is relevant when it comes to the test.
Engine speed – maximum engine speed:
tread carefully here because it could come back
to haunt you.
Road Speed – we’re not bragging here, this
determines the speed rating of your tyres, so if
you want your Fat Boy to officially be a
220mph motorcycle, be prepared for expensive
tyre bills.
Unladen weight – and design weights if
you’re building from scratch. Don’t try to tell
them that your big twin is lighter than a
Firebolt so they turn a blind eye to your use of
the forks from an XS650.
Where and when – they’ll obviously want
to know where you want it testing (location of
test sites are on the application form), roughly
when you’d like to take the test, who you are,
and a signature to make you legally liable if
they discover you’ve been telling them porkies.
And they’ll want money. Doesn’t everyone?
That’ll be seventy quid to you, son. More than
an MoT but substantially less than ECWVTA
would’ve cost. Should you fail, you’ll be
interested to note that a retest within 5 days is
free, while it’ll cost you another fifteen quid if
you over-run. If you feel harshly treated you
can appeal against a failure, but you’ll be in for
a full test fee again if it is upheld. You can have
as many retests as you like within 6 months: if
it still fails, take the hint. Other costs are an
additional £20 for an out-of-hours test, and
£10 if you need a replacement certificate.
They would hope to be able to test the bike
within 18 working days from receipt of the
application, but this is subject to demand and
could be longer at peak times.
The Test:
So you’ve presented your bike at your VOSA test
station, and met the engineer who’s going to test
it. Do you go and sit in a nice warm room with a
coffee pot while they pull it to pieces for an hour?
No you sit with them all through it, because your
body is going to form part of the vehicle in
certain areas of the test, and they’d rather you
dropped it than them when the extended forks
slam to one side or the other. The “presenter”
doesn’t have to be you, but whoever it is needs to
be capable of manhandling the bike and
operating the controls.
From here on, we’ll go through the
requirements systematically in the order they
were presented to us:
The prop and/or centre stand must be securely
fitted – not one of those bolt-on things that
slip round the frame when you put weight on.
• It must support the machine in a stable
way – not so upright as to teeter, not so
laid down as to let the bike fall over when
the stand sinks into a soggy rally site.
• It must retract when the machine is
upright, on first contact with the ground
or be fitted with an inhibitor, so you
couldn’t pull away with it down: don’t tell
Technical: SVA
me you’ve never done it, because everyone
has at some point.
• And it must be securely held up when in
the travelling position.
out the picture for heights and stuff, but
there’s more …
There are compulsory lights, optional lights
and there is a new requirement for symmetry.
The regulations are divided into two types:
bodied and unbodied. A motorcycle doesn’t
have a body so we get the “unbodied” category.
• A motorcycle must have two, unless it’s a
• The minimum size of the reflective area is
determined by the ability to enclose a
template that the examiner has, and they
must be at least 280mm from the bike’s
centreline to the centre of the reflective
surface – so you can see more than just
your elbows – and must give a clear view
to the rear and sides.
• They must be secure, but adjustable.
• They must have a convex reflective surface
– so “images in the rearview mirror …”
etc, otherwise Gary Larson would be a
cartoon short and Meatloaf would have to
reduce his repertoire by one song.
• If they are not “E” marked, they will be
checked for conformity – it is expected
that all “E” marked mirrors will comply.
• They must have a frame round the glass,
minimum radius 2.5mm, to protect the
pedestrian more than the mirror.
Compulsory lights:
• Headlamps – dipped and main beam,
both white; the dip pattern must be either
kicked up to the left, a flat beam or else an
alternative beam that “does not dazzle”.
Specifics as to how they should be
adjusted are still being debated, but that
relates more to fairing-mounted
headlamps than ones that you can tilt up
or down by pivoting them on their
mounting bolts. There is a maximum of
two dipped headlamps. If not sharing a
common reflector, the main beam lamp
must be within 200mm of the dipped
beam lamp(s).
• Position lights – one or two white
sidelights at the front even if you’ve got
daytime running lights – which isn’t a
requirement – in case of bulb failure. The
normal taillight suffices at the rear. There
needs to be a tell-tale so you know when
they are on, but this could either be an
idiot light on the dash, or else the
instrument lights.
• Brakelight – red. Operated from all
braking controls, so both front and rear
brake levers need to be wired.
• Indicators – amber. Front and rear: bar
end bi-directional lamps, beloved of our
continental cousins, meet the criteria for
the front indicators but not the rear as
they are too far forward so they won’t be
enough on their own. Moreover, if fitted,
the rear-facing lens must be blanked off as
it is in contravention of the regulation so
that’ll probably be the last we see of them
here. Otherwise, there must be a
minimum of 240mm between front
indicators, and 180mm between rear
indicators – but with 160mm tyres being
commonplace now, you’d struggle to fall
It must have one.
• It can be digital or a dial, or both.
• A dial must show miles per hour at
increments not exceeding 20mph
(currently there is a requirement in the
C&U to display in km/h too but it is not
an MoT failure in GB, although it is in
Northern Ireland). Those increments must
be permanently marked on the dial face –
so no sticking stickers on the glass, or even
engraving it – and it must both be in view
at all times, and illuminated at night.
• And you must be able to show how it
works – a speedo cable or a wire for
electronic ones.
Audible warning
It’s not enough to shout “Get out of the bloody
way!” at the top of your voice, and you won’t
get away with a bulb horn, bell, gong or siren.
It must be securely fitted to the bike, it must
be in working order, it must be “loud enough”
and it must emit a continuous uniform sound –
not La Cucaracha or Dixie. A few years ago that
might have been seen as compromising your
freedom of expression, but against a backdrop of
ridiculous ring-tones, it’s probably a blessing.
A picture is worth a thousand words so check
foul of that. You must have two indicators
at the front (one each side), but you can
have four at the rear – all of which must
be within 300mm of the rear of the bike.
• Trikes must be able to use the indicators as
hazard warning lights too, or have a
separate circuit.
• Number plate lamp – white. This can be
incorporated in the taillight if it shines a
white light in the right direction. If the
plate is too far from the taillight, it needs
to be a separate lamp.
• Reflectors – red. Not strictly a light, except
that sometimes the rear lens incorporates
one. This must be a prism-type reflector,
not tape, and must be more than a single
triangular element. In terms of shape, the
reflector must NOT be triangular as that is
now reserved entirely for trailers.
Optional lights:
• Front and rear foglamps, side reflectors
and reversing lamps on trikes. They are
not required, but where fitted they must
be within positional requirements, and
they must work.
• Side reflectors again must not be
triangular, minimum height 300mm, max
900mm and, if fitted, not obscured by the
rider or passenger.
• Front fog lamps must be yellow or white,
and sixties scooter riders will be pleased to
hear there is no stated maximum. They
cannot be more than 400mm from the
outermost edge of the vehicle – more than
a metre … should be able to manage that.
They can’t be lower than 250mm, or
higher than the highest point of the
dipped beam headlamp.
• Rear fog – red. No lower than 250mm, no
higher than 900mm and at least 100mm
from the stop lamp. A rear fog lamp must
have an idiot light on the dashboard.
• Hazards – amber, must conform to the
same positional requirement as indicators,
and must have an idiot light on the dash.
The biggest bone of contention at the
Motorcycle Storehouse seminar, and the proof
that in defining laws common sense can
sometimes go out of the window.
A motorcycle is a single track vehicle, and it
needs to be identified as such by its lighting if
we are to satisfy the authorities. This means
that all lights must either be on the centreline
of the vehicle, or else symmetrically balanced
between the left and right hand side.
I’ve got a lovely “build your own chopper”
feature from a 1972 issue of “Motorcycle,
Three Wheeler and Scooter Mechanics” which
shows how you can make your rear number
plate bigger and brighter. It looked bloody
awful but then so did the rest of the bike, to be
brutally honest, and its like has not been seen
since. Thankfully. I doubt the MSVA
requirements will reawaken that trend, but it is
the nasty bit in an otherwise well-thought out,
and flexible set of requirements.
What’s the problem? Side-mounted number
plates, with their attendant lights.
It’s not that you can’t have them, but just
that if it hangs off the left-hand side of the
bike, it must be matched by one on the right,
number plate and all. There is some sense here
in that it’s possible to have a bike that cannot
be seen at night from the unlit side, either
because of solid wheels, skirted rear
mudguards or lamp positioning, but you can
take it too far.
Something which didn’t quite come across
at the seminar is that the number plate too
must be symmetrical, because there is already
legislation on the books governing the
visibility of number plates, and to pass MSVA
you’re going to have to meet that.
The final word on sidemounts is that if you
want one, you’ll need two: one per side. It is
inevitable that some builders will remove one
of them after passing MSVA and then it is
down to how well the law enforcement
community know the law, or the MoT testers
to interpret it three years hence as to whether
they, or you get away with it, but at least you
know the position.
This was a big issue when the MSVA Technical
Consultation was held, but has been rationalised
now. A motorcycle needs a means of preventing
unauthorised use, and that can be either:
• Mechanical inhibitor in steering (steering
lock) or transmission
• Electrical – like an ignition switch or an
in-line battery immobiliser – or an
electronic immobiliser
It’s not especially complicated, even with the
caveats that are applied:
• An immobiliser cannot act on the braking
system – so don’t go developing a system
that applies the brake levers because they
could ultimately damage the hydraulic
seals, or stretch your cables, and
compromise your roadgoing safety.
• An immobiliser must not be able to jam
when in motion – for obvious reasons
• A shackle type steering lock is perfectly
acceptable BUT if using that method, the
lock that passes through the shackle must
be attached to the machine somewhere,
somehow, and not in your pocket
A motorcycle is a blunt instrument, but there
are a number of sharp or pointy bits that
could cause more damage than would
otherwise be the case to an unwitting third
party, or yourself, so:
• Don’t stick the ignition key where you
might head-butt it, or where a pedestrian
might be caught by it.
• Don’t put spikey filler caps on your nice
smooth tank, because it may be you that
slides up and impales a tender part of
your anatomy on them – the rules say
spherical at the rear, and sticking up no
more than 15mm.
• Stock handlebar levers already have ball
end, and any such balls must be more
than 7mm radius.
• Front mudguard leading edge must have
at least a 2mm radius – which will be fine
with most rolled edges, but apparently not
for the new Road King Custom.
• Upper edges of screens, for bagger
builders, must also be radiused.
Side projections are identified by rolling a
plastic-coated metal pillar down the side of the
bike, representing an upright citizen. Anything
that contacts the pillar – called “PAT” – will be
identified as a “grazing” contact or a “collision”,
and further broken down into being either a
“stem” or a “plate”, with plates being further
broken down into “edge” and “corner”.
Common sense will prevail here to a great
Starting at the front – considered to be the
wheel spindle of the vehicle – and with the
“presenter” sitting on the bike in a riding
position as they will form part of the test, PAT
will first make contact with the spindle and
then run down each side of the bike, finding:
• Axle – don’t be tempted to fit one with a
point at either end, because it won’t pass.
• Mudguard mounting bolts – ditto.
• Handlebars – it is anticipated that the bars
will move back to full lock, so they will
not strike PAT square-on, but you’ll still
need to account for those bits of lever and
switchgear that will cause an impact and
make sure they are radiused.
• Forward controls – the control levers
would ordinarily be the first point of
contact, but as the presenter is in the
riding position, their feet would ordinarily
cover the main controls, and it’s not
expected that you’d move your feet off the
footrests in the even of an accident.
• Once past the rider there are fewer bits to
hit – make sure your pillion footrests are
retractable if you want to avoid them
being tested, and obviously there’ll be an
issue on sidemounts.
• A final catchall is that the engineer is
looking for any protruding, pointed or
sharp bits that are likely to create or
worsen injuries will cause the vehicle to
fail, so be realistic: you’re building a
custom bike, not a weapon of war.
The tester will have a radius gauge with
them, to check that everything conforms, but a
good rule of thumb, is to ask yourself whether
you’d like to be hit by that sharp edge at
20mph and then get your file out.
Registration plate space
There is no requirement for the bike to be
registered – indeed it cannot be registered
without an MSVA certificate – so there will be
no registration plate actually on the bike, but it
must have a space allocated to hold one in the
proscribed place, which really should be the
rearmost point and visible from all angles. You
can take a chance and interpret that as you
like, as long as you know that you may be
called upon to qualify your location if the
examiner has other ideas, and are prepared to
go back for a retest if they don’t agree.
Hand holds
If there is provision for a pillion rider –
determined by the seat and NOT the presence
of pillion footrests as there is no requirement
to check for those (!?!) – the bike must have
hand holds. This can be a strap across the seat,
or grips – either a single in front or behind the
pillion, or else symmetrical grips either side of
the seat. They must be within easy reach,
strong enough and on the bike – not belt grips
on your jacket.
Design and construction
The examiners, as already mentioned, are
competent engineers, and will spot a frame
made of conduit or Meccano from a hundred
paces. They will fail a machine, or any part of
it if they believe that it has been inadequately
designed or constructed, or made from
inadequate materials. If any parts adversely
affect the control of the machine – such as
cables that are too short, fuel lines in regular
plastic tubes that run across exhaust pipes –
that sort of thing. They will also fail it if it
poses a threat to its rider, passenger(s) or
members of the public – which is above and
beyond what PAT might have reckoned as it
Technical: SVA
glanced down the side of the bike. This also
Must be:
• Approved – capital E in a circle means UN
approved, little e in a box means EU
approved, DoT means US approved and
JIS means Japanese approved.
• The right size for the rim – diameter and
width – and don’t laugh, it has been seen.
• Within their load capacity
• Within their speed ratings
• Correctly matched – you can’t mix tyre
types willy-nilly. From the front to the
back: crossply, belted, radial (CBR), so
crossply/crossply, crossply/belted,
crossply/radial, belted/belted, belted/radial
and radial/radial are all acceptable –
although I wouldn’t endorse every one of
those combinations. Anything else is an
automatic failure.
• Suitable for road use, correct fitment for
front or rear, and spinning the right way.
We did a full tyre tech in issue one, which is
also on-line in the tech section. If you want
more details on this, go to
Bikes need two independent braking systems.
This can incorporate linked systems whereby
the rear brake operates one of two front disks,
as long as there is still a second independent
braking system.
Trikes, like cars, use the handbrake as the
second system, and a handbrake is a
Apart from that, brakes must work, be
correctly fitted, complete and secure. Brake
fluid levels must be easily checked either by a
sight glass or by using tools held on the bike
(and a toolkit with a permanent place to keep
it is acceptable in a way that a spanner in your
pocket isn’t). And they must be suitable for the
application, so don’t stick the high-tech
cantilever rim brakes from your mountain
bike onto your new build, and if you’ve used a
XT500 front wheel and drum brake in your
big-twin custom, you might be called upon to
produce evidence that it’s up to the job.
Evidence-based support can be submitted.
Brake checks are similar to the MoT roller
brake test but with a higher efficiency
requirement – so do yourself a favour and
design in a surplus at the beginning.
• Mustn’t stick.
• Mustn’t bind.
• Mustn’t grab.
• Mustn’t judder.
• Must be balanced on a steered axle –
which is only relevant if you’re building
the aforementioned carcycle.
Radio Suppression
HT Systems should be suppressed so’s not to
interfere with TV and radio. All the evidence
you need for that is given on plug leads and
suppressor caps – as is the failure to comply.
Exhaust and Noise
• A motorcycle must be fitted with a secure
adequate exhaust system.
• The exhaust system must be fitted with a
• The silencer must be marked as per MoT
requirements with the manufacturer’s
name: either the manufacturer of the bike
or the silencer.
• The exhaust must pass a static noise test,
and generate no more than 99dB(A). This
is measured by a noise meter with the
engine running at 50% of its maximum
power if the engine’s maximum power is
generated at more than 5,000rpm, or 75%
if maximum power is generated at less
that 5,000rpm – which is why they need
the maximum power declaration on the
application form.
The testers will account for running in
procedures providing you tell them, and
provide evidence – like the running-in
procedure supplied with the motor. By
comparison, the drive-by test is nearer to
80dB, and every additional 3dB represents a
doubling in the amount of noise generated.
• Moped, rotary engines and “amateurbuilt”, “rebuilt” and “vehicles using parts
from a pre-registered vehicles” using
engines that predate 1st January 1993 are
subject to visual checks for excessive
smoke or vapour only.
• 2-stroke engines are subject to visual
checks only for now.
• All others must meet a 4.5% CO limit at
idle, which is about the same as late
seventies/early eighties cars would be
expected to meet.
• There is no hydrocarbon or lambda check
as yet.
Masses and dimensions
• Mass (weight) will have been declared on
the application form, but it will be verified
for the brake test – only expect a problem
if you’re clearly outside what you declare,
because it suggests that you haven’t
designed it with the final weight in mind,
which has implications for all sorts of
other things.
• It mustn’t exceed maximum dimensions
of 4 metres long, 2 metres wide and 2.5
metres high – so you’d best go and cancel
that sissy bar.
• There is a maximum weight of 1000kg on
trikes, but no limits on bikes – except the
practical limit of what you can wrestle
upright from a sidestand.
At the end of the examination
If you’ve passed, you will be given a Ministers
Approval Certificate, which you can use to
register the bike, otherwise, you’ll get an
MSVA30 which lists the faults – and if you’re
unhappy you can ask the examiner for an
explanation, and there are appeal and
complaints procedures in place.
Free retests are available within five days
providing brake, noise and emissions testing
equipment are not required, and for up to
three items in sections 8 and 9 – which will be
clear if you have the MSVA30 to crossreference them against.
Any clearer? I hope so, because I’d hate my
head to hurt this much for no good reason.
At the end of the day, the MSVA is little
more than the old engineer’s report that was
undertaken previously, with a few more
requirements, a few clarifications and greater
reliance on the discretion of the examining
It is a one off test to qualify the design and
construction of newly registered vehicles and is
not intended as a replacement for the MoT,
but allows you to register your vehicle as a new
vehicle and therefore safe from an MoT for the
first three years of its life.
It is not designed to keep custom vehicles
off the road – in fact VOSA go out of their way
to accommodate custom builders. If you need
any proof of that, be aware that you can even
present your final dry build and get that tested
before committing to the final paint, which
will make it easier to fix anything that needs
fixing, as well as removing any possibility that
PAT will scuff your nice new paintwork.
When you consider what we might have
had coming our way, we’ve got away very
lightly so the next generation of custom
builders can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
I would like to take this opportunity to
thank Simon Letts of Motorcycle Storehouse
for having the presence of mind to arrange the
seminar in the first place, and to Simon
Griffiths of VOSA for taking the time to check
that this article correctly represents the MSVA
test and the presentation that he, Meg Price
and Chris Corker gave at the beginning of
December 2003, and further qualifying
elements that I hadn’t picked up on.
If you need any further information relating to
the MSVA, or an application form which fills in
a lot of the holes that I’ve left, check out