Vespa has distinguishing their lines of scooters between the small frame and large frame models since the 1960s. We’re going to take an in-depth, side-by-side look at two Vespas scooters: a large frame, and a small frame. I’ll walk you through the differences in size, weight, handling, power, braking, seat height, and other distinguishing features between the two Vespa chassis.
What are the differences between a small frame and large frame Vespa? A small frame Vespa is typically less long, narrower, and much lighter than a large frame Vespa. On the other hand, large frame Vespas usually cost more, but that comes with extra power and performance for longer trips, more premium parts and features, and better braking and highway comfort. Interestingly, the difference in seat height between small frame and large frame Vespas can be negligible.
Those are the differences at a glance, but I go into a lot more detail in this video walkaround which really gives you a sense of the dimensions and differences between a modern Small frame Vespa and a modern Large frame Vespa when you see them next to each other. If you’re not a fan of “backyard videos” you can just read the full article down below to really understand the differences between the two Vespa chassis.
Click the little unmute button in the bottom left corner to unmute the video.
What is a Large frame or Small frame Vespa?
Since the 1960s, Vespa has been using two main frame chassis that they build all of their vehicles on. Whether you buy a GTS, Primavera, Sprint, GTV, LX, PX, S, or any other kind of Vespa produced in the last fifty years, they are all either Small frames, or Large frames.
Is my Vespa a Large frame or a Small frame?
If you don’t have another Vespa side by side to compare with, don’t worry. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to help you know whether your Vespa is a Small frame or Large frame.
Popular Large frame Vespas: PX series, P series, some “Rally” models, GTS, GTV, Sei Giorni, etc.
Popular Small frame Vespas: PK series, ET series, Primavera series, modern Sprint series, LX series, S series, etc.
As a general rule of thumb, if your Vespa feels like it weighs 300 lbs or less, it’s a Small frame. Over 300 lbs, it’s more likely to be a Large frame.
If you really aren’t sure, leave a comment and let me know what you have and I’ll get back to you, usually within a few hours!
What are the differences between Large frame and Small frame Vespas?
Given that Vespas has been differentiating their scooters between Large and Small frames for over 50 years, this question gets asked (and answered) a lot. I found that most of the answers never covered the complete bike, usually just some aspects here and there. I also found that most videos never really showed both side by side, and if they did, it was usually taken from a tripod, far off in the distance.
Size, weight, performance, fit and finish, functional options, and the quality of components will all change based on what Vespa frame you choose. My goal is to make a very thorough walk-around of both bikes that would cover ALL of the differences and give you the same experience you would get if you were at a Vespa dealership.
How much bigger is a Large frame Vespa, or how much smaller is a Small frame Vespa?
With both bikes lined up evenly beside one another it’s immediately obvious that the Large frame is over 3” longer than the Small frame. It’s also obvious that the Large frame Vespa is anywhere from 1” to a few inches wider than the Small frame Vespa, depending on where you measure from.
We’re going to talk about how the extra length and greater wheelbase will effect you later on in this comparison so keep on reading for more information on that. Keep in mind that while the Vespas we’re looking at are from different model years, Vespa has remained true to their Small frame and Large frame chassis for quite some time, so this article will continue to be relevant well into the 2020s.
What’s the difference in seat height between a Small frame and Large frame Vespa?
If you look hard enough, you might notice that Large frame Vespa handlebars may be a bit higher up than Small frame Vespa handlebars. When you combine that with the overall size difference between the Large and Small frame Vespas, you might assume that the seat height on the Small frame would be much lower, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
The seat height on our Small frame Vespa was only 0.5” (1.25 cm) lower than the seat height on our Large frame Vespa. What’s actually more important to shorter riders is the shape of the seat: A wide seat will spread your legs further apart, making it more difficult to touch the ground. A seat that’s 1” narrower brings your feet closer to the ground.
The good news is, if the Vespa you’re looking to buy does come with a fat thick seat, or you just want to change the aesthetic of your scooter, Vespa seats are typically interchangeable within the same frame and generation. For example, you can switch GTV seats with GTS seats as they are both Large frames, and you can switch S and LX seats as they are both Small frames.
How much do Vespas weigh? Is a large frame Vespa heavier than a Small frame Vespa?
Small frame Vespas like the LX, Primavera, and Sprint, can weigh about 100 lbs less than Large frame Vespas like the GTS and GTV. In our Large vs. Small frame comparison, our Vespa S series small frame bike weighed about 240 lbs (dry), versus our Large frame GTS weighs about 350 lbs (dry).
It’s important to note that Large frame Vespas aren’t exactly superheavyweights. If we compare our Vespa GTS 300 to a 300cc motorcycle like the Honda CB300R, the Honda weighs in at 315 lbs, only about 35 lbs less than the GTS. At 240 lbs dry, that means without fluids, Small frames are just very efficient when it comes to weight.
What is the wheelbase on my Vespa and how does it effect handling?
Wheelbase is the distance between the front wheel’s axle, and the rear wheel’s axle. All things being equal, the shorter the wheelbase is, the tighter and more responsive the handling is. If you’re new to vehicle tech talk, think of it like this: Imagine changing lanes while driving a pickup truck or station wagon, now imagine changing lanes in a smart car. Which one is more nimble?
There is about a 3” difference between the wheelbase of a Large frame Vespa and the wheelbase of a Small frame Vespa. Obviously, that means the handling advantage in tight situations benefits the Small frame Vespas. However, the longer wheelbase isn’t always a bad thing. At highway speeds, a longer wheelbase can help to make the Large frame Vespas feel better planted on the road.
Again, when we compare to other 300cc motorcycles, we should note that the Vespa GTS300 from our comparison isn’t exactly a stretch limousine. It has a 53.9” (1,375 mm) wheelbase, which is still very comparable to a Honda CB300R’s 53.2” (1,352 mm) wheelbase.
How do the engines compare between Large frame and Small frame Vespas?
Engines are a huge point of differentiation between Small frame and Large frame Vespas. The average Small frame Vespa can get up to 14 horsepower, while the average Large frame can get up to 21 horsepower. That’s 1.5x more power.
The difference comes from engine displacement. Small frame Vespas only have room for small motors, so a Small frame Vespa can have a variety of motors ranging from 50cc to up to 150cc size engines. Having a bigger, more accommodating size, a Large frame Vespa can fit motors ranging from 125cc to 300cc.
What is the top speed of a Vespa? Are Large frame Vespas faster than Small frame Vespas?
All of the extra engine displacement size in a Large frame Vespa means that it can go up to 80 miles per hour (130 kilometers per hour), whereas a Small frame Vespa can only go up to 62 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour).
The top speed of a quick, 150cc Small frame Vespa is still more than enough for zipping around the city, but on highways with 60 miles per hour speed limits, you’ll have no acceleration left to get yourself out of trouble’s way. For that reason, I recommend sticking to roads with no more than 50 mile per hour speed limits on a Small frame Vespa. If you want to go touring, you’ll want the top speed and power of a Large frame Vespa.
How good are the brakes on a Vespa? Which Vespa has better brakes?
Acceleration, power, and top speed are only good things if you have the brakes to back it up. So which Vespa has better braking, the Large frame, or Small frame Vespas?
Braking on paper definitely favors the Large frame Vespa. While both Small frame and Large frame Vespas typically have a front disk brake, Small frame Vespas come equipped with a rear drum brake which won’t be as effective as the Large frame’s rear disk brake.
Moreover, newer Large frame Vespas also come equipped with ABS sensors on both the front and back brakes. Some newer Small frame Vespas come equipped with a single ABS sensor no the front wheel, not on the rear, so while a dealer may tell you it has ABS (which technically isn’t a lie), your Small frame won’t have a true, full ABS system.
It isn’t all bad for the Small frames though. The Small frame may have more rudimentary braking technology, but that comes with proven reliability, and we can’t forget that Small frames weigh about 100 lbs less. That means they have a lot less weight to bring to a stop. So Small frame braking is still pretty good and shouldn’t alarm you.
What’s under seat storage like on a Vespa? Can I fit a helmet in my Vespa?
Some Vespas have enough space under the seat to fit a full face helmet, but others don’t! Typically, a Small frame Vespas like the LX, Primavera, or Sprint can fit a full face helmet in their deep under seat storage. Large frame Vespas like the GTS can’t fit a full face because their under seat storage is shallower.
This might seem counter-intuitive. The Large frame is bigger so it should have more storage space, right? Not quite. The frame is bigger, but the motor is also much bigger, and the seat height is about the same, which means there’s actually less depth to the under seat storage on a Large frame. Yes, the under seat storage will be wider, so you can still fit a lot of stuff, but if you want to fit a full face helmet you’ll need to get a top box.
On a Small frame, because the motors are so much smaller, and there is a lot more space between the motor and the seat, you have room under the seat to store a smaller full face helmet. Bigger full face helmets may or may not fit depending on their shape and size.
What Vespa frame size should you buy?
Your choice of Vespa frame size should be decided based on your intended use for your Vespa. If you want to do highway commuting, touring, daily two-up rides longer than 30 minutes, you’ll prefer the power and comforts of a Large frame Vespa. If you want something that’s light and easy for zipping around in town and don’t need to take the highway or travel great distances, a Small frame Vespa is the perfect round-town go-getter.
Which Vespa did I pick?
After watching the video or reading all of this you might be wondering which Vespa I ride. Well, I ride a Small frame Vespa S and I absolutely love it! The advantages of the Large frame don’t matter much to me because I already have much larger motorcycles. The advantages of the Small frame are what make it a perfect addition to my collection.
My main two-wheeler is a Harley-Davidson V-Rod that weighs over 600 lbs, makes 120+ horsepower, and sitting in traffic or going slowly on it stinks. The Small frame Vespa S on the other hand is great for zipping through traffic or going downtown.
With it’s storage space, the Small frame Vespa S is also perfect for running quick errands to pick up small supplies from hardware stores or dealers, or grabbing takeout. Picking up take-out once a week on the Vespa, rather than having Uber Eats deliver it, saves me enough to cover my gas for the week.
If you’ll only have one two-wheeled vehicle, your position may be different from mine, and a Large frame Vespa might be a great choice for you as it combines many of the best things about a Vespa along with the ability to travel on the highways. But if you’re like me and have other motorcycles, or just want something for zipping through the city, a Small frame Vespa is a great choice.
COMMENTS: Was this helpful? Which Vespa size do you prefer? Please me know by leaving a comment down below!