Today we’re going to talk about the 2009 Vespa S150:
- What I liked and disliked about it
- The mods and repairs I did
- Why I’m selling it
- If I would recommend you buy one.
Overall the Vespa S150 is a surprisingly great vehicle, but you do make a few small sacrifices with it. To me these are well worth it. I’m Adrian from YouMotorcycle, I make articles and videos that help motorcyclists. Let me tell you a bit about my Vespa S150.
Vespa S150 overview
Before we get too into my likes and dislikes I’ll give you a really quick overview of this scooter. It’s a 150cc, single cylinder, air cooled Vespa. It still uses a carburetor, but in some markets, beginning 2010 and 2011, the scooter would get fuel injection. For brakes we have a single caliper single piston brake up front, and a drum brake in the rear.
The Vespa S150 is basically the same scooter as the Vespa LX150, but with a few different styling elements.
The Vespa S150 comes with a ton of available storage space including being able to fit some full face helmets under the seat. More on that later. In addition to the underseat storage the scooter comes with a top case, as well as a baggage hook between the rider’s knees which can be convenient for smaller goods.
The body is all metal and it’s kind of one big long piece. It shows a lot of class and craftmanship, and Vespa overall is known for great fit and finish compared to other scooters. The downside is that when people drop these things, repairing the damage is not cheap or easy – you can’t just replace a plastic fairing like you can a sport bike. Many Vespa riders just put stickers over the damage and pretend it never happened.
Mine is an example of this tradition.
Alright, now that we’re done the introductions, let’s look at the pros and the cons of the Vespa S150.
Things I like about the Vespa S150
Small size and weight
A lot of what I like about the Vespa S150 comes down to it’s small body size. The scooter only weighs about 250 lbs, meaning it’s easy to throw around either in the garage, or through corners. I’m about 165 lbs. The bikes I’m used to riding weigh 400 lbs to 500 lbs more than I do. Riding a bike that barely weighs more than I do in comparison, is awesome.
That small footprint the Vespa takes up makes it perfect for squeezing through tight places. Whether I’m riding between my house and my truck, or squeezing between traffic and parked cars, the Vespa S fits everywhere.
Another thing I love about my Vespa is that it gets special treatment. In Toronto, scooters and motorcycles are allowed to park for free on the streets. Scooters also get an extra perk though: We’re allowed to park on the sidewalks too. Scooterists will just need to do so in a way that doesn’t impede the flow of pedestrian traffic.
There’s something to be said for the convenience of not wasting time looking for parking. There’s also the peace of mind that comes from not worrying about being able to pull up right outside the door of your favorite take-out restaurant, grab your meal, and ride away. No wasting time looking for parking, no worrying about if a car backing into a parking spot won’t see your small bike.
The Vespa S150 is perfectly suited for running errands in the city for a low cost.
On take-out nights, I can either pay Uber $10 in fees and charges for delivery, try to find parking for my pickup truck a couple blocks from my favorite restaurants, or jump on my Vespa and park outside the front door. With all the storage options and a back seat I can hold a pizza box down to with a cargo net, it’s easy to zip away with my meal and still get home with it hot.
For fuel economy, you’re looking at about 4 liters per hundred km, or about 58 mpg. Newer Vespa S150s with fuel injection instead of carburetors, will get closer to 3 liters per hundred km, or about 78 mpg.
The improvement in fuel economy is pretty impressive on the fuel injected Vespa S150i. The fuel injection consistency will also be convenient if you sometimes travel to a mountainous area. That’s just not something that I do with my Vespa though. So the carbureted S150, along with it’s “auto-choke” function, was more than well suited. The scoot even served as my daily driver during Canadian winters when there wasn’t snow on the roads.
The Vespa S150 makes about 11.7 horsepower. Adorable, I know. It’ll do about 100 km/hr or about 60-62 miles per hour. That’s pretty good. It’ll even do this speed even with a passenger.
We have a big roadway about 10 minutes from my house where the speed limit is 80 km/hr or 50 mph. Everyone obviously goes faster than that, and the Vespa S150 had no issues keeping up with traffic, even with a passenger on the back.
One thing to note, going up substantial hills will severely limit your top speed. In a hilly area close to home I wasn’t getting more than about 70 km/hr uphill. You’ll want to be mindful of these limitation when picking your routes in any particularly hilly zones.
The Vespa S150 has a very “sitting at the kitchen table” feel to it. Knees and hips are bent at 90 degrees, arms are out comfortably in front of you. At 5’11” I was comfortable on it. I expect riders down to around 5’5″ would be too.
The seat on the Vespa S150 differs slightly from the Vespa LX150 seat. The Vespa S seat gets rounded down at the back, whereas the LX seat is more flat.
Personally, my passenger really likes the seat rounded down at the back. It creates more of a gap for her but between the seat and the top case. The top case’s padded backrest gives her good support, and we’ve been pretty happy scooting around for half an hour to an hour together. The S150 was actually more comfortable than the GTS250ie for riding two up, until we changed the foot pegs on the GTS.
One final like…
If you have a Vespa S50, you can just swap in a Vespa S150 motor into a frame. They’re the same frame. You may have to swap some other parts including wiring harness. It isn’t a hard job, it’s just very tedious. Overall though, if you can find a cheap 150 motor from a crashed S150 or LX150, it will be the best bang-for-your-buck upgrade you can do in terms of performance.
Things I dislike about the Vespa S150
Differences from the LX150
Some of the differences between the S150 and the LX150 are disappointing. The most notable difference is the rectangular headlight. It’s a throwback to a bygone era of Vespa lore, but it’s not for me. I like circular headlights.
The S150 also gets this weird, useless, front cubby storage space. On the LX, you get a glove box that closes and locks. On the S150 you get these cubbies that are too small to fit anything practical, and too open to safely hold anything small enough to fit inside. In other words, it’s useless.
Another difference between the S150 and the LX150 is that the S150 does not use a chipped key. The LX150 does. This theoretically makes the S150 easier to steal. It also makes the situation of losing your key much more cost-effective to deal with on an S150 than it is on an LX150. Pros and cons depending on your perspective.
My Vespa S150 came with an upgraded Bitubo front shock, and the suspension is, acceptable. A bumpy ride, sure, but not something that bothered me as I joyfully zip and weave through the city. This scooter is too fun to be upset on. Until you get on a GTS250ie, and then you realize the suspension on the lowly S150 isn’t so great.
The North American Vespa S150 came with weird turn signals that hang off under the handlebar to meet government requirements we have here, but the Europeans don’t. I got rid of mine to make the scoot look much more elegant. More on that in the mods section later.
One disappointing part of the scooter is the Vespa factory option top case. While the factory top cases will perfectly match the paint of the Vespa, the quality of the top case itself is known for being sub-par. Compared to the hard cases I’ve had from GIVI, Kappa, and BMW, this Vespa top case has the worst quality hinges, mounting brackets, and latch mechanisms. Worst of all, your Vespa’s key, and the factory top case key, will not be matched. It’s the equivalent of having to carry a second key to open the trunk of your car. Not the biggest deal in the world, but still annoying.
CVT pros and cons
The Vespa S150 uses CVT transmission so there are no gears to shift. CVT stands for continuously variable transmission and makes a modern Vespa operate similar to an automatic car. The CVT does a good job of maintaining the power band through your scooter ride, but it comes with pros and cons.
For some people, not having to shift gears on a Vespa adds to the friendly, simple, welcoming feel of the bike. For the more performance oriented, you can still change the roller weights to influence the acceleration and top speed of your scooter.
On the other hand, you won’t see your drive belt as you can on motorcycles. You need to be proactive in changing it because it could break if you leave it neglected. Many people recommend changing it about as often as you change your tires so you don’t risk getting stranded.
The brakes on the Vespa S150 are fine for riding solo, but when you have a passenger on the back and you’re coming to a stop from anything over 70 km/hr or 43 mph, the brakes can feel underpowered. It’s not scary enough to induce a panic, but it was still uncomfortable.
Bleeding the front brake fluid helped quite a bit, but I still think, for two up riding at higher speeds, this bike would benefit greatly from a disk brake on the rear to help slow it down a bit. The rear drum brake just isn’t adequate for aggressive two-up riding.
Size (and displacement)
Another annoyance is that by virtue of being small, the Vespa S150 doesn’t always get the respect it deserves from other motorists. I noticed car drivers gave me far more space on my Harley-Davidson as they did on my Vespa. I’ve also come back to my Vespa to find a girl sitting on it and taking pictures of herself, because narcissism.
I’m used to 1,100cc motorcycles. I like instant power. With the S150 being a carbureted vehicle with a CVT transmission, you don’t really get that. Sometimes from a stop you twist the throttle aggressively and she just immediately goes. Sometimes you twist and there’s a hesitation on take off and it’s a real slow start. It isn’t consistent.
PS: For some of you who are on the bigger side, my passenger and I add up to just a bit over 300 lbs combined. I’ve heard couples say the Vespa S150 was too small. It wasn’t too small for us, but it may be too small for you.
Mods and maintenance I did to my Vespa S150
Firstly, my Vespa S150’s headlight and running light were switched to LED. I chose a headlight that wasn’t obnoxiously bright, but still much brighter than original, and was still relatively plug and play and easy to install.
I replaced the handlebar surrounds, front and back, because they were all scratched up when I bought them. These pieces took me forever to find so I was glad when I did.
The speedo cable was replaced, and I’m not sure if that was owner error or mechanical failure. The turn signal switch was also replaced after 32,000 km or 20,000 miles. It was starting to get hard to signal right.
I replaced the turn signals that were under the handlebar with these switchback LEDs, so they would act as both bright LED running lights and turn signals, switching automagically between the two. The tech we have today is really cool. Vespa Motorsport Scooter West has a pretty expensive kit you can use, but I just bought a generic Amazon option, used that, and saved about $100. I have a video on how I did that coming up so hit subscribe if you want to see it.
I also installed a motorcycle brake light that flashes when you first apply the brakes. The idea is to draw more attention to the fact you are slowing down to make the small vehicle more noticeable to distracted drivers texting and rear ending people.
Lastly, I installed a cell phone mount on my Vespa so I could get navigation directions and speed trap warnings.
So why am I selling and would I buy one again?
I’m selling the Vespa S150 because I had done the mods that I wanted to do, and it still wasn’t the scooter I wanted it to be.
I really love almost everything about the Vespa S, but I wanted a round headlight, fuel injection, more predictable performance, and a newer less beat up Vespa. The previous owner crashed this one a few times.
If you’re in the market for a Vespa that is reliable, simple, and beginner friendly, the Vespa S150 and LX150 are a great purchase. These models are now ten years old now, so they’re quite affordable. I have a handful of motorcycles and the Vespa S is by far the most fun per cc. You should get one.
You should also check out my other videos on modifying this one.
So what did I get to replace it?
I bought an even older, but mint condition, Vespa GTS 250ie, with only 2,000 km. It has the round headlight, it has fuel injection, and it has virtually no scratches to it.
So do I like it better? Truthfully, right now, not yet. The GTS is bigger, better, smoother, but it’s also more awkward and clumsy in comparison to the S150.
Brand new tires on the GTS have improved things, but it’s still awkward with a passenger. The passenger foot pegs are in a very awkward position which bumps them into the rider every time you want to put your feet down.
I could go on about the GTS, but that will be in another review and video.
Buy a Vespa, you’ll love it. Ride safe, but have fun.