The Flying Flea: 1948 Royal Enfield RE125

The Flying Flea, the Royal Enfield RE125 was a two-stroke single that was very important to the British military during World War II.

| November/December 2012

  • Royal Enfield RE125
    Philip Koenen's classic Flying Flea Royal Enfield.
    Photo by Philip Koenen
  • Old Royal Enfield
    Rough and ragged: Philip Koenen’s 1948 Royal Enfield RE125 as prchased. It’s almost hard to believe it’s the same bike.
    Photo by Philip Koenen
  • Royal Enfield Frame
    The Enfield has lines similar to BSA’s highly successful Bantam.
    Photo by Philip Koenen
  • Royal Enfield Right Side
    Phillip was the winning bidder at $295. The 1948 advertised price for an RE125 was $325, making this one example where inflation has almost stood still over the past 64 years.
    Photo by Philip Koenen
  • Enfield 2 Stroke
    The design for the 2-stroke was lifted from DKW but modified by Enfield.
    Photo by Philip Koenen
  • Royal Enfield Left Side
    The engine runs like most 2-strokes in that the more revs it builds the happier it is.
    Photo by Philip Koenen
  • Royal Enfield Handlebars
    After the war ended, Royal Enfield offered the Flying Flea to the public as the RE125.
    Photo by Philip Koenen
  • Enfield Engine
    Enfield engine has primary case on left while DKW’s was on the right.
    Photo by Philip Koenen
  • Smiths Speedometer
    The Smiths speedometer is a lovely little unit.
    Photo by Philip Koenen
  • Fishtail Muffler
    The Fishtail muffler is classic for the period.
    Photo by Philip Koenen
  • Royal Enfield Seat
    Seated on the RE125, you instantly notice the small stature of the machine. It’s sort of like a BMX bicycle, or maybe think of it as a 5/8-scale modern 250cc street machine.
    Photo by Philip Koenen

  • Royal Enfield RE125
  • Old Royal Enfield
  • Royal Enfield Frame
  • Royal Enfield Right Side
  • Enfield 2 Stroke
  • Royal Enfield Left Side
  • Royal Enfield Handlebars
  • Enfield Engine
  • Smiths Speedometer
  • Fishtail Muffler
  • Royal Enfield Seat

1948 Royal Enfield RE125 
Claimed power: 3.5hp @ 4,500rpm
Top speed: 45mph
Engine: 125cc air-cooled 2-stroke single, 54mm x 55mm bore and stroke, 5.75:1 compression ratio
Weight (wet): 130lb (59kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 1.75gal (8ltr)/130mpg
Price then/now: $325 (1948)/$2,500-$7,500

It all started innocently enough after dinner one Wednesday evening when I sat down at my computer and logged onto eBay. For some unknown reason I typed in “Royal Enfield motorcycles.” The first bike that appeared was a 1948 Royal Enfield RE125.

The seller’s description was short and to the point. He had purchased it from a garage sale near his home in Pennsylvania. He went on to describe the motorcycle as best he could and admitted that he knew very little about it. Never having seen an RE125 before I was curious, so I Googled the make and model, only to discover these little machines were very important to the British military during World War II, when they were nicknamed the Flying Flea.

Flying Flea background

The original design of this motorcycle was by DKW in 1935, a 98cc 2-stroke known as the DKW RT100, which went on to become the hugely successful and much copied RT125.



In early 1938, the Germans instructed DKW to cancel its relationship with its Dutch concessionaire, RS Stokvis en Zonen, after the Dutch company refused to force out its Jewish owners. Instead, the Dutch simply took an example of the DKW RT100 to Royal Enfield, asking them to make the same machine but with an engine displacement of 125cc. Royal Enfield’s chief designer, Ted Pardoe, was responsible for the faithful reproduction of the DKW RT with the increased 125cc engine size.

According to information I found, two prototype versions of the RE125 were displayed in Rotterdam in April 1939 under the name “Royal Baby.” World War II interrupted plans for civilian production after only a few were made, and the RE125 was instead manufactured for military use. The early version of the RE125 was nicknamed the “Flying Flea” by the British Army Red Berets parachute regiment in 1942 when it was released for service duty, where it was used extensively in airborne drops. The Flying Flea name fit perfectly, reflecting its light 130-pound weight and small overall dimensions; a mere 26 inches wide and 75 inches long.

Breagah
7/28/2018 2:52:25 AM

So what I would like to know is can one still acquire parts for this little gem


Rob
2/1/2015 11:53:58 AM

I have a Flying Flea I would like to sell. I got it when I was around 16 and it was in pieces. My father restored it, but it has now sat for several years and does not currently run. It does still turn over. My plan is to get it running and sell it. Would you be interested? I can send pictures. Contact me ,Rob, at rob82b@gmail.com


gerald estes III
12/22/2012 4:04:39 AM

hey phil, thanks for your time - the research alone, for me anyway, would be well worth the out of pocket expense, no? enjoy!




The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $4.95 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $29.95 for a one year subscription!




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds