The Flying Flea: 1948 Royal Enfield RE125

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Philip Koenen's classic Flying Flea Royal Enfield.
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Rough and ragged: Philip Koenen’s 1948 Royal Enfield RE125 as prchased. It’s almost hard to believe it’s the same bike.
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The Enfield has lines similar to BSA’s highly successful Bantam.
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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.
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The design for the 2-stroke was lifted from DKW but modified by Enfield.
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The engine runs like most 2-strokes in that the more revs it builds the happier it is.
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After the war ended, Royal Enfield offered the Flying Flea to the public as the RE125.
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Enfield engine has primary case on left while DKW’s was on the right.
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The Smiths speedometer is a lovely little unit.
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The Fishtail muffler is classic for the period.
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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.

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.

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