We’ve been hearing a lot about the Royal Enfield Flying Flea recently, partly due to the modern company trademarking the name in Europe in February 2020. An estimated 55,000 of the original lightweight RE125 bikes were ever made, and since they weren’t built like tanks, there aren’t exactly a ton of survivors. If you were to find one in good working order, what would you do?
If you’re Guy Martin, and you have a TV show, you’d find a way to drop it out of a plane, of course! In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which took place on June 6, 2019, Martin and crew dropped an original Flying Flea out of the back of a C-130.
As Martin explains, the Fleas originally parachuted out of the backs of C-47s during WWII, in specially constructed steel birdcages to protect them on the trip down. Coded messages could be broken, so the British military relied on in-person couriers to instantly hop on the Fleas after they'd landed, then tear off to deliver important messages as needed.
The original RE125s were developed after Germany put pressure on DKW to drop its partnership with Dutch company RS Stokvis en Zonen, simply because RS stood by its Jewish owners and would not force them out. After that incident, RS took a DKW RT100 over to Royal Enfield and basically said “Hey, can you make a 125 out of this?”
Royal Enfield said “Sure, we’ll get right on that,” or something very similar, and RE chief designer Ted Pardoe went on to create RE125 history. Prior to its more well-known nickname of “Flying Flea,” the two original prototypes of this design were put on display in Rotterdam in April, 1939 under the name “Royal Baby.” Post-war, DKW RT125 design plans ended up in the hands of at least eight different motorcycle manufacturers thanks to reparations.
Anyway, for the 2019 drop, given this surviving RE125’s priceless nature, Martin and his crew wrapped the bike in much more serious protection than a simple steel birdcage. Sadly, since this is a clip out of a longer episode of television, we of course don’t get to see Martin ride off to deliver important dispatches at the end. After all, it’s meant to entice us to watch the full episode. Nevertheless, it’s exhilarating, and although you’ll probably never catch me jumping out of a plane for fun, the whole thing makes for a pretty incredible watch.