Until retro really became popular, ironically, around the start of the 21st Century (boy), motorcycles were about aiming at the future, stretching the throttle cable as tight as a banjo string and not looking back (except to see if that blue BMW you whipped past at 120mph was an unmarked police car). Now the headline-grabbing bikes are as likely to have been styled with 40, 50, or in this case, nearly 70 year-old design cues as truly modern thinking.
Royal Enfield is a company not afraid to embrace its past. The new twins are unapologetically retro, as is the Continental GT and the Classic 500, of which, this new limited edition, is a handsome variant.
As the company explains, in the film below, RE supplied tiddly 125 two-strokes, called the WD/RE and nicknamed the Flying Flea, to the newly formed British Parachute regiment to allow them to ride from the drop zone to the fighting in occupied mainland Europe.
The bikes were built in an underground factory (to avoid Luftwaffe bomb damage) and were encased in a metal cradle to protect them as they were parachuted to the ground. Royal Enfield's own press release states:
'The versatile little Royal Enfield proved itself in September 1944's Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne operation in history. A daring Allied attempt to shorten the war by entering Germany from Holland over a series of captured bridges, it culminated in the Battle of Arnhem where besieged and outnumbered paratroopers held out against German tank divisions for seven days, in an incredible show of grit and determination. Beset with problems including broken radio sets, commanders relied on the Flying Flea to carry messages. Its strength and go-anywhere handling made the rugged and versatile Flying Flea almost unstoppable. Confronted with a fence or a ditch, the rider could simply dismount and lift the bike over.'
The Fleas were also involved in D-Day, ridden onto the beaches of Normandy from landing craft.
Royal Enfield has worked with the Parachute Regiment to create a 500cc Classic that not so much evokes the spirit of the Flying Flea, it weighs twice as much, and has four times the capacity, but is an homage to the company's history and it's part in WWII.
RE will build 1000 of the Classic 500 Pegasus. Each wears a maroon and blue Pegasus emblem – the official Parachute Regiment insignia – on the fuel tank along with an individual stencilled serial number. The Pegasus motorcycles’ markings are based on a genuine World War Two Flying Flea used by the 250th (Airborne) Light Company, now in Royal Enfield’s official collection at the company’s UK Technology Centre. The new motorcycles will be painted in the wartime colours of Service Brown and Olive Drab Green, except in India, where only Service Brown will be available.
The bike is priced at very reasonable, £4999 in the UK (check your local importer for other prices). Each one comes with a bespoke set of military-style canvas panniers bearing the Pegasus logo; brown handlebar grips; a leather strap with brass buckles across the air filter; blacked out silencers, rims, kickstart, pedals and headlight bezel. Naturally, there are more accessories and a range of clobber to accompany the launch.
Watch the short film below and find out more at Royal Enfield Pegasus