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Monday, March 29, 2010

Royal Enfield Flying Flea or BSA Bantam?
Gordon May chooses BSA for next trip

Gordon May's BSA Bantam

Possibly the world's most famous Royal Enfield traveler, Gordon May, plans to ride from the United Kingdom to Egypt and back this spring. But he won't be on a Royal Enfield.

The adventurer who captured the world's attention by riding his 1953 Royal Enfield Bullet Overland to India plans to make his next trip aboard a 1952 BSA Bantam.

Does he have a fever?

I wrote Gordon to ask if he had considered doing the trip on a Royal Enfield, perhaps the similar (in displacement) Royal Enfield Flying Flea.

"I have owned a Flying Flea," he replied. "It would never be able to carry the weight."

His Overland to Egypt web site contains pictures of the little Bantam almost invisible beneath the gear he will have to carry. An initial attempt in 2009 had him climbing mountains in first gear, and ended with a major engine failure in northeastern Italy.

The new departure date, with a completely rebuilt motor, is April 27.

Gordon's switch from Royal Enfield to BSA was on my mind when an ad appeared on eBay in the United Kingdom offering a sweet looking 1952 Royal Enfield RE2 (Flying Flea).

1952 RE2 (Flying Flea)

It's the same year as Gordon May's BSA Bantam! What's more, the seller closes his ad with this:

"Final opinionated word, it's much nicer than a Bantam!"

I wrote to the seller, asking "WHY is the RE better? Could you explain? Keep in mind I'm a Yank who has never seen either."

Arthur graciously replied:

"Not really wanting to turn my listing into a forum, but the engine is a very interesting one with well cast casings — pressure die cast I think. They are well designed with smooth lines, excellent bearing strength.

"The rest of the bike has good features; throttle cable through handlebars etc. for neatness. I think I have a mag write up comparing the two somewhere; if I find it I will let you know its issue, and of course give it to the winning bidder.

"Plus, best bit, it's based on the original RE Flea which you could chuck out of an aeroplane; not many Bantams suffered that fate."

1 comment:

  1. THe RE2 is definately a more elegant design. It has a totally different feel to the BSA D1 Bantam. I used to have one and a Flea also. I felt the RE2 was better off in the dryness of New Mexico rather than Brixton,London, so I gave it to my cousin. Who in proportion, looks like his friends on their Harleys. It was gray like the one above but totally gray with a gold stripe and original painting. I got all the parts to replace everything atleast once. .I went all over the uk in about 1977 and bought up all remaining bits for that bike before the shops closed. I loved it and miss it and would have bid for that done up one.
    But saw it today when bids had closed. The flea 15GBP was a hoot -got it in Coventry -with the wooden shift knob. Paid 5gbp for a BSA C15 with a pig snout. I bought the RE2 for 75GBP which was a lot then for an old British bike then.--Nice bike and lovely to ride in town. I am a non-British female ceramic artist.

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