Motorcycle Pioneering Engineer Steve Harris has Passed
Founder of Harris Performance Products, Survived by Beautiful Legacy
Steve Harris with a frame he designed. Photo courtesy of MCN.
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of a key member of our industry’s history.
Steve Harris – the face behind the renowned Harris Performance Products line and a brilliant engineer in his own right – was known as the go-to guy for privateer motorcycle racing teams running their machines between the years 1992 and 1996.
Harris, at the time, had a particular lean in the conversion of Yamaha TZ250/350 production racers from twin-shock to monoshock, and also built one-off racing chassis for racing greats such as Barry Sheene (a British professional who, according to Wikipedia, was a two-time WorldGP champion, with back-to-back titles in 1976 and 1977), prior to his time working with Suzuki‘s team on their factory WSB machine.
He even ran the team itself for a while.
It all purportedly started when Steve and his brother, Lester, decided to make bike parts to fund their own racing back in the early 1970s.
“Steve was always the public face of the firm,” admits Lester in a report from MCN.
“At the same time Harris Performance often worked in the background of the industry, while to most motorcyclists they were best known for their Harris Magnum frame kits.”
The Magnum frame kit ended up being a huge success, with Lester noting that “at the time, motorcycle technology was quite basic. There were a lot of good engines, but chassis design wasn’t so good.”
“The Magnum established the firm. We had built an endurance racing chassis for Mike Trimby and Andy Goldsmith, and Steve said: ‘It’s almost a road bike – it has lights, and electrics.’”
Other notable marks of the brothers included developing a frame for the (Yamaha) Mitsui-backed FZ750 engine for British SBK, and running the Harris 500 GP team (backed by Shell) from 1992 to 1996, with Sean Emmett as lead rider.
In the end, Harris Performance was sold to their long-standing client, Royal Enfield, in 2015, allowing the Harris brothers to retire.
“The death in June, 2022 of Steve Harris marks the end of an era – when a single or a small group of independent engineers could play a major part in the motorcycle industry,” adds MCN.
“Steve was an inspirational engineer in an era when independent chassis builders – among them Nico Bakker, Tony Foale and Colin Seeley – were able to dramatically improve on the output of the factories.”
Our very best to the Harris family and the amazing legacy that the man leaves behind.
Drop a comment below with your contribution, and as ever – stay safe on the twisties.