After iconic motorcycle engineer Steve Harris sold Harris Performance to Royal Enfield in 2015, the Royal Enfield Twins American Flat Track entry has remained the firm’s most high-profile project. However, before the acquisition, the Hertford, England-based company specialized in road racing worldwide.
The self-taught Harris first made a name for himself by fabricating racing chassis for privateer and factory outfits. The Brit even built one-off frames for the likes of two-time 500cc Grand Prix champion Barry Sheene. Aside from specializing in chassis construction, Harris assembled full bikes as well as designing and selling performance accessories.
“Steve was the instigator, and in many ways the driving force. He was gregarious, always looked at the big picture, and felt that anything was possible,” revealed Harris’ brother Lester. “At the time, motorcycle technology was quite basic. There were a lot of good engines, but chassis design wasn’t so good.”
Founded in 1972, Harris Performance quickly became synonymous with Magnum frame kits throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, but the brand always pushed the performance envelope in the Superbike World Championship (WSBK) and Grand Prix series. In 1991, Yamaha allowed the company to purchase YZR500 engines to install in Harris-designed-and-built frames for the 500cc Grand Prix World Championship category.
From 1992 to 1996, the celebrated engineer ran the Shell-sponsored Harris 500 GP team with Sean Emmett in the saddle. Harris frequently juggled several projects too, with Suzuki tapping him to develop the GSX-R750 WSBK race machine and distributed factory-style race kit components to Suzuki customers worldwide.
In 1999, Harris supported the Kawasaki Motors UK Superbike Team and formed the Harris Honda Britain Superbike team in 2000. In the following years, however, Harris took a step back from the race paddock and re-focused his attention on chassis development. He started relations with Royal Enfield in 2008 and eventually sold Harris Performance to Eicher Motors Ltd in 2015.
After living with Parkinson’s disease for years, Harris died on June 15, 2022. Despite his passing, Harris’ contributions to motorcycle racing will live on through Royal Enfield’s competitive flat track project.