Born in London, Barry was the second child of parents Frank (resident engineer at the Royal College of Surgeons, himself a former competitive rider who retired in 1956 and an experienced motorcycle mechanic) and Iris. He grew up in Queen Square, Holborn, London. Before entering road racing Sheene found work as a messenger and delivery driver.
Barry first started to race in 1968, winning his first races at Brands Hatch riding father Frank's 125 cc and 250 cc Bultacos. He became the British 125cc champion at age 20 in 1970. In 1971 riding an ex-works 1966 10-speed Suzuki twin, previously ridden by Stuart Graham he finished second in the 125 cc World Championship. His first Grand Prix win coming on that bike at Spa in Belgium, soon followed by a win on a 50 cc Van Veen Kreidler at Brno in Czechoslovakia, where he finished over two and a half minutes ahead.
In 1975 while on crutches, Barry met model Stephanie McLean, the couple married in 1984, having a son Freddie and daughter Sidonie.
Emigration to Australia
The Sheene family moved to Australia in the late 1980s, in the hope that the warmer climate would help relieve some of the pain of Barry's injury-induced arthritis, settling in a property near the Gold Coast. He combined a property development business with a role as a commentator on motor sport. He began on SBS TV then moved to the Nine Network with Darrell Eastlake, and finally followed the TV broadcast rights of the Grand Prix motorcycle series to Network Ten. Further to this, on Network Ten Barry co-hosted the weekly motor sport television show RPM from 1997 to 2002 with journalist Bill Woods, and was involved in Ten's coverage of other motor sport including V8 Supercars for several years.
In the 1990s, Barry appeared in a series of well known and popular television advertisements for Shell, with Australian motor sport icon Dick Johnson. In later years, Barry became involved in historic motorcycle racing, often returning to England to race at Donington Park. He was also chosen to run with the Queen's Baton in the run-up to the 2002 Commonwealth Games held in Manchester, England.