HE’S single-handedly changing the way Australia’s motorcycle industry thinks about ‘clean’. Private collectors fly him across the country to work on their cherished exotica. He demands — and gets — up to $1,500 to detail a single bike. Clients have new bikes delivered straight from the dealership to his studio, before they even take them home.
Meet Roberto Rossi, the 36-year-old Perth bike buff who gave up his respectable sales-and-marketing role to see if he could make a living by cleaning other people’s bikes.
“It started as a private passion,” Roberto says. “I loved making my own bikes look as good as I possibly could.”
But it quickly became apparent that Roberto’s private passion was shared by many — the quest to make your two-wheeled mistress look her best, and stay that way, even if it did cost a dollar or two. Or three.
“Friends started asking if I would work on their bikes and I said ‘sure’. Then word started to spread, and I found myself working nights and weekends to keep up with the demand.”
With a queue of customers keen to recruit his expertise — and pay for it — Roberto faced a daunting decision: Should he stick with his proper job (and proper salary) as a business development manager with a Perth-based industrial equipment supplier, or throw caution to the wind and chase a dream?
“My wife Tracey kept me in check,” he says. “She told me that if I was going to quit my job, I needed to make sure I was stepping into something that was actually going to work.”
And so it was that the giant leap became more of a cautious slide. With the blessing of his boss, Roberto cut back his regular job to three days a week, freeing up enough time to explore the potential of a Perth-based high-end motorcycle detailing business.
“We moved from our townhouse in Nollamara to a house in Dianella. It had a little shed with enough room to get started. I made it look as slick as I could. There was only room for one bike at a time, but at least I had some dedicated work space. It also gave me somewhere to store and display product.”
Roberto says he had to teach himself what were the best products to use on motorcycles.
“It’s not as simple as it looks,” he says. “The product you would use on paintwork is obviously not the same as you would use on plastic, or rubber, or leather, or exhaust systems, or chrome. Everything has it’s own requirements, and there are plenty of options out there.
“Most detailing product is manufactured for cars, of course, and there was no-one to teach me what would work best on bikes. So I had to teach myself. I tried lots of products from lots of different brands, learning all the time. To be honest, the most expensive product was usually the best.”
A glass cabinet — with lockable doors, I note — takes pride of place in Clean Ride’s product display area. The shelves are lined with black-and-red tubs of Swissvax waxes. I have seen them before. In a Porsche showroom in Nedlands.
“See the one at the back?” Roberto asks. “That’s Crystal Rock. It’s $1,500 for 200ml.”
Gulp. That’s .. let’s see .. 1,500 x 5 = $7,500 a litre.
And I thought BP premium unleaded was expensive.
It begged the question: How could it possibly be worth the money?
“I remember the first time a client wanted me to use Crystal Rock,” Roberto recalled, trying to not sound like a drug dealer.
“I didn’t have any in stock, for obvious reasons, but I remember saying to the guy at Swissvax: ‘This had better be good’. So I bit the bullet and bought a tub, applied some to this guy’s bike, let it dry, then rubbed it off. I couldn’t believe how good it was. I actually called Tracey out from the house. ‘You’ve got to see this!’ Honestly, the colour just popped with vibrancy. I’d never seen anything like it.”
But Roberto says there’s more to these products than an eye-popping finish.
“Your bike gets a coating that’s far harder and stronger than anything that comes out of the factory,” he says. “Not only will it look better, it will look better for a long time.
“And with these treatments, you really only need to do your bike once or twice a year. They stay remarkably clean because the dust just falls off them. That 200ml tub of Crystal Rock would cover the paintwork on a bike 50 times, maybe more. So when you do the maths, the cost starts to look more reasonable.”
As Roberto’s part-time business continued to grow, he made the decision to cut ties with Nessco in 2015 and moved into his current Bayswater workshop-studio in April last year.
“It’s already too small,” he says. “We’ll be moving into a bigger place in a few months.”
His obsession with making beautiful bikes even more beautiful continues to grow, but Roberto’s background in marketing and business development is not going to waste. Despite it’s short history, Clean Ride seems to be everywhere. You see its brochures in bike shops. It’s built a solid Facebook and Instagram presence on the internet. Roberto hosts ride events for various motorcycling groups, and gets himself involved in anything he can find that’s related to motorcycling.
He even has his own one-bike race team.
“Clean Ride Racing gives us a presence at Barbagallo — at least it would if the track was open for bikes — but it’s more about helping a young guy on his way,” Roberto says.
“We went through an intensive selection process and found Callum O’Brien. He’s a great young kid and he’s got potential. He’s only 14, and he’s getting better all the time. Our target is to have him riding World Superbikes by the time he’s 19. Who knows, maybe he’ll be another Casey Stoner. I’d love to be able to say that Clean Ride and our other sponsors helped him get there.”
In the meantime, Clean Ride and Roberto are on a journey of their own. The business has already been acknowledged by Swissvax, which has certified Clean Ride as the world’s first dedicated Swissvax Bike Care Centre. And, in addition to the studio-workshop in Perth, there’s now another in Adelaide and plans afoot for yet another in Melbourne.
With Roberto’s passion and energy aplenty, the journey ahead looks set to sparkle.