Cameron Piper joined Specialized in 2014 as an aerodynamics engineer [undergrad: mechanical engineering] and head of Specialized’s Win-Tunnel testing team. Approximately 2 years ago, he moved from engineering to the road category product management team. On the racing side, Cam turned professional approximately 4 years ago (Team Illuminate) and has several domestic and international wins, including Friday’s Sea Otter Pro Category Road Race.
I first met Cam in 2015 when I joined him and some of his fellow Specialized employees on a group ride they did through the SF Bay Area. Sea Otter was a great opportunity to catch up and have a lengthy conversation on a number of topics, including their road category lineup.
Based on user comments in the thread: “Oh Oh Nate! new Bike Day?” and @chad, @Jonathan and @Nate_Pearson comments in podcast #201, I thought it might be useful to share some of Cam’s feedback on the Venge, Tarmac and Roubaix from our conversation.
Please note: As Cam said to me: It is Specialized’s policy not to respond directly to “stuff on the internet” (e.g. TR user comments).
Disclaimer: I own both the 2015 Roubaix Pro Race Disc and the 2019 S-Works Tarmac. However, I am not employed by nor compensated in any way by Specialized and hence don’t have such restriction at providing information that may be useful to TR users (and told Cam as such after which he smiled).
Note: I did not use a tape recorder (this wasn’t an interview) and, as such, all of Cam’s feedback below is from memory. Similarly, for expediency reasons, I didn’t go back to Cam for a review of my comments (company policy probably wouldn’t allow him to do so anyway). So my apology to Specialized if any thing I relay about Cam’s comments is not 100% accurate.
2020 Roubaix vs 2019 Tarmac
"The 2020 Roubaix is indeed faster than the 2019 Tarmac . . . if your riding is in a straight line.”
[Cam knows that I am also a mechanical engineer by education and, as such, went on to say]: “As you know, the vertical compliance, horizontal stiffness and torsional strength of the Tarmac and Roubaix are very different” [ and hence, are used for different purposes].
[Following my comment about user complaints about headset sloppiness of the current generation Roubaix], Cam went on to say:
"The 2020 Roubaix has been 3 years in development. When we develop next generation products, we are not afraid to cannobalize sales of existing products. Future Shock 2.0 is a big innovation in the 2020 Roubaix. It has a lockout feature (similar to MTBs) and progressive dampening. It provides linear damping over small bumps with greater load resulting in proportionally greater dampening. But as the load increases, Future Shock 2.0 provides progressive dampening, meaning that it will compress non-linearly - proportionally less - with increased loads.”
No further discussion was necessary on the topic as it was clear that the Roubaix remained Specialized’s premier endurance bike with the Tarmac as a road racing machine.
2019 Venge vs 2019 Tarmac
Following @Nate_Pearson’s buildup of his new Tarmac, several TR user comments poked fun saying that after all of that work and expense, Nate only saved 1/2 a pound. I mentioned this to Cam (without citing Nate specifically). Cam’s response had a few parts to it:
1."They are right. The difference is only “1/2 a pound”. But that 1/2 pound is very important to pro racers. The Tarmac is for short, punchy races or ones with lots of hill climbing. I use the Tarmac” (Cam’s races are primarily hilly road and stage races).
Note: I mentioned that my 54cm Tarmac with Durace pedals and carbon fiber water cages weighed 14.8 lbs. He said that the crank is hollow and this allows the pros to add weights, if necessary, to achieve UCI 6.70 Kg weight limit.
2."In most other respects, the Venge and the Tarmac are very similar in vertical compliance, horizontal stiffness and torsional strength. And it is due to UCI regulations. In addition to the 6.70 Kg weight requirements, there are strict “box standards” around all dimensions” (Cam mentioned several of them including ratios between them that must be adhered to).
3.So I asked a final question on the topic: "Will Sagan be riding the Tarmac in the tour (in the hills)?” Cam: “Yes!”
Conclusion: The Venge and Tarmac are very similar in performance with the edge going to Tarmac for hilly road races due to its weight and to the Venge for crits and flat races due to its aerodynamics.
My Clif Notes Summary:
Venge: Crits & Flat RRs
Tarmac: Punchy/Hilly RRs
Roubaix: Endurance riding . . . and, of course, racing the Paris-Roubaix