Hot on the heels of the GT Grade and the Specialized Diverge, Trek are the latest big brand to jump into the growing gravel bike trend with both feet with the all-new Checkpoint - a fast, capable, customisable whip designed to tackle the long, rough and dirty. With a wide-ranging specification and tons of options to tweak the ride to your own style we reckon this could be the do-it-all bike you'll need to make space in the shed for.
We've had a closer look at the Checkpoint, and set out to answer some of the key questions around the new model.
Isn't there already a Domane Gravel?
There is, but it's got nothing on the Checkpoint. This new bike is a dedicated gravel machine with far more capability and gravel-specific features like extra tyre clearance, rack mounts, accessory mounting options and a revised geometry.
But do I need a 'gravel' bike in the UK?
We'll admit it - 'gravel bike' is very much an American term that we've adopted over here, and while we may not have miles and miles of gravel roads like our cousins across the pond, we have thousands and thousands of miles of utterly terrible road surfaces, towpaths, hardpack forest tracks, repurposed railway lines, and so on. And that's where this particular style of bike comes into its own. With better clearances, chunkier tyres and a huge amount of versatility the Checkpoint should really be thought of less as a gravel bike, and more a 'tackle everything that British riding can throw at it' bike.
Ok, so I know what it's for...what makes the Checkpoint special?
In a word - versatility. The Checkpoint's geometry closely matches Trek's Boone and Crockett cyclocross models with short chainstays and a matching wheelbase length to give it lively, exciting handling, but has a bit more stack and a lower bottom bracket for added stability. The Checkpoint also comes with Trek's Stranglehold adjustable rear dropout with 15mm of movement - position them forward for quick handling and added responsiveness, or shift them back for more stable handling. It even gives you the option to drop the derailleur altogether and run a single speed drivetrain.
I'm planning on lots of off-road riding - let's talk comfort.
The Checkpoint offers huge tyre clearance with space for up to 45mm rubber on a 700c wheel for a pillowy ride regardless of the terrain. On the carbon models the chainstays are asymmetric to allow for the larger tyre clearance required for mixed-terrain riding while still accommodating a road-oriented crankset, and they come with Trek's Carbon Armor to protect the frame from kicked-up rocks. Plus, the carbon models come with Trek's revolutionary IsoSpeed rear decoupler which allows the seat tube and post to flex under load and soak up any bumps from the rough roads that you're going to be ripping up. You don't, however, get a front IsoSpeed system on the Checkpoint SL or indeed any IsoSpeed on the aluminium models as Trek claim that the larger capacity tyres which you are likely to run on this bike provide larger gains in compliance.
What about riding on tarmac?
This bike isn't just for tough off-road riding - the whole range comes specced with a 50/34 chainset and 11/34 cassette so you'll have more than enough range to spin up a loose gravel climb without running out of gears when you hit smoother surfaces. Although the Checkpoint has nice big clearances, you can run as narrow as 28c tyres if you plan to spend more time on road than off.
So I can ride on-road and off-road - how about big days out or bikepacking?
Yup, the Checkpoint can do that do - it is literally covered in mounts. Within the main triangle there's the option to mount three water bottles for those really long rides plus mounts for an extra bottle on the underside of the downtube. Up front there's pannier mounts on the forks, and mounts at the rear if you want to load the bike up and the carbon models even come with specific top tube mounting bolts to keep essentials within easy reach. With all those options the Checkpoint is perfect for touring or, with hidden mudguard mounts also specced, riding to and from work in the unpredictable British weather.
The Trek Checkpoint Range
The Checkpoint comes in four different guises - two 300 Series Alpha aluminum models and two 500 Series OCLV carbon models, all with women's specific models which share the same geometry but come with narrower and handlebars and female-specific saddles. All gearing and braking is ultra-reliable Shimano from Tiagra through to Ultegra with the added modulation of hydraulic braking across the range, and all the bikes come with 35mm Schwalbe tyres out of the box.
Trek Checkpoint SL6 Gravel Bike
The new Trek Checkpoint has the versatility and capability that you need to tackle everything from epic off-road adventures to fun-filled commutes.
- Frame - 500 Series OCLV Carbon Fibre
- Fork - Checkpoint carbon disc
- Drivetrain - Shimano Ultegra 11-speed
- Wheels - Bontrager Paradigm Comp Tubeless Ready Disc
- RRP: £3,399.99
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