Test: With the Checkpoint, Trek sent its first gravel bike into the race for the gravel crown last season. The top model Checkpoint SL 7 convinces in the test across the board - if you can get along with the very sporty basic orientation.
Trek Checkpoint SL 7: The Facts
Frame material: Carbon
Wheel size(s): 700c
Maximum tire clearance: 45 mm
Axle dimensions (v/h): 12 × 100/142 × 12
Mudguard Eyelets: Ja
Luggage carrier eyelets (v/h): Yes / Yes
bottle holder: Down tube above (2x), seat tube
Weight wheels v/h/total (with tires and brake discs): 1.460g / 1.585g / 3.045g
Weight complete bike without pedals (size M): 8,63kg
Price: € 5.499
Sophisticated frame with numerous features
With the Checkpoint, the US bike giant Trek took the first confident step into the gravel segment last season, after gaining initial experience with the endurance bike Domane. The bike is now entering the 2020 season unchanged – at least technically –. Trek still offers the Checkpoint with an aluminum frame (in two versions, AL and ALR) and with a carbon frame. With the Checkpoint SL 7, we tested the top model with a carbon fiber chassis, which already makes quite an impression visually. The deep red paint finish, which shimmers in the light and gives the bike that certain something, certainly has a part to play in this.
Otherwise, the focus is on classic lines with a slightly sloped top tube and a head tube with the distinctive Trek kink, which fans of the brand will surely recognize from afar. With regard to the technology and the features that the frame brings, it is clear that Trek has invested a lot of brainpower here and that the Checkpoint has not become an Endurance+, not an MTB light, but a real gravel bike. Trek's 500 OCLV carbon fiber, which is one of the highest quality in the portfolio, is used as the basis for all Checkpoint SL models. Also included is the IsoSpeed technology, which was once developed together with Fabian Cancellara and is now used on a wide variety of Trek bikes - from MTB hardtails to aero bikes. The seat tube is decoupled from the top tube by the special construction so that vibrations and shocks from the ground are not passed on directly to the driver or his buttocks.
The dropouts on the Checkpoint SL are only recognizable at second glance, but they are all the more special: They can be moved horizontally, which on the one hand allows adjustments to the geometry or chainstay length (15mm), but on the other hand also enables the Trek gravel bike to be set up as a single speed, for example .
However, while Strangehold dropouts and IsoSpeed are more of a "free choice" on the Checkpoint SL, the other features show that the designers have not forgotten their "duty" on top of that: The frame and fork offer ample tire clearance of 45mm, eyelets for mudguards and Accessories or luggage racks at the front and rear and even space for three bottle holders in the frame triangle. In just a few simple steps, the bike becomes a real companion for the next bikepacking adventure. The generously applied down tube protection, which protects the frame from damage when stones are thrown up, is both mandatory and optional.
When it comes to the geometry, Trek remains true to itself as a manufacturer of primarily sporty bikes: If you are looking for a comfortable touring bike with an upright seating position, you should probably look elsewhere: The Checkpoint SL puts the rider directly in a stretched one with a low front end and a rather long top tube sitting position. Of course, this is far from a racy race bike and can be mitigated with additional spacers and/or a different stem, but the basic direction is clear - forward, and jagged at that!
Geometry Trek Checkpoint SL 7
|seat tube (in mm)
|Top tube horizontal (in mm)
|head tube (in mm)
|chainstay (in mm)
|Wheelbase (in mm)
|Steering angle (in °)
|Seat angle (in °)
|Stacks (in mm)
At 5.499 euros, the Checkpoint SL 7 top model we tested is in a price range where buyers are only partially willing to make compromises when it comes to equipment - to anticipate it at this point: This is not necessary in the case of the Checkpoint SL 7 either. It goes without saying that a full carbon fork is used in this price range. It's nice that the Trek has all kinds of eyelets for accessories despite its low weight. Speaking of weight: At 8,63kg, the Trek is light, but it is undercut by one or the other top model. On the other hand, our test showed that a few grams here or there rarely have any relevance for the handling.
With the Sram Force eTap AXS, one of the currently best switching groups is installed. Wireless, with a huge bandwidth despite only one chainring and ergonomically really successful STIs, there is hardly anything to complain about here. Oh yes: the electronic group is also wireless! The corresponding hydraulic disc brakes from the Force group have also been able to convince us in the past with their very good performance.
|500 Series OCLV
|Checkpoint full carbon
|Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V
|Bontrager GR1 Team Issue
|Sram XX1 Eagle AXS
|Sram Force eTap
|Ram Force 40t
|Bontrager carbon seatmast cap
|Bontrager Arvada Elite
|Bontrager Pro IsoCore VR-CF
With the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V, perhaps the best wheelset in the test field are installed on the Checkpoint SL 7. They are very light and, despite wide tires, only weigh a little over 3kg - despite a generous 25mm inner width and the 108 locking points of the freewheel, which enable sensitive starting off and give the bike a wonderful sound. It almost goes without saying that the carbon rims are tubeless-compatible. They are fitted with 40mm wide Gravel tires, also from Bontrager. The profile of the GR1 Team Issue with its fine knobs is reminiscent of Schwalbe's G-One, which is justifiably popular.
Trek has also come up with a few ideas for the seating area for its top gravel bike: A corresponding attachment is attached to the fixed, non-shortenable seat dome, on which the saddle in turn sits - in other words, the opposite of a conventional seat post. This is to keep the weight low and the flex high. Visually, it takes a little getting used to.
More tests, products and background information about the Velomotion Gravel Month:
- Storck Grix Platinum Ultegra Di2 gravel bike in test: Race tourer for gravel and off-road
- GT Grade Carbon Pro in the gravel bike test: Comfortable triangle for lots of driving fun?!
- Orbea Terra M30-D in the gravel bike test: Lively bike for training and gravel tours
- NS Bikes Rag+ 2 in the gravel bike test: Convincing aluminum all-rounder
- Rondo Ruut CF 2 in the gravel bike test: Fast gravel bike with a striking look
Let's Gravel: The Trek Checkpoint SL 7
The first time we sat on at the Trek Checkpoint, the impression that the bike had already left on us was confirmed: The seating position is quite sporty for a gravel bike - if you are otherwise at home on the Renner, you feel right at home, maybe even enjoy the slightly more upright one Position; On the other hand, if you switch from more relaxed touring bikes to the Checkpoint, you will either have to accept the seating position or relax it a bit. The latter is possible with a few spacers under the stem without too much effort. However, we leave it at the sporty orientation and are already looking forward to great acceleration on the first few meters, which brings the lively gravel bike up to speed in no time. For us, the difference to a high-quality endurance bike is virtually non-existent in these moments, despite the tires, which are quite wide at 40mm.
We immediately find our way onto one of the countless gravel or forest paths in the Bavarian Forest: The positive impression continues here and the bike is extremely comfortable, especially on light off-road surfaces such as fine gravel. Whether this is due to the IsoSpeed technology, the frame or simply the overall system does not play a major role for us at the moment. The gear changes are crisp and precise with the wireless Sram Force circuit, the ergonomics are excellent with the STIs and the successful handlebars. Only when it really rumbles does the sporty orientation of the bike take revenge and it becomes uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the bike remains easy to control and convinces with its smooth running.
The handling in general is quite balanced: It strikes a successful balance between agility and smoothness, even if there are certainly better wheels on the respective edges. For those who are not looking for a specialist, the Checkpoint SL is extremely successful. We didn't quite warm up to the tires: Even if they look very similar to Schwalbe's G-One at first glance, they tend to slip a little more, especially when it gets wet. They also tend to warp a little when there are ruts.
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