With the new Trek Checkpoint SL6 American bike manufacturer Trek wants to stir up the gravel market. The new Checkpoint Gravel-Family wants to be “fast and fun” by merging technologies from the wide range of Trek’s bike-lines and implement clever solutions to offer customers maximum freedom for individualisation. We packed our bags and took the new Checkpoint to Siena where we tested it under the gruelling conditions of the legendary white roads of the Strade Bianche.
The Trek Checkpoint wants to be the perfect platform for riders from commuters to riders with adventure in their blood. According to product manager David Studner the “Fast and Fun” slogan was the mantra of his development team. Combining comfort for long tours and agility for maximum riding fun was one of the key ingredients for his recipe of success. Compared to more traditional cyclocross-bikes the bottom bracket sits lower and allows for better stability. At the same time Trek maintained the shorter chainstays that are typical for cyclocross bikes and only minimally stretched the wheelbase, in an attempt to increase the agility and liveliness of the bike.
The frame of the Checkpoint is available in both carbon and aluminium. The SL carbon version implements the fine technologies and carbon-layup of the SL road models and features a number of clever solutions inspired by other Trek models; integrated seatpost, IsoSpeed-dampers for more comfort and tire clearance for up to 45 mm on 700c rims. The horizontal Stranglehold-Dropouts allow you to adjust the geometry of the bike by changing the effective length of the chainstays and also give you the option to convert the Checkpoint into a single-speed rig.
The Trek Checkpoint features countless mounting points for accessories and is therefore fit for long and exciting bike-packing adventures. There is plenty of room to attach panniers, bottle cages, carriers or anything else you can think of. One of the clever features of the Checkpoint is the design of the mounting points in the frame triangle: enough room for either a three-bottle setup or a two-bottle setup placing the second bottle far down leaving plenty of room for a fully packed frame bag.
Trek Checkpoint SL6 in detail
All models of the Checkpoint-Family come with a 12 mm through-axle, 35 mm Schwalbe G-One tubeless-ready tires and an identical geometry for both men and women-models. The only difference in the Women’s version are the women-specific contact-points such as the saddle and the handlebar. After the first round of customer-feedback it seems that the Women SL5 is a bestseller for both boys and girls. The unisex paint-job works miracles!
Drivetrain Shimano Ultegra 11 speed
Brakes Shimano Ultegra Flat Mount Hydraulic Disc
Wheels Bontrager Paradigm Comp Tubeless Ready Disc
Tires Schwalbe G-One Allround 700x35c
Color Matte Trek Black
Weight 8.94 kg (56 cm)
Price € 3,799
Geometry of the Trek Checkpoint in detail
|Size||49 cm||52 cm||54 cm||56 cm||58 cm||61 cm|
|Seat tube||490 mm||520 mm||540 mm||560 mm||580 mm||610 mm|
|Top tube (horizontal)||515 mm||536 mm||551 mm||566 mm||577 mm||592 mm|
|Head tube||89,5 mm||107 mm||126 mm||145 mm||171 mm||200 mm|
|Head angle||71.4 °||71.6 °||71.8 °||72.2 °||72.3 °||72.6 °|
|Seat angle||75 °||74 °||73.5 °||73 °||73 °||73 °|
|Chainstay||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm|
|BB Drop||78 mm||78 mm||76 mm||76 mm||74 mm||74 mm|
|Wheelbase||995 mm||1005 mm||1014 mm||1020 mm||1032 mm||1044 mm|
|Reach||373 mm||379 mm||383 mm||387 mm||391 mm||397 mm|
|Stack||532 mm||549 mm||567 mm||586 mm||609 mm||638 mm|
Trek Checkpoint – the ultimate test at the Granfondo Strade Bianche
If you followed the pro-race of the Strade Bianche on March the 3rd you’ll know it was a gruelling mud-fest which pushed both riders and the equipment to their absolute limits.
The torrential rain soaked the entire 31.4 km gravel-stretch of the 140 km Granfondo Strade Bianche making it boggy and difficult to ride – from our perspective the ideal conditions to put the top of the range Checkpoint SL6 through its paces.
Trek Checkpoint SL6 – how does it ride?
After riding for just a few metres we notice that the Checkpoint differs from most full-blooded cyclocross and gravel-bikes. The low bottom bracket makes it feel as sporty as many road bikes and literally nails it to the road – or gravel for that matter. The short chainstays make for a very agile handling and a super-tight turning radius. Despite its agility the Checkpoint inspires a lot of confidence and remains composed at all times, a great asset for all gravel-newbies.
The braking performance of the hydraulic Shimano Ultegra discs convinced us all the way. These make it easy to dose the power while inspiring great confidence and delivering good control. In combination with the 35 mm Schwalbe G-One tires you’ll always be in control and have a lot of grip even on the wet, water-soaked gravel sections.
The steep gravel climbs of the Strade Bianche include some nasty ramps with gradients up to 15 % where the wide gear range of the 50-34 chainring and the 11-34-cassette helped us tremendously. With the 1:1 ratio we were still able to pedal seated, clearing sections where some of our competitors were literally hanging off the handlebars whilst trying not to come to a halt with their almost single-digited cadence. This is definitely the ideal setup for gravel and adventure applications.
We decided that the Strade Bianche wasn’t the right context to test the backpacking credentials of the Trek. However we installed a custom top-tube bag which – thanks to the clever mounting points –neatly fits the image of the Checkpoint and remained firmly anchored on the bike even in the roughest sections.
The only aspect that irritates is the cable routing; the long cable loops touch your knees every time you get out of the saddle. On the one hand this is caused by the low, central position of the entry ports and on the other hand by the actual routing of the cable itself which reaches around the head tube. Tuning Tip: lay the cable directly from the shifter into the port without looping around the headtube to avoid excessive cable loop and use some frame-protector to save your frame from cable rub.
The high-end Trek Checkpoint SL6 offers lots of gravel fun and a great spec for its € 3,799 price tag. The geometry concept is spot-on and the agile and confidence-inspiring handling gets a big thumbs-up. Thanks to its low riding position, the great braking performance and the outstanding grip of the 35 mm Schwalbe G-One tires, the Checkpoint is also an ideal option for gravel rookies. The many mounting points leave plenty of room for individualisation, from the daily commute to exciting multi-day adventures – the Checkpoint can do it all. The only drawback is the annoying cable routing.
For more information head to trekbikes.com
Words: Manuel Buck Photos: Sam Needham, Trek, Manuel Buck