Is single speed gravel or tracklocross a thing? Who knows. With the Trek Checkpoint SL 7 and its adjustable chainstays, you at least have the option to try it out and see how you like it. Read on to find out what else the bike’s got up its sleeve and how versatile it really is.
A quick overview of this group test: The best gravel bike 2021
For 2021, US bike brand Trek are offering their flagship gravel bike at an attractive price of € 5,653. If you take into account the frame’s long list of features and the high-quality components, you’ll begin to see how good this price is. The carbon frameset is made from Trek’s OCLV 500 Series Carbon, features their proprietary IsoSpeed system at the rear and is compatible with up to 700 x 45C tires. The IsoSpeed joint “decouples” the seat tube from the top tube and enables the seat tube to flex and thereby absorb vibrations and bumps in the road. At the same time, Trek rely on an integrated seat post instead of the conventional solution. The seatmast cap gets pushed directly over the seat tube and is available in a short and long version. Both have an offset of 20 mm. Despite the two options, the adjustment range remains very limited. Riders with above-average leg lengths and a short torso might get stuck between two sizes and find it difficult to dial in their riding position for the perfect fit. The sliding, dubbed Stranglehold, dropouts allow the chainstay length to be adjusted and thus, in theory, the Checkpoint can also be converted into a single-speed gravel bike. The brake calliper mount moves parallel with the drive side.
Trek Checkpoint SL 7
Seatpost Bontrager Carbon 20 mm
Brakes SRAM Force 160/160 mm
Drivetrain SRAM Force eTap AXS mit Eagle AXS XX1-Schaltwerk 40 (10–50)
Stem Bontrager Pro 100 mm
Handlebar Bontrager Pro IsoCore VR-CF 420 mm
Wheelset Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V
Tires Bontrager GR1 Team Issue 40C
Size 49 52 54 56 58 61
Weight 8,57 kg
IsoSpeed technology in the rear and integrated seat dome design
Adjustable horizontal dropouts
Bolting points for mudguards and luggage rack
Bolting points on top of the top tube and on the bottom of the down tube
|Seat tube||490 mm||520 mm||540 mm||560 mm||580 mm||610 mm|
|Top tube||515 mm||536 mm||551 mm||566 mm||577 mm||592 mm|
|Head tube||90 mm||107 mm||126 mm||145 mm||171 mm||200 mm|
|Chainstays||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||1,005 mm||1,014 mm||1,020 mm||1,032 mm||1,044 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|
The Checkpoint is the tool of choice for hunting those gravel KOMs. It’s the climbing king of the group test!
The carbon frame has mounting points for up to five bottle cages as well as eyelets for mudguards and luggage racks. However, the fork does not have any mounting options for cargo or bottle cages and the brake cable is routed externally. Despite all of its features, Trek have succeeded in keeping the gravel bike’s silhouette looking slim and the bike looking tidy. The build includes a 1×12 SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset consisting of an Eagle AXS XX1 rear derailleur and Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V wheels with 700 x 40C Bontrager GR1 Team Issue tires. The Pro IsoCore VR-CF handlebar and Pro stem are also supplied by in-house brand Bontrager. Our size 56 test bike weighs a slim 8.57 kg.
When accelerating, the Trek can keep up with the quickest bikes on test, accelerating efficiently in all situations. Especially in the mountains, it shows its willingness to the full and proves to be the climbing king of the group test. This is not least thanks to the quick engagement of the hub and the pleasantly low weight of the bike. In addition, the Checkpoint carries its momentum well on flat terrain. Here it is only the tires that hold the bike back, performing best on compact gravel.
The comfort of the front and rear is nicely balanced, offering excellent damping of small vibrations and quick hits. However, on big compressions, the compliance on the rear acts like an undamped spring. In this case, the Trek Madone road bike (read review) with its damped IsoSpeed system has a decisive advantage and we hope that this technology will also find its way onto the next generation of the Checkpoint. Another shortcoming in terms of comfort is the aggressively stretched riding position. It’s a good fit for the sporty character of the bike but it’s likely to be tiring on long rides. As with the bike’s comfort, the agility of the front and rear are nicely balanced. The Trek’s handling is just as balanced as that of the OPEN WI.DE. and the S-Works Diverge. While it willingly navigates tight corners at slow speeds, it requires firm input from the rider and occasional corrections when cornering at high speeds. The main reason for this is the lack of support offered by the Bontrager tires with their comparatively soft carcass. It’s critical to find the right pressure or, if need be, to resort to an alternative set of tires such as the Vittoria Terreno Dry, which won our gravel tire group test. Apart from the high-speed handling, it is only the undamped rear end that diminishes rider confidence aboard the Trek as it bounces the rider out of the saddle during big compressions.
Tuning-tip: handlebar with more flare and more compact drops
Thanks to its light-footed acceleration and willing climbing capabilities, the Trek Checkpoint SL 7 ticks all the boxes for intense and fun gravel rides that are all about performance. Competitive gravel fans get a well-specced and lightweight gravel bike that’s been cleverly designed. The riding position is too stretched for those who prefer taking it easy and enjoying the scenery. In addition, the limited adjustment range of the seatmast cap makes a test ride mandatory before buying.
- king of the climbs
- quick acceleration
- consistent spec
- many mounting points
- undamped rear flex
- limited adjustment range of the seatmast cap
- tires need more support at high speeds
Not sure which gravel bike you should buy? This guide will help you for sure: gravel bike buyers guide.
You wonder what tires to put on your gravel machine? We recently tested the best gravel tires against each other in our gravel tire group test.
More information here: trekbikes.com
Get an overview of this group test: The best gravel-bike 2021 – 13 models on review
All bikes on review: 3T Exploro Race EKAR 1X13 (Click for review) | ARC8 Eero (Click for review) | BMC URS 01 ONE (Click for review) | Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 (Click for review) | Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap (Click for review) | Fustle Causeway GRX600 (Click for review) | OPEN WI.DE. (Click for review) | Ridley Kanzo Fast (Click for review) | Ritte Satyr (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD FORCE ETAP AXS LIMITED (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD AL GRX RX600 1X11 (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Diverge (Click for review) | Trek Checkpoint
No, it’s not about perfect race tracks, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along high-speed passages need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret “Smooth tarmac” bikes as follows: Hard efforts at high speeds with a maximum efficient bike on a consistently well-paved road. Effort-joy ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
… also known as bike riding. Broken-up roads in the hinterland, deadlocked gravel roads, loose surfaces – sometimes muddy, sometimes bone-dry. For this, it takes bikes with super all-round, handling and wearing qualities uphill and downhill. Effort-joy ratio: 50:50↩
If you want to use your bike almost every day, you usually do not need an extremely tuned racing machine. Solid components, which are able to cope with the rigours of continuous usage in any kind of weather, are part of the basic equipment. At the same time, the bike should have practicable details: integrated fenders/assembly options, luggage racks/attachment points and a light system or at least the option of installing bike lights. The position on the bike should be rather relaxed, the overall comfort high, so that the Afterwork Ride becomes a cure and not a curse. Effort-joy ratio: 30:70↩
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Words: Photos: Valentin Rühl