The 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 is marketed as a lightweight gravel racer, offering balanced comfort for long distances while feeling at home on rough terrain. The design looks beefy and is full of clever details. We put the bike through its paces on the Swabian forest highways and Italian Prosecco Hills near Strade Bianche.
Imagine you’re pedalling through the Moroccan prairie, your hair blowing in the wind, the sun burning on your skin – you’re at one with your bike. You glide along the hardpack with ease, the sound of fine gravel crunching, and you don’t just feel good, you’re in your element.
The 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 might not be a horse, but that’s exactly what it promises to let you experience, minus the need for hay or a farrier. All you have to do is give yourself a kick – whether in the Moroccan prairie or on your daily commute to work!
According to Trek, the 2022 Checkpoint SLR 7 is intended for hardpack and long distances. It can also be great for commuting – provided you have a safe spot in the office to park your expensive carbon steed. We also tested the bike on the gravel roads and remote streets of the Prosecco Hills.
The Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 just can’t get enough. The mile-munching character of the Checkpoint SLR 7 has a need for speed. However, there are even higher-performing bikes on the gravel market, such as the light-footed 2022 S-Works Crux (review here) and the particularly efficient and aerodynamic Ridley Kanzo Fast (review here). Can the Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 combine the best of both? It seems to be made for rough bike paths on bumpy and varying terrain. However, the Trek reaches its limits on more demanding trails.
How is the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 positioned in the Checkpoint range?
To make it easier for you to categorise the Trek Checkpoint SLR 7, we’ll give you a brief overview of the Checkpoint lineup. According to Trek, the SLR models only have one thing in mind: gravel racing (winning). Inspired by the Trek Émonda (review here), the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 is raring to be on the starting line. For the frame, Trek rely on their so-called 700 series OCLV carbon lay-up. Without going into too much detail, Trek’s 800 series OCLV carbon relies on the latest technology to optimise not just the aerodynamics, but also the material. They use this specially developed composite on the Trek Émonda (review here) among others. Since aerodynamic tube shapes are heavier and less stiff than conventional, round tubes, Trek claim to use a very high-quality carbon-resin composite. Weighing in at just 698 g for the SLR frame made from OCLV 800 (unpainted, including the derailleur hanger), this results in a weight saving of just under 10% compared to an OCLV 700 frame. Simply put: the higher the number after the OCLV, the lighter the material. You can find out more about carbon in an article in our sister magazine ENDURO, which deals with carbon myths in detail.
According to Trek, the SL models, on the other hand, are primarily meant to appeal to the adventurers amongst us. They don’t have an integrated seat post and thus allow you to fit a dropper post, for example. In addition, the SL models have (even) more mounting points for luggage, which we’ll look at further down below. Nevertheless, the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 makes for a great commuter, providing mudguard mounts and very high efficiency, eating your morning commute for breakfast. But more on that later.
For more information, check out our gravel bike group test.
The 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 – Lots of attention to detail and well-thought-out
The 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 is a real eye-catcher and has numerous exciting features. As usual, Trek rely on their proven IsoSpeed decoupler in the rear, performing reliably on the Checkpoint SLR 7.
As the name suggests, the IsoSpeed decoupler decouples the seat from the top tube, giving it more vertical flex. In contrast to the second generation model presented in 2016, the IsoSpeed system on the 2022 Checkpoint SLR 7 isn’t adjustable. Nevertheless, it offers a significant improvement in compliance with the rubber elastomer providing additional damping and impact absorption.
Trek have chosen to keep the integrated seat post instead of going with a conventional design. It supports the IsoSpeed system, saves a few grams and immediately catches the eye. The seat mast cap gets pushed over the seat tube and is available in both a short 135 and long 175 mm version, each with a 5 or 20 mm offset. Despite the two lengths, the adjustment range remains very limited, and you could get “stuck” between the two sizes. The bike comes with the short version of the cap by default, but since Trek bikes are always sold through a dealer, they can advise you and arrange for a replacement if necessary.
On our test rides, we would have liked a little more damping up front as we clearly felt all the impacts to the front wheel. The thick handlebar tape can do little to mitigate this. Combined with the damping of the IsoSpeed decoupler in the rear, the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 feels somewhat unbalanced in terms of comfort.
The hidden storage compartment integrated into the downtube relies on the same technology as on the Domane or Trek’s mountain bike models. The high-quality closure mechanism can be opened via a lever below the bottle cage, allowing you to store essential items like a Bontrager BITS tool roll, spare tube and CO2 cartridge. Moreover, the opening in the down tube provides easy access to the Di2 battery.
We were impressed with the sleek integration at the front of the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7. The cable routing is very clean despite the fact that Trek have chosen to rely on a classic handlebar and stem combination, making it easy to adjust the cockpit. To further ensure ease of repair and adjustment, Trek installed couplings on the brake lines, which also makes it much simpler to remove the handlebar if you’re packing the bike to travel.
The SLR models are made for racing, while the SL models are targeted more at adventure riding. But that doesn’t mean Trek haven’t thought of bikepacking, providing sufficient mounting points on the 2022 Checkpoint SLR 7. For the bottles, the mounting points are located on the top and bottom of the downtube and on the seat tube. You can attach a mudguard to the fork and the bridge between the seat stays. There are optional frame-size-specific frame bags available from Bontrager that can be bolted to the frame, so they don’t require any Velcro straps. In addition, you’ll find two bosses for a bag on the top side of the top tube. However, Trek have also thought of those who’ll want to ride the bike without any bags: each boss comes with a grub screw or cap to keep the threads clean. Long-distance riders who don’t care about a few grams of weight might want to consider the SL series as an alternative since it has even more mounting points on the fork. The 2021 Trek Checkpoint SL 7 (review here) weighs just 120 grams more than the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR on test, though we must mention that our SL test bike came with a lighter 1x SRAM Force crankset.
The design of the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 is very consistent, making a burly impression with its oversized carbon tubes, like a thoroughbred mustang. All this is underlined by the wide tires and deep rims. We like the look of the small graphics on the fork and seat tube, matching nicely with the bright marigold orange. If you don’t like any of the 4 colour combinations available (Radioactive Coral, Marigold/Nautical Navy, Era White/Emerald Iris, Matte Deep Smoke/Gloss Olive Grey), you can let your creativity run wild with Trek’s Project One configurator. With a custom paint job, you can make the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 one of a kind.
Thanks to the already mentioned mounting points, you won’t risk scuffing the glossy paintwork if you decide to attach bags to the frame. There’s also a plastic downtube protector to fend off flying stones and debris. Moreover, the aluminium plate on the chainstay ensures that the carbon frame doesn’t get damaged in case the chain drops and gets sucked in. To prevent this from happening, however, there is a chain catcher below the small chainring, so you can rest assured that the frame won’t get damaged by the chain.
The 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 in review
Above all, the handling of the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 is confidence instilling. This is partly due to its composure. Nevertheless, it remains very responsive and agile, striking a good balance. Should you get surprised by a pothole or root on a fast descent anyway, the bike will just iron over it. The 2x GRX815 Di2 drivetrain suits the character of the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7, always allowing you to find the right gear thanks to its small gear steps. The wide gear range also makes easy work of the climbs. Due to its relatively low weight, it’s quick to accelerate, whether from a standstill or for an overtaking manoeuvre, and it maintains its speed very efficiently.
The 700 x 40c Bontrager GR1 Team Issue tires are tubeless-ready and suit the bike’s intended use. They’re grippy enough for controlled drifting and very fast-rolling. At 40 mm wide, the tires are a perfect match for the rims, too, protecting them and further instilling you with confidence. Speaking of which, the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V rims have a 30 mm external width and just look right.
Considering the above, the question of where the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR feels most at home is easy to answer: on dry hardpack and fast gravel roads. This includes dry woodland or meadow paths that are covered with fine gravel.
If you’re planning to ride on rougher trails, you’ll have to make big compromises as large impacts are passed on to the rider unfiltered. Bikepacking: yes, but more on hardpack and asphalt, and less cross-country.
Thanks to the aggressive riding position, good handling and the 2x drivetrain, the 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 is perfect for roadies who want to switch over to the gravel scene or commuters who no longer want to feel every bump on their ultra-stiff road bike. That said, the bike is trimmed towards propulsion and speed. The 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 is fun to ride, though the comfort isn’t perfectly balanced between the front and rear. The convenient storage compartment and clean cable routing show how much attention Trek paid to the details.
Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 2022
Seatpost Bontrager Carbon 20 mm
Brakes Shimano GRX 160/160 mm
Drivetrain Shimano GRX RX 815 Di2 2x11 50 (36 x 11-34)
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 8,45 kg
The geometry of the 2022 Checkpoint SLR 7
The geometry is also more racehorse than pack mule. Due to the unflared drop bar and the shape of the drops, the focus of the 2022 Checkpoint SLR 7 is more on speed and aerodynamics. The handlebar isn’t the best choice for rough gravel rides.
|Seat tube||490 mm||520 mm||540 mm||560 mm||580 mm||610 mm|
|Top tube||541 mm||555 mm||570 mm||584 mm||597 mm||617 mm|
|Head tube||90 mm||105 mm||125 mm||145 mm||165 mm||195 mm|
|Chainstays||435 mm||435 mm||435 mm||435 mm||435 mm||435 mm|
|BB Drop||78 mm||78 mm||76 mm||76 mm||74 mm||74 mm|
|Wheelbase||1.025 mm||1.033 mm||1.041 mm||1.048 mm||1.058 mm||1.070 mm|
|Reach||393 mm||399 mm||403 mm||407 mm||411 mm||417 mm|
|Stack||538 mm||553 mm||571 mm||592 mm||609 mm||639 mm|
Trek’s latest gravel bike is consistent and coherent, from the components to the handling. The 2x GRX815 Di2 drivetrain and the mile-munching character are clearly aimed at racing, whether that’s on- or off-road on hardpack, though it won’t shy away from bikepacking either. The 2022 Trek Checkpoint SLR 7 boasts an incredible level of integration and lots of features, yet it still looks super clean. Our only complaint is the overly harsh front end.
- cleverly integrated storage compartment
- lots of attention to detail
- great for hardpack
- fully customisable paint job via the Project One Configurator
- very efficient and light-footed
- overly harsh up front compared to the well-damped rear end
For more information visit trekbikes.com
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Words: Simon Hänle Photos: Benjamin Topf