First Impressions: Trek Checkpoint SL 7

Standout colors on this new high-end gravel bike

Gravel Pro Review


First Impressions: Trek Checkpoint SL 7

Trek released its 2020 Checkpoint gravel bike lineup, with updates all-around for the new model year. Now a staple in the Trek line, the rear seat tube IsoSpeed Decoupler suspension remains with no update. Same with the BB90 bottom bracket standard and 45mm tire clearance. What is new is the top-end build now features an SRAM AXS hybrid road/MTB (mullet) single chainring setup. 


Trek Checkpoint SL 7 Highlights 

  • The SRAM Force eTap AXS drivetrain is smart, smooth, and pairs well with all-road riding.
  • The SRAM XX1 AXS derailleur and wide-range cassette are fantastic on steep gravel pitches.
  • The IsoSpeed decoupler smooths out rough terrain without compromise in power transfer.
  • Exploration ready with mounts on the top tube, seat tube, and both sides of the down tube for gear and fenders.
  • Treks Stranglehold Dropout makes it easy to fine-tune the trail or run Singlespeed.

First Impressions 


Before I threw a leg over the Checkpoint, I was taken in by the mesmerizing paint job. Over the years, Trek has turned the volume up in the paint department, offering many bikes in its Project One paint jobs. The Checkpoint SL 7 looks like it just came from the paint booth – shiny and metallic. 

 


After a quick, smooth setup with the SRAM AXS components and dialing in my shifting preferences, I was on the groad and cruising. Coming from the cross season and primarily riding my race ride, what is immediately apparent is how smooth the Checkpoint SL6 feels in the saddle. The tires are the same 35mm that I usually train on (though the CheckPoint and easily clear 45s) the compliance comes from the ISO speed and the composition of the Checkpoint frame. 


Out of the saddle and pushing the pedals, the Checkpoint wants to move, very similar to the SuperCal hardtail. The Checkpoint employees flat mount disc brakes with 12×100 and 12x142mm thru-axles. The rear end has Trek’s unique Stranglehold Dropout, adjusting chainstay length and allowing for singlespeed use if desired.


The frame is responsive when you want it and agile handling the subtle nuances of the back roads. With the right adjustment of Trek Stranglehold Dropout (adjustable length drops outs pictured), the Checkpoint feels like an ultra-stable road bike.


The build is what you’d expect from a top tier gravel bike, and the addition of the SRAM AXS Force and Eagle mix takes it to the next level. Shifting is smooth and consistent with ample room for those that like to spin up climbs, and those live for a slow cadence. I’ve yet to ask for more or less gear on a propper gravel adventure, and the single ring adds to the aesthetics of the ride. 


Bontrager has upped its wheel game in recent years, and the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V that accompanies the Checkpoint build is right on the money. The carbon hoops are 25mm inner / 32mm outer width, semi-aero, laced to Rapid Drive 108 road hubs. The mixture translated to fast on the road and can take a beating when the road ends. 

So far, I’ve enjoyed my time on the CheckPoint, its versatility, and ability to tackle roads though beyond its station surprises me. The pure power of acceleration up climbs and on the open road make me think this will be a great partner for the gravel season quickly approaching. 

Price:

The Checkpoint SL 7 ($6,000) has an SRAM 1x Force / XX1 build, along with Aeolus Pro 3V carbon wheels.


About the author: Jordan Villella

Jordan comes from the steep streets of Pittsburgh PA, where he learned to dodge cars and rip single track. He has been involved in nearly every aspect of the cycling industry: from turning wrenches, store design, clothing production and bike park creation. Jordan spends his free time racing cross country and cyclocross around North America, though he has been know to enduro every now and then. His love of cycling is only second to his love of his family and punk rock.


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