Out of the big brands, it's fair to say that Trek has come late to the gravel-bike party, only offering a 'Gravel' version of the Domane road bike that offered no extra clearance. However, they've now put this right with a complete range of gravel-specific machines under the Checkpoint name.
The new bike will come in both aluminium and carbon framed versions, with the latter getting an IsoSpeed decoupler at the seat tube/stay junction to reduce vibration. All the bikes run 700c wheels and come stock with 35mm Schwalbe tubeless ready rubber, though apparently, it's possible to fit in knobbly tyres up to 45mm wide or go down to 28mm if you're a bit more road biased. Trek is quite firm that 650b wheels aren't on the menu however.
The geometry is adapted from Trek's race-winning Boone cyclocross bike but with a longer headtube and lower bottom bracket. The reach is identical to the Boone at 387mm for a 56cm frame, though at 72.2º the head angle is a smidgen steeper, leading to a wheelbase that's exactly the same. Trek say this all means the bike is more comfortable for long days in rough terrain, while keeping handling that's sharp enough to feel reactive.
For comparison, Lauf's True Grit gravel racer i a full two degrees slacker and 20mm lower at the head tube, though the bottom bracket is 10mm higher and it's broadly similar elsewhere. It's interesting to see whether gravel bikes will take the longer, slacker approach favoured by pure mountain bikes or continue in the vein of road-biased machines as the gravel market develops.
Whether carbon or aluminium, all frames get 12mm through axles at each end with flat mount disc brakes, plus internal cable routing to keep your lines out of the way of dirt. You also get the neat sliding 'Strangehold' rear dropout that allows you to adjust chainstay length or run the bike singlespeed, should it not be niche enough for you as standard. Trek's reasining is that longer position is ideal for heavily laden bikepacking while the shorter position is for those that want a snappy feeling race bike.
Talking of bikepacking, you get a load of mounts, with up to three bottle cages - or two and a frame bag - fitting in the main triangle on 56cm or larger frames, plus one bottle mount beneath the downtube. You also get lowrider fork mounts for a rack, plus rear rack mounts and hidden mudguard mounts to boot. The carbon SL models also get a top tube 'bento box' mount for stuff you want to keep close to hand.
Out of the seven bike line up, four are women's specific machines, which use the same geometry as far as we can see but come with specific bars and saddles. There are three OCLV carbon framed models, namely the SL 6, SL 5 and SL 5 Women’s, with the top bike getting a Shimano Ultegra 2x11spd drivetrain with hydraulic discs for £3,400 and the SL 5 coming in at £2,700.
At the other end of the spectrum, the aluminium framed ALR 5, ALR 5 Women’s, ALR 4 and ALR 4 Women’s bike do without the fancy IsoSpeed decoupler, instead relying on tyre squidge to keep you comfy. ALR 5 bikes cost £1,700, while the ALR 4 is £1450. You can also buy a carbon or aluminium Checkpoint frame if you fancy building one up yourself, but we don't have prices for those yet.
All of the bikes are available to buy online now and we hope to have a spin on one soon.