In early Feburary I was invited up to Boulder Colorado to see a new gravel bike Trek was planning on releasing this summer. I was invited because our business owner worked for Trek as the Road Product Manager for many years, and me being the midwest gravel guy, he wanted my impression of the new platform.
I went into the secret showing having heard some conjecture about features, but there were lots of unanswered questions.
Would this bike have Iso Speed on both ends?
What would tire clearance be?
650b wheel compatible?
Would Trek design some new packing system like they did with the 1120?
My initial impression was tons of stoke. Almost all of the questions I had were revealed to go the direction I had hoped. First off, while subjective, the colors are fantastic. I fell in love with multiple colorways, and when I drop the coin for one, which I will, It’s going to be hard to choose a winner.
After the paint, the next thing that grabs your eye is the dropped chainstay. While not anywhere near as visually dominating as the stay on the Trek Stache, it’s there. Doing this allowed the engineers to get a 45c tire into the back of the bike without making the rear end super long. Clearance for 45c is what I was hoping for, and I was worried we’d get a bike made to fit 40c, but Trek went all the way to deliver the goods. The taper on the stays, however, does not allow the use of 650b wheels. For me personally, this is irrelevant. I love big tires, but would rather have a big 40-something 700c tire, than a fat small wheel.
The Checkpoint has bolt on top tube bag provisions, so you can carry your stuff without velcro all over your tubes. Talking with an engineer I learned this was a big internal battle among the design team, and it made the cut. As I ride with one such bag almost all of the time, I am excited they made the final draft.
One of the biggest questions going in was if there would be Iso-Speed on the front of the bike. It was a forgone conclusion the rear would have it, but the front is only used on about half of the Domane bikes, depending on pricepoint. I honestly assumed the bike would have it, and it made me a little sad. I haven’t always felt that the weight added with the front Iso-Speed was as beneficial as the rear version, so when I saw the bikes only sporting a rear Iso-Speed I was grinning on both sides of my face. An engineer told me they decided with tires as fat as the Checkpoint operates on, the Iso-Speed achieves less than on a road bike with small, less forgiving, tires. Another area of concern was the end user adding 15 or more pounds to the front of the bike for bikepacking, and the complexities of how adding loads to Iso-Speed in front would work. Keeping the front simple and letting bigger tires handle the burden was the best solution here.
Another curiosity is the ability to fit 3 bottles inside the front triangle, as well as a 4th under the downtube. If you aren’t putting bags inside the front triangle, this is pretty rad. Also, if you ARE putting bags inside the front triangle, this gives you the ability to have a custom bag made that uses the bottle bolts to attach the bag instead of velcro. You will still need velcro for the top tube, but much less all around. Pretty rad.
The gearing across the line is setup with a 50/34 compact crank, paired with an 11-34 cassette. Every bike has a pro level top gear, AND a 1 to 1 low gear. No excuses, just ride, and be prepared for anything out there.
Another thing every model has without exception is hydro brakes. Trek even spec’d the entry level aluminum model with them. It’s exciting that this is removed as a conflict for people trying to decide which model to purchase.
I am disappointed the bike will be spec’d with 35c schwalbe tires, because on the sales floor they will not look as capable as the bike actually is. I told everyone I spoke to at the secret meeting Bontrager NEEDS a 700×42-45c CX0 to sell inside this bike, it just demands it.
This is a platform I am really excited about, I think Trek nailed it. I have some ambitious routes on some wild jeep roads in my future, and I am hoping that I can put the Checkpoint to the true test sometime this summer, and create some incredible memories together.
I wasn’t able to take any photos during this secret meeting, but > Cyclingtips < has so many great ones, you should go give it a drool.