2020 Field Test: Trek Checkpoint AL4 review

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Trek’s Checkpoint was the most popular gravel bike of 2019, according to data Strava sent over last fall. Trek has sold a lot of them. This suggests that it’s a good bike, and indeed it is. But we found that it is good in a generic, pop-music, lowest-common-denominator, unoffensive-to-all kind of way. It takes few chances; it makes few errors. It works.

This, we believe, is exactly what Trek was going for. And they nailed it.

The Checkpoint comes in three tiers - we tested the most affordable, and simplest, version, the AL4, with an alloy frame and fixed rear dropouts. There’s a fancier aluminum Checkpoint, which comes with sliding rear dropouts, as well as a carbon version, which adds Trek’s ISOSpeed decoupler. These features add adjustability and comfort, but also cost and complexity.

I like to work in analogies. The AL4 is a white legal-sized envelope. It gets the job done. No gimmicks. Apart from being a little on the heavier side, the bike is absolutely nothing to complain about, or get particularly excited about. Everything on it worked the way it was expected to work, there are endless mount possibilities and features for bike packing and commuting.

Simple, in this case, is good. This bike is reliable; it’s the old friend that brings you soup when you’re sick, is never late for the airport pickup, and helps you move apartments.

In fact, that may be where this bike shines: in pickup-truck-like (or a ute-like, for our Aussies) utilitarianism. Would I want to commute on a BMC URS? Probably not. For $1,600, the AL4 can tackle gravel, or dirt, or urban commutes, or panniers and touring. The possibilities may not be endless, but they are plentiful, and for such a reasonable price, it makes sense that this was one of Strava’s popular bikes of 2019, especially since lots of those rides come from “Morning Commute” or “Evening Commute”. This is a bike anyone would feel safe riding to work and the next day taking on an adventure ride around the dirt roads outside of town.

Read more at CyclingTips: https://cyclingtips.com/2020/03/2020-trek-checkpoint-al4-review