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Trek Checkpoint AL vs OCLV

Old 10-01-18, 09:54 PM
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Caliper
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Trek Checkpoint AL vs OCLV

I'm trying to make the agonizing decision of buying a new gravel race bike. I have local dealers for both the Salsa Warbird and Trek Checkpoint and the geometry of both is about what I'm looking for. The Checkpoint is really getting my interest with what seems like bigger tire clearance and more bottle mounts, at least until the 2019 Warbird gets here.

Anyways, in over-analyzing the spec sheets, I noticed that the Checkpoint SL5 and AL5 are nearly the same weight and same equipment with a $800 price difference. Check out the framesets and I'm noticing that the carbon frame is only advertised as being 230g less than the aluminum one. That's a lot of money for the Isospeed decoupler and 230g. Heck, for $800 I'm thinking there are better wheelsets than the Bontrager anyways.

So, since finding a Checkpoint to test ride is a bit of a pain at the moment, I'm wondering if anyone has any input on AL vs carbon for this bike? I have yet to own a carbon bike, but it seems with the modern AL forming methods that this design at least has less benefit to the carbon?
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Old 10-02-18, 02:08 AM
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I have very little experience, and I would love to hear more opinions on this.

I recently switched from a CAAD10 to a CF Giant TCX. I preferred the CF Giant to the aluminium for the build kit, and only being $200 more than the AL, it made sense. That being said. I find myself missing the feel of my CAAD10. To me it feels like I can't feel my bike as well, like I'm riding on just pedals instead of a bike that connects to wheels and a seat. I've also felt this riding CF road bikes. That being said, it's probably the "comfort of carbon" that I'm feeling + the 40mm tires . I dunno.

My Giant does have a heavier wheelset (Damn PX-2) than my CAAD10, which also makes the bike feel less peppy. So maybe putting that $800 into wheels might be a better choice. But really, I am no expert.
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Old 10-02-18, 03:49 AM
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Go for the AL bike upgrade the goodies and save a bunch of $$ as i assume your not a pro=rider and you will enjoy the AL all the same
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Old 10-02-18, 04:02 AM
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Trek Aluminum frames will beat the heck out of you. (I know first hand) and the bigger tires won't save your neck shoulders body from the big hits, freeze cracks etc.

Enjoyment, is about riding a smooth ride. If you want aluminum then buy Cannondale. Cannondale Aluminum will rival most carbon bikes.
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Old 10-02-18, 11:02 AM
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230g is 1/2 pound -- so it's not THAT little a difference. You'll pay a fortune to get that weight savings elsewhere on the bike.

I haven't ridden the aluminum Checkpoint very far, but I've done Dirty Kanza on an aluminum Niner RLT9. The aluminum bike beat me up. I loved the Niner's handling and speed, but the pounding sent me in search of a better ride. (I've made the journey through titanium and, now, to carbon.)

My experience with the carbon Checkpoint (with Redshift stem and Brooks Cambium saddle) is that it provides pretty amazing isolation from road shocks. It's the smoothest ride I've experienced short of a full-suspension mountain bike. I think the difference is worth paying the price and going to carbon (obviously). And, if you've read my review, you know that I'm not necessarily a fan of the Isospeed. The carbon frame works.
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Old 10-02-18, 12:03 PM
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I own a carbon frame Checkpoint, and an aluminum frame 2016 Salsa Warbird. The carbon frame is definitely smoother, but I'm not sure that it is $800 smoother. I do also have aluminum frame Trek Crocketts (2014 vintage). The Checkpoint definitely does ride better than they do. The shop did not have an aluminum Checkpoint in my size, that is why I bought the carbon one (plus I got a good end-of-season discount on it). So I can't directly compare, unfortunately.
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Old 10-02-18, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by FlashBazbo View Post
230g is 1/2 pound -- so it's not THAT little a difference. You'll pay a fortune to get that weight savings elsewhere on the bike.
Well, I'd likely put part of the savings to swap it over to SRAM right off the bat (but keep the 105 crank since Rival has a heavy crank). My calculations put that swap alone saving back a lot of the weight. Alternately, I'll bet there's weight to be saved in swapping the house brand wheelset, not to mention that the factory rims have a pretty narrow internal rim width.

I have definitely read your thread, or at least one of them... I wasn't aware you had ridden the AL version. You're certainly lucky to have a dealer willing to order a bike just for you to test ride! Around here, they can only get a given bike/size in if you pay for it first! Is it possible the Niner AL is just very stiff? It was MAGAIVER's comment that the AL Checkpoint on 35's was close to a big-tired 29er in terms of ride that made me take another look at the AL Checkpoints.

I am curious if you could measure the width between the chainstays on the Checkpoint though. I've seen claims that it has ample space to fit a 50mm tire even in the back? The beefy tire clearance, plus lower bottom bracket are two big points that keep me considering it against the Warbird.
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Old 10-02-18, 01:54 PM
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I just checked my carbon Checkpoint.......I measured around 50 mm between the chainstays, so I don't think you can get a 50mm in there. The front has more room, around 60mm.
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Old 10-02-18, 02:06 PM
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I haven't measured mine at the chain stays, but I suspect 50mm +/- is correct. The chain stays aren't even with each other (the right is dropped to give room for the chainring), so a straight-across measurement probably isn't possible. A 49mm wide tire wouldn't have any mud room. A 45mm would -- which is probably why Trek rated the frameset at 45mm.

Last edited by FlashBazbo; 10-31-18 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 10-08-18, 08:58 AM
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Interesting, so I found a shop to test ride a SL5 in 58cm. I was measuring 2 3/8" between the stays, or 60mm. There is definitely some healthy space in there!

Unfortunately, I didn't really like the isospeed. I found I would get a bounce in the saddle at certain cadence/power levels. Making that tunable would be great. The ride was very smooth though and if I was looking for something a bit more toward the touring/adventure side of things I would probably go with the Checkpoint. Ultimately, I ended up going with a 2018 Warbird. Less weight and fewer parts I'd be looking to swap out with time made the decision for me.
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Old 10-08-18, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Metieval View Post
Trek Aluminum frames will beat the heck out of you. (I know first hand) and the bigger tires won't save your neck shoulders body from the big hits, freeze cracks etc.
I'll second this. I did a "season" of gravel/off-road credit card touring and when I'd encounter some rough stuff it was miserable. Heck even extensive road riding on some of the brutal Sonoma chipseal was unpleasant. This was on a 2016 Crockett.

I replaced it with a Steel Niner RLT and noticed an immediate difference on the same courses. Sure the gnarly stuff still jarred no matter what the frame but it was much more enjoyable on the little stuff.

That being said, I just added an SL5 Checkpoint (due later this month) so we'll see how that compares. I haven't owned a Carbon bike in 5-years but I'm not going to wait for Trek to do a steel Checkpoint.
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Old 10-08-18, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by softreset View Post
I'll second this. I did a "season" of gravel/off-road credit card touring and when I'd encounter some rough stuff it was miserable. Heck even extensive road riding on some of the brutal Sonoma chipseal was unpleasant. This was on a 2016 Crockett.

I replaced it with a Steel Niner RLT and noticed an immediate difference on the same courses. Sure the gnarly stuff still jarred no matter what the frame but it was much more enjoyable on the little stuff.

That being said, I just added an SL5 Checkpoint (due later this month) so we'll see how that compares. I haven't owned a Carbon bike in 5-years but I'm not going to wait for Trek to do a steel Checkpoint.
Many people will make claims in frame material, or tire size for taking the edge off.



yet my alloy synpase on 25c 85/90 psi was more comfortable than the alloy Trek on 40c at 50 psi. both aluminum, and the bigger tires didn't help the Trek

so there is something to be said for geometry and manufacture also.
hmm come to think of it...... the bike effects the saddle too. even my favorite saddles donn't work on the Trek.
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Old 10-10-18, 07:56 AM
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The comments above about the "harshness" of an aluminum frame are not talking about this particular bike. No material has "inherent" ride characteristics. Decades ago, I used to race a bonded Trek aluminum frame that was extremely cushy. More recently I owned a first gen Scott Foil that beat the crap out of me. The only way to truly tell is to try both bikes. Also, 45+MM tires will blunt almost any "harshness".
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Old 10-10-18, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Hiro11 View Post
The comments above about the "harshness" of an aluminum frame are not talking about this particular bike. No material has "inherent" ride characteristics. Decades ago, I used to race a bonded Trek aluminum frame that was extremely cushy. More recently I owned a first gen Scott Foil that beat the crap out of me. The only way to truly tell is to try both bikes. Also, 45+MM tires will blunt almost any "harshness".
we are talking about newer Trek Aluminum bikes.

just because you mask up a harsh frame with 45+ doesn't mean it isn't a **** frame. Trek Sucks!

as for material goes, Cannondale Aluminum is better than Treks carbon! so ya Trek still sucks.
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Old 10-10-18, 12:12 PM
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I put a 100-ish miles on a Checkpoint ALR 5 before grabbing an SL 5.

I ran 42s on it and immediately realized on the first rugged single track section that the extra money on the SL 5 was going to be well spent.

So sure, I don't have thousands of miles on an aluminum Checkpoint but I put enough on one to realize that the cost of carbon over aluminum during the time of ownership was going to be worth it.
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Old 10-10-18, 01:40 PM
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Wow

Very good question.

I've often maintained that AL was a great frame material - the dapeming from a bike comes mostly from the tires, fork, and the seat post if done correctly. But I will say that when I've done back to back comparisons, the Carbon always wins out.

Interestingly Salsa said their latest generation Warbird (not next years) aluminum frame is more compliant than their Ti frame...

Anyway, I love the ride on carbon - haven't found such a nice ride on Aluminum yet, although I have read about it (specifically Salsa and Sepecialized hydroformed Al). you don't need to be a pro rider to benefit from that.
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Old 10-10-18, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by FlashBazbo View Post
I have to say that, for me, another feature that sold me on the carbon frame is the adjustable rear dropout. It's very easy to modify the geometry of this bike. For gnarly stuff, I've got mine set at a 435mm chain stay. If I decide to go civilized for awhile, I can always shorten them by 10mm -- or lengthen them by 5mm for bikepacking. Cool feature.
But can you really notice a difference?
I have a couple fixed gear bikes, and I move the rear all over the place. I haven't really noticed any difference, other than I guess the turning diameter is a little tighter with a shorter wheelbase...
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Old 10-10-18, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
But can you really notice a difference?
Yes, of course. That's why I consider it to be a valuable feature.
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Old 10-10-18, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
But can you really notice a difference?
I have a couple fixed gear bikes, and I move the rear all over the place. I haven't really noticed any difference, other than I guess the turning diameter is a little tighter with a shorter wheelbase...
I've never noticed a compliance difference moving my rear wheel on gear changes. but, I've never really looked for it either. Or maybe it doesn't matter on a AL frame.

speaking of comfort and AL, you need to test ride the Topstone.
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Old 10-10-18, 05:50 PM
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Isospeed and 230 grams are not the only differences between the Checkpoint SL and AL

The SL has BB90 bottom bracket while the AL has BB86.

Different cassettes - HG800 vs HG700.

Seatmast on the carbon version vs traditional seatpost on the aluminum version.

Somewhat better tires - Schwalbe G-One Allaround TL-Easy vs non-TL-Easy.

The seatmast on the carbon version is a deal breaker for me personally.


-Tim-
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Old 10-10-18, 10:32 PM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post



The seatmast on the carbon version is a deal breaker for me personally...


-Tim-
True-- close to purchasing a SL5 right off the rack but, it seems to be fixing a problem I don't have while introducing a complexity that makes it impossible for me to know if I can expect to get enough seat height if I want to go with shorter cranks...seems to max out at what calculates to ~7 inches of exposed seat post.
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Old 10-11-18, 10:34 AM
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My SL5 in a 56cm with a 10mm offset 135mm seat mast cap, interestingly, in aluminum. I don't see that part available aftermarket (I suspect it's probably on Dexter, though).

I'm a fan, I disliked the carbon on carbon. As a bigger guy I had occasional slippage on rough roads even with carbon paste.

I've flown (in a travel case) with a Domane 5-series a dozen or so times and the seat mast has never been an issue. I agree though that it's an area of significant concern whenever i travel. I strongly considered an ALR model for this reason alone as I intended to travel with my Checkpoint via air at least a few times a year. But I'll roll the dice.
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Old 10-12-18, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by McBTC View Post
True-- close to purchasing a SL5 right off the rack but, it seems to be fixing a problem I don't have while introducing a complexity that makes it impossible for me to know if I can expect to get enough seat height if I want to go with shorter cranks...seems to max out at what calculates to ~7 inches of exposed seat post.
I actually have the opposite issue with my SL5. I almost could not get the seat down far enough, due to the carbon seat tube. It is down as far as it can go. I suppose one could have done surgery to reduce the tube height, but if they had done it "normally" like others, this wouldn't even be an issue.
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Old 10-12-18, 02:35 PM
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Curious what frame size and saddle height combo you're on.
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Old 10-13-18, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by softreset View Post
Curious what frame size and saddle height combo you're on.
54cm. I have 30 inch inseam. I have found my preferred height for saddle to be 27 inches from bottom bracket centerline to top of saddle going up the seat tube. This is with saddle set to 28 inches from handlebar centerline to where I sit on the saddle. These are the dimensions I set all my bikes to.

I was stunned when I set my SL5 to this and found the seat mast barely over the top of the seat tube.
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