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Trek's Newest Checkpoint ALR 4 Is an Affordable Answer to Our Gravel Biking Needs

In case you haven't noticed, there's a cycling wave happening in the world; everyone seems to be hopping onto a gravel bike. With their ability to handle "any-road" riding, it's no wonder everyone wants one, but their price tag tends to push most people away. Trek is looking to change all that.
Checkpoint ALR 4 13 photos
Photo: Trek Bicycle Corporation
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Last year, I covered a bicycle from Trek that was meant to be the budget-friendly solution to a do-it-all gravel machine, the Checkpoint ALR 5. Well, this year, the ALR 4 is the machine under the magnifying glass, and with a price tag of just $1,800 (€1,650 at current exchange rates), it's really no wonder that it's floating across your device's screen. However, there's so much more to this bike than meets the eye, so hang on tight for the next few minutes.

For starters, the base material for the ALR 4 is good old aluminum. After all, rarely will you see a carbon fiber machine from any big-name brand for under $2,000. Those tubes allow for internal cable routing, leading to a snag-free experience while riding, but best of all, the entire thing is tattered in cargo mounts.

And this is really where we get into an entirely different use for your future ALR 4 than just riding it around your neighborhood. Every single damn tube on the ALR 4's frame, excluding the seat stay, allows future owners to completely cover this beast with every cargo bag style on the market.

Checkpoint ALR 4
Photo: Trek Bicycle Corporation
What does this mean for you and me? Oh, man! It means getting your hands on a bicycle that breaks the limits that traditional machines could, allowing us not only to mount carriers for carrying goods to and from work but to leave home behind during the weekend, riding beyond the edge of town, and setting up camp overnight. If you're with your friends, all the better.

Is the edge of town too far for your legs to handle? Since gravel bikes tend to be lighter than your average MTB - just 9.8 kg (21.6 lbs) for the size 56 frame ALR 4 - throw it on whatever budget cargo rack you find and handle things that way. Own an RV? Do the same thing, or take off the front wheel and toss it into some tiny cargo and gear garage.

Coming back to the frame makeup, I have to point out that some carbon fiber has made it onto the ALR 4. It's what that fork at the front is built out of, but the real treat is that it, too, is covered in cargo mounts, bringing even more cargo-carrying capacity to this two-wheeler.

Now, whenever we explore a bicycle, one crucial aspect is the tire size, and in the case of gravel bikes, it's even more imperative that you have the proper grip and vibration reduction needed for long rides. While this version is equipped with 40c tires from Bontrager, the ALR 4 can handle up to 45c cross-section tires. Rims are, of course, tubeless ready, so embark upon finding that sweet spot in your experience.

Checkpoint ALR 4
Photo: Trek Bicycle Corporation
Since this machine isn't electric, all you'll be relying on in making you move forward is nothing more than your muscles, the size of your breakfast or lunch, and, above all, your ALR 4's drivetrain. As standard, each of these puppies is rocking a full SRAM setup.

Overall, the entire drivetrain is tuned to only a one-speed crank multiplied by an 11-speed cassette. Yes, it's the Apex lineup on this bugger, and with it, future owners can access 11-42T of range with a 44T chain ring at the front. But, the two-wheeler can also accommodate a two-chain ring setup with 50T and 34T.

But, there is a feature that I find is a bit of a let-down: the brakes. While Tektro is still the manufacturer supplying the stopping power behind your adventures, it's a pair of mechanical disk brakes clamping down on 160 mm (6.3 in) rotors. Personally, I recommend throwing on a pair of hydraulics in case you like hitting trails hard and loaded to the brim with cargo. Let's be honest; a tradeoff had to happen somewhere. Otherwise, this thing would be a dream if it isn't already.

Checkpoint ALR 4
Photo: Trek Bicycle Corporation
As for the rest of the Checkpoint ALR 4, like most other Trek machines, in-house Bontrager covers the rims and tires, handlebar, seat post, saddle, stem, and just about every other secondary piece of hardware on the ALR 4.

What does all this amount to? Well, picture yourself dishing out the cash for one of these and place yourself in the middle of all you've just read. Heck, join your friends on long rides and explore the outskirts of town. Use the ALR 4 to train, make it to work quickly, or go on a bike-packing adventure. All that for $1,800, a price that most riders are willing to pay, especially on a decent bike.

Now, I understand that it may be rather difficult to understand what this bike feels like from where you're sitting, so what you can do is track one down in your area and take it out for a spin around the block. Just be sure to bring your checkbook so you don't have to make two trips for it.

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About the author: Cristian Curmei
Cristian Curmei profile photo

A bit of a nomad at heart (being born in Europe and raised in several places in the USA), Cristian is enamored with travel trailers, campers and bikes. He also tests and writes about urban means of transportation like scooters, mopeds and e-bikes (when he's not busy hosting our video stories and guides).
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