August 11, 2016

I’m sure by now you’ve grown tired of hearing what part of riding Gravel bikes are taking over. Seemingly every week a new article comes out proclaiming Gravel as the new king of (insert niche aspect of riding your bike) – well I hate to do it but I’m going to add my own into the mix; Gravel bikes are the perfect ride for commuting.   

We recently got in a few of Trek’s brand new Checkpoint ALR bikes and one of the perks of working in a bike shop is that you get to try new bikes all the time. After taking one for a spin I instantly knew it was the bike for me and got one ordered.   

These have been strong sellers for Trek so finding one in my size (49cm) meant that my choice of spec and colour was rather limited. I ended up ordering the ALR 4 version in black with a metallic silver finish in the frame’s details and finished with Shimano Tiagra 4700. Okay sure, it wasn’t the most bling of specs, but I had my eyes on commuting and new Tiagra was trustworthy and cheap to replace.   

I had been commuting before on my singlespeed which was fun and hassle free, but I was getting tired of the one gear that meant I had to give it my all at every light to get back up to a regular cadence. The first few rides on the Checkpoint opened my eyes up and made my, albeit rather measly, 11km each way commute much more enjoyable and comfortable.   

The ride itself is agile and responsive, which was surprising given this bikes 10.5kg stock weight and 35mm tyres. Somehow gravel bikes seem to have absorbed the comfort of nice wide tyres with the fun and agility of a road bike. My Checkpoint came with more mounts for various panniers, racks, cages and bags than I could ever fill up and tyre clearance up to 45mm, all whilst still maintaining an air of tactile responsiveness that you just wouldn’t expect on something that should move more like a train than a Ferrari.   

Now I’m not saying Gravel bikes are like Ferraris – I think that would actually be too far – but there is real joy in an incredibly versatile bike also being fun to ride. Which is why I’m declaring them the new standard for commuting. For more wintery journeys the clearance and the frames rugged nature allow for a safe feeling ride that won’t go from under you on a rainy Tuesday morning. Whilst the versatility of being able to maybe throw on some slicker tyres and lighten up the bike make it more than ready for summer rides. All in I would say that the Gravel category allows for the purchase of a bike that isn’t necessarily do-it-all with some compromise, but rather a bike that is ready for anything, whatever the weather, surface, or simply mood of the rider sat on it.

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