What Is in Your Gravel Adventure Handlebar Bag?

Rapha Small Handlebar Bag | Tim Wiggins
The new Rapha Handlebar Bag has fast become a favourite bikepacking 'day ride' handlebar bag. Rather than just write a product review of this compact handlebar bag though, I thought I would also look inside—to see what comes with me on a solo self-sufficient gravel ride. This is my pack of essentials to keep you riding all day…

It has become increasingly important for us to become self-sufficient on our rides; the outbreak of Coronavirus in March 2020 closed most shops, cafes, and even public conveniences, as well as making solo riding a necessity. Luckily, experience with off-road and back-of-beyond bicycle touring has taught me a few tricks to avoid needing to depend on support or re-supply stops when out on the road or trail.

I used to favour a saddlebag as my on-bike bag for carrying spares and tools, but that choice has evolved over time; a small handlebar bag does not restrict your view of the front wheel at all, it is a lot more accessible than a saddlebag, and it also frees up the saddle rails to hold a bikepacking seat-pack if required for longer trips.

In this post, I take an in-depth look at the new Rapha Handlebar Bag, as well as its essential solo ride contents…

Review – Rapha Handlebar Bag

The Rapha Mini Bar Bag is a compact two litre capacity handlebar bag, designed to carry everyday essentials on and off the bike. Made from a DWR coated waterproof fabric, it is not submersible, but it will certainly shrug off the worst the weather can throw its way.

The bag attaches to the handlebar and head-tube using simple quick-release straps, and there is also an added strap on one end to go around the seat tube and allow you to use the bag as a frame bag in the top left triangle of your frame. Off-the-bike carrying is also considered, thanks to a shoulder strap that easily stows away in the front pocket.

Inside the bag there are two mesh pockets that help to keep things organised, and there is also a zippered external front pocket for easy-to-access items. Reflective detailing is a nice touch on the front of the bag, and the reflective loops can also double as clip light attachments.

This handlebar bag functions faultlessly and looks retro cool. The quality is outstandingly good, and I particularly like the zippers and quick-release buckles. It is the perfect companion to take your essentials with you on any adventurous ride.

Here is what is inside…

What Is in Your Gravel Adventure Handlebar Bag Tim Wiggins

Tool Kit

These tools and spares should keep you cycling all day long and allow you to fix most mechanicals and punctures.

Lezyne SV16 Multitool

The Lezyne SV16 Multitool is a slim-line bicycle multitool optimised for modern bikes. The sides are made from CNC machined aluminium, while the tool bits are durable stainless steel. It features all the necessary tools: hex keys, screwdrivers, torx keys, a chain-breaker, tyre lever, and a 10 mm open ended spanner.

Lezyne tools are beautifully made, and work without fault for years. This SV16 tool has fast become my favourite; achieving the right balance of weight versus usability and function. The neat addition of a magnetic chain quick-link holder on the side of the tool is also a nice little feature.

Lezyne Pocket Drive Pump LOADED Kit

The Lezyne Pocket Drive Pump is the latest release from the brand; it is ludicrously compact at just 14 cm long and designed to sit in a jersey pocket without even poking above the cuff. The LOADED kit also holds a Lezyne Patch Kit that includes tyre levers and instant patches, as well as a Lezyne Twin Speed CO2 Inflator.

This complete kit weighs next to nothing—the pump only weighs 79 grams! It means you have all the essentials for a fast and efficient puncture repair in the form of the CO2; as well as a back-up solution should you puncture more than once, in the form of the pump and patches. A super compact but invaluable package.

NiteIze DooHicKey Mini Pocket Knife

Having a blade with you is another useful tool. The NiteIze DooHicKey is about as compact and reliable as they come; it also has a locking blade, which is a good safety feature. Ideal for cutting down tubeless tyre plugs, cutting out itchy labels on clothing, or digging thorns or flints out of a tyre.

Smoove Lube Sample Bottle

A well serviced bike is the most important thing to stay self-sufficient, but one thing you cannot always prepare for is the onslaught of the weather. A downpour can strip a well lubricated chain—leaving you with a squeaking and grinding set of gears. A small bottle of Smoove Chain Lube will go a long way to saving your sanity and drivetrain.

Spare Inner Tube(s)

I always used to carry two spare tubes with me on a ride, but now I tend to just take one. The reason is that in addition to this handlebar bag kit I also have a set of Shamurai Sword Tubeless Plugs stored in my handlebar ends, as well as a can of GüP Tubeless Emergency Tyre Repair strapped to the down-tube of the bike; these two things combined tend to fix most tubeless flats without needing to resort to fitting an inner tube.

Black Mamba Workshop Gloves

A tubeless puncture or a broken chain can leave your hands covered in a nasty latex or oil residue. A set of durable Black Mamba Workshop Gloves avoids dirty and unhygienic hands.

Tim Wiggins Ride Toolkit

Hygiene and Care Kit

To read a more in-depth post on personal hygiene and skincare when cycling, check out my blog post 'Personal Hygiene and Skincare for Bikepacking Tours'. These are my minimalist choice for everyday rides…

Weleda Edelweiss Sun Cream

I decant some of this super sweat and water-resistant sun lotion into a little bottle, to ensure I have some to hand when the clouds clear over and the sun shines strong. Wrapping a few strips of tape around the bottle is also a good repair aid, and helps to avoid the bottle being squashed or damaged.

Weleda Lip Balm

Protect those lips from getting chapped and sore with a good natural lip balm.

Biodegradable Baby Wipes with Antibacterial Gel

This is a neat trick. Take five biodegradable baby wipes from a bulk packet, cut them in half, and store them in a zip-lock cycling phone case. Squirt some anti-bacterial hand sanitiser into the pouch and the wipes will be soaked with an anti-bacterial solution. These are essential when public conveniences and cafés are closed.

Cycling Hygiene and Care Kit Tim Wiggins

Emergency Rations

Because sometimes you run out of fuel, and all the shops are shut…

Honey Stinger Energy Bars and Chews

I carry my main ride nutrition in my jersey pockets, but it is always good to have some back-up fuel for when the headwind home (or dead legs) strike, and you are out riding for longer than expected. These Honey Stinger energy products are still some of my favourite snacks, and I store one of each in my handlebar bag as emergency rations.

Honey Stinger Nutrition Tim Wiggins


A few extra additions that are worth mentioning…

NiteIze SlapLit LED Snap Wrap

The NiteIze SlapLit LED Snap Wrap is intended for runners, but it also works great as a cycling trouser clip and as an emergency back-up rear light for cycling. We have all had that evening ride when a puncture or mechanical has left us out on the trail for longer than expected, and you have to creep home in the oncoming darkness; this light will ensure you will at least be seen when you retreat to the tarmac for that last stretch.

Small Drawcord Bag

The last item worth noting in my personal bikepacking day-ride handlebar bag is the provision to carry more—in the form of a small drawcord backpack bag. This is great if you find you have really over-dressed for a ride and need to strip off a lot of layers; or more commonly for me, it is ideal when you need to stop off to grab some milk from the local farm shop on the way home…

As mentioned above, it is also worth pointing out that I carry a Shamurai Sword Tubeless Plug Set in my handlebar ends and can of GüP Tubeless Tyre Repair Sealant strapped to the down-tube.

NiteIze Taglit Band

Keep It Fresh

I adopt a 'Wash and Refresh' approach with my handlebar kit. So, whenever I wash and lube my bike, I also unclip the handlebar and go through the contents to ensure it is replenished and refreshed i.e. restock nutrition, charge up lights, repair tubes, refill sun cream etc. This is good practice to ensure those carefully thought-through essentials are there when you really need them.

Stay safe and keep riding.

>> Read more Bikepacking Advice content here <<

>> Shop the Rapha Compact Handlebar Bag here <<

Rapha Compact Handlebar Bag Bikepacking Tim Wiggins

Rapha Compact Handlebar Bag Bikepacking Tim Wiggins


  1. How have you found it in regards to getting greasy/dirty and then how has cleaning it been? I expect mine to get stained really quickly

    1. Hi Tom, it does seem to stain a little easily, but I expect you can wash it in the machine using Nikwax Tech Wash and Waterproofing, similar to on this blog post: https://www.lifeinthesaddle.cc/2019/02/kit-care-re-waterproofing-and-restoring.html

    2. I just recently put a face mask in my bag for when I may need to stop , go into a crowded building and purchase something . Covid is not stopping my ride .

      Thanks Tim . Your posts are always an inspiration .

  2. Thanks Tim- just ordered one today in the rust/copper color straight from Rapha (retro Merckx era style). Nice review!

  3. Does it bother when you are standing on the pedals?


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