Brand new to Colorado and green to riding anything other than a road bike with skinny tires, I had no idea that gravel bikes existed—that they were their very own category in the bike world and that the Ibis Hakka MX would soon dethrone my Trek Émonda as the everyday, do-it-all bike in my quiver.
I also didn’t think riding varied that drastically from state to state and climate to climate. You wear more clothes in the cold, I thought. You stay inside when it snows, I thought. My narrow view of the cycling world extended all the way to gear.
And that includes the handlebar bag, which I had always associated with long haul, cross-country trips like my parents did back in the ‘80s. instead, I quickly learned the handlebar bag is a required accessory out here when rides can last all day and carrying multiple layers is the secret sauce to enjoying any kind of ride, any time of year—from the dead of winter to the hottest summer days.
The only thing my first handlebar bag had going for it was its size. It held every layer, snack and tool I shoved into it, but other than that, it sucked. It wasn’t waterproof, it didn’t hold its shape unless stuffed to the gills, and the Velcro straps stopped sticking as well after about a year. Plus, it was slowly wearing the paint off the front of my bike.
Last month, I’d pretty much had it with that stupid handlebar bag—and I couldn’t wait any longer for the Rapha bag to come back in stock—so I took a chance on a new-to-me brand called Lead Out!. I believe I originally heard about them in an Instagram ad, and the thing that attracted me most to their products were the simple design and the price. Most bags are upwards of $80, which I just couldn’t stomach.
The Lead Out! Mini Handlebar Bag was less than $40 after a limited-time promotion they were running, so it felt irresponsible of me to not just try it out, you know?
I ordered it in the beginning of December while I was in Florida at my parents’ house for the holidays, and I believe it was delivered towards the end of the month. It took a while to get to me because they were slammed with holiday orders, which I was happy about because they’re a small brand.
The day after it arrived in the mail, I took it out for a test ride, and I loved it immediately.
It’s compact. I liked having a lot of room in my last bag, but it lost its shape quickly when I didn’t cram it full of things. This little guy has enough room for a spare tire (size 38), CO2, dynaplug, tire levers, multi-tool, credit card, and a couple snack bars.
Secure straps. The Velcro straps on my last bag were awful. Weather really takes a toll on the stickiness, so I am a huge fan of these looping straps that hook onto the handlebars. They’re super easy to get on and off and don’t budge at all during the ride. They also seem like they’re long enough to fit around aero bars, so that is something to keep in mind.
Waterproof everything. This is huge for me. Every bar bag should be waterproof—not just water resistant. Storms come out of nowhere here, so I definitely love having a place to throw my phone or headphones when bad weather rolls in.
Basic design. My bike is loud enough, so I like that the design and colors are simple. Obviously this is a minor detail, but it’s still important.
It’s compact. This is also a con because I can’t fit an extra layer in there. This is definitely the perfect bag for summer when less clothes are required.
The side pocket. There is a teeny tiny zipper pocket on the side of the bag that I’m not sure is even functional because it is so small. I mean, maaaaaybe you can squeeze a couple bills in there for quick access, but the bag itself is so easily accessible that I’m not sure that extra pocket is necessary.
The shape. I wish there was a tiny bit more structure to this bag. I don’t anticipate it being a huge problem if the bag isn’t totally stuffed, but if there was some sort of hard plate (maybe even removable) inside to keep it somewhat stiff, I think it might be an added benefit.
*HOWEVER: even when the bag isn’t totally full, it doesn’t whack the front of my bike like the last bar bag did, so this is very minor.
Final thoughts: I am very impressed, and I think this is a great bag for any rider. I think I’m going to have to eventually invest in a larger and more expensive bag for bigger rides—and especially for races like SBT GRVL and Unbound Gravel, but for right now this guy is great and I’m happy with the purchase!
Dear Lead Out!, please make a bigger bag 🙂