There are plenty of phrases related to cycling that come from the French language that are unfamiliar to non-cyclists or cyclists who are new to the sport. One term that comes up is bidon. What is a bidon? Quite simply, it’s a water bottle.
Historically in cycling, a bidon was a metal bottle (often aluminum for weight) with an opening that you sealed with a cork. The cage to hold it was mounted on the handlebars until cyclists discovered the advantages of mounting them lower on the bicycle on the down tube and seat tubes in the mid 1950s. Around this time period, cyclists also discovered that plastic bidons were easier to drink from because you could squeeze water from them, and metal bidons became extinct in professional cycling.
Early on in cycling, racers and distance riders learned how important it is to carry a water bottle on longer rides so they would have something to drink. Having a bidon mounted on the down tube or handlebars kept the rider’s pockets empty but made the container easy to grab during a race.
Cyclists often prefer to carry multiple bottles rather than just one bottle / bidon to stay hydrated, especially when the weather is hot or the ride will last multiple hours.
In this photo, Fausto Coppi carries a bidon on his handlebars as well as on his down tube. Note that these are the old fashioned metal type of bidon with a cork. The bicycle mounted bottles allow him to store more food in his rear pockets, which he is reaching for in order to eat.
So next time you want to throw around some cycling vocabulary, tell your fellow riders that you need to fill up your bidons instead of just calling them water bottles.
You can still call it a bidon, but today’s water bottles are plastic with an easy to squeeze bottle body and a lid that you can open and close with your mouth. During a bike race, you’re very close to other riders and it’s important to be able to quickly and safely take a drink without needing to look down.
Want to learn more cycling jargon? Check out our cycling glossary.