What is a Bidon in Cycling?

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Memo to Cyclists: What the Heck is a Bidon?

In cycling jargon, the word Bidon refers to the water bottle you dare not leave behind lest you wind up so dehydrated, you pass out.

You can thank the French for the name, say experts posting on the Road Bike Rider website. Bidon has roots in the Old Norse term ‘Bida’ which translates as both belly or load of bull.

Must you speak French to sip from a Bidon? Hardly. But it’s fun to learn how this quirky word originated.

According to historians, the first official Bidon was a metal bottle that held liquids secured by a cork. Figures. The French know corks, after all.

But long before the first metal Bidon appeared, riders were forced to tote leather satchels containing glass bottles filled with beverages.

We can’t imagine how noisy clinking glass must have sounded, nor can we envision the result of accidents turning bottles into water-logged glass shards.

Metal became the ideal alternative for Bidons, but mounting them was another story. That’s when cyclist Rene Vietto realigned his load, mounting one Bidon on his handlebars and another on the downtube when competing in the 1939 Tour de France. Voila!

This clever move lowered the bike’s center of gravity, improving the way it handled. Savvy cyclists adopted this configuration.

Photo by Victor Xok on Unsplash

Given the evolution of materials and manufacturing, it was only a matter of time before gear companies began to manufacture plastic Bidons, not just because they were sturdier and more resilient, but because malleable plastic allowed cyclists to squeeze every drop of water out of them during competitions.

Companies like Zefal are currently revolutionizing the plastics used to make Bidons in an effort to improve both the taste and smell of water stored in these vessels.

However, there is a downside to the quintessential plastic water carrier: sports competitions are turning into environmental nightmares as disposable Bidons wind up littering streets, compounding waste issues and adding to landfills.

To combat this trend, organizers like those staging the UK Harrow Half Marathon held the first long-distance race in Europe devoid of plastic cups and bottles. Instead, biodegradable pods made of a thin, seaweed-based membrane were substituted.

Does this mean that non-biodegradable Bidons are destined to take their place among the legends and lore of sports history gear solutions? If sustainability experts have their say, the answer is yes.

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