What Is A Bidon In Cycling? (Explained)

Have you ever watched the Tour de France and wondered why people go crazy over the bottles that cyclists toss to the road?

Well, my friend, those bottles are called bidons, and they’re more than just trash to the fans. They’re like little treasures that everyone wants to get their hands on!

Now, you might think, “What’s the big deal? They’re just bottles!” 

But let me tell you, these bidons are like gold to the passionate fans of the Tour de France.

Sure, they serve the main purpose of carrying water for the riders, but they also have a fascinating history behind them.

In this post, you learn what is a bidon in cycling and the history behind these seemingly mundane objects becomes a symbol in the world of cycling.

What Is A Bidon In Cycling?

The term “bidon” is a French word that directly translates to “bottle” or “flask” in English, and is said to have originated from the old Norse word ‘bida’.

What Is A Bidon In Cycling

In cycling, a bidon is a term used to refer to a water bottle. It is a specially designed container that carries water or sports drinks for hydration during a race like the Tour de France.

Bidons are typically made of plastic and have a nozzle or cap and come in different sizes.

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They are very lightweight, easy to grip, and are designed to fit into bottle cages mounted on the frame of the bicycle.

The term gained prominence through the popularity of cycling races in French-speaking countries, particularly the Tour de France.

Let’s take a look at the history of Bidons.

The History Of The Bidon

Once upon a time, when the Tour de France was still finding its wheels, cyclists faced a hydration challenge like no other. 

They relied on leather satchels with fragile glass bottles to quench their thirst during the race. 

But this setup had its downsides. 

First, it caused a lopsided weight distribution, making crashes even more treacherous. Second, it meant that water shortages were a real nightmare if those delicate bottles shattered.

The First Bidons

Then, after the chaos of World War One, a game-changer came into the picture. Introducing bidons made of lightweight aluminum, sealed with trusty corks.  

To make these bidons easily accessible during the race, clever cyclists started using cages with spring-loaded levers. They mounted these contraptions on their handlebars, making hydration on the go a breeze. 

And just like that, the bidon revolution was underway.


But innovation didn’t stop there. In 1939, a cyclist named René Vietto took things up a notch. He mounted one bidon on the handlebars and another on the bike’s down tube. 

Present Day

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This brilliant move improved bike handling and balanced the center of gravity, making the riders feel like they were on top of the world.

Word of Vietto’s genius spread like wildfire, and soon, other Tour de France riders followed suit. By the late 1950s, this two-bidon setup became the norm, proving that great ideas are meant to be shared.

As time went on, another significant change took place. The sturdy aluminum bidons were gradually replaced by plastic ones.

Plastic was cheaper, easier to use, and allowed for faster hydration since you could squeeze the bottle to gulp down that precious liquid.

In 1986, the Tour de France formed a refreshing partnership with Coca-Cola, making the popular soda brand the official drinks supplier. 

Present Day

Fast forward to the present day, and bidons have become a canvas for cycling teams to showcase their style. 

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They customize their bidons for optimal hydration, adding their team logos and colors. It’s a way to stay hydrated and show off some team spirit all in one go.

Now, hold on to your handlebars because things are about to get interesting:

Bidons have been at the center of some controversial incidents. In the heat of the moment, fans have been known to fight over these precious souvenirs. It just goes to show the incredible value these seemingly simple bottles hold in the hearts of Tour de France enthusiasts.

Rules For Bidon Use In The Tour de France

Back in 2011, things got a bit wild when cyclists started passing bidons from moving support cars.

It turns out that some riders were caught holding onto the bidon while the person giving it to them was still holding onto it – thus giving them a bit of tow / extra help.

This led to a review of the rules by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) on how bidons are passed from moving vehicles.

The UCI isn’t playing games when it comes to aerodynamics either.

Since 2013, they’ve made it crystal clear that anything that gives an unfair advantage in the drag department is a big no-no.

This rule states that: 

“You can’t add or combine anything into the bike’s structure that reduces air resistance or helps you go faster. This includes things like protective screens, streamlined shapes, or any other gadgets that give you an unfair advantage”

The UCI also has a rule that says there should be a gap between the bidon and the tube it’s attached to on the bike. 

This rule is in place to make sure that the designers of bike frames don’t build the water bottle directly into the frame. 

Bottom Line

In summary, a bidon in cycling is a water bottle used by cyclists.

Using the term bidon instead of water bottle adds a touch of cycling vocabulary.

Historically, bidons were made of metal, mounted on handlebars, and later on down tubes and seat tubes. Today’s bidons are typically plastic with a squeezable body and a lid for easy access.

Hugo has been cycling for as long as he can remember, and, being from the Netherlands, he’s used to his bike being his primary mode of transport. Plus, as a lawyer, jumping on his bike is his main form of escaping from his desk duties.

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