To Bidon Or Not To Bidon

This is serious, people. I hope you’re sitting down. Really. Sit down. Not a half sit. A real sit. Both cheeks. If you’re reading this on your phone, put the phone away and wait until you are sitting behind a computer like a civilized person.

Ready? Deep breath.

I have it on the excellent authority of my French friend Anne that that this is what a bidon looks like, not this.

I told you to sit down. My initial reaction was one of defiance and disbelief. I even suggested that I understood Le Langue du Peloton better than she does. In her infinite grace and my infinite obtuseness and ever-increasing volume, she almost conceded this as a possible explanation to this ground-rattling revelation.

There is something seriously fishy going on in this here petri dishy if what we as a collective of Cyclists – even those in France – have referred to as bidons are actually giant plastic jugs that are more commonly strapped to backs of Jeeps and motos than bicycles. Maybe we would take a bidon in the car to the start of a big ride, to fill up what we should probably be calling une gourde. Madness.

Cornered, I sought the advice of my good friend William, who represents one half of both Pavé Cycling Classics and Malteni Beer. He replied with his usual delicacy and the natural charm that I assume made him a good sprinter:

Tell her to fuck off. Was she born in the 50’s? For fuck’s sake. We haven’t called them gourdes since before the war when they were metal and were stopped up with corks. For fuck’s sake.

The only conclusion I can come to is that when the plastic bottle was introduced, some bright spark called it a bidon half as a pisstake and half as a way to distinguish this novelty from the traditional bar-mounted bottle. And we’ve been confusing the non-Cycling French population ever since.

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144 Replies to “To Bidon Or Not To Bidon”

  1. Further research: lots of indexed books say a bidon is a military term and some say it is about five quarts. “Dictionary of Hard Words”, 1910, says it’s a canteen.

    “The Century Illustrated Monthly”, issue 105, 1922: “each of us carried a two-quart bidon, or water-bottle, of the French army pattern” (with an evaporative felt cover, as is popular among boy scouts and Williamsburg hipsters)

  2. Language speaks man.* Language is a virus.**

    It’s not whether we can call it a “bidon.” It’s who will listen to us and speak the word back to us. Keep calling it a “bidon,” and maybe it will become one forever. If enough of us started calling it a “dildo,” that might work, too.

    ================

    * Martin Heidegger

    ** Laurie Anderson

  3. I’ve always called it a flask (or if I’m feeling spry, a flagon) – probably more because I’m projecting aspirations onto it, but also it seems that a flask should be of middling volume (not too much and not too little) and also because, well, a “real” flask fits very nicely in a back jersey pocket.  Plus it’s fun to say.  And no way, they are not canteens so don’t anyone go getting any bright ideas.

     

  4. Bidon obviously comes from the same root as bidet, and they both squirt water into an orifice. Ce qu’il fallait démontrer.

  5. I get scorn from my VMW for calling them ‘bidons’ rather than ‘bottles’. Fortunately, I care not.

  6. The reality is is that bidons and gillets are not words one uses in Alabama. Not when bottles and vests work perfectly well. And you have to admit, when autocorrect leaves bisons and fillets behind… just saying. Cheers all.

  7. French speaking Belgian here:In my neck of the woods, Mouscron, just north of the french border near Roubaix, we use both but bidon is what its most often called by cyclists, gourde by non-cyclists.

     

    And double entendre mean absolutely nothing by the way.

  8. Conversation during a race in the states, “Give me your extra bidon.”  “Fuck off and go back to the car and get your own bottle for fuck’s sake. And get bottles for the rest of us while you’re at it.”

  9. I’m from Chile (spanish speaking country) and a “bidon” is also here what your friend told you: that big ass metal or plastic container attached to the back of an all-terrain vehicle. The word bidon also exists in spanish and it refers to that.

    Here in Chile we call the bicycle-related plastic bottle “caramagiola”… But honestly, I do not really know the origin of the term. It sounds vaguely italian, but that supposedly italian origin is highly suspicious to me. Maybe we should call it “botella” and get over it.

  10. @wilburrox

    Just like in Alabama, living in rural Kentucky severely limits my cycling vocabulary. I just stick to “Yes, I ride a bicycle”.

  11. @PeakInTwoYears

    Yup — the word itself has no meaning; it just points to something else.

    I love the line that language is a virus, though I prefer the more specific designation that William S. Burroughs applies: “Language is a virus from outer space.”

  12. I like that “bidon” effectively means, “jerry can.” You wage war on the mountains, attack the roads… May as well equip yourself appropriately.

    I enjoy joy using terms like bidon, casquette, and gillet, but usually avoid the them unless I know the person I’m speaking with will understand me. If they do, we get to enjoy saying them together. If they don’t, I’d just confuse them. Words are better used as markers of affinity than of exclusion in my experience.

     

  13. It’s ok to say “bidon” and “gillet” but order a “medium” at Starbucks, right?

    I thought so.

  14. Arghh. That lead pic makes me feel old. In the late 70s I got a “bike water bottle” contraption for Christmas. Most frames back in those days didn’t even have one set of cage bosses, let alone two. The “cage” mounted on the handlebars with some kind of sprung quick-release thing to “hold” it “securely.” Needless to say, it was a POS and upon hitting any kind of serious bump with the front wheel meant the bottle went into orbit. Admittedly, the bottles weren’t aluminium with cork stoppers, but the spout had a wee cover attached by a plastic strap. None of your teeth-pulling stopper like we enjoy today.

    I’ve never called a bike bottle a bidon, but a musette is always a musette. A derailleur is always a derailleur.

    There’s lots of reverence around these parts for days of yore, but I tell ya, some shit needs to stay in the past.

  15. @wiscot

     

    There’s lots of reverence around these parts for days of yore, but I tell ya, some shit needs to stay in the past.

    Cork brake blocks.

  16. @Ccos

    It’s ok to say “bidon” and “gillet” but order a “medium” at Starbucks, right?

    I thought so.

    I refuse to order coffee by the stupid names they have for small, medium, or large much to my spouse’s chagrin. It causes the robotic like person on the register all sorts of consternation. I hate getting coffee there anyways.

  17. I’ve asked a French friend from Brittany about a few words/phrases in cycling that are of French origin. A few of them have been complete mysteries to him, and he’s a linguist.

    Pedale. – EASILY the most understated Pegoretti I’ve ever seen! (not a jab, just saying)

  18. @PantaniForever

    @Ccos

    It’s ok to say “bidon” and “gillet” but order a “medium” at Starbucks, right?

    I thought so.

    I refuse to order coffee by the stupid names they have for small, medium, or large much to my spouse’s chagrin. It causes the robotic like person on the register all sorts of consternation. I hate getting coffee there anyways.

    Good god, if you are going to use boring crutch drugs, at least brew your own. The world is a shittier place with the same three chains on every corner around the globe.

  19. @girl

    ‘Both cheeks.’ I’m stealing that.

    Also going to use that one on my boys at the diner table tonight!

  20. @pistard

    Bidon obviously comes from the same root as bidet, and they both squirt water into an orifice. Ce qu’il fallait démontrer.

    Tout à fait. C’est évident.

  21. Sometimes native speakers of a particular language are the worst people to ask about the nuances of that language. For them the language is set in stone and not fluid and constantly evolving as it in fact is.

    Bidon has its origins in old Norse and most likely entered the French language through the Scandinavian settlement of NW France. That was quite a long time ago, but the word likely survived in the regional dialect for some time before becoming part of the language of cycling.

  22. @Ron

    @PantaniForever

    @Ccos

    It’s ok to say “bidon” and “gillet” but order a “medium” at Starbucks, right?

    I thought so.

    I refuse to order coffee by the stupid names they have for small, medium, or large much to my spouse’s chagrin. It causes the robotic like person on the register all sorts of consternation. I hate getting coffee there anyways.

    Good god, if you are going to use boring crutch drugs, at least brew your own. The world is a shittier place with the same three chains on every corner around the globe.

    This!

     

  23. @DavyMuur

    Sometimes native speakers of a particular language are the worst people to ask about the nuances of that language. For them the language is set in stone and not fluid and constantly evolving as it in fact is.

    Bidon has its origins in old Norse and most likely entered the French language through the Scandinavian settlement of NW France. That was quite a long time ago, but the word likely survived in the regional dialect for some time before becoming part of the language of cycling.

    There it is.

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/bidon#Etymology_2

  24. Tell her to fuck off. Was she born in the 50’s? For fuck’s sake. We haven’t called them gourdes since before the war when they were metal and were stopped up with corks. For fuck’s sake.

    Thank you William. Finally a voice of reason in this unreasonable world.

     

  25. If your bike looks like these (or your name is Fausto Coppi … these are his bikes), then you can call it a bidon. Otherwise, it’s just a f*ing water bottle FFS!

  26. Let me see if I understand this………

    Frank is talking to his FRENCH GIRL Friend, and the best line he can come up with is “have you any idea what these bottle thingy’s are called?”

  27. Big assed rectangular METAL container decorating SUVs and the like is pre-politically correct speech properly called a Jerry Can or jerrican  .. since the Germans figured out how to stamp a sheet of metal into a box that was cheap, leakproof, easily stacked and didn’t roll around. Everyone else in those all-expense-paid trips around the European Theater stole the design. In the days when you had a cog on each side of the rear and flipped the wheel to climb.

  28. @PantaniForever

    @Ccos

    It’s ok to say “bidon” and “gillet” but order a “medium” at Starbucks, right?

    I thought so.

    I refuse to order coffee by the stupid names they have for small, medium, or large much to my spouse’s chagrin. It causes the robotic like person on the register all sorts of consternation. I hate getting coffee there anyways.

    I do the same on those rare occasions I get coffee there. I also lousy refuse the “sissy sleeve” they insist upon putting on their cups. My VMH usually elbows me before I can also say something along the lines of “I’m no puss, I’ll hold it like a man.”

    Of course, I then have to pretend the cup’s not scalding hot.

  29. @Ccos

    @PantaniForever

    @Ccos

    It’s ok to say “bidon” and “gillet” but order a “medium” at Starbucks, right?

    I thought so.

    I refuse to order coffee by the stupid names they have for small, medium, or large much to my spouse’s chagrin. It causes the robotic like person on the register all sorts of consternation. I hate getting coffee there anyways.

    I do the same on those rare occasions I get coffee there. I also lousy refuse the “sissy sleeve” they insist upon putting on their cups. My VMH usually elbows me before I can also say something along the lines of “I’m no puss, I’ll hold it like a man.”

    Of course, I then have to pretend the cup’s not scalding hot.

    Shouldn’t the loud refusal be used a little earlier when someone suggests going there?

    One of the stronger moments of local pride was when their attempt to open a store in Adelaide failed miserably & shut within months. If only we could have done the same with Krispy Kreme…

  30. @chuckp

    If your bike looks like these (or your name is Fausto Coppi … these are his bikes), then you can call it a bidon. Otherwise, it’s just a f*ing water bottle FFS!

    you are a showoff and I envy you and it’s still a bidon

  31. @Mikael Liddy

    @Ccos

    @PantaniForever

    @Ccos

    It’s ok to say “bidon” and “gillet” but order a “medium” at Starbucks, right?

    I thought so.

    I refuse to order coffee by the stupid names they have for small, medium, or large much to my spouse’s chagrin. It causes the robotic like person on the register all sorts of consternation. I hate getting coffee there anyways.

    I do the same on those rare occasions I get coffee there. I also lousy refuse the “sissy sleeve” they insist upon putting on their cups. My VMH usually elbows me before I can also say something along the lines of “I’m no puss, I’ll hold it like a man.”

    Of course, I then have to pretend the cup’s not scalding hot.

    Shouldn’t the loud refusal be used a little earlier when someone suggests going there?

    One of the stronger moments of local pride was when their attempt to open a store in Adelaide failed miserably & shut within months. If only we could have done the same with Krispy Kreme…

    By all means call it a “medium”. Just don’t call it coffee.

  32. If I have to use une gourde, I’m going all the way. Fits a standard cage and insulates better than plastic or metal. Just need a bamboo frame.

  33. @Ccos

     

    I do the same on those rare occasions I get coffee there. I also lousy refuse the “sissy sleeve” they insist upon putting on their cups. My VMH usually elbows me before I can also say something along the lines of “I’m no puss, I’ll hold it like a man.”

    Of course, I then have to pretend the cup’s not scalding hot.

    I find myself asking “can you make it hot please” as since the cases when people sued when they spilled hot coffee on themselves everywhere serves up lukewarm drinks these days.  It will not cross the threshold of Spitbucks though.

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