What-is-a-musette Pro Cycling Outlet
No, it’s not a small museum of cycling or a whimsical musing on the philosophy of bikes, a musette is a cycling bag that contains food and drink for riders to refuel during races. Far less elegantly, Brits call a musette a “bonk bag” because refuelling stops them bonking – running out of energy – mid-race. 
If you’ve ever seen a soigneur standing by the roadside in the Tour de France handing out canvas bags with a shoulder strap and wondered what it was, that’s the musette. It’s a very low-tech piece of cycling kit – no fastenings, moisture-wicking or aerodynamic fabrics to see here. But musettes are nonetheless special as they’re part of cycling lore and an item that’s exclusive to racing. 


The history of the musette

cycling musette

In the early Tour De France races, riders took it all a lot less seriously and would break at roadside cafes for a meal, wine and even a cigarette. But by the 1950s, the Tour de France was becoming a lot more professional and riders adopted the idea of the musette – named after a horse’s nose bag. Cyclists do, however, take the food out and eat it with their hands. 
Any ride in which a cyclist is on the bike for more than 5 hours means refuelling is essential. But exactly what was considered to be good nutrition before nutrition was a thing means the early musettes continued some pretty weird snacks by modern standards. 
Back in the early 1900s, so the story goes, musettes contained Peruvian coca leaves soaked in port. Later “atom bottles” were in vogue, bottles of strong espresso, alcohol and amphetamines designed for an energy shot in the final kilometres.
Nowadays, a musette will have isotonic energy drinks, bidons of water, and gel packs or energy bars, though some cyclists have their own special requests like sandwiches or painkillers. 

The dangers of musettes

It’s not so much the musette itself but the handoff that’s potentially fatal. Cyclists grab the bag from the soigneur without stopping so the handover has to be smooth, in designated feed zones, at an optimum part of the road with good visibility, and at the right height for the rider to grab it at the widest part of the handles without swinging it or dropping the contents for someone else to fall over. 
Riders can cause accidents for themselves, or others, for example, Gregor Muhlberger in the 2020 Tour of Flanders, whose bag got caught in his brake levers and is forever captured online to embarrass him. Or Thibaut Pinot who was left shaken after a soigneur for another team accidentally hit him in the face during a handoff in the 2022 Tour de France.
Because of the dangers from bags getting caught up in the wheels, it’s now a UCI rule that musettes can only be discarded in designated zones with the risk of disqualification for disobeying.
Musettes are a great piece of cycling memorabilia as each team has their own bradned bags. They’re not easy to find so they make great and unique collectibles. Check out the collectible musettes we have in stock.
PS Musette is also a cleverly-named cycling cafe in Alcalalí near Calpe, Spain. And, inevitably perhaps, there are also a couple of Bonk-named cycling cafes in the world, in Zagreb, Croatia and Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

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