The first thing to consider is
rider comfort. If you get cold then you are going to get
uncomfortable and suffer. The other essential is to ensure you do
not get too hot because then you will get sweaty, uncomfortable
and lose heat through wind chill. Although Lycra and cycling
clothing is not essential for day to day riding, it does come
into its own in weather such as this.
On my torso I usually wear a base layer of a thin
long sleeved cycling top. Over this I either wear my winter
training jacket (fleece lined, breathable and windproof) or a
thin fleece and a thin waterproof top.
On my legs I wear just my normal cycling shorts and a pair of
winter leggings. These arent waterproof, but they stay warm
when wet and do not allow wind chill. This is good, especially if
I get soaked from spray from passing cars as it is not
uncomfortable or a problem.
If it is actually snowing or very windy I consider a hat. I
sometimes also wear my helmet (with a thin hat underneath),
although this has the least benefit in rider comfort.
I wear thick gloves, since hands often get cold. If your hands
are cold then this can give many problems with bike handling,
especially braking and gear changing.
Feet are another problem. To date I havent found a good
solution for rides over 60 miles. Extra socks are a possibility,
but they can then make the shoes tighter reducing blood flow and
making the feet cold. Neoprene overshoes are a solution, but I
find the worst cold is transmitted in through the metal cleat in
the sole of my cycling shoe where it clips into the pedal. This
cold is made even worse if my socks become wet. The best solution
to that is actually the humble carrier bag or sandwich bag worn
between the shoe and sock. This doesnt stop water running
down the leg inside the bag though. Ultimately, if the feet get
too cold I have to get off and walk for a minute to warm them up,
followed by a change of socks and plastic bags.
The other main item to wear is cycling glasses with clear lenses.
In heavy snow or hail your eyes will close instinctively and you
cannot see. Cycling glasses aid comfort and visibility, although
they can become spattered with dirt and water and so become
difficult to see through. They can also steam up at traffic
lights, but then clear as soon as you start moving.
If theres ever a time to
ensure your bike is working properly it is now. Check your lights
and batteries. Check and adjust your brakes and gears. Make sure
everything is cleaned and lubricated, but be aware that some
thick oils and chain waxes can thicken in low temperatures and
may give you problems.
Tyres are an important choice. In most of the UK weather there is
little need to fit Ice tyres which have metal studs
in them to grip on ice. However tyres with a decent tread are
advisable, dont go out on slick road tyres!
Tyre pressures are also a critical factor. Some people advise
lowering tyre pressure as this increases the
footprint (the amount of tyre in contact with the
ground). Personally I prefer to run the tyres at their max
pressure. My reason for this is that no rubber tyre will grip on
sheet ice, no matter how great the footprint. As I usually use my
mountain bike with very chunky tyres in snow I find that the high
pressure forces that tread into the snow, even cutting through an
icy surface into the snow beneath. I also like to remain fully in
control, something which is harder to do if the bike is moving
about on a soggy tyre.
Mudguards might help, but they can also fill with snow and clog up.
If you have a bike that has tight clearances in the mudguard or around the brakes,
you may find you need to stop and clear snow on occasions. This snow accumulation can also happen
on the chain and gears, again needing clearing if you start to have