1) Always wear a helmet. While this really goes without saying, it is just so important each and every time you ride a bike. The winter months can, and will, provide additional hazards: wet, slippery roads, less hours of sunlight, and less room for bikes on the road (due to snow banks or puddles). These are just a few of the added cautions to be aware of when riding during the winter, and shouldn’t deter anyone from taking their two-wheels to the street. Rather, they should shine some light on the necessity of wearing a helmet during every season.
2) Dress in layers to stay warm and be prepared to get wet! Here are a few necessary clothing items: 1) a water/wind proof jacket, pants and gloves, 2) warm socks, 3) waterproof boots or cycling shoes with neoprene booties. Having some sort of ventilation in your water proof jacket is important so that your skin can breathe as you crank and work up a sweat. In the case that you end up soaked, it’s good to have a change of clothes folded away in your bike pannier.
3) Make sure you have the appropriate winter gear: 1) Wear a helmet cover. 2) Sunglasses or goggles are great to keep your eyes protected from the extreme cold and rain or snow. 3) Wear reflective tape on your jacket. While many bike riders do this already to be better seen at night, cold days mean fogging mirrors and frosty windows in cars. Visibility is generally lower during the winter, which means that some sort of reflective tape is necessary. 4) A bell and a light. These are two things that any bike commuter should already have. 5) Front and rear fenders. The absence of these means the rider will get continuous spray of watery slush as they pedal along. And if you forgot your change of clothes, then you might end up walking into work or school with a brown stripe up your back.
4) Be aware of the conditions. Unlike summer when the roads are dry and the weather is sweet, winter means wet, potentially slippery roads. 1) Test how slippery the road is. Quickly accelerate your back wheel to see if it grips or slips. While going slowly, try applying your back brake fully. This way you will get a feel for how much traction there is. 2) Brake carefully, and plan for it to take longer to stop. Be prepared to put a foot down on the pavement if necessary to help stop. In snowy and wet conditions, pump the brakes frequently to keep rims clear.