Winter Bike Commuting Essentials
"Ride where other bikes can’t." That's one tagline Salsa employs for its Mukluk 3, a complete-build bike with extra-fat tires (3.8 inches wide) for early morning commutes on un-plowed roads. "The float in deep snow gives better control," says Cotrell. "But another thing people don't realize is a fat bike's versatility: On a single commute, it can ride in snow, over ice, on pavement, and then bounce through the deepest potholes without a pause."
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Softshell Lobster Glove
This crustacean inspired mitt from Pearl Izumi balances dexterity and warmth. Riders can easily brake and shift and the claw design makes them warmer than gloves. A leather palm adds durability, and Primaloft insulation with a softshell outer keep the elements at bay.
Light & Motion Urban 500
Dark winter evenings demand good bike lights. The Urban 500 is a turn-key option: charge it via your laptop's USB port, clip it onto your handlebars, and ride. Its max-bright beam ignites a city street or trail with a 500-lumen blast that shines strong more than 100 feet ahead. Orange lights on the case offer visibility from the side. The Urban 500 can run on its high-beam setting for 1.5 hours, enough for most anyone's winter ride in the dark back home.
Cateye Rapid 5
High-power taillights are a necessity for winter riding, and the CatEye Rapid 5 is among the brightest lights on the market. It comes with a luminous center light flanked with four L.E.D.s. That gives the Rapid 5 180-degree visibility, according to Cateye, protecting you from cars approaching from winter side streets or behind. With two AAA batteries it'll run for 50 hours on pulse mode.
Outdoor Research Helmetclava
You might get a few funny glances when you wear this ensconcing headpiece, but we say embrace your inner ninja—it's worth the warmth. The aptly-named Helmetclava was built to fit under a helmet and will protect your neck, most of your face, and the top of your head. Gore Windstopper softshell fabric and insulating fleece provide comfort, wind protection, and warmth. The kicker? OR includes a "laser die-cut breathing port" in an attempt to lessen ice buildup on your lips and chin.
MEC Northstar Cycling Pogies
Like integrated mittens for your handlebars, MEC's Northstar Cycling Pogies cover up your hands when you're riding. The mitts attach with Velcro, cover brake and shift levers, and provide a layer of fleece insulation on the inside. There are better-quality pogies on the market, but MEC's are an inexpensive option for workaday commuters who need extra hand protection.
KMC Rust Buster Chain
According to manufacturer KMC Chain Industrial Co., the Rust Buster's coating of zinc and chrome keeps rust at bay "500 times longer than a regular chain." It's an inexpensive upgrade for anyone riding on grit- and salt-covered roads.
Bontrager Interchange Nebula
With slush, mud, and water in the road, fenders are a must for winter riders looking to protect their backs from spray. Cottrell says fenders from Planet Bike and Bontrager are his favorites because they're easy to install and stay in place as you ride. Bontrager's Interchange Nebula is simple to remove without tools for dry days. It comes in polycarbonate and aluminum models.
Gore Bike Wear Fusion Jacket
Wind-proof, waterproof, and breathable, the cut-for-cycling Fusion Jacket is at its finest in foul weather. A single pocket, sleek fit, long back, pre-shaped elbows, stretch inserts, and adjustable cuffs all provide comfort and protection against the elements. Bonus: it weighs just 9 ounces and stows away easily when not in use.
Giro Reverb Helmet
Some snow-sports helmets—Giro Seam for example—are usable on the worst winter days. Look for something with adjustable vents, ear protection pads, and a visor, which are "all good for cold riding," says Contrell. But the Giro Reverb, a true bike helmet, is a better choice for most commuters. It has minimal venting and a simple design. You fit a hat or balaclava undernear, or use Giro's removable cap-style cotton visor to block fleeting winter sun or road spray.