With hints of snow and ice sneaking into the Massachusetts weather forecasts, many cycluters are about to put their bikes in hibernation for the next four or five months. They’ll try to compute the amount of money they saved by not driving to work, ponder the amount of pollutants not released into the air and, of course, the consider the health benefits accrued. They should be congratulated for their dedication to warm-weather cycluting, and have the right to make their cold-weather commutes more comfortably.
Some other cycluters, blessed with more obsessive tendencies or less sanity, are bracing themselves for biking straight through the winter. Tires are likely to be a cycluter’s primary concern when Old Man Winter fixes his icy stare on New England. I don’t claim to have all the answers on what tires to use, but I can assure you that road bike tires are worthless.
I use a mountain bike with wide tires that have “aggressive” treads, but a new cycluter friend of mine pointed me to a Web site that explains how to put studs in your own tires (http://www.silentsports.net/stud_your_own_bike_tires.html). If that seems like too much work, you can always plunk down $150-200 for a pair of Nokian studded tires.
In any event, newly recruited winter warriors should beware the following: 1) Thick ribbons of snow left by plows that have come out of side streets. Usually I can just accelerate through them and keep my balance, but they're a challenge; 2) Deep slush, which is like pedaling in a mixture of sand and Crisco; 3) Thin coatings of snow concealing patches of ice; 4) Black ice.
And don’t forget to keep an ear and eye out for plows coming up behind you when the snow falls. When one's coming, I quickly dismount and launch my bike and myself into a snow bank until it passes. Reality check: Don't mess with plows. Most drivers just don't care.