I am sixty one and recently new to bikes after close to a fifty year period of paying absolutely no attention to bicycles. Many things have changed, but the thing that has changed that freaks me out the most is riding bicycles in snow. When I was a youth and into bicycles it was unheard of. Of course I grew up in Vermont which is very rural and has fierce winters, but no one I knew back then would any more think of taking a bicycle out into the snow than wearing wearing a fur lined parka to go snorkel diving. I left Vermont ten years ago, and I understand that these days the ski areas and such are doing a booming business sponsoring snow bike competitions and similar events. Times have changed.
I am thinking that I might need to take my bike back on one of my winter visits there and give it a try. My problem is that I have read many recommendations for the proper wheel size and tire type from folks who do this, and few seem to make sense to me. I have never ridden a bike in winter but have done a lot of walking in the same conditions that I would be riding in, and I can't think of a wheel size and tire type that would get you through every road and snow condition that you are going to encounter, other than a fat, wide, studded snow tire. Skinny slicks might be just the ticket for busting through virgin snow, but I would imagine could get you killed real quick on "black ice". As I have said, Vermont is very rural and there are few groomed bike paths. For that matter there are few sidewalks. Most riding will be done in the road. Plowing snow turns the road into "canyons" between two snow cliffs. Everything tends to stay on the sides of the roads and churn up into whatever mix the current temperature will support. It could be some form of ice or sloppy clingy slush. Given the temperature swings of a sunny winter day, you might get to ride in both. I could go on, but my point is that it would seem to me, as one with no experience in winter riding, that the vast variances in conditions that would be encountered with any commute in the winter would rule out any "one size fits all" approach to this problem, with the possible exception of fat, wide, studded tires. Am I wrong?