Riding in the winter is great because you have the roads to yourself.
I also find it makes me adapt quickly to cold temperatures so I am hardly bothered while everyone else is complaining.
The first snowfall you should make your way to a parking lot and practice riding in the snow. Get used to how your bike feels when it is slipping and get used to the rear wheel fishtailing and how to pedal through it.
Ice can only be conquered with studded tires. If you hit some, don't slam on the brakes or turn suddenly. Just try to relax and ride through it. I personally don't use studded tires but I know they are good for peace of mind. If you just get one, put it on the front.
Being outside constantly will help you adapt to the changing temperature. If you stop riding in September and start again in December, it is going to feel miserable. If you keep riding the whole time, you will experience a cold day or two, but you will adjust quickly.
I think the advice for a simple bike (singlespeed, fixed gear) is best. Your winter bike will get destroyed; it is rough riding through muck and salt. If you are storing it outdoors, you should get some sort of tarp to try and keep as much moisture off it as possible. It is likely that your hubs will feel stiff when you first start riding, but they usually loosen up with a bit of riding. Try to clean and lube your chain once a week and wipe the bottom of the frame off as best as possible. It is your personal choice on what type of tire to use. I have seen everything from the Pugsley to a skinny road tire... it really depends on your riding style. I am a fan of fat knobbies or skinnier knobbies (like CX tires).
I am really minimalist for cold weather riding. I think most people wear too much clothing and end up overheating, sweating and then getting chilled. Experimentation here is key. For me, I think the single most important item of clothing is a waterproof, windproof jacket shell. My daily gear is usually this shell, a long sleeved wool shirt, wool long johns and then sort of water resistant pants. Wool socks and waterproof winter boots. I invested in a Bern helmet which came with a liner and I found it to be fantastic, almost too hot some days. Balaclava is really good for a regular helmet as it will cover your head and face. You can't go wrong with wool. I find mine at thrift stores. It will keep you warm even when wet and you can wear it multiple times without it being nasty (unlike poly).
A good set of mittens + a liner is great. I like being able to take off the mitten and still have cover on my fingers if I have to fish something out of a pocket.
Protection from the wind is really key. It will make you feel so much warmer than just wearing more stuff. Make sure skin is covered on really cold days. If my eyelashes are sticking together, I will wear ski goggles (<20F). If my nose hairs are sticking together, I know I need to cover my face.
Originally Posted by AudStudent
I'm moving to Iowa and plan to commute by bike once I'm there. What can I expect for winter commuting? What kind of gear do I need for myself and my bike? Also, I'll be locking my bike up outside all day when I'm away from home. Will the weather damage my bike, or freeze the chain stiff while it's out in the elements? I wonder if I should invest in a studded tire or if I should just plan to take the bus when the snow reaches my knees... Yikes, winter biking is daunting. Any suggestions?