Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: British Columbia, Canada
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To find out what you need, start riding. Each region has its own specific geographic, cultural and climate changes. You start riding and you'll soon discover something you need or should probably have and you'll discover things you don't need.
There are just a few basics you should have when you start. Make sure you have a bright headlight and a good flashing tail light. You can get both for well under $100. I'd also suggest you get a construction worker's safety vest for $25 or so. This will make you quite visible, especially when it gets dark. If your winters are wet or if you get a lot of slushy snow, get fenders for your bike.
For clothing, get down to a good outdoors shop in your city and tell them what you're going to do. They'll be able to get you clothing that will keep you warm without having you overheated. They will also know your specific climatic needs and the types of clothing that will work best for you. Take special care to make sure your head, hands and feet are warm. For your head, a toque or knit cap can be worn under a cheap helmet. Take the pads out of the helmet and it should fit nicely over the toque. Wool mittens will keep your hands warm well below freezing. But if you're dealing with wet weather, you may need to find another solution. (Mittens, by the way, tend to be much warmer than gloves.) Likewise, wool socks are quite warm. However, wool socks are bulky and don't fit well in cycling shoes. You may want to use a bike with platform pedals in winter, in order to allow you to wear the footwear that works for you.
If you're in an area where cool and rainy weather is the rule, your regular bike will do fine in winter. However, if you're in an area where you get a lot of snow and where the city salts or sands the streets, I'd suggest getting a winter beater and saving your good bike for the other seasons of the year.