Yesterday I cycled for the first time in accumulated snow. I can't wait for next time! This is like being a kid again. My coworkers already thought I was crazy for riding in the cold - I can't imagine what they think now! I recently bought Marathon Winter 26" tires for my Mongoose SX 4.3 MTB. I'm a first-year commuter, and I'm "breaking in" to winter cycling. Sometimes I do a multi-modal commute when i'm uncertain if I'm prepared for the full 7 miles, and for seeing what gear I should get for the winter. This way I am gradually building up towards my goal of cycling to work as much as possible. I am very fortunate to start and end work an hour later than almost everyone else, so there is very little traffic during my cycling even in my workplace of around 5,000.
I glanced at the road near the parking lot, and it was mostly clear, so I didn't drop the tire pressures from the 70 psi I had inflated them to several days before. When I got to the last road, though, it was hard-pack snow that a plow had passed over but didn't scrape the road. I started to veer off in one direction, so I got off the bike and used my Turbo Morph G frame pump. I'm even more glad I bought that particular pump now, having the built-in gauge and the tool to release pressure. I dropped the pressures down to 30-40 psi. That seemed to help considerably.
On the way back, it had snowed a little more, so there was snow on the whole ride. I just took my time, and made large, slow turns and it wasn't bad at all. I have to say that it was a great success - I did veer off the road twice, but that was partially because it was difficult to see where the edge was, and I didn't fall at all in the 2.2 or so miles. With that being said, though, I'm not ready to try it with heavy auto traffic around. I feel like I need more experience first. But I am going to try to do as much as I can safely.
Things I have learned this winter:
* Around maybe 10 degrees F, the water in my eyes starts to freeze, so I'm about to search here for some googles that won't fog.
* Wearing contacts is much better than wearing glasses in the cold and also in wet weather.
* After about 20 minutes (thought it varies with the coldness), my feet get cold in my Sidi Dragon 2 MTB shoes. I didn't think to order them large enough to fit two socks in, but I just ordered some Lake MXZ302s, which should come on Monday. Can't wait.
* It's best to start off riding a little cold, because I get hot under all the clothes. If I wear enough to start off warm, I'll be practically boiling after the 30 minutes of the full commute.
* The pants my wife bought me for Christmas, REI OXTs winter pants and Novarra windproof pants, are perfect. They're incredibly comfortable and I have yet to feel cold in them when worn together, and I've ridden in temperatures around zero F with -20 windchills.
* The 26" x 1.75" Marathon Winters are not bad at all on clean roads. When I did a full commute with them on dry roads at 70 psi, there was only a small noticable difference in resistance vs. what I was using before - one mostly smooth tire on front and a stock knobby in back (though both of those are 1.95" wide). Starting off is about twice as hard, but once I get rolling, it's all good. I don't understand the problem with the noise the studs make either - for me it isn't loud, and certainly not a significant bother. An aside - according to a comment by Schwalbe on their site, replacement studs are available.
* My cable lock gets very stiff in the cold and cleaning and lubricating it becomes more necessary.
* My cheap water-bottle cage with small tack welds broke in the cold I believe without even touching it. Tried to fix it with JB-Weld but that didn't hold either.
* With the caveat that I'm new on ice and snow, winter riding is not insane; it just takes proper preparation and equipment. I have yet to experience "too cold" for cycling. "Too cold" without certain equipment or clothing? Sure. People drive because it's easy, not because it's best. "Easy" is not at all the same as "best". Best hopes for more expensive gasoline. $5/gal. would be a good start.
* Becoming a cycling commuter is the best lifestyle change I have ever made. Nothing has been better for my health and for my well-being. Thanks to bikeforums and all its members for a great place to learn and communicate. Thanks also to icebike.com, which also has some great information.