winter cycling has been all about "quantity" of rides not "quality" for me. i ride to work 5 days a week no matter the weather is. its only a 4 mile round trip commute. clothing isn't terribly important on such a short distance, by the time i start to get cold i'm inside at work anyway.
i had some time off of work and decided to do a 12 mile ride to a buddy's place and really stretch my legs and test my endurance on the vast country roads.
it was 20'f with no wind and i was thinking of under dressing since i'm getting used to well below zero temperatures. the roads were totally clean and the sun was shining, it was a hard decision to leave the near forgotten road bike in the basement. so there i went with crawling at 12-15mph with studs on my single speed low geared mtb on pristine pavement. at the last minute i had a change of heart and packed all my cold weather gear in my backpack/rack before i left. the ride to my friends house was awesome i almost forgot it was winter. it only took 40 minutes i was feeling really good. i had almost forgotten what the buzz from a good ride felt like.
so i woke up the next morning and looked out the window....holy sh*T! there were several inches of wet greasy snow on the ground. it was also 4 degrees out and the windchill was atleast 20 below. the wind was terrible it was pushing cars all over the roads. (it would have been dangerous for me but i saw 2 cars on my whole trip) i was thinking of asking my friend to drop me off but i figured it was safer for me to do it. i was so happy to have my ice bike, boots, long thermal undies, balaclava, ski goggles, and awesome gloves. the low geared beast just ate that snow up.
the 12 mile ride took me an hour and 40 minutes. the roads were drifted over with dunes of snow from the wind, for a few miles the wind was at my back but most of the ride it was trying to force me backwards or into the ditch. it was one of the most rewarding rides of my life. i felt like a true survivor. at the end the only thing that was sore were my arms, from fighting the handlebars trying to stay on what i guessed was the road. my balaclava was covered in ice from my breath. i probably looked like some insane arctic darth vader. i was completely unfrozen and feeling normal at the end.
so take it from me: be prepared especially if you live in wisconsin. in less than 24 hours it can drop 40 degrees.
also i learned that putting a bunch of heavy crap in my rear rack trunk really helps with traction.