Last year was my first as a winter bicycle commuter. I'm in Springfield, IL, which has central-Midwest USA winters with wind, cold, moderate snow and ice (enough to require studded tires but not nearly as bad as points much farther north). My route is city streets that are usually plowed. I learned a lot last winter, through experience and also through this Forum (thanks to all who helped answer questions).
I decided to change a couple of things for this winter and thought I'd share:
1. I changed over to studded winter tires EARLY.
One of the big lessons I learned was the increased rolling resistance not only makes the commute take longer, but it is physically more demanding. I have to use an easier gear and be careful to pace myself. Last year when I started, I waited until it was nasty cold and icy out to switch, then I rode harder on the studded tires trying to stay closer to my normal commute times. Big mistake, which led to tight hamstrings in my case. I learned to stretch better beforehand, leave earlier, and spin in an easier gear to avoid repeating that. This year, I took it the next logical step and switched over to studded tires in late October, intentionally during good weather so that my first week of commuting on studs would be an easier transition. My first day on studs this year was wearing shorts on a day with light and variable winds. Two weeks in now, I'm feeling good that I didn't wait until it was a sloppy mess commute day for my first time on studs. My body has adjusted to the increased workload, and the harsher weather to come won't be as big a shock as last year to the system, I think.
2. I have stashed three full changes of business casual clothes at work in a file drawer. If we get a few days of bad headwinds in a row, I can skip carrying one pannier those days to lighten the load a little. Who knows, I might not need these clothes this winter, but they are there just in case. I gave my car to charity over a year ago, so it is bicycling or nothing for me.
3. I've saved a couple of vacation days specifically for eliminating the worst of the worst headwinds days. I told my boss that a couple of days of vacation would be selected based on forecasted wind speed and direction, and he is cool with that.
I realize these approaches don't work for everybody, but I thought I would share just in case anyone can benefit from them.
Winter bicycle commuting is extra satisfying to me because I truly take pleasure in beating bad weather and being an all-weather cyclist.